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Friday’s Top 10: Calipari & Ellen go recruiting, latest on Lynn Bowden & Alex Poythress scores 35

Friday’s Top 10: Calipari & Ellen go recruiting, latest on Lynn Bowden & Alex Poythress scores 35

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Greetings, everyone, and happy Friday the 13th. If you believe in such things, I advise avoiding black cats, ladders, and opening umbrellas inside. According to the ever reliable internet, 17 million people suffer from “friggatriskaidekaphobics,” aka fear of Friday the 13th, which is an actual thing, I swear. If you’re one of them, we’re here for you. Just check out how happy our fans of the day look. They’re reppin’ the Cats atop a glacier in the New Zealand Southern Alps. Not bad, guys. Hope you enjoyed the helicopter tour.

Here’s what’s on today’s agenda…

1. John Calipari will preview Auburn

Fresh off the recruiting trail (more on that in a minute), John Calipari will meet with reporters at the Joe Craft Center this afternoon to preview tomorrow’s game vs. Auburn. Check the site around 2 p.m. for a live stream of his and select players’ comments, and shortly after for a full recap.

2. Yesterday, Calipari went recruiting

Cal went to the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Missouri to check in on UK signee PJ Washington and the top players in both the 2018 and 2019 classes, forward Marvin Bagley and wing RJ Barrett. The visit wrapped up a busy week of recruiting for Cal, who checked in on future UK point guard Quade Green on Wednesday, along with 2017 target Mohamed Bamba and 2018 star Cameron Reddish. That visit with Bamba must have gone well, because recruiting guru flipped his pick for Bamba from Duke to Kentucky, noting that Bamba’s friendship with Quade Green and the rest of UK’s 2017 class has put the Cats in a very good position.

3. Ellen went recruiting, too!

@OzardsOzone

@OzardsOzone

Can we talk about how much fun Ellen’s having this season? Not only is she in the stands to see Brad play every game, she’s even going on recruiting trips, which was unheard of in years past. Calipari joked on his podcast (for which Ellen helps him read ads) that before this year, Ellen was “Mrs. No” and now, she’s “Mrs. Yes.” The Caliparis even brought Ellen’s parents (pictured with them above) with them on this trip to Missouri.

You go, Ellen. Cute boots, too.

4. A quick glance at what Auburn’s been up to this season:

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Auburn started its SEC slate with a three-game losing streak before getting back on track with a five-point win over Missouri, although anyone who’s seen Missouri play this year will tell you that’s not much.

5. How much will UK be favored by?

Despite Bruce Pearl’s best efforts, Auburn is not good, so I’m going with a lot. As in 17+. After a hard-fought win over Vanderbilt in which the Cats never really looked in sync, I’ll think they’ll come out on fire and cover, maybe even double up if Malik Monk’s hot. Sorry, Bruce.

6. Lynn Bowden announces tomorrow

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Plenty of football recruiting to go along with basketball as we inch closer to Signing Day. Tomorrow, four-star athlete Lynn Bowden will announce his decision and all signs point to Kentucky. Yesterday, Freddie Maggard said Bowden is the most Randall Cobb-like prospect he’s evaluated since Randall Cobb, which is high, high praise. A source close to Bowden told me that Saturday should be huge for the Cats, barring a late offer from Ohio State. Stay away, Urban Meyer!

7. UK Hoops got a win last night

The ladies easily knocked off Alabama 71-54 in Tuscaloosa, thanks in part to a big night from Evelyn Akhator, who had a career-high 29 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. It was a much-needed win for Matthew Mitchell’s squad, who dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since February 2010 on Monday. They’ll return to action on Sunday when they host Georgia at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff’s at 3 p.m. ET and the game will be televised live on the SEC Network.

8. Alex Poythress scored 35 last night

Poythress continues to do good things in the D-League, and last night, scored 35 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Check out his first-half highlights below:

9. Have you voted for your NBA Cats today?

If not, stop what you’re doing and get to it. Fan participation make up 50% of the vote this year. Here’s how:

  • Go to NBA.com/vote and select your favorite players (you can vote once per day)
  • Vote through the NBA app (once per day)
  • Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle with the hashtag #NBAVOTE. You can vote for up to ten players per day using this method.
  • Do the same thing on Facebook
  • You can even just Google search “NBA Vote All-Star” and it will pull up a special ballot.

10. KSR is live at Comedy off Broadway this morning

Matt and Ryan will hang out with The League‘s Steve Rannazzisi this morning and it’s open to the public, so start your weekend early and get down there. You’ve got one hour.


How Isaiah Briscoe matured into the leader Kentucky needs (and proved me wrong in the process)

How Isaiah Briscoe matured into the leader Kentucky needs (and proved me wrong in the process)

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

There was a moment in the final minutes of Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt in which Isaiah Briscoe proved to me that he’s a leader. It wasn’t just his play on the court, although that’s a big part of it; Briscoe had a career-high 23 points, 13 of which came in the second half when the sophomore guard put his team on his back and answered every advance Vanderbilt made, bullying his way to the basket. Without Briscoe’s points, Kentucky would surely have lost the game; however, I was most impressed by his leadership.

After Vandy missed a desperate three attempt, Malik Monk drove the ball down the floor with less than four seconds left only to be fouled hard by Nolan Cressler. Both Cressler and Monk crashed to the floor, and Monk popped right back up and turned to get in Cressler’s face. Briscoe sprinted over to Monk, slung an arm around his shoulders and turned him around to walk the opposite way. From there, Monk sealed the win with two free throws.

It was a small moment, but a meaningful one, especially to me, because I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.


Leadership in the John Calipari Era is a tricky thing. When you recruit the best of the best, more often than not, you end up with more than one alpha dog on your squad; whereas the Calipari era began with those alpha dogs exiting stage right after one season (John Wall, Brandon Knight), in the past few years, there’s been at least one elite guard that stays an extra year (Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe). Calipari always builds his squads around those guys, and usually, it pays off; I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure it would this season.

As reporters and fans, we’ve been spoiled with some “great talkers.” Karl Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein come to mind as the obvious examples, with Karl constantly giving the “too good to be true” quote while Willie delivered thoughtful, unique answers that turned our keyboards golden. Given all the media training UK does, most players are polite during interviews, albeit a bit boring. Briscoe is a totally different animal. Maybe it’s the New Jersey in him, but Briscoe has no filter. If you ask a dumb question, he’s not only going to give you a look, he’s probably going to call you out. If you ask a question he doesn’t want to answer, he’s not going to answer it, something I learned first-hand and SEC Basketball Media Day earlier this year:

I wasn’t alone in this:

There are countless examples of Briscoe “being real” in interviews, and reporters even joked with him last month about how he occasionally gives them the same look he reserves for his teammate after stupid plays. Briscoe’s frankness rubbed me the wrong way for a while, but as I’ve seen his play elevate and been around him more often, it’s one of the things I’ve come to love most about him. Case in point: this answer to a question about how he keeps sight of the rim when driving to the basket.

See, there was that look, but instead of shutting down, Briscoe delivered a quip. Hilarious.

I realize that talking to the media has very little to do with leading your teammates, but I do think it’s important to point out that Briscoe’s just a different type of dude. At first, I thought that abrasive attitude might not carry over well to a bunch of five-star freshmen; however, as I’ve seen this team grow in recent weeks, I’ve also noticed that it’s Briscoe keeping them in check, even if it means holding them accountable for a dumb play, a potentially dumb decision (see above with Monk), or poor effort. In his own way, Briscoe is leading.


It couldn’t have been easy to follow in Tyler Ulis’ footsteps. Not only is Ulis one of the greatest point guards in UK basketball history, he’s easily one of the most beloved. Add in the fact that Briscoe, a point guard in high school, hasn’t even been the primary point guard or shooting guard since he’s been here and you can appreciate not only the sophomore’s adaptability, but his team-first attitude. You may remember Jerry Tipton trying to make that a story last year, asking Briscoe what it was like to be “the lesser of the three lights,” referring to Ulis and Jamal Murray.

