As expected, UK has just announced that James Young will forgo his sophomore season and →
pic by @whitneybw14
The above picture is awesome and occurred tonight at the Northern Kentucky book signing, where the question on all UK fans’ minds continues to be…what will the remaining UK players do? I have no definitive answers but will pass along the latest we are hearing:
It is almost certain that Julius will announce tomorrow that he is going to the NBA Draft. Randle is going to be a Top 5 pick and thus going is a no-brainer. Like James Young however, he will finish class at Kentucky this semester and not pull an “Orton.”
All indications we are hearing are that Alex will return. There are people around Alex who would like to see him leave but he hasn’t gotten strong interest from the Draft folks and he wants to come back and continue towards his degree. Alex is a very smart kid who likes school and is close to his sister who is also a student at UK. If it were solely up to Alex, the decision would have been made and he would be back at Kentucky. But Calipari and UK have had to deal with other folks interested in him entering the Draft and Poythress is having to work through that process. Kyle Tucker today said that he is hearing that the Harrison Twins’ decision will have an effect on Alex’s but everything I have heard says that is incorrect. Poythress wants to return and that announcement could happen very soon if he is able to pull the trigger as he hopes.
In terms of news, Dakari has slipped a little bit from the forefront. Two weeks ago, Johnson wanted to return to Kentucky and I think everyone assumed that would be what would happen. But as he has gone through the process, I am told he has gotten more favorable feedback than he expected and now it has made the decision much tougher. I talked to two folks close to the process in the last two days, both of whom assumed he would return but said it was “60/40″ return and getting less every day. The longer the process goes, the more possible a Dakari to the draft decision becomes.
I continue to say that most of the gossip and “word on the street” about the Twins is all false. I did read the article in Houston over the weekend as saying that the Twins are looking for a reason to enter the Draft, and I think if they could find it, they would leave. But the reality is that the feedback they are getting isn’t great and they are smart kids who want to make the best business decision possible. I have spoken to two people that are as close to the Twins as anyone and neither of them know for sure…that is why I don’t believe any of the gossip that is currently floated about. I do think however that Tuesday’s meeting with Calipari will be crucial and his advice will have a strong impact in the process, either way. At this point, if you made me make a bet, I would bet on them returning just because they can’t both be certain of first round pick status…but I have literally no inside information I consider trustworthy and will be waiting just like all of you.
There are going to be some big KSR shows coming this week, so sit back and relax. Going to be a lot of fun…
At his book signing in Northern Kentucky today, John Calipari talked a bit about a new phenomenon he is having to deal with after the return of players for another year. According to Aaron Huff who was in attendance, Calipari said that during a recruiting visit done by his Assistant Coach Kenny Payne, the recruit told him that another coach said Calipari “forced” Willie Cauley-Stein to return. Payne knew this to be incorrect, told Calipari and then called Willie, who told the recruit that not only was he not forced, Calipari told him to go to the Draft. Nevertheless, Willie made the decision to return.
An interesting tidbit and further proof that the crowds at these Calipari book signings get to hear all the good stuff…
My senior year of high school at Middlesboro High was relatively boring. I had taken most of the classes that could be offered, was finishing up my athletic career with mediocre seasons in golf and tennis (I had already given up basketball due to general awfulness) and I was ready to go off to college in a city where all the restaurants did not close by 10 pm. But during this time one of my teachers (Mrs. Wilson) put me on an independent study where I would spend a hour in the library lying on the beanbags and reading various novels that she picked out. At first I thought the class would be the best thing ever because of how restful it would be, but in the end it became one of my favorites because of the world it introduced me to. As part of this class, I read the works of the great novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 87. Marquez is considered one of top handful of novelists of the 20th century, but at the time for me, he was just a name I had recited so I could win academic team competitions (I told you I was a really cool high schooler). However during that year, I read “100 Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera” and immediately loved both books. The stories were unlike anything I had ever before encountered and the language, even having been altered through translation, was vivid and beautiful. I looked forward to the hour every day when I could open the book and get taken away to Marquez’s created worlds and those reading experiences helped introduce me to a canon of literature that I would have never otherwise taken the time to encounter. Marquez died of cancer complications today, having lived a full life mixed in the worlds of literature and politics. If you get a chance some time, check out the two novels I first encountered on a Middlesboro High School library bean bag a number of years ago, and who knows, maybe you will find them just as enjoyable (or maybe not and you can still watch a marathon of “Party Down South” instead).
Three stories as we close out the week of my return to the night post:
JAMES YOUNG SAYS GOODBYE
I expected us to get one decision from a player this week and it came today as James Young announced he would be entering the NBA Draft. This is probably the least surprising decision of anyone making the call this year, in large part because of James himself. While Young is a great kid and has the potential to be a very good NBA player, school just wasn’t something he particularly loved. Those around the program knew that Young was unlikely to stay more than one year, not because he didn’t love Kentucky or being a Cat, but because he wasn’t interested in being in school for any longer than necessary. While that makes some people frustrated, I have no problem with kids pursuing whatever the dream is, even if it doesn’t involve Sociology 101.
Kentucky will miss Young, but I actually think he will showcase more of his skills in the NBA than in college IF he is willing to work (and this is a big if). Young may have the best offensive game of anyone on the team. He can shoot relatively well but is explosive off the dribble and can finish well at the rim. I don’t think we saw nearly as much of his ability in this area as he has, in large part because it just wasn’t what this team needed and they already had two other players in the Twins who were driving more often. Young is not a great defender (although he could be if he works) and is a terrible passer (and I dont know if that will get much better). But he does have the potential to get buckets in the league in bulk IF he puts in the work. All I worry about for James is that he showcases he loves basketball and that he is willing to be like Brandon Knight, MKG and others and put in the hours to get better. If he does, I think he will be a starter/6th man in the league. If he doesn’t then he could bounce around and not be effective. It is up to him. Either way however, I think this is the right decision for James and the NBA game will suit his set of skills well.
WAITING ON THE HARRISONS
While Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress are still left to make a decision, nearly all the focus from fans has been on the Harrison Twins. Part of that is because they seem like the biggest unknown, but part is because of the realization that their decision is the most important. Because Kentucky’s roster makeup is now so big-heavy (especially with the Willie Cauley-Stein decision), the Twins could hold the keys to the potential for a very big season. A UK backcourt without them only has three guards on the entire roster (Ulis, Booker and Hawkins). With them however, you go five deep and potentially have a 12 player bench that is quite formidable. I would argue getting the two of them back would be even bigger than the pipe dream of getting Randle back. They can improve by leaps and bounds and if they do, the team has amazing potential. Chad Ford of ESPN today said that the Twins are now leaning towards returning (he said they were leaving 36 hours ago) and that they would make a decision Tuesday or Wednesday. As I have said all along, I believe no one when it comes to Twins “scoop” because I think those that are talking about what they are going to do, aren’t part of the decision making process. If you made me guess, I would guess they return, but that (along with all the other opinions you see out there) is just a guess. But man…if they come back…whoa…
UK’S SUMMER PLANS
This will actually be an action-packed summer around UK’s basketball world. Calipari has another couple of weeks of promoting his book and then he is having hip replacement surgery on May 2. That will probably keep him out of activities for about a month and thus this could be one of the quieter Mays that we have ever had. But then recruiting will be huge this summer with the possibility of the 2015 class being the first that could end up with a two year rule by the NBA. If that happens, 2015 guys are even more valuable and the recruiting done this summer by Calipari, Kenny Payne and the new assistant (presumably Slice Rohrssen) is of tremendous importance. Kentucky will also get a summer trip and regardless of where it is, it will likely be timed somewhere in mid August. That will give the Cats a few weeks or practice before the trip and then 3-4 games on the trip. This new team gets all of that time to work out together and it will be a huge step towards creating team chemistry early on. We saw how important that was this year when the Twins and James Young were not able to get here early, and thus this is a very positive step. We have been used to summer offseasons with little news in the last couple of years…you may get a slight break in May, but after that, this summer will be action packed.
That is all for now…we hit the radio thing again in the morning and then head for a weekend of rest before the decisions of next week. Cross your fingers as I do feel good about where we are headed…
The UK backcourt of the future
John Calipari told the media today an interesting anecdote that tells volumes about the players coming into UK next season. He said that the incoming Freshman have been calling the current players asking them to stay. Calipari used it as an example of their “team first” attitude and while he didn’t specify which players were making the calls, the fact that any are doing so says a lot.
This group coming in is very different than any we have seen at Kentucky. They aren’t the freak athletes we often see, but they are all very skilled and great team players. With Tyler Ulis telling KSTV that he hopes Andrew Harrison returns, Karl Towns saying the same about Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles hoping that he can play with Alex Poythress, we have the potential to see something special in Lexington next season.
Former Northern Kentucky University Athletic Director Scott Eaton seemed to be on quite the roll. Under his leadership, NKU made the transition into Division I and the school has risen dramatically in prestige in the athletic community. But things have fallen apart. He was fired last year from the University for “inappropriate relationships” with employees and a student and now the hammer has hit again. Eaton has admitted to stealing over $311,000 from the University over the course of six years. His method of stealing was to use the NKU credit card, charge various items and then keep the proceeds for himself. The largest use was to buy over $262,000 in Kroger gift cards, all of which he spent on himself. He was caught after an audit of his practices following his dismissal from the University and now he faces the possibility of criminal charges.
Not exactly the type of ending to Eaton’s career he had to have imagined. But the question for me…how did he spend $262,000 in Kroger gift cards? I know its six years, but that seems like a lot of groceries, especially since they were gift cards to the store itself. My man likes to eat…
UPDATE: Just tonight, Eaton accepted a plea deal of ten years in state prison. In this case, it did not pay to go Krogering…
John Calipari is a baller. At this point, there is nothing else left to be said about him. During his book tour across America, we have seen him in an amazing number of locations. But today may have topped them all. He began the morning on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe”, made his way to something called “Squawk Box” on CNBC, had lunch with former President Bill Clinton, took a jet with Tucker Max to Charlotte for the Bobcats and Bulls, and while there ran into Michael Jordan. Tucker tweeted me and said the two talked about the “One and Done” Rule and Jordan said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would be pushing hard this summer to get the rule changed to two years. Now I ask you…seeing all that, how does your day compare? I thought my day of doing a remote at Sleep Outfitters, eating lunch with Ryan Lemond at “Smokey Bones”, having a meeting about the KSR Summer Tour at the radio station, organizing my office, eating sushi from “Whole Foods”, watching the WWE Network and cackling on the phone with Bomani Jones for a hour was action-packed…but Calipari puts me to shame again. We really do have the perfect coach for Kentucky here and we probably won’t ever find one better.
With that in mind, three big stories for the day that we need to focus upon:
JALEN WHITLOW TRANSFERS:
It takes a pretty big piece of football news to knock the basketball decisions off of the headlines, but today that decision happened as last year’s starting Quarterback Jalen Whitlow announced he would be transferring. It came as a little bit of a shock, as just last Thursday, Mark Stoops was on KSR Radio and said that if the games started today, Whitlow would be the starter. But a week later, Jalen was told that his future might be best served at another position and he decided it was time to make a move. I spoke today with a source close to the program who helped me process the decision a little bit. He told me that Whitlow’s passing hadn’t improved at a strong enough level to really justify leaving him at the position. The other quarterbacks in the system had taken heavy strides and the staff felt good enough with the position depth to make the move. UK wanted Whitlow around and thought he could be a valuable receiver/Wildcat QB for them as they love him as a player and as a person. But, in the end, the Neal Brown offense needs an efficient passer and my source says the belief was that Whitlow, even though he knew the offense the best and had more dimensions to his game, simply had not made enough strides in that area.
I hate to see Jalen go as I think he would have been a valuable member of the team next year and on a team that needs great athletes, he could have been used. But I also understand why he wants to play Quarterback and how with that in mind, a transfer makes sense. I do not believe UK’s struggles last season were because of Whitlow, as he was just the most obvious face of a team with a lot of holes. But, without better passing ability, a change makes sense. This should make UK fans feel good about the improvement of the guys on the roster, as with this move, the Towles/Barker/Phillips Air Raid era has officially begun.
DRAFT DECISIONS LINGER
KSR is happy that the draft decisions are taking a long time to be made by the six players left on UK’s roster who are up in the air. The traffic on this site has been insane as fans wait breathlessly to find out who is back. However, as a fan the wait is brutal. I am hearing that we will probably find out about one player this week, but the rest will probably go into next week, meaning we will have more time before the April 27th deadline to wait. Nothing has changed on my end…I still think Randle/Young will leave…I still believe that Alex will stay (although I do think there is some pressure from people around him to go)…I think Dakari is torn but will probably (but not certainly) end up back…and I have no clue on the Harrison Twins. I continue to read people who say the Twins are leaning this way or that, but I still give absolutely no stock to it. This is a quiet twosome who isnt talking to anyone locally and I am of the opinion that the folks around UK still don’t know what the decision will be. The speculation is just that, and at least half will end up looking right as it is a yes/no decision. If the Twins leave, I do expect Kentucky to take another perimeter player and my guess is that part of what will take place with new Assistant Coach Barry Rohrrsen is to figure out where to go if that contingency occurs. So more time waiting…get comfortable.
RUPP ARENA FUNDING ISSUE
The Rupp Arena Renovation plan came to a grinding halt late Tuesday night when the Kentucky Senate did not pass the funding necessary for it to begin. There has been a lot of talk about the issue, and we still are left a bit up in the air as to where it stands. I am still surprised and disappointed that the Senate leadership did not approve the money, when they have approved similar money for Louisville’s arena in the past AND approved $60 million this year for the Louisville Convention Center. We have heard reasons from the Senate, but most have to do with “delay in getting documents,” but little on the substance of the issue. This morning on my radio show, I challenged all the major parties to the issue, the Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and Lexington Mayor Jim Grey, to come on my show TOGETHER and debate/talk out the issue. To my pleasant surprise, all today agreed to do it. For scheduling reasons, it won’t take place for a couple of weeks, but I do think at that time, we will know for sure what happened, how it can be fixed and fans can decide who is right and who is wrong. It will be the first time all of Frankfort’s “Big Three” leaders have been in one interview at the same time since they took office. We at KSR appreciate the fact that they would take our forum as the opportunity to make that happen and I do commend them for agreeing to do it.
With that, we are back at it tomorrow on radio and on here…the wait is long, but hopefully the results if these players return will be worth it…
Some big news for KSR Radio tonight as all the major parties to the Rupp Arena funding decision have agreed to come on KSR and debate the issue. Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and Lexington Mayor Jim Grey have all agreed to come on the show at the same time to discuss the Rupp Arena funding decision and where it goes from here. My goal in making this happen was to try to ensure that whatever the result, all parties were forced to be in the same room and they could answer each other’s questions/concerns on the issue without sidestepping. Now we will get it. I compliment all four men for agreeing to the exchange and I think it will be beneficial for fans/Kentuckians when it takes place.
Due to scheduling issues, the actual event will likely be the week of April 28th, but that gives Ryan Lemond plenty of time to get ready with all of his insightful thoughts.
pic by @Cole_worldd2
One of the great things about waiting for the UK players to make their draft decisions (well actually there are no “great” things about it) is that we get to go back to our obsessive selves where we read information into anything. The latest example is tonight where the Twins were spotted in the Orlando airport after taking a plane with the UL Baseball team to America’s favorite family destination. The young man in the pic above took a picture with each twin and tweeted this out and while no information is known (beyond Jody Demling saying they were on the same plane as UL baseball), we still can speculate and ask questions. Most importantly:
1. Why are they in Orlando? Is it a destination? Is it a layover between flights? Is Orlando a connection to Houston? Do you know America’s commercial flight schedule? If you do, how do you know it?
2. Why does this kid have on two different shirts? He clearly layered up, but why go one shirt with one and one with the other? Did he all of a sudden get cold (or warm)?
What will we do once these guys actually make their decision?
Photo by USA Today
Please make this happen…PLEASE! Jeff Goodman reports tonight that Richard Pitino is in the mix for the job with Tennessee and is in talks with the school. Pitino has only been at Minnesota for one year, won the NIT with Tubby’s players and now could be considered to come coach the Big Orange. The Vols apparently have a couple of other contenders (including former Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall), but they like Little Ricky and are considering bringing him in.
All I can say (repeatedly) is PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN…Richard looks like he could be a good coach, but considering all the comedy that a second Pitino at a UK rival could bring, KSR is willing to even chip in money to make this happen. Plus, how much fun would it be to see Calipari beat up regularly on another Pitino as we watch the sour faces of a family that simply cant defeat their arch nemesis.
Let me start the chant…”RICKY TO ROCKY TOP, RICKY TO ROCKY TOP!”
I spent a good portion of tonight watching the ESPN “30 for 30″ on the English football disaster that occurred in 1989 entitled “Hillsborough.” For those of you that don’t know the story, at a FA Cup Semifinal game (the major tournament that is part of the English football season), 96 Liverpool fans were killed after being crushed in the stands during an overcrowding situation. The scenes and video from the disaster are haunting and the documentary describing the events is one of the more heartbreaking things I have ever seen. I can remember as a kid seeing a picture of the scene in Sports Illustrated that showcased people being crushed against the metal fences, and the image haunted me for a very long time. After watching the documentary tonight, it will be in my mind once again. After telling the story of the events, the documentary also features a good deal on the coverup perpetrated by the police and authorities in England to try to blame the fans for errors that were caused by those in charge. Now even 25 years after the events, there are FINALLY open investigations taking place about what happened and justice may come for the 96 fans that passed away on that day. If you get a chance, make sure and watch the documentary on ESPN (it replays Sunday at 10 pm) or read more about the story here.
With that, some notes on the stories of the day:
Players Making Their Draft Decisions:
The NCAA deadline came and went today and as expected, no UK players announced their decisions. The real deadline is the one imposed by the NBA and that is April 27, giving all players 12 more days to decide their futures. Rumors began to spread today that the Harrison Twins could be close to announcing a return, likely fueled by speculation from a couple of UK reporters suggesting that good news was on the way. While I think it is perfectly possible that the Twins could return, I also think that all opinions on this subject are complete guesses. There are people “around” the Twins who are talking about the decision but I firmly believe that those folks are speaking with little knowledge. I was told by Mr Harrison at the Final Four that the decision would be made by his family and his family alone and there would be no leaks. I believe that and I don’t think the folks around UK know what the twosome are going to do either. Any guess by me would be just that…a guess and I think all speculation is exactly the same. Hopefully we will find out soon, although it could come at any time.
As for the rest of the players, I still believe we will hear a decision on Randle and Young this week and I expect both to enter the Draft. If either were to reach a different decision, I would be shocked. Alex Poythress has been the subject of some speculation today, but I still believe he returns to Lexington, where he is happy. That leaves Dakari Johnson, who is a true wildcard. One week ago, I think he was assured to come back to UK for another year, but at this point I am not sure. I still think smart money is on a return but he is definitely now actively considering leaving, something that didn’t seem possible just a week or so ago. These are anxious days for UK fans, but Willie returning does make everything a little brighter.
Calipari Continues to be Everywhere
At this point, I would be shocked if John Calipari does not end up on “Duck Dynasty” or “Party Down South” over the course of the next week or so. Calipari has been everywhere and is doing a great job at all his appearances. He will show up bright and early tomorrow on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and then will find his way next week to “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central (which has the potential to be epic. He continues to harp on the same themes about institutional change to the NCAA and there is no doubt that this is his focus throughout his travels. I am currently reading his book “Players First” (which is actually really interesting) and will be doing an event with him in Louisville on April 24th that I think you should check out. One of the things we have learned over the last couple of days is that Calipari is the master of the media and his appearances this week continue the theme of sports world domination that he is undertaking.
For what its worth, I am hearing that the Yahoo report of a UK basketball trip to Spain is not correct. The Cats are going to take a summer trip in August and my assumption is that it will be somewhere that isn’t Windsor, Canada. But I am hearing that it is much more likely to be a place like the Bahamas, or the like, rather than to Europe. Either way, save some time on your schedule for August basketball.
AT the time of this writing (a bit before 11), we are still waiting to hear what will happen to the Rupp Arena funding. The legislators have until midnight to make it happen and the Republicans in the Senate are still the ones holding up the process. We will know what they do by the morning and will deal with it then. If they don’t pass the money, after the University and city of Lexington made a number of the changes requested by them and after giving similar money not only to the Yum Center but to the Louisville Convention Center in this session…well somebody has some explaining to do.
Big day tomorrow…we are doing KSR Radio LIVE from Sleep Outfitters on 2105 Hurstborne Parkway in Louisville and giving away a trip to Las Vegas, Miami or another destination of your choice. If you don’t come, that is on you. So see you there…
For those of you that don’t know, I occasionally (not as often as I would like) do a podcast on the side about college basketball called “The Walk Ons.” My co-host is Ben Swain (a Duke fan) and we talk about whatever is going on in college basketball. Today’s episode is one you might want to catch as we talk a ton about Calipari and the Final Four experience, including some backstage stories from my trip to Dallas. It is entertaining for hopefully everyone, but I am certain it will be enjoyed by UK fans. So take a listen at the link below or subscribe below on iTunes. I promise you will be entertained or your money back:
Forgive me if I am a little rusty, but with Drew on vacation, I will be handling the night post this week, a task I haven’t had consistently in a couple of weeks. Luckily for me this is a busy time with much to talk about, and hopefully this will be like riding a bicycle and I can ease back into the flow. We start tonight with a dedication to the decision by Willie Cauley-Stein to return to Kentucky for his Junior season. This is probably one of the two biggest “returns” of a Calipari-recruited player (along with Terrence Jones) of the last five seasons and for many, is completely unexpected. All season long, Willie was presumed to be headed to the league and everyone around the program had long thought that two years of WCS would be all we would be lucky enough to get. But then things began to change in March. Willie started talking to friends/teammates about a return and after his injury the decision was made. We first got wind this was a real possibility last week and Ryan Lemond heard it was the proverbial “done deal” this weekend. Still I couldn’t help but be skeptical because what Willie did is unusual…he returned to school while potentially being a lottery pick. That takes a lot of guts and I applaud Willie for making the call.
Still, the decision does make sense for two reasons. First, there is an argument that Willie Cauley-Stein wasn’t the high pick lock that some presumed. A source tells KSR that Willie had surgery in the last couple of days and he would have been unable to workout during the draft process. This would have really hindered Willie’s likely draft status because he is the type of player who would be a workout warrior. NBA folks love guys like Willie…long, athletic and quick makes scouts drool and much of Willie’s projection was based on these qualities. If he was unable to show them, that could be a problem. Thus a return gives him a chance to put his best foot forward with another season of development and a chance to have all his best traits on display.
But the other reason Willie’s return makes sense is a fact intrinsic to him. Willie Cauley-Stein is just a different guy, to whom basketball is a part but not the whole of his life. Here is a secret about nearly every big-time college basketball player who is looking at the Draft…their life is basketball. One of my favorite questions to ask players when they arrive on campus is what they would do if they weren’t basketball players…for many the question has never even entered their minds. These guys grow up wanting to play basketball and most of their free time is based on basketball activities. Not Willie. WCS is a kid with a lot of interests in a lot of areas and a free spirit prone to search for the happiness of the moment he is in. After the national championship game, he talked to reporters about the allure of the NBA but then noted that if you are happy doing what you are doing now, why rush to something else? That is a great insight (not just about the NBA but everything in life) and one that few players truly carry. Willie is happy being a college student and being in school…a fact that is even more amazing considering he sort of hated school when he arrived. This has become a place where he is happy, has varied interests and has many friends of diverse backgrounds. In Willie’s mind, why change that if he doesn’t have to?
There will be a huge effect on the Kentucky team due to Willie’s decision to return. Kentucky is now loaded in the front court and he adds a huge dose of athleticism to a class that isnt quite as explosive athletically as in previous years. But it is also a testament to a kid who just does things differently…something I always like. Coloring books for everyone, Willie is back
A few more quick notes:
— Don’t forget about Marcus Lee: The first “announcement” today came from Marcus Lee, whose brother told Adam Zagoria that he would be returning to Kentucky. The idea of Lee considering the draft was mocked by some, but honestly it should not have been. Lee would have gone in the top 40 in the draft thanks to his potential and his length makes his NBA future very promising. He will now be part of a very crowded frontcourt (even more so if Dakari returns as well) but I expect him to improve a great deal this summer. Marcus is a great kid and one of my favorite guys on the team, With him and the other potential returnees back in Lexington, practices next season are going to be absolutely stacked.
— Calipari was Everywhere: John Calipari spoke to a ton of different interviewees today, ranging from Dan Patrick to CBS This Morning to Jim Rome to Bill O’Reilly to of course KSR. He revealed the “tweak” (Andrew passed it more), he gave his notion of how many players he thought would head to the Draft (less than five) and he gave a timeline for his new coach hire (a week or so). There were lots of little tidbits over the course of the day, but to be honest, the one that stuck out to me had to do with his future here in Lexington. He was asked about Rex Chapman’s tweet at the Final Game and after saying “who?”, he noted that it was not true. But he did once again tie his future at Kentucky to the NBA collective bargaining rules about the Draft. On KSR he noted that if the rule got changed to two years (which he believes will happen), “I will probably finish my career here and stay a long time.” But he also suggested that if it stays one year, he might not be able to endure the constant grind of building a new team every year. This summer could be the huge time for the two year decision as the NBA and the Players meet about the issue that was tabled last summer. We all have thought that Kentucky basketball would be better off if the rule changed, but now we know that Calipari’s future may be tied to it as well. That is a lot riding on a decision that will be made by those with no tie to college basketball. But a rejuvenated Calipari with two years worth of top talent? That could be special…
Big Day for Rupp Arena: The news is better for the Rupp Arena renovation, but still not completed. Today will be the day we find out whether the State Senate falls in line and supports the plan for money for a Rupp Arena renovation. The plan has been altered slightly and lawmakers spent today in meetings trying to hash out a grand bargain. IT must be done by today however or the Rupp project could fall by the wayside, with major negative consequences for the historic facility. It is a story worth following on Tuesday and we will let you know what happens.
— UK Football Loses One: There was some bad news in the world of UK sports as four star DB Montrell Custis changed his commitment from Kentucky to Alabama. Custis fell in love with the UK football staff when he visited and was a huge early commitment. But Alabama came calling and that is a tough school for a high school player of his talent to turn down. Alabama is big boy recruiting and it says something that UK has been able to go against them on a few players the last two years…but it is a tough battle to win and Kentucky today lost one of the potential crown jewels of the 2015 class in the process to Saban and the Tide.
Calipari is doing the ESPN Car Wash today, which means he will be on virtually every ESPN show today (except Colin Cowherd, who criticized Calipari loudly today and now finds himself not on the schedule). We will let you know any news that comes out of those appearances. Until then, celebrate as Willie is back and Kentucky basketball looks to be a happy time again next year:
Would you like to go to Indiana’s Journalism School? Well you should at least think about it…while we at KSR showcase that you can have a successful career in journalism with no training, little skill and many grammar errors, there is still something to be said for a journalism degree (it ranks with Philosophy degrees in terms of marketability). Indiana is one of the better Journalism schools in this great land of ours and thus they are promoting their status to the world. But how do they do it? Well not with pictures of Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford popcorn boxes or the player allegedly known as “Big Handsome.” No, Indiana wants you to go to their school by letting you know that you MIGHT get to interview John Wall. Yes, if one attends Indiana’s Journalism School a life of excitement awaits as you hope beyond hope that Kentucky will reignite their series with the Hoosiers and you may be in the presence of UK greatness.
If Indiana didn’t exist to continuously make us laugh, then we would probably have to create them…
The first weekend without college sports since August was a little bit sad for me. While most of this UK basketball season was a bit of a grind, the last month was one of the more special rides in the history of the program. The way this team completely reinvented itself, came together and shocked the college basketball world was something to behold. They produced four of the best postseason games this program has ever seen and they all occurred in succession, each a little bit more exciting than the last. Had Kentucky finished the job, it would probably have been the greatest run in the history of this program, and even as is, it is one that we will always remember. This 2014 Kentucky team will join the 1966 Rupp’s Runts as one of the most beloved to ever come so close and there is no doubt that this group will have a special place in all fans’ hearts.
But now after the joy of the season comes business time. The players spent most of this weekend thinking about their futures and talking about the Draft with their families. Randle, Young and Willie headed home while Poythress, the Twins and Dakari were in town, but all spent time with their families as they tried to figure out what their future holds for next season. Seven players legitimately have a chance to go to the NBA and all seven have considered it. A few days ago I updated where I thought the decisions for each of the players stood and after a few more days, it is worth an update. I expect the first couple of decisions to trickle out in the next 48 hours or so, and the last ones may go all the way to the NBA deadline of April 26. But we will know more very soon, so it is worth noting where we are before a big week for the future of the program. With that in mind, a couple of before we get going:
1. This look is based on my conversations with people close to the program, a couple of folks I know around the NBA and in two cases, people close to the players. I have gotten conflicting information in a couple of cases and have gone with the ones I think are most trustworthy.
2. It is subject to change because…well they are kids subject to change their mind.
So with that, the players:
Gone and likely to announce very soon. Randle is situated to be a top 5 pick and will compete with Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Dante Exum for one of the top spots. Randle actually has taken the information gathering process seriously and unlike a couple of the other “can’t miss” guys of recent years, I do think he considered the possibility of returning. But everyone agrees that his time is now and there is very little upside for Julius in a second year. I can’t imagine he comes back and I think we find out very soon.
All year I was under the impression that Young was certainly headed to the Draft, no questions asked. I still think he is headed to the Draft, but I am told by a couple of folks that he has strongly considered the possibility of a second year. For Young however, the dream has always been about the NBA and he will likely go in the lottery thanks to his amazing athleticism (one of my NBA people told me that his dunk in the UCONN game was maybe the most important moment of the Final Four in terms of how it was perceived by NBA team scouts). While I don’t consider him the mortal lock that I do Randle, I would still be shocked if he doesn’t enter the Draft, probably this week.
Almost certain to return. Alex looked at where he would go in the Draft and gathered the information and from what I am told, he is almost certain to return. If you remember at this time last week, I had two people in my “lock” category (Randle and Young) and I feel fairly comfortable now to put Alex there as well. I think he will be a key member of the team next year and is on pace to graduate in three years, making his return the correct decision.
The shock of this entire process to me has been Willie. All season long, I heard from everyone around the team and Willie that he would enter the Draft after the season. But now I am hearing that he is not only considering returning, I have people saying that he likely will return. That is amazing to me. But the two people telling me are people I trust and so for now, I am operating under the assumption that he is in the “Lean Return” status. Apparently Willie was torn up about his injury and not being able to finish the job with the team and legitimately loves the life he has as a college student in Lexington. He also understands that because of his injury, he can’t work out during the draft process and that will have an impact on his NBA Draft status. As one person close to the process told me, “not working out caused the certain #1 pick (Nerlens) to drop to #6, the result for Willie could be much worse.”) If he returns and plays well, he could be a guaranteed lottery guy next year in a weak draft. Plus his athleticism is something next year’s team could desperately use and would make for a huge, unexpected addition. I freely admit that I will be skeptical until the day he makes his decision, as I have assumed in in the Draft since before the year began. But at the same time, all the info is going in the direction of a return and so I can’t help but follow along.
Dakari is the opposite of Willie in terms of the fact that I believed he was certain to return all year and now I am not sure. Johnson is taking the process very seriously and is being told that he would be a late first round draft choice. Now it is just up to Dakari to decide if he wants to settle for that placement or come back and have a chance to play himself into the lottery. If I were a betting man, I would still place money on Dakari being back at UK, but I am not confident in that selection and it will be interesting to see if a return by Willie would have any effect. If they both come back, UK’s front court next year is officially crazy scary.
The most talked about of the draft prospects are also the most mysterious. As I have said over and over, people who say they know what the Twins are doing simply do not. I can tell you with some confidence that even those close to the Twins don’t know and they laugh at the stories of “they are gone” or “they are returning” that are out there right now. Their situation is like Dakari’s in that both stand to improve their games and stock by returning. But both thought of themselves as guys who would only play for one year and now they have to decide if they are ok with the second. I pay almost no credibility to the Chad Ford report today that scouts say the Twins believe they weren’t “showcased” correctly by Calipari…they were probably the two who Calipari had the least problems with all season. I just think they are torn and trying to make the best decision possible. I am asked all the time if they will return and UK definitely could use them…without them, they really only have three guards on the team next season (Ulis, Booker and Hawkins), so it will be thin without them. But any guess on their future is just a guess…to me they are a toss-up and we just cross our fingers and hope they make the best decision for UK, which I also think would be the best decision for them…one more year in Lexington.
Thats how I see it standing now. John Calipari does a media tour tomorrow in which he will get asked a lot about their futures and I would expect in the next 48 hours, we will get at least one and maybe many more decisions announced. Seven kids and all different levels of potential in terms of entering the Draft…should be an exciting week.
Yahoo.com has a feature on Karl Towns that is worth reading and is a nice way to spend your Sunday night. But in the feature, a little bit of news MAY have been mixed in. The article says Towns is trying to decide whether to play this summer for the Dominican Republic in Spain in the World Cup or go on a summer tour with UK in Spain. That suggests that UK would be playing its summer tour in Spain As you may know, the NCAA allows college basketball teams to take summer tours once every four years and it also gives teams a month of summer practice. This is Kentucky’s year. So Yahoo seems to suggest that the trip is to Spain.
I must say however that I have heard a different location, much closer to the United States (think island). So this is the first I have heard of Europe (which was discussed as a possibility early on but I had heard had been dismissed). It may be that Yahoo simply said Spain twice (since that is where the World Cup is) and made a mistake. Or maybe the trip is different than what I have heard. Either way, an interesting tidbit and an exciting summer.
After the excitement of the past three weeks, it was odd today to have a relatively normal day without any major news or electricity. While we all try to come down from the amazing high this team put us on, it is now draft decision time for these guys, as they try to figure out their NBA Futures. The players must make a decision by April 27, a deadline that gives them the time to gather information and make an informed decision. Unlike in past years, I expect that you may hear decisions drift out over the next couple of weeks as there is unlikely to be a unanimous decision by this group of seven as to their futures. I spent some of today on the telephone making calls and putting together my best stance as to where things are AT THIS MOMENT in the process for all of these guys. It is important to remember that it is still very early and everything may change. But I am confident that at this moment, here is where we are for each of the seven potential NBA Draft declarations.
All of the players spent today talking to John Calipari and collecting information about where they would stand in the draft process. As with everything, the information is surely varied and because of the run to the Final Four, for many of these guys this was the first time they have heard where they stand. I would suspect most will spend this weekend with their families talking about their futures and I would guess we will start to hear some news next week. For now, here is the rundown on each player:
JULIUS RANDLE: Almost assuredly gone. While the Jeff Goodman report today may have been premature, in the end I don’t suspect it will be wrong. Randle will be a top five pick and no one expects him to return and play for Kentucky. He is at that spot in the draft where he is so highly rated that my guess is Calipari would tell him he needs to go, even if he was considering a return. I can’t imagine a scenario where he ends up here for a second year.
JAMES YOUNG: Almost assuredly gone as well. Not quite the lock to enter the draft that Randle is, but very close. James will see himself go probably somewhere in the late lottery and he is a kid who wants to be in the NBA. Like with Randle, the working expectation in Lexington is that he will enter the Draft.
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: Probably the biggest news I found out today that surprised me a bit is that Willie is heavily considering returning to Kentucky. The scope of injury is enough that he probably won’t be able to work out during the Draft process and unlike with Nerlens Noel last year, that will hinder Willie. He will be unable to fix any concerns about his health and this could cause a drop in stock of some major degree. Plus, Willie likes being at Kentucky and enjoys his time in college, and isn’t in quite the rush that others are to get the NBA money. Most had assumed a couple of weeks ago that he was all but assured to enter the Draft, but apparently the last couple of weeks have raised some doubt in Willie’s mind and there is now a belief that me might decide to come back for his Junior year. I still think he will likely declare for the NBA, but now I think it is a very close call for Willie and he could be the surprise return that no one saw coming.
DAKARI JOHNSON: If Willie is the player that was almost certain to leave who is now having second thoughts, Dakari is the exact opposite. Before the Tournament, he was all but assured to come back to Lexington and nearly everyone was operating under the assumption that a second year was coming (one in which I think he will be dominant. But like Willie, Dakari is now having second thoughts, except in his case to look at the league. He is gathering information about his status, a decision that makes sense because…well what is the downside? He probably would find himself going at the end of the first round (at least this is what two NBA guys told me today), but most everyone thinks he would be better off coming back and being a force next year (and maybe a top ten pick). I still think he returns to Kentucky, but I do think the NBA is on the table now, whereas it was not just a couple of weeks ago.
HARRISON TWINS: The mystery of the process right now. I could see either decision for these two and I do think right now it is 50/50. I am told that Andrew is projected towards the end of the first round and Aaron the beginning of the second, so from a draft stock standpoint, it would seem returning is the play. But the Twins are their own guys and I think they and their dad will keep the decision very close to the vest. At various times, my opinion on their future has drifted back and forth…right now I am in the very so slightly “return” camp, but ask me tomorrow and I may change my mind again. The best thing UK has going for it is that they love playing (and being) together and they may want to do it for one more year. Their experience is much better at UK after this run (and the fan adoration that was shown) than it was during the early part of the year. No decision would surprise me with these two, and as one person told me about them, “these guys tell no one anything…anybody who guesses between now and the time they decide will be doing just that…guessing.”
Alex is also gathering information on the draft and some think that his Tournament performance got him back on the minds of NBA teams. I am told that of all seven, he is the most likely to return but that it isn’t assured and the decision will probably be made over the next week. Poythress is scheduled to graduate next year (which is a plus for those who want to see him return) and if he has a big year, especially with no Julius Randle in front of him as a similar player, he could blossom and rise on boards. The smart money is on a Poythress return, but I wouldn’t put it yet at 100%
So there you have it…I assume Randle/Young are gone, think it very likely Poythress returns and the other four are somewhat of a mystery. If you made me pick, I would say Willie to the NBA and Dakari back to Kentucky…and I don’t even have an educated guess on the Twins, who will be a mystery. This will probably change a number of times as we go over the next two weeks and as it does, we will let you know what we here.
If somehow they get five guys back besides Randle and Young…well that would be quite fun wouldn’t it?
You have two chances to win Final Four tickets tomorrow from GuyontheCornerTickets.com and KSR. If you live in the city of Louisville, we will be doing KSR live at Oxmoor Ford and then will be at Charlie Wilson’s Appliance during Terry Meiners’ Show. At both places, we will have Final Four tickets to give to someone in the audience. Here is all you have to do:
Oxmoor Ford 10-noon for KSR Radio: Come watch the show (next to Oxmoor Mall) and we draw at the end of the show (must be present to win).
Charlie Wilson’s Appliance: Come register from 4-6 pm, we draw at 6 and you need NOT be present to win.
Two sets of tickets and you can win. Why not try?
And until then, check out the link below when Jim Nantz came and sat with us for 15 minutes on the KSR Pregame show for the Michigan game…very cool stuff and Nantz was unbelievably gracious and interesting. Worth your time: