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Hair Watch: Fox still rocking the pony

Hair Watch: Fox still rocking the pony

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Because Big Blue Nation obsesses over the Cats’ appearances, here is confirmation that De’Aaron Fox is still wearing his hair up in the ponytail/man-bun/beehive/whatever you want to call it.

At least one of you out there is excited to know this, don’t lie.


Calipari explains why we haven’t seen Sacha Killeya-Jones

Calipari explains why we haven’t seen Sacha Killeya-Jones

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It’s safe to say Sacha Killeya-Jones has been an enormous disappointment in his freshman season, especially considering the preseason hype and the fact he has played a total of three minutes in two appearances in Kentucky’s last 11 games.

One person close to the program who knows a lot more than you or me recently told me the reason behind Killeya-Jones’ disappearance from the rotation is simple: he’s just not very good right now.

I’m guilty of buying in to the Killeya-Jones preseason hype, and spreading it, after I sat through a two-hour practice back in October and thought he looked good. I didn’t expect he’d be a star this season, but I thought for sure he would get decent minutes and provide a nice complement to Bam Adebayo inside.

Boy, was I wrong.

Today, John Huang asked Calipari to explain the mystery behind Killeya-Jones’ vanishment, to which Cal said, “He’s still working. He’s trying. Guys are ahead of him right now and that’s a hard deal… He’s a little bit behind, but I’ve had some individual meetings with him, talked to him, and he said, ‘I understood coming here that this was going to be hard, so I’ve gotta work through it.'”

So there ya go.

He’s a victim to the depth chart.


LIVE: John Calipari previews Georgia

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Stop what you’re doing and turn off that terrible song you’re listening to at work and tune in to John Calipari’s pre-Georgia press conference below:


50 coaches named teams they fear in March; Kentucky not mentioned

50 coaches named teams they fear in March; Kentucky not mentioned

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Jeff Goodman over at The Walt Disney Company’s ESPN website has a pretty neat college basketball poll up and its results are quite disrespectful to your Kentucky basketball team.

Goodman and his colleagues asked 50 college basketball coaches to name which team they do not want to face in the postseason and the responses are quite surprising.

West Virginia is the most feared team, according to the poll, with 14 of the 50 votes placed. Up next is Villanova with nine votes, Duke with six and then Kansas, Oregon and Virginia with four votes.

To see the entire list of teams, which includes LOUISVILLE, check out the results here.

But you should know that not one coach said they are afraid of the Kentucky Wildcats.

They should get afraid.

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Bill Simmons thinks NBA scouts are sleeping on Monk

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In his Trade Deadline Mailbag for The Ringer, Bill Simmons was asked by Danny in Phoenix if and when everyone will stop salivating over Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball and come to realize Malik Monk is the best prospect in the draft.

Simmons replies with the very good point that Monk is a lights-out shooter, the NBA has turned to a shooter’s league and Monk thrives on the big stage, among others reasons.

“I love that he’s five spots too low on every list,” writes Simmons.

Read the entire response:

BS: Don’t jinx it! This is working out perfectly: he’s a lights-out shooter with 25-foot range, A-plus footwork and a real sense of the Moment (a la Steph at Davidson) — someone who couldn’t be more perfect for the way everyone plays professional basketball in 2017. You want your team to stretch the floor, play the math and shoot 40 3s a game so you can hang with the Rockets, Warriors and Celtics? In the words of John Bender (dated ’80s reference!), I know someone who would be OUTSTANDING in that capacity.

