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The first weekend without college sports since August was a little bit sad for me. While most of this UK basketball season was a bit of a grind, the last month was one of the more special rides in the history of the program. The way this team completely reinvented itself, came together and shocked the college basketball world was something to behold. They produced four of the best postseason games this program has ever seen and they all occurred in succession, each a little bit more exciting than the last. Had Kentucky finished the job, it would probably have been the greatest run in the history of this program, and even as is, it is one that we will always remember. This 2014 Kentucky team will join the 1966 Rupp’s Runts as one of the most beloved to ever come so close and there is no doubt that this group will have a special place in all fans’ hearts.
But now after the joy of the season comes business time. The players spent most of this weekend thinking about their futures and talking about the Draft with their families. Randle, Young and Willie headed home while Poythress, the Twins and Dakari were in town, but all spent time with their families as they tried to figure out what their future holds for next season. Seven players legitimately have a chance to go to the NBA and all seven have considered it. A few days ago I updated where I thought the decisions for each of the players stood and after a few more days, it is worth an update. I expect the first couple of decisions to trickle out in the next 48 hours or so, and the last ones may go all the way to the NBA deadline of April 26. But we will know more very soon, so it is worth noting where we are before a big week for the future of the program. With that in mind, a couple of before we get going:
1. This look is based on my conversations with people close to the program, a couple of folks I know around the NBA and in two cases, people close to the players. I have gotten conflicting information in a couple of cases and have gone with the ones I think are most trustworthy.
2. It is subject to change because…well they are kids subject to change their mind.
So with that, the players:
Gone and likely to announce very soon. Randle is situated to be a top 5 pick and will compete with Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Dante Exum for one of the top spots. Randle actually has taken the information gathering process seriously and unlike a couple of the other “can’t miss” guys of recent years, I do think he considered the possibility of returning. But everyone agrees that his time is now and there is very little upside for Julius in a second year. I can’t imagine he comes back and I think we find out very soon.
All year I was under the impression that Young was certainly headed to the Draft, no questions asked. I still think he is headed to the Draft, but I am told by a couple of folks that he has strongly considered the possibility of a second year. For Young however, the dream has always been about the NBA and he will likely go in the lottery thanks to his amazing athleticism (one of my NBA people told me that his dunk in the UCONN game was maybe the most important moment of the Final Four in terms of how it was perceived by NBA team scouts). While I don’t consider him the mortal lock that I do Randle, I would still be shocked if he doesn’t enter the Draft, probably this week.
Almost certain to return. Alex looked at where he would go in the Draft and gathered the information and from what I am told, he is almost certain to return. If you remember at this time last week, I had two people in my “lock” category (Randle and Young) and I feel fairly comfortable now to put Alex there as well. I think he will be a key member of the team next year and is on pace to graduate in three years, making his return the correct decision.
The shock of this entire process to me has been Willie. All season long, I heard from everyone around the team and Willie that he would enter the Draft after the season. But now I am hearing that he is not only considering returning, I have people saying that he likely will return. That is amazing to me. But the two people telling me are people I trust and so for now, I am operating under the assumption that he is in the “Lean Return” status. Apparently Willie was torn up about his injury and not being able to finish the job with the team and legitimately loves the life he has as a college student in Lexington. He also understands that because of his injury, he can’t work out during the draft process and that will have an impact on his NBA Draft status. As one person close to the process told me, “not working out caused the certain #1 pick (Nerlens) to drop to #6, the result for Willie could be much worse.”) If he returns and plays well, he could be a guaranteed lottery guy next year in a weak draft. Plus his athleticism is something next year’s team could desperately use and would make for a huge, unexpected addition. I freely admit that I will be skeptical until the day he makes his decision, as I have assumed in in the Draft since before the year began. But at the same time, all the info is going in the direction of a return and so I can’t help but follow along.
Dakari is the opposite of Willie in terms of the fact that I believed he was certain to return all year and now I am not sure. Johnson is taking the process very seriously and is being told that he would be a late first round draft choice. Now it is just up to Dakari to decide if he wants to settle for that placement or come back and have a chance to play himself into the lottery. If I were a betting man, I would still place money on Dakari being back at UK, but I am not confident in that selection and it will be interesting to see if a return by Willie would have any effect. If they both come back, UK’s front court next year is officially crazy scary.
