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It’s almost Kentucky Derby time in the bluegrass, which means it’s almost Ferdinand’s Ball time in the bluegrass, a KSR May tradition. The annual gala in honor of the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner will kick off Louisville’s biggest weekend on Derby Thursday, as it always does, at the Muhammad Ali Center. This year’s event will be hosted by Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Darius Miller, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and Luke Hancock.
In case you missed the promotion here on the website earlier Monday evening, Ferdinand’s Ball is offering $25 off cocktail tickets for Kentucky Sports Radio readers and listeners. All you have to do is enter promo code “drewloveskate” to receive the discount at checkout on the Ferdinand’s Ball website. Cocktail tickets will get you access to the premium open bar, appetizers, the photo booth, silent auction, dance floor, and much more.
This year will mark our fourth time attending the event and we’ll continue to go as long as they’ll have us as it is one of our favorite parts of Derby weekend. Not only does Ferdinand’s Ball raise money for a great cause, but it provides several celebrity interactions — some good, some awkward — and we hope you’ll join us a week from Thursday to see what this year has in store. (We will not be throwing up Ls with Peyton Siva this year.)
On to the Tuesday news and views…
Julius Randle will announce his decision Tuesday afternoon.
Kentucky basketball fans — that’d be you — will finally learn the future of Julius Randle on Tuesday when he announces his intentions to enter the NBA, or, if hell freezes over, return to Lexington for a sophomore season. Randle is scheduled to hold a press conference at 1:30 pm Tuesday to go public with his decision and all signs point to the league, as expected all along.
Randle has been a projected top five pick since committing to Kentucky last spring so he’d be borderline crazy to return, although we’d gladly welcome him back. But with his NBA potential and teams drooling over the opportunity to draft him, the smart play is to follow the lifelong dream and the money after one season of college basketball. We’ll officially find out if that is his play Tuesday afternoon.
Kentucky football landed a HUGE commitment.
Mark Stoops and the University of Kentucky football program hauled in a huge commitment Monday night in the form of Eli Brown of Bowling Green, one of the best outside linebackers in the country. Brown, originally a Vandy commit until James Franklin bolted for Penn State, also had offers from several big programs, including football powerhouses Ohio State and USC.
A four-star prospect in the 2015 class, Brown currently has a 0.9191 247Sports Composite rating, the fourth-highest for a UK commit in the Mark Stoops era. Only Jason Hatcher, Drew Barker and Matt Elam received a higher grade, but Brown still has another season of high school football ahead of him to improve that number.
There’s no doubt, folks, this is one of the biggest Yahtzees and one that could spark more incoming elite talent by coming so early in the process, a la Drew Barker.
Welcome aboard, Eli.
Trey Lyles wants to win UK’s ninth title in his hometown.
Around this time two years ago, a young Julius Randle tweeted that he wants to win the 2014 NCAA championship in front of his friends and family in Dallas, his hometown. Randle, of course, fell just short of that goal after successfully reaching the title game two weeks ago.
Now it is Trey Lyles’ turn. The soon-to-be Kentucky Wildcat has his eyes on the 2015 NCAA championship game in Indianapolis, his hometown. Monday night, Lyles tweeted, “In 2015 I want to win a National Championship in my hometown Indianapolis!!! #BBN #Cats”
— Trey Lyles (@TreyMambaLyles) April 21, 2014
Willie Cauley-Stein replied, “Ya I wanna win it in urs too.”
Yeah, I want you two to win it, too.
Donnie Tyndall to Tennessee?
According to Gary Parrish and his Hollister rewards card, former Morehead State head coach Donnie Tyndall will be the next head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. Tyndall spent the last two seasons at Southern Miss after a great run at Morehead State that included sending Rick Pitino home from the NCAAs and turning Kenneth Faried into a star. Tyndall also spent time on the coaching staffs at Middle Tennessee State and LSU, so he knows the state and the conference well.
Tennessee had hoped to hire Louisiana Tech’s Michael White, but when White declined an offer, Tyndall became the guy.
The door is open for Barry “Slice” Rohrssen to join Calipari’s staff.
Pittsburgh sent out a press release saying Rohrssen is leaving the Panther program, paving the way for him to accept the rumored assistant coaching offer in Lexington. The deal is believed to be done but there has been no official word from UK, not yet at least.
The one-time Manhattan head coach has several ties to New York City and is an excellent recruiter, not to mention a longtime friend of John Calipari. Jamie Dixon reportedly offered Rohrssen a significant raise to stick around, but the UK job is just too attractive of an offer to turn down.
Expect to hear something from Kentucky soon.
Calipari will meet with the Harrison twins Tuesday to discuss their future(s).
The smart move is to come back as they’re almost guaranteed a better spot in the draft with another year under Calipari and another season of college basketball to prove they’re NBA ready. My guess is Cal will tell them a return is the right move, but ya never know. The plan all along for the twins was to be one-and-done players, so even the slightest bit of interest from the league could send them packing. But as of now, there has been very little talk of interest from the NBA, if any, so the idea of a second season at UK has grown on them.
As Matt wrote in his decision update below, no one truly knows what is going on behind the scenes in the twins’ decision making process and anyone who tells you they know is lying. The Harrisons have been very private with everything and we’ll all find out together once the decision is made.
I’ll leave you with this:
Go Cats, everybody.
The NBA playoffs are now underway and 8 former Cats are on a mission for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Here’s everything you need to know about how the former Cats performed:
Former Cat Player of the Week: John Wall
Wall was key in the Wizard’s game 1 trip to Chicago and the theft of home court advantage. John finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. That statline was accomplished on just 4-14 shooting so if Wall can get his shot to fall then an even bigger game 2 could be in the works. The Wizards and Wall are back in action tomorrow night at 7 on TNT.
Terrence Jones: 36 minutes, 12 points.
Houston was one of the many teams to give up home court over the weekend as the Trailblazers took down the Rockets in OT. Jones, and all of the Rockets, got dominated by the physical basketball force known as LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge set a franchise record by going in for 46 points and 18 rebounds. Jones, James Harden, and D12 will need to solve the Blazer riddle quick if they are going to make it to the second round. Game 2 is Wednesday at 9:30.
Patrick Patterson: 26 minutes, 9 points.
The Raptors took on the dinosaurs over the weekend and dropped game 1 in Toronto. Brooklyn was built almost entirely for a playoff run and the young Raptors may not have what it takes to win 4 against the more experienced team. P-Pat came off the bench to score 9 but there isn’t much he can do against the guard heavy Nets. Game 2 is tomorrow at 7:30.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 15 minutes, 5 points.
MKG has what is probably the toughest job in all of sports: find a way to stop the best player in all of basketball on his quest for a third straight championship. Lebron dominated the Bobcats and the smaller Kidd-Gilchrist as just one inch and 20 lbs of muscle make all the difference for the great one. Game 2 tips Wednesday at 7.
Chuck Hayes: 6 minutes, 0 points.
Tayshaun Prince: 4 minutes, 0 points.
Tayshaun got the start in the Grizzlies’ loss to the Thunder but played just 4 minutes as he had to deal with a stomach bug. In his place Tony Allen came off the bench to score 13 points but Memphis really needed someone who could slow down KD who finished with 33 points and 8 boards. Prince is now fully recovered and Game 2 tipped off at 8 o’clock.
Nazr Mohammed: 2 minutes, 0 points.
Nazr continues to provide defensive player of the year, Joakim Noah (gag), some relief off the bench.
Marquis Teague did not make the trip to Toronto with his Brooklyn teammates.
Which of the Cats are you pulling for to advance to the second round?
By Matt Jones on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 9:45pm
pic by @whitneybw14
The above picture is awesome and occurred tonight at the Northern Kentucky book signing, where the question on all UK fans’ minds continues to be…what will the remaining UK players do? I have no definitive answers but will pass along the latest we are hearing:
It is almost certain that Julius will announce tomorrow that he is going to the NBA Draft. Randle is going to be a Top 5 pick and thus going is a no-brainer. Like James Young however, he will finish class at Kentucky this semester and not pull an “Orton.”
All indications we are hearing are that Alex will return. There are people around Alex who would like to see him leave but he hasn’t gotten strong interest from the Draft folks and he wants to come back and continue towards his degree. Alex is a very smart kid who likes school and is close to his sister who is also a student at UK. If it were solely up to Alex, the decision would have been made and he would be back at Kentucky. But Calipari and UK have had to deal with other folks interested in him entering the Draft and Poythress is having to work through that process. Kyle Tucker today said that he is hearing that the Harrison Twins’ decision will have an effect on Alex’s but everything I have heard says that is incorrect. Poythress wants to return and that announcement could happen very soon if he is able to pull the trigger as he hopes.
In terms of news, Dakari has slipped a little bit from the forefront. Two weeks ago, Johnson wanted to return to Kentucky and I think everyone assumed that would be what would happen. But as he has gone through the process, I am told he has gotten more favorable feedback than he expected and now it has made the decision much tougher. I talked to two folks close to the process in the last two days, both of whom assumed he would return but said it was “60/40” return and getting less every day. The longer the process goes, the more possible a Dakari to the draft decision becomes.
I continue to say that most of the gossip and “word on the street” about the Twins is all false. I did read the article in Houston over the weekend as saying that the Twins are looking for a reason to enter the Draft, and I think if they could find it, they would leave. But the reality is that the feedback they are getting isn’t great and they are smart kids who want to make the best business decision possible. I have spoken to two people that are as close to the Twins as anyone and neither of them know for sure…that is why I don’t believe any of the gossip that is currently floated about. I do think however that Tuesday’s meeting with Calipari will be crucial and his advice will have a strong impact in the process, either way. At this point, if you made me make a bet, I would bet on them returning just because they can’t both be certain of first round pick status…but I have literally no inside information I consider trustworthy and will be waiting just like all of you.
There are going to be some big KSR shows coming this week, so sit back and relax. Going to be a lot of fun…
Bowling Green’s Eli Brown is the newest member of Kentucky’s 2015 football recruiting class. The four-star linebacker, a top 20 player nationally at OLB, tweeted his commitment late Monday evening.
Guess its time to get the word out i am now committed to University of Kentucky!! #bbn
— Eli Brown (@32_brown) April 22, 2014
A former Vanderbilt commit under James Franklin, Brown attended Kentucky’s Junior Day back in February and has made two other unofficial visits to Lexington this month. He also had offers from Ohio State and USC.
At his book signing in Northern Kentucky today, John Calipari talked a bit about a new phenomenon he is having to deal with after the return of players for another year. According to Aaron Huff who was in attendance, Calipari said that during a recruiting visit done by his Assistant Coach Kenny Payne, the recruit told him that another coach said Calipari “forced” Willie Cauley-Stein to return. Payne knew this to be incorrect, told Calipari and then called Willie, who told the recruit that not only was he not forced, Calipari told him to go to the Draft. Nevertheless, Willie made the decision to return.
An interesting tidbit and further proof that the crowds at these Calipari book signings get to hear all the good stuff…
By Drew Franklin on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 8:00pm
Before he touched down at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Crestview this evening, Coach Cal was in Chicago to check on his only commitment in the 2015 class, Charles Matthews. Word spread when fans at the book signing were told Cal was running a little behind because he was recruiting in Chicago, later confirmed through Evan Daniels of Scout.com that it was Matthews who received the Monday afternoon visit.
John Robic was also out on the recruiting trail Monday, visiting four-star Quentin Goodin in Campbellsville. Goodin is a 6-foot-2 point guard at Taylor County, ranked No. 55 overall in the Top247 rankings for 2016.
It never stops.
By Drew Franklin on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 7:30pm
Our good friends at Ferdinand’s Ball are offering up a deal for KSR readers and listeners interested in joining us at this year’s party. Now through this Thursday night at 11:55 pm, you will receive $25 off your cocktail ticket, good for the premium open bar, appetizers, access to the photo booth, silent auction and dance floor, and much more. Just head over to the ball’s ticket website to purchase your tickets and enter promo code “drewloveskate” (it was at the 2011 ball when I fell in love with Kate Upton) to get the deal.
Held annually on the Thursday night before the Kentucky Derby, Ferdinand’s Ball kicks off the Derby weekend festivities while raising money for Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in honor of Ferdinand, the 1986 Derby winner that was sold into slaughter after his million-dollar racing career. The gala raises funds and awareness to ensure other legacies like Ferdinand don’t meet the same horrific fate.
This year, the 2014 version of Ferdinand’s Ball will feature celebrity hosts Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and Darius Miller, plus Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Luke Hancock. The event will be held Thursday, May 2 at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville.
One more time: enter promo code “drewloveskate” here to receive $25 off your cocktail tickets and we’ll see you there!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 6:45pm
Congratulations to DeAndre Liggins, who was named the NBA D-League’s Defensive Player of the Year today. Liggins appeared in 42 regular season games for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, averaging 14.2 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.6 steals.
Liggins played one game for the Miami Heat this season, but the team released him to make room for center Justin Hamilton. If DeAndre keeps it up, it’s only a matter of time before he find himself on another NBA roster.
Here’s a highlight reel of his best defensive plays this season:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 6:15pm
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 5:38pm
Even though Andrew Wiggins didn’t come to Kentucky, he’s still the “most popular” athlete in Kentucky, according to Andrew Powell-Morse of BestTickets.com. Powell-Morse used Google’s search volume data for the past year to determine which athlete was Googled the most in each state, and Wiggins came out on top in the Bluegrass and in Kansas:
While we wait for the draft decisions, it’s nice to remember that it’s been even crazier than this before. Just thinking about Wigginsanity makes me tired.
Barry Rohrssen to UK is now the worst-kept secret in college basketball. Pitt just sent out a press release announcing that Rohrssen is leaving the staff, which makes his move to Kentucky all but certain. Last week, John Calipari said he was going to focus on the assistant coaching search this week, and it’s only a matter of time before UK sends out a press release of its own to announce the hiring.
Cal needed a home run hire to fill Orlango Antigua’s shoes, especially in recruiting, and it looks like they’re getting one in Rohrssen. Rohrssen is a New York native with strong ties in the area, and is said to be just as impressive a recruiter as Antigua. At Pitt, he already reeled in a commitment from top 2016 point guard Mustapha Heron, something to keep an eye on going forward.
Welcome to the Bluegrass, Slice.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 21st, 2014 @ 5:00pm
The Tennessee coaching search is becoming laughable. According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Louisiana Tech coach Michael White turned down the Vols today, which pretty much says it all. Now, the Vols are reportedly setting their sights on Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall, who you may remember as the head coach at Morehead State.
When the Louisiana Tech coach turns you down, you know things are pretty bad.
This afternoon, John Calipari met with Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson to discuss their futures at Kentucky. Earlier, I listed the reasons Alex should stay for his junior year, and now, it’s time to do the same for Dakari.
— Gamble on the second round or work towards the lottery? For Dakari, it’s all about potential. Right now, Dakari’s projected to be a second round pick just because of his upside. However, with a year of conditioning and continued development, Dakari could be one of the best big men in the country. So, gamble on the second round (no guaranteed contract), or come back and work towards the lottery? Doesn’t seem difficult to me.
— Conditioning: Dakari played his way into the starting lineup this season and became one of the “energy guys” for the Cats, but that energy couldn’t last a whole game. Dakari averaged 14.1 minutes per game, and at times in the tournament, was gassed during key stretches. He’s already come leaps and bounds from where he was last summer, but Dakari needs to run, run, run to get the pounds off and the stamina up.
— Develop skills: I love Dakari, but no one’s ever going to call him “athletic.” The good news for him is he’s 7′ tall and has some great hands, which more often than not leads to automatic points in the paint. However, he needs to work on his foot speed and polish his offensive skills.
The biggest question for Dakari is if he’d rather work on his skills and conditioning in the D-League or in school. Kentucky’s front court will be loaded next year, but when NBA guys see Dakari, they think project. With another year of development at UK, Dakari could increase his stock more than any other player on the team.
What would you say to Dakari?
The deadline to enter the NBA Draft is Sunday, and John Calipari is meeting with his players today and tomorrow to discuss their options. This morning, he met with Julius Randle in what was surely the easiest of the five conversations. Julius has earned a spot in the hearts of the BBN forever, but is projected to be a Top 5 pick, which means it’s silly not to go.
This afternoon, Cal will meet with Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson. Because DeWayne Peevy totally found out about my hidden camera, let’s use our imaginations to picture what’s going down in the meetings, starting with Poythress. Cal says that in these meetings, he presents each player with the information he’s gathered from the NBA, and asks the players to explain why they would like to stay or go. I’m big on lists, so here’s my list of reasons Alex needs to come back:
— Getting your degree: Alex is practically a 4.0 student, and on track to graduate at the end of his junior year. This is a big priority for Alex, who enjoys school, and his family. For Alex more so than any of the other players deciding right now, this is a huge factor.
— Achieving consistency: With Julius gone, there’s a good chance Alex can work his way back into the starting rotation. At times, Alex was the team’s most dependable sixth man, and in the tournament, he had an uncanny ability to make the plays the team needed the most. Alex still slumped a little this past season, but if he can build on his performance in the postseason, beast mode will become the norm instead of the exception.
— Enjoying college for college: Our Alex Poythress source (Ryan Lemond) says that Alex truly enjoys being in college, and wants to stay another year. Ryan also said that if he’s making this decision with his heart, Alex will stay because he loves being at Kentucky so much.
— No guarantee, even in the second round: Alex isn’t even listed on most mock drafts. Chad Ford says he’s the 51st best prospect, but that’s a pretty big gamble, especially just to get into the second round, where contracts aren’t guaranteed. Scouts say Alex would be a second round pick at best. I’ve read that some in Alex’s camp say they’re getting a lot of interest from a few teams, but I can’t help but think that if he’s drafted, Alex would be sent to the D-League for a few years until he becomes more consistent, and for a player who sometimes gets down on himself, that may not be a great option. Why not continue that development while getting closer to your degree?
What reasons would you give Alex for staying or going?