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Aaron Torres’ Take

Why the 2018-2019 Season Might be the Most Important of the Calipari Era

When Reid Travis committed to play his final season at Kentucky last week, I made a statement that day that frankly, I didn’t think was all too controversial: With the addition of Travis, Kentucky was officially the team to be in college basketball entering the 2018-2019 season.

Again, I didn’t find that comment to be all too controversial. With Travis now in the fold, UK simply possessed the best combination of skill, athleticism, depth and experience of anyone in the country. And apparently I wasn’t alone in thinking that. Within the next 24 hours of my initial comment, ESPN tabbed the Wildcats the favorites in 2019. So too did CBS. And within the last 24 hours, Vegas came full-circle and named Kentucky the team to beat next season.

So yeah, the Wildcats are going to be good. Realllllllly good.

Of course, as you might imagine not everyone agreed. Just as soon as I sent out the tweet below, stating that the Wildcats were the best team in college basketball entering next season, I got brush-back from fans from all sorts of other fan-bases across college basketball. They all basically shared the same sentiment, which went a little something like this: “Oh, you media guys are all the same. Of course you love Kentucky. You overhype them every off-season, and they still only have one national championship to show for it.”
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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E56: Jim Calhoun

It’s another edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – and woooooo is it a doozy, as Aaron is joined by the Hall of Fame, former head coach of UConn basketball Jim Calhoun. As a UConn alum, Aaron went bonkers, reliving Calhoun’s glory days, his best players and teams, as well as his new job as a head coach. Plus, the wild story of how Bob Knight convinced Calhoun to take the UConn job instead of Northwestern nearly 40 years ago.
First however, Aaron hits on some of the biggest topics and in and around basketball, including:
Reid Travis’ Arrival at KentuckyAfter briefly hitting on the topic last week, Aaron takes a deep dive into the Reid Travis commitment at UK. He explains why Travis now makes Kentucky complete, as well as the team to beat in college basketball in 2018-2019. Aaron also explains why the hype surrounding this year’s team is different than in years past.
Turmoil at UConnAaron looks at the tricky, legal situation involving Kevin Ollie and his buyout at UConn. Aaron also explains why the situation might be a bit more complicated than many have made it out to be.
Johnny Jones gets Another Job: How? 
NBA Awards Show: The dumb Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell debate, and Bill Russell gave the middle finger to all of America.
Next up, Aaron does a deep dive with the Hall of Famer, Jim Calhoun. The pair hit on a number of topics, including:
 
Calhoun’s New Job at a DIII SchoolCalhoun explains why he shockingly took the job at St. Joseph’s College, a Division III school in Aaron’s hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut. Calhoun also explains the differences between building a program at the DIII vs. DI level, and how coaching at a former all-girls college helps recruiting.
The Rise of UConn BasketballCalhoun takes listeners behind the scenes of how he built UConn basketball from a program with no resources and facilities into a Big East power. What was it like walking into a league where six coaches became future Hall of Famers? And when did he know he had the program on the right track?
Calhoun Discusses his Best Players and Teams: Finally Calhoun wraps up by talking about the best players and teams from his time in Storrs. Why the 2004 team – featuring Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor – was his most talented, but not necessarily the “best.” And why he readily admits we’ll never see anything like what Kemba Walker pulled off in 2011.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E55: NBA Draft Night Special

The NBA Draft is over and the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is your home for the most comprehensive post-draft coverage anywhere. Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey and they chat for over an hour on the draft’s biggest storylines.
Mikal Bridges’ MomBridges and his mom, a 76ers employee, were the story of the draft… right up until Bridges got traded from Philadelphia to Phoenix. Was this an even ploy by Philly? And how can Philly even make trades without a GM.
Michael Porter Jr’s FallThe guys do a deep dive on Michael Porter Jr’s fall, and why it might be the best thing for him. Did the Nuggets actually get the best player in the draft? And is it really a risk even if he is injured?
How Good is Luka Doncic? The guys debate the third overall pick Luka Doncic and whether we should actually buy the hype. Aaron explains why Sacramento didn’t make a mistake passing on him, and the guys wonder why so many draft snobs are obsessed with European prospects. Also, how many top European prospects actually work out at the NBA level?
Why Kevin Knox to the Knicks is a Perfect Fit: Aaron explains why he believes that Knox was the steal of the draft with the Knicks. The guys also talk about why they hate Mo Bamba to the Magic and give a big shout out to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Plus, stay til the end for a conversation on Reid Travis, and why John Calipari shook up all of college basketball with his decision to attend Kentucky.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by IMAC:


Everything You Need to Know About the 2018 NBA Draft

After months of rumors, innuendo, lies, leaks, gossip and #fakenews media reports, we’ve finally made it. It’s draft night, people! The night where we can push aside the crap your favorite team has been peddling for months – and find out where your favorite player will actually play his professional basketball next year. What a time to be alive!

And when Adam Silver does step to that podium this evening, oh what a night it will be. Understand that while this event is always marred by chaos, tonight could be extra chaotic. After DeAndre Ayton goes No. 1, it feels like Sacramento could go two or three different ways, which could ultimately shake up what everyone does from there. Add in the fact that a major NBA star is potentially on the trading block (Kawhi Leonard) and an NBA title contender has a Top 10 pick which they could possibly move (Cleveland) and woooooah buddy could tonight get wonky.

Therefore who better than to do a little draft preview than your favorite resident college basketball insider. I’ve been watching most of these guys for three or four years dating back to their high school days and know more about them, than some of my own family members. Sorry Aunt Millie, it’s true.

It’s time to preview the draft and talk some of the biggest names and most overrated players available tonight.
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With Reid Travis There is No Doubt: Kentucky is the Favorite in College Basketball Next Season

Back a few weeks ago I released my “Way Too Early Top 25” for the 2018-2019 college basketball season after the NBA Draft deadline. At the time I had Kentucky sitting at No. 2, thanks to UK’s phenomenal blend of talent, skill and experience heading into next year.  The only team I had ahead of the Wildcats was Gonzaga, a club which returns basically everyone, including two players I believe could have been first round picks had they entered this year’s draft (Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura).

However when that Top 25 did come out a month or so ago, I did have one addendum on my section about the Wildcats: If Kentucky were able to add Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis, a former McDonald’s All-American and two-time Pac-12 All-Conference First Team member to its club, I’d have no choice but to move Kentucky to No. 1 in my poll.

Well on Wednesday that addendum became official: Reid Travis has committed to Kentucky. And with that, there’s no other way to put it: The Wildcats are the unquestioned top team in the country heading into the 2018-2019 season.

That’s right, it’s time to move over Gonzaga. Step aside, Kansas. Adios to Duke and your big-time recruiting class. See ya Virginia and your boring offense which will produce an ACC regular season title and first weekend NCAA Tournament loss next year. The Kentucky Wildcats are the team to beat heading into 2018-2019.
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Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E54: NBA Draft Preview

It’s draft week and this episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is dedicated almost exclusively to the NBA Draft. Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey, where they begin the show by talking about Ashton Hagans’ arrival at Kentucky, before turning their full attention to draft week. Among the topics they discuss include:

Should DeAndre Ayton be the ‘lock’ to go No. 1? It seems as though we’ve hit a consensus that Ayton will go No. 1, but the guys must ask: is there a better option out there? Aaron calls into question Ayton’s questionable motor in college, but also says that Ayton not only has the most skill in the draft, but the most upside. Should that lock him into No. 1?

Is Marvin Bagley the safest pick in the draft? The guys think so, as they both rave about the skill of the Duke forward. Nick calls Bagley ‘can’t miss’ while Aaron says that even in a draft full of potential, Bagley is the closest thing to a finished product. Also, the guys wonder — how good can Bagley immediately be next season?

Does Trae Young have bust potential? One of the guys thinks so, as it’s fair to ask if the highest-profile player in this draft might not reach expectations. Also, Aaron explains why he believes that Kevin Knox is the player who is mostly to be better than where he’s projected to be drafted — plus thoughts on Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba and Michael Porter Jr.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Today’s episode is brought to you by IMAC:


What Kind of Impact Can Reid Travis Have Next Season? We Asked Pac-12 Coaches

It’s no secret that former Stanford forward Reid Travis is the biggest name left on the college basketball transfer market – and it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that he might be one of the most coveted grad transfers in the history of the sport. After all, it’s not often that former McDonald’s All-American’s who earn All-Conference honors in a league like the Pac-12 make it to their senior years period,  let alone decide to transfer following the season. That’s also why some of the biggest names in college basketball – most notably Kentucky and Villanova – are hoping to have the 6’8 forward on their rosters next year.

Still, despite being such a big name, the combination of injuries early in his career and playing at a low-profile Pac-12 school means that quite a few fans still don’t know much about him. That’s why KSR decided to reach out to those who do know him best – two Pac-12 assistant coaches who spent the last four years scouting and game-planning against him.

Because Travis is still a transfer in the middle of the recruiting process, neither could speak publicly about him, and agreed to these interviews on the condition of anonymity. But both coaches shared virtually the same sentiment when discussing the former first-team All-Pac 12 performer.

It was summed up succinctly by the first coach.

“I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m glad he’s out of our league,” the first Pac-12 assistant said laughing.

Both coaches remember Travis dating back to his days as a high school star, with one of the coaches saying he believed the Minnesota native was “the best power forward” in his high school class. And once Travis arrived in college he had an immediate impact, before a string of injuries kept him off the court for a big stretch of time. 

“His freshman year in particular in the non-conference as we were watching him, he was amazing,” the second coach said. “He was aaaaaaaamazing. And he was somebody that we were majorly, majorly concerned about. But what was unfortunate is that he had all these injuries and he was never able to show what he could do [until recently].”

Sadly, that was the reality of Travis’ career arc at Stanford, and why he is even eligible to transfer right now, period: The poor kid simply couldn’t stay healthy for his first few years on campus. He missed nine games his freshman year with a stress fracture in his left leg, then played in just eight games total his sophomore year with a stress reaction in the same leg. That lost sophomore season also allowed him to apply for a medical redshirt, which gave him a fifth-year of eligibility he will use next season.

As the second coach pointed out, it wasn’t really until this past season that Travis was able to show what he was able to do when fully healthy. He played in every Stanford game for the first time in his career this winter, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, playing some of his best games against the Cardinal’s best competition. That included 18 points and 11 rebounds in a win over UCLA, and 20 and 10 in a two-point loss to Arizona at home.

All the skills that Travis displayed as a high school standout finally came out for a college audience to see last year.

“His hands, his athleticism, the way that he attacked the basket, his relentless pursuit of rebounds,” the second coach said, when asked what makes Travis so special on the court.

Now the question becomes what’s next.

While neither coach is privy to Travis’ decision-making process, both understood his decision to pursue options outside of Stanford. The coaching staff which initially recruited Travis to Palo Alto was replaced following his sophomore year, and while the Cardinal are full of young talent (sophomores Daejon Davis and Kezie Okpala might have futures in the NBA) it still feels like they’re a ways away from competing with the elite in college basketball.

So after spending four years at Stanford and locking in a college degree from one of America’s most prestigious universities, why not try and play for one of the elite programs in the country?

“He’s been there a long time,” one coach said. “And you have to think that man, if you’re going to be in college that long and play at that level, and be that good of a player, why not try to win a national championship?”

He continued.

“And he’s got a Stanford degree? He’s golden.”

Looking ahead, both coaches said that regardless of where Travis ends up, he still has things to work on. Each coach mentioned that he still favors going over his left shoulder in the post (playing predominately with his right hand) and needs to develop the other hand to reach his full potential. One coach added that to truly reach his NBA potential, Travis will need to work on his mid-range game too. A 17-foot jumper is a must.

Still, both coaches believe that wherever Travis ends up he’ll have an immediate impact. He isn’t simply a good player who put big numbers on a bad team. He’s a difference-maker wherever he lands next season.

“I think he can put up monster numbers wherever he goes,” the first coach said. “He’s a talent.”

The second coach agreed. While it’s uncertain whether Travis will choose Kentucky, Villanova or somewhere else, the coach is already having nightmares of what Travis could look like alongside another talented Kentucky team.

“They [Kentucky] have a bunch of young kids, but you throw Reid Travis in that group?” the coach said. “Oh my gosh. I just hope we don’t meet them until the Final Four.”


The Aaron Torres Podcast E53: LSU Head Coach Will Wade

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back with a very special guest — LSU head coach Will Wade.  The coach of the Tigers joins the show to talk about his preseason Top 20 team and the influence John Calipari has had on his career. But before the Wade interview, Aaron is joined by his good friend Nick Coffey where they discuss major news in college basketball…
 
Charles Bassey is going to Western KentuckyIn shocking news, the No. 3 player in America has reclassified and will play next season at Western Kentucky. Aaron and Nick go into a deep dive on a very bizarre recruitment that landed Western with a future first round pick. Also, Aaron asks, why does Rick Stansbury have such a bad reputation around college basketball, while known cheaters like Kelvin Sampson and Bruce Pearl seem to get a free pass?
 
LeBron’s NCAA Documentary: The guys circle back on another big story from earlier in the week, a documentary from LeBron about the NCAA which will feature Kentucky’s Nick Richards. The guys explain why they’re already annoyed with the idea and its potential to be one-sided. Also, how many college athletes genuinely make money for their universities?
Next up, Aaron welcomes on a biiiiiig guest, as he is joined by LSU basketball coach Will Wade. Wade has the Tigers primed for a monster season in 2018-2019 and discussed with Aaron the following:
 
The Incredible Turnaround the Tigers had Last SeasonCoach Wade explains what allowed the Tigers to go from a club that was picked to finish 14th in the SEC in the preseason, to one that surprised many on their way to an above .500 finish in the SEC. What allowed him to turn around the culture and have immediate success?
Wade’s Loaded Freshman ClassWade breaks down a star-studded freshman class which is ranked as high as No. 3 in some recruiting services. What can fans expect from McDonald’s All-American Naz Reid? And is Emmitt Williams the most underrated player in the class? Also, how will the return of Tremont Waters help the young players?
 
The Strength of SEC Basketball: Finally, Coach Wade wraps up discussing the strength of the SEC. Does this league get the credit it deserves nationally? Also, what has he learned while watching John Calipari at Kentucky that Wade takes with him every day?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Sponsorship Note:

Sign on to sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast by June 15th to take advantage of a special discount. Contact ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com to learn more.


Ace Baldwin recaps his unofficial visit to Kentucky

Ace Baldwin recaps his unofficial visit to Kentucky

In theory, June is supposed to be a quiet time in the college basketball calendar. The season is long gone, and June is smack dab in the middle of the April and July recruiting periods – yet on most college campuses this is one of the busiest times of year. Camps are going on, freshmen and new players are arriving, and recruiting? Well, it never really stops.   

That’s certainly the case at Kentucky, where this week John Calipari and his staff hosted one of the top rising players in America. Meet Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, a point guard in the 2020 class who just finished his sophomore season at Saint Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. He is ranked No. 83 nationally in the latest 247 Sports Rankings, but is receiving interest from some of the biggest brands in college basketball, including Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Virginia and Pitt.  

Baldwin took an unofficial visit to Lexington on Tuesday. And in an exclusive interview with KSR, admitted that he came away impressed.  

“It was a great experience,” Baldwin said. “It was my first time up there. I met some of the players, the coaches. It was a lot of fun.”

As Baldwin alluded to, the trip basically served as an introduction to Kentucky basketball. He had a chance to tour the facilities, watch the current team play and also meet with the coaching staff. In addition to John Calipari, he also spoke with assistants Kenny Payne and Joel Justus. While Kentucky hasn’t officially offered Baldwin (the staff rarely throws out scholarships to players that young), the 6’1 point guard was impressed with Calipari’s honest approach. Calipari admitted that he loved the lefty’s flair and the energy he plays with. But in a message that Calipari has delivered to quite a few recruits over the last few months, he also told him to continue to work on his shooting, which has become a point of emphasis in Kentucky’s recruiting of late.

Most importantly, Calipari let him know that this is just the beginning of the recruiting process. Not the end.

“He was just telling him you’re quick, you’re tough, you have a chip on your shoulder,” said Jide Sodipo, the Director of Team BBC, Baldwin’s AAU club. “[He said] ‘I like how you play, but now I want you in the next two years to keep improving. Every time I see you I want you to get better.’”

“You know Cal,” Sodipo continued. “He doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”

The visit was just the first of many for Baldwin this summer. The trip to Kentucky was part of a dual recruiting visit, as Baldwin also met with new Louisville head coach Chris Mack on Wednesday morning (like Kentucky, Louisville has yet to officially offer Baldwin). Later this month he will also take visits Virginia and Pitt and in September he will head to Kansas as well. Like so many others, this “downtime” on the calendar has turned into a productive couple of weeks for player who just recently completed the halfway point of his high school career.

It’s worth noting that the visit also served as a bit of a reunion of sorts for a player that Baldwin called a “mentor,” current Kentucky freshman Immanuel Quickley. Quickley is also from Baltimore and also played for Team BBC. The two are good friends and Baldwin said that he was happy to see Quickley while on his visit, even if it was only briefly. The two only spoke for a few minutes, as Quickley was busy shuttling between classes and workouts.  

If anything though, Sodipo believes that a good thing and that it taught Baldwin a valuable lesson: The opportunity to play at a school like Kentucky doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t come without hard work.

“That’s a wake-up for someone young like Ace,” Sodipo said. “It’s important to see that this is serious business. That’s a guy that who I played against the last two or three years, a McDonald’s All-American, and I walk into the gym and that guy is working out at 6 o’clock in the morning, at night.”

He continued.

“You can tell them [as players] this or that, but when they see it, they’re like ‘Oh, shoot.’ They go back with a different mindset. We went through it with Immanuel, a couple other kids. They come back with a different mindset of ‘What I was doing was good, but if I want to be great, I’ve got to do more.’”

It’s a little early to tell if Ace Baldwin is the next Immanuel Quickley, and whether or not he’ll ultimately play at Kentucky.

But as Sodipo points out, the ball is now in his court.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E52: NBA Chatter and IHOb Insanity

It’s time for a new edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to talk all things NBA Draft, as well as well as the story that has swept America — IHOP’s new name. The podcast’s dynamic duo was all over the place, touching on a number of topics, like…
Inevitable NBA Finals TalkAfter a lengthy Warriors’ conversation, Aaron allows Nick to blow off some more steam about the Warriors. Why Game Four was one of the least inspiring championship games ever played, and why yes, Aaron believes that Kevin Durant ruined the NBA.
 
NBA Draft, A Deep Dive on Mo BambaThe guys transition to draft talk and immediately disagree on Mo Bamba. Nick believes he can be a star in the league, while Aaron believes he might be the most overrated player in the draft. Aaron also explains why Bamba might be the “Markelle Fultz of this draft” — not in the way they play, but how Bamba never seems to make an impact when it matters most. Also, is it time to replace “WojBombs” with “TorresBombs?”
Is Kevin Knox the Most Underrated Player in this Draft? The guys switch gears to underrated players and Aaron asks — is Kevin Knox the most underrated player in this draft? Aaron believes the answer is yes, and doesn’t understand why he isn’t getting more Top 10 buzz.
IHOb Insanity: Finally, the only story in America that anyone truly cares about — the IHOb insanity that swept the nation. Aaron goes off the deep end and asks why corporations try to fix things that aren’t broken, before Nick power ranks Louisville-area breakfast chains — with a surprising winner at the top.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Sponsorship Note:

Sign on to sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast by June 15th to take advantage of a special discount. Contact ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com to learn more.