The most talked about of the draft prospects are also the most mysterious. As I have said over and over, people who say they know what the Twins are doing simply do not. I can tell you with some confidence that even those close to the Twins don’t know and they laugh at the stories of “they are gone” or “they are returning” that are out there right now. Their situation is like Dakari’s in that both stand to improve their games and stock by returning. But both thought of themselves as guys who would only play for one year and now they have to decide if they are ok with the second. I pay almost no credibility to the Chad Ford report today that scouts say the Twins believe they weren’t “showcased” correctly by Calipari…they were probably the two who Calipari had the least problems with all season. I just think they are torn and trying to make the best decision possible. I am asked all the time if they will return and UK definitely could use them…without them, they really only have three guards on the team next season (Ulis, Booker and Hawkins), so it will be thin without them. But any guess on their future is just a guess…to me they are a toss-up and we just cross our fingers and hope they make the best decision for UK, which I also think would be the best decision for them…one more year in Lexington.
Thats how I see it standing now. John Calipari does a media tour tomorrow in which he will get asked a lot about their futures and I would expect in the next 48 hours, we will get at least one and maybe many more decisions announced. Seven kids and all different levels of potential in terms of entering the Draft…should be an exciting week.
Yahoo.com has a feature on Karl Towns that is worth reading and is a nice way to spend your Sunday night. But in the feature, a little bit of news MAY have been mixed in. The article says Towns is trying to decide whether to play this summer for the Dominican Republic in Spain in the World Cup or go on a summer tour with UK in Spain. That suggests that UK would be playing its summer tour in Spain As you may know, the NCAA allows college basketball teams to take summer tours once every four years and it also gives teams a month of summer practice. This is Kentucky’s year. So Yahoo seems to suggest that the trip is to Spain.
I must say however that I have heard a different location, much closer to the United States (think island). So this is the first I have heard of Europe (which was discussed as a possibility early on but I had heard had been dismissed). It may be that Yahoo simply said Spain twice (since that is where the World Cup is) and made a mistake. Or maybe the trip is different than what I have heard. Either way, an interesting tidbit and an exciting summer.
Nothing but good things were said about the Wildcats after their first scrimmage in Commonwealth Stadium. I could tell you how great they were, or you can look for yourself. Check out highlights from yesterday featuring a lot of Demarco Robinson, a lot of dreadlocks, and a lot of #7.
Drew Barker wasn’t the only guy that played a big role. TV Williams is one of the tiniest guys on the field, but that didn’t stop him from taking a Reese Phillips’ slant 45-yards to the end zone for his first score on Commonwealth Stadium’s turf.
There’s plenty more of football to come this week. I’ll have more Spring Practice updates tomorrow morning on the Leach Report starting at 9:00 on 630 WLAP and Talk Radio 1080 before I head back to the Tim Couch Practice Fields to see what’s going on with the defense.
By Ben Ward on ©April 13th, 2014 @ 9:25pm
For the first time this season, and for the first time since 2011, the University of Kentucky men’s golf team has won an event outright by winning the Bluegrass Invitational, held right here in Lexington, KY. That might sound bad, but when there are 15 quality teams participating at every stop, winning a tournament is no easy feat.
The Cats used a big Saturday to get to 13-under par, before firing a 1-over par final round to hold off the Auburn, Cincinnati and many others. Leading the charge for the Cats was senior Ben Stow, who finished tied for 2nd individually at 5-under par. This marks back-to-back events where Stow has played high level golf as he won the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate back in March.
Rounding out the quality golf for the Cats was David Snyder (T4, -4), Cody Martin (6, -2) and Stephen Powers (T9, -1). Rounding out the top five for the team aspect were the Auburn Tigers (-8), Cincinnati (+2), EKU (+18) and Bradley (+25).
The Cats next action comes April 25th when they travel to St. Simons Island, GA to take on the rest of the SEC in the SEC Championships. Following that will be the NCAA Championships, something that the Cats are pretty much assured of playing in.
By Aaron Perkins on ©April 13th, 2014 @ 9:00pm
Shoes have become a major part of today’s basketball world and are just as much a fashion statement as they are used for performance purposes. Kentucky’s sneaker game has been noticed by top shoes reviewing sites and have been credited as being one of the best teams collectively to rock the best shoes in college basketball. With that being said, I went back through every game this year and picked some of the best shoes worn by each player. Which are your favorite? *Note that more than one player may have worn the same shoe.
Aaron & Andrew Harrison