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Basketball Season Coverage

WATCH: John Calipari is mic’d up at UK Alumni Weekend

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang

The UK Alumni Charity game may have been held back in August, but footage of John Calipari getting mic’d up for the event just released, and it’s brilliant.

On this week’s “This Is Kentucky Basketball,” we saw Coach Cal talk to former players and coaches at the event, including appearances from Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Eric Bledsoe, Jack “Goose” Givens, Joe B. Hall, and many more.

Take a look:

Regardless of how this season has gone and your latest thoughts on the one and done system, there’s no denying the Kentucky job was made for John Calipari. His ability to bring everyone in and create a family atmosphere with some of the most talented basketball players in the NBA year after year is simply unmatched.

In the entire “This Is Kentucky Basketball” episode, we also heard from Coach Cal during his weekly mailbag segment, where he talked about coaching his players during a slump and how he has dealt with it in the past. We also got an update from the NBA Cats.

Watch the episode here:

That John Wall speech gets me every single time.

Go Cats!

John Calipari: “If you’re going to be mad, be mad at me.”

Following three consecutive losses for the Kentucky Wildcats, fans are growing restless. Thoughts of the 2012-13 season are crawling to the forefront of the collective minds of the Big Blue Nation, and quite a few individuals have (wrongly) taken to social media to criticize the players directly.

During the John Calipari Call-In Show, Coach Cal told fans to direct that negative energy toward him, not the 18 and 19-year-old players on the team.

“Are people being negative? If you’re being negative, be negative towards me. Don’t be negative towards the kids,” Calipari said. “If you’re going to be mad, be mad at me.”

Calipari followed up by telling Tom Leach that he “wasn’t cracking,” and said the recipe to turn things around and get the fans back on board is easy: Just win the next one.

“Here’s what it is, and I’ve been doing this a long time, you’ve gotta win a game. We lost a couple in a row, you’ve gotta win a game.”

And with the team heading to Auburn to take on the No. 1 team in the SEC, he knows it’s not going to be easy.

But the team needs it.

“We’re going into a top-ten, top-five, whatever the heck they are, on their court,” said Calipari. “It will be a hard game, but you know what? It’s exactly what’s called for. It’s exactly what we need thrown at us.”

Calipari said he’s excited for the challenge, but his Wildcats are going to have to earn it if they want to pull off the upset.

“Road game, a bunch of young players, hostile environment, against a really good team that’s playing well on offense on defense,” said Calipari. “I’m excited about it. I know it’s going to be hard, and if you want to win it, they will not give it to you.”

One way to not only pull off the upset, but get started on a hot streak going into postseason play? Develop similar habits to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, both on and off the court.

“Getting them to change some of the habits they have. We’ve got a guy like Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) in the gym at seven o’clock in the morning. Never misses a weight training, never misses a class, never late for anything. Who’s our best player right now? Shai. Guys, take it from him. If you’re disciplined in other areas, you’re disciplined on the court,” said Calipari.

After taking a day off from practice, the Wildcats got back in the lab this afternoon to get things fixed.

One big victory on the road against Auburn could stop the bleeding in a massive way.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that may be the only option at this point.

Let’s get it done.

Isaac Humphries wants your help spreading the message in his new anti-bullying campaign

Isaac Humphries wants your help spreading the message in his new anti-bullying campaign

Former Kentucky Wildcat Isaac Humphries is having a heck of a first professional season in Australia this year. After leaving Kentucky last spring, Humphries landed with his hometown Sydney Kings of the Australian Basketball League, following a brief stint in the NBA Summer League. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, Humphries has averaged a seven points and just under four rebounds per game, in 26 games for the Knights this season.

But more than the statistics he’s put up on the court, Humphries might be having a bigger impact off of it. On Monday, he launched an anti-bullying campaign that he’s dubbed “The Inside-Out Challenge.” He discussed the challenge and more, on a recent interview on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast on the KSR Podcast network (you can listen to the full interview here).

“I was walking through a mall, and I had just bought a t-shirt and I just randomly came up with this idea which I thought had such an effective meaning,” Humphries told KSR. “It’s called the “Inside-Out Campaign” or the “Insight-Out Challenge” and it’s an anti-bullying, pro-acceptance campaign.”

So what is the “Inside-Out Challenge?” Well, much like the “Ice Bucket Challenge” from years ago, it’s pretty simple. What Humphries wants fans to do is to take a picture of themselves or a picture with friends, with their shirt on inside-out. Then they can post it to Instagram, Twitter or social media with the hash tag #MyInsideOut. Then, tag three friends to help the message spread.

Why should you wear your shirt inside-out? The answer is pretty simple according to Humphries?

“The symbolism behind it is, turning your shirt inside-out shows that you accept people for who they are on the inside,” Humphries said.

The campaign officially launched Monday in Australia (which is essentially Sunday night here in the United States) and according to Humphries, several prominent celebrities in Australia have already agreed to help out. It’s already taken off here in the United States with John Calipari sharing his support on Instagram late Monday afternoon.

In terms of finding out more information on the campaign, you can visit, the campaign’s Instagram page, or of course by following Isaac on Twitter.

What’s most important however is to continue to raise understanding on a topic which impacts thousands of children worldwide.

“I just think nowadays, in this day and age, with bullying and all sorts of things that go on, accepting people for who there are, regardless of race, religion, color, sexuality, regardless of who they are, regardless of anything [is important],” Humphries said. “It’s about who they are as people and who they are on the inside that counts.”

For more information the campaign, be sure to visit, and for those who want to be involved, be sure to tag Isaac on Twitter as well.

Also, if you want to listen to Isaac’s entire interview with the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, where he discusses his time at Kentucky, whether he regrets leaving and his advice for this year’s team, be sure to download the podcast below.

It’s available through the KSR feed on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E20: Isaac Humphries

Today a very special guest joins The Aaron Torress Sports Podcast — former Kentucky Wildcat Isaac Humphries.  The Australian forward joins the program to talk about his time at UK, life back at home and much more.  Before that, Aaron and Nick Coffey touch on a variety of topics around college basketball.  Highlights:

— Sunday’s bracket reveal: Why do fans freak out over where teams are seeded? And why Aaron admits that he pays way too much attention to fake matchups that probably won’t happen.
— Kentucky’s loss at Texas A&M – It was another disappointing night for the Wildcats, but this one feels different. The guys weigh in on whether UK will actually turn things around or not not.
— And finally, after Virginia lost on Saturday everybody asked: Are there any good teams in college basketball?
— Isaac’s decision to leave Kentucky. How hard was it, and what does he miss the most about Lexington? Also, how often is he in touch with his former teammates?
—  How playing at Kentucky prepared Humphries for the professional ranks
— Does Isaac have any regrets about leaving UK, knowing how badly the team needs him this year?
—  Humphries advice for the young Kentucky squad and how they can break out of their slump.
— Isaac talks about his new anti-bullying campaign and what BBN can do to get involved.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Bruce Pearl tells Auburn fans to take it easy on Tony Barbee

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

On Wednesday Kentucky will travel to Auburn.  There’s a lot on the line against the SEC’s top team.  A secondary storyline is Tony Barbee’s return to Auburn.

Prior to joining John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky, Barbee spent four years as the Tigers’ head coach.  While meeting with the media, head coach Bruce Pearl asked fans to be respectful when Barbee returns Auburn Arena.

“I would like to reach out to all of our fans, our students and our fans right now in preparation for that.  I know what it’s like…in coaching, for better or worse, you give your heart and soul.  For better or worse, you give everything you have.

“I would think it would only be fitting and fitting with Auburn to be classy. He was our basketball coach for four years. He moved his family here. He was a part of this family. And I would, rather than have it be anything other than welcome him back to where his family spent four years. It should be nothing else. I would even ask the Jungle and the leadership… I may even Tweet that out. Because nothing else would be appropriate.

“I want great spirit, I want a great attitude. I want to get after Kentucky really, really hard. But that other stuff… I would be disappointed if we went there.”

Stay classy, Auburn.

Auburn’s Leading Scorer Returned to Practice

Auburn Athletics

Auburn might have its leading scorer back on the court just in time to play Kentucky.