“I don’t look at it like that. I think I contribute everywhere on the court. If I’ve got to score, if I’ve got to rebound, play defense — I just do everything. Like I said, Tyler and Jamal have been shooting the lights out of the ball and my assists have been going up, so I ain’t mad at that. I enjoy seeing my teammates shine. I think they deserve it, they work hard, so other than that, I’m just happy to be a part of what they’re doing.”

It’s no secret Briscoe wanted to join Ulis and Murray in the NBA Draft last year. Per the new rules, Briscoe tested the waters, received feedback, and despite reported offers from some teams to take him, decided to return to school to work on his shot. I’ve always thought one of the cruelest things about the one-and-done rule is the perception that if you don’t go to the draft after your freshman year, you’re not as successful as your peers that do; however, instead of sulking, Briscoe came back with a purpose, even if it meant sharing the court with two five-star freshmen. Briscoe’s feedback was to improve his shot, and he has. Check out his averages compared to last season:

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Briscoe’s shooting has improved by almost eight percent. His free throw shooting may be the most remarkable improvement, going from 46% to 74%. Even his outside shot has gotten better, something few of us could have dreamed of; Briscoe’s been 5-7 from behind the arc since the North Carolina game. Few people may have guessed this, but Briscoe actually has a higher field goal percentage than Malik Monk (51.3% to 50.4%). Who would have imagined that at the beginning of the season?

Briscoe’s improved shooting does three things: it improves his draft stock, it makes Kentucky even more dangerous, and it gives Calipari an example to point to of hard work paying off. Selfishly for Briscoe, that first one is great, but between now and April, the final two are the most important and he knows it. After watching Briscoe hit three three-pointers en route to Kentucky’s 42-point shellacking of Texas A&M, Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy said Briscoe’s shooting could be the key to the Cats winning the national championship.

“When he is making shots, that’s what we game planned to live with. When he’s doing that, they can win it all. I know Coach Cal doesn’t want to hear that, but when he’s a weapon offensively like he was today, I don’t know how you defend it.”

Coming off the crucial Camp Cal stretch, Briscoe said he spent hours of extra time in the gym with De’Aaron Fox working on shooting. Fox had one of his best shooting nights of the year at Vandy, connecting on 65% from the floor. This team may not have a conventional “Breakfast Club” ala years past, but Briscoe is doing his best to drag his teammates along with him.


Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Briscoe had one of his worst games of the season vs. UCLA. He missed ten shots, including all five threes he attempted, and turned the ball over three times. His lackluster energy prompted Calipari to call him into his office to talk, and whereas last year, Calipari likened such talks between the two to “pulling teeth,” Briscoe not only listened this go around, he accepted the blame.

“After the game, Coach called me into his office and he just told me like, ‘What happened today? You weren’t yourself. I didn’t see the energy or anything like that.’ Me, being the leader of the team, I had to accept it. I told him, ‘Yeah, I didn’t bring energy.’ I felt like that one was on me.”

Briscoe feels so comfortable in his role as leader that he often suggests ideas to Calipari, such as using Mychal Mulder in a four-guard lineup as a solution to the tricky four spot. Calipari’s experimented with it off and on, but Briscoe continues to be both Mulder’s advocate and mediator when it comes to Cal; for a freshmen who bristled at criticism at times last season, that is incredibly mature.

“I’m the leader of this team,” Briscoe said. “I’m trying to keep everybody on board and trying to get Mike better.”

In turn, he has Calipari’s full trust.

“He’s not the issue. He gets it and he knows,” Cal said of Briscoe’s leadership after the Vandy game. “He has a will to win. He’s—all the stuff that he needed to work on, he has. From his free-throw shooting to his 3 to his handle. His assist-to-turnover ratio is ridiculous. So I’m proud of him.”

As someone who has happily been proved wrong, so am I.


UK Athletics

Kentucky Can’t Keep Switching Ball Screens

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

John Calipari is set in his ways on a few things.  He despises playing zone defense, he doesn’t run set inbounds plays to score and he prefers to switch on ball screens.  We can no longer accept the latter.

