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Lacey Holsworth’s Thursday News and Views

The story of Adreian Payne and the adorable eight-year-old Lacey Holsworth really tugged on my heart strings, yours too, when it was told last month. In case you missed it, the Michigan State center befriended Lacey while visiting a children’s hospital two years ago, one month after a tumor had wrapped around her spine and temporarily taken her ability to walk. The two formed an unbreakable bond that day and were together as recently as last weekend in Dallas, when Lacey was courtside in support of her best friend in the college slam dunk contest. She rubbed the basketball for good luck before Payne threw down a double-clutch 360 in the contest; she also escorted him out on his Senior Night at Michigan State earlier this year.

On Wednesday morning, Lacey’s parents confirmed via her Instagram account that she had tragically lost her battle with cancer. They asked everyone to #LoveLikeLacey and to “continue her legacy, love unconditionally.”

Payne released this statement:

“Words can’t express how much I already miss Lacey. She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong. I’m a better man because of her. … She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it’s her smile that made America fall in love with her. … I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel.”

If you have a few minutes and don’t mind crying your eyes out, watch (or re-watch) their story:

Now, let’s gather ourselves and run down the news from Kentucky basketball.

*****

Jeff Goodman reported Julius Randle to the NBA, Randle said not so fast.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tried to jump ahead of everyone else and report Randle to the NBA, but that decision has not been made just yet, according to Randle. Goodman broke the news Wednesday evening, citing “multiple sources,” but Randle was quick to refute Goodman’s scoop in a tweet.

Carolyn Kyles, Randle’s mother, told Kyle Tucker she will sit down with her son this weekend and make a final decision.

A projected top five pick in June, Randle will almost certainly enter the draft, it’s just not official yet.

Check out Matt’s rundown of the seven Wildcats considering the NBA.

Matt spent a lot of time gathering information on Wednesday and it can all be found here. He predicts Randle and Young to go, Poythress to stay, and the other four — Harrisons, Johnson and Cauley-Stein — are mysteries. I think the twins are a little more likely to go, but there are still a lot of conversations to have and deciding to do before any of the guys (sans Randle and Young) make a final decision. They have until April 27th to declare for the NBA.

One more year!!!

Rex was on KSR Wednesday morning, said he didn’t expect the Cal-to-Lakers tweet to take off.

Rex Chapman has been catching a lot of heat from Kentucky fans, some deserved, some inexcusably vicious, for the timing of his tweet before Monday night’s game. We asked Rex to come on KSR Wednesday morning to explain the tweet, and he obliged.

Rex told KSR, “If I had to do it again, would I do it beforehand? Probably not. Based on what had transpired, I probably would have waited. At the time, I didn’t know it was going to do that.”

He made it clear he is pro-Calipari and hopes he stays at Kentucky for a long time; he was just relaying what he had just been told because he thought others would like to hear it. That wasn’t the case, and Big Blue Nation erupted with accusations that Rex was out for attention. Rex said it simply didn’t occur to him that it would get so much attention and he didn’t mean to take away from the game.

”It just didn’t occur to me. People talked about how they were upset. Hell, I was upset. It upset me. I don’t want him to leave. I assumed people would want to know what I just found out.”

You can listen to the entire interview below:

Also, take a second to read the explanation he wrote Tuesday evening. I truly believe he meant no harm and wasn’t craving attention, he was just naive to the stir it would cause.

LeBron James believes John Calipari will stay at Kentucky.

LeBron has long been the guy involved in the Calipari-to-the-NBA rumors, with chatter that Cal will one day leave to coach LeBron, so it’s good to hear him say he thinks Cal will stay at Kentucky. James told the New York Daily News he believes Coach Cal enjoys the opportunity to help kids achieve their dreams and the challenges of molding young superstars into a team in Lexington:

“I would be very surprised if he made the jump,’’ James said before playing the Nets. “Just because of the simple fact that he loves coaching kids and helping those kids out. Even if it’s for one year or two years or whatever the case might be. He loves the challenge of bringing in a group of guys and trying to turn them into a team. It’s almost like an Olympic style, the way he coaches. He doesn’t have much time because he has so many guys who can go one-and-done. And he brings those individual egos and turns them into a team. Obviously, does it work out all the time? No. They didn’t make the tournament last year. But his success rate is amazing.”

