By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 14th, 2018 @ 12:00pm
Dakari Johnson’s wild offseason seems to have finally settled down.
After multiple trades in the NBA, getting waived, and going back and forth on a deal overseas, the former Kentucky center has officially decided to sign with the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles in China.
Back in July, Johnson was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Orlando Magic. Just three days later, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, where he (temporarily) joined his former Kentucky teammate Andrew Harrison.
A little over a month later, the Grizzlies waived Johnson, leaving him without a job for training camp. With limited NBA opportunities, the 7-foot center agreed to a deal with Qingdao in September, only to back out last week.
According to Sportando, however, the former Wildcat big man will now officially remain with Qingdao this season.
Dakari Johnson will remain with Qingdao https://t.co/CRNfxCZVzv
— Sportando (@Sportando) October 14, 2018
In 31 games with the Thunder last season, Johnson averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in just over five minutes per contest. He scored a career-high nine points in his first career start against the Los Angeles Clippers last November.
Best of luck to Johnson in China this year.
Kentucky recruit, Wandale Robinson, is no stranger to the highlight reel and on Friday night he added to his extensive collection of impressive plays.
Watch as the Western Hills star spins out of two tackles and seemingly evades all other 21 people on the field.
— Overtime (@overtime) October 13, 2018
In a 42-32 victory over Garrard County, Robison had a stat line of 288 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, a 35-yard touchdown pass, 16 tackles, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble & a sack. Sheesh.
Wandale Robinson will announce his commitment on November 1st, in honor of his late cousin. He will pick between Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio State, Nebraska, Purdue, and Michigan.
Yesterday just felt empty. Without a Kentucky football game, I felt like there was a large void missing from my Saturday. Can you believe we are still at the point where we can say that? Alas, a bye week still does have to happen and I do think that it did “come at a good time.” Here is the news you need to start your Sunday.
Big Day in the SEC
While the Cats didn’t play, there was still a lot of SEC action that has an impact on them for the remainder of the season. Here are the complete results:
Most notably, Georgia fell to LSU. That loss opens up a lot for Kentucky moving forward. Florida and Georgia will play each other in two weeks. Whatever happens in that game allows for Kentucky to control their own destiny.
On Florida, the Gators came back from an early deficit to avoid losing in Nashville for the first time since 1988. The big story from the game was the near fight between Derek Mason and Dan Mullen.
After a targeting call, things got chippy in the Florida/Vanderbilt game ? pic.twitter.com/UJBna9MKSh
— ESPN (@espn) October 13, 2018
Sadly my request of a halftime cage match between Mason and Mullen did not happen, but it still was a huge storyline from the game.
Other big SEC news included Tua Tagovailoa leaving Alabama’s win over Missouri with an injury to his knee. He did not return to the game, but did remain on the sideline for the remainder of the game. It doesn’t appear that is is too serious.
Oh yeah, Tennessee beat Auburn on the road too… Football is weird sometimes…
With the SEC results coming through, here is a look at the most up to date standings:
Cats One Win Away from a Ryan Lemond Tattoo
If you are listener of the radio show, you have learned that Ryan Lemond has agreed to get a “Snell Yeah” tattoo if Kentucky has a chance to win the SEC East by beating Georgia. Well… as Larry Vaught pointed out on Twitter, with Georgia’s loss, a win against Vanderbilt guarantees this to actually happen. Anyone have the tattoo needle ready?
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) October 14, 2018
UK Commit Nik Scalzo could be the next Baker Mayfield
ICYMI: Nick Roush wrote an excellent piece comparing UK commit, Nik Scalzo, to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Say what you want about the Heisman trophy winner, if you are mentioned in the same sentence as him as far a being a quarterback, it is definitely a good thing.
Kentucky offers Boyle County receiver Reese Smith
Yesterday, Kentucky offered Boyle County receiver Reese Smith. Smith, a class of 2020 prospect, has caught 27 passes for 536 yards already on the season.
If I am Mark Stoops, I am easily using one player to help in this recruitment. Anyone know of a former NFL player that just retired, laced up for the Cats and may have also played ball at Boyle County? Doesn’t that do all the recruiting?
Cats in the NFL Schedule
- Avery Williamson and the Jets play the Colts at 1pm
- Bud Dupree and the Steelers play the Bengals at 1pm (Writers Note: Who Dey!!)
- Wesley Woodyard and the Titans play the Ravens at 4:25
- Randall Cobb and the Packers play tomorrow night against the 49ers
That’s enough from me. I am going to go enjoy a Sunday filled with some good NFL games. If that is how you will spend your day then enjoy it, if not, enjoy what ever you might be doing!
Just remember to, that this weekend will be the last one with a Kentucky football/basketball game until the beginning of April. Buckle in.
Nik Scalzo has quite a bit in common with the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.
Baker Mayfield set records as a high school quarterback. The UK quarterback commit already has no shortage of school passing records. Mayfield did not have a lengthy scholarship offer sheet. Scalzo was primarily recruited by the Ivy League. Each were over-looked because of their height.
“We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it,” Scalzo told KSR. “He had to walk-on at two schools and now he’s the No. 1 overall draft pick.”
There was one person who always thought Scalzo could be an elite college football quarterback, Eddie Gran. Scalzo does not plan on disappointing Kentucky’s offensive coordinator.
“A Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler”
Cardinal Gibbons head coach Matt DuBuc describes Scalzo as a competitor. Like many of Mark Stoops’ best players, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, one he developed at a young age.
“He’s got that built-in chip on his shoulder,” said his father, Jerry. “He’s like that Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler. Seriously, I never see him flinch. That’s the beautiful part about it. The moment’s never too big for him.”
Scalzo is no stranger to big opportunities. In the 8th grade National Championships, the 7th-grader had to lead his team 80 yards to the end zone in less than a minute to get a chance to play in the title game. His team left the tournament with a national championship trophy.
“He’s made play after play after play,” said DuBuc. Scalzo has made plays for Cardinal Gibbons and in 7-on-7 tournaments. Last summer he brought home another national championship, this time for the South Florida Express in the Adidas National Championships. The top performer in the Florida regional Elite 11 camp, he did not get invited to The Opening because he’s only six-feet tall.
“For him it’s always been that. You’re too short. You’re not fast enough. You don’t have a strong enough arm,” his father recalled.
As outsiders doubted Scalzo’s ability, he never did.
“You put the work in, you did what you’re supposed to do and you can have a great story. Keep doing what you do,” Jerry Scalzo told his son.
The shots at his height don’t bother Scalzo anymore.
“All through little league and freshman football, I’ve always been the smallest quarterback, so I just got used to it and grew with it,” Nik said. “All the height stuff, that’s overlooked in my opinion because if you’re a player, you’re a player. It doesn’t matter how tall you are. If you’re going to make the plays, you’re going to make the plays.”
Style Inside and Outside of the Pocket
Making plays is not a problem for Nik Scalzo. He has a knack for making them in the most miraculous ways possible.
Defined by scouting services as a dual-threat quarterback, there’s no denying he’s an exceptional athlete. However, that tag usually means the quarterback makes his money with rushing yards. Instead of using his legs to get downfield, he uses them to create more time for his receivers to get open.
During a game against Dillard High School, Gibbons was backed up deep in their own territory. The blitz got to Scalzo immediately. Instead of panicking, he spun away from a defender. Scrambling left, two defensive linemen were waiting for him. He stopped, jumped, took a hit and released the ball for a first down.
If that doesn’t articulate his play well enough, this should:
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) May 26, 2018
What helps keep Scalzo from panicking is between the ears. He was recruited by Ivy League schools for a reason.
“He’s a very smart kid,” his father said. “He’s one of those kids who’s extremely athletic, but he’s very cerebral. He’s got a 4.9 GPA. He’s one of those kids that’s very, very cerebral. He’s playing chess out there.”
He prefers to use his athleticism to evade defenders before making a pass, but he’s wise enough to know when to run. Once he takes off down the field, he kicks into a new gear. Scalzo has one skill few have: he can do a standing backflip. One of his favorite things to do off the field is flip off bridges into waterways. That has use on a football field.
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) September 22, 2018
Flipping is kind of a Scalzo family thing. His younger sister is a gymnast who committed to Arkansas prior to her junior year. Jerry Scalzo refused to reveal who he thinks is his most athletic child, but Nik did not bat an eye when the question was asked.
“Her. She’s In the gym like eight hours a day. It’s insane.”
Scalzo has quite a few Kentucky connections. Before B.J. Alexander and Akeem Hayes were Kentucky Wildcats, they caught passes from Scalzo in youth football leagues. He made them look good, but he made UK freshman safety Stanley Garner look bad when he dove over Garner into the end zone last year. However, Scalzo felt a connection to Kentucky long before his peers went to Lexington.
