Earlier this week, a KSR caller gave us a great research topic: the recruits that →
Once a graduate assistant for John Calipari at Kentucky, Preston Spradlin is now Morehead State’s head basketball coach, the youngest college basketball coach in the country. Spradlin discusses recruiting from Morehead, a little bit about his time working for Cal and much more.
Watch the entire episode from Morehead with Chris Tomlin after the jump.
Shooting guard Mark Smith has committed to Illinois. The state’s Mr. Basketball will stay home to play college basketball.
Smith’s stellar senior season propelled him into the recruiting spotlight after the conclusion of the college basketball season, drawing attention from Coach Cal, Coach K and many others. Smith played in the Derby Basketball Classic two weeks ago and planned to visit Kentucky. After a trip to Champaign, he’d seen enough.
Moving forward, John Calipari has already picked up one postseason commitment from shooting guard Jemarl Baker. The next shooting guard to commit could be on campus right now, Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson.
Each week leading up to the first Saturday in May I will assess the leading contenders for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, ranking the “elite eight”, recapping the most recent prep races, and looking forward to the upcoming race(s) of the weekend. Follow me on Twitter @chadlashbrook for additional thoughts on KY Derby preps and other major thoroughbred races.
All of the prep races for Kentucky Derby 143 are complete and focus now shifts to the morning workouts that will take place over the next week to garner any final insight on the 20 horses that will line up to contest this year’s Run for the Roses. Many of the anticipated competitors have already descended upon Churchill Downs to complete their final preparations, and the remainder of the field will arrive over the next week. Post positions will be drawn and the field set a week from today. The random post draw is vitally important in the 20 horse Derby. No one wants to be stuck down on the rail with 19 others merging over trying to save ground, while those in the outer posts obviously will have to cover more ground. I will cover post positions and final breezes for the major contenders in two separate articles next week. No changes to the order of the elite eight this week, but there are a few updates regarding key workouts and some pedigree insight:
1 – Classic Empire has settled into his stall at Mark Casse’s barn on the Churchill Downs backside. He will likely have his final Derby workout this coming weekend. The reigning 2yo champ and Arkansas Derby winner cannot rely much on the female side of his family when it comes to being able to handle the mile and a quarter distance of the Derby. His dam Sambuca Classica was 0 for 8 lifetime. Aside from Classic Empire, she has produced two other stakes winners in Uptown Twirl and Anytime Magic, both of whom won listed stakes at sprint distances. Second dam In Her Glory did not produce much of note, but was a listed sprint stake winner herself and also managed to run 3rd in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont over a one-turn mile and an eighth. While Classic Empire may lack a strong stamina influence on the bottom half of his pedigree, the top half packs it in spades. His sire Pioneerof the Nile won the 9F Santa Anita Derby and ran 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. He has already produced Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in his young stallion career. Grandsire Empire Maker won the 12F Belmont Stakes and his sire, Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby and 10 furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic as a 3yo.
2 – Always Dreaming worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 and 2 on Friday at his Palm Beach Downs base. His pedigree is similar to that of Classic Empire in that the female side is responsible for some very nice runners, albeit at sprint distances. Above Perfection, his dam, won the Fleet Treat and Las Flores – both sprint stakes in California. In addition to Always Dreaming, she has also produced Hot Dixie Chick, Grade 1 winner of the 7 furlong Spinaway at Saratoga. Second dam Something Perfect was unraced herself but also produced Made to Perfection, winner of the 6 1/2 F Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita. Always Dreaming‘s sire Bodemeister ran 2nd in both the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and he has the same grandsire, Empire Maker, as Classic Empire.
3 – McCraken had his penultimate Derby work on Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Breaking off 6 or so lengths behind a workmate he rattled off even 12 second splits in making up ground and blowing by the workmate just past the wire to complete a 5 furlong move in 1:00 and 3. He continued strongly around the turn with a 3/4 mile gallop out time of 1:13 flat. He’ll have his final breeze either over the weekend or on Monday depending on the weather. McCraken‘s dam Ivory Empress was a runner-up in two sprint stakes and has produced another stakes performer in Bondurant, 2nd in both the Commonwealth and Canadian Turf at 8 1/2 and 8 furlongs respectively. Second dam Madame Pandit was also a sprint stakes performer, capturing the Monrovia Handicap and finishing 2nd in the Santa Monica. Among her progeny was the very fine race mare Mea Domina, winner of the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at a mile and an eighth on the grass and the Palomar Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth. In addition to that modest stamina influence stemming from the female side, McCraken‘s sire, the brilliant Ghostzapper, and grandsire, Awesome Again, were both winners of the mile and a quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic.
4 – Irish War Cry remains at Graham Motion’s Fair Hill base and is expected to ship to Louisville early next week. His pedigree on the female side is relatively light. Half-brother Irish Strait is a stakes performer, having run 3rd in the 8 1/2 furlong Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf earlier this year. Sire Curlin raked in over $10 million during a career that included classic distance wins in the Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and 2 editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Grandsire Smart Strike has been a strong source of stamina found in championship pedigrees for the last 20 years.
5 – Gunnevera breezed an easy 5/8ths in 1:01 flat this past Friday. While there is not much to report from his female family, he undoubtedly draws stamina from his damsire, Unbridled. Gunnevera‘s sire, Dialed In, won the Florida Derby and his sire, Mineshaft, earned Horse of the Year honors in 2003 on the strength of classic distance victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap among others.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 6:00pm
The NFL Draft begins tomorrow night, but before you plan your night around it, one, don’t because it’s the most boring television event ever; and two, you probably won’t hear any Kentucky players’ names called until Saturday, which is when the fourth through seventh rounds take place.
Yesterday, ESPN’s Todd McShay ranked Jon Toth the fourth best center in the draft, which would be good enough to get him drafted in the fifth round. What about Boom Williams? McShay ranks him the 30th best running back in the draft, likely to go off the board in the seventh and final round. Those are the only two Cats listed in McShay’s rankings.
Meanwhile, McShay’s colleague Mel Kiper ranks Toth the sixth best center, Boom the 21st best running back, and JoJo Kemp the 60th best running back in the draft. Here’s hoping all three find a home, even if it means on a practice squad.
Good luck, boys.
By Barrett Lindsey on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 5:15pm
This week’s edition of Stuff in Kentucky You Should Know About but Probably Don’t turns its attention to the great eateries our state has to offer. Most likely, you don’t associate great Mexican food with the state of Kentucky but what if I told you one of the best burritos money can buy is found right here in the Commonwealth? Oh yeah, I’m not pullin’ your leg here folks, there’s a quaint little Mexican diner in the heart of Lexington that serves a burrito that would shove a Qdoba burrito into a locker and steal its lunch money.
Tortilleria Y Taqueria Ramirez is the place these award winning burritos call home. It is an intimate, latin style diner and market found on the corner of Alexandria Drive and Versailles Road. Burritos aren’t the only thing they serve, as they have an array of all different sorts of authentic Mexican style dishes. It also doubles as a market in case you have a few groceries you’d like to pick up during your visit.
I cannot state enough, however, that the number one thing served at Tortilleria Y Taqueria Ramirez are their burritos. They are served in handmade corn tortilla shells, that would be good to eat just by themselves. The burritos come in different varieties of impeccably prepared carne (beef/steak) and pollo (chicken). I believe the market serves as a butcher so the meat used in the burritos is always fresh which is a recurring theme in all of Taqueria Ramirez’s dishes, freshness. They combine all these fresh ingredients into what I can only describe as the best burrito I have ever eaten.
If you don’t believe me on the quality of these burritos then there are other sources to back me up. Tortilleria y Taqueria Ramirez was crowned as “Best Burrito in the South” in 2014 by FiveThirtyEight.com. Also, anyone that has ever had one of these little bundles of bliss can attest to how good they are. I don’t like guacamole, but I get it on my Taqueria Ramirez burrito because it just wouldn’t be the same experience without it.
So if you haven’t heard of this place, put down that salmonella riddled Chipotle monstrosity and head over to Tortilleria Y Taqueria Ramirez for a taste of a burrito at its maximum potential.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 4:30pm
It’s been a dark, dark day for ESPN, with approximately 100 employees getting laid off, from reporters to on-air personalities to everything in between. Some big names have gotten the axe, including Dana O’Neil, Eamonn Brennan, C.L. Brown, Brett McMurphy, Ed Werder, and Len Elmore. Watching the news and the reaction to it on Twitter has been like watching the Worldwide Leader in Sports slowly crumble to the ground; a proud giant now forced to cut away some of its limbs in order to stay relevant. Even though you could see it coming for months, it’s just sad.
As someone who used to watch ESPN religiously in high school and college, I confess that I very rarely have it on these days, even though I am a sportswriter. In fact, the only time I do watch ESPN is during a game, “College GameDay,” or “SportsCenter” if John Calipari’s going to be on. That’s mostly because all of the content is online now, and much easier to access via social media. Why waste (more) time watching TV when I can just go on Twitter and get the news?
Sportswriters everywhere are lamenting this as a sad day for the profession, and it is, but more than anything, it reminds me how lucky I’ve been with my own career. Before I started my long journey with KSR, I actually applied for a job at ESPNW, the site’s women’s portal, but was turned down for lack of experience, which totally made sense because I have an English degree, not a journalism degree. I can’t tell you how often I perused the “Jobs at ESPN” page in the years after college. Same goes for The Tennessean, the local newspaper here in Nashville. Now, both entities have been hammered by major layoffs. When most people hear what I do now, they ask if I want to work for ESPN one day. Once, that answer was “absolutely.” Now, I’m just grateful to be where I am, writing about what I love for a living.
It’s sad to see such talented reporters lose their jobs in lieu of the increasingly popular “hot take” jockeys (Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, etc.), but in today’s changing landscape, I think it serves as a reminder that you don’t need a journalism degree to make it in this industry. You need really good writing skills, a level head, a tireless work ethic, and the humility to work for free to get your foot in the door. Also, a few great people to take a chance on you along the way.
So, really, today has just reminded me to say thanks.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
Brad Calipari hasn’t had a bigger fan this season than his mother, Ellen, who proudly sports her son’s jersey at games, but even Ellen had to poke some fun at her son today. It all started with the picture of John Calipari wearing the Jordan 8s Drake named in his honor, which he posted on social media last weekend:
Awesome picture, right? So awesome that Brad recreated it the next day in the Calipari living room:
— Brad Calipari (@bradcalipari) April 24, 2017
Today, Brad’s big sister Megan shared a picture of Ellen doing the same pose in the black version of the shoes, teasing her baby boy:
— Megan Calipari (@MeganteCalipari) April 26, 2017
To use Brad’s words, Ellen’s trolling is earned, not given.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 2:30pm
Tonight at 7 p.m. ET, four-star shooting guard Mark Smith will announce his decision at his high school in Edwardsville, Illinois. Smith picked up an offer from Kentucky early this month and hosted Duke last week, but Illinois seems to be the overwhelming favorite for the state’s Mr. Basketball. The Fighting Illini have 82% of the predictions in Smith’s Crystal Ball, including all nine in the past week.
Smith visited Illinois over the weekend, and considering he chose to go ahead and set his announcement before taking a trip to Kentucky, I’d say he’s going to stay home. Before you get too depressed, keep in mind that UK landed a commitment from fellow four-star shooting guard Jemarl Baker a few weeks back and Pitt transfer Cam Johnson is on campus for an official visit starting today.
Regardless, we’ll let you know what Smith decides tonight at 7 p.m.
Remember cornerback Shaq Wiggins, the Louisville grad transfer? After a whole lotta drama, Wiggins is headed to a familiar foe: Tennessee. Wiggins announced the news on Twitter this morning, picking the Vols over South Carolina and Mississippi State, the latter of which Bobby Petrino initially blocked him from considering because that’s where former Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham now works.
I have made my decision and I will continue to finish my career at the University of Tennessee !!!!! 🍊
— Shaquille Wiggins (@ShaqWiggins6) April 26, 2017
During his careers at Georgia and Louisville, Wiggins had four tackles in games against Kentucky. See you on October 28 at Commonwealth Stadium, Shaq.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 1:00pm
By now, you’re aware of just how young next season’s team will be, which makes the few returning players even more important. Wenyen Gabriel is Kentucky’s leading returning scorer, with 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game, but on today’s show, outgoing senior Derek Willis said he believes another big man will turn some heads next season: Sacha Killeya-Jones.
“I think the kid with most potential on the team didn’t play hardly at all this year, Sacha,” Derek said. “Without a doubt. He has all the skill, all the potential’s there. You have to work with that stuff. He’s been in the gym, doing his thing but it’s hard for someone that young.”
Sacha barely saw the court this season, which was surprising given all the preseason hype. Anyone who watched the team play before the season began would tell you that Sacha was the most exciting player on the court, but that performance didn’t carry over to games. After four years at Kentucky, Derek knows better than anyone how tough it can be to stay motivated when you don’t get a lot of playing time.
“It was hard for me to come in and see the end goal,” Derek said. “Once I started getting on the court and feeling like I was really contributing, then that was when I was like, okay, I’m going to work a little harder and a little harder and that’s when I started staying in the gym more.”
With an offseason to build confidence, Derek thinks the sky’s the limit for Sacha.
“Without a doubt, that will help anyone,” Derek said of more time in the gym. “He’s super athletic, he has a lot of bounce to him. His jump shot right inside the three-point line looks good. It’s all there, he just has to put it together for himself.”
Listen to Derek talk about Sacha around the 38-minute mark.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
On Sunday night, Hamidou Diallo declared for the draft, but said he’s not going to sign an agent so he can go through the evaluation process and decide whether or not it’s best to go back to school or stay in. In turn, mock draft sites are factoring Diallo into the 2017 mix, and based on that, it sounds like Hami would be wise to return to the school to work on his game and improve his stock. Draft Express’ latest ranking of the Top 100 prospects has Diallo 35th, so, theoretically, the fifth pick in the second round. Similarly, ESPN’s Chad Ford has Diallo 37th in his latest rankings.
Here’s where the rest of Kentucky’s prospects landed in Draft Express’ Top 100 rankings:
5. De’Aaron Fox
6. Malik Monk
34. Bam Adebayo
35. Hamidou Diallo
89. Isaiah Briscoe
100. Isaac Humphries
While Draft Express hasn’t updated its 2017 mock draft to include Diallo, he is in the 2018 version as the 22nd pick, along with Mohamed Bamba at 4th and Nick Richards at 19th.
Come back, Hami!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 11:00am
It’s a rough day for the folks up in Bristol. According to The Sporting News, ESPN is laying off close to 100 employees today, including on-air and online reporters, anchors, reporters, analysts, and production staffers. While the names of those laid off won’t be made public (and rightly so), several are taking to social media to share the news, including longtime college basketball reporter Dana O’Neil:
Add me to the list. Just got the 'call.' I've been informed my contract will not be renewed at ESPN.
— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) April 26, 2017
And veteran NFL reporter Ed Werder:
After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I've been informed that I'm being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 26, 2017
Also, NFL writer Paul Kuharksky, who Matt clashed with on the Midday 180 a few weeks back:
Knew cuts were coming. Sad to say nine great years at ESPN end for me in July. Please stay tuned to @Midday180.
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) April 24, 2017
The Hollywood Reporter is also reporting that ESPN personalities Ryen Russillo, Hannah Storm, and Baseball Tonight‘s Karl Ravitch’s roles will be “significantly reduced.” ESPN president John Skipper confirmed the layoffs this morning in a statement, essentially saying that the Worldwide Leader was forced to make cuts to keep up with the changing landscape of sports media (I read that as more “hot takes,” less actual reporting):
A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions. Our content strategy – primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand – still needs to go further, faster…and as always, must be efficient and nimble. Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands. We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.
While the writing’s been on the wall with ESPN for a while, it’s never fun to see people lose their jobs. Best of luck to those affected.
UPDATE: Add veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy to the list…
After 5 great years, I’ve been laid off by ESPN. It was a tremendous opportunity & I enjoyed working w/a lot of really, really good people
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) April 26, 2017
And college hoops reporter Eamonn Brennan:
Bad news morning. I loved every bit of my eight years at ESPN and will miss it, and so many friends and colleagues there, profoundly.
— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) April 26, 2017
And former Courier-Journal sportswriter C.L. Brown:
Landed in Madrid. Turned on phone 1st time all vacation. Got texts asking if job was safe. Found out it was not. Enjoyed my 4 years, ESPN.
— C.L. Brown (@clbrownespn) April 26, 2017
Wow. No one is safe in Bristol today.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 10:10am
Odds are if you’ve been out in Lexington, you’re familiar with Steve Rader, aka “Radar.” Before there was Uber or Lyft, there was Radar, who has dedicated his life to making sure UK students and Lexington residents get home safely after a night of drinking. After almost losing a family member to drunk driving, Radar joined Kentucky Against Drunk Driving and over the last 15 years, has driven approximately 500,000 people home from the bars. Now, he needs your help.
Radar suffers from Hydrocephalus, the swelling of the brain due to excessive cerebral spinal fluid, and last week, had a brain malfunction in a Walgreens parking lot. According to LEX18, his sister said he passed out in his car and wasn’t found until four days later. Yesterday, he had surgery to place a new shunt in his head and that surgery was successful; however, he’s got a long road to recovery ahead, along with a growing tab of medical expenses.
If you’d like to donate to Radar’s recovery, visit the GoFundMe page set up in his honor.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 26th, 2017 @ 9:55am
Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Wednesday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, the gang is at Sleep Outfitters (352 Kroger Center Drive) in Morehead. Come on out, hop on a mattress, and enjoy the show. Topics include recruiting, tomorrow’s movie bracket, and much, much more. If you do make the trip, be sure to stick around to see Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries, who will be signing autographs immediately following the show at noon.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.