All this NBA talk is exhausting but I guess it’s a good problem to have.

UConn students gave our beloved Wildcat statue a makeover.

Connecticut fans traveling from Dallas back to Connecticut stopped in Lexington late Tuesday night to give the Wildcat statue on Avenue of Champions a makeover. The culprits tweeted, “We wanted to change the “Avenue of Champions” sign to “Avenue of Runners-Up” but it seemed like overkill.”

They’re very, very, very lucky they weren’t caught in the act.

Rod Strickland to follow Antigua to Tampa.

I spoke to a couple people in Dallas who told me it’s likely Rod Strickland will follow Orlando Antigua to South Florida to join the new USF staff, and the Tampa Bay Times backed that talk up with a report on Tuesday. The report says Coach O’s younger brother Oliver, currently a Seton Hall assistant, will also join the staff.

KSR will adopt South Florida as its second-favorite team next season and I encourage you to do the same. Antigua is a great guy and we’re excited to see how he does in his first college head coaching job. He’ll be missed in Lexington.

This picture hasn’t gotten old yet.

@Cardinal_Hill

I’m not sure that it will.

Mark Stoops will be a guest on Kentucky Sports Radio tomorrow.

Tune it at 10:00 a.m. as we lead off the show with UK head football coach Mark Stoops. Spring football is underway in the bluegrass and we have plenty to talk about, so you won’t want to miss it. Leave us any questions you would like to ask in the comments section.

Go Cats, everybody.


Drake did not go in the UConn locker room, so the haters can hush

The internet blew up with this photo late Monday night after Kentucky’s loss to Connecticut in Dallas. Several people and websites got ahold of it and accused Drake, one Kentucky basketball’s most loyal celebrity fans, of changing into a UConn shirt immediately after the game and visiting the UConn locker room. The rumors sparked numerous memes and jokes, teasing Drake about the quick flip.

I knew right away it was all false, and tried to defend him on Twitter, but I’m only one man and the internet was against him, a battle few will win. (He got crushed, in case you missed it.)

Here are the facts:

– That shirt is a James Young t-shirt, similar to the one Young wore when he committed to Kentucky. Young created a logo for himself in high school and printed it on a Nike t-shirt for his announcement. Young’s friends and family have worn JY shirts to games all season; the shirts are not for sale so it’s not a problem. They’re homemade.

– The photo is with Rip Hamilton and it was taken before the game. If you look in the background you see signs for the ATM and upper concourse. UConn’s locker room did not have an ATM, nor did it have an upper concourse.

Drake defended himself and his loyalty to Big Blue Nation today on ESPN:

I know a lot of you don’t care about Drake or where his college basketball loyalty stands, but recruits love him and they notice when he is in the crowd cheering for the Cats. We can’t deny the importance of his role in BBN, even if it’s something as small as a “Go Big Blue” tweet or leading a “C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS” chant, which we caught him doing in Dallas. Many celebrity fans are fake, but Drake isn’t one of them. The man has been to Kentucky’s last three trips to the Final Four plus a couple other stops in Rupp Arena. He’s one of us.

So lay off him, haters.

(And to whoever thought that was a UConn shirt, that looks nothing like a UConn shirt.)


UK Fans of the Day Want NBA Draft Decision Views

UK Fans of the Day Want NBA Draft Decision Views

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After the excitement of the past three weeks, it was odd today to have a relatively normal day without any major news or electricity. While we all try to come down from the amazing high this team put us on, it is now draft decision time for these guys, as they try to figure out their NBA Futures. The players must make a decision by April 27, a deadline that gives them the time to gather information and make an informed decision. Unlike in past years, I expect that you may hear decisions drift out over the next couple of weeks as there is unlikely to be a unanimous decision by this group of seven as to their futures. I spent some of today on the telephone making calls and putting together my best stance as to where things are AT THIS MOMENT in the process for all of these guys. It is important to remember that it is still very early and everything may change. But I am confident that at this moment, here is where we are for each of the seven potential NBA Draft declarations.

All of the players spent today talking to John Calipari and collecting information about where they would stand in the draft process. As with everything, the information is surely varied and because of the run to the Final Four, for many of these guys this was the first time they have heard where they stand. I would suspect most will spend this weekend with their families talking about their futures and I would guess we will start to hear some news next week. For now, here is the rundown on each player:

JULIUS RANDLE: Almost assuredly gone. While the Jeff Goodman report today may have been premature, in the end I don’t suspect it will be wrong. Randle will be a top five pick and no one expects him to return and play for Kentucky. He is at that spot in the draft where he is so highly rated that my guess is Calipari would tell him he needs to go, even if he was considering a return. I can’t imagine a scenario where he ends up here for a second year.

JAMES YOUNG: Almost assuredly gone as well. Not quite the lock to enter the draft that Randle is, but very close. James will see himself go probably somewhere in the late lottery and he is a kid who wants to be in the NBA. Like with Randle, the working expectation in Lexington is that he will enter the Draft.

WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: Probably the biggest news I found out today that surprised me a bit is that Willie is heavily considering returning to Kentucky. The scope of injury is enough that he probably won’t be able to work out during the Draft process and unlike with Nerlens Noel last year, that will hinder Willie. He will be unable to fix any concerns about his health and this could cause a drop in stock of some major degree. Plus, Willie likes being at Kentucky and enjoys his time in college, and isn’t in quite the rush that others are to get the NBA money. Most had assumed a couple of weeks ago that he was all but assured to enter the Draft, but apparently the last couple of weeks have raised some doubt in Willie’s mind and there is now a belief that me might decide to come back for his Junior year. I still think he will likely declare for the NBA, but now I think it is a very close call for Willie and he could be the surprise return that no one saw coming.

DAKARI JOHNSON: If Willie is the player that was almost certain to leave who is now having second thoughts, Dakari is the exact opposite. Before the Tournament, he was all but assured to come back to Lexington and nearly everyone was operating under the assumption that a second year was coming (one in which I think he will be dominant. But like Willie, Dakari is now having second thoughts, except in his case to look at the league. He is gathering information about his status, a decision that makes sense because…well what is the downside? He probably would find himself going at the end of the first round (at least this is what two NBA guys told me today), but most everyone thinks he would be better off coming back and being a force next year (and maybe a top ten pick). I still think he returns to Kentucky, but I do think the NBA is on the table now, whereas it was not just a couple of weeks ago.

HARRISON TWINS: The mystery of the process right now. I could see either decision for these two and I do think right now it is 50/50. I am told that Andrew is projected towards the end of the first round and Aaron the beginning of the second, so from a draft stock standpoint, it would seem returning is the play. But the Twins are their own guys and I think they and their dad will keep the decision very close to the vest. At various times, my opinion on their future has drifted back and forth…right now I am in the very so slightly “return” camp, but ask me tomorrow and I may change my mind again. The best thing UK has going for it is that they love playing (and being) together and they may want to do it for one more year. Their experience is much better at UK after this run (and the fan adoration that was shown) than it was during the early part of the year. No decision would surprise me with these two, and as one person told me about them, “these guys tell no one anything…anybody who guesses between now and the time they decide will be doing just that…guessing.”

ALEX POYTHRESS:

Alex is also gathering information on the draft and some think that his Tournament performance got him back on the minds of NBA teams. I am told that of all seven, he is the most likely to return but that it isn’t assured and the decision will probably be made over the next week. Poythress is scheduled to graduate next year (which is a plus for those who want to see him return) and if he has a big year, especially with no Julius Randle in front of him as a similar player, he could blossom and rise on boards. The smart money is on a Poythress return, but I wouldn’t put it yet at 100%

So there you have it…I assume Randle/Young are gone, think it very likely Poythress returns and the other four are somewhat of a mystery. If you made me pick, I would say Willie to the NBA and Dakari back to Kentucky…and I don’t even have an educated guess on the Twins, who will be a mystery. This will probably change a number of times as we go over the next two weeks and as it does, we will let you know what we here.

If somehow they get five guys back besides Randle and Young…well that would be quite fun wouldn’t it?