“The first time I met him I knew that’s someone I wanted to play for.”
The short quarterback was even shorter when Eddie Gran first saw Scalzo play as a high school freshman. The UK offensive coordinator needed to see more from Scalzo before offering him a scholarship. He showed improvements at a 2017 summer camp. Scalzo was in Lexington for this year’s Junior Day and the Spring Game. Shortly after receiving a scholarship offer, Scalzo committed.
“I didn’t commit there just because it was my only SEC school (to offer). I actually believe that I can play there. It’s just a matter of time.”
In his four years of high school football, he’s already accomplished quite a bit. Scalzo has almost every school record for passing, most recently surpassing the single-game passing touchdown record with six. Last night he led Gibbons to a 24-14 victory over national powerhouse American Heritage. Throwing against future SEC defensive backs, Scalzo dropped dimes to snap an 11-game losing streak against Heritage.
— Marcus Benjamin (@_BenjaminMoney) October 13, 2018
Scalzo has checked many boxes on his list of goals and he’s met his football hero, Baker Mayfield.
“He’s my favorite player ever. I would consider myself the same play-style as him. I’m not as cocky as him, but we have the same mentality because we’re both short quarterbacks. We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it.”
Scalzo has been told his life he can’t be an elite college football quarterback. He plans on doing just that at the University of Kentucky.
BBN, join me in wishing David Bouvier a happy birthday!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 13, 2018
The senior wide receiver has finally found his place with the Wildcats this season – he’s credited with six receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. From walk-on to scholarship player, the Lexington Catholic alum is just another example of how experience is leading this year’s football team. Happy bye-week birthday!
By Maggie Davis on ©October 13th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
Last night’s Big Blue Madness was one to remember. But among the dunks, dances and intense video montages was also some basketball. The Kentucky women’s basketball team scrimmaged during the first part of the evening, giving fans their first glimpse into a new season of UK Hoops. Here are three things we learned:
#1 Maci Morris is still a baller
Well, this one almost seems too obvious. The Bell County native stole the show with her walkout/introduction, but the action didn’t stop there: she brought the same energy to the court during the scrimmage. Although the game was short, it’s clear this team revolves around her. At one point, she left the game to check in with Sean Farnham and the SEC Network crew and for some reason, the game just felt like it had lost some of its spark. Morris brings an intangible energy when she’s on the floor, not to mention her impeccable three-point shooting and leadership qualities.
But, it’s not all perfect for the senior Wildcat. According to Matthew Mitchell, she’s had to work hard on her strength conditioning to become more of a “complete” player.
“She wants to be a pro; she wants to play in the WNBA,” Mitchell said during Madness. “We’ve worked hard on her conditioning – she’s worked hard on it – and then her defensive intensity has just taken it up another level. By the time this season is complete, we hope she’s written an awesome final chapter in her Kentucky career and that launches her into what her aspiration is – that’s to be a great pro. I believe she’s going to do that.”
Defense has been a relatively-weak spot for Morris, as well as most of the team excluding point guard Taylor Murray, so it’s promising to hear Mitchell praise her defensive efforts before the season even gets underway.
Morris recorded over 17 points per game last season and shot 47.5 percent from behind-the-arc. She’ll need another huge season to earn the Cats a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but, by the looks of things last night, she should have no problem doing just that.
#2 A tale of two courts
The UK Hoops team has quite a talented backcourt with seniors Morris and Murray plus two highly-touted freshmen guards, Rhyne Howard and Blaire Green, but they’re still looking for some standout players in the front court.
Fans will see a lot of new, relatively-inexperienced players under the basket this season, and it’s very possible some games will be determined by their performances. Last year, Kentucky suffered five losses by single-digit margins, many of them on the road. Improving rebounding and second-change points will be huge for the Cats this season.
Coach Mitchell will look to Dorie Harrison, a sophomore center from Nashville. She played in every game last season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Tatyana Wyatt, also a sophomore, is also poised for a break-out year. The forward put up numbers similar to Harrison’s last season (6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds), while hitting 32.6 percent from the three-point line. Both players showed improvements last night during Madness, but will need to keep working to become the major contributors this team needs them to be.
#3 Rhyne Howard could be a star
After spending her summer with the USA’s National Team, Rhyne Howard is ready to make an immediate impact in Lexington. ESPN ranked her as the No. 10 guard in the class after a stellar senior season – 22.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. That versatility is something Kentucky looks for in a recruit and, according to Coach Mitchell, it’s something they’re already getting from Howard:
“She definitely can score the ball, but she doesn’t have to score to set other people up. She really does a good job…. She’s big, great length, great athleticism, so she can make plays on the board, on the defensive end,” Mitchell said. “She’s really a complete player, and we’re looking forward to watching her develop. She’s talented right now and she’s someone we’ll rely on.”
Mitchell continued his praise for Howard but also included fellow-freshman and Kentucky-native Blaire Green.
“I’m really excited about the freshmen. They’re talented and they play super hard, they’ve had great attitudes, they’re in great shape,” Mitchell said during the scrimmage. “They’re just really talented, good basketball players. It’s a steep learning curve for freshmen to come in and perform but we think these two are really ready to go.”
Let’s hope so. The Cats’ first game is quickly approaching – they’ll take on Lincoln Memorial University in an Exhibition Game on Friday, Nov. 2. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum.
No rest for the weary…
While fans may still be reeling from last night’s spectacle also known as Big Blue Madness, the UK men’s basketball team wasted no time getting back to business.
@KentuckyMBB posted a photo to Instagram this morning showing the team already back in the gym preparing for the season. Talk about #NoDaysOff.
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A post shared by Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on
Coach Cal elaborated on the post by taking to social media himself, clarifying not only did his team practice once today, but they’re actually practicing twice.
The always-honest Cal did come out a bit in the Tweet, saying “the anxiety and excitement from last night drained my team so they started slow but ended up having a great practice.”
This is why I like this team. We practiced this morning, the first of two practices. The anxiety and excitement from last night drained my team so they started slow but ended up having a great practice. … (1/2)
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) October 13, 2018
… They now know it doesn’t matter how they feel coming into a game or practice; they control their effort and intensity. I love it. Second practice starts at 4. (2/2)
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) October 13, 2018
I like my team.
We’ve already recapped the offense but now it’s time to go check in on the defense. In year six under Mark Stoops, the Wildcats are finally playing excellent football on the defensive side. The Cats have an emerging All-American, eight senior starters, and one of the finest defenses in college football through six weeks of the 2018 season.
It’s been a very good run on this side of the football. UK has yet to allow more two touchdowns to a foe in regulation. In SEC games, UK is only allowing 13.3 points per outing. For the season, the Wildcats are only giving up 4.6 yards per play and this ranks 15th in the FBS.
It’s been a great start for the Big Blue and it’s time to take a step back and recognize these accomplishments. To this point, it’s been a banner year for Stoops and defensive coordinator Matt House. Now it’s time to assess how each position group has performed to this point of the season.
Defensive Line: B
There is no question that UK’s three down front is playing much better than expected and second year defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc deserves a ton of credit. The Wildcats have a very solid platoon working and Kentucky has been getting excellent play from Calvin Taylor, Jr. and Kordell Looney.
Both of whom started the season running with the twos.
This position has been a weak spot of the defense for a few years. But in 2018, the Wildcats are holding their own at the point of attack and they’ve contributed 4.5 sacks to help out Josh Allen and Boogie Watson with the pass rush. Where they are lacking is in the run department.
UK’s front is still not creating negative plays in the run game and that is one thing that must improve moving forward. Phil Hoskins has flashed at times but this is one thing Kentucky must focus on moving forward. You can never have enough havoc plays from your front.
In all, it’s been a really great run for UK’s defensive line. The Wildcats will only lose two contributors from this year’s rotation and are currently recruiting the position very well in the class of 2019. There are some young, promising prospects in the fold and the future appears to be bright.
It’s hard to look at this position group and not be truly impressed. The Wildcats entered the season with two senior starters and two other players who had a lot to prove. There was young talent on the roster, but UK had to go out and show they had quality depth at the second level of the defense. Boy, have they ever.
Let’s start with Josh Allen. The senior now has his own website and has been the most dominant defensive player in college football to this point of the season. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker has been a menace for opposing offenses. In just six games, Allen has produced 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He’s been a factor in pass coverage and made game changing plays in the wins over Florida and Mississippi State.
He’s been a force of nature and has set the tone for this excellent defense.
Inside, Kash Daniel is currently giving UK its best middle linebacker play since Avery Williamson left for the NFL in 2013. The junior from Paintsville has been a steadying force in the middle and is emerging as one of the leaders of the football team. Next to him, Jordan Jones is fresh off a rocky season after a breakout performance in 2o16. Through six games, the Youngstown native has played within the defense and is a major factor against the run and pass. He’s playing the best football of his career.
It doesn’t just stop with them. UK is getting excellent contributions from its supporting cast. Boogie Watson has recorded a sack in three consecutive games and is becoming a great sidekick to Josh Allen. Chris Oats was excellent in his first career start at Texas A&M. The former blue-chipper is a star in the making. DeAndre Square has played excellent when called upon in passing situations.
This group has been superb all season and you could not ask for any more.
Kentucky entered the season with five seniors expected to make big contributions for a secondary that had the potential to be one of the best in the country. After a disappointing season last fall, the expectation was that this group would bounce back with a vengeance. They’ve answered the bell.
Through six games, Kentucky is only allowing 5.5 yards per pass attempt and has recorded seven interceptions. The Wildcats are only allowing opponents to complete just north of 50% of their passes. All of these rank in the top 20 nationally. Kentucky has been excellent in their coverage abilities.
UK is getting outstanding safety play from seniors Mike Edwards and Darius West. The two Ohio natives were both four-star prospects from that highly praised class of 2014 and they are playing with an edge this fall. West leads the team in tackles and interceptions while Edwards has been a force in run defense. The senior has 5.5 non-sack tackles for loss and this ranks first on the team in that category.
UK is also getting excellent play at corner. Very few teams have been willing to challenge Derrick Baity and he’s well on his way to being selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. At the boundary corner spot, Lonnie Johnson and Chris Westry are sharing reps and they’ve both performed very well.
The production even goes into the bench with safeties Davonte Robinson, Jordan Griffin and Tyrell Ajian. The three reserves are used in nickel and dime defenses and they’ve made plays when called upon.
This group is playing outstanding football and with some solid passers remaining on the schedule, they’ll need to continue this high level of play.
There was a lot of pressure on Mark Stoops to finally produce a strong defense in Lexington. After five years of mediocre results, the Wildcats now have one of the best defenses in college football. Matt House deserves some credit, too.
The former defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh and FIU has been excellent in his second season in the role. He’s made the move from the booth to the field and it appears that the team has really responded well. The braintrust between him and Stoops is working very well.
Benny Snell gets a lot of the credit but to this point in the season, UK’s defense has been the backbone of the team. This group gave UK every chance in the world to win at Texas A&M. They dominated Mississippi State and made key plays in the fourth quarter to clinch the win over Florida. Keep this play up and UK will have a chance to win every game they play.
By Nick Roush on ©October 13th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
It’s no secret that Kash Daniel is a big WWE fan. Now a pair of WWE superstars are Kash Daniel fans.
Yesterday the Kentucky middle linebacker posted the picture above from the Cat Walk. The two-fingered hand gesture was an homage to the WWE’s Good Brother tag-team. The Good Brothers, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, saw Kash’s post and welcomed him into the family.
If football can’t be a professional career for Kash, he already has a foot in the WWE’s door.
“If you’re an NFL guy or a college player who doesn’t think you have enough skills to get to the next level, and the good Lord blessed you with athletic ability and a competitive mind, this could be great for you,” Jim Ross told The Athletic. “I think you’re going to see more of those guys get into the business, because it’s not an oddity anymore that wrestlers are knocking down seven figures-plus.”
Until that time comes, Kash will continue to bring pro wrestling flare to the Kentucky sidelines.
By Maggie Davis on ©October 13th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
Mark Stoops and the rest of his staff have officially extended a scholarship offer to Kentucky’s own Reese Smith. The wide receiver, who is listed as 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, currently plays for Boyle County High School in Danville. He’s set to graduate in 2020.
As a junior, his numbers are already impressive: 27 catches for 536 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. 24/7 Sports has Smith listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 10 recruit in Kentucky. He’s already received offers from Tennessee, Cincinnati and Troy, among others. Check out some of his sophomore-season highlights here:
BBN, show the man some love on Twitter:
— Reese Smith (@reesesmith_) October 13, 2018
Kentucky fans love a Kentucky boy… just ask Kash Daniel. Reese Smith, come on down.