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Basketball Season Coverage

Matt plays HORSE with Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson!

Matt plays HORSE with Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson!

Matt is undefeated at H-O-R-S-E against former Wildcats (sorry, Malik Monk). Will Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson change that?!

While they’re shooting hoops, Matt also interviews the former Cats. Who’s the funniest player? Who’s the best dunker? Oh yeah, and Johnson talks some smack.

On the full episode, Matt is joined by our friend, Mary Jo Perino! They’ll discuss the day’s hottest topics. Plus, Chris Tomlin caught up with Gubernatorial candidate Rocky Adkins at Hillybilly Days in Pikeville. Check it out!


Who is Jordan Brown? And What Do You Need To Know About His Recruitment?

Who is Jordan Brown? And What Do You Need To Know About His Recruitment?

On Thursday afternoon, Kentucky fans (and fans of a bunch of major college basketball programs) got some updated transfer news, as Evan Daniels gave the latest on the recruitment of Nevada big-man Jordan Brown. Since putting his name in the transfer portal a week ago, things have been quiet in Brown’s recruitment. But as Daniels reported, there are a number of schools who have already reached out, and Kentucky is indeed one of them. It’s something I hinted would happen in a post earlier this week.

So now that we know that Brown is indeed available and seriously considering a transfer, what do you need to know?

As someone who knows the Nevada program well, here is what I’ve heard about Brown from sources close to him, and where his recruitment stands. This is what you need to know, and what I expect to happen next:

Who Is Jordan Brown?

Brown was one of the most coveted big men in the class of 2018, a player who appeared in the McDonald’s All-American Game and as a member of Team USA In the Nike Hoops Summit. He finished his high school career ranked among the Top 20 players in the class of 2018.

And prior to committing to Nevada he was recruited by, quite literally, every big-name school on the West Coast including UCLA to Arizona, Cal and Nevada. According to some people I trust he was actually set to commit to UCLA until Shareef O’Neal decommitted from Arizona last winter. At that point, UCLA had just one scholarship for the two front-court players and told both that whoever committed first had the spot. O’Neal grabbed the scholarship and Brown was forced to look elsewhere.

Ultimately, after a long, drawn out process that saw him as the last major recruit to commit last spring, Brown chose Nevada. He was just the second McDonald’s All-American to ever commit to the school, the other being local high school start Luke Babbitt back in 2008.

To put it simply, Brown is the biggest recruit Nevada basketball ever signed.

Why Did He Struggle So Much in His First Year in College?

Although Brown was the most decorated recruit ever to sign with Nevada, his first year was a struggle. He averaged just three points and two rebounds in 10 minutes played per game.

But while that would appear to be a bit alarming on the surface, it shouldn’t be. The bottom-line is that Eric Musselman is a coach that – like Jay Wright and others across college basketball – simply prefers older players to young ones, and Brown got buried on the depth chart behind more experienced players. Nevada started three fifth-year seniors in the front-court and at the end of the day, it was probably the right decision, considering that the Wolf Pack went 29-5 overall and ended up in their third straight NCAA Tournament.

Still, the buzz out of Reno was that as the season went on, Brown gained some confidence. As a source close to him told me, Brown has “looked like his old self” the last couple weeks and was due for a big season next year.

Is It Too Early to Guess Where Brown Might Be Leaning?

Short answer, yes. As Brown’s father Dion told Daniels, a host of schools have reached out besides Kentucky, ranging from Arizona, to Oregon, Ohio State and others. And honestly, that might even be downplaying it a bit. The same source close to Brown told me that since he put his name in the transfer portal, “every major program in America” has at least reached out to gauge interest. Pick a school and they have at least called to gather details, according to the person I spoke with.

With that said, here is what I can also tell you: Steve Alford’s arrival at Nevada will have no impact on Brown’s decision to stay or go in Reno. If anything, it might hurt it.

I know that sounds strange considering that Brown nearly committed to Steve Alford’s UCLA Bruins were in high school, but the bottom-line is that from my understanding, Alford had little role in the recruitment process. Brown’s father in fact confirmed that to a Reno area newspaper, admitting that former UCLA assistant David Grace (who just joined Jerry Stackhouse’s staff at Vanderbilt) did most of the work in his recruitment. Also, it doesn’t help that – according to people I trust – Alford doesn’t plan on keeping anyone from Musselman’s staff on board in Reno, and that Brown was especially close to that staff.

Point being, despite the fact that Alford actively recruited him out of high school, the relationship isn’t as strong as you might expect.

After speaking to the same person who is close to Brown, my hunch is also that he won’t be following former Nevada coach Eric Musselman to Arkansas. I don’t feel quite as strongly on that one, but my gut feeling is that if Brown does move on he’ll want a fresh start.

If Brown Elects To Transfer, Can He Play Right Away?

Since this is a question I’ve gotten quite a bit, let’s just nip this right now: Barring some unforeseen waiver from the NCAA offices, no, Brown won’t play next season. Yes, he’ll have to sit out the season.

And if anything, that’s the only reason I could see him remaining at Nevada (although as I said, I think it’s unlikely at this point). As a former McDonald’s All-American who is watching a lot of other friends get drafted, does he really want to sit out another season?

Again, in my mind, that’s the most likely reason he would stay at Nevada.

Here’s Why Sitting Out a Season Can Be Good However

Regardless of where Brown chooses, I actually think sitting out a season could be good for all parties involved. At the end of the day, it would give him a full year to get used to his new school and program, head coach and teammates. Every kid wants to play, but there are benefits to sitting out.

Still, let’s say Brown did ultimately choose Kentucky – and to be clear, that’s not my prediction. It’s way too early to speculate.

Still, let’s say he did. It would give him a year to get used to campus, and also give Kentucky a former McDonald’s All-American and potential future NBA pro to lead the scout team every day. Can you imagine the value it would give a guy like Nick Richards or E.J. Montgomery to go against that type of player every day?

From Kentucky’s perspective (or whatever school he picks) there is no downside.

If He Chooses Kentucky What Kind of Player Will They Get Down the Road

In addition to getting a great practice player in 2019-2020, if Brown were to choose Kentucky, I think he could be a difference-making power forward/center prospect come the 2020-2021 season. While Brown did struggle to adjust to college life this year, he is still 6’10 with over a 7-foot wingspan and crazy athletic. Nevada tried to play him almost exclusively in the post this season, but he has the skills to step 15 or 20 feet away from the basket and hit shots from there as well. Think that with a year to sit out and develop, he could be a monster two years down the road? I’d say so. And when I say “monster” I mean like “All-SEC First Team” type guy.

Again, it’s way, way, WAY too early to speculate where Brown will end up.

But if the Wildcats were able to sign Brown, he could be the first big puzzle piece already locked in for the 2020-2021 season.


WATCH: The Big Blue Road Trip discovers the true meaning of BBN

WATCH: The Big Blue Road Trip discovers the true meaning of BBN

[Ed. Note: Keifer Winings and Chris Smith are two University of Kentucky graduates who took a road trip across the country to visit UK Alumni Clubs. They wrote about some of their stops for KSR and now, their documentary is complete and ready to share with the Big Blue Nation.]

A couple of years ago, myself and a friend took a road trip with the goal of experiencing the Big Blue Nation in person. Up until that point BBN had been abstract to us, and we wanted to find out what the term meant.

So, we contacted alumni and fans and scheduled a watch party for each UK basketball game of the 2015-2016 season in a different city across the country, with a different group of fans. When November came around, we bought a cheap camper van to live out of, stocked up on ramen and Easy Mac, and hit the road.

Over those five months we met some truly incredible people and made some of the best memories of our lives. In the years since, we have cut through hundreds of hours of footage to put together a documentary that tells the stories of thousands of UK fans that have left the Bluegrass and make the Big Blue Nation as far reaching as it is.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Let’s Work On Some Perspective…

I will admit I was not, and am not, thrilled with another group of UK players headed out the door for the NBA Draft this year.  I just don’t think anybody can reasonably say that the games of Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro are “ready” for the NBA.  We certainly can be proven wrong in the next year but having watched them for 37 games, they looked more like freshman than NBA prospects most of the year.  Nonetheless, their dreams, the money, and the overall atmosphere surrounding the program consistently is pushing these type of guys out after 1 year.  Same happened with Marquis Teague, James Young, Devin Booker, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, etc.  Some of these guys have flourished in the NBA but it didn’t seem like they were slam dunks when they left UK after 1 year.

But it is also important to take a step back and have some perspective about many of the names they have rolled through UK for just 1 season.  We have become blinded to just how unbelievable it is that we get the kind of production we have seen out of 18 and 19 year olds over Calipari’s 10 seasons.  I fall into the trap too.  Keldon Johnson will go down as one of the most frustrating players of this era for me.  And yet, he scored 498 points this year, a 13.5 points per game average.  Rex Chapman scored 464 points in his freshman season, a 16.0 points per game average.  Rex is thought of as an all-time legend and having one of the greatest freshman seasons in school history.  Keldon nearly matched that season and many call him a disappointment.  In fact, consider this

FRESHMAN POINTS BEFORE CALIPARI
1. Rex Chapman: 464 points
2. Chris Mills: 459 points
3. Sam Bowie: 440 points

Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson both scored more points than those guys this season.  Along with another 17 freshman in the Calipari era.  A total of 19 players have beaten the previous freshman scoring record since Cal’s arrival.  And many of them were considered disappointments as freshman: Kevin Knox, Aaron Harrison, Archie Goodwin, Keldon.

Similar numbers can be produced for rebounds, steals, assists, blocks, whatever you want to come up with.

We have actually become a little distorted in what we expect of these players.  It’s hard, no doubt.  High preseason rankings doom these guys much of the time.  The Bahamas trip actually became a burden for this team because it only increased expectations unnecessarily.  But the reality is that Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro just completed two of the best freshman seasons in UK history.  Better than Sam Bowie.  Better than just about anybody before 2009.

But the catch is those players pre-Calipari came back and expanded their legacy within the program.  Can you imagine a Tyler Herro for 3 seasons, like Patrick Patterson.  Or a Keldon Johnson for even 2 seasons, like a Ron Mercer.  Unfortunately that is not the world we live in.  And I think it has created a mentality within this program and fanbase that has caused us to completely lose perspective on just how special the players we have seen over the last 10 years have actually been.


Kentucky Basketball’s 2019-20 roster as we know it

In the past 48 hours, we’ve learned quite a bit about Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster. First, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson are definitely gone to the NBA, which was expected. Second, Jemarl Baker is definitely going to transfer, which wasn’t entirely unexpected, but still came as a bit of a surprise. Third, there could be another grad transfer on the way in the form of Kerry Blackshear Jr., a 6’10” junior from Virginia Tech.

It sounds like Blackshear’s going to take his time with his decision, which could still include going to the NBA Draft, but let’s go ahead and take a look at where Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster stands as of now, and how it could change in the coming weeks.

Guard: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

Guard: Tyrese Maxey/Immanuel Quickley/Brad Calipari

Forward: Khalil Whitney/Keion Brooks/Dontaie Allen/Zan Payne

Forward: EJ Montgomery/Nate Sestina/Keion Brooks

Center: Nick Richards/EJ Montgomery

Obviously, having a sophomore Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley is huge. Any kind of roster turnover is diminished by an experienced backcourt, and I’d expect Hagans and Quickley to both make considerable jumps in their sophomore years. Given his ability to score, I see Tyrese Maxey starting at the two, but Quickley backing up at both guard spots as a strong sixth man. Should Brad Calipari stay at Kentucky (remember, Cal mentioned he might transfer), he could get some time at the two as well. So, backcourt, good.

Khalil Whitney and Keion Brooks will give Calipari some interesting looks on the wing, as will Dontaie Allen if he’s healthy enough to go early in the season. On the inside, you’ve got veterans in EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and Nate Sestina, although I don’t believe the dust has settled on the frontcourt. As long as Leah Edmond is at Kentucky, I feel comfortable about Richards staying, but I wouldn’t rule out Montgomery testing the waters. You may scoff at that, but towards the end of the season, EJ showed a lot a lot of potential. If he returns, I think he could have a monster season and be the anchor Kentucky needs on the inside. While Nate Sestina is not Reid Travis, he should provide valuable minutes and an outside presence to keep teams honest, ala PJ Washington this season. If Kerry Blackshear Jr. does come to Kentucky, at 6’10”, 250 lbs., he could be a very important piece to the puzzle, but let’s not get too excited about that just yet.

On the recruiting front, Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels are still out there, but it’s looking more and more like Hurt’s going to Duke and McDaniels to Washington. (I’d love to be wrong about that.) Five-star combo guard RJ Hampton could also reclassify to 2019, but that’s still to be determined.

As it stands, do you like your team?


The top-five quotes from Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro on KSR

If you haven’t heard by now, two (now-former) Wildcats stopped by the radio station today to chat with Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond and Drew Franklin. Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro made their KSR debuts Wednesday morning, and they had plenty to say. You can listen to their entire interview here, or you can cheat a little bit (you’re welcome).

Here are the top five things the roommates said Wednesday morning:

Speaking of roommates… Do either of them do that one thing that drives the other one crazy? Probably, but they wouldn’t quite admit to it on the radio. Maybe one’s a little messy or maybe one snores – we’ll never know. But we do know one thing:

We’re both crazy. That’s why we get along.” -Keldon Johnson

There was plenty of talk throughout the season regarding Tyler Herro’s impressive ability to perform on the road – he seemed to thrive in the “villain” role for the Wildcats. Herro admitted his de-commitment from his home state of Wisconsin prepared him for that very role, and he grew to love the welcoming chorus of “boos” once he entered an opponent’s arena.

“I kind of live for that moment. I just like being the villain on the road. I just liked going into other team’s arenas and ruining their weekends.” – Tyler Herro

They also learned a thing or two during their time in Lexington. Both Johnson and Herro told Matt they’re honor-roll students in the classroom, and Johnson even gave a shoutout to one of his favorite professors. He also shared a piece of advice he’s learned during his time here.

“Don’t treat nobody different. It doesn’t matter if it’s the janitor or the CEO of a company, treat everyone with respect.” – Johnson.

Some poignant words for a freshman in college.

Johnson and Herro certainly treated fans with respect this season. This team was great with the BBN all season, likely posing for more pictures than they can remember. But, according to Herro, that’s a small price to pay for what they got in return.

“Without the fans, we really wouldn’t be anything. They’re the people who come to the games and cheer us on. Me and Keldon – and I really think the whole team – this year embraced that and how much they supported us. If you [saw] how we started the season, I don’t think many people would have supported us after we lost by 40. They stuck with us and we really appreciated that.”

Unfortunately, part of sticking with the Cats meant supporting them after a demoralizing loss to Duke to open the season. Even after November 6, there were obviously other highs and lows of the long (but not quite long enough) season.

Of course, the pair picked some of their biggest wins as their favorite moments in a Kentucky uniform – the UNC win and the Kansas win, namely. But they also had to address some of the lows. Johnson said the team just didn’t “execute like we wanted to coming down the stretch” against Auburn, and it cost them the opportunity to play in a Final Four. There was one team in particular they wanted to face, and it’s the team that beat them at the very beginning of their year.

“We wanted to see [Duke], obviously, in the National Championship. That’s kind of what we wanted to do,” Herro said. “I definitely think if we saw them again, we’d get after them.”

Even if the Cats had advanced to the Final Four, Duke had already been eliminated. Regardless, Johnson and Herro were confident they could have won over the Blue Devils, had they been given a re-do.

Once again, the pair showed this year’s team was full of not only good players, but good peopleas well.


Johnson and Herro were both on the show for a few segments, so they had plenty of other note-worthy quotes. Check out what Herro (and his teammates) thought of his “Bucket” nickname here, and click here for what they learned from talking with NBA scouts.

For information on their signing tours (including stops at KSBar & Grille), click here.


And then there was one…

And then there was one…

(Photo: USA Today Sports)

With today’s news that Jemarl Baker is leaving Kentucky, only one player remains from the eight-man Class of 2017.

Crazy, huh?