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NBA execs tell ESPN that Hamidou Diallo should return to UK

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Jeff Goodman, one of the last remaining employees at ESPN, spoke to several NBA execs about the futures of the undecided prospects at this week’s combine.

Of course, Hamidou Diallo is one of the 14 undecided, and the consensus from the NBA execs in Goodman’s rolodex is the 18-year-old should return to the University of Kentucky to increase his stock before officially entering the draft with an agent.

From ESPN:

Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky Wildcats

He enrolled at the semester break last year but didn’t play for the Wildcats. Diallo is a big-time athlete, but the knock on him is his feel for the game and ability to make shots from the perimeter. “He’s a freak athlete but has so much to learn,” one NBA executive said. Another wondered whether it might not be advantageous to leave now, for fear of being exposed at the college level.

Range: Early second round
NBA says: Back to school

However, many NBA know-it-alls see Diallo as the most athletic player in the draft and they believe someone will take a chance on him in the first round. This will ultimately come down to if Diallo trusts a team will take him that early, and if he would rather do that than potentially play his way into the lottery with one season at UK.

Where you going, Hami????


Hamidou Diallo at No. 23 in new NBC Sports mock draft

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Hamidou Diallo’s future is the hottest topic in the Bluegrass these days and we have a new mock draft on the internets today to assist you in predicting said future.

The guys over NBCSports.com’s NBA website released their new first round mock and it has Diallo up to No. 23. In this round of predictions, it is the Toronto Raptors organization that takes the gamble on Diallo’s unproven game.

The explanation of the prediction isn’t anything you don’t know:

23. Toronto Raptors: Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky. The most explosive athlete in the draft, fantastic physical tools, but very raw and is a real project. Never played for Kentucky. [NBCSports.com]

In this same mock draft, De’Aaron Fox goes fifth overall to the Orlando Magic, behind Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum, in that order. Malik Monk is the seventh overall pick, while your boy Bam Adebayo is No. 28 overall to the Los Angeles Lakers.

[NBCSports.com: 2017 NBA Mock Draft]


This move will make Bam Adebayo some money

This move will make Bam Adebayo some money

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You probably wouldn’t know it if you only watched him in games last season, but Bam Adebayo has some handles and a decent midrange shot. However, he sacrificed that aspect of his game for the betterment of the team by staying inside as the Cats’ center, which isn’t his natural position.

Now Adebayo’s getting a chance to show off his other abilities at the NBA combine, and he’ll make some extra money if he can prove he can do this consistently:

Who is that guy?!

Go Bam.


UK Basketball Player Power Rankings: Who are you most interested to see?

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Let’s have a little fun on this Taco Tuesday evening and get your opinion on how you’re feeling about the upcoming basketball season. We’d like to know which of the Wildcats you’re excited to see when basketball picks up in the fall, based not on how good you think they will be, but on your interest in seeing their abilities. We’ll save the “Who do you think will be best player on the team?” topic for another time. Tonight we want you to rank everyone by how interested you are in seeing what they can and will (or won’t) contribute. (I hope that makes sense.)

I’ll go first with mine and then you can submit yours at the bottom. I left Hamidou Diallo and Mohamed Bamba off for now, but they’d be my 1a and 1b if they were currently on the roster.


12. Dillon Pulliam/Jonny David

With all due respect to Dillon and Jonny, who I am sure are fine young men both on and off the court, I don’t have a lot of interest in seeing what kind of jump they each make from their sophomore to junior seasons. I hope to see them get a ton of playing time in 2017-18, because that means Kentucky is winning, but they’re the last two people I’m concerned about on the team. Sorry, guys. I still like you.

11. Brad Calipari

I don’t know if there is anyone in the world who puts in more late-night work than Brad Calipari. And if there is, they sure don’t post it as often as he does on Instagram. For those of you who follow Brad on his various social media apps, you know he hasn’t taken a day off since joining the team. Whenever he’s not posing in the latest pair of shoes or with some backpack I can’t afford with two paychecks, he is getting shots up and relentlessly working on his game. He takes the “earned not given” mantra to heart and he is trying to earn all of the opportunities he can get. Go Brad.

10. Tai Wynyard

The Lumberjack could find himself anywhere in the rotation inside. If Kentucky gets Mohamed Bamba, Tai Wynyard is probably going to be doing a lot of watching from the sidelines. But if the big man options are only Sacha Killeya-Jones, Nick Richards and Wynyard, he’ll be in the hunt for playing time with those two, likely as the backup option at best. But he’ll be in the hunt nonetheless, especially if Calipari needs someone to get in there and bully it up with some physicality, which he can do. Unfortunately I think his playing time is ultimately up to if Killeya-Jones and Richards live up to expectations, and whether or not Bamba is on the team.

9. Jemarl Baker

Jemarl Baker was a need when he committed to Kentucky in early April. The UK backcourt saw five departures (maybe six with Hamidou Diallo) since the season ended and there simply weren’t enough bodies moving forward. Above that, Calipari desperately needed a shooter on the team, which, though still important, isn’t quite as important now that Kevin Knox is on the team. Baker may prove to be a great scorer from outside, but I question how much they will really need him in a serious role, especially if Diallo returns to take the shooting guard job or Cam Johnson commits.

8. Quade Green

Here’s the first of many times you will question my rankings. I have Quade Green at No. 8 because I’m pretty sure I already know what he is going to bring, having traveled all the way to see him in Philadelphia and followed him in all of the high school all-star games. Green is going to be a poor man’s Tyler Ulis — an undersized, pass-first guard who is the loudest guy on the floor. He will command the offense with his vocal leadership and get the four guys around him the best looks. Defensively he will be a mismatch, but that same mismatch earned Tyler Ulis the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in his sophomore season. I’m not saying Green will be anywhere near that, but I do see lots of similarities in the two and expect Green to be a lot like Ulis was in his first season, although he doesn’t have an Andrew Harrison in front of him to lead the way.

7. Nick Richards

Coming in at No. 7 on my list, I have Nick Richards, the long and athletic center out of New Jersey. It’s presumed Richards will be the starting center if the season started today, and while I agree, I do have several concerns regarding Richards’ game. The time I flew to New Jersey to watch him go up against Moses Brown, the top center in the 2018 class, Richards was in constant foul trouble and eventually fouled out. I saw flashes of his athleticism in what little time he played, but I also saw a lot of work to be done offensively. Defensively, he’ll probably be pretty good right away, if the foul trouble isn’t an ongoing problem. Everything else, we’ll see. His combo of size and athleticism is pretty rare, though. Tons of potential and definitely a player you want on your side.

6. P.J. Washington

Like many of his future teammates, P.J. Washington looked good in the spring all-star games, highlighted by his MVP honors in the inaugural classic. I’m looking forward to seeing how that adapts at the next level when he’s going against bigger and stronger competition inside.

5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Is he ready to go? Is he a long-term project? Can he challenge Quade Green for the point guard spot? I don’t know what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is, to be honest with you. When he first signed, I assumed he would be more of a long-termer, but he had quite the spring in which he earned the Derby Classic MVP, defended the USA guys well in the Nike Hoop Summit, and got bumped up to a five-star prospect. Once an afterthought in talking about Cal’s next great class, now there’s potential he’s an immediate star. Can’t wait to see what he does.

4. Wenyen Gabriel

Wenyen Gabriel disappeared toward the end of last season and I’m of the belief it was mostly mental due to some, um, off-the-court things going around. From what I’ve seen, he has been living in the gym since the season ended and I expect him to be twice as good as he was during his best games last year. So consider me on Team Wenyen in 2017-18 and put me down for a prediction for a big season from the sophomore forward. After all, he is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder and assister and shot blocker and stealer and three-point shooter and everything else.

3. Sacha Killeya-Jones

Curveball! I’m sure many of you, if not all of you, will have Sacha Killeya-Jones much further back than No. 3 in your Power Rankings. But let me explain myself here for the surprise pick: I’m interested to see the jump Killeya-Jones makes from his freshman to his sophomore season. I’m interested to see if he puts in the work this spring and summer to become a good player. The physical tools are there, but he’s gotta work to make that next step. I don’t know what happened to him last year. Nobody does. The Killeya-Jones I saw in the early fall practice looked like a guy who was going to contribute a lot. Obviously that didn’t happen and now I’m ready to see what Year 2 Sacha Killeya-Jones looks like. Can he progress like Willie Cauley-Stein? They’re of the same mold. If he can really makes waves this summer, he could be playing over Nick Richards. Or he could also remain the same and disappear to the end of the bench for yet another season. Either way, my eyes are on what’s next for Sacha Killeya-Jones.

2. Jarred Vanderbilt

Jarred Vanderbilt is No. 2 on my list because I have no idea if he has a serious foot injury or no foot injury or if they amputated his entire right leg or if he has any legs at all. If he is good to go when he gets to UK this summer, where will he fit in now that Knox is in the mix for the small forward spot? They’re the two best small forwards in the class and it will be a battle in practice each and every day. I’m excited to see how good Vanderbilt really is (assuming he has a healthy right food) and what it will do to the makeup of the team if he and Knox are comparable pieces.

1. Kevin Knox

I still can’t believe he committed. LETSGOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

 

Now give us your Power Rankings. Remember, it’s not who you think will be best and worst; it’s who you are excited and interested to see, whether it be how they perform at the college level or how they improve from the year before.


Nobody in College Basketball has had a Better Offseason than Kentucky

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The 2017 season didn’t end well, but since the buzzer-beating loss, finding good news about Kentucky basketball has been easy.  The latest and greatest news was Saturday night’s surprise commitment from Kevin Knox.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports looked around college basketball to find who has had the best and who has had the worst offseason.  Of course, Myron Medcalf started by discussing Calipari’s success.

John Calipari is the buddy you no longer invite on group trips to Las Vegas because you hate to come back broke while he gloats about another big weekend at the blackjack table.

He acknowledged that Calipari’s rebuild is difficult, maybe his most difficult so far, but he’s still going to be jut fine.

Just when it appeared Calipari would endure perhaps his most difficult reset, he made a few moves in April (and early May with Knox) to temper any concern of a decline. The roster is not set yet, but the Wildcats have another intriguing beast in Lexington.

So how did Kentucky navigate another uncertain, disruptive April? With the same ease the program has enjoyed since Calipari arrived in 2009. This young team has as much talent as any program in the country.

[ESPN]


Tuesday Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

Tuesday Night Notes for the UK Fans of the Day

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It’s been a pretty busy Tuesday night in the world of UK Athletics.  It’s even busier when your car decides to die.  My sweet red Ford Escort, appropriately named Katina, may never purr again.  Before I figure out what’s next, here’s what’s now (h/t SVP).

Derek Willis Throws a First Pitch

Unfortunately, there is not better video evidence to share, but I think it’s safe to say it went right down the middle.

A Jarren Williams Update

It appears that Florida’s chances are dwindling.

While UK’s are rising (at least I think that’s what this Tweet means).

Before Williams’ Tweet, he talked with SEC Country, leading the Alabama writer to believe what we’ve been hearing: the odds for a recommitment to Kentucky are high.

C.J. Johnson’s Looking for a New Job

The former Kentucky defensive lineman and KSR Football Pregame Show Co-host is looking for a new home in the NFL.  Earlier today he was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs after a half-season with the franchise.

Little League World Series Champs 15 Years Later

I was waiting for somebody to do a good story on this group, and my friend John Boel nailed it.  A member of the Valley Sports 10-year old team back in 2002, my experience with the team was much different than most.  There were moments of respect and endearment, to times when I had to prevent myself from swinging on one in middle school, to pure happiness when I heard one player’s name called at a Lexington Legends game.  Watch how it all unfolded through an unbiased lens.

How Does Stoops Stack Up vs. the Power Five?

CBS’ five college football writers ranked all 65 teams in the power five conferences, and you might be surprised where Mark Stoops stands.  He is near the bottom at No. 56, the same position he was in a year ago.

Stoops has now finished four seasons at Kentucky, and is yet to take a step backward in any of them. Maybe if he takes another step forward in 2017 we’ll move him up in the rankings, too.

[CBS Sports]

R.I.P. Big Black

Christopher Boykin, better known as ‘Big Black’ from the MTV reality show Rob and Big, passed away today according to TMZ.  He was just 45 years old.  He was entertaining on television, but he holds a special place in KSR lore for his rivalry with Drew Franklin.  The Louisville fan talked a lot of trash, prompting the two to plan a duel at the Final Four, but unfortunately it never came to fruition.


Something tells me Derek Willis will be at tonight’s baseball game…

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In two hours, the UK Baseball team will host Indiana, and if you aren’t already planning to, you should make your way down to Cliff Hagan Stadium. Not only is this a big game for the Bat Cats, who need to get back on track after a disappointing series vs. Georgia, the folks behind the UK Baseball Twitter account dropped a pretty big hint that a famous former Cat will throw out the first pitch:

Unless Bruce Willis is in Lexington for some odd reason, I think it’s safe to say they’re referring to Derek.


De’Aaron Fox opens up about the “extremely cool” Kentucky brotherhood

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Before making his way to Chicago for this week’s NBA Combine, De’Aaron Fox sat down with ESPN’s Chris Haynes to discuss his game, his time at Kentucky, and what lies ahead. As you might expect after hearing Fox on KSR last month, the interview is chock full of insightful reflections on his UK career. You know, the type of stuff that would look great printed on a wall in the Joe Craft Center. Fox, who is often compared to his friend/mentor John Wall, said he can’t wait to join the Kentucky fraternity at the next level.

“It’s extremely cool,” Fox said of the bond between Kentucky players past and present. “It doesn’t matter if they played at Kentucky eight years ago or last year, everybody just treats each other like family. These are max contract guys coming back and talking to you like you’re their little brother. It’s really just cool and a blessing to be a part of that.”

Fox said that two of those players — former number one draft picks to boot — have reached out to him since he declared for the draft to give advice.

“I’ve talked to John [Wall] a few times about it and Karl-Anthony Towns. They’re just telling me go in and show teams how confident you are. Every workout, you’re probably not going to shoot it well. We all have those days, but just always being confident even in interviews like this. Don’t be timid. Just show them you’re an alpha dog. It’s tough in the league and you want to command that respect when you get there.”

Fox said he wouldn’t have declared for the draft if he thought he needed another year, but admitted the loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight lit a competitive fire to fuel him to the next level.

“If I needed another year, I would have done it. I wouldn’t have forced my way into the draft If I wasn’t ready. But honestly, it was really just the competitiveness coming out of me. Even if I knew I was going one year, that loss [in the Elite 8] would have still hurt because that was our chance to win a national championship. That was our goal with all of us freshmen coming together. So that was really just the competitiveness coming out of me. I was angry that we lost. I kind of knew that was my last ride, but that doesn’t stop my competitive juices from flowing.”

More great stuff where that came from over at ESPN, so check it out.

[Q&A: De’Aaron Fox is honored to draw comparisons to John Wall]


@UKCoachCalipari

PHOTO: John Calipari and Bill Clinton hanging out in Harlem

@UKCoachCalipari

@UKCoachCalipari

Last week, John Calipari ran into Bill Clinton at a charity event in New York City and made the former commander-in-chief promise to have lunch with him this week. Looks like Clinton made good on that promise. Cal just tweeted out this picture of the two in Harlem, where they presumably debated the merits of wearing a suit without a tie and where to find the beast steak in New York City.

According to Cal, it was “an exciting afternoon.” Does that mean Calipari got Clinton to agree to come on his podcast sometime soon? I bet he could read a mean Papa Johns or Blue Apron ad.


Calipari confirms that Monmouth game we told you about last week

Turns out the 2017-18 game John Calipari just announced via the TimeSet app is one we already knew about. As reported on KSR last week, Kentucky will play Monmouth on Saturday, December 9 in Madison Square Garden in New York. We did learn that that this game will be the first of a two-game series, with the Hawks returning the favor by traveling to Rupp Arena in the 2018-19 season.

But again, if you read KSR like I know you do, you knew this almost a week ago.


WATCH: Hamidou Diallo arrives at the NBA Combine

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Sixty-seven aspiring pros are currently making their way to Chicago, Illinois for the NBA Combine, which begins today and runs through Sunday. Perhaps sensing Kentucky fans’ anxiety over Hamidou Diallo’s decision, the folks who run the @NBADraft Twitter account just uploaded this video of Diallo arriving in Chicago. Of all 67 players participating this week, Diallo’s situation is probably the most unique because he didn’t play a single minute for Kentucky last semester, yet some believe he could end up being a lottery pick based on his measurements and hype alone. What does Diallo, who elected NOT to participate in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, hope to accomplish this week?

“I’m excited to show you guys the real Hamidou Diallo and let you guys get to know me throughout this process,” Diallo says in the clip.

The feedback Hami gets this week will be crucial for his decision and a first round guarantee would be tough to turn down, but it sure would be nice to get to know the real Hamidou Diallo in a Kentucky uniform first.


Cam Johnson says Kentucky is still on the table

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kentucky may have landed one of the best scorers in the 2017 class over the weekend in Kevin Knox, but apparently, that hasn’t hurt their standing with Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson. Johnson did an interview with Adam Zagoria today in which he said Kentucky’s still in the running even after adding Knox.

“Yes, Kentucky is still on the table,” Johnson said.

A big reason for that is the uncertainty surrounding Hamidou Diallo. The freshman shooting guard has yet to decide whether or not he’ll return to Kentucky or stay in the draft, and should he elect to stay in, that leaves plenty of room at the two spot for Johnson, who could split time with Jemarl Baker, allowing Knox to play more at the three.

Thankfully, Johnson doesn’t seem to be in a rush to make his decision. Over the weekend, he took an official visit to Arizona, which, like Kentucky, is in a bit of a holding pattern. Freshman shooting guard Rawle Alkins is also testing the waters in the draft, and if he decides to stay in, that would open up an immediate spot for Johnson. Diallo and Alkins have until May 24 to decide whether or not to stay in the draft. In the meantime, Johnson will visit UCLA and Oregon this week.

As for us? We’ll hurry up and wait.

[ZagsBlog]


Rick Pitino is playing in a basketball game today

 

Here’s a fun mental image: Rick Pitino is playing in a basketball game today. Yes, actually playing. According to Cardinal Connect, Pitino is participating in a masters basketball tournament in Coral Springs, Florida, and today at 1:30 p.m., he will suit up for the Redbirds as they take on the Bedford 55. At 64 years old, Pitino will participate in the 55+ league, his first return to competitive basketball since playing for UMass in 1974.

We’ve gotta have some readers in the Coral Springs area, right? Pitino’s team plays today at 1:30 p.m., tomorrow at 5 p.m., Thursday at 5 p.m., and Friday and Saturday should they advance in the tournament.

Someone please get down to the Coral Springs Gymnasium and document this for us.

UPDATE: There are pictures!

And videos!

 


Calipari: “This will be the youngest, least experienced team I’ve coached”

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It’s been said again and again, but next year’s team is going to be very, very young. How young will it be? John Calipari told The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy it will be the “youngest, least experienced team” he’s ever coached. Not counting the walk-ons, the oldest person on the roster come November will be sophomore Wenyen Gabriel, who will be 20, followed by Nick Richards, who will be just shy of his 20th birthday. At 18 years old, Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt will be the youngest.

For most coaches, a roster that young would be terrifying; for John Calipari, it’s another exciting challenge. Caliapri told DeCourcy that he still doesn’t know whether or not Hamidou Diallo will stay in the draft, a decision that will depend greatly on the feedback he receives this week at the Combine. Even without Hami, he’s looking forward to his roster, which is long, athletic, and will punish teams around the rim:

These Wildcats, if they are able to use their size and length effectively at the defensive end despite their inexperience, could make it miserable for opponents trying to beat them with long-range shots.

“I like throwing length on the court and having guys that people think are similar, but they’re not,” Calipari said. “We may have gone from playing three point guards to playing three 2/3s. We did it with Tony Barbee and that group at UMass. My Memphis team: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier. They were all kind of the same. ‘How can you play them together?’ We did!”

More of that over at The Sporting News, so check it out.

[The Sporting News]


Calipari’s updated bucket list is insanely ambitious, still includes 40-0

Calipari’s updated bucket list is insanely ambitious, still includes 40-0

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John Calipari is partnering with TimeSet, a social discovery and global exploration app, and he’s breaking it in by sharing his updated bucket list of career goals. We’ve heard many of these before, but let’s run through them:

1. Win multiple national championships at UK

As we’re all painfully aware, Kentucky’s won just one national championship during the Calipari era, with several close misses.

2. Raise $50 million for charity through the Calipari Foundation

A noble goal, indeed.

3. Have six consecutive 30-win seasons

Kentucky’s had four 30-win seasons since Cal’s been here: 2009-10, 2011-12, 2014-15, and 2016-17. To achieve Cal’s goal, they’ll have to have five consecutive 30-win seasons starting next year.

  • 2009-10: 35-3
  • 2010-11: 29-9
  • 2011-12: 38-2
  • 2012-13: 21-12
  • 2013-14: 29-11
  • 2014-15: 38-1
  • 2015-16: 27-9
  • 2016-17: 32-6

4. Have six players taken in the first round of the NBA Draft

The closest Cal’s gotten is five players in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft: John Wall (1), DeMarcus Cousins (5), Patrick Patterson (14), Eric Bledsoe (18), and Daniel Orton (29).

5. Go 40-0 for a season

Even after heartbreak, Cal’s still going after the brass ring.

6. Back-to-back years with No. 1 draft picks

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So far in the Calipari era, Kentucky’s had three number one draft picks: John Wall (2010), Anthony Davis (2012), and Karl Towns (2015).

7. Have the No. 1, 2, and 3 picks in the same NBA Draft

Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went 1-2 in 2012.

8. Coach half the guys in the same NBA All-Star Game

Kentucky accounted for three of the 24 All-Stars in the 2017 All-Star Game: Anthony Davis, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins. That number will certainly rise in upcoming years to include young stars like Karl Towns and Devin Booker. With a constant pipeline of talent coming through Kentucky to the league, Can Calipari get to 12 before he retires?

That’s a crazy goal, but as with everything, we’ve learned not to bet against him.