It was another wild and news-filled week around Big Blue Nation and KentuckySportsRadio.com. If you →
Basketball Season Coverage
By Kelsey Mattingly on ©May 29th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
One of Kentucky basketball’s newest Wildcats, Bam Adebayo, has been named a preseason All-American by NBC Sports’. As a member of the second team, he was joined by such players as Indiana’s Thomas Bryant, Melo Trimble from Maryland, and Dillon Brooks from Oregon.
If Bam can do what NBC Sports predicts he can do this season, averaging a double-double at the least, he could be Coach John Calipari’s eighth All-American since coaching at Kentucky. Adebayo, the 6’9″ power forward from North Carolina was the only player in the McDonald’s All-American game to post a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Ranked no. 9 overall in the 2016 class, Bam led his team to a 24-6 record his senior year and surpassed the 2,000 point mark. He will be essential to Kentucky’s front court this season and isn’t hiding the pride he feels in his decision to rock Kentucky blue.
By Kelsey Mattingly on ©May 29th, 2016 @ 4:00pm
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports is reporting that Marcus Lee is set to visit the University of California on Tuesday. Rothstein says a commitment is expected on the visit. Because Lee is not set to graduate from Kentucky until December, he will have to sit out a year as a transfer before playing for the Golden Bears in the 2017 season.
Cal was a finalist for Lee back in high school due to the proximity to his home. This time around Cal is coached by former Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. Lee will get the chance to practice against forward Ivan Rabb who elected to bypass this June’s NBA Draft. The 6’11 Rabb is a former top 10 recruit so that will be excellent competition for Lee to face in practice. The Golden Bears’ other top freshman Jaylen Brown is expected to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
We all know what a great kid Marcus is so we definitely wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life. ICYMI, Mrs. Tyler had a great piece on Marcus earlier this week on how he will be remembered. I suggest you check it out.
Steph and the Warriors pulled it out last night in Game 6 at OKC. They will head home for the final game on Monday for an opportunity to reach the Finals for the second straight season.
Klay Thompson caught fire last night, leading the Warriors on 11-18 shooting from behind the three-point line, an NBA playoff record. He led the Warriors with 41 points.
Indy 500 100th Anniversary
Today the Indy 500 will run in front of what is expected to be a record crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Legend Tony Kanaan finished the fastest in the final practice, and looks poised to try and claim a win today. He will start beside defending winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, and veterans like Marco Andretti. It’s going to be a wild day of racing.
Landon Young wins State Title
He may not have been able to hang on in the shot put title, but Landon still walked away with his third straight title in discus. He didn’t miss a state record in discus by much and he had an excellent day in KHSAA play. Our future football star made us proud. Bryan Hudson finished second behind Young.
Trae Young drops 40 at EYBL
Young had 40 points and 11 assists yesterday in his team’s win on the Nike circuit. The young point guard also showed UK some love in an article on Zagsblog earlier this weekend, saying that he definitely will take a look at UK, and that he has felt like a priority all along. Hopefully Michael Porter Jr. (the other one) doesn’t ruin convince him with the thought of a package deal elsewhere.
Isaiah Briscoe is returning to Kentucky and it’s kind of a big deal.
The slashing swingman was a fantastic defender as a freshman and an elite scorer at the rim. But (luckily) it wasn’t his time to head to the NBA. Needing another year to work on his shot, he’ll be back in blue next year. The Sporting News ranked it as the tenth-most impactful return to school in all of college basketball.
A team that will be rich in young talent can certainly benefit from the toughness and competitive fire Briscoe delivers in pretty much every game he enters. He’ll be pushed hard for playing time by freshmen De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk — that is, if they don’t all start together; and there will be some question about whether to deploy Briscoe or Fox as the team’s primary point guard.
All that will be worked out, and there’s no one better at figuring out his team on the fly than coach John Calipari. But if Briscoe is to make a greater impact than those ahead of him on this list, he’ll have to improve as a shooter from percentages of 43.9 (field), 13.5 (3-point) and 46 (free throw).
TSN’s Top Five Returners: Nigel Hayes to Wisconsin, Justin Jackson to UNC, Dillon Brooks to Oregon, Josh Hart to Villanova and Grayson Allen to Duke.
You’re looking at Brad Calipari’s new Twitter picture, probably wondering what in the world is going on. I’m right there with you.
The caption to the Tweet doesn’t provide any clarification: “It’s only right.. #GuwopFree”
Pretty sure Guwop has something to do with rapper/man who has an ice cream tattoo on his face, Gucci Mane, but I haven’t kept up with Gucci since he was icy.
If Guwop means “Dad-Swag,” then it might make some sense. Loafers, shorts above the knee and a golf shirt is the summer uniform for Dads, especially Dads at AAU Tournaments. Even though we’ve never seen Brad’s Dad wear this delightful ensemble, you can imagine. If you can’t imagine…
That was a bad idea. Sorry world.
This weekend we honor those who serve. I don’t need to preach their importance or demand gratefulness. Instead, I’ll tell you a story you may have never heard, one that I had never heard until today, thanks to Mr. Oscar Combs.
Cliff Barker was a two-time National Champion for Adolph Rupp, but his journey to the top of college basketball wasn’t typical. After his freshman season at UK, he enlisted into the Army Air Forces to fight in World War II. A gunner in a B-17 Bomber, his plane was taken down in enemy territory. He was captured in Germany and spent 16 months as a prisoner of war. From his New York Times obituary:
He filled idle time in prison camp by bouncing and passing a volleyball, the only ball he could find. When he returned to college, his ball-handling skills were remarkable.
”He had good hands, exceptional hands,” his Kentucky teammate Kenny Rollins said. ”His hands were very sensitive to the ball. And he was able to visualize things on the floor that other people couldn’t see.”
After an experience like that, I’m sure Rupp seemed like a softie on his return to college. A member of the Fabulous Five, he won back-to-back championships and an Olympic gold medal in London. After college, he started a short-lived pro team with Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, the Indianapolis Olympians. He spent his remaining years teaching and coaching high school basketball in Indiana before passing away in 1998.
Barker’s name might not catch the ear quite like his teammates — Groza, Beard and Wah Wah Jones — but his remarkable story is a tale that every Kentucky fan should know.
Barker is one of many Kentucky basketball stars to serve in the armed forces. BigBlueHistory.net has compiled a comprehensive list.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 27th, 2016 @ 9:30pm
Earlier today ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported California is the “early front-runner” to land Marcus Lee for Lee’s senior season of basketball in 2017-18. The San Francisco Chronicle has since confirmed through a source close to the Cal program that Cal is “in the mix” for Lee, but maybe not the front-runner.
Goodman’s source is likely close to Lee, not California, so maybe he is hearing positive things on that end, from the family. Either way, it’s clear California is a very possible destination for the former Wildcat.
One tiny issue: Cal does not have any available scholarships to take Lee next season for his sit-out year. Gotta think Cuonzo Martin can figure that one out, though — if he wants him.
Still kind of hard to believe this is really happening. Why, Marcus?
By Drew Franklin on ©May 27th, 2016 @ 6:00pm
On your way to the lake for the holiday weekend?
If you’re not the one driving, plug your phone into the vehicle’s aux and watch this fan-made hype video for Kentucky basketball’s upcoming season.
If you are driving, pull over at the next place you see and take a minute or 12 to watch it.
The lake isn’t going anywhere.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 27th, 2016 @ 3:00pm
In an online chat for ESPN Insider, NBA draft guru Chad Ford fielded questions about the upcoming draft, and some of those questions pertained to the three league-bound Wildcats.
— When asked about Skal Labissiere’s ceiling, Ford said he could go as high as No. 7 to the Nuggets, or as low as No. 16 to the Celtics. He named the Bucks (1oth) and Magic (11th) as teams that could target Labissiere if he is still on the board.
— Ulis is on the lottery bubble, in the 14-22 range, according to Ford. He’s had Ulis in that range since Ulis first threw his name in the mix when he announced he wouldn’t be returning to Kentucky. Some other experts agree, although there are some mock drafts that have Ulis falling much further.
— He considers Murray the second best pure point guard in the draft behind Dunn. Nothing new here, but he thinks the Wolves could take him as a shooter or the Pels could take him as a PG, if he’s available.
Ford also updated the ESPN Top 100 today. He has Jamal Murray at No. 3, Skal Labissiere at No. 11, and Tyler Ulis at No. 18 in his prospect rankings.
Lots of Ford NBA talk today.
The Bluegrass Boys team of UK alums is one of the leading vote-getters for this summer’s The Basketball Tournament, but the team lacks enough players to qualify.
Mark Krebs, the head of the operation, is confident he will add plenty more to the current roster in time, and this video from John Calipari should help bring those other guys on board.
The current roster includes Ramel Bradley, Marquis Teague, Joe Crawford, Kevin Galloway and Perry Stevenson, and will be coached by Derek Anderson. They hope to add DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson, Eloy Vargas and Doron Lamb to the mix to complete the squad.
Vote for The Bluegrass Boys here to get them in. Fan votes matter for entry into the $2 million tournament.
Karl-Anthony Towns was up to something yesterday, according to his SnapChat story. As you can see, Towns underwent some serious makeup work to become “Grandpa KAT” for the day.
We have to assume this is for the next “Uncle Drew” Pepsi commercial, which is awesome.
California is the early front-runner to land Marcus Lee, according to Jeff Goodman, who is obviously in contact with the Lee family. Goodman has been all over the Lee beat since before the combine, and now he is reporting that Cal is the likely destination for Lee’s final season of college basketball in 2017-18.
Cal was one of Lee’s final three schools when he committed to Kentucky back in October of 2012. He came very close to committing to the Bears due to its proximity to home, which Lee says will be a major factor in his upcoming decision.
If Lee does end up in Berkeley, that’s a move we can support. It puts him out west and away from any rivalries with Kentucky, although he will have to play for Cuonzo Martin.
It’s been about 32 hours since Marcus Lee announced he was withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft and leaving Kentucky to transfer to a different school. I’ve spent those 32 hours trying to make sense of Lee’s decision, and honestly, haven’t made much progress.
Lee’s decision has been difficult to digest because it seems so out of character. During his three years at Kentucky, Lee seemed like the perfect “program guy.” Sure, he wasn’t a one-and-done, but he was a valuable contributor, especially in the locker room. Alongside EJ Floreal, Lee helped each crop of new guys blend into the next, keeping the pressure-cooker atmosphere that is Kentucky basketball light and fun enough to manage. In addition to that, he devoted himself to the community off the court, volunteering in his spare time and becoming an advocate for children in need, such as Kelly Melton. His contributions to the community were so impressive he was selected to represent the SEC at the 2016 NCAA Leadership Forum, a huge honor not just for him, but the program. He might not be an elite player, but Kentucky basketball always seemed proud to have Marcus Lee, and it seemed the feeling was mutual.
That’s why, to use his own brother’s words when asked about transfer rumors last month, Lee’s decision to leave UK feels like a slap in the face. We’ve gone over why Lee leaving makes little sense, but now, I want to shift to the next topic: how he’ll be remembered.
Marcus Lee first popped onto our radar back in July 2012 as a “mobile big man from California.” Considered at the time the 18th best player in the 2013 class, Lee got an offer from Kentucky during a visit with John Calipari on September 16, 2012. He committed a week after visiting for Big Blue Madness, picking the Cats over Louisville and California. At the time, we knew him as a springy, athletic forward with a fauxhawk that loved to play volleyball. In a time when fans are desperate to get to know the players who come and go so quickly, I think those traits helped people connect to Marcus early on.
Lee started his freshman season with a bang, scoring 17 points in 15 minutes in his college debut vs. UNC Asheville. That performance would go on to be his season-high in scoring, as an illness set Marcus back later on that season, but his best performance was yet to come.
The Michigan game
Ask any UK fan what Lee’s best game as a Cat was and they’ll immediately say the game vs. Michigan in the Midwest Regional. With Willie Cauley-Stein on the bench with a sprained ankle, Lee stepped in and scored 10 points and eight rebounds to help Kentucky advance to the Final Four. What’s so great about that game is how Lee transformed into a totally different player than the one we saw struggle most of the season. In the two months prior to the Midwest Regional, Lee had only scored four points total; against Michigan, he was assertive, dominating the boards and scoring ten points in the first half.
The air guitar
Before the bow and arrow was the air guitar. The 2014-15 season was fun for many reasons, one of them being Marcus Lee’s air guitar motion on the bench after big shots:
If we mention the air guitar, we have to mention…
Lee’s role at Kentucky was mostly “energy guy,” and a lot of that energy came in the form of clapping. In fact, I’d argue one of Lee’s greatest accomplishments at Kentucky might be taking a trademark Duke move and making UK fans love it:
All of the lobs
If Marcus Lee does one thing well, it’s catch a lob. With Lee, the lob became the auto-lob over the last few years, which is probably why he has the highest field-goal percentage (68%) in UK Basketball history, a baffling stat otherwise. This is one of countless examples, but probably my favorite:
His friendship with Kelly Melton
That dunk got us all out of our seats, including Kelly Melton, Lee’s 10-year-old friend who’s battling leukemia. Lee and UK Football players Max Strong and Landon Foster have been friends with Kelly for a few years, visiting him in the hospital and hanging out with him during free time.
I can still remember the first day I met you probably because you ambushed me with water and nerf guns. But since that day you've changed my life. You've taught me how to be strong and how to have fun! Happy birthday to @kickinit4kelly. I'd go to nerf-war with you any day.
A photo posted by Marcus Lee🎗 (@justmarcuslee) on
Kelly’s not the only one; there are countless stories of Lee visiting kids in the hospital or reaching out to help others. (If you have a kid who’s done one of the Calipari camps, I’m sure you have a Marcus story too.) I remember asking Lee during the 2014 NCAA Tournament what it meant to him to hang out with kids who are suffering from illnesses like Kelly’s, and he got a little frustrated, telling me he doesn’t hang out with Kelly because he’s a sick kid, he hangs out with Kelly because he’s his friend. Calipari calls that servant leadership; Marcus Lee just calls it a way of life.
In March, Jason King of the Bleacher Report wrote a great feature on Lee which included a lot about his friendship with Kelly. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to check it out.
One of the nicest guys in the room
How will I remember Marcus Lee? Probably as anyone who’s ever met him will: as one of the nicest guys in the room. Lee was one of the first players I ever interviewed and always helped ease my nerves with a few jokes or a smile. Whereas a lot of players go on auto-pilot with their answers, Lee was always very thoughtful with his, which I really respect. Unlike some, Lee didn’t seem to mind media sessions too much; in fact, he and his partner-in-crime EJ Floreal often made the most of them, whether it be yukking it up for the cameras on the way to the court, stealing the camera and microphone to conduct their own interviews, or letting everyone in on a fun behind-the-scenes tidbit (don’t forget, it was Lee who first told us about the team’s love for Super Smash Brothers, a story that went on to dominate the headlines during the 2015 Tournament run).
As I said earlier, over three years, we’ve come to love Marcus Lee for all of the reasons listed above, which is why the past month has been so strange. I wish nothing but the best for Lee in the next chapter of his life; I just hope the way in which he’s leaving doesn’t overshadow what he did while he was here.
By Nick Roush on ©May 26th, 2016 @ 10:00pm
When you watch the Kentucky Wildcats take the turf at Commonwealth Stadium, they’re standing on C.M. Newton Field. When you look up to the rafters up Rupp Arena and see the 1996 and 1998 Championship banners, you can thank C.M. Newton.
Newton’s name carries a different meaning for people of different generations. Youngsters probably just know the name from Commonwealth. I simply knew him as the A.D., not the man that dug Kentucky out of probation by convincing the New York Knicks’ head coach to come to Lexington. Maybe there are a few readers that remember Newton as a player for Adolph Rupp’s 1951 National Championship team. A short resume:
He played for Adolph Rupp and worked for Bear Bryant. Helped select the legendary 1992 Olympic “Dream Team.” Won a national championship as a college basketball player and two more as an athletic director. Chaired the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee. Served as president of USA Basketball. Elected in 2000 to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 86-year old has been a mainstay in the sports world his entire life, coaching at Alabama and Vanderbilt before coming to Kentucky. At every one of his stops, he’s provided unprecedented opportunities for African-Americans. The Undefeated examines all of his moves, including the decision to hire Tubby Smith to replace Rick Pitino.
Smith said that in his discussions before accepting the job, Newton did not talk much about the historic aspect of the hiring. Which is not to say color never came up. “He said, I’m not hiring you because you’re black, I’m hiring you because you can coach,’ ” Smith recalled. “ ‘The only color we see around here is green.’ What he was saying was, ‘You’ve got to win.’ But I still thought he made a courageous decision. I’m sure there were people who frowned on it. But that’s who C.M. Newton is: a gentleman, courageous, caring, a man of vision.”
Hiring Tubby was one of his last monumental moves. There are many more that came before, told in great detail in this lengthy read that’s well worth the time.
By Nick Roush on ©May 26th, 2016 @ 9:00pm
With the 2016-17 roster finalized, there’s plenty of college basketball to talk about. ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and Cats Illustrated’s T.J. Walker join the program to discuss the decisions made by Isaiah Briscoe and Marcus Lee and the lay of the land in college basketball. Highlights from the show:
— Seth strikes back at Matt for saying Tubby Smith is not “elite.”
— Seth and T.J. disagree on Lee’s decision.
— What happened behind the scenes before the NBA Draft deadline.
— Looking ahead to Kentucky’s top priorities in the 2017 recruiting class.
— T.J. gives you a little taste of some news to keep an eye on during the offseason.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” It doesn’t get much easier than that. If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay or check it out on the Stitcher app.