Bryce Brown suffered a shoulder strain in the first half of last Wednesday’s loss to Texas A&M.  He traveled with the team to Georgia as a game-time decision but did not play.  Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said if Brown can participate in tomorrow’s full-contact practice, he’ll suit up against the Wildcats.

“I think Bryce is going to try to go today, but no contact,” Pearl told the media prior to today’s practice. “So he’s shooting a little bit, he’s moving a little bit and he’s got a better chance to play on Wednesday than he did obviously Saturday.”

While warming up for today’s practice, Brown didn’t look too injured.

Brown scores 16.6 points per game, good enough for fifth in the SEC.

Former Wildcat Terry Mobley Passes Away

Courtesy UK Media Relations

The state was lost a great homegrown talent.  Former Kentucky guard Terry Mobley passed away this morning.  He was 74 years old.

The Harrodsburg native played for Adolph Rupp from 1962-65.  The highlight of his career came in 1963.  His 15-footer in the finale of the Sugar Bowl Classic gave the top-ranked Cats an 81-79 victory over No. 9 Duke.  It’s considered one of the best clutch baskets in Kentucky basketball history.

After graduation he could not stay away from the university.  He spent 33 years in various roles, from chief development officer to Board of Trustees member.

“Terry dedicated his life to UK. My thoughts and prayers are with the Mobley family,” John Calipari shared on Twitter.

Before he passed, Mobley shared stories of his time at UK in a pair of Conversations with Oscar Combs.  To learn more about Mobley’s life as a student-athlete and servant of the University of Kentucky, click here.

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America

Ole Miss, Andy Kennedy parting ways at end of season

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America

Breaking news in the SEC! According to Gary Parrish, Ole Miss and Andy Kennedy are parting ways at the end of the season. Per Jon Rothstein, the announcement will take place during a press conference this afternoon.

Kennedy has been at Ole Miss since 2006, making him the longest tenured head coach in the SEC, a title that will now be shared by John Calipari and Mark Fox (although the way things are going for Georgia, it might just be Calipari’s soon). He’s the winningest head coach in Ole Miss history, with a 245-154 record; that being said, he’s only taken the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament twice, in 2013 and 2015. The Rebels are 11-14 this season, 4-8 in conference play.

Kennedy is a character, and honestly, the only reason to go to SEC Basketball Media Day. He may not have taken Ole Miss to the next level, but he did get them a shiny new arena and dealt with Marshall Henderson for three years. That alone deserves a medal.

Doug Gottlieb: “Everyone except maybe Knox should come back”

Doug Gottlieb: “Everyone except maybe Knox should come back”

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from our old pal Doug Gottlieb, but after sitting near John Calipari at the Texas A&M game to do the radio broadcast, he’s got some thoughts to share on this Kentucky team. Gottlieb may come off as a troll sometimes, but he does know basketball, so this is pretty good stuff.

From his Twitter (@GottliebShow):

Sat right behind Coach Cal tonight calling the game on radio. Here is my biggest takeaways:

Cal holds guys accountable for bad shots and missed assignments. Guy messes up, he yells at him, happens again he points at him and takes him out and explains to him. Kids need this.

Cal is very aware of who is playing hard/well and who isn’t and he adjusts accordingly. Every player wants a coach to see what is really happening – he does – it just takes him a bunch of substitutions to find it. You better have confidence to play for him.

The only negatives I see are:

  • The style this team might need – diamond press/swarming zone or switching man— he doesn’t seem to truly love like a more traditional man-to-man/run and jump press.
  • Also his offense needs some updating and refining. He is used to having far superior talent – that ball needs to move, but also there needs to be more purpose for the ball movement – their stuff is super basic and gives player space and freedom… this team just isn’t good enough to score that way

He finished with this:

Hard to argue with that. For more, follow @GottliebShow.

Kentucky falls out of the AP Top 25 again

© Denny Medley | USATSI

After losses to Tennessee and Texas A&M, Kentucky fell out of the AP Top 25 for the second time this season. Last week, the Cats hung tough at No. 24, but the first three-game losing streak of the John Calipari era was enough for AP voters to give them the boot. The Cats received only eight votes, which, honestly, seems pretty fair.

After another raucous week in college basketball, Virginia is the new No. 1 team in the country, followed by Michigan State and Villanova. Auburn fell to No. 10 and Tennessee to No. 18, while Texas A&M jumped back into the poll, coming in at No. 21.

AP Top 25
1 Virginia (30) 23-2 1,557
2 Michigan State (21) 24-3 1,527
3 Villanova (9) 23-2 1,518
4 Xavier (5) 23-3 1,465
5 Cincinnati 23-2 1,359
6 Purdue 23-4 1,269
7 Texas Tech 21-4 1,258
8 Ohio State 22-5 1,094
9 Gonzaga 23-4 1,063
10 Auburn 22-3 1,025
11 Clemson 20-4 945
12 Duke 20-5 942
13 Kansas 19-6 816
14 North Carolina 19-7 763
15 Saint Mary’s 24-3 683
16 Rhode Island 20-3 666
17 Arizona 20-6 594
18 Tennessee 18-6 580
19 Wichita State 19-5 495
20 West Virginia 18-7 339
21 Texas A&M 17-8 241
22 Michigan 20-7 239
23 Oklahoma 16-8 152
24 Nevada 21-5 87
25 Arizona State 19-6 83

Kentucky slides in Lunardi’s adjusted Bracketology

Kentucky slides in Lunardi’s adjusted Bracketology

Yesterday, the Selection Committee revealed their top 16 teams for the NCAA Tournament and CBS revealed their updated bracket, which has Kentucky as a seven seed. This morning, Joe Lunardi released his new projections, which have been updated to “incorporate signals from the NCAA Bracket Preview.” After having Kentucky as a five-seed for weeks, Lunardi now has them as an eight-seed in the Midwest Region, playing opening round games in Nashville:

Lunardi has eight SEC teams making it in, the second most from any conference behind the ACC:

  • Auburn (2)
  • Florida (4)
  • Tennessee (4)
  • Alabama (7)
  • Texas A&M (7)
  • Kentucky (8)
  • Missouri (9)
  • Arkansas (10)

Opening round games in Nashville? Yes, please.


Today on KSR: Ouch

Losing is never fun.  After years of watching sports, there are plenty of ways to cope with a loss.  My typical strategy is to completely ignore it for one day, then snap back to reality and embrace the suck with open arms.  It’s not going to be so easy this time around.

There’s only one word to describe Kentucky’s second half start at Texas A&M: embarrassing.  For the first time all year this team looked hopeless.  A&M did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted and nobody seemed to care.  I know they cared after the game, as players walked into the lock room teary-eyed, but nobody played with any pride when it mattered most.  Nobody decided, ‘I have had enough,’ and tried to do something differently until it was too late.

One bad game should not define a season.  The loss should not completely alter the trajectory of this team, especially when nobody expected UK to leave College Station with a win.  Cal isn’t quitting on this team; he will not crack.  I will not quit on the team either, but I do question this team’s capabilities.

What once appeared to be a team with a limitless ceiling has transformed into a team without an identity, a rotation or a reliable leader entering the important final stretch of the season.  Accepting a loss is never easy; accepting that reality is downright painful.

UK’s Tourney Stock Drops

Yesterday the NCAA Selection Committee released the tourney’s Top 16 seeds to date.  It will all dramatically change before Selection Sunday, but Kentucky isn’t going to get into that group.  The CBS gurus projected UK as a seven-seed after that loss, lower than any seed line Joe Lunardi has projected all year.

Not Cool

This weekend Kentucky became a punchline.  The Kings have no room to talk trash, but I can’t even be mad.  I just miss these guys.

Sports on TV

Time Game Network
7:00 Notre Dame at #21 North Carolina ESPN
7:00 Delawware State at Norfolk State ESPNU
9:00 TCU at #19 West Virginia ESPN2
9:00 Baylor at Texas ESPN
9:00 Jackson State at Praire View ESPNU

It’s a decent night for college basketball, but it’s not too good to turn down to watch the Olympics.  Ski jumping and the luge kick things off on NBC at 3:00.  In primetime you can see alpine skiing, snowboarding and speed skating on NBC.  Find out what’s on every channel here and pray that one day you can be as cool as this Korean figure skater.

UK Hoops takes an L

The Cats’ trip to Starkville wasn’t pretty.  The Kentucky women’s basketball team fell to the nation’s No. 2 team 74-55.  The silver lining: Maci Morris scored 22 points to move up two spots on UK’s all-time scoring list.  She’ll be in the top 20 before the season is over.  They’ll be back in Lexington to host Arkansas this Thursday at 7:00.

In other news around UK Athletics, The UK softball team started their season this weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  It was a rough start; Rachel Lawson’s squad dropped the first two games to New Mexico State before rebounding Sunday for a 10-2 win.

New Football Coaches Introduced 

Today at noon we’ll meet UK’s two new assistant football coaches, wide receivers coach Michael Smith and outside linebackers coach Brad White.  If nothing else, it’ll be a nice distraction from whatever is happening with the basketball team.

Sunday reflections on the way back from Texas A&M

Sunday reflections on the way back from Texas A&M

Shoutout to Lexington native Ashley Marcoe, a Texas A&M student, for rocking Kentucky blue in the Aggies’ student section last night.

It’s the morning after and I’m sitting in the Houston airport wasting time until my flight back to Nashville. Last night’s game is still depressing, but honestly, the disappointments are becoming the norm this season instead of the exception, so I can’t say I’m all too surprised.

While I try to avoid awkward airport eye contact, here are some things on my mind as I reflect on the first three-game losing streak of the John Calipari era.

This team is lost

KSR didn’t send me to College Station to report what anybody with two eyes can see, but I was amazed at how bewildered this Kentucky team looked last night, particularly in the second half. This group has definitely regressed, looking miles away from the team we saw in the earlier part of the season, or even the second half vs. West Virginia. During the game and after, Calipari looked more frustrated than ever, and honestly, exhausted. He insists that he’s not cracking or giving up — his manic and fervent behavior on the sidelines is proof he’s trying — but based on his body language, I think he’s battling with the realization that he just might not be able to get through to these guys.

What is going on with Hami?

That last point is nowhere more apparent than his interactions with Hamidou Diallo. Diallo has chirped back at Calipari numerous times this season, but their relationship looked like it was on thin ice last night. Hami had to sit most of the first half due to foul trouble, but it speaks volumes that Brad Calipari contributed more in the first half than he did (that defensive rebound may have been the highlight of his dad’s birthday). As the team came back onto the floor for the second half, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hami was the last player out of the locker room, preceded by John Calipari, who was throwing his hands up in exasperation.

Hami’s erratic behavior isn’t just directed at Calipari; more than once last night, he argued with his own teammates. After getting whistled for a foul, he turned around and lit into Quade Green. WTF? Hami had 13 points in the second half, but even points don’t make me feel better about him right now.

Who is capable of leading this team?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the obvious answer, but is he willing to take over the locker room? It’s not going to be Hami. Kevin Knox can do it on the court, but lacks consistency. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are veterans, but are best as role players. Calipari has tried numerous times to hand the reins to PJ Washington, but he has yet to follow through. That leaves Jarred Vanderbilt, Quade Green and Nick Richards. Can someone give Quade his sunglasses back? Maybe that will help.

Seriously, I miss this team:

The Johnny Football sideshow became my main entertainment

As the action on the court got more and more depressing, I began to turn more and more of my attention to Johnny Manziel, the beloved Aggie quarterback seated on the baseline right in front of me. Johnny Football’s presence made an already big night huge for Aggie fans, who made signs in his honor and completely lost their mind when he walked in. There’s never a dull moment with Johnny, who became a sideshow all his own. His entourage included his Megan Fox lookalike fiancée — the first person I’ve ever seen pair a t-shirt with four inch Louboutins — a few friends bedecked in Bape and Johnny jerseys, and, oddly enough, a small, adorable dog, which one of said friends in Bape was tasked with watching the entire time.

There were also three women in charge of keeping autograph/selfie seekers away from Johnny, probably the most difficult job of the night. To be fair, he granted the requests that got through — although there was a rumor going around that he started charging $20 per picture in the second half. I really hope that’s not true.

The other Matt Jones is in on the joke

When I saw Dave Flemming was calling this game, I knew I had to get my picture with him just so I could tag Matt in it. I managed to find a moment before the game to introduce myself and I’m happy to report that he couldn’t be nicer. He’s also well aware that he’s Matt’s doppleganger and was therefore pretty curious about KSR. Shoutout to him to being a good sport. Sadly, he’s not working any more Kentucky games this season, so our dream of a Matt/Dave reunion will have to wait.

It’s almost time to board and I’m too cheap to pay for United’s Wifi, so I’ll end with this: I’d like to think last night was rock bottom for this team, but after seeing them up close and personal, I just don’t know. Prior to this trip, I had a weird feeling that, regardless of what happened vs. A&M, Kentucky would upset Auburn just for the sheer absurdity of it all — shame on us for giving up so early! — but watching them aimlessly flail around brings me back to a telling quote from Calipari after the game.

“Each week that goes by, it gets harder and harder to get this thing where you want it to go. At some point, you’re right — you’ve gotta have somebody step up and say hey, enough is enough.”

Hamidou Diallo’s inconsistent play has been key factor in Kentucky’s rough patch

To start the year, five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo looked like the athletic freak of nature we thought he’d be when he signed with Kentucky last January.

He scored at least 14 points in three consecutive games, and then had a scorching run at the end of November and through the month of December where he averaged 18.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and nearly two assists per game.

Diallo was able to attack the basket and earn points at the rim at will. Even when his jump shot wasn’t falling, and it did on a few occasions, he was able to impact the game in a variety of ways. His intensity was high on defense, and it often led to points in transition.

Just looking at his highlight tape from that stretch of games, you can tell the team looked completely different when Diallo’s intensity was up:

From that hot stretch on, however, Diallo has been a completely different player, and it has resulted in ugly play from the Wildcats and, ultimately, losses.

Since conference play began back on New Year’s Eve, Diallo is averaging just eight points on 31% shooting, 3.5 rebounds, and one assist, to go with 1.5 turnovers per game. He has zero confidence on his jump shot, and he refuses to attack the basket like he used to. Even on the few fast break opportunities he has had, Diallo hasn’t been able to lift off like we saw to start the year, and it has ended with offensive fouls, blocked shots, or missed layups. His basketball IQ has always been a work in progress, but it hasn’t improved like we’ve seen with other talented freshmen in the past.

Worst of all, we’ve seen Diallo argue with teammates and coaches on the bench, even getting into it with John Calipari on multiple occasions.

Just last night, Diallo committed a petty foul, and immediately yelled at Quade Green like it had something to do with his actions. His accountability when things go wrong has always been a big question mark, but the finger pointing has dramatically increased as of late.

He was a no-show in the first half last night against Texas A&M, but hit some big shots in the second when no one else could get anything going. And then the critical mistakes resurfaced, making the Jekkyl and Hyde performances we’ve come to love come full circle yet again.

Calipari has reduced his minutes as conference play has progressed, with a career-low 13 minutes coming against Tennessee, but the team hasn’t necessarily taken a step up with Diallo on the bench. They’re still missing the easy buckets the athletic guard used to provide, and his length on defense in crunch time moments like we saw in the second half against West Virginia would be massive in longer stretches.

Do they play him and hope he finds the competitive edge we saw to start the year? Back then, he was undeniably one of the best players on the floor and could truly dominate the game when he wanted to. Or do they try to bring him off the bench to let Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green provide an immediate scoring spark to start the games? Does it put a chip on Diallo’s shoulder?

The Cats are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to their talented shooting guard, and they’re running out of time to find an answer.

Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Ones that Got Away

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how one of the big things this team is missing is a player from the state of Kentucky. A few of you commented, letting me know that there is in fact a player from the state on the team in walk on Dillon Pulliam, but you get my point. Last night was just another example of this team playing more for the name on the back of the jersey than the one on the front.

Each one of Cal’s successful teams has had a player from the state. What would the 2012 National Championship team have been without Darius Miller? In 2013, what player did we see possibly the most fight from? Jarrod Polson. Where would last year’s team have been without Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins?

Putting on the Kentucky jersey for someone who grew up with Kentucky basketball in their blood is just different. Does this mean a player who had no true connection to the state/program can’t truly understand it? Obviously not. Tyler Ulis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis all understood it.

For most of us, we dreamed while growing up of putting on a Kentucky jersey and leading the Cats to a National Championship. The dream for the players on Calipari’s teams has changed. It is simply to go to the NBA. Don’t get me wrong, that SHOULD be their dream and should be a goal for the program, but when did we stray away from the true goal. Recruiting players that care about not just themselves, but their teammates and the jersey they put on.

Calipari has been open into admitting that he will only recruit players from the state if he feels they are good enough to play at Kentucky. I don’t disagree with his philosophy, but he has let a lot of players go to other schools. These are players that could not only just be playing on this team, but also helping it be more successful.

Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Taveion Hollingsworth

High School: Paul Lawrence Dunbar (Lexington)

Current Team: Western Kentucky

Stats: 13.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg

Taveion Hollingsworth is a star in the making in Bowling Green. The freshman from Lexington is averaging over 13 points per game and has scored in double figures in 18 of his 25 games. After Thursday’s win over Florida Atlantic, where Hollingsworth played with a broken nose and scored 20 points, WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said that Hollingsworth has one thing that he cannot teach… “toughness.” If there has been one MASSIVE criticism of this year’s Kentucky team it is just that. They are not tough.

Hollingsworth is also a candidate for the Conference USA all-defensive team. Stansbury consistently gives the WKU freshman the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player. He has consistently impressed.

Hollingsworth committed and signed with WKU on November 9th, 2016. He was thought to be a Kentucky lean throughout most of his high school career, but Calipari could never fully commit to giving him an offer. You can’t tell me this is a decision that Calipari doesn’t regret. Hollingsworth has been huge for the Hilltoppers this season and will be for the next three years.

Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

James Bolden

High School: Holmes (Covington, KY)

Current School: West Virginia

Stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg

As Kentucky fans learned last month, James Bolden can play basketball. In the Mountaineers loss to the Cats, Bolden scored 17 points in as many minutes to give Bob Huggins’ team a nice spark off the bench. Fans of high school basketball in the state have known his name for a lot longer.

As a sophomore, Bolden led Holmes to the KHSAA Sweet 16 where in the second round he went head to head with a familiar name… Dominique Hawkins. John Calipari and Orlando Antigua were both in attendance to admittedly evaluate Hawkins, but as an article by Ben Roberts of the Herald Leader said, they were blown away by Bolden. You can read that in its’ entirety by clicking here.

As we all know, Kentucky did not really continue to recruit Bolden despite his desire to play in Lexington. Just think what he would mean to this team.

Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin Goodin

High School: Taylor County (Campbellsville, KY)

Current School: Xavier

Stats: 8.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.0 apg

Goodin is the starting point guard for a team that will very likely end up with a #1 or #2 seed when Selection Sunday comes around next month. His scoring might not blow you away, but his nearly 2.5-1 assist to turnover ratio should.

To me, Goodin is the player that this Kentucky team needs more than anything else. He is a guy that is truly okay with being the facilitator. Or in other words, he doesn’t have much of an ego.

Goodin was a four-star coming out of Taylor County High School in Campbellsville. He held offers from schools like Louisville, Tennessee, Florida and Indiana before ultimately signing with Xavier. His Crystal Ball prediction had Kentucky at 20% with the Cats not even offering him.

These are just three players that could easily be getting quality minutes on this year’s Kentucky team. There are obviously plenty of players in the state that are talented enough to take the floor at Rupp. Calipari needs to lose the notion of waiting until March/April to recruit players from Kentucky. The top players in the state will not wait. Instead, they will continue going to programs like Xavier, West Virginia or even to other in-state programs like WKU.

Looking ahead to next year, there are five players listed as D1 basketball recruits from the state of Kentucky. Why can’t the Cats just get one? Someone who truly knows what it means to put on the uniform. Even if they average five minutes a game, Calipari’s teams need a leader from the state that can fully explain what it means to wear the jersey. We know, but will they? That is up to Calipari.