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Breaking down UK’s top priorities in the 2016 class

Breaking down UK’s top priorities in the 2016 class

As we dive into the summer recruiting season, it’s time to brush up on Kentucky’s 2016 prospects. The Cats have handed out 17 offers in the 2016 class and three of those players have committed elsewhere: Omari Spellman to Villanova, LaGerald Vick to Kansas, and Tyus Battle to Michigan. Tai Wynyard is currently the lone commit in Kentucky’s 2016 class, but I have a feeling he’ll be joined by a few others by the end of the summer.

We’re hearing Kentucky has a handful of players they’re really after this summer. Here are those five players, with some insight from 247 Sports Director of Basketball Scouting Jerry Meyer.

(Note: I did not include Jamal Murray on this list because recent reports suggest he will definitely reclassify to 2015. If you don’t know all about Murray by now, please turn in your free KSR membership card.) 

The 5 Kentucky REALLY wants

Kobi Simmons
Point Guard

6’5″, 177 lbs.
Alpharetta, Ga. (Saint Francis High School)

247Sports Composite: No. 8 overall, No. 1 CG
247Sports: No. 16 overall, No. 3 CG
Rivals: No. 12 overall
ESPN: No. 5 overall, No. 2 PG

Leaders: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Ohio State

Last month, Derryck Thornton reclassified to 2015 and committed to Duke, making Kobi Simmons the new priority for Kentucky at point guard. Simmons got an offer from UK in mid-April and was so excited he had to call Calipari back to make sure it was real. He plans to make a decision towards the end of the summer.

Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Simmons: “I’d say Kentucky is in the best position with Kobi Simmons. It has always been the buzz that he coveted a Kentucky offer and he has that now. Coach Calipari and crew, though, will have plenty of competition from UNC, Ohio State and others for his services.”


Josh Langford
Combo Guard

6’6″, 200 lbs.
Madison, AL (Madison Academy)

247Sports Composite: No. 14 overall, No. 3 CG
247Sports: No. 14 overall, No. 2 CG
Rivals: No. 17 overall
ESPN: No. 13 overall, No. 3 SG

Leaders: Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Arizona, Florida and others

Langford also got an offer from Kentucky in mid-April after a visit from John Calipari. He took an unofficial visit to Lexington in early March. He’s a big, strong wing who finishes well at the basket and is considered one of the most complete scorers in the class. He shares the backcourt with Kobi Simmons on the Atlantic Celtics AAU team.

Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Langford:  “Josh Langford is also a possibility for Kentucky. I just don’t expect he and Simmons to play together in college, but that is just my feeling. The Michigan schools are strong with Langford and Arizona is coming on as well.”


Harry Giles
Power Forward

6’10”, 230 lbs.
Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wesleyan Christian Academy)

247Sports Composite: No. 1 overall, No. 1 PF
247Sports: No. 2 overall, No. 1 PF
Rivals: No. 2 overall
ESPN: No. 2 overall, No. 1 PF

Leaders: Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, UNLV, Wake Forest

Prying Giles from his home state of North Carolina will be tough, but Kentucky’s trying. Duke and North Carolina are considered his leaders, but Calipari has done his best to make a good impression. Giles was the second member of the 2016 class to get an offer from Kentucky and one of the first to get an in-home visit from Calipari in the spring recruiting period. Giles played in last month’s EYBL event in Lexington and Calipari didn’t miss any of his games.

Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Giles: “Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are generally considered Duke’s to lose and I’m of that opinion as well. I’d be surprised if the Wildcats pull either of these two to Lexington.”


Jayson Tatum
Small Forward

6’8″, 190 lbs.
St. Louis, Mo. (Chaminade College Prep)

247Sports Composite: No. 3 overall, No. 1 SF
247Sports: No. 8 overall, No. 2 SF
Rivals: No. 3 overall
ESPN: No. 1 overall, No. 1 SF

Final list: Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Saint Louis

Tatum was the first member of the 2016 class to get an offer from Kentucky, and the Cats are in his final four. Duke is considered his leader, but there’s been a lot of buzz he’ll stay home and play for St. Louis, something his father, a SLU alum, encouraged in a recent article in Sports Illustrated:

“Be a trendsetter,” Justin says. “You don’t have to go on this road because it was made for Shane Battier or Grant Hill. You can do what they did—at home.”

All of that being said, UK’s track record of sending players to the NBA appeals to Tatum, and seven more Cats heading to the Draft next month can’t hurt.

Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Tatum: “Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are generally considered Duke’s to lose and I’m of that opinion as well. I’d be surprised if the Wildcats pull either of these two to Lexington.”


Malik Monk
Shooting Guard

6’3″, 170 lbs.
Bentonville, Ark. (Bentonville High School)

247Sports Composite: No. 5 overall, No. 2 SG
247Sports: No. 3 overall, No. 2 SG
Rivals: No. 7 overall
ESPN: No. 6 overall, No. 1 SG

Leaders: Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina

Monk made a big jump in the latest recruiting rankings after strong performances in the recent EYBL events, including the one at KBA last month. Monk scored 39 points in front of John Calipari, backing up talk that he may be the best scorer in the class.

Kentucky and Arