Basketball Season Coverage
Ed Beck, an NCAA basketball national champion and former letterman for your University of Kentucky Wildcats, passed away on Wednesday. He was 83.
Beck played three seasons under Adolph Rupp from 1955-58, serving as one of Rupp’s team captains in the 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons. He scored 459 points over the course of his career and earned Second Team All-SEC honors as a junior. One year later, Beck claimed the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award and helped guide Kentucky to its fourth national championship in school history.
UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart had this to say about Beck’s passing: “Ed Beck was an important member of the Kentucky basketball family. He cemented his place in UK lore as one of the great rebounders in program history and a leader of one of our most beloved teams. Seeing him and his teammates return home for the reunion of the 1958 team reunion earlier this year was truly special. We offer our condolences to Ed’s family and friends.”
John Calipari tweeted, “Thinking about the Beck family tonight and hope everyone can say a prayer for him and his family. I’m glad we were able to do the 1958 reunion back in February and bring Ed back to Kentucky to honor him and his teammates. He will be missed.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
A few months ago, Archie Miller claimed talks of renewing the Kentucky/Indiana series were ‘on the table,’ but yet again, John Calipari says that is not the case.
In an interview with WHAS11, Calipari said that even thought he has a lot of respect for Miller, a longtime friend, Kentucky’s schedule is planned so far in advance that the matter is not worth considering, especially since Indiana shot down his offer to play two neutral site games in Indianapolis several years ago.
One more time for the cheap seats in the back!
Archie Miller and Fred Glass have spoken publicly about talks with Kentucky about bringing back the UK – IU series. I asked John Calipari about that yesterday… here was his answer in full. @WHAS11 pic.twitter.com/PGuL9u56ve
— Kent Spencer (@WHAS11Kent) October 17, 2019
Keep dreaming, Hoosiers.
With the main stories from SEC Basketball Media Day out of the way, it’s time for some leftovers. Here are ten more observations on a whirlwind day in Birmingham.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel sure is fancy
The venues for SEC Basketball Media Day have varied over the years, from the SEC Network studios in Charlotte to the concourse of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to a teeny tiny conference room in the Omni Hotel across the street. This year, the event took place in the luxurious Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook, a wealthy neighborhood near downtown Birmingham. Everything was set up in one room, with the main media stage on one end, the SEC Network set on the other, and player podiums on the sides.
With five million things happening at once and Tom Hart’s voice booming over all of it, it was nearly impossible to concentrate, but the plushy perks made up for it. Gone were the media buffet staples of chicken parmesan and stale rolls. Instead, we were treated to arugula salad with apples, cranberries, and brie; quinoa; asparagus pesto pasta, and, well, chicken, but it was fancy chicken. The sweet spread was shared by media, coaches, and players alike (hence the quality), so if you wanted to sit with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey while you ate, no one was going to stop you; in fact, I don’t think Sankey left his table under the tent all day, more than happy to drink coffee and shoot the breeze with whomever came his way.
Not every hotel has a picture like this outside the bathrooms
I had that same expression when I saw the hot tea station, complete with six varieties of Tazo, honey, and lemon wedges.
Will Wade knows LSU got lucky with that no-call last year
LSU beat Kentucky in Rupp last year thanks to a last-second tip in that should have been called basket interference, but was not. This year, the NCAA added a rule allowing instant replay if a basket interference or goaltending call is made in the final two minutes, which doesn’t exactly address the issue, but likely came about because of that game’s controversial ending. Will Wade said as much.
“They got the rule changed because of that right? It’s unique with the rule change because there are going to be some residual effects from that that people aren’t going to like, actually, because if the ball doesn’t go in and they review and it goes to a jump ball, so the team that got the rebound may not necessarily get the jump ball. There’s going to be some issues. For that one situation, it would probably have worked because the reality was, you could have looked at it from 100 different replays. Unless the referee was sitting on top of the backboard, you probably weren’t going to get that call correct. With the rule change it will be interesting how they adjudicate that at the end of the games. We certainly were the beneficiary of it last year of that so we’ll take it.”
So, basically, he knows the Tigers got lucky. Got it.
Cuonzo Martin saved the rest of the coaches from an embarrassing moment
Cuonzo Martin’s session was mostly a snoozer, but shoutout to Mizzou’s coach for saving his colleagues from an embarrassing moment. The steps to the main stage were very tall, and after almost tripping on his way down, Martin pulled an SEC official to the side and suggested they find a new set of steps so no one would fall. Minutes later, a set of more manageable steps was wheeled in. Way to be your brother’s keeper, Cuonzo.
See, this is the hard-hitting journalism you send me to these events for.
Calipari is not a fan of adding more rounds to the NBA Draft
Kentucky fans have heard Calipari talk about the dangers of expanding the G-League many times, but he recited his stump speech for the rest of the league’s media yesterday, insisting that adding more rounds to the NBA Draft would lead to the demise of college basketball.
"If anybody supports more rounds in the draft … you do not care about college basketball or you're trying to ruin college basketball."
John Calipari explains why he's strongly against the expansion of the NBA draft. pic.twitter.com/JXNTGzbZk2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 17, 2019
Buzz Williams loves John Calipari
I didn’t make it in time for the new Texas A&M coach’s session, but watching the video this morning, he could barely stand still on stage, wandering back and forth to better hear reporters. Like any new guy joining the league, Williams paid his dues and praised John Calipari, the longest tenured coach in the SEC.
“I love Coach. I think he’s as good as there is in the business. I think historically, he will be compared to some of the greatest who have ever coached, including at Kentucky. I think what he’s done in this era, with this level of exposure, in the ten years he has been there is remarkable. And I think as we get further and further away in time, relative to what he’s done, you’ll look back as a Big Blue Nation member and go, ‘Man, I can’t believe we were able to do all of those things.’ And I don’t think that it’s slowing down, I actually think it’s probably speeding up.”
“It’s kind of like the paparazzi coming to College Station,” Williams said of when Kentucky comes to town. “We’ll have to get an escort, make sure that we have security on whatever hotel. Coach may not want to stay at College Station. Coach may have to stay at that place where the football teams stay.”
Ben Howland loves Ashton Hagans
Several of the league’s coaches raved about Hagans, but none more so than Mississippi State’s Ben Howland, who watched Hagans dish 18 assists in two games vs. the Bulldogs last season.
“I think getting the point guard back, getting Hagans back, really helps because he’s phenomenal. He’s an NBA player. He’ll be an NBA player this season. I thought it was good for him to come back so he could get better at his stroke and his shot. It’s the only thing that limited him a year ago. I know he’s worked on it like crazy in the offseason.”
Ashton Hagans likes the idea of a three-guard lineup
Calipari has hinted at using a three-guard lineup this year featuring Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, and Immanuel Quickley. How does Hagans feel about that?
“It would be dangerous. We’d get up and down the court fast, get out fast. Cal loves playing with a fast pace, so that would be something he’s done before, but with this team, I think it would be very special because we’ve got EJ running the floor, Nick running the floor, so we can get a lot more lobs, things like that. On the defensive end, we’ve got three guards that are going to go out there and play defense. Why not let them attack the other guards?”
Ashton Hagans’ “Wipe Ya Nose” gesture
If you follow Hagans on social media, surely you’ve seen him put his finger under his nose, most often with a caption about slimes. I am not hip to what the kids say these days, so I asked my younger counterparts for some help. Apparently this is the “Wipe Ya Nose” gesture, which originates from Atlanta-based rapper Young Thug, who said in his popular song “Slimed In,” “Wipe your nose clean, f— your whole team.” Hagans does the gesture with his “slimes,” aka friends.
“You know, just something I always do,” Hagans said when I asked him about it yesterday. “Slime, like me and my brothers. After a good workout, ‘Good working, my slime,’ which is like your brother.”
I am so old.
EJ Montgomery is trying to come out of his shell
Hagans is a natural at these events, but I had to admit I was surprised that Kentucky brought EJ Montgomery as the other representative. The big guy is pretty shy when it comes to media stuff, or, as Seth Greenberg put it in UK’s recap video, a man of few words; however, you could tell he was making an effort to break out of his shell. On a team of big personalities, EJ will never be as outgoing as Tyrese Maxey or Kahlil Whitney, but it was good to see him having fun. That smile is contagious.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 17, 2019
Read the rest of KSR’s SEC Basketball Media Day Coverage:
- No Smile November: Duke loss inspires Kentucky’s new mantra
- 5 Notes from Kentucky’s Session at SEC Basketball Media Day
- Calipari still hasn’t read new California law
- Will Wade ‘comfortable and confident’ with how he’s run LSU’s program
- Kerry Blackshear on why he chose Florida over UK
- Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden isn’t wrong about Rupp Arena
- Frank Martin: Politicians need to stay out of college athletics
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
No one has ever accused Frank Martin of being shy, and yesterday, the South Carolina coach did not hold back when asked about the California Fair Pay to Play law, which was will allow student-athletes in the state to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). On the same day Senator Mitt Romney spoke out in favor of a federal bill that would bring NIL rights to the national level, Martin said politicians should stick to politics and leave college athletics to the NCAA.
“I’m not going to tell politicians how to do their job. I don’t think they should be getting themselves involved in what one or two percent of students-athletes’ maximum earning power is. They should be consumed with people that grow up like me, with making an education affordable rather than worrying about the one percent of student athletes, what they should be able to earn. Their place is to govern everybody, not that one percent. Their place is to figure out ways to make sure that me, where I come from, people like me, have a chance to get a college education.”
Martin, the son of Cuban immigrants, grew up in Little Havana, Miami and worked several jobs — including club bouncer — to pay his way through college.
“I’m not part of this new wave that has forgotten what the value of an education adds to your life. That’s very important to me. As a former teacher, as a person who gets to answer your question here in a room full of unbelievable folks everyday, I don’t get that opportunity if I’m still a bouncer and a part-time coach in Miami. What changed my life was when I was able to pay for school and get a college education. That opened a door for me that’s allowed me to succeed in life. I think politicians should be worried about that rather than getting themselves involved in college athletics for the benefit of the top one, two percent.”
Martin said he has faith the NCAA will make the changes necessary to help the sport, and that state and federal NIL legislation will only create chaos.
“You can’t just let a cat out of the bag and say hey, ‘Let’s go’ because once you do that, you’re not putting it back in,” Martin said. “To be progressive and move forward, I think those conversations have been had for a while and I think change is coming. Again, it’s not coming because some politician decided he wanted to gain some publicity in an election year to make himself look sexy.”
Agree or disagree? Also, can you imagine having Frank Martin as your math teacher?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Congratulations to EJ Montgomery, who is one of 20 players on the watch list for the 2020 Karl Malone Award, presented to the nation’s best power forward.
The sophomore big man is Kentucky’s leading returning rebounder at 4.1 boards per game. Last season, he averaged 3.8 points per game, shot 48% from the field, and blocked 38 shots. Montgomery started ten games last year, including nine of the final eleven, in which Kentucky posted a 9-1 mark. On Tuesday, he was named a preseason All-SEC Second Team pick.
Montgomery is one of three players from the Southeastern Conference on the list along with LSU’s Trendon Watford and Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry. In February, the watch list will be trimmed to 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in March with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 10. New this season, fan voting will be a part of all three rounds of voting before a winner is announced.
Montgomery is the fourth Kentucky player to make a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame preseason positional watch list. Earlier this week, sophomore guard Ashton Hagans was named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list (nations’ top point guard), freshman guard Tyrese Maxey landed on the Jerry West Award watch list (nation’s top shooting guard) and freshman forward Kahlil Whitney made the Julius Erving Award watch list (nation’s top small forward).
By Nick Roush on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
The world’s greatest and most trivial arguments have been decided by a rock-paper-scissors duel.
Alexander Hamilton lost his life to Aaron Burr after the two would not budge from playing rock. Henry Clay’s Great Compromise was only reached after ro-sham-boing Congress into action. As great Kentuckian Abraham Lincoln once said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, an arbitrating game of rock-paper-parchment.”
The latest challenge happened in Birmingham between two Georgia natives, Efrem Montgomery Jr. and Ashton Hagans. At SEC Basketball Media Days, one person had to sit on the SEC Network stage with John Calipari. Instead of drawing straws, they drew out their fists for an epic battle that will live in infamy.
Rock. Paper. Scissors.
Kentucky players Ashton Hagans (@H23Ash) & E.J. Montgomery got into an intense game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who would sit with @UKCoachCalipari on the @SECNetwork set.
Here's the kicker……they both had to? #LACEUP #SECTipoff pic.twitter.com/8ytnYbFPbp
— Alabama News Network (@ALNewsNetwork) October 16, 2019
Hagans won the battle, but lost the war. Both players actually had to join John Calipari on the SEC Network set.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2019 @ 10:00am
I love Rupp Arena. You love Rupp Arena. We all love Rupp Arena. But, we can admit that for the majority of games, it isn’t exactly the most intimidating place in college basketball. Yesterday at SEC Basketball Media Day, Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden said as much, telling me that Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is a much more imposing environment.
“I feel like Arkansas gets more loud,” the Volunteers senior guard said. “I feel like Kentucky is not really, you know, a lot of screaming and stuff. But Arkansas is really unique.”
Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden loves the rivalry with Kentucky but says Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is more imposing. “I feel like Kentucky is not really a lot of screaming and stuff” pic.twitter.com/KQQn0WOPcQ
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 16, 2019
This clip took on a life of its own yesterday, resonating mostly with Kentucky fans who agree with Bowden (“HE’S NOT WRONG, TYLER”), those who brought up that Tennessee lost in Rupp last season, and proud Arkansas fans just happy to see someone praise their program after so long.
Bowden wasn’t alone. LSU junior guard Skylar Mays said there’s no question that Bud Walton Arena is louder than Rupp.
“I don’t even think it’s a debate, honestly. It’s just louder.”
Arkansas’ Desi Still said he didn’t exactly find Rupp Arena intimidating last season, but was impressed by the fans.
“The biggest impression [I had] was the arena, Rupp Arena. No matter how far they’re up or down, how it rocked.”
We’ve been through the complaints about Rupp ad nauseam, so instead of calling for Kentucky to move the student sections to the sidelines (not gonna happen) or older fans to get loud (will only happen for big games), let’s just accept Bowden’s quote for what it is: the truth.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Last year’s season-opening loss to Duke was a brutal wakeup call for Kentucky, and with another mega-debut on the horizon vs. preseason No. 1 Michigan State, Ashton Hagans is determined to learn from those mistakes. The sophomore point guard told reporters at SEC Basketball Media Day Kentucky has adopted a “No Smile November” mentality in hopes of being more focused when the season begins on November 5.
“No smiles,” Hagans said. “No Smile November. That’s our new term right now, so we’re just trying to go out there and compete.”
“Last November we got a little bit upset but that was the first game, so this year we’re just trying to go in with a different mindset. You know, just trying to stay more focused. Have everyone on all ten toes ready to go out there and fight the first game.”
When I think about the Duke game, I think of how confident Kentucky was in the tunnel, barking and yipping like a pack of dogs. Hagans admitted they didn’t know how to turn off the “fun button” and play, and it came back to bite them.
CATS READY pic.twitter.com/l0aOjeeHZS
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 7, 2018
Kentucky players howling and barking during warmups. Keldon Johnson is terrifying. pic.twitter.com/53fFwXvBR1
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 7, 2018
“Our coaches would say we sounded like a concert in the locker room but I would say people were just amped and ready to play that game than just more focused on it. But this year, everyone’s just locked in. We had a few jokes about us getting blown out but it’s past that so we ain’t looking back at that no more.”
John Calipari brought up the Duke game as an example of a young team going through growing pains, telling reporters the Blue Devils should have won by 100.
“So you want to bring the Duke game up when they beat us by 70 in the first game last year, maybe?” Cal said (the reporter did not). “We lose by 70 in the first game and literally, they could have run it to 100. It could have been a Wilt Chamberlain with the piece of paper, by a ‘100.’ We come back at the end of the year, I thought we should have won the national title. We get by that game and we’re in that Final Four, I felt comfortable with my team. So, it’s a step at a time. We’re not preparing to play Michigan State. I can’t do that. If I do, we’re screwed the next month and a half. This is what we have in when we play Michigan State; hopefully it’s enough to win.”
EJ Montgomery said Hagans was the brainchild behind “No Smile November,” and the whole team has embraced it…even Tyrese Maxey, who has been known to smile in his sleep.
“It’s hard for him. Me and him both love smiling, having fun with the game,” Montgomery said. “Just trying to stay focused, go at each other every day in practice so we’ll just be ready for all these games we’ve got coming.”
Montgomery said the rule only applies on the court, so this very fun group will continue to be all smiles off it; however, when the ball is tipped, it’s business.
“The name says it for itself,” Hagans said. “No Smile November. Just coming out with a chip on your shoulder ready to play against any team we’re going against and just ready to fight.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Kentucky’s time at SEC Basketball Media Day has come to an end, which means the Cats are probably already in their private jet heading back to Lexington. I’m about to hit the road myself for Nashville, but first, a few notes.
Calipari covered a lot of old ground
Between UK Basketball Media Day and his interview on KSR last week, John Calipari didn’t cover much new ground during his 20-minute Q&A today. Once again, he expressed his concerns about the potential expansion of the G-League, claimed hasn’t read the California Fair Pay to Play Law, and talked about how EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards need to be more physical.
Here’s his response when a reporter asked him how EJ compares to PJ Washington, who also returned to Kentucky for sophomore season:
Everyone is raving about Ashton Hagans’ defense
Ashton Hagans was named Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season, and his name came up plenty today as the league’s toughest defender.
“Big fan of his game,” Florida’s Mike White said. “I mean this all positively, he’s a junkyard dog in my opinion. Pitbull. Tough as they come. Probably as good an on-ball defender as there is in the country.”
John Calipari has had plenty of talented point guards, but said Hagans is the best defender of them all. Like a leader, Hagans credited his teammates when a reporter informed him of Calipari’s praise.
“Just keep doing what I do. Keep trying to do my best each and every day when I go to practice. Compete against the guards, Immanuel [Quickley] and Tyrese [Maxey]. Immanuel is looking ten times better than he was last year, so for him to keep putting in the work that he’s putting in to make himself better, it’s just going to make our team even better as the season goes on. Tyrese is a hard worker. No one’s really seen him play except for high school and the McDonald’s [All-American] Game but I guarantee he’s going to bring the same thing he brought in those games to Kentucky. Johnny Juzang, he came to college a year earlier, he’s ready to work and show everybody what’s he’s got. The guards are just ready to come out here and compete.”
…But he also hit 60 threes in 5 minutes in a recent drill
Ashton Hagans isn’t exactly known as a shooter, but Calipari told reporters that Hagans recently hit 60 threes in the team’s five-minute shooting drill, which is an eye-opener to say the least. Hagans said that last year, he would average around 39-45 threes in the drill, but this year, has hit as many as 65.
EJ Montgomery is back on Twitter
Did you know EJ Montgomery took a Twitter hiatus? Me neither. He’s back on social media as of yesterday, and encouraged fans to follow him @EJMontgomery23.
“I just felt like I needed a break, but I’m back now, so everybody go follow me.”
With no social media to distract him, Montgomery said he spent his extra time in the gym.
“I was just more focused, trying to get myself better, staying in the gym.”
He and Nick have been battling in practice
Calipari has forced his bigs to face off in practice recently in hopes of sparking their competitive fire.
“It’s a lot of battles,” Montgomery said. “A lot of cuts and bruises. We’ve just been trying to go at each other and just fight every possession as we try to compete.”
Cal said he’s noticed a big change in Nick so far.
“Nick is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him, which has built his own confidence now in himself,” Cal said. “He’s like running out ahead and has a smile on his face. Nick now, you’re seeing jump hooks. We did rebounding stuff and he’s getting every rebound. Proud of him. Proud of EJ.”
I’ll have more from SEC Basketball Media Day tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can watch my interviews with Ashton and EJ below.
By Drew Franklin on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 4:47pm
Before taking the grand stage at SEC Media Days down in Birmingham, John Calipari took a seat on the Paul Finebaum Show set with fill-in host Tom Hart. One of the topics that came up in their discussion was how Calipari sees the landscape of college basketball in a few years now that California got the ball rolling with its Fair Pay To Play Act. It’s at least the third time Calipari has been asked since the law was passed, and he is still hesitant to go all the way in with his opinion.
However, he did remind Hart and Finebaum listeners, “I’ve been saying for ten years, these players deserve to own their own name and likeness and image. I was the only guy. I wish other people had come in with me because we would be five, eight years ahead of this. Now, they say, ‘California’ — what do I think about the California law? Did you read it? I didn’t read it either. I didn’t read it, I don’t know. But I know there’s a New York law now and there’s a Florida law and Kentucky’s going to do a law. Well guess what? What are the unintended consequences?
“I’ll give you an example,” he continued. “A football player who is an unbelievable quarterback and really a powerful guy, we’re going to pool all the money so every athlete — soccer and volleyball and swimming and golf — everybody gets the same, including that football quarterback. There’s unintended consequences! How do you have a kid go do what he wants, but it doesn’t hurt the athletic department and other programs?”
Calipari predicted there will be forty state laws similar to California’s, and it will eventually go on to Congress.
“Don’t even ask me my opinion. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m reading the tea leaves again. Have I been wrong doing that?”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
University of Kentucky student-athletes managed to break one graduation rate school record and tied another.
According to an annual report released on Wednesday by the NCAA, UK’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR), a four-year composite statistic for the freshman classes of 2009-10 through 2012-13, was 91%. That rate tops the previous school record of 88% set last season, continuing Kentucky’s streak of breaking or tying the mark every year since the NCAA began tracking the statistic in 2005.
“Our student-athletes make us proud in the way they pursue an education and a degree at our world-class institution while competing at the highest level of college athletics,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “It is our responsibility to equip them with the resources they need to do that. I am thankful for the commitment our student-athletes make to academics and the support our coaches, staff, and CATS counselors and tutors provide along their path.”
The GSR includes all student-athletes who are on scholarship during their first semester of enrollment. Athletes who transfer or depart for the professional ranks in good standing do not count against the school’s GSR.
“These outstanding graduation rates highlight a foundational component of the Kentucky student-athlete experience, and serve as evidence of our commitment to comprehensive excellence,” Executive Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Experience Jason Cummins said, via UK Athletics. “Our students learn from a world-class faculty in the pursuit of life-changing knowledge, one of our Department’s five core values.”
Here are UK Athletics’ GSR scores in the 15-year history of the measure.
Year NCAA GSR
Kentucky also tied its own previous record set last season in the Federal Graduation Rate, a four-year composite statistic for freshman classes from 2009-10 through 2012-13, with a mark of 61%.
According to UK Athletics, in the FGR, “student-athletes who transfer or depart early for the professional ranks count as non-graduates, regardless of their academic standing or subsequent graduation from another institution. Incoming transfer students, from junior college or four-year schools, who graduate at UK are not counted as graduates. These factors account for the difference between the FGR and the NCAA GSR.”
99 Wildcats walked across the stage and received diplomas during the 2018-19 academic year, with 49 of those individuals graduating with honors.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 3:41pm
Somehow, Will Wade is still LSU’s coach despite being caught on an FBI wiretap making a ‘strong ass offer’ for Javonte Smart in June 2017. LSU suspended Wade in March, but reinstated him once the season was over, even amid an NCAA investigation. After Wade dodged the topic in an extremely awkward press conference at SEC Basketball Media Day last year, it was only a matter of time before it came up today.
“I felt good about things,” Wade said when asked if he believed he would be here this year. “Obviously, it was a difficult time but I was always in communication with LSU. I was always in communication with our folks.”
…Now feels like a good time to remind everyone that LSU only suspended Wade after he refused to meet with officials…
“I felt like once we could kind of get to the table with everybody that things would work out,” Wade continued. “I’m certainly excited to be here. Excited to be back. Excited to coach LSU and looking forward to doing that for a long time.”
In June, Yahoo Sports listed LSU as one of the six programs expected to receive harsh penalties from the NCAA over the scandal, but Wade told reporters today he feels good about how he’s run his program.
“I have no idea what the NCAA is going to do at this point but we’re very, very comfortable and confident with how we’ve run our program and I’m excited about this season and moving forward.”
If you’re curious, Wade did not handle sitting out the postseason very well.
“I watched on TV. I’m not a very good fan. I’m not a very good fan. I was yelling at the TV. It’s tough. You always tell your guys you’re going to be there for them but it’s something that because of the circumstances, you couldn’t. You never like to let your players down, let your guys down. It was tough for me, but it’s part of it. Now we’re moving forward and I’m looking forward to coaching this team and we’ve got to get this team to the NCAA Tournament.”
By Drew Franklin on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 2:15pm
Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney is a high-flyer, so it is only right that he be in consideration for an award with Julius Erving’s name on it.
That is the case today as Whitney was selected to the Preseason Watch List for the Julius Erving Award, given annually to the best small forward in college basketball.
Whitney is one of 20 names on the preseason list, and one of only two from the SEC, along with Florida freshman Scottie Lewis, who was ranked one spot ahead of Whitney in their high school class.
KSR talked to Whitney prior to Big Blue Madness. Check it out:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 16th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
Kerry Blackshear committing to Florida was one of the biggest stories of the summer, in part because we heard basically nothing from the Virginia Tech grad transfer’s camp during the process. Today at SEC Basketball Media Day, Blackshear — who was just voted SEC Preseason Player of the Year — opened up about the decision.
“I think the culture, the group of people that were there,” Blackshear said of why he picked the Gators. “The opportunity to play with a really good team was really enticing to me and I just built a relationship with my teammates now. During the recruiting process, I felt like they really brought me along and made me a part of their team.”
“Heavily,” Blackshear said of how much he considered going to Kentucky. “Heavily, heavily. They’re an elite program. Good coaching staff. Really great team. Great culture. Something that I really thought about.”
What was John Calipari’s pitch to the top grad transfer in the country?
“[They were] just were encouraging me, telling me that this opportunity would be life-changing and that was something I heavily considered.”
Blackshear, an Orlando native, considered five schools — Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Virginia Tech — but ultimately went with the Gators because they pursued him the hardest.
“Just my teammates, really. I talked to each one of them. They really wanted me to come. I really wanted to play with these guys because just the energy they gave me, just from a conversation on the phone, on Twitter, on Instagram, they all hit me up so I was excited.”
“I thought that I added to what they already had and I thought it was really a hand-in-glove fit,” he added.
Kentucky will face Blackshear and Florida on February 22 in Lexington and on March 7 in Gainesville.
In life, there are times when two completely different things can both be true. Take SEC basketball for example. It will never have the history or get the media love of the ACC or Big 12 (for reasons, unknown to me). But there is also no debating that no conference has taken a larger leap onto the national scale than this league either.
As the old saying goes “it just means more.” And that’s certainly the case in SEC hoops.
The facts aren’t debatable.
Three years ago, this league sent three teams to the Elite Eight. In 2018, they sent a league record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, it was seven NCAA Tournament teams, with four in the Sweet 16, two in the Elite Eight and one in the Final Four. Oh, and if things weren’t crazy enough, in a league where there were already seven coaches who’ve made a Final Four (SEVEN!!), Alabama (Nate Oats, Arkansas (Eric Musselman) and Texas A&M (Buzz Williams) all made major coaching upgrades this off-season.
So why do I bring that up? It’s because as the media descends upon Birmingham for SEC Media Day today, it’s clear that this league has never been stronger. And it has never been harder to figure out.
Below is my 2019-2020 SEC preview. But if I’m being perfectly honest, after speaking with coaches both across the league and the country, this might be the toughest conference in the country to figure out. After you get past the top three (Kentucky, Florida and LSU) there really isn’t all that much difference between any of these teams.
Therefore, don’t get mad if I have your team a spot or two lower than other media members. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the team picked to finish sixth this year could finish 11th, and the team picked to finish 11th could finish fourth or fifth. The SEC is insanely deep this year and all but impossible to predict.
Still, with SEC Media Day today, let’s do our best to make sense of these rankings:
1) Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards
Key Departures: PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro
Key Additions: Tyrese Maxey, Kalil Whitney, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina (grad transfer)
I’ve written about Kentucky so much this off-season, that I’m just ready for things to tip-off and for there to be actual games to react to. But in case I haven’t made it abundantly clear in all my other preseason writing, I really like the makeup of this team.
I like that that for the first time in a long time, the Wildcats have veterans. I like that they have a chance to be elite defensively, with Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley at the top of the key. And I like that they could be John Calipari’s best three-point shooting team ever with Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina, Quickley and Maxey.
Honestly, there is a lot to like here and not all that much weakness (maybe another big man, but I personally don’t think that’s as big a deal as others do). Because of it, I see no reason why the Wildcats won’t win their fourth SEC regular season title in the last six years.
2) Florida Gators
Key Returnees: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson
Key Departures: KeyVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, Jalen Hudson, Keith Stone (transfer)
Key Additions: Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Kerry Blackshear Jr. (grad transfer)
Listen, we all know the story here. The Gators’ backcourt was already loaded, and the one thing that they were missing – at least as of three months ago – was size down low. And Florida flipped that narrative when they got the best big man available on the grad transfer market, Kerry Blackshear, to come to Gainesville.
Now, when you add Blackshear to a team that already had a steady point guard (Andrew Nembhard), elite shooting with Noah Locke and a potential shutdown perimeter player in Scottie Lewis, you have a team that is not only capable of winning the SEC, but also winning the national championship.
Nembhard will have be more consistent than he was a year ago, but that’s really just being nitpicky if anything. The Gators are absolutely loaded headed into the season.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
Tomorrow is SEC Basketball Media Day and I’ll be making the trek to Birmingham on KSR’s behalf. Aaron Torres will have a big SEC preview for you in the morning, but here are some things I’ll be looking for during a long day at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook.
How much will the media grill Will Wade and Bruce Pearl on the NCAA scandal?
Auburn and LSU are among the schools being investigated by the NCAA for their roles in the college hoops bribery scandal, and somehow Will Wade still has a job after being caught on wiretap talking about an offer for a recruit. Both Wade and Bruce Pearl have remained tight-lipped on the topic, but it’s bound to come up again with a room full of reporters looking for a story. Yahoo Sports listed South Carolina as another school expecting significant penalties, and I can’t wait for someone to ask Frank Martin about it so we can see this face:
Plenty of talk about the Fair Pay to Play Law
One of the biggest talking points of the day will be California’s Fair Pay to Play Law, which will allow student-athletes in the state to profit off their name, image, and likeness beginning in 2023. Some coaches (Bruce Pearl) have spoken out in support of the law, while others (John Calipari, Rick Barnes) have praised the concept but expressed concerns about the execution. Will Calipari dance around the topic as much as he did on the radio last week? Probably, but it’ll be fun to watch other reporters try to follow his logic.
Kerry Blackshear will be asked about Kentucky
As I’m sure you remember, the Virginia Tech grad transfer picked the Gators over the Cats in June, and today, was named SEC Preseason Player of the Year. Blackshear has talked about his decision to go to Florida instead of Kentucky before, but you better believe the Kentucky reporters will be circling when he enters the room.
Ashton Hagans will be asked about Auburn
Hagans and EJ Montgomery will represent Kentucky tomorrow along with John Calipari. At UK’s Media Day a few weeks back, Hagans admitted that he took Auburn too lightly in the Elite Eight loss, one of his worst games of the season. Auburn lost a lot of players from that squad, but I have a feeling the game will still come up, if only as a launching pad for Hagans to talk about an offseason of hard work.
Time to meet the new guys
There are FOUR new coaches in the SEC this year: Buzz Williams at Texas A&M, Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt, Nate Oats at Alabama, and Eric Musselman at Arkansas. Personally, I’ll miss Avery Johnson’s sartorial splendor, but it’ll be fun to meet the new guys and hear their thoughts on Calipari and Kentucky. I’m sure there will be some kissing of the ring, but here’s hoping Buzz Williams throws in some trash talk for good measure.
Kentucky basketball assistant coach Joel Justus is making a statement in as few words possible.
This afternoon on his Instagram page, Justus posted an image of him and fellow UK assistant Tony Barbee smiling and laughing at the Kentucky basketball women’s clinic this past weekend.
The caption? No words, only a single shushing face emoji.
Take a look:
So what does it mean?
This weekend, Kentucky hosted the likes of 2020 No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham and 2021 top-three prospect Paolo Banchero on official visits, and the buzz going around Lexington since the weekend is that UK is in prime position to land both elite prospects.
Could it be a slight self-pat on the back due to UK simply picking up momentum with both Cunningham and Banchero, along with the Wildcats being favored to land 2021 five-star guard Devin Askew?
Did Kentucky receive a commitment from one of the three? Two? All three? Is one about to go public?
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) October 15, 2019
Or, could the Kentucky assistant coach literally be “shushing” those who criticized both Justus and Barbee on the recruiting trail? Barbee was the lead recruiter for 2020 five-star guard Terrence Clarke and was instrumental in landing his commitment. He’s also the lead recruiter for Cunningham.
As for Justus, he was the lead recruiter for 2020 five-star guard BJ Boston and played a massive role in his commitment to Kentucky, as well.
We talk about Swaggy Cal quite a bit, but give credit to the rest of Kentucky coaching staff. They’re all recruiting like mad men and have certainly earned the right to have some swagger, as well…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
One day after Ashton Hagans was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard, his backcourt partner-in-crime Tyrese Maxey was named to the watch list for the Jerry West Award, presented annually to the nation’s top shooting guard.
Maxey is one of 20 players on the watch list, six from the Southeastern Conference. Also included were Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LSU’s Skylar Mays, Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree, South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson and Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden. The SEC led the nation in nominations for the Jerry West Award. Maxey and Edwards are the only two freshmen on the preseason list.
Earlier today, Maxey was named preseason All-SEC Second Team by the league’s media. A top-ten recruit, he averaged 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game in his senior season at South Garland High School.
In February, the watch list will be trimmed to 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in March with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 10. New this season, fan voting will be a part of all three rounds of voting before a winner is announced.
Soon enough, we’ll see what Maxey can do as a Wildcat, but until then, relive his high school highlights.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
Kentucky basketball has been selected to win its sixth regular-season SEC title under John Calipari in the 2019-20 preseason media poll.
This afternoon, it was announced that the league’s media voted on UK to take home the program’s 49th overall regular-season title, the 15th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats have been named the overall preseason favorite.
Calipari, who is in his eleventh season at Kentucky, has led the Wildcats to regular-season SEC titles in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017, with UK also claiming the SEC Tournament title six times in that span in 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In addition to the SEC preseason poll, three Kentucky Wildcats were selected to preseason All-SEC teams. Sophomore guard Ashton Hagans was picked to the first team, while freshman guard Tyrese Maxey and sophomore forward EJ Montgomery were tabbed to the second season. Hagans also received one vote for preseason SEC Player of the Year, with former Kentucky target and current Florida Gator Kerry Blackshear Jr. earning those honors.
Hagans is joined by Blackshear, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree and Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry on the first team. Joining Maxey and Montgomery on the second team were Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, Florida’s Andrew Nembhard, LSU’s Skylar Mays and Tennessee’s Lamonté Turner.
Hagans shared 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after picking up 61 steals as a freshman.
Kentucky will begin exhibition play with the program’s annual Blue-White Game scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Friday on the SEC Network. From there, the Wildcats will participate in two more exhibition games against Georgetown College on Oct. 27 and Kentucky State on Nov. 1.
UK will then open up the regular season in New York for the State Farm Champions Classic against Michigan State at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 15th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Former Kentucky basketball target and current Oregon Duck N’Faly Dante has been ruled ineligible going into the 2019-20 season.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Dante has been informed that he will be ineligible to start the season “because the NCAA missed his clearance date.”
“I left my home four years ago with a dream and three goals: Graduate from high school, attend university, and play college basketball. None of that has changed,” Dante said in a statement, via Charania. “On December 14, 2019, I plan to enroll and play college basketball with the University of Oregon. I have completed my academic requirements and am currently waiting for the NCAA Eligibility process to finalize. We are hopeful this will conclude soon and have asked the NCAA to keep my goal of a December 14, 2019 enrollment date in mind.
“Every prospective student athlete that purchases an NCAA Eligibility Center ID, regardless of their gender or origin, should be entitled to a timely and transparent process that’s in line with the student’s targeted enrollment date,” Dante continued.
Dante, a 6’11 big man out of Mali, says he will now reenroll at Oregon on Dec. 14. pic.twitter.com/a05nocBXdZ
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 15, 2019
Back on August 13, the five-star center announced he would be reclassifying to the class of 2019 and signing with Oregon over offers from Kentucky, LSU, Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, among others.
If the NCAA clears Dante by his target deadline of December 14, the 6-foot-11 big man will miss Oregon’s first nine games of the season against Fresno State, Boise State, Memphis, UT-Arlington, Houston, Seton Hall, Hawaii, and Michigan.
Sources told KSR two weeks ago that Oregon was “struggling” to get Dante eligible and that the possibility of the former five-star prospect missing the entire season was on the table.
Dante is considered a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.