But wait, he’s a little too short for a 2-guard and might not be able to defend bigger guards? (Didn’t we already go through that two-inches-too-short crap with C.J. McCollum and Avery Bradley?) Oh, and Monk doesn’t rebound! (Who the eff would draft Malik Monk to help their rebounding???) Let’s dwell on that stuff instead of stuff like “The bigger the crowd, the bigger he plays,” “By all accounts, he’s the first guy at practice and the last guy to leave” and “Maybe it’s a good idea to take a freaky-good shooter/scorer during an era when everyone wants shooting and scoring?” I love that he’s five spots too low on every list. Let’s drop Monk out of the top five and throw a massive chip on his shoulder that Monk can lug around for the next 12 years as he’s dropping 3s on everyone. I heard he’s actually 6-foot-1 and wears lifts. [The Ringer]

As Simmons notes, Monk, a self-described animal, is the type of guy who would seek vengeance (and find it) on whatever teams pass him up on draft night. For all the good in Fultz and Ball and Smith and whoever else may go ahead of him, I’d be terrified of what Monk could do to me if I didn’t take him if given the opportunity.


Changes coming to Joe Craft Center locker room

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You should be happy to know changes are coming to the Joe Craft Center, where your beloved Kentucky basketball players hone their skills each and every day.

The UK Board of Trustees is all set to approve a renovation of the men’s basketball locker rooms in their practice facility.

The board meeting’s Friday afternoon agenda reads:

Members, Board of Trustees:

RENOVATE/IMPROVE ATHLETICS FACILITY CAPITAL PROJECT
(JOE CRAFT CENTER LOCKER ROOM)

Recommendation: that the Board of Trustees approve the initiation of the Renovate/Improve
Athletics Facility Capital Project (Joe Craft Center Locker Room).

Background: Pursuant to Administrative Regulation 8:2, any capital project with an estimated cost of $1,000,000 or more must be approved by the Board prior to initiation. The renovation of the men’s basketball locker room in the Joe Craft Center will include numerous enhancements to improve the functionality of the space to better meet the needs of student-athletes.

The project will renovate and improve the existing player locker and shower space, lounge area, and team meeting room into one multi-functional space. The improvements also will include a supplementation and nutrition fueling station, as well as a hydration station. It is anticipated that other renovations will occur in the near future in this and other facilities, benefitting student-athletes across a variety of sports.

The scope of this project is not expected to exceed $5,000,000 and will be funded with private
funds. The project has been authorized by the 2016 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Key points: Changes coming to locker and shower space, the lounge and meeting rooms; the project is not expected to exceed $5 million; it will be privately funded.

The entire renovation is expected to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in American dollars.

 

(Note: Earlier I said the renovation was to the Wildcat Coal Lodge but I’m an idiot and fully admit that so let’s pretend that never happened. Thank you. As you were.)


Least surprising news of the day: Georgia giving away t-shirts at tomorrow’s game

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A team hosting the University of Kentucky in a basketball game will give away t-shirts to fans in attendance.

In this case, it is Georgia giving away t-shirts honoring Bulldog senior J.J. Frazier, who is in his sixteenth season in Athens. The shirts will have Frazier’s number on them and they will be given to the first 1,000 students to enter Stegeman Coliseum for tomorrow night’s game.

Everyone’s Super Bowl.

Every. Single. Time.


A Night in Jersey: Future Wildcat fouls out in front of Calipari, KSR

A Night in Jersey: Future Wildcat fouls out in front of Calipari, KSR

“What are you doing here?”

That is what John Calipari said to me when I walked into the Primetime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey on a snowy Sunday evening. It was a fair question — and to be honest, I’m not really sure why I was there either.

The plan was to go to the Primetime Shootout to interview Nick Richards, one of six future Wildcats from the Class of 2017, for our annual series of profiles on Kentucky’s basketball signees. But after a month-long failure to establish any form of contact with Richards, his coaches or anyone from The Patrick School administration, getting a moment to speak with Richards was very unlikely.

Piling on to my improbable odds was the fact that the Shootout’s director, who did respond to my third e-mail, told me to buy a general admission ticket when I asked about media availability; and Richards was coming off a two-game suspension for fighting in a game the previous weekend.

Needless to say, I had very low expectations for my trip to the Garden State, but, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, they say. (And it’s not like I was going on my own dime.)


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The talent level at this year’s Primetime Shootout was absolutely insane as it featured several of the top players in high school basketball, which explains why John Calipari and Tony Barbee were in attendance for the night session, 24 hours after coaching Kentucky to a win down in Alabama.

A young man by the name of Nazreon Reid was the star of the first game Calipari and Barbee took in, the fifth game of the day at the invitational, between Roselle Catholic and Montclair Immaculate.

Reid is a five-star power forward in the Class of 2018, ranked No. 14 overall in that class, and he was as dominant of a big man that I have seen in high school basketball, especially for only being a junior.

He finished with 36 points (26 of which came in the second half) and 18 rebounds in Roselle’s come-from-behind win on its own homecourt.

Remember that name: Nazreon “Naz” Reid.

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Richards v. Brown

The marquee one-on-one matchup at the shootout was also my reason for driving through a blizzard to be there: Nick Richards of The Patrick School in the primetime game against Moses Brown of Archbishop Molloy out of Queens.

Brown is the No. 1 center in the Class of 2018 and he already holds offers from Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, UCLA, Florida and Maryland, among others. Duke and Kentucky are also very interested in Brown, although neither school has extended a scholarship offer just yet, and several other schools were in the building that night to watch him play.

Richards, on the other hand, had little to prove as he already knows where he will play his college ball, but he and his TPS teammates, six of whom have already signed with Division 1 schools, were out to win the final game of their regular season.

For a team as loaded as the first-ranked Shamrocks, the expectation is to win every game and anything short of the New Jersey Tournament of Champions championship is a failure.

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As my luck would have it, Richards found himself in early foul trouble and he spent the majority of the first half on the bench. While I enjoyed watching his teammates and the sideline antics of his head coach, Mike Rice, formerly of the Rutgers abuse scandal, I did not travel to New Jersey to watch Richards sit on the pine.

At least one fan at Roselle Catholic shared my disappointment in Richards’ minutes. I heard someone yell, in a perfect New Jersey accent, “His coach didn’t come here to see him on the bench! Put him in!”

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Richards would come back in with two fouls to start the second half, only to commit more fouls and eventually foul out of the game.

He finished with eight points and 11 rebounds in limited minutes in TPS’s 73-59 victory.

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However, in the action I did see, Richards’ athleticism was very impressive. I don’t know how suited his game is for the college level with what little I saw that night, but the seven-footer can definitely move and explode for someone of that size.

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He showed off some passing ability, too:

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The ESPN scouting report on him reads, “Richards is a high major center with great size and mobility. He is a big time finisher, rebounder and good scorer in and around the lane with excellent upside. His improvement has been steady each and every season. If he continues this ascension, his future is quite bright.”

I don’t disagree.

A man of very few words

After the game, I followed Adam Zagoria into the Shamrocks’ locker room in hopes of getting my conversation with Richards. With a little help from Zagoria and others in the media, I was able to pull Richards aside for a brief chat about his game and his future as a Wildcat.

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He told me he was happy Coach Cal came out to watch him play on that particular night, but he doesn’t really pay attention to when his future coach is in the building. He also hasn’t spoken to Cal a lot recently, he said, because his focus is on finishing his high school season and “getting better everyday,” as Cal has encouraged him to do.

When I asked if he has spoken to any of Calipari’s big men, past or present, he told me, “I talk to Wenyen [Gabriel] sometimes. Wenyen, that’s probably it.”

Richards has also been in contact with Hamidou Diallo, a fellow Wildcat signee who enrolled early in the spring semester at Kentucky to get a head start on next season.

“I talk to Hamidou every now and then. He likes the campus life and he likes it down there.”

As for moving to Lexington in a couple of months, Richards said, “I’m excited to get ready for school, workouts and getting ready for the season — just trying to be the best player I can be.”

Blue got in

It is worth noting that several Kentucky fans from around the area made the trip to see Richards play at Roselle Catholic, the former high school of one Isaiah Briscoe.

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David Tulloch and his son, Ian, were impressed by Richards’ defense (although I think Ian was more excited to meet Coach Cal.)

I saw plenty of other members of the Big Blue Nation scattered across the gym as well, whenever they weren’t crowded around Calipari.

All in all, it was fun evening full of exciting high school basketball in a part of the country I had never seen. It would’ve been nice to see a little bit more of Richards on the floor, but luckily he’ll be in Lexington soon enough.

And I think you’re going to like him, BBN.


The Kentucky Basketball Billboard at the All-Star Game is Awesome

All pics via @KentuckyMBB.

All pics via @KentuckyMBB.

Earlier today the Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account released pictures of a billboard in New Orleans near the Superdome.  It was the same billboard in each picture, but the sign was different in each picture, showcasing the nine former Wildcats participating in NBA All-Star Weekend events.

My dumb brain assumed it was simply a photoshop.  “How could it be real if there’s different pictures on the same billboard?”  Because it’s a digital billboard, idiot.

Here’s the slideshow UK purchased to rotate on the digital billboard throughout NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

Power moves only.


Bryan Station Beats the Buzzer with a Half Court Shot for the Win

Bryan Station Beats the Buzzer with a Half Court Shot for the Win

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With only three seconds remaining and a two-point lead, it looked like LCA would walk away with a win on Senior Night.  In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!”

Bryan Station’s Eric Boone took three dribbles and let it fly from just beyond half court.  The buzzer rang just as it banked off the backboard and through the net.

Boone finished the game with 25 points and a one-point win over the Lexington foe.


Fox’s Future Depends on his Jump Shot

Fox’s Future Depends on his Jump Shot

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Point guard De’Aaron Fox is one of the fastest players we’ve ever seen with a basketball in his hands in a Kentucky uniform.  If not for John Wall, that honor would without question be Fox’s.  With that speed and athleticism, Fox brings length, providing unlimited optimism for NBA scouts.  There’s just one problem: his jump shot.

Sam Vecenie profiled Fox’s shooting ailment for Vice Sports.  Because it’s Vice, there are plenty of incomprehensible metrics used to describe how good he’s been, especially with short range floaters, followed by how terrible he’s shot the basketball this season.

Even with a small sample size, the numbers tell the story. Fox is eight-for-48 from three-point range this season, good for just 16.7 percent. Out of 2,032 Division I basketball players to take at least 25 catch-and-shoot jumpers this season, Fox currently ranks second-to-last, with an effective field-goal percentage of 13.8. He isn’t much better off the dribble, ranking in the 13th percentile nationally with a 24.5 effective field-goal percentage.

As bad as he’s been, most scouts don’t believe it’s a long-term problem.  It’s not something you’d tinker with just a month before the NCAA Tournament, but it seems to be a relatively simple fix.

When he shoots, Fox gets good elevation, has fine balance, puts arc on the ball, and doesn’t lack confidence. His biggest problem is mechanical: the upper half of his body has too much motion going on, and much of that is inconsistent.

“[His shot] needs a lot of work,” said an NBA executive. “He constantly changes his release point. There’s a lot going on in that motion, including a thing where sometimes he brings the ball back to the left side of his head. Someone’s just gotta help him get it to consistent.”

Even if Fox can’t create the perfect fix for his jump shot, there’s a future for him in the NBA thanks to John Wall.  Shooting is now placed at a premium for all NBA guards, but the former Cat has paved a path, proving you don’t need unlimited to range to create offense.

[Vice Sports]


No, young Tyler Ulis will not smile for the camera

No, young Tyler Ulis will not smile for the camera

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Throwback Thursday is always entertaining on Instagram, but by far the picture of the day has to be a young Tyler Ulis from his YMCA hooping days. Ulis posted the pic as a reminder that his jersey will be retired tomorrow night at Marian Catholic in Chicago:

Ulis will be there for the ceremony, which will take place at halftime of Marian Catholic’s game vs. Marian Central Catholic. Ulis is Marian’s all-time leader in points (2,335) and assists (578), and led the Spartans to their only two Elite Eight appearances. Of course, he carried that success to Kentucky, where he set the new record for assists in a single season with 246 and became the first Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award winner in school history. Now, he’s averaging 3.1 points and 1.3 assists in 9 minutes per game with the Suns, and set a career-high last week vs. Houston with 13 points and 6 assists. Not bad for a 5’9″ kid from Lima, Ohio.

Do yourself a favor and fall in love with Ulis all over again by watching this YouTube tribute:

Oh, did we mention his younger brother, Ahron, is a freshman for Marian now?


NC State fires Mark Gottfried

It may be a slow news day for UK sports, but it’s not in the world of college basketball. NC State has fired head coach Mark Gottfried after six seasons. The Wolfpack is coming off three embarrassing blowouts vs. #10 North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Florida State. Gottfried is 122-82 during his time in Raleigh, but this year’s 14-13 mark — 3-11 in ACC play — was enough for NC State to cut him loose. He will coach the Wolfpack through the rest of this season.

Don’t worry, Mark; there will probably be two openings in the SEC after this season if LSU and Missouri keep their horrible basketball up.


Kentucky holding steady as a 3-seed in the East in latest Bracketology

Kentucky holding steady as a 3-seed in the East in latest Bracketology

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Will the Big Apple turn blue in March? Judging by the latest Bracketology from Joe Lunardi, it sure looks like it. Lunardi released his latest tournament projections this morning, which has Kentucky as the three-seed in the East Region, alongside 1-seed Villanova, 2-seed Florida State, and 4-seed Virginia. In this scenario, the Cats would play their opening round games in Indy, then travel to NYC for the regional:

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NYC for the regional and a draw that doesn’t make me want to claw my eyes out? Yes, please. (Which, of course, means this will never happen.)

[ESPN]


Why Calipari coaching the U19 National Team is a huge deal for Kentucky

Why Calipari coaching the U19 National Team is a huge deal for Kentucky

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In case you missed the news early this morning, ESPN is reporting that John Calipari will coach the U19 National Team in the FIBA World Championships this summer in Cairo, Egypt. This is huge for Calipari, who has wanted to be part of USA Basketball for a long time; however, it’s also big news for Kentucky. Why? Let’s break it down.

Calipari will have access to the top players in the sport

First, the obvious: recruiting. The under 19 squad is made up of the best rising college sophomores, incoming college freshmen and rising high school seniors in the country, meaning Calipari will have access to several members of the 2018 class. The 2015 U19 team featured Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum, all of whom were uncommitted at the time. Several top prospects in the 2018 class could be on the U19 team, such as Immanuel Quickley, Javonte Smart, Romeo Langford, and Cameron Reddish. As if Calipari needs help recruiting, having access to these guys this summer is a huge advantage. (And don’t worry, the FIBA World Championships ends just in time for Calipari to be back for the Peach Jam.)

It will basically be summer practice for a core group of incoming Kentucky freshmen (and maybe sophomores)

Even before word that Calipari will be coach leaked out, several future Cats had a great chance of making the U19 squad; Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, and PJ Washington all played for the gold medal-winning Team USA U18 squad last summer, along with Mohamed Bamba, one of Calipari’s few remaining prospects in the 2017 class. You’ve gotta assume Calipari will bring all of those guys, along with Jarred Vanderbilt, who has played in the USA Basketball system before, and any current freshmen that decide to come back. (Nick Richards was born in Jamaica, so he can’t participate.)

With Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and most of this year’s freshmen class headed out the door after this season, next year’s group could be Calipari’s youngest squad ever (and that’s saying something). We saw the impact a 10-day trip to the Bahamas had on the 2014-15 squad; Calipari being able to coach the core of his new team this summer will be the head start he’s needed now more than ever.

It puts Calipari back in the USA Basketball system

It’s no secret that Calipari has wanted back in the USA Basketball system for years. Cal dipped his toe into international basketball waters in 2011 and 2012 by coaching the Dominican Republic National Team, which included Karl Towns. With Coach K stepping down as the US Men’s National Team head coach, Calipari is now back in the system. Gregg Popovich will coach the US Men’s National Team in the 2020 Olympics, but by then, he’ll be in his 70’s. Is this step #1 to Calipari eventually replacing him?