In a perfect world, you switch every screen because that’s the easiest way to play defense, but you must have elite defenders for it to be successful.  Calipari’s been blessed to have exceptional athletes in the post that can step out and defend on the perimeter.

Anthony Davis, the National Player of the Year, could do it.  Willie Cauley-Stein could do it in his sophomore season and during his First Team All-American junior campaign.  This is what happens when Bam Adebayo defends on the perimeter.

Bam got embarrassed, but it’s not his fault.  He’s doing what he’s told.  Even though Kentucky’s comeback effort was valiant, it was not enough to erase the six-point deficit with 1:45 to play.

Switching a post onto a guard in crunch time is one big reason why Kentucky lost at Louisville.  Switching a post onto a guard in crunch time could have, and probably should have, kept Kentucky from winning at Vanderbilt Tuesday night.

Down four, it was any easy call for Bryce Drew: give the ball to a shooter and use whoever Adebayo’s defending for a pick-and-roll.  A 55 percent three-point shooter got an open attempt, but at least it wasn’t as embarrassing as what happened at Louisville.

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Kentucky is lucky LaChance is not as good as Quentin Snider.  The problem is that neither are that good.  However, Joel Berry is.  Trailing by five with under four minutes to play, ‘Ol Roy drew up the same play and you’ll never believe what happened.

Berry’s three started a 10-2 run, giving the Tar Heels a three-point lead with 1:20 to play.  Luckily, the team was bailed out by Malik Monk’s unbelievable 47-point performance.


During last night’s call-in show, John Calipari reflected on the win at Vanderbilt.   “You learn what you did well that worked, and you learn some things you better not repeat.”  Switching every ball screen should not be repeated.

There are two simple solutions:

1. Hedge and Rotate

Because very few post players can defend guards on the perimeter, this is the preferred method at every level of basketball.  When Kansas comes to town in two weeks, you will not see Landen Lucas guarding De’Aaron Fox on the perimeter.

The principle requires team defense and knowledge of personnel.  Let’s use the UK-Vandy matchup as an example.  Here’s what happened in the game, as so eloquently illustrated by Drew Franklin.

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If UK hedged, Bam Adebayo would step up and show hard to take away the three, and Fox would fight over top of the screen because LaChance is a 55 percent three-point shooter.  (Against a non-shooter, Bam’s hedge would be more horizontal instead of vertical, taking away penetration.  Fox would then slide beneath the ball screen and slow down the screener’s cut to the basket before returning to his man.)

In the scenario above, Derek Willis would slide over to take away the pass to Kornet, leaving Briscoe responsible for the two shooters away from the ball.  Facing pressure from Adebayo and Fox, LaChance’s chances of passing to either of Briscoe’s opponents is slim to none.

Instead, Bam was put on an island and LaChance only needed to make a subtle move to get Adebayo on his heels.

2. Trap

Trapping ball screens is ideal under certain circumstances, once again, depending on personnel.  UK’s personnel favors the trap more times than not.  The best asset UK’s perimeter defenders have is quick hands.  Fox, Monk and Briscoe average a combined four steals a game.

Using the same scenario, Kentucky’s guards are better at on-ball pressure than Riley LaChance is at dribbling through a double-team.  Anticipating the pick-and-roll, Bam and Fox would jump it immediately, forcing LaChance to attempt to either split the double team or pick up his dribble, likely resulting in a turnover, or even better, a run-out for two easy points and a six-point lead.

Instead, LaChance knocked down a three to turn it into a one-point game.  Luckily, the Cats got a dunk by Fox and four clutch free throws down the stretch from Monk to ice the game.


Switching has worked well throughout Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, but it’s pretty clear it will not work this year.

Kentucky has only had four games decided by ten points or less.  Down the stretch in three of those games, Bam Adebayo was defending a guard on an island, resulting in points for the opponent.  Kentucky’s elite scoring guards bailed them out to win two of those three games.

As long as Kentucky continues to switch ball screens, opponents will use pick-and-rolls with whoever Adebayo is defending to get an open shot in the closing minutes.  By the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around, Kentucky can’t afford to exclusively rely on the guards’ scoring ability down the stretch.


