Sunday night is my writing night. If you read KSR consistently, you know that since I have given up the daily work on the site, I have stayed involved by writing the Sunday Night Post for the past few years. This has changed recently into the Monday Morning Wakeup Post (still often written at night), but it has caused me to miss the interaction of writing my random thoughts at a time when the internet is slightly less packed with people and interesting discussion can follow. With that in mind, I decided to throw in some things I have been hearing from around the world of UK Basketball and Football this weekend as a way to reconnect with my former Sunday night writing self.
When I do these Summer radio tours, the good part is I get to see the fans and the state as a whole, while keeping the show filled with energy during an otherwise slow time. The bad part is that I am never home and I often feel disconnected from my regular world. Thus I spent some time this weekend during a rare couple of days at home to catch up on the UK world and here is what I am hearing about the summer
— This is of course the time of year when the players are doing their initial workouts and pickup games and coaches see what they have with the new guys and who has come back improved. All of the buzz in Lexington, like the buzz around the state, is about Jamal Murray and just how good he can be. While he still hasn’t been to Lexington thanks to his Team Canada work, everyone is watching him play and there is a growing consensus that the best perimeter recruit in America is headed this way. The question is whether he will make the Team Canada group for Olympic qualifying, which could keep him from Lexington until mid-September. If so, that would put him behind the rest of the team in development, but the experience of playing with GAM can still only help.
— When I ask people what the big stories are from the summer, a few things get repeated. One that is consistent is that this is Tyler Ulis’s team. He is the unquestioned leader on the court and off in both play and organization. He has developed a good relationship with the two younger guards (Briscoe and Matthews) and along with Devin Booker, they have spent a great deal of time with each other. One source told me, “Tyler is exactly what you would think he would be…and that is really good.”
— The surprise of the summer has been Mychal Mulder, who virtually everyone believes is better than they thought he would be. He was brought in to shoot, but his athleticism has been a pleasant surprise. During pickup games, he has had a couple of instances of apparently eye-popping athleticism and his game is much more well-rounded than we believed. I am told that the idea of him starting (potentially with Ulis and Murray as well) is being floated about, an idea that would have been insane to many just a few weeks back.
— Skal Labissiere is everything as advertised. Because pickup games are not great showcases for big men, his offensive skills are still up in the air a bit, but his ability to dominate on defense and make unbelievably athletic plays are unquestioned. Most everyone believes he will be helped when he gets to work more with Calipari and Kenny Payne but as one source told me, “he has all the talent to be the top pick in the Draft and contend for SEC Player of the Year.” I will take it.
— There has been some pleasant surprise at the progress of Derek Willis coming into the summmer, not so much on the court as in his work ethic. Talent has never been an issue for Derek, who can look as good in individual practices as anyone on the team. But what has been lacking for his time at Kentucky, especially in the last year, was the showcase of a desire to work to be great. Apparently those around the program have seen more of that from Derek this summer that at any time during his tenure in Lexington. As one person told me, “it is all up to Derek. He has the tools to be an important part of this team and can do some things that we don’t have anyone else that can do. Now he is actually working hard as well, so that is really exciting.”
— Finally the rehab for Alex Poythress is still going and remains on target. There is cautious optimism that he can be close to 100% when the season starts, as he is hitting all the rehab goals up until this point. With Alex, everyone knows what he can do but the question will be how he rebounds from this injury mentally and what he believes he can accomplish this next season. The good news from my end? Every time I hear someone who knows talk about the team, it is done with the expectation that Poythress plays a crucial role. That makes me feel confident that he is headed to a place where he can be fully healthy and ready to have his best season in a UK uniform.
— With football, one overall feeling lingers over everything…this staff is insanely optimistic about this next season. Everyone believes that the team is much improved and is close to getting where they need to be to really compete. Depth is much stronger and you can see a swagger with everyone as they believe that this season they won’t be competing with one hand tied behind their back.
— I am sure lip service will be paid to a Quarterback competition, but the sense I get is that Patrick Towles is the guy. His Spring was great but I am told he continues to impress in the summer and everyone is all-in with him as the leader of the team. Tim Couch was telling me this weekend that he thinks Patrick is ready to make the leap this year and as one source told me, “people nationally fell asleep on Patrick because of the way the season ended…I bet they jump right back on board after the first few games.” You can’t win without a Quarterback and I get the sense that those around UK Football believe they have theirs.
— I asked what position would see the most improvement to a number of folks over the last few days and all said the same thing, the Wide Receivers. One coach told me that the team has 7-9 guys that can really play and that there will “be some really good players who don’t get in because of the depth we have.” The question is only if any guys can step up to the next level and take off. People seem to feel really good about Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet, but there are lots of players with a chance to make a move, and a name I continue to hear as improving and needing the football this season is Ryan Timmons.
— I asked one source with knowledge of the program to predict at the end of the season, which 10 guys would we look back on as having had the best years. He told me (in no order):
Solid lineup…also watch out for George Asafo-Adjei who may be the player most ready to make a massive leap this season.
I will have more on football in the coming days….
By Matt Jones on ©July 24th, 2015 @ 11:00pm
I know it’s Friday night and thus many, if not most, of you were out doing other things. But you missed it. You missed the chance to see the future of UK Basketball. The future of UK Basketball is Jamal Murray and he was special on Friday night. Helping Team Canada knock off Team USA in Overtime, Jamal Murray did something that rarely happens in non-UK basketball games…he got me out of my chair and openly cheering for a team not in the Blue and White. The fact that the team I was rooting for was in red and playing against the Stars and Stripes was even more bizarre, but I couldn’t help myself. If you are like me and Kentucky basketball will always be your #1 sports team, then you couldn’t help but be thrilled as you watched the future of UK hit the spotlight right before your eyes.
Murray was amazing…22 points, all of which were in the 4th Quarter and Overtime. But that doesn’t even tell the tale of his dominance. After not scoring during the first three quarters, Murray started the 4th with his team down six and proceeded to take over the game and elevate the entire spectacle to another level. His passing was exquisite, hooking up multiple times with Anthony Bennett for perfect dimes that led to dunks. He played strong defense, rebounded efficiently and showcased a flair for the dramatic, hitting shots from all angles. During Overtime, he hit two back-to-back threes that gave Team Canada its final lead, both of which were so sweet that ESPN announcer Fran Fraschilla began to chuckle at the show being put on before his eyes. The Canada coach realized that even on a team with NBA pros in the lineup, Murray was the star and the future, and every big moment saw the ball in his hands, including a regulation buzzer beater that he just missed. It was thrilling to watch and provided one of the better random basketball viewing experiences I can remember. Take a look at some of his best plays:
"Made for the moment." He apparently hates America, but Jamal Murray sure is clutch. pic.twitter.com/d6jHyirfQq
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) July 24, 2015
Some may say that after this game we should all take a step back. It is true that Murray didn’t score for the first three quarters of the game and did have three turnovers during the closing minutes of regulation. Plus, the American team was an odd assortment of players, ranging from college stars such as Ron Baker to journeyman European league pros like Damien Wilkens. But such attempts at stealing my joy will be treated as lame party-pooping nonsense. The reality is that in a game on a big stage in his home country, Jamal Murray was a revelation. Everything we thought he might be able to do, he can and better than we thought. When Kentucky lost out on Malik Newman, Jaylen Brown, Stephen Zimmerman and others, many wondered if Calipari’s recruiting magic had slipped and UK could be in for a down year. Wonder no more. Jamal Murray is the best of that bunch and along with Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere, he will challenge for the honor of best Freshman in college basketball.
Tonight I saw the future of Kentucky Basketball and he is a Maple Leaf ready to win his country the Gold Medal tomorrow night before coming to Lexington this fall and electrifying Big Blue Nation on the chase for #9.
Our decision to make the trip out to the NBA Summer League may not have been the most financially prudent business call in the history of KSR. On paper it seemed like a good idea…after I made a mistake and scheduled the KSR Radio Tour around the wrong date for the Peach Jam (we thought it was this week and it was last week), I was left with two days off and nowhere to go. The NBA Summer League offered the Peach Jam crew (me, Drew and Tomlin) the ability to go to Vegas and potentially see some interesting sights. Plus, with Kentucky players on eight different NBA Summer League teams, there would be plenty of time to see lots of our guys in different games, with tons of material to fill up our website during an otherwise slow time of year. It was glorious.
Well at least that was the plan. As it turns out, virtually all of the UK guys in the Summer League have either lost already or have had odd occurrences move them from the premises. Karl Towns, Julius Randle, Willie Cauely-Stein and Trey Lyles have all seen their teams have early winner’s bracket exits (they do all play one more game tomorrow), Doron Lamb hasn’t gotten off the bench and Darius Miller left to go get married (and odd reason to leave, but one that will likely get him major brownie points in the future). Thus for Thursday and Saturday, our entire NBA Summer League/UK connection is left to one team, the Phoenix Suns.
While most of the attention next season from UK fans will likely follow Sacramento and their three-headed strong UK personality monster, the closest thing Kentucky has to an actual NBA Team may be the Phoenix Suns. The entire Suns backcourt is made up of Cats…Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker provide a thorough overview of the backcourts of the Calipari era, with players of all pedigrees making the jump to play for Jeff Hornacek. Just in time for the NBA Summer League, the Suns decided to add Josh Harrellson to their roster, giving the Cats five players in the Valley of the Sun and a chance to rally around one franchise on the other side of the country. For our game today, three of those players were on the court and watching them up close did allow me to reminisce about times past. Every time each of the three did something on the floor, my mind immediately went back to the days of yesteryear when the plays occurred with blue on the uniforms and a smile crept to my face. The more things change, the more they stay the same and all three are just in advanced stages of their UK selves:
If I asked you to recount your memory of Archie Goodwin’s time at Kentucky, it probably goes something like this…Archie taking the ball on the other side of half-court, dribbling aggressively while weaving through defenders and then taking the ball to the basket, flailing after getting hit by an opponent, landing on the ground and either making the shot/getting fouled or looking with a scowl at the referee wondering why he didn’t get the call…rinse and repeat. As a matter of fact when I look back at Archie’s time at Kentucky, I remember virtually nothing beyond those drives. To me they epitomized the Archie Goodwin experience…aggressive, frustrating, body-sacrificing and ultimately exhausting. After watching him in person in Summer League today, I can tell you that all of those adjectives still apply. In fact NBA Archie is just an advanced version of Kentucky Archie. He shoots all the time, plays with 100% energy/commitment and can be dazzling or frustrating at any given moment, often on the same play. The Archie Goodwin of the Summer League today was likely the best player on the floor in his battle versus the Milwaukee Bucks. While out in transition, he was a step faster than anyone and could get to the basket at will. But he also still showcased the qualities that make NBA teams hesitant…he isn’t a good passer, doesn’t make great decisions and spends more time leering at officials than running back on defense. But when at his peak, he is a force. He defends extremely well, makes plays that seem impossible and had 18 points, keying a comeback that the Suns used to pull away. I am not sure what his NBA future projects to be, but in the role he will likely have this year as a 2nd team scoring spark plug, his skill set remains perfect.
During part of his time at Kentucky, Devin Booker looked like a perfectly made creation for the new NBA…deadeye three point shooter, with a good first step towards the rim and the ability to take contact. At other times however he looked less ready, missing some shots badly, unable to defend against penetration and drifting in and out of play. NBA Summer League Devin had a similar performance. In the first half, I mentioned to Tomlin that Devin was being outclassed by a player at his position taken after him. Rashad Vaughn, formerly of UNLV, had the better of Booker consistently and looked the better player. Booker had no ability to guard him and the constant nagging defense was causing Devin to miss shots that during February in SEC play were automatic. Vaughn was clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder and I wondered if Booker would be able to compete. But then the second half came and Devin hit his stride…he shot in rhythm, made good decisions and Vaughn retreated…it was February Booker and his 19 points became a game high out of nowhere. It is hard to imagine Booker failing and when he is good, it will be like at Kentucky…he can become the biggest scorer on the team and the most consistent offensive threat. But will that Booker become March Devin where it was easy at times to forget he was on the court? That will be his challenge as his first few years in the league begin. After the game was over, I spoke to him for a minute and he gave the Booker smile while saying, “hey, I am coming back to Lexington after the Summer League. I miss it and am going to work out at UK.” The ladies of Lexington will certainly be happy.
Jorts is Jorts. When he saw Tomlin and I in the crowd, his face lit up and he waved in the middle of the game…there has never been a UK player who was more appreciative of KSR. He waved as UK fans in the crowd (and there were many) screamed “Jorts” at him and he had 13 points doing what Jorts does…setting high screens, bouncing off and hitting threes, pounding the glass and getting putbacks for buckets. His defense was like it was in Lexington…physical and hard (he had seven fouls), but also lacking against great athleticism (West Virginia’s Kevin Jones had his way with him a few times). But watching Jorts again, you saw why we loved him so much in Lexington. He recreated his most famous UK play, diving for a loose ball and saving it off an opposing player with a bullet (this time off the guy’s knees instead of Jared Sullinger’s chest). He gave constant affirmation to the rest of his team and at the end, was a key part of a big victory. After the game we talked for a bit about his future and he told me that he hoped for good things in Phoenix, but didn’t know what was ahead. He has played well down here…after a rocky first game, he is 7-9 from three point land and has often outplayed the starting Center Alex Len, who he was brought in to backup. Whether there is a future with the Suns will be determined in the coming weeks but Jorts has shown once again that he can play at this level and the rest may be up to him…and he will do it all with a big smile on his face.
All three of the UK players had a big game today and at the end of the day, they probably were the three best Suns on the court. But for me it was more than this one game…all three showed that they remain exactly like what I remembered from their time in Lexington. While the setting has changed and the fans aren’t nearly the same (Summer League crowds are basically silent), the UK guys are better versions of their Lexington selves. If you close your eyes, the Suns jerseys can morph into UK ones and all the memories of their top BBN moments can be repeated. It might be the thing I like best about seeing UK guys in the Summer League…it is the NBA, but not quite…and thus it remains just connected enough to college to still bring out my UK fandom. When Anthony Davis becomes the world’s best player, I will still be proud of his UK connection…but it will be while playing at a different level than he did at UK. But in Summer League, the guys are still versions of their UK selves and that remains my favorite part.
Johnson County is a place that has been great over the years to KSR, from being one of the first affiliates in the state to pick up the radio show to hosting the first ever KSR Tour stop four years ago. Thus it is with particular sadness that the pictures of the tremendous flooding devastation in and around Johnson County strike home today. After the seeming never-ending stream of rain that has engulfed the state over the last few weeks, a great deal of the Commonwealth was hit with flooding late yesterday, causing the Governor to issue an Emergency Disaster Declaration earlier today. No place was hit as hard as Johnson County, where at least one person is dead and ten missing following the mass destruction. Over 150 homes were destroyed and another 500 significantly damaged, mostly in the rural parts of the county. The pictures below from WKYT are just a small example of the difficulties facing the area and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this tremendous natural disaster.
Likely because of my affinity for “Shawshank Redemption,” I have always been fascinated by prison breaks. The idea that you find a way to get out of a situation specifically designed to keep you in, strikes me as the most ingenuous of accomplishments, even though it is clearly shunned by society. The people who escape out of prisons are by their very nature not some of society’s best, but to find your way out of a maximum security situation does show cunning, even if it is for a result that harms society. Today we learned that notorious Mexican drug lord El Chapo Guzman has escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico and is currently on the loose. El Chapo is the worst of the worst and the violence that he has overseen over the last 25 years is atrocious. Still the fact that he found a way out of the most severe prison in Mexico is fascinating and worthy of study. The official story is that he crawled through a 30 by 30 hole in his shower, but that strikes me as implausible at best. Clearly someone helped him and considering the corruption in Mexico, it could have been an individual high up in the government. It is the second time El Chapo has escaped, and the last time he did it, he stayed gone for nearly 13 years. For the better part of that time, it is believed the Mexican government knew where he was and simply let him be…now the question is will they do it again?
To the non-Mexican drug lord news this week:
UK Basketball Recruiting Comes Into Focus
We assumed after this past week of AAU events that the status of UK basketball recruiting for 2016 would become a bit clearer and it did. Some of the news wasn’t the best as #2 ranked Jayson Tatum spurned the Cats and others by picking Duke in a decision that really surprised no one. The reality of this class is that Duke is set up to have the #1 overall class relatively easily thanks to a home state stud (Harry Giles) and getting Tatum early in the process. Many are crediting winning the title for Duke’s success, but the Blue Devils were likely to get both players even before the title as Coach K has adopted Calipari’s recruiting strategy and is now competing against the Cats for virtually all of the same players. This will mean they will win their share of battles and today was one of them. For Kentucky however, there is some good news. The Cats look to be in good shape with Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins, two players with tremendous ability and high-impact scorers. I think both are Kentucky’s to lose and the Cats are sitting in the driver’s seat early in the process. Miles Bridges may have been the star of the week and he is likely Michigan State or Kentucky, meaning the Cats and Izzo will have a battle over the Michigan product. If UK can land Bridges, then that threesome will be the clear #2 overall class and UK will be set after pairing them with Tai Wynyard and likely a couple of other stars. Malik Monk is an elite talent that UK will try to bend out of Arkansas, but if Kentucky keeps up the heat on the threesome above, potentially adds another (maybe Markelle Fultz a shooting guard that picked up a UK offer this week and had a strong showing), then the Cats are set. Lose some of this group and it becomes a bit more troubling, but even with Duke’s success, I like where the Cats stand as of today.
Attendance at the KSR Radio Tour shows has been absolutely amazing. Fans are showing up in droves and there have been some really fun events. I think our show Friday at the Kentucky Speedway was one of the best in a long time and this week we have these stops ahead. Come see us:
Monday: Cynthiana (Cynthiana Country Club)
Tuesday: Whitley City (Whitley City Public Library)
Wednesday: London (Sleep Outfitters)
SEC MEDIA DAYS
The circus that is known as SEC Football Media Days begin this morning and the entire South will be looking to the coaches to learn about next season. I often get criticism for not taking our show to Media Days (we are sending Tyler there and she will have reports all week), but honestly I am not sure why there is so much hype about having “Radio Row” down there. I have never been to either football or basketball Media Days and while I think the circus is an interesting thing to watch from afar, it gives no real information that advances the ball at all. We may go some year in the future just for entertainment value, but seriously, what are you going to learn by hearing coaches give press conferences? In my view, very little, so I prefer to watch the event from afar and continue on our Radio Tour. But we will have a LOT of coverage from the event on here all week and Tyler will give you everything you need to know as you need to know it. She was excellent last year in capturing the environment and I know she will do it again this time.
image by Jason Spear
NBA Summer League Continues
I have watched a great deal of NBA Summer League over the last week and will watch a good deal more this week before we head out to Las Vegas Wednesday to see it up close. The big stories so far include the Aaron Harrison signing by Charlotte, a massive step for Aaron and a great chance for him to make the team this fall. Archie Goodwin has played very well for Phoenix and may be solidifying a better spot in the rotation this season with his strong performances. Karl Towns and Julius Randle have both looked good in high profile appearances with a lot of hype. Towns in particular showed some great skill in his two games and has the announcers drooling about his future. All in all, things have been very positive for UK guys, with no one having a bad debut in Summer League…a good sign as they all move forward this summer towards their NBA careers.
— I saw Ted 2 this weekend and it was exactly what I thought it would be…overall just blah, but with some really funny parts. I had a couple of scenes that had me laughing until I cried but a lot of the rest was just filler. Still, it is worth your time if you liked the first one and/or like Seth MacFarlane. If you don’t then…don’t. Also check out “Love and Mercy” if it is playing close to you…a movie about The Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson’s life told in two parts…very good and one of the better movies I have seen so far this year.
— The NASCAR race at the Kentucky Speedway was great on Saturday night…the new aero package allowed the drivers to pass much easier and the Speedway was blessed with good weather and no bad luck for the first time since getting the Sprint Cup Race. I had an awesome time watching the event while sitting with the most random mix of people imaginable (Joe B Hall, Jack Givens, Nick and Drew Lachey, Papa John, Matt Bevin, Terry Meiners, Tom Hammond and Mike Battaglia). I highly encourage those of you who haven’t been yet to Sparta to make a trip….it is worth your time.
— Finally, some of you like my random book recommendations. This one is a little older but worth your time.
“Stumbling on Happiness” is a look at what makes people happy in their own lives and how they are often wrong about convictions that you believe lead to your satisfaction. It is one of the more interesting psychology studies I have read and if you like Malcolm Gladwell or Freakonomics-type books, you will enjoy it.
That is it for now…have a good Monday
I didn’t go to UK. But even during my time at Transy and in the following years, I have spent a good amount of hours at the UK Student Center. Thus it is with a small degree of sadness that I saw the above picture of the UK Student Center being torn down today. It is of course part of a larger renovation project on campus that is paying massive dividends and totally changing the face of the University. If you haven’t been on campus in five years, a return now would see a completely different place of which you are not familiar. One of the last buildings to get the treatment was the Student Center as a new one is to be constructed that will be state of the art and a massive upgrade.
Still as these buildings go down, you can’t help but have a small amount of sadness. For me, most of the memories are associated with KSR (we did an early podcast, did a round of KSR writer interviews and have had a couple of remotes all there as well) but also a couple from the heady 96-98 basketball days. I am sure you have a number of them too, so take some time tonight and pour one out for the Student Center…it leaves us now to head to a better place and your days of ping pong, video games and seeing Stone Cold Willow are now just memories in your mind.
For more pictures of the demolition, click the Herald Leader collection here:
On this 4th of July weekend most of the country was captivated by the US Women’s National Team, who destroyed Japan 5-2 to take the World Cup title and bring it back to the good old USA for the first time since 1999. The Women’s Team dominated the Cup defensively and had the offense kick in just in time in the Finals to make the victory a rather easy one and allow for celebration all over the United States. There aren’t enough times in our country when women’s sports are highlighted, but when they do and people can rally around them, it is always a great moment. The 1999 team’s World Cup victory may have been one of the signature moments ever in women’s sports and while this one didn’t seem to quite be on that level in terms of cultural significance, it was nevertheless a huge that garnered big ratings throughout the country. Congrats to the team and I hope everyone celebrated winning it all on our nation’s birthday weekend. What could be more patriotic…:
What to look for in the day ahead:
2016 Recruiting Heats Up
This week marks the start of the key stretch of summer recruiting for high school basketball stars as the July period hits its massive crescendo. The Peach Jam strikes at the end of the week and for John Calipari, his massive travel schedule all around the nation begins. UK is looking at an odd situation in 2016. The class is absolutely loaded, with a ton of top talent but the elite of the elite don’t necessarily have Kentucky as their top choice. The three best players in my view (Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Josh Jackson) all played this week for Team USA in the Under-19 World Championships and they were a force to watch. They were the leaders (along with Jalen Brunson who will play this year at Villanova) for the team winning the Gold and they showcased why the could end up one day being all top 5 Draft picks. Unfortunately, Giles will probably stay in his home state (North Carolina with Duke or UNC), Tatum seems to favor Duke and Jackson likes Kansas/Arizona. UK is on all three, but none seem to be favoring the Cats and thus Calipari will have to strike with others in the deep class. He has offered 12-15 kids so far and over the next two weeks, we should get some more indications of just who out of that group will be the most likely future Wildcats to come to Lexington.
If you don’t yet have the KSR iPhone App, get it, because it is probably the best thing we have done. We send out alerts on it to your phone (only for big things) and the app allows you to visit the site in ways you never have seen. We have more features coming this fall, and you can already listen to all the Podcasts by one click of the button. So just do it…download it and if you have an Android phone, trade it in for an iPhone…its worth it.
Kash Daniel picks the Cats
So Kentucky straight Kash homie on Saturday in the shortest Signing ceremony in the history of recruiting. It was over in 4 minutes and Kash picked UK and we were all happy. He also talked a little UL trash right after it (which I loved) and cemented his place with the Wildcats in what should be one of the best classes we have seen in our lifetimes. The class is ranked 13 on Rivals and if they get JUCO OL Tate Leavitt, could move into the Top 10. Either way, there are so many players committed that if they are kept together, the staff will only have a few small holes to fill, a great spot to be in this early in the process. Kudos to Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, the Coordinators and Assistants for a job well done.
The news late Friday of Aetna’s purchase of Humana made me slightly nervous. As you can see from the chart above, Humana is our biggest company in the state and the worry about the 12,000 jobs leaving the city of Louisville is one that has been discussed throughout the city over the weekend. Early indications are that some of the business will stay and government officials say they are cautiously optimistic…but one thing that is obvious in such situations is that you never know at this stage how things will go when a new company takes over. We just have to hope that one of our state’s best corporate citizens can still remain a key part of the community.
NBA Summer League
I wrote last night about watching Andrew, Aaron and Dakari this weekend in their first NBA Summer League games so I won’t go over that ground again (just scroll down and take a look), but all those guys are back in action over the next two days. They each are playing big minutes for their team and in Aaron’s case, he moved aside the starting PG and is now at that position for the Charlotte Hornets. Even though the other UK guys (and Julius Randle and James Young) will take the court later in the week, the three players with the most at stake are playing crucial games right now…they may be some of the most important they will have and I am hoping they continue the solid level of performance we have seen thus far.
Before you get your week off to a start, check out these two articles on KSR done by the Hopkinsville paper and writer Chris Jung. The first is a good description of the KSR Tour stop in Hopkinsville and goes into some detail about what you could expect if you came to one…and the other is a Q and A with me in which the writer asked me my thoughts on Rick Pitino, Pat Forde, Kyle Tucker and a ton more. Both are worth checking out if you are a KSR fan.
We go this week to these 5 places with the KSR Radio Tour. Come see us:
Monday: Morganfield Southern States
Tuesday: Grayson Simply the Best Restaurant
Wednesday: Pikeville Bank 523
Thursday: Williamson Appalachian Wireless in the Williamson Mall
Friday: Kentucky Speedway
I am a sucker for the NBA Summer League and have been for the past couple of years. It comes at that time of the year when nothing else important is on television sports-wise (I love watching the Tour de France, but more for its nap-inducing qualities and the announcers’ voices). This year KSR will be making a trek to the Vegas Summer League, but play has already begun in Orlando, with a few teams kicking off their play. Thus, I spent a few hours this weekend watching the games involving the UK guys and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed them. It turns out that the Orlando league includes the three players from UK in the most precarious position (Andrew, Aaron and Dakari), and since it is likely you spent the weekend oding something besides watching Summer League basketball, I decided to give you a review of what you missed:
Of the three, Andrew looked the most NBA-ready and based solely on what I saw in Orlando, the most likely to make the team. The Memphis Grizzlies had Andrew in their starting lineup and played him a ton of minutes, although surprisingly most of it was at the Shooting Guard position. This may have been due to the fact that the Grizzlies also have Russ Smith and his height requires him to play the point, but regardless Andrew spent most of his two games at the two guard. He played both games consistently and his stats reflected it. Andrew had 10 points in the first game, 9 in the second, but most importantly fit into the flow of the play well. He attacked the basket when it was available, made a number of good passes, was serviceable on defense and limited his turnovers while averaging around 24 of the 40 minutes a game. His team plays up tempo (at least in the Summer League) and that served him well, allowing him lanes to attack and he did a great job making decisions both games as to when to go to the rim and when to pass. I divide Summer League players into two categories…those that look like they belong in the NBA (about 20% of them) and those that don’t (the rest). Andrew was in the first group and seems likely to me to find a way onto the roster.
It was a tale of two games for me for Aaron Harrison as my opinion changed dramatically between Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday Aaron scored 10 points, and started strong. But then as the game went on, he seemed a bit out of sorts, lost on defense and never totally in the game flow. Part of this was due to his team, as Frank Kaminsky was dominant for most of the game (he was the best player I saw over the two days worth of games…much to my surprise actually) and PJ Hairston shot the ball constantly (and poorly) thus dominating most of the action. However whatever concerns I might have had on Day One dissipated on day 2, was Aaron was great in the game against his brother for the Charlotte Hornets. He had 16 points, 8 assists, started the game at Point Guard (on Day One, he came off the bench playing Shooting Guard) and truly found his rhythm. He shot the ball poorly from outside both days (he only made one three pointer, calling to mind Jay Bilas’s Draft Day comments that Aaron is a shooter who isn’t making shots), but he attacked the rim perfectly and totally dominated Russ Smith (who guarded him) on the offensive end. Reporters who cover the Hornets were tweeting about how Aaron looked like he belonged in preseason camp and he was probably the story of Day Two. It was a much needed good performance from a kid who wants to shake off the disappointment of Draft night. Through two days, Aaron seems to be on track to take the next step.
Dakari only played one game over the last two days and it was starting at Center for the Oklahoma City thunder team. He was solid, 7 points and 11 Rebounds, and if you watched the game, you saw a lot of what he did at Kentucky. He took up space down low, played solid defense and rebounded well when the ball was in his area. He struggled quite a bit on the pick and roll, and really had difficulty the couple of times he had to guard Kaminsky. However he was solid and looked to be in good shape after the Draft. He fared better than the other former Cat on the Thunder, Marquis Teague (who didn’t play and wasn’t even wearing the same shorts as the rest of the team) and the fact that he started was a good sign. But the best player on his team was Mitch McGary and Dakari simply blended in with a good performance. I have no idea what his future holds and I want to see him play a couple of more games…but if you believe his likely role in the NBA is a long-term backup Center in the league, he did nothing to suggest that couldn’t be achieved through his first game in the Summer League.
All three players have a number of more games and will each have to make more strides to make their teams. But for all three, especially Aaron, the weekend seems to have been a success, which is very good news.
The 2016 High School recruiting class is one of the best in the last 10 years. At the top of the class are five guys of tremendous talent and three of those (Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson) would potentially be the top three picks in next year’s NBA Draft if they were eligible. All three are playing for Team USA in the Under-19 World Championships and all three are starting because of their tremendous talent. The Cats are recruiting all three and would love any to end up in Lexington, including Jayson Tatum. His explosiveness is unbelievable and he has had a tremendous week dunking on everyone…well except until today’s finals. Tatum went to the basket against Croatia and…well he ended up on the receiving end of the block of the year.
It was a fun weekend in Lexington with a couple of major events going on, including the Red, White and Boom concert that has become such a major festival in the city. I however spent most of the weekend participating in one of my favorite events of the year, the Children’s Charity Classic Golf Tournament and the Greenbriar and Andover Country Clubs. The Children’s Charity Classic raised $670,000 for various charities benefitting children in Kentucky and finished its 35th year in the Bluegrass. It is a two-day tournament that sees various celebrities come to Lexington to play golf and help raise money for a great cause. The picture above came from the musical cabaret that featured Matthew Mitchell and a number of other great musicians entertaining the crowd. If you ever get a chance to be a part of the event, I would wholeheartedly recommend doing it and even if you don’t, hopefully we can do another “LIVE” radio show from the course as we did on Friday (an all-timer in terms of random KSR Radio shows).
With that, it is Monday so let’s get going:
— This is a little bit of the calm before the storm as we head to a week that should be relatively news free. The football coaches are getting their last bit of time off before they start the massive push towards the season and the start of football practice. Most of the coaches and players have been given one last break before the grind begins and thus football news should be relatively sparse. For Kentucky, most of the focus this week is on recruiting as Kash Daniel will make his final decision on Saturday, July 4th. Most people believe it will be Kentucky and if it isn’t, I will be shocked. But it is also worth watching what happens with Offensive Lineman Tate Leavitt, a JUCO player who has offers from Alabama, Auburn and others, but one who many believe has Kentucky as his leader. He will visit in a couple of weeks and if the Cats can get him to commit, it will be the greatest offensive lineman haul in the history of the school (it probably already is, but this would just solidify).
— From the basketball perspective, most of the UK team has arrived or will arrive on campus this week to get going on the season preparation. Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, Alex Poythress and others are all already on campus and Skal Labissiere and others should be very soon. We should start getting the leaks about pickup games and how the guys are doing over the coming days and we will also hear about their games with former Cats who will be around Lexington over the next few weeks. This is the time of year of unbridled optimism (Josh Carrier doesn’t miss!; Jules Camara has put on weight!; You cannot stop Stacey Poole in the open court!) and is always one of my favorite times.
— It is good to be Devin Booker. This Draft night picture makes me laugh for a number of reasons, not least of all is the state of his tie after what I am sure was a long night
— Wimbledon starts today, which probably matters to you very little but should matter to you much more as it is one of the three best sporting spectacles I have ever attended (the first two are Final Fours and the Ryder Cup in 2008). I sat courtside and watched a young Venus Williams and a then-popular Anna Kournikova after staying up all night and “queing” up outside the hallowed grounds. This year the story is if Serena can win the slam and Federer could somehow take one more before he retires. But even if you don’t watch (and most of you will not), take a second to read this David Foster Wallace (simultaneously one of the greatest and most overrated writers of our time, and unfortunately now deceased) piece on Federer…probably the best article ever written on the sport of tennis.
— Last week was one of the biggest news weeks in many years…the Confederate flag, gay marriage, Obamacare, the two guys who escaped from prison getting caught, etc. But it might have been easy to skip over the funeral of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim. Kim was killed in the line of duty 10 days ago and his funeral last week was according to those that attended, a special event. You can read more about the proceedings here and the pictures, videos and scenes from the memorial, funeral procession and day’s events in the city are extremely powerful. Citizens of Cincinnati and the surrounding area have raised over $180,000 in the memory of Officer Kim since his killing (and you can donate to the fund here) and that act alone is enough to make one have confidence of our basic common good when so much of media attention is spent seeming to show our difficulties and divisions. In a time when there is so much disagreement, it is worth celebrating those that every day go out of their way to try and protect and serve, especially when that service leads to the ultimate sacrifice. The city of Cincinnati rallied around the family of one such individual in our area last week and we shouldn’t let the larger news around the nation overlook that important act.
— Finally, KSR sponsors a little league All Star team and they are making some noise. The South Lexington Blue All-Stars just finished in 1st Place in the Battle of the Heartland Fireball Classic in Adair County this weekend after a clutch 10-3 victory in the final game. Like KSR, the South Lexington Blue All-Stars save their best work for the big moments and as they continue this summer, we hope they keep getting victories and representing KSR on the field with gusto. Congrats on your victory and keep the victories coming! Ice cream is on Drew….
You have probably been hearing a good deal recently about drones. I admit that I know little about them except that I hope one day to use them as a way to not have to go to the grocery store or mall. But until that day comes, we will have to settle with this use of commercial drones. Triple Crown Drones (a company in Kentucky) used a drone to showcase the state of the new Commonwealth Stadium renovations. They sent the drone over Commonwealth and filmed what it saw, creating the You Tube video below. The video shows the stadium is gorgeous, but also not yet done (and I am told some parts won’t be done yet by the Opening Game). Still it looks great and it is going to be a fun year…and as far as the drone…well, It is a brave new world we live in.
By Matt Jones on ©June 28th, 2015 @ 8:31pm
I heard some good scuttlebutt this weekend that is worth sharing. A couple of sources tell me that the NBA is close to finalizing a deal that would make the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans play an exhibition game in Rupp Arena the night after Big Blue Madness. The game would of course bring Anthony Davis, Willie Cauley-Stein and Demarcus Cousins (if he is still on the team) back to Rupp and likely allow them to be in town for Big Blue Madness the night before. It would then be part of a mega-weekend that would make Lexington the place to be…Kentucky vs Auburn on Thursday night (Oct 14) at Commonwealth…Big Blue Madness on Friday night…Keeneland on Saturday during the day…and then Saturday night with the Kings vs the Pelicans.
That is a massive sports weekend and if it finalizes, get your hotel room now.
By Matt Jones on ©June 27th, 2015 @ 10:19pm
Chad Ford is the ESPN.com NBA Draft guru and spends his life getting ready for the day when the Draftees step to the stage and find out their NBA fates. I have always found Chad to be intelligent and have strong insights (except when he said James Young was a good passer), and there is probably no person who knows more about the Draft than he. On Friday, Ford recorded a podcast with Ryan Russillo (who I also like quite a bit) reviewing the Draft and he talked about the UK players and Calipari. While discussing Booker, Ford said, “If I had a kid who was a NBA level player, I would definitely send him to Calipari.” He was agreeing with a point made by Russillo, who had said that Booker would be ready for his NBA role as a shooter since he had a similar role at Kentucky, and noted that no coach better prepared his players to get to the next level and succeed than Calipari.
While some people like to try and ignite BBN in a debate of “Win titles vs the Pros” (I am looking at you Patty Forde), the reality is that both are not mutually exclusive. And no matter where you stand on the issue, comments such as those by Chad Ford don’t hurt as Calipari seeks to get the next generation of future NBA Draft superstars to make their way to Lexington. I would suggest you listen to the comments and the podcast as a whole as it is a good breakdown of the UK guys and the Draft in general.
By Matt Jones on ©June 24th, 2015 @ 8:28pm
It has become a busy June night all of a sudden from the UK news perspective. Tonight KSR has learned that Rock Oliver will no longer be the UK Men’s Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach and has decided to move to an Administrative role working with all UK sports. The move comes after a number of years in the role with John Calipari and the UK Basketball program is currently now looking for his replacement (they have the job opening posted on their site). Rock will remain with the University in an undisclosed administrative role but will no longer be handling the day-to-day conditioning of the UK Basketball team.
I am a huge fan of Rock and he is a great guy who has done wonderful things for the University going back to the early days of Rick Pitino. We wish him the best in his new gig with UK and I personally hope that the new role will mean he can’t embarrass me anymore during the conditioning drills at the Calipari Fantasy Camp.