Hi. Welcome back. As we close the book on Wednesday and move into this lovely morning, we not only say goodbye to the first half of the work week, but also reluctantly drift away from a day that brought two pieces of seductive insight and writing from our former leader and lover, Matt Jones. I know it’s tough to get your bearings straight when a former flame stops by to just love you and leave you, so we’re going to go slowly this morning and ease you back into things by saluting another person who overcame bad hair to achieve national stardom. Today marks birthday number 70 for The Hit King, Pete Rose. The seventeen-time All Star made brief stops in Philadelphia and Montreal, but he’s arguably the most famous face of one of baseball’s most storied franchises. While his name sparks some negative connotations, we’re going to keep it all happy and positive here. Happy Birthday, Mr. Hustle. We’re throwing you a party and Jim Gray isn’t invited.
Now onto UK notes…
– Yet again, the hottest topic of the day was the potential for NBA Draft early entry, but Wednesday gave us some new context thanks to Coach Cal’s meeting with the media. Calipari sang the same tune about encouraging players to enter their names and get some feedback from the NBA, but again offered his concerns regarding the looming NBA lockout and what it means for their careers. Based on Cal’s comments and the words of his father a few days ago, Doron Lamb seems like a lock to return. Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, though, still seem to be up in the air. Matt offered his thoughts on the matter below, saying he thinks the Cats will likely get Lamb, along with one of the Knight/Jones/Liggins trio back, but that all seemingly have the possibility of opting to return. Again, there’s not a lot to go off of at this point in determining who might choose what, but there seems to be plenty more insight into what is factoring into those decisions. Again, though, we wait. The deadline is April 24.
– Regardless of who comes back and who leaves, Kentucky’s rosters is going to have enough individual talent to allow for more mismatches and lineup versatility next year. It was a notion that wasn’t lost on Calipari, who talked openly and excitedly about what next year could bring. Cal said he wants to press much more next year with a deeper roster and more athletes. He is intrigued by the possibility of having Kyle Wiltjer trailing for jumpers on the sec0ndary break and to hit shots out of the pick and roll. Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist will give them length and an improved presence on the defensive end of the floor, which was already pretty outstanding this season. Essentially, what Kentucky will have is a roster that will no longer be dictated by matchups from the other bench. Much like what they had in his first year, they’ll have the types of players that allow him to be creating the matchup problems and they could be different from game to game. That type of roster is rare and Cal will have it in two of his first three seasons in Lexington.
– The potential for a great and potent roster isn’t lost on Anthony Davis, who again did not shy away from talk of Kentucky winning it all. In an interview with Fox Sports, Davis talked about the progressive steps of the first two years under John Calipari and said that UK’s fans expect a championship. And, well, Davis plans on delivering it. I approve of that plan. I greatly approve.
– Depending on what happens with Knight and Jones, Calipari could add to that versatility with sharp-shooting shooting guard Trevor Lacey, with whom he will visit Friday. Lacey has pushed his deadline back to after the Derby Festival game and the NBA Early Entry deadline, which makes many assume that he’s waiting to hear if Brandon Knight will leave and open up some playing time. That notion, along with the assumption that the reason Braeden Anderson didn’t get an offer because the Cats were uncertain about Terrence Jones, makes many think that Calipari’s amped up recruiting of Lacey could mean Knight is leaning out the door. It’s possible. But, again, it’s all just speculation right now. What is known is that Calipari will visit Lacey and he could opt to come to Lexingotn and give the Cats another potent scorer on the wing.
– All of this NBA Draft and class of 2011 talk is fantastic and all, but who wasn’t most excited about Josh Harrellson’s announcement of the Jorts Tour? The party will kick off at a Wendy’s in Manchester (makes sense) and then travel the state in Josh’s quest to topple Raylan Givens as the most imposing Kentucky muscle. Though he is going to be traveling the state and caught the flu bug that seemed to get quite a few guys prior to the Portsmouth Invitational, Coach Cal still thinks that Jorts could have an NBA future, but offered some familiar advice: stay focused on basketball. He’s a player who is on the fringe right now and has a hot tournament run giving him a shot at breaking into the league. The next two months are going to be critical for him in making that a reality. Let’s hope he’s not having too many of those Baconators on the Jorts Tour.
– Lost in the shuffle of the Calipari meeting and Erik Murphy’s drunk ramblings were a couple of potential NCAA rule changes, including moving the deadline to withdraw from the draft up to the start of the signing period. That means that yesterday would have been the deadline for players to decide if they were going pro or not. While beneficial to programs that might have to fill spots (Kentucky), it doesn’t appear to be anything close to player-friendly and leaves student-athletes with a small window to make a decision. For players like Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, who were fortunate enough to play in the Final Four, it’s about a week and a half. I think most people would have thought the deadline would be pushed back.
– Down I-64, the coach with a knack for making headlines off the court made some waves when he told Terry Meiners that he thinks he’ll coach only 3-5 more years. Though he’s not necessarily known for sticking to things he says in public, the timeline was the first I can ever remember Rick Pitino talking about the end of his career. If you’re a Louisville fan, I think the news is troubling a bit, even if he has failed to live up to the lofty billing that came with his arrival. Not only are there questions of who would take over the program that is not a “destination job”, the public vocalization of such a short shelf life can only make things more difficult for the Cards on the recruiting trail. And, by the way, it’s not looking like that is going to be too easy anyway…
– …because just days after they lost Steve Masiello, hotshot assistant Tim Fuller packed his bags for Missouri. Fuller was billed as the great recruiting hope for the Cards and landed 2012 point guard Rodney Purvis, who could not end up looking around again, and was the heavy hand in the Kevin Ware sweepstakes. With Fuller gone and Masiello in Manhattan, Pitino will now put a heavy burden on his son and the assistant to be named next. That assistant, you would assume, would have to be someone who can make waves in recruiting. However, the names that seem to be rumored at this point are exactly the opposite. It’s a mix of old coaches and Pitino buddies and former Pacers head coach Jim O’Brien seems to be the guy most rumored to take the spot, which doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. That’s not exactly the type of guy who you would think could keep pace with what Fuller was doing for the Cards. The person that Pitino gets to replace him is not only vital to the 3-5 years he has remaining in Louisville, but probably will speak volumes about the perception of the coach and the program nationally. They can’t afford to go after someone who doesn’t have serious credibility and connections with the people that matter in the recruiting world.
– I don’t want to ruin Justified again for everyone, so let’s just say it’s good to finally have Boyd Crowder back to where he belongs. And to the guy who said last week his friend was a writer on the show, I’m still counting on you. Even if you lied. Keep lying to me. I love it.
– Finally, if you’re bored being shut indoors during Keeneland season, I’ve found a new online love to make being away easier to accept (thanks to Drew Franklin). There’s a Keeneland Facebook game - and I’m not a Facebook game or app person and I never Farm With Friends or whatever – that allows you to place fake bets on the races and then embarrass your friends later by flaunting your winnings (eat your heart out, Drew). You should check it out. We can virtual gamble together.
That’s it for now. Make sure you stick around all day for laughs and fun times. As usual, Matt will get the party going with Kentucky Sports Radio at 10 am on Talk Radio 1080. As you can tell, there’s no shortage of things to talk about. In the meantime, just count down the time. The Knight and Jones decisions are almost here.
See you in a few…