Fox, Monk named Sporting News midseason All-Americans

fox-monk

The Sporting News released its two midseason All-American teams today and the website named De’Aaron Fox a first-team selection.

Fox is joined by UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Villanova’s Josh Hart, Kansas’ Frank Mason III, and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan on the first team.

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky, Freshman guard

Key stats: 16.7 ppg, 6.4 apg, 47.1 FG pct

Overview: There are going to be people who’d prefer if there’s a Kentucky freshman guard on the first team that it be Malik Monk. But the problem with that is that Fox is Kentucky’s best and most influential player, the one who makes the team functional and the one who makes it dangerous. As he has discovered his jump shot appears to have limits — he still is only 4 of 32 on 3-pointers, but his shot from 16 feet has been falling — Fox has only become more efficient. And no one, not even Ball, advances the ball as quickly and punishes opposing defenses in transition at the same level. [The Sporting News]

Then on the second team, Malik Monk is one of the five honorees, along with Dwayne Bacon of Florida State, North Carolina’s Joel Berry, Duke’s Luke Kennard, and Johnathan Motley of Baylor.

Malik Monk, Kentucky, Freshman guard

Key stats: 21.7 ppg, 50.4 pct FG, 41.0 3-PT pct

Overview: Monk has been an indispensable scorer for the Wildcats since he delivered 23 points on the big stage at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic win over Michigan State. Monk was such an overwhelming offensive force in high school, and he has such an easy time creating a shot, that it has been a challenge to teach him proper shot selection. His coaches also have wanted him to attack the rim more. After earning two or fewer free throws in six of his first 10 games, he’s gotten five or more in five of the past six. He’s learning. That’s a problem for everyone else. [The Sporting News]

Kentucky is the only program with two midseason All-American selections.

Meanwhile, Josh Hart took the midseason Player of the Year award and Coach of the Year went to Scott Drew at Baylor.


Kentucky back to a No. 1 seed in new Bracketology

Kentucky back to a No. 1 seed in new Bracketology

fox-monk

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi released his tenth Bracketology of the 2016-17 season today and it features Kentucky as one of the four No. 1 seeds for the first time since before the loss to UCLA in early December.

In this one, Lunardi has the Cats in the South region playing the CSU Northridge/New Orleans winner in Indianapolis to start the tournament. A rematch with Michigan State or ninth-seeded Dayton would wait in Round 2 for a spot to advance to the next weekend. After that, Oregon or Xavier would likely be the Sweet Sixteen matchup; then Baylor or North Carolina (as a No. 3 seed) would likely be the final hurdle before the Final Four.

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Your thoughts?


Team practiced early today so Cal can watch PJ Washington

basketball-practice

After taking Wednesday off for rest and the first day of classes, your University of Kentucky men’s basketball team was up bright and early for a 7 am practice session in the Joe Craft Center.

The reason for the early morning run?

So John Calipari can get out to Springfield, Missouri for the 2017 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions, where UK signee PJ Washington will play later today. Marvin Bagley, the top junior in America, is set to play in the game following Washington, so Cal will likely stick around for that one.

Yesterday Cal checked in on Mohamed Bamba, Quade Green and Cameron Reddish in Pennsylvania.

Hustle hard, Cal. Hustle hard.


KSR Film Room: LaChance pulled Vandy within one, Cats responded

KSR Film Room: LaChance pulled Vandy within one, Cats responded

film-room

Butter up your popcorn and grab a seat in the KSR Film Room for a review of a key sequence in Kentucky’s win against Vanderbilt on ESPN Super Tuesday.

We are highlighting Riley LaChance’s clutch three-pointer that sent Vandy fans into a frenzy and the ensuing response by Kentucky — the play of the game in my opinion — that silenced them.

It’s the breakdown you didn’t know you needed.


INSIDE THE PLAY


With Vanderbilt down four with the ball and under two minutes to play, Riley LaChance had the rock up top and looked to attack:

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He drove right at the Kentucky defense but then backed it back out because he is not about that life:

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After taking a breath and resetting the play, LaChance called for a screen from Luke Kornet, whose mother, Tracy, was a news anchor at Channel 18 in Lexington from 1994-2000. Tracy Kornet’s broadcasting career has nothing to do with this particular play, but some of you in the Lexington area may like to know that fact.

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Kornet came up to set a screen on De’Aaron Fox and then rolled toward the paint, creating mismatches with Bam Adebayo on LaChance miles from the basket and Fox on Kornet down low because KENTUCKY ALWAYS SWITCHES.

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Big Blue Nation was like…

With Adebayo’s inability to keep up with the speedier LaChance, the Kentucky big man played back on his heels, which gave LaChance, a 55 percent shooter, the space he needed to launch from outside and cut the Cats’ lead to one:

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White people went crazy:

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Now in desperate need of a bucket, Kentucky’s half-court offense had to come through in the clutch against Vanderbilt’s zone defense.

Fox gave up the ball after crossing mid-court and moved into the short right corner to play zone-buster:

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Look at all that room to operate!

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Fox went baseline as Kentucky reversed the ball around the perimeter; then Adebayo sealed off Kornet inside to clear the easy path for Fox to the rim:

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The pass came in from Briscoe on the wing and Fox went up and finished the uncontested lay-in to extend the lead back out to three:

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All made possible by Adebayo:

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And that, my friends, is how Vanderbilt threatened but Kentucky responded in the final moments of a tight game.

Kentucky went on to win, 87-81.


Four Late Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

Four Late Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

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—  Tip-off has been set for Kentucky-South Carolina.  UK’s biggest game in Rupp Arena before Kansas comes to town is a matchup with Frank Martin’s 13-3 Gamecocks.  The game will get premier treatment, airing at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.

—  Two Make Wooden Midseason Watch List.  The nation’s two top National Player of the Year awards are named after John Wooden and James Naismith.  Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are still in the hunt for Mr. Wooden’s award, two of the 25 finalists on the midseason watch list.  The only other schools with multiple players on the list are Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and Wisconsin.  See the full list here.

—  Quade Green balled out in front of Coach Cal.  After struggling to find his shot on Saturday, Kentucky’s next point guard brought his A-game when Coach Cal and Tony Barbee came to town.  Green flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 23 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds.

🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨

LYNN BOWDEN WILL ANNOUNCE HIS COLLEGE DECISION SATURDAY

The four-star athlete from Youngstown originally planned to decide on January 25, but tonight he announced on Twitter that he’s shut down his recruitment and will make his announcement this Saturday.  The Cats are the 74% favorite over Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, according to the 247 Crystal Ball.  Ohio’s Mr. Football Runner-Up told Rivals he’s down to Kentucky, Penn State and West Virginia.

If Bowden chooses Kentucky, he’ll be the highest-ranked recruit in the class, likely the highest-ranked recruit in the Stoops Era.  If you couldn’t tell by the flashing red lights and the large font, this is a big damn deal.

UPDATE

Look who Retweeted Mr. Bowden.

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If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.


Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Jay Bilas moves Kentucky into his Top 3

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Kentucky’s currently ranked sixth in both the AP and Coaches Polls, but if you ask ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, they’re among the nation’s top three teams. Bilas boosted the Cats to number three in his latest “Bilas Index,” behind Villanova and UCLA.

“The Wildcats have scored at least 100 points five times this season. That’s more than they recorded in the previous four seasons combined (four). Kentucky is averaging 94.2 points per game, second in the nation (Citadel leads at 97.2). That would be the third-highest scoring average in program history (96.8 in 1969-70 and 95.4 in 1970-71).”

Here’s his complete top ten:

1. Villanova
2. UCLA
3. Kentucky
4. North Carolina
5. Kansas
6. West Virginia
7. Baylor
8. Gonzaga
9. Oregon
10. Florida State

Where’s Duke, Bilas’ alma mater? Twelfth, right behind Louisville. Bilas has been all about the Blue Devils for most of the season, but even he can’t ignore their embarrassing 16-point loss to Florida State.

