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Where UK Stands With the Remaining Frontcourt Options for 2019

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

UK’s 2019 roster is already formidable, but Coach Cal is still searching for that final cog that would have the machine running at full strength. Even if we assume EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards both return to Lexington for another season, there is still potentially room for one more big body to fill out the front-court rotation. Who that player will be, or if the Cats wind up with just three big men for next year, remains to be seen, but there are several options still technically on the table.

The likelihood that any of them end up in blue and white is a mixed bag.

Jaden McDaniels

The premier recruit still left undecided in the 2019 class, McDaniels seems to be having trouble making his final decision. We all know UK is his “dream school,” but with plenty of hometown Washington advocates certainly in his ear, the pressure of making a final commitment has to be weighing on the guy.

As recently as last week, it seemed UK was firmly in the driver’s seat as the clear leader to land McDaniels, but when his suspected decision day came and went without any official announcement, the waters got much murkier. 247Sports’ Evan Daniels flipped his prediction yesterday, now saying he believes Washington will snag the 5-star forward. With minimal whispers and no firm date set for his decision, expect the McDaniels saga to drag on just a bit longer.

Kerry Blackshear, Jr.

The former Virginia Tech standout is also ruminating on a decision of his own: to risk the uncertainty of the NBA Draft or spend one more year in college boosting his stock.

The most recent rumblings on Blackshear point to him leaning towards staying in the draft. That being said, our own Jack Pilgrim did note that should Blackshear not get the feedback he’s looking for from the League, Kentucky may be the favorite destination for arguably the top grad transfer in 2019. We’ll know soon enough: only 10 days remain until the draft withdrawal deadline.

Jordan Brown

UK reached out to the former Nevada big man and McDonald’s All-American almost immediately after his name popped up in the transfer portal, but updates on Brown have been few and far between since then. Arizona is pushing hard to woo the 6’10” power forward, but other than that, there haven’t really been any indicators on Brown’s status.

Maybe he’s waiting to see where other chips fall? Or could he be holding out for a different school to show interest? As soon as we know, so will you.


For now, I wouldn’t call the situation with any of these guys critical. But on the off chance EJ or Nick explore their options elsewhere, Coach Cal might have to put on his big boy recruiting cap and get to work once again.

@JayWinkKSR


Big Blue History

Former Kentucky head coach, Basil Hayden, born on this date in 1899

Big Blue History

If you’re like me and love a good piece of Kentucky trivia then the name Basil Hayden may ring a bell for you. The Paris, Kentucky native was born on this date in 1899 and has some facts about him that live in Kentucky history.

For one, the 5’11 Hayden was the first All-American in the history of the Kentucky basketball program. During the 1920-21 season, he scored 136 points over 14 games to help put himself into the history books forever.

Hayden did not stop there as he was named the head coach of the Cats in 1926, but lasted only one season after posting an abysmal 3-13 record. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the 1988-89 season that there would be a team in Lexington with another losing record.

While on campus, Hayden also was a member of the Kentucky Track and Field team where he specialized in the javelin throw and played for the Tennis team.

The former multi-sport athlete passed away in 2003 at the age of 103. In his obituary published by the Herald-Leader, it quotes a newspaper article from the 1921 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championship that said, “Hayden, the blond Apollo, the Kentucky thoroughbred, if ever one stepped on the turf, has been a thorn in the side of Kentucky’s antagonists all during the tournament.”

Hayden will live in Kentucky legacy as his name currently does hang in the rafters at Rupp Arena. Since he didn’t play with a number, he is one of only a handful of names that stand alone.

For more from Hayden’s obituary, which is extremely well written and contains multiple stories, and more statistics from him, you can click here to visit our friends at Big Blue History who has his player page up.

In fact, if the picture at the top of the linked page looks familiar, Hayden serves as Big Blue History’s profile picture on Twitter.


UKathletics

UK Softball Championship Sunday begins in Lexington at noon

UKathletics

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Lexington, and the UK softball team is looking to use that good fortune to their advantage. The Wildcats are set to play their Regional final beginning today at noon inside their own John Cropp Stadium. They’ll play Virginia Tech.

Kentucky knows exactly what they’re up against – UK also played against the Hokies Saturday afternoon. In that matchup, the Cats came away with a dominating 8-1 victory, largely thanks to a stellar pitching performance from sophomore Grace Baalman. She allowed just one run on eight hits, walked no one and struck out a trio of Hokies.

Here are the highlights from that matchup:

Now, the Cats are ready to do it again. If you can’t make it out to John Cropp in Lexington, you can catch all of the action streamed live on ESPN3 or the ESPN app. We’ll also have a recap posted after the game.

If UK wins, they’ll be named Regional Champions and advance to the Super Regional round. If they lose, they’ll have to play in an elimination game, set to begin 45 minutes after the original matchup.

Go Cats!


Ten Years Ago Today… The Wall was built in Kentucky

Photo by Quinn Foster | UK Athletics

John Calipari has had a multitude of massive recruits commit to play basketball in Lexington. Guys like: Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, the list goes on and on.

The most important commitment of all happened on this date 10 years ago today, when a lanky point guard from North Carolina left the blue bloods in his backyard to play for first year head coach John Calipari. Five-Star point guard John Wall announced his intentions to play basketball at Kentucky on this date ten years ago. Wall would be joined by players like DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.

The Wall commitment was the spark that the new Kentucky head coach needed to help sell the vision that he had in Lexington. While his actual announcement was anticlimactic, once he reached Lexington it was anything but that.

Just about five months after this moment, Wall delivered one of the most underrated moments in Kentucky Basketball history. While it was as simple as him dancing while being introduced, it means so much more than that now.

For one, it was the first time a Kentucky fan got goosebumps during a moment in quite some time. Why? It just had a feeling that this was the start of something special and was no longer “just a dream.” The dancing by Wall also made the program fun again. When the camera zooms in through the smoke and Wall is shown, it is almost a metaphor for the dark cloud of the Gillispie era being lifted and a new era being born.

After Wall made his pick, Matt Jones wrote on this site the following paragraph with his thoughts on the commitment:

“I like to play devil’s advocate and attempt to look at things rationally and against the normal view held by others. Not this time. We are about to head on a historic run in which Kentucky WILL dominate basketball once again. Read that last sentence…process it and get it down into your pores. The era of Kentucky going to the NIT and making our head hurt is over….the Cats are back and for the next ten years, we will be Top 5 every year for the decade. Period.”

Other than the odd 2013 year, this has proven to come true. The Wall commitment changed not only just Kentucky Basketball, but also college basketball as a whole, because the Cats were back.

Today, we celebrate a big moment in the rebirth of Kentucky Basketball. If it wasn’t for John Wall pledging his commitment for the Cats on this date ten years ago, it is hard to say that the rebuild would have gone as quick as it did.

For more from May 19, 2009, you can click here to see what Matt, TJ Beisner and more had to say about one of the most important days in the John Calipari era.

@GormleyKSR


Today on KSR: UK’s Baseball Season Ends, Craziness at the Preakness

UKAthletics

Kentucky Ends Its Baseball Season

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they lost to No. 2 Vanderbilt on Saturday thus ending their 2019 season. Heading into Saturday’s action, Kentucky was locked in a three-way tie with Alabama and South Carolina. One of the two scenarios Kentucky needed to avoid was an Alabama loss and a South Carolina win.

That scenario happened as South Carolina beat Mississippi State 10-8 and Alabama lost to Georgia 9-1. It did not matter if the Wildcats won or not, their season officially ended here.

Kentucky finished the season with a record of 26-29 (7-23) which was good for next to last in the SEC.

Despite the rebuilding season, with 18 newcomers to this year’s roster, coach Nick Mingione has the most wins of any Kentucky coach through three seasons with 104 victories.

Kentucky will lose four seniors from this year’s roster: Ryan Shinn, Ryan Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Marshall Gei. Pitcher Zack Thompson will most likely gone as well as he probably heads for the MLB Draft this offseason after a great career for Kentucky.

Writer Brent Wainscott has done a fantastic job covering the team this season, and from all of us here at KSR we would like to thank you for following the Wildcats all season long.

Warriors Best Kanter and the Trail Blazers Again

Any basketball fan with a pulse knew this was going to happen, but after securing a big first-half lead over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, the Portland Trail Blazers lost to Steph Curry and company by a score of 110-99.

The win gives the Warriors a commanding 3-0 lead over Portland. In the game Kanter only played seven minutes but managed to score seven points and tally five rebounds in the effort. For what its worth, the Trail Blazer were +7 when the former Kentucky alumni was on the court.

The reason why Kanter did not play that much was because of his mostly poor defense against Golden State in the first two games of the series. However, it is clear now that no one on Portland’s team is playing adequate enough defense to contain the amazing Warrior offense.

With the season pretty much over, let’s hope that Eric Bledsoe and the Milwaukee Bucks find their way to the NBA Finals. They are already up 2-0 in their series against Toronto so it seems likely that there will be at least one Kentucky alumni in the finals this season.

Insanity at the Preakness

In the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, War of Will (4-1) came away with the victory in an unofficial time of 1:54.34, but all eyes were on Bodexpress from start to finish as the horse stole the entire show.

Bodexpress (20-1) managed to finish the entire race without a jockey as right out of the gate the horse tossed hall of fame jockey John R. Velazquez and continued to run the entire race jockeyless.

In my book, that’s a true champion. That horse doesn’t need a jockey to ride him!!! However, on the flip side the jockey that actually lost to Bodexpress has some TOUGH questions to answer. Just imagine the preparation he must have went through only to have lost to a horse without a rider. If you thought your Saturday was bad, just know that it could always be worse.

But seriously, lets all be thankful that both Velazquez and his horse both finished the race safely. Horse racing is not a safe sport, and we should all be thankful that nothing disastrous happened during this race.

The Jaden McDaniels Saga Continues

Another day has went by, and we still do not know where five-star prospect Jaden McDaniels is heading. Kentucky was in the lead as of last week, but recruiting analyst Evan Daniels is now predicting that the prized prospect will be going to nearby Washington.

I’ve followed Daniels for quite some time and I can promise you that his predictions are usually right more often than they are wrong. However, this is a young 18 year-old kid we are talking about who is keeping his recruitment extremely silent – and rightfully so. His talent is good enough to change an entire team.

He would be a huge get for the Wildcats as he could make Kentucky a true National Championship contender in 2020. However, the idea of staying close to home could be too good for him.

Either way, lets wish the best for this young, talented ball player. He obviously has had a hard time making this decision, and we should wish the best for young athletes trying to start their careers. Hopefully, the drama ends for him soon.


2020 five-star wing BJ Boston cuts list to four, includes Kentucky

2020 five-star wing BJ Boston cuts list to four, includes Kentucky

Kentucky is a finalist for one of the top prospects in the class of 2020.

Five-star wing Brandon Boston Jr. trimmed his list down to four this evening, with Kentucky, Duke, Auburn, and Florida making the cut.

Ever since Kentucky offered the 6-foot-6 prospect back on February 23, most recruiting analysts felt it was a two-horse race between the Wildcats and Blue Devils, with the latter being the rumored favorite.

Over the last week, however, the Wildcats have received four consecutive Crystal Ball picks, including one from 247 Sports Director of Basketball Scouting Jerry Meyer and Duke insider Andrew Slater.

At the recent Nike EYBL event in Atlanta, Boston told KSR that while his recruitment is open, there are four schools recruiting him the hardest right now.

“I would say Duke, Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida,” he said. “I think that’s it.”

Since then, however, the Tigers have recruited him as a package deal with AAU teammate and fellow five-star guard Sharife Cooper, something that intrigues Boston. This would explain Alabama being dropped from the final list and Auburn being added.

The five-star prospect added that he loves Kentucky because of how focused they are on winning in Lexington, something he is definitely interested in when he gets to college next year.

“I love how Coach Cal, all of the coaches and players, they all hold each other accountable,” he said. “They just want to win.”

In his official scouting report over on 247 Sports, Jerry Meyer highlights his length, athleticism, and “natural feel for the game.”

A long athlete who is still growing. Has good athleticism and a natural feel for the game. Lack of strength needs to improve, especially to be effective long term on the defensive end. Terrific scorer who is effective at all three levels. Has a nose for the ball and the length to be a dangerous rebounder. Has tremendous upside, which makes him a potential lottery pick.

Watch some of his most recent highlights during his time on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring here:

Come on down, young fella.


De’Aaron Fox named finalist for NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year

(Photo via Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images)

Last night, the NBA announced their award finalists for the 2018-19 season.

One former Wildcat was nominated for one of the awards announced, as Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox was listed as a finalist for the Most Improved Player in the NBA.

Other players announced as finalists for the Most Improved Player award were Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

Fox averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists in his sophomore season with the Kings.

Here are some of Fox’s top plays from this year:

The Kings surpassed all expectations coming into the season, as they clawed their way to playoff contention right up until the end. Finishing with a record of 39-43, Sacramento ended up as the ninth-ranked team in the Western Conference, finishing ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns.

In an article posted by the Sacramento Kings, Fox had this to say about his announcement.

“If that surprises you, then that’s you.”

The announcement of all the NBA awards will be televised on Monday, July 24th at 9 P.M. EST on TNT.

To find all of the finalists for all NBA awards click here.


War of Will wins the 144th Preakness Stakes, but Bodexpress stole the show

War of Will wins the 144th Preakness Stakes, but Bodexpress stole the show

The 2019 edition of the Triple Crown continues to be a bizarre one.

After the most controversial finish in Kentucky Derby history just two weeks ago, we saw yet another fascinating turn of events in the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, as Bodexpress (20-1) managed to finish the entire race without a jockey.

War of Will (4-1) came away with the victory in an unofficial time of 1:54.34, but all eyes were on Bodexpress from start to finish.

Right out of the gate, Bodexpress tossed hall of fame jockey John R. Velazquez and continued to run the entire race jockeyless.

Here he was right in the thick of things in the middle of the race, keeping a safe position on the outside:

And the entire race from start to finish, where you can see War of Will’s victory and Bodexpress winning stealing our hearts:

I’m no racing steward, but I think that official impeded on Bodexpress on the home stretch. Call it in.

#TeamBodexpressForLife