Oh, what a night. From Derek Willis’ pregame proposal to Vandy’s hot start and Kentucky’s gutsy second →
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My senior year of high school at Middlesboro High was relatively boring. I had taken most of the classes that could be offered, was finishing up my athletic career with mediocre seasons in golf and tennis (I had already given up basketball due to general awfulness) and I was ready to go off to college in a city where all the restaurants did not close by 10 pm. But during this time one of my teachers (Mrs. Wilson) put me on an independent study where I would spend a hour in the library lying on the beanbags and reading various novels that she picked out. At first I thought the class would be the best thing ever because of how restful it would be, but in the end it became one of my favorites because of the world it introduced me to. As part of this class, I read the works of the great novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 87. Marquez is considered one of top handful of novelists of the 20th century, but at the time for me, he was just a name I had recited so I could win academic team competitions (I told you I was a really cool high schooler). However during that year, I read “100 Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera” and immediately loved both books. The stories were unlike anything I had ever before encountered and the language, even having been altered through translation, was vivid and beautiful. I looked forward to the hour every day when I could open the book and get taken away to Marquez’s created worlds and those reading experiences helped introduce me to a canon of literature that I would have never otherwise taken the time to encounter. Marquez died of cancer complications today, having lived a full life mixed in the worlds of literature and politics. If you get a chance some time, check out the two novels I first encountered on a Middlesboro High School library bean bag a number of years ago, and who knows, maybe you will find them just as enjoyable (or maybe not and you can still watch a marathon of “Party Down South” instead).
Three stories as we close out the week of my return to the night post:
JAMES YOUNG SAYS GOODBYE
I expected us to get one decision from a player this week and it came today as James Young announced he would be entering the NBA Draft. This is probably the least surprising decision of anyone making the call this year, in large part because of James himself. While Young is a great kid and has the potential to be a very good NBA player, school just wasn’t something he particularly loved. Those around the program knew that Young was unlikely to stay more than one year, not because he didn’t love Kentucky or being a Cat, but because he wasn’t interested in being in school for any longer than necessary. While that makes some people frustrated, I have no problem with kids pursuing whatever the dream is, even if it doesn’t involve Sociology 101.
Kentucky will miss Young, but I actually think he will showcase more of his skills in the NBA than in college IF he is willing to work (and this is a big if). Young may have the best offensive game of anyone on the team. He can shoot relatively well but is explosive off the dribble and can finish well at the rim. I don’t think we saw nearly as much of his ability in this area as he has, in large part because it just wasn’t what this team needed and they already had two other players in the Twins who were driving more often. Young is not a great defender (although he could be if he works) and is a terrible passer (and I dont know if that will get much better). But he does have the potential to get buckets in the league in bulk IF he puts in the work. All I worry about for James is that he showcases he loves basketball and that he is willing to be like Brandon Knight, MKG and others and put in the hours to get better. If he does, I think he will be a starter/6th man in the league. If he doesn’t then he could bounce around and not be effective. It is up to him. Either way however, I think this is the right decision for James and the NBA game will suit his set of skills well.
WAITING ON THE HARRISONS
While Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress are still left to make a decision, nearly all the focus from fans has been on the Harrison Twins. Part of that is because they seem like the biggest unknown, but part is because of the realization that their decision is the most important. Because Kentucky’s roster makeup is now so big-heavy (especially with the Willie Cauley-Stein decision), the Twins could hold the keys to the potential for a very big season. A UK backcourt without them only has three guards on the entire roster (Ulis, Booker and Hawkins). With them however, you go five deep and potentially have a 12 player bench that is quite formidable. I would argue getting the two of them back would be even bigger than the pipe dream of getting Randle back. They can improve by leaps and bounds and if they do, the team has amazing potential. Chad Ford of ESPN today said that the Twins are now leaning towards returning (he said they were leaving 36 hours ago) and that they would make a decision Tuesday or Wednesday. As I have said all along, I believe no one when it comes to Twins “scoop” because I think those that are talking about what they are going to do, aren’t part of the decision making process. If you made me guess, I would guess they return, but that (along with all the other opinions you see out there) is just a guess. But man…if they come back…whoa…
UK’S SUMMER PLANS
This will actually be an action-packed summer around UK’s basketball world. Calipari has another couple of weeks of promoting his book and then he is having hip replacement surgery on May 2. That will probably keep him out of activities for about a month and thus this could be one of the quieter Mays that we have ever had. But then recruiting will be huge this summer with the possibility of the 2015 class being the first that could end up with a two year rule by the NBA. If that happens, 2015 guys are even more valuable and the recruiting done this summer by Calipari, Kenny Payne and the new assistant (presumably Slice Rohrssen) is of tremendous importance. Kentucky will also get a summer trip and regardless of where it is, it will likely be timed somewhere in mid August. That will give the Cats a few weeks or practice before the trip and then 3-4 games on the trip. This new team gets all of that time to work out together and it will be a huge step towards creating team chemistry early on. We saw how important that was this year when the Twins and James Young were not able to get here early, and thus this is a very positive step. We have been used to summer offseasons with little news in the last couple of years…you may get a slight break in May, but after that, this summer will be action packed.
That is all for now…we hit the radio thing again in the morning and then head for a weekend of rest before the decisions of next week. Cross your fingers as I do feel good about where we are headed…
The UK backcourt of the future
John Calipari told the media today an interesting anecdote that tells volumes about the players coming into UK next season. He said that the incoming Freshman have been calling the current players asking them to stay. Calipari used it as an example of their “team first” attitude and while he didn’t specify which players were making the calls, the fact that any are doing so says a lot.
This group coming in is very different than any we have seen at Kentucky. They aren’t the freak athletes we often see, but they are all very skilled and great team players. With Tyler Ulis telling KSTV that he hopes Andrew Harrison returns, Karl Towns saying the same about Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles hoping that he can play with Alex Poythress, we have the potential to see something special in Lexington next season.
By Matt Jones on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 9:00pm
Former Northern Kentucky University Athletic Director Scott Eaton seemed to be on quite the roll. Under his leadership, NKU made the transition into Division I and the school has risen dramatically in prestige in the athletic community. But things have fallen apart. He was fired last year from the University for “inappropriate relationships” with employees and a student and now the hammer has hit again. Eaton has admitted to stealing over $311,000 from the University over the course of six years. His method of stealing was to use the NKU credit card, charge various items and then keep the proceeds for himself. The largest use was to buy over $262,000 in Kroger gift cards, all of which he spent on himself. He was caught after an audit of his practices following his dismissal from the University and now he faces the possibility of criminal charges.
Not exactly the type of ending to Eaton’s career he had to have imagined. But the question for me…how did he spend $262,000 in Kroger gift cards? I know its six years, but that seems like a lot of groceries, especially since they were gift cards to the store itself. My man likes to eat…
UPDATE: Just tonight, Eaton accepted a plea deal of ten years in state prison. In this case, it did not pay to go Krogering…
By Matt Jones on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 8:00pm
pic by Getty Images
The NBA Playoffs are just beginning on Saturday and I am actually excited. There are a number of solid matchups and this year we will see more UK guys in the playoffs than in recent years, including the first appearances by guys like John Wall, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Patrick Patterson. But next year, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller are headed to Louisville for a preseason game that you probably would like to see. The Pelicans are playing the Heat in the Yum Center and the chance to see Davis, Miller and Lebron is certainly worth your time. Tickets actually GO ON SALE TOMORROW as part of a pre-sale code that is for basketball fans in the area. You can buy tickets tomorrow at the link below, using the code “NBAYUM” from 10 am to 10 pm. The seating chart is below the link and the best tickets are available now. So go ahead and get them and go see Lebron, Anthony and the boys and bring some blue to the Yum Center:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 7:00pm
Lorde’s hit song “Royals” has gotten the parody treatment from just about everyone, including a group of Kentucky fans and Fake Barney. A Florida fan decided to give it a shot too, even shooting some of the scenes inside The Swamp. You’ll have to see it to believe it. I’m not sure I can ever look at Gatorade the same way.
Fake Barney FTW:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 6:30pm
Our pals at KyWildcatsTV have done an excellent job bringing us the sights and sounds of spring practice so far, and today, they released the video with defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh on the mic. Enjoy.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 6:00pm
Rajon Rondo sat out last night’s game against the Washington Wizards with a strained hamstring, but he did find an unique way to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. To honor the one-year anniversary of the bombing, Rondo wore a custom pair of shoes printed with the date and “Boston Strong” embroidered on the tongue, and the victims’ initials printed on the body of the shoe. He said he’ll donate the kicks to One Fund, a charity designed to help the victims.
Good on ya, Rajon.
One of the things Cal prides himself and the program on is the number of players who leave early, but return to finish their degrees. Although he didn’t play under Cal, Jodie Meeks is one of those players. According to Lakers beat reporter Mike Trudell, Meeks is on track to graduate from UK in May after working towards his degree during offseasons.
Meeks is now a free agent, but told Trudell he hopes he’ll be back in LA next season: “I’m not sure. I want to be back. I loved playing here. We’ll see how the draft and free agency goes.” Meeks was one of the few bright spots for the Lakers this season, averaging a career-best 15.6 points per game, almost double his average last season.
Keep making us proud, Jodie.
The 2014 recruiting class was the first in which John Calipari didn’t land most of the elite players he went after. Don’t get me wrong, the players he did sign are excellent, but several of the superstar prospects like Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, and Jahlil Okafor all decided to take their services elsewhere. During the McDonald’s All-American game a few weeks ago, USA Today’s Jason Jordan went around and asked some of the players what their second choice school was. For once, many of them said Kentucky. Here’s a breakdown:
Rashad Vaughn (UNLV): Iowa State
Devin Booker (Kentucky): Missouri
James Blackmon (Indiana): Kentucky (Think he regrets choosing the Hoosiers now?)
Kelly Oubre (Kansas): Kentucky
Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Kentucky
Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU): Kentucky
Mudiay’s comments were the most interesting to me. He said that during Cal’s in-home visit, he and his family liked what he had to say so much that he was ready to commit on the spot. His brother advised him to wait, and during Larry Brown’s visit, the legendary coach “talked way better than Cal did.”
Well, Cal does consider him a mentor.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 4:30pm
Things just got a little more interesting on the SEC basketball coaching carousel. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman is reporting that Missouri’s Frank Haith is in talks with Tulsa to become their new head coach.
Last season, the Tigers had the talent to make the tournament but underachieved all year, putting heat on Haith after his third season in Columbia. Haith has also had to deal with problems off the court, dismissing Louisville transfer Zach Price after a teammate filed an order of protection against him. Price was suspended indefinitely from Missouri on April 3 after being arrested on suspicion of domestic assault and assault.
Now, which is the better job: Tennessee or Missouri? I say Missouri.
UPDATE: Multiple outlets are reporting that Haith has accepted the job at Tulsa.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 3:51pm
A few days ago, ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford said that the Harrison Twins have been talking to agents about their draft stock but didn’t like the feedback they were getting. Today, he tweets that the feedback is pushing them to consider coming back to UK, with a decision coming on Tuesday or Wednesday:
Harrison twins were strongly leaning toward draft. Now they are considering returning to UK after NBA feedback. Should decide on Tues/Wed
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) April 17, 2014
As expected, UK has just announced that James Young will forgo his sophomore season and enter the NBA Draft. From the press release, here are James’ remarks:
“My time at Kentucky has been special to me, something I’ll always treasure, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Young said. “I’ve learned more this year, on and off the court, about life from Coach Cal and the staff and appreciate all of their guidance and support. I can’t say enough about my teammates; the journey helped us build a bond that we will always share for the rest of our lives. I would like to thank the best fans in the country, the Big Blue Nation, and I hope you guys will continue to support me as I move on. I will always bleed blue. Succeed and Proceed!”
Coach Cal says he’s excited for James, and thankful for his effort:
“I’m excited for James and his family and the decision he’s come to,” head coach John Calipari said. “From day one, the NBA people who came to our practices in the preseason raved about him. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him all season, investing himself in his brothers for the betterment of the team, and I think we all saw the end result in the tournament and Final Four. Whatever team drafts James is not only getting a superb athlete, they are getting the ultimate teammate.”
Best of luck to James. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.
This week Cal took to the road to promote his new book Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out, and he left no stone unturned in getting the word out. As he continues to promote his book and talk about his signature coaching style, we’ve collated some of his sound bites from those interviews below.
Morning Joe (MSNBC):
“It starts with recruiting. I tell [players] You’re not taking thirty shots if you come here, because you’re going to have other players who are just as good as you. The most anyone takes historically for my teams is thirteen, fourteen shots….I can’t promise you’re gonna start, how many minutes you’re going to get, all those things. But I’ve started something like thirty freshman in my time, or more now, and it all starts with recruiting.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 17th, 2014 @ 1:00pm
One interesting story from John Calipari’s press conference that didn’t really fit in my recap has to do with a fund Cal said he and his wife tried to start for their former players’ kids. Cal said they wanted to put together a fund to help his former players pay for their children’s educations, but the NCAA shot it down because it would be an extra benefit:
“I presented this to the NCAA, my wife and I. We want to start a fund. We’ll fund it, we’ll put the money in. That every player that’s ever played for me, whether they be at Mass, Memphis, or Kentucky, can request a grant for their children’s education. And that fund would peel off money for that reason. And when I stop coaching 25 years later, the money that’s left in that fund would be split between Memphis, Massachusetts, and Kentucky.
What was the response? ‘It’s an extra benefit.’ My wife and I sat there and said, ‘we’ve been thinking about this for five years, this is what we want to do. So, why can’t we put $5 or $10 million in an account that peels out money that all those players that have played for me? ‘Because you’ll use it in recruiting. And you’ll have an advantage.’ Well, I won’t if 50 other coaches do the same thing. Now, if 50 of us do it, we can afford it. I’m not the only guy that’s done well and am blessed. Well, 50 of us do it. ‘That’s bad.'”
For Cal, that’s yet another “common sense problem” the NCAA has right now, and one of the reasons it’s a crumbling institution. Kids’ education? Come on now…