[ESPN Insider]


The Best Three Things Calipari Said During Tonight’s Call-In Show

The screen caps by @UKSportsNetwork are never flattering.

The screencaps by @UKSportsNetwork are never flattering.

1. On the Road

John Calipari was only available to talk for two segments of tonight’s call-in show because he’s on the road recruiting.  There might be a few new guys in the mix, but his main goal over the next month is to see guys that are already signed.

“I want to show some love.”

Last week he saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and tonight he’ll see Quade Green.  He has plans to see every signee play, and some guy in Houston (a.k.a. verbal commit Jarred Vanderbilt).

2.  A Win is a Win at Memorial Gym

It wasn’t the prettiest game, but Kentucky left Nashville with a victory.  Calipari is always pleased after an SEC road win, but I think it means more walking away from Memorial Gym victorious.

“It’s a hard place to play.  They play well in that building.  They played a whale of a game,” Cal said.  “To be able to go on the road and win like that is big for us.”

Calipari thought they could extend the lead to ten or twelve to put Vandy away but, “we were never able to get that next basket.”

3. What Cal Takes Away from the Vandy Game

For Coach Cal, there’s two things to you look at after every game.  “You learn what you did well that worked, and you learn some things you better not repeat.”

Calipari liked some of the things he saw down the stretch, especially their offensive aggressiveness, but he elaborated more on what they did incorrectly throughout the game, including, but not limited to:

  • Defensive breakdowns
  • Allowed straight-line drives
  • Unnecessary fouls away from the basket
  • Took bad shots within 5-8 seconds of the shot clock
  • Instead of chasing three-point shooters off screens, they ran gaps and left shooters open.

In general, Calipari’s theme has not changed, requesting discipline and focus from his players on each and every possession.

 

 


Cal’s Plan for Diallo Does Not Include Playing this Season

Kelly Kline | Under Armour

Kelly Kline | Under Armour

Kentucky’s newest Wildcat, shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, told Evan Daniels earlier today there’s a chance he could play this spring.  “Right now we’re just playing it by ear.”  John Calipari isn’t quite as optimistic.

“I don’t believe he’ll play,” Coach Cal said during the opening segment of tonight’s call-in show.  “He wants to come in and get prepared for next year and I think it’s a great plan.  Now his job will be, get better and focus on getting this team better.”

Calipari has told Diallo to focus on improving himself in practice by defending and playing aggressive offensively.  In the process, he’ll be making this team better.

“I think it’s good for him and I think it’s good for us.”  Calipari said it will help him become a leader right away for next year’s team.

“You’re going to have to let these new guys (next year’s freshmen) know what’s in store for them,” Cal said.  “He’s really excited about it.”

 


It’s official: UK announces the addition of Hamidou Diallo

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It’s officially official, folks; Hamidou Diallo is a Kentucky Wildcat. UK just sent out a press release announcing the news, noting that the current plan is for the five-star shooting guard to sit out this spring and practice, then play the 2017-2018 season.

“I’m blessed and excited to be here at the University of Kentucky,” Diallo said. “I can’t wait to hit the floor and get rolling and get better each and every day. I chose the University of Kentucky because the plan Coach Cal had for me was just phenomenal and I felt like this was the best place for me to achieve my goals. I felt like this was the best choice for me and my family.”

“What excited me was that Hamidou wanted more than anything else to train with our guys and to practice and wasn’t worried about playing games this year,” John Calipari said. “It gives him an unbelievable head start on next year, and as I told him, he’s being put in a position to lead next season because he’s going to have that head start on everyone else.”

Diallo will be considered a member of Kentucky’s 2017 class, which also includes five-star signees Quade Green, Nick Richards and P.J. Washington; four-star signee Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; and five-star commit Jarred Vanderbilt. As Calipari notes, Diallo’s biggest contribution this season will be in practice, where he can challenge Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Mychal Mulder, and Dominique Hawkins.

“As far as what Hamidou can do, he’s a 6-5, 6-6 wing who is an unbelievable defender, athletic, has great ball skills and is a terrific finisher. He’s going to challenge Malik (Monk), De’Aaron (Fox), Isaiah (Briscoe), Mychal (Mulder) and Dominique (Hawkins) every day, which is great for our team, as well as what they’ll challenge him to do. This wasn’t expected, but I’m so happy for him that it’s played out this way where he can come in and focus on getting better and getting ready to chase his dreams.”

UK also sent out this awesome video welcoming Diallo into “the family”:

Welcome to the family, Hamidou.


VIDEO: Calipari saying “YOLO” and dabbing may break the internet

VIDEO: Calipari saying “YOLO” and dabbing may break the internet

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It’s Wednesday morning after a road trip, so of course John Calipari put out a video that’s sure to go viral. Cal just posted this video encouraging his followers to vote for DeMarcus Cousins for the NBA All-Star game, and well, words don’t do it justice:

Of course, Calipari only learned what YOLO meant earlier this week, which was probably reason alone for this post. And the dabbing? Well, every child in America’s doing it these days, which means it’s about time Cal started it too. Last year, Calipari put out a similarly embarrassing video encouraging fans to vote for the Cats for the All-Star Game:

It’s cheesy as hell, but Cal brings up a good point: stop what you’re doing and go vote for your favorite Cats to make the All-Star game. Here’s how:

  • Go to NBA.com/vote and select your favorite players (you can vote once per day)
  • Vote through the NBA app (once per day)
  • Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle with the hashtag #NBAVOTE. You can vote for up to ten players per day using this method.
  • Do the same thing on Facebook
  • You can even just Google search “NBA Vote All-Star” and it will pull up a special ballot.

It also doesn’t hurt that this video comes out as Cal is hitting the recruiting trail to visit 2017 target Mo Bamba and 2018 star Cameron Reddish. No way that’s a coincidence.


Hamidou Diallo is on campus

Hamidou Diallo is on campus

(Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

(Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

The question everyone’s asking this week is, when will Hamidou Diallo arrive on campus? Well, we have the answer. In a true sign of our times, Diallo let his Instagram followers know he was on campus with a simple geotag (which is determined by your phone’s location):

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If you missed it earlier, Diallo did an interview with Evan Daniels in which he didn’t rule out playing this semester or going to the NBA draft this summer.

“I would say, right now we’re just playing it by ear,” Diallo said. “We just don’t want to rush into things. I just don’t want to go over there and put on a Kentucky jersey and just play. Just trying to protect me as much as possible. First, I’m going to have to get used to things. I mean, me just getting used to things, me just getting used to the college game. That’s pretty much the biggest thing of why I would sit out this year but right now, we’re just playing it by ear. We’re trying to see what happens within these next four months.”

Diallo will be on the sideline Saturday vs. Auburn. Stay tuned…


The most pleasant surprise last night? De’Aaron Fox’s shooting

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Lost in the shuffle of horrible officiating, Isaiah Briscoe’s heroics, and Malik Monk sealing the win with four clutch free throws in the final seconds was De’Aaron Fox’s markedly improved shooting last night. Fox was 11-17 from the floor last night for 22 points, and those numbers don’t really do justice to how much better his jumper looked, a result of mandatory extra time in the gym.

“It’s just things that I’ve been working on the last few weeks,” Fox said afterwards. “It’s a lot of shots that teams are giving me and I just have to knock them down. Nothing more, nothing less I can say about that.”

John Calipari was very impressed with his freshman point guard.

“Yeah, he’s really spending time in the gym right now. He’s really mastering his craft. He made a 3, he made his free throws. He played well. He’s 11 out of 17.”

Isaiah Briscoe — whose own jumper has improved — said he and Fox are staying in the gym together to work on their shots, and it shows.

“He’s fine. We’re actually—we stay after practice, shoot every day. He’s in there before practice working on his shot. When you work hard, you don’t really worry about missing shots or anything like that. He knows how hard he works and, like he said, he’s been working hard. He was due for a good game. He deserved it.”

Check out Fox’s improved jumper for yourself in these highlights: