By Matt Jones on ©November 03rd, 2015 @ 12:59pm
Like you, I have watched a lot of basketball in my life. And like you, I have seen a lot of plays that I was certain were travels, but yet were ignored by officials. However last night, the Thunder’s DJ Augustin gave us the most blatant no-call walk in the history of basketball. I challenge you to watch this video and not shake your head in shock as Augustin takes one dribble from half court and makes a layup. Notice that the whistle blown is not for a travel, but rather for goaltending, which the officials did see. Put this one in your brain, you may never see a no-call six step travel again in your lifetime.
By Drew Franklin on ©November 02nd, 2015 @ 9:52pm
Turn your radios and your radio streaming devices to 630 WLAP in Lexington or 840 WHAS in Louisville to hear what Ryan Lemond and the KSR callers have to say about tonight’s game.
Or if you would like to be heard, give Ryan a call at 1-800-444-8484 or 502-571-8484.
Listen online here.
I enjoyed tonight’s UK televised practice/NBA Combine quite a bit. While watching, I jotted down a few thoughts about the festivities:
1. Skal Labissiere Has a Sweet Mid-Range Jumper:
Of all the players on this year’s Kentucky (with the exception of the two new walk-ons) the one that I have seen actually play basketball the least is Skal Labissiere. His athletic talent is obvious and one need only watch him play pickup for a few minutes to know that his basketball future is bright. However from a basketball skill set standpoint, I didn’t know a ton about what Skal could bring on Day One. While yes, it was just a practice, watching Skal shoot mid-range jumpers was quite the revelation. He elevates extremely well, has a high release point and his touch is astounding for someone that big. Whether he can do it in the flow of a game consistently remains to be seen, but he is as good at that shot…one he will get quite a bit in this offense if he wants it…as any of Calipari’s big men that I can remember at a similar point.
2. Tyler Ulis is Going to Be REALLY Good:
Last year Tyler Ulis was probably the most popular reserve in all of college basketball. The combination of his basketball IQ, never-back-down attitude, and small size made him unbelievably entertaining to watch and when those qualities hit their peak against Kentucky’s in-state rival, a fan favorite was born. But watching tonight just confirmed for me what I already knew, that this is Tyler Ulis’s team and his year. He was great in everything he did on the court and was able to score with ease in whatever game type was being played. Tyler said in an interview with Andy Katz said he was going to be a leader by “leading vocally but also just making sure we can get wins.” I have a feeling he will do that very well.
3. The ESPN U Broadcast Was Much Better:
I have been to a good number of Calipari practices over the last few years and this was as close to an actual practice as I can imagine UK allowing on television. Unlike last year, when they spent way too much time talking, interviewing and not focusing on action, the cameras spent the majority of time of time actually showcasing basketball. We got to see lots of drills, 3 on 3, 5 on 5 and inside the huddles with Calipari and the team. Throw in the fact that Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg and Doris Burke did a great job keeping the commentary entertaining and I thought this was a tremendous telecast produced by ESPNU.
4. We Learned a Little More About Skal’s Situation:
Andy Katz let us know that the NCAA situation with Skal is one that is about amateurism issues rather than academic issues. This is not something that has been public but has been known by those around the program. Listening to Greenberg and Jay Williams talking afterwards made it seem as if the issue is who paid for part of his high school education. I am not certain the issue but I do know that the folks around UK are not worried about it. They believe he will be cleared and will be able to play. It is a decidedly different feeling than what was around the program during the Enes Kanter situation, when everyone knew it was a tough issue. I think the assumption is now that Skal will be cleared and that the young man, who is an excellent student and a great kid, will get to showcase his talents this season in Lexington.
5. I Love the Ulis/Skal Chemistry
During the 3-on-3 part of the practice, the winning team was Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere and Charles Matthews. While Matthews played well, the revelation was the chemistry between Tyler Ulis and Skal. They already have produced an inside-outside chemistry that I think will continue to grow as the season goes on. They ran pick and roll a ton (in part because Humphries has a ways to go defending that in isolation) and the two of them made the correct decision time and again. With these two players both being so smooth and (along with Murray) two of the three most skilled on the team, I expect to see their one-two ability to be a key part of the way this group plays all season.
6. Isaac Humphries is Raw but Skilled
To be 17 years old and as skilled as Isaac Humphries is currently, is quite the situation. This is a kid who will get to play for the Cats this year in what is essentially a free season. He doesn’t turn 18 until January and he isn’t eligible for the NBA Draft due to age. So he can play, learn, practice against the best and compete however Calipari sees fit. And I do think he will find his time on the floor. He has a nice touch from the mid-range, has good low post moves and can rebound surprisingly well. Defense is going to be a real issue, especially early, as his lateral quickness leaves much to be desired. But his skill set is such that I think you will see him improve and give Kentucky the occasional boost during this “bonus” college year for him.
7. Lob City, Lob City
Athleticism…that is what stands out to me about this group. They all can leap and get up, making the lob a huge part of the offense. In 2012, lobs were the most devastating part of the UK offense. Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were all able to get easy baskets by heading directly to the rim where Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb did an effective job of getting them passes in the right spot. With Skal, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Charles Matthews and others showcasing that high-flying ability this year, I think you will see a similar emphasis on creating lob lanes, especially with the ability of Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and others to hit open jumpers, keeping defenders from being able to sag deep to stop it.
8. Isaiah Briscoe Shows No Fear
In 2008, I helped run the UK Barnstorming Tour with Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley and it was one of the most fun three week periods I have had in my life. There were many reasons for this ranging from getting to travel the state to me being completely overwhelmed. But probably the biggest reason was the people and I really grew to especially like Ramel Bradley quite a bit. His personality was infectious and his charming trash-talking ways made him a joy to be around. I see a lot of Ramel in Isaiah Briscoe. Like Ramel, Briscoe has no fear, believes he can score on anyone and loves to go to the basket. Plus, he likes to talk…telling everyone from players to coaches just what he is able to do. I always enjoyed watching Ramel do it in his day and I think Briscoe will play what Seth Greenberg calls “city ball” at a very high level here.
9. The Potential of this Group is Tremendous
There is no doubt that this group is nowhere close to where last year’s group was at a similar point last season. With the return of the Twins/Willie/Alex, etc, plus the trip to the Bahamas, the Kentucky team clicked from day one last season. That is not the case yet with this bunch. But one can easily see the makings of a great team. The guards are excellent and may be the best set of guards as a group that Calipari has had at UK. Ulis/Murray and Briscoe can give you a ton of looks and if they learn to play together, will be tough to stop. They still don’t have a lot of meat or toughness down low, but their athleticism is off the charts. They will take some lumps early. But I like this team over the long haul and think they will be right there in contention at the end.
10. UK is Still the Show
Only UK (and maybe Duke) could get this done tonight. Two hours of practice live on national television, with three announcers commentating…it is what makes Kentucky different. Kentucky is the show, no matter who is on the team. That is Calipari’s genius and why he is the perfect captain of the UK Battleship.
By Matt Jones on ©September 27th, 2015 @ 9:46pm
The saga of Daniel Orton continues to be troubled. This news today from Sportando.com, a site that follows European Basketball:
Per SDNA, AEK Athens have called Orton to apologize since they are very troubled with his behaviour. Orton,in the halftime of the game between AEK and the Skyliners,was laughing in the locker rooms. Sakota admonished him and when he left the locker rooms, Orton was out of control and started to smash things. Assistant coach Angelos Koronios tried to calm him down but Orton pushed him back. What is more,the 25-year-old center in the past, had missed unreasonably a training and had abandoned a team dinner.
I wish Daniel the best. Things haven’t gone well for him for quite some time.
By Matt Jones on ©September 22nd, 2015 @ 1:48pm
Sports fandom in the modern age is very interesting. On the one hand, fans have more ability to interact with each other and express their opinions about their favorite teams that at any time in the history of sports. Thanks to social media, message boards, comment sections, etc, fans who have virtually any opinion about their team cannot only give it out to the masses, they are likely to find others who share it and can legitimize its support. Thus there can be a fan chorus of thought that begins in the internet world and slowly becomes the talking point of discussion, regardless of whether or not it is acknowledged by the mainstream media. To put it another way, in today’s fan environment one doesn’t need a newspaper, tv station or radio show to tell them what the major story is after a game, the fans themselves can decide it.
Since Saturday night’s disappointing loss to Florida, this fan/media dichotomy has clearly existed in the UK world. While the media focuses on missed opportunities, poor line play, Wide receiver drops and play calling, in some of the minds of fans only one topic matters: the conversation begins and ends with the situation at Quarterback. Walking (or in my case running to beat the traffic) out of Commonwealth Stadium, I heard multiple people complaining about UK’s Quarterback play and discussing (or in one case arguing) about whether a change should be made. The Twitterverse after the game erupted with calls for Drew Barker to get snaps and my post game show had a number of opinions that essentially asked, “how much longer of a lease should Patrick Towles get?” Whether it is discussion #1 in media write-ups of the game or in the preparation for Missouri, amongst the fans, Towles vs Barker is the only issue.
I find this relatively disheartening. First and foremost, the Quarterback always gets too much blame whenever a team loses. Because fans naturally follow the ball, their eyes stay on the Quarterback through virtually the entire offensive half of the game and his mistakes are always magnified in a way those of others never will be. If an Offensive Lineman is beaten off the line of scrimmage, a Wide Receiver misses his block or a Running Back doesn’t hit the right hole, hardcore Football fans may easily notice (standing next to Jared Lorenzen on the sideline has been a lesson in how natural that becomes to a former high level player), but the average fan is likely to miss it on first glance. But even the most casual fan knows when a Quarterback makes a bad decision and thus for Armchair experts, his play will always be the most critiqued. There is no doubt on Saturday that Patrick Towles did not have his best game. He missed open receivers, held onto the ball too long and made a couple of bad decisions that were crippling. But it can’t be overlooked that he also dealt with an offensive line that was beaten (often badly) off the line of scrimmage, had key throws dropped in crucial moments and too often was left on an island by other teammates who were struggling. Had Patrick played better, Kentucky would have won…but there are others on the team who could have had the same statement said about them as well.
Mark Stoops reaction to this on Monday was understandable and reassuring. He said that after losing one game by one possession, now was not the time to make a change at Quarterback. He noted that Patrick made mistakes, but he also made some good plays and remains the leader of the team. This is a rational viewpoint and one that I expected him to have. However there is a strong percentage of the fan base that holds the opposite view. For them, the Florida game represents the final proof that backup Drew Barker should be given a chance. It is an oft-quoted expression that the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback. This is especially true when that backup is like Barker, a highly touted recruit with an exemplary high school career who has never showcased any of his weaknesses to the fan base on the college level. Whereas Kentucky fans are familiar with Patrick Towles, warts and all, Drew Barker is a clean slate, ready to come in and make no mistakes while leading the Cats to victory. Just as in 2013 when Jalen Whitlow struggled to lead a 2 win team and fans called my post game show every week to ask “Where is Towles?!?”, now the shoe is on the other foot and Towles is receiving the same questioning for a younger version of himself.
Fortunately for them, the “PLAY BARKER!” chorus doesn’t have to accept facts and reality yet. Theirs is a view clouded in the mystery of what Barker might be, rather than what he (or Patrick Towles) is. Unlike the coaches, staff, administration and players (all of whom see the Quarterbacks compete everyday), they are free to have their opinion stripped of that nuisance that can make arguments so much more difficult to maintain…facts. I am constantly amazed that fans don’t trust the judgment of the individuals who have the most incentive to play the best players, the coaches. Think about Mark Stoops for a second. His contract is set up where each victory pays him a substantial sum of money and each SEC victory over 2 is worth A LOT of money. So if he honestly believed that Drew Barker were the better option, don’t you think he would play him? A source close to the program told me yesterday, “look Patrick has to play better, but if Mark (Stoops) thought that Drew was the better option, he would be playing yesterday, regardless of his age or anything else.” This group WANTS TO WIN. It is their primary goal and when I have been around them, I am constantly amazed at how obsessed they are at making it happen. Their football judgment collectively is much better than mine and if they believe Towles is the best option (or if one day they believe Barker makes the most sense), I will trust their opinion over my own.
At this point, here is where I think the situation stands. Patrick will be the starter against Missouri but he needs to play well. The two-time defending SEC East Champion is vulnerable and the Cats are a favorite against a Top 25 team for the first time since 2007. For Kentucky to win however, Towles has to play well and if he does and UK gets the victory, the overall start puts Kentucky in a very good position. However if he plays poorly and the game goes South, causing two straight disappointing home losses, I think there is a good chance we might see a different situation for the EKU game. At that point, the coaches may believe that it is worth giving Barker some run, so as to see if they hope amongst many around the program (that he can be a “gamer” like Johnny Manziel, better under the bright lights than in practice) could be true. A bad Towles performance might lead to a situation where both play against Eastern and then the situation is reevaluated after. If the coaches go in this direction (and I think it is possible they could), that would make perfect sense to me.
But for now, Towles is the guy. No amount of fan grumbling or frustration will change that. He has talent and has the ability to play on a high enough level for UK to succeed. The UK coaches believe he puts the Cats in the best position to win Saturday and going forward…my hope is that the fans will give the coaches and Patrick the benefit of the doubt, and get behind that decision for the huge game Saturday against Missouri.
By Matt Jones on ©September 21st, 2015 @ 8:19pm
Hello KSR friends…I check in to deliver a couple of quick recruiting tidbits, one of which is not good and one of which is more positive. The first is concerning one of my favorite recruits in the 2016 class, Miles Bridges, who at one time was a near certainty to go to Kentucky. Over the past two weeks, he has visited Michigan State and Kentucky and now my confidence in his ending up a Cat has dissipated quite a bit. I am hearing that Bridges had a tremendous visit to Michigan State and they put on the full court press (including visiting with some former Spartans) for he and other top talents. His visit to Kentucky was this past weekend and while it went well, there is a growing feeling that the Spartans may have overtaken the Cats as the leader. Bridges is of course making his decision in two weeks and things can always change. But for a long time, I assumed Bridges (one of my 3-4 favorite players in the class) would end up a Cat. I no longer feel that is certain and after talking to some folks today, if forced to predict as of today, I would bet on Izzo getting the commitment (and finishing up maybe his best class ever).
In better news, I feel good about Kentucky’s chances with star Point Guard De’Aaron Fox. He is the best point guard in America and I think John Calipari has done a great job moving the Cats to the top of the list. It is still a dog fight to get his services, but I like Kentucky’s position much more than I did this summer.
If I were to predict now, I would say that UK’s most likely members of the 2016 class would be Fox, Malik Monk and Wenyen Gabriel (replacing Bridges). These three would join current commitment Sacha Killeya-Jones and likely another player or two in the rest of the class (maybe Bam Adebeyo?) There is still a lot of time for things to move, but for now this looks to me to be the most likely scenario.
By Matt Jones on ©September 09th, 2015 @ 10:30pm
This is a big weekend in UK land…the Cats play South Carolina on Saturday, are hosting the Calipari Fantasy Camp beginning Saturday, have the Alumni Game on Sunday and some big basketball recruiting visitors beginning on Friday. It is a great weekend to be a Cat. Thus KSR will be doing a LIVE SHOW on campus at the K-Lair on Friday from 10-noon. The show is sponsored by UK Federal Credit Union and will have me and Ryan doing our thing right in the middle of the campus. In addition, if you are a college student at UK or ANY OTHER Kentucky college, you can register while there to win an all-expense paid trip to see UK and Duke in Chicago in December. That trip includes tickets from GuyontheCorner.com and expenses paid by yours truly. So come see us on Friday, enjoy the show and win some tickets. A good time will be had by all…especially whoever wins.
Last night was quite a night in UK land as Commonwealth Stadium went from one of the best Pre-game atmospheres I have ever been a part of to the brink of utter disaster in a four hour period, finishing with a sign of relief and an important victory. Because I spent today with one of the very few “do nothing” days of the last few months (I went and saw “End of the Tour” which I would highly recommend if you like David Foster Wallace novels or movies that are dialogue-driven…if it is a no to either, you will hate it), my restlessness brought me to the computer tonight to summarize the evening. Rather than do it in a post (I will probably do that tomorrow), I thought I would do it with links to the coverage from the weekend on this site as there has been a lot and you may have missed it. So without further ado, the Kentucky-Louisiana-Lafayette game as told by KSR posts:
As we get ready for the start of UK Football season (and by the way, please get tickets if you don’t have them yet), a quick reminder of what I thought was the coolest moment of last season. One can’t quite describe just how loud Commonwealth was at this moment during the South Carolina game. The new uniforms, the night atmosphere, the upset in the air, made the place special and when the Special Teams began to dance…well the place was unreal. I hope we see similar moments during the three home games in September…I believe we will:
It is time to fight…about what you may ask? Well candy of course. Tomorrow on KSR, we will have the first ever KSR CANDY BRACKET. It will of course have 32 of your favorite candies, divided up into two sides…sugar and chocolate. The divisions aren’t perfect (Tootsie Rolls could be in either, but I put them in sugar), but it works fairly well. Here is the bracket and feel free to do your own Bracketology before the show
8. Dove Bar
5. Baby Ruth
6. 3 Musketeers
2. Hershey Bar
8. Almond Joy
5. Crunch Bar
3. Kit Kat
6. Heath Bar
2. Milky Way
7. Mr. Goodbar
8. Good And Plenty
4. Tootsie Rolls
5. Candy Corn
3. Jelly Belly
8. Pop Rocks
4. Gummi Bears
5. Junior Mints
3. Hot Tamales
6. Fun Dip
7. Blow Pop
Saturday might end up being a day that we all look back upon as a major moment in the history of the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky. In the midst of year three, a pivotal season for the future of the program, Saturday saw the worst and the best of UK Football practices and a roller coaster with potential far-reaching ramifications. Saturday started with what was supposed to be the final scrimmage before the beginning of the regular season and chance for the players to get kicked into gear before real play began. Much like the third preseason game in the NFL, the scrimmage 2 weeks before the season is the final time for the starters to showcase that they are ready for what is upcoming and to bring their “A” games. Needless to say, Kentucky didn’t. What followed was a practice that one onlooker told me was “the worst of the last two seasons.” Kentucky was out of sorts, made errors left and right and most significantly to Mark Stoops, showcased far too little effort for a team that was about to hit the big time. As one source told me, “it was the kind of performance that would get you massacred in the SEC.”
Stoops complained loudly about it at the press conference afterwards and most assumed he was trying to send a message to his players. And in fact, that was likely the goal. But then Stoops went back to his office, watched the tape of the proceedings and decided a media message wasn’t enough…they would have to hit the practice field again. And thus even though Saturday night was a scheduled night off for players and staff, Stoops called them all back. A second practice was to be held in the middle of the night, with fixing the lack of energy in the first the primary goal. Because of an event for incoming students at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky had to practice at their facility in near darkness. They went to the grass fields that were only lit by secondary lights far away and in a scene that one source told me was “just this side of total darkness”, UK practiced again…and things turned around.
Obviously I wasn’t in attendance, but virtually everyone who was that I spoke with said the same thing…the practice Saturday night was a special event for the UK Football team. Whether it was the energy, the embarrassment of the earlier poor play or the night atmosphere, players, coaches and staff all praised what followed as an example of football at its best. Multiple coaches said it was the most special practice of their coaching lives and players hit social media to talk at length about what occurred. One source told me, “Matt, if we could have played that next day, I would have taken us against anybody.” The excitement was universal and there is a real belief among those around the program that it could be the turning point the team needs going into the last two weeks of practice. This has been a good summer camp for UK Football and the coaches have been generally pleased about the progression. But everyone also believed that UK needed to get over that one final hump to be ready for the season…whether that was going to happen was up in the air, especially after Saturday’s scrimmage.
However now the vibe is different. Now there is a sense of belief all around the team, including those that are often less spirited that this team can take a positive step. It will be important to carry on over the last two weeks but optimism is higher right now within the UK team than at any point of the Stoops era. Can that all be the case of one amazing practice? Maybe not, but it was clearly a huge moment and one that we may look back on as being a crucial step towards an important season.
By Matt Jones on ©August 20th, 2015 @ 10:13pm
OK…I have seen dumb controversies…but this may be the dumbest. The Superintendent of the Science Hill Independent School District in Pulaski County is in trouble over the above photo, which he took to help his daughter win a contest for tickets to see the band “One Direction.” The contest from a local radio station was to see whose dad would act the craziest to help his kid win tickets and Rick Walker decided his plan of attack was to get in a bathtub with his shirt off and covered in “One Direction” gear…it is an odd strategy and ultimately it was ineffective (it didn’t win). But it seems harmless and looks to me like the caring act of a loving dad. However, as with everything in life now, someone got upset…in this case as parent at the school. WKYT reports in this story that one parent in particular, Erica Phillips, is very upset,
“I was just disgusted with it, really. There’s so many ways that picture can be taken and it doesn’t matter what the purpose was for the picture,” Phillips said. Phillips met WKYT with a small group of parents who didn’t want to be interviewed on camera. “You have an obligation to be a role model to our children.”
May I say something to you Erica Phillips? And I mean this in the nicest way possible…lighten the hell up. It’s a dad trying to act foolish to support his daughter. Unless there is something else here I don’t know, this seems like much ado about absolutely nothing. There is apparently a board meeting coming up to discuss the issue and Walker is having to apologize and defend himself, but I truly don’t get it. It’s bathtub people…
Seems like some parents at Science Hill Independent need a vacation.
I will start this post with a shout to the young lady in the picture above, Hayley Minogue, who is killing it on television in Hazard on WYMT. Hayley started here on KSR a few years back as one of our college writers and like a number of similar students over the years, has turned that experience into a job in sports, in her case as a tv reporter. As of now, KSR has seen over 15 of its writers move on to some job in sports (or a full time job here) and that may be one of my favorite parts of the history of this site. Many are, like Hayley, killing it in their new jobs and it makes me very proud to see all of their success.
And with that, here is the latest Behind the Scenes in UK Sports
— With football practice beginning, the #1 overall arching theme is optimism across the board from all around the program. To some extent that is normal but there is no doubt it is different this year. As we have said on here before, the coaching staff had no idea what a difficult job they were undertaking in their first year…after the initial few practices, they were shocked to see the level of fundamentals lacking with the team and they knew the climb was going to be very long. But now for the first time they feel their heads are above water and there is a sense from some that they can really make some noise this year. One person close to the team told me this weekend, “Matt, you never know with the record in this conference, but I think we can be A LOT BETTER (his emphasis not mine) this year than last…and fans will be able to see it.” That makes me very excited.
— When you ask the coaches where the biggest difference will be this season, the answer is the same, the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends will be markedly better. Between Jeff Badet, Garrett Johnson, Alexander Montgomery, Ryan Timmons, Dorian Baker, Blake Bone and others, the staff believes they have 7-8 guys who can play in the SEC ready to go right now. The key is going to be to have one or two develop into the stars and leaders of the group. The hope is that Badet and Garrett Johnson end up at the top of that list, but any one of them could emerge depending on how things go. But there is depth and real talent there for the first time since Cobb/Matthews. At Tight End, two players CJ Conrad and Darryl Long (I called him Ronnie Shields on the radio today showcasing again that I am an idiot), are going to have an immediate and important impact. Freddie Maggard said today that the two of them are the best at the position since Jacob Tamme and one coach told me recently that the offense will look exponentially different than last year and a big reason for it will be that position. I expect big things from those guys and their role to increase as the season goes along.
— The Defense is a worry to some as their are still issues at various position. The staff feels good up the middle with Melvin Lewis, Josh Forrest and AJ Stamps, each bringing big time talent and work to their position. But the suspension of Jason Hatcher and injury to Kobie Walker highlights the real issues they have at the outside DE/LB positions and at Corner. UK is bunched up with some good players at the same position (They feel really good about Safety where they think they have big time Depth) but there is concern about the Defense on the edges and the hope is that guys step up in these first few weeks of practice.
— On recruiting, the optimism is high as the 2017 class is trending to be very special. IT is quite early and nothing will matter more than how they play this year. But with Mac Jones and the early Ohio commitments, there is the belief that 2017 can trend to be the best class of the Stoops era. As one person close to the team told me, “we have done this much and haven’t even won yet…if we win, watch out.” I believe that is true.
— Finally, all eyes are on Patrick Towles. The Quarterback has impressed everyone with his mechanics and arm strength, while he has also showcased a better ability making decisions. He will get the chance to throw the long ball and I am told he looks better doing that now than at any time at UK. The issue for him will be decision-making and confidence in key situations or in difficult moments. That was a problem last year and is something that coaches can work on all they want, but it may take game moments to see it in action. I get a sense of cautious optimism about Towles…everyone believes he has what it takes to have a big year. Now its up to him…and for what its work, the raves I am hearing on Drew Barker (whose first year was basically a disaster off the field and a disappointment until Spring practice on it) are quite impressive. People feel his future is really bright and his continued improvement is why Towles is still in a quarterback competition.
— The news isn’t as thorough on basketball but it is still out there. The pickup games are going and the star continues to be Tyler Ulis. Coaches are so pleased with is development as a leader on and off the court and there is a general consensus that this will be his team this year. While Skal and Jamal Murray may have more talent and Alex is a Senior, the leader will be Tyler and it may be a team with the strongest individual personality running the show since Brandon Knight. Ulis has befriended Isaiah Briscoe, ending a worry some had that the two alpha dogs might bump heads due to their nature and playing the same position. Instead they have become best friends and are relishing the opportunity to compete against each other every day in practice and play together in the games. Ulis is going to be special this year and everyone knows it.
— The new guys have generally all been better than coaches had hoped for. Skal Labissiere is taking some time to adjust to the college game and college work (in terms of effort) but people are happy with his progress. He will (like Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel) probably develop slowly during the season and will initially be a force on defense before offense. I am told his block shot timing is excellent and he can hold his own rebounding. He still needs work on his low post moves and when practice begins in full, expect lots of work with Skal and Kenny Payne. Mychal Mulder has been the most surprising player to enter at UK this year…he is simply better than anyone thought. He was always a good shooter but his athleticism has been a huge revelation. He has dunked on his teammates twice in pickup situations that have led to everyone stopping play to admire (and talk trash) and he is asserting himself more and more. I would not be shocked if he ended up starting. Folks are happy with Charles Matthews and he is where most believed, but I still think he is likely in a reserve role this year, with next year being more of his moment.
— The plan is still to have Isaac Humphries join the team this year if he ends up getting his academic summer work taken care of. He will be a big body and can be a good rebounder. He does however need to do work on his conditioning, etc and that will be something that will take place if he ends up coming. At this point, he is a go for Kentucky if the academic stuff happens…we should find out in the next two weeks.
— I was told by someone close to the program last week that the style UK will have to play this year will be very conducive to Marcus Lee and should play to his strengths. UK is going to have to play at a fast pace, and Lee will have less worries about having to create his own shot and he can attack in the way that he does the best. For Marcus, a big part of everything is desire and work and it will be important that he is ready to compete with Skal every day…a player who can make him better and turn him into a first round pick. If he brings it with him, he can have a huge year.
— The one hushed comment you still hear around Lexington is Jamal Murray and his Canadian national team experience. He was added to the Canadian roster today for FIBA Americas and if he accepts (which he is expected to) for Training camp, he will miss time in Lexington. The bigger question is whether he will (after going through Training Camp) join the team if he makes it (which he may). If he does that, it puts UK in a tough spot…he would come to school for three days, then leave and there is a drop dead date that he must return by and it isn’t clear if FIBA Americas will be done. Some are suggesting that could mean he doesn’t play for the Canadian team…and that probably is the most likely scenario. He also could go down there, play for a few and then return. He could potentially get some kind of waiver to continue to play and then return later than normal due to the special situation. Or he could decide to play and then not come to Lexington at all. The latter is VERY UNLIKELY, but I do think it is still in the back of folks’ minds and it does make everyone want to get clarification of what the schedule will be and Murray’s plans. I expect that Murray goes to Training Camp, plays with the team and then skips the FIBA Americas…but we still don’t know for sure and I think everyone will feel better when we do.
— Finally, I will have more on 2016 recruiting later this week…for now, I will just say this. Kentucky is DEEP with a lot of kids…there are probably 10 guys that UK is in the top 2-3 with. But guessing who will end up on the team is a total crapshoot. I like UK’s chances with Sacha Kileya-Jones and Miles Bridges…but UNC is in on Jones and Michigan State on Bridges. The Cats could end up with virtually anyone and I wouldn’t be shocked. Sit back for another nutty recruiting year…although in this one, I think the Cats get 2-3 guys by Fall Signing Day.
And with that, I Am done…a Periscope coming at 10 or so.
By Matt Jones on ©August 02nd, 2015 @ 8:36pm
It of course had to happen on Friday night. While I was in the far Western part of Kentucky for Fancy Farm, eating with the KSR crew at Patti’s Settlement (which is really, really good), the news that we have hinted at for a number of weeks finally broke. Kentucky is looking to add big man Isaac Humphries to the 2015 class to join the team this year. Many were surprised by the news, but those that listen to KSR were not. I have been hinting for 6 weeks that it was coming because this has been in the works for UK since the last two big men that UK was interested in for the 2015 class (Caleb Swanigan and Check Diallo) made decisions to go elsewhere. The Cats decided that Humphries, a talented big man that was initially supposed to be in the 2016 class, would be a good addition to this year and pay dividends for next, while not scaring off any top recruits. Plus, there was the added benefit of keeping the news relatively silent for a long time, thus not allowing other schools to come after him once they knew he was interested in reclassifying. It was, and is, a win-win.
Since the announcement, I have seen some UK fans online complaining that they don’t think Humphries is good enough or the signing doesn’t make sense, all the while having never watched him play one game ever. That is of course an idiotic and uninformed opinion. If you haven’t at this point learned to give Calipari a little benefit of the doubt, you never will. Here is the thinking behind adding Humphries from UK’s side…the Australian is a big guy that the Cats see as a meaty body for this year, who can develop into a Jorts-like contributor in the second year. They like the talent that he has and his ability to shoot and rebound. While the 2016 class is loaded with perimeter players and long athletes that can fly, true big men aren’t in high abundance. Calipari knows he will lose Skal and Poythress this year and realizes he could lose Marcus Lee depending on how things go. While Kentucky will likely get Sacha Killeya-Jones and likely one more big man, having Humphries allows a top 50 talent who can develop and be very good over time. That is a win-win. Plus, Isaac is tough and on a team this year that may lack a little toughness (outside of Tyler Ulis), that is a very valuable commodity.
It is important to note however that Humphries is not yet eligible to play at Kentucky this year. Since the decision to reclassify was made late, he has had to take a number of classes to get eligible for next year and that process has not been completed. It will not be done for the next 2 weeks or so and that is partially why the news had not been leaked. It came out this weekend after he visited while camps were in town and because he was with Jamal Murray a great deal (they are friends from various international events). Before everyone assumes he is on the team, this process has to finish and he has to actually get eligible.
I see the addition of Humphries as a great one for UK…he provides a big body for this year and has a chance to develop into a very good player. Calipari isn’t out for charity cases…this is a Top 50 talent who is VERY big while also being skilled. It is another late grab for Kentucky from Calipari and one that I think will be big both this year, and in the future.