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Basketball Season Coverage

Tony Barbee on California’s pay-to-play act: “I guess it’s a start”

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

The California “pay-to-play” act has been a major talking point across the country for several weeks now. John Calipari’s women’s clinic was no exception.

During Sunday’s clinic, the women in attendance were given the chance to participate in a question-and-answer session with three of UK’s assistant basketball coaches – you can read my full recap from the clinic here. Tony Barbee, Kenny Payne and Joel Justus fielded questions from the ladies of the BBN, including one about a collegiate athlete’s chance to profit off his or her own likeness. Specifically, the woman who asked the question wanted to know the affect such a bill might have in the state of Kentucky.

Anytime players can benefit from their likeness, obviously is a huge advantage for who? Us. Huge advantage when you talk about the guys and the autograph tours they’re able to do across the state once their eligibility is up, and then that’d be something they’d be able to profit off of while they’re here. That’s a huge advantage,” Barbee said.

He’s right. Kentucky has one of the best markets for student athletes, especially for the men’s basketball team, to make a profit under a similar act. We’ve all seen the lines at KSBar in Lexington and in malls and sporting good stores across the state when former UK athletes go on their autograph tours. Throw in a few local commercials, a signature clothing line and a few Instagram advertisements, and the potential dollar signs should start popping up in your head. Coach Barbee is right when he says new NCAA guidelines would serve as a “huge advantage” for UK basketball recruiting.

But, for Barbee at least, it’s still not enough.

“We’re for it; it’s about time. But I don’t think it addresses the main issue of the student athletes being compensated for the amount of money they earn for all of these colleges and universities. Being able to profit off their own likeness and image, the money wouldn’t be coming from the money that comes in to the university. It’s kind of an in-around to the main problem, but it’s something. I guess it’s a start.”

Notes from John Calipari’s women’s basketball clinic

Notes from John Calipari’s women’s basketball clinic

It was another wonderful day in the land of Kentucky basketball, as I had the opportunity to spend my Sunday afternoon with the Caliparis, the 2019-20 men’s team and, most importantly, the ladies of BBN. For the first time in a couple of years, the John Calipari (soon to be renamed the Ellen Calipari) women’s basketball clinic returned to Rupp Arena, and from what I saw, it was a big hit. Previous clinics have been held inside Memorial Coliseum, but this year’s venue allowed the women to get a real inside look into basketball’s most-famous building.

The day started with pictures and autographs, which means Ashton Hagans had to jump on Instagram Live at least a few times, of course. The ladies loved it.

Next, the players got to be re-introduced to the women, which was especially nice for those who weren’t able to attend Big Blue Madness. Don’t worry, Immanuel Quickley still stole the show:

Didn’t see enough dancing? Don’t worry, the women at the clinic didn’t either. One attendee requested a dance off, and what do you know, the Cats come through with a dance off.

Quickley is the easy pick for best moves, but I think EJ Montgomery and Keion Brooks are sleepers in this competition.

And yes, before you ask, Coach Calipari did call Nate Sestina “white Nick” when he asked if he can dance. I also really appreciated the amount of John Wall dances that were included. Who’s your pick for the team’s best dancer?

The dancing was fun, but my personal favorite part of the event each year comes during the assistant coaches’ question-and-answer session with the women. For nearly an hour, the ladies had the chance to put the assistants on the hot seat and, for the most part, the coaches were pretty transparent. Here are some of the best moments from the Q-and-A.

Joel Justus began by explaining the sport’s latest rule changes, including the deeper three-point line, the 20-second shot clock following an offensive rebound, the ability to review goal tending (with an LSU game joke, of course) and the way officials can call unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. That last one led to a conversation about flopping, which gave Coach Justus the perfect opportunity to get in a Louisville dig.

He discussed the team’s annual preparation before the rivalry game, saying they had to teach the freshmen each year how to react when opposing players would flop and try to draw a charge. He’s referencing this, right?

Either way, he says things should be different now: “There’s a new coach at Louisville though, so they’re not teaching that anymore.”

Coach Kenny Payne was asked about the most-improved returning player, and he gave the honor to Immanual Quickley.

“The way he’s mentally approaching it is very different. Last year, he was second-guessing everything he was doing,” Payne said. “The biggest growth is when you see guys not worried about what we’re thinking; it’s hard to please coaches.”

Coach Payne also weighed in on arguably his favorite player, his son. Zan Payne is still coming off an injury, and his dad said he’s not where he wants to be shooting-wise just yet, but that’s not all his father wants for him.

“Brad [Calipari] was an example to my son of how you earn respect from your teammates; it’s your work ethic and your discipline. If he can walk away from this and earn his own place, I’m proud.”

Speaking of Brad Calipari, Coach Payne says he still checks in with the youngest Cal. Apparently, the last text he received from Brad read: “I didn’t realize how much I would miss being at Kentucky.”

And speaking of family ties, Coach Justus also weighed in on the idea behind a basketball “family.” Despite the one-and-done era, Justus discussed Kentucky’s ability to hold people together in the long-term, not just while everyone is still wearing their UK uniform. It’s certainly not just for social media: “It’s a real family and not just a hashtag.”

Coach Payne took it a step further.

“We’ve had guys like Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, then it went to Anthony [Davis] and Michael Kidd Gilchrist. You’re in their life and they still call you and tell you how they’re doing,” Payne said. “Sometimes, we as fans… say ‘this year’s team is going to be just as good.’ But it’s not just an input. Each person coming into this program has to earn that, and we take it for granted sometimes just how good the players were the year before. We’ve had a hell of a basketball [program] here.”

And finally, there was this quote on Nick Richards’ shooting, which was pretty impressive during Friday’s Big Blue Madness.

“If we have seven guys that are good three-point shooters, do we need eight? I would say I’m ok with him shooting threes once or twice, but this team is going to need post play very bad,” Payne said. “His behind better be giving us some post play, even though he can shoot.

Finally, the women got the chance to interact with the team’s strength and conditioning staff, who challenged them to a plank-off. Ellen Calipari and LEX18’s Jennifer Palumbo went head-to-head, and both put up strong performances.

Put that on Instagram!

All in all, it was a fun day with the team and the women of the BBN. The annual event is just another great reminder of how special this program is, and how lucky we all are to be part of the BBN. For those in attendance, feel free to comment about your experience or tweet me, @MaggieDavisKSR. And for those of you who weren’t in attendance, we’ll see you next year!

Big Blue Madness LIVE BLOG, Presented by #BBNVegas – Kentucky Basketball takes over Las Vegas

#BBN takes over Las Vegas this December when Kentucky basketball hits Sin City. The action tips with the Kentucky vs. Utah presented by UK HealthCare and benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at T-Mobile Arena.

BBN will have the opportunity to hit the links at the world-renowned Shadow Creek Golf Course on Friday, Dec. 20 as part of Golf Blue benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Cats then play in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Visit or follow on social media at @BBNLasVegas for full information, game tickets and hotel accommodations on the Las Vegas Strip.

Weekend Reminders to get you through this week

You made it to the middle of the work week, which means we’re now just days away from a huge weekend for UK Athletics. There’s a lot going on, so here’s a quick recap of the coming weekend’s biggest activities in and around campus in Lexington:

Friday – Big Blue Madness

The fun begins Friday evening. Big Blue Madness is essentially the launch party for another season of Kentucky Basketball, and this year will be no exception. The action is slated to start at 7 p.m. inside Rupp Arena.

If you didn’t score tickets to the event itself, you can tune in on the SEC Network, where our friend Tom Hart will be commentating (listen up for any KSR references!). You can also come to the “Blue Carpet” event at 5:30 inside the Lexington Center to watch the team and special guests enter the Rupp Arena.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will be introduced before participating in their first open practice of the season. Who will come out with the best dance moves? My money is on Immanuel Quickley (or maybe Matthew Mitchell).

Saturday – Kentucky vs. Arkansas football game

Sandwiched between two fun days of basketball comes an important game for the UK football team. The Wildcats are set to take on Arkansas at 7:30 on the SEC Network. The game is the official Jared Lorenzen tribute game, as well as UK’s annual Homecoming game.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the football team, and this Saturday is the Wildcats’ chance to get back on the right track. Mark Stoops is determined his guys play “a hell of a game” for Lorenzen.


It’s not too late to grab tickets for Saturday’s game. Seats are still available HERE, and you can use the promo code ‘TWENTYTWO” to receive $22 off the price of your tickets.

Sunday – John Calipari women’s basketball clinic

Then, we’re back to basketball. After a day to recover from the spectacle of Big Blue Madness, John Calipari returns to Rupp Arena to host this year’s women’s clinic.

The ladies in attendance will be invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the program, including a self-guided tour of Rupp Arena and the locker rooms. There will be staff members stationed throughout the facility for directions and questions.


Each participant will also be guaranteed a small group picture with the entire team and the opportunity to take a picture with John Calipari and his wife, Ellen (because she’s the major draw here, right? Don’t you want the chance to make it on her Instagram?!). You can read more about the clinic HERE.

Registration is open now. The past eight clinics have completely sold out, so grab your spot before it’s too late. Ladies, I’ll be there for KSR – come say hi!

Oh right… Don’t forget Keeneland will also be open all weekend. Have fun out there, Wildcats.