Mark Stoops will be a guest on Kentucky Sports Radio radio tomorrow

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With the basketball season now in the books, it’s time to start paying attention to the progress Mark Stoops and the boys are making on the gridiron. Spring football took a backseat to the Wildcats’ exciting run through March Madness, but now it’s time to check in on the happenings around the football program.

To catch us all up to speed, Mark Stoops will be joining Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio radio Thursday morning in Lexington. Stoops will be on in studio beginning at 10:00 am to start the show with plenty to discuss from spring ball.

Be sure to tune in if you’re able. If not, we’ll have the interview on the website Thursday afternoon.


Yet another reason to love the Harrison twins

Yet another reason to love the Harrison twins

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(via @CaptBoDangles13)

When he’s not busy hitting game-winning shots in the NCAA tournament, Aaron Harrison will walk up to your car and shake your hand in Lexington, according to this Facebook post.

One more year!!!!!!


ESPN reports Randle to enter the NBA Draft; Mama says decision hasn’t been made

Photo © Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

In news that should surprise absolutely no one, it appears Julius Randle has already made up his mind and will enter the NBA draft. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman just reported the expected news, not long after we learned Calipari met with the players today to discuss their futures. Randle is a projected top five pick, so his decision was an easy one to make.

We expect the decisions from Randle’s teammates to trickle out over the next two weeks as it will take some longer than others to decide. James Young is the next likely to throw his name in the draft.

Thanks for everything, Julius.

*** UPDATE ***

Not so fast…

The Courier-Journal’s Kyle Tucker is reporting Randle will wait until this weekend to make his final decision. Tucker just exchanged texts with Randle’s mother, who says the family still plans to meet in a few days before any decision is made.

Whether it’s now or this coming weekend, I think we all know he’s gone.

*** UPDATE AGAIN ***

Randle shoots down ESPN’s report…

Jeff Goodman trying to jump the gun, I see.


UK tennis defeats No. 1 Ohio State

Jomby celebrating the win | via @UKAthletics

The University of Kentucky mens’ tennis team defeated the No. 1 team in the country today for only the fourth time in program history. It happened in 1986, 1989, 1997 and earlier this afternoon against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

As most of you know, KSR has a special interest in UK tennis this season because the Cats’ No. 1 player, Tom Jomby, is interning with the website and radio show this semester. Tom clinched Kentucky’s overall victory with his win against Peter Kobelt, the ninth-ranked player in college tennis. Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez also won their singles matches and helped earn the doubles point by rallying down from 0-5 in their doubles match.

If you’d like to catch UK tennis before the season ends, they’re at home Friday against South Carolina and Sunday against Florida and then against Murray State before the SEC Tournament next week.


LeBron James says he doesn’t think Cal will leave for the NBA

LeBron James says he doesn’t think Cal will leave for the NBA

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Photo by UK Athletics

Count LeBron James among those who don’t think Cal will make the jump to the NBA anytime soon. James told the New York Daily News he thinks Cal enjoys the unique situation Kentucky affords him in helping players change their lives and get to the NBA, along with the challenge of molding a new team each year:

I would be very surprised if he made the jump,’’ James said before playing the Nets. “Just because of the simple fact that he loves coaching kids and helping those kids out. Even if it’s for one year or two years or whatever the case might be. He loves the challenge of bringing in a group of guys and trying to turn them into a team. It’s almost like an Olympic style, the way he coaches. He doesn’t have much time because he has so many guys who can go one-and-done. And he brings those individual egos and turns them into a team. Obviously, does it work out all the time? No. They didn’t make the tournament last year. But his success rate is amazing.”

The popular thought is that if Cal ever went back to the pros, it may be when LeBron’s ready to leave Miami, so this quote is somewhat comforting coming from James hiimself.


Tyler Ulis’ latest mixtape will make you fall in love with him

Is he the new Tyler the Creator?


Photo by Mark Zerof | CatsPause.com

Cal’s already meeting with the players to talk NBA

Photo by Mark Zerof | CatsPause.com

Photo by Mark Zerof | CatsPause.com

Like many of us, Cal said that yesterday was a rough day for him, but he’s already “back up and running,” calling NBA teams on behalf of his players and meeting with them to discuss their futures. He posted this on social media a little while ago:

I was close to depression yesterday. Getting that close and not being able to see the joy in my players’ eyes after victory rocked me. I’m back up and running because I’ve called a bunch of the NBA teams about our guys and met with the players twice individually. Remember, I’m here to help them. I stay out of the decision making. I’m trying to get them information so they can make the best decision.

It’s a process that we seem to be doing every year, but this group may be the most mature that I’ve dealt with as far as reasoning. Every single person in the ‪#‎BBN‬ should be proud of this group. I know I am. Remember, our season doesn’t end until the evening of June 26. And oh, by the way, I’ll be recruiting this weekend. Let’s keep this going.

For those of you wondering, Cal’s referring to the NBA Draft, which happens on June 26 (as does my birthday). I find it extremely comforting that he mentions how mature the players are being about their decisions, don’t you?


The Knicks reached out to Cal in January

(Darrell Bird | Catpause)

(Darrell Bird | Catpause)

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Calipari to the NBA rumors, right? According to ESPN New York’s Ian Begley, the Knicks reached out to Cal in January via a third party to gauge his interest, and although Cal said he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching Carmelo Anthony, the talks went no further:

In January, the Knicks, via a third party, reached out to Calipari to gauge his interest in coaching the Knicks next season, a league source familiar with the scenario told ESPN New York.

At the time, Calipari was under heavy fire because Kentucky was underperforming.

The league source says Calipari was intrigued by the possibility of coaching Carmelo Anthony. Both Anthony and Calipari, it should be noted, are represented by Creative Artists Agency.

The conversations never went any further than a feeling out by a third party. In other words, nothing serious.

A few weeks later, the Knicks hired Phil Jackson, pretty much killing any chance Cal would end up in NYC.

Two down, a bazillion to go…


Damien Harris says UK football is on the rise

Five-star running back Damien Harris made the drive to Lexington from Berea this morning to check out UK’s practice, and judging by his tweets, he had an excellent time. The top running back in the 2015 class sent out this tweet warning people not to sleep on the UK football program, which he says is on the rise:

Landing Harris would be an absolute coup for this staff. Come on down and be a hero, son.


What got this big of a smile from Coach Stoops?   Apparently Stoops saw KSR's favorite, Lonny Demaree at

Spring Practice: Developing Physical Wide Receivers

What got this big of a smile from Coach Stoops?   Apparently Stoops saw KSR's favorite, Lonny Demaree at

Stoops and Lonny Demaree cut up after Stoops mentioned that he and Lonny caught up over breakfast in Dallas. It isn’t Wheeler’s, but I’ would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.

Kentucky’s play at wide receiver last fall was…well it was something.  If it wasn’t dropped passes, it was missed blocks by a group that had practically zero upperclassmen.  Neal Brown said today, “(We were)  probably as bad of shape as any team in the country going back to last Spring.”

After a year of maturation in the weight room and on the field and a couple of new additions, the group of wide receivers is taking significant steps forward this Spring.  Playmakers are beginning to emerge as the physicality in practice has kicked things up a couple of notches.  No one is holding back as wide receivers in cornerbacks get into it with one another daily, “It’s a dog fight every time we’re out there with the DBs,” Jeff Badet said.

The coaches have had to make some adjustments to increase intensity.

“Coach Mainord is coaching em up tough.  Defensively we’re putting pressure on them in the way we’ve incorporated some drills where maybe the defense knows some screens are coming.  We’re flying to the ball, making them put their face on the defender and learn how to block and learn how to be tough.”

Ryan Timmons was arguably the Cats best playmaker on offense as a true freshman last year.  Unfortunately preseason shoulder surgery kept him away from conditioning, causing his play to suffer.  It’s only been a couple of weeks, but Timmons can already notice the change on the field, “It was a struggle for me.  Last year I couldn’t play as fast as much because I would get tired, but now my conditioning is letting me stay in longer and play fast longer.”  Coach Stoops has noticed as well, calling Timmons a “more complete receiver” this Spring.

The young group has a long way to go but Brown and Stoops are confident that the wide receivers will turn the corner.

Notes

-  Josh Clemons has dealt with injuries throughout his entire career at UK.  Clemons was cautious after his first injury, but this time he is on Team NFs, playing like he was never hurt at 100%.  Neal Brown said today that it’s the best he’s ever seen Josh in person.

-  The quarterback competition has yet to yield anything significant for the coaching staff.  Each practice there is a different QB that stands out to the coaches.  Today it was Jalen Whitlow that was able to move the ball well for the offense.

- Jojo Kemp was back to practicing at 100% after missing most of the action last week.  Jojo has really came out of his shell this Spring, exposing a side of Jojo we had never seen before.  His big smile is only outdone by his laugh.  Someone asked him what he brings to the table at running back this season, letting out a huge laugh after saying, “I have the mojo swag.”  Mojo Jojo it is.  

-  The Cats have hosted a ton of recruits during the Spring, getting four commitments from visitors last weekend, but today a future superstar was in the building.  The nation’s #1 running back from Madison Southern, Damien Harris, spent time with Neal Brown and Chad Scott today after practice.  

One of the recruits on campus today was Timmons' high school teammate Anthony Robinson.  I don't know how good he is, but I do know he has the best flat top I've seen in Lexington since Nerlens.  (@ToTall_Robinson)

One of the recruits on campus today was Timmons’ high school teammate Anthony Robinson. I don’t know how good he is, but I do know he has the best flat top I’ve seen in Lexington since Nerlens. (@ToTall_Robinson)


Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

Chad Ford says there’s a chance seven Kentucky players go pro

Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

Photo by Darrell Bird, CatsPause.com

Chad Ford just wrapped up his weekly chat, and had some slightly unsettling rumors to pass along. Ford said that there are rumblings that Julius Randle, James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein, the Twins, Dakari Johnson AND Alex Poythress may all go pro:

Julius Randle and James Young are, for sure, gone. I would say Willie Cauley-Stein too, but his comments the other day indicated he might not be a sure thing to leave. The Harrison twins have wanted to leave all year according to multiple sources around the twins, but their draft stock made them iffy first rounders. While they improved their stock, I’m not sure it’s to the point that they are clear first rounders. Andrew probably has the most claim, but he’s not a lock. Another year at Kentucky would help. Dakari Johnson would be a bubble first rounder as well. Ditto for Poythress. I think there’s a chance ALL of them are gone. There are certainly rumblings that direction. But the only three that really make sense right now are Randle, Young and Cauley-Stein.

Before we get all flustered, remember this is the same guy who said James Young was an excellent passer.

Check out his entire chat here.


UK Balloon Hats of the Day Want a Mock Draft Roundup

UK Balloon Hats of the Day Want a Mock Draft Roundup

 

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I mean, that is just impressive. Well done, ma’am.

With the NBA Early Entrant deadline set for April 27 at 11:59 p.m., draft talk will dominate the next few weeks. Here are the latest projections from around the web, as of 2 p.m. today.

NBADraft.net 2014 Mock Draft (updated 4/3)

5. Julius Randle
21. James Young
27. Andrew Harrison
29. Willie Cauley-Stein
35. Aaron Harrison

NBADraft.net 2015 Mock Draft (updated 4/3)

8. Marcus Lee
32. Alex Poythress
42. Dakari Johnson

Draft Express 2014 Mock Draft (updated 4/8)

4. Julius Randle
12. Willie Cauley-Stein
17. James Young

Chad Ford Big Board 8.0 (updated 4/8)

5. Julius Randle
17. James Young
20. Willie Cauley-Stein
33. Andrew Harrison (Included in the “Next five in”)

Chad Ford’s “Who’s in, who’s out of 2014 Draft?” (updated 4/7)

One foot in the door (leaning towards)
Julius Randle
James Young

50-50 (still deciding)
Willie Cauley-Stein
Aaron Harrison
Andrew Harrison
Dakari Johnson
Alex Poythress

Ford is currently hosting his weekly chat, which I’m sure will include more thoughts on who stays and who goes from the Cats. I’ll post the updates when they’re available.