Ok quick question for the Big Blue Nation? How many of you know the woman whose picture is above? Based on the title of the post, you can probably guess that it is Bipasha Basu, but does anyone know who she is or why she is famous? I certainly did not, but when searching for famous birthdays, I found that Basu was once named the most beautiful woman in Asia and is a major Hindi film star. But no matter how famous she may be in India, she could probably walk the streets of any city in our glorious Commonwealth unrecognized, and less praised than Ryan Lemond. Well if you didn’t know her, what about the man below?
That is Lewis Hamilton, the 24th richest athlete in the world and a Formula One driver who was at one point named the most popular non-soccer athlete (soccer players on a different level) in Europe. I had at least heard of Hamilton, but there are members of the Trinity High School basketball team who would get more name ID than he would around these parts. I bring this up only because it is these two world celebrities’ birthdays today and they reminded me just how skewed my perspective can become at times. In my world, that of Kentucky athletics, and United States pop culture, the I feel like I know who is relevant and what is popular. In Kentucky, John Calipari is King, Steve Beshear is our rather short Governor and the Heavy Hitter is the place to go, call 456-1000. Nationally, while I might not recognize Chief Keef or Meek Mill, I hear the kids like them and virtually any celebrity that has made an appearance on the Today Show, I feel confident I can name. But worldwide, I know little. I knew nothing of Basu’s hit films in India, “Raaz”, “Jism” or “Madhoshi.” And when it comes to Formula One, I didn’t realize Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes was a worldwide story. As I find out every Saturday that I go to write the Birthday salute, there is a whole lot out there I don’t know, and in all honesty, probably never will. I could find that very sad, but I can comfort myself with this. The folks at Bangalore Sports Radio have no idea who Alan Cutler or Stone Cold Willow is either. We each have our heroes, parochial as they may be.
To the news…
— The biggest news of the weekend was yet another John Calipari recruiting coup as Dakari Johnson picked the Cats on ESPNU Saturday night. Johnson is ranked as the #12 overall player in America by ESPN and is a big man that will pay HUGE dividends for the Cats. His game is in the mold of Calipari’s first two Centers at Kentucky, Demarcus Cousins and Josh Harrellson. Like Cousins, he is a beast down low, getting every rebound and playing post defense as well as anyone you will see in high school. But like Jorts, he can step outside and make a mid-range jumper, helping him become a zone buster for a team that could use one next season. Johnson is the #1 Center in America, making this the fifth STRAIGHT YEAR that Calipari has gotten a commitment from the top ranked big man (Cousins, Enes, Davis, Noel and now Johnson). That is simply astounding. Throw in Karl Townes for the next year and it is clear that Calipari has not only made Kentucky Point Guard U, he has also made it Center U. It becomes easy around here to get spoiled. Randomly you get a day like Saturday, where you wake up and find out that a 5 star player is about to commit to Kentucky again. But it doesn’t make the accomplishment any less amazing, as Calipari gets yet another piece towards the best class in college basketball history (regardless of whether he likes us saying it or not).
— With the good news came a slight dose of bad as (for my money) the best recruiting analyst out there Evan Daniels said that if he had to pick today, he thinks Andrew Wiggins ends up at Florida State. Daniels’ comment raised a stir on Twitter and message boards, but it shouldn’t have been a big shock. Most analysts that have followed the Wiggins recruitment tend to agree that FSU is the leader at this time. However this process is far from over and Wiggins may not make a decision until sometime in May, meaning there is plenty of time for a change of heart. The big issue working against Kentucky at this point is the relationship his father has with Florida State, a school where he and his mother both starred as athletes. Most indications suggest his father strongly prefers the Seminoles and that is what drives most people’s predictions. In situations like this, a lot depends on what type of kid the young man is. John Wall had nearly everyone around him pushing him to Miami, but he came to Kentucky anyway. We just don’t know if Andrew is (a) that committed to Kentucky (most believe he personally favors UK) or (b) willing to push the issue. Either way, Wiggins is a good kid and a phenomenal player. Whatever school gets him will be very lucky.
— SEC play begins Thursday in Nashville as Kentucky takes on a terrible Vandy team. The Commodores were as good as they may ever be last year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they take the time on Thursday night to raise their lame SEC Tournament banner. But whatever they were last year, they are much worse this year. Their leading returning scorer only averaged 3 points a game, and unlike Kentucky, they don’t have a top class to replace them. The game takes on important significance for the Cats however because as one of the 9 road games the Cats will face in league play, it is a must win. Vanderbilt is atrocious and a loss could really put Kentucky on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. However get a win, and the schedule opens up nicely for a 6 or 7 game winning streak to start league play. Kevin Stallings got his wish, as Kentucky has a Thursday-Saturday doubleheader, but if the Cats take care of business, it should be a relatively easy twosome to start the SEC.
— The other big piece of recruiting news for Kentucky was the commitment of another 4 star stud, Jaleel Hytchye to Mark Stoops and the football staff. Jaleel is from Cincinnati and a Cornerback with impressive 4.38 40 speed. He is a track star for his high school and he will contend to play right away for the Cats. He said after his commitment that people needed to be ready for Kentucky to do “special things” in the new Stoops era, and I am starting to believe that is going to happen. What Stoops is doing in recruiting has never been done here and it seems to only get better. Plus, Hytchye gave me my favorite press conference quote by a high school player since Eric Bledsoe’s “we about to get sh*t right” many years ago. When asked about playing against his brother, Hytchye said, “He challenges me and I challenges him.” I plan on using that one quite often.
— Finally, a quick note on an ongoing story around here, the planned renovation of Commonwealth Stadium in the upcoming years. The Kentucky Legislature begins its session on Tuesday, meaning the UK plan to attempt to undergo the renovations will begin the process soon. The Legislature does simple things like elect the leadership on this go around, but after a few weeks hiatus (because why wouldn’t they need a hiatus after working three days) the legislature comes back towards the end of the month. I suspect that between now and then, we will know of UK’s plan and we will begin the process of learning if the State Legislature will support it. We plan on following this very closely on KSR and as the process goes on, we will let you know which of your Representatives and Senators are for allowing the Football facility renovation bonding and which are not…and what you can do to change their minds. It will be a lesson in government and public service…maybe thrown together in the most ridiculous manner possible. If you have ever wanted to see state Kentucky house members with a Drew Franklin photoshop, well just wait until we find out who is keeping UK from competing in the SEC. The next few weeks should be fun.
We get started again in the morning. If you didn’t hear the latest edition of the Walk-Ons Podcast, download it here or subscribe to it on iTunes. It is the podcast I do with two ACC bloggers and we talk about college basketball as a whole. Kentucky talk is always a significant part and we talk a bit about this year’s team’s upside and Calipari’s favorite song on this edition.
Good week around here as SEC play starts. We got our Louisville radio ratings on Friday and they were through the roof. Thanks for being such good fans and lets get ready to march towards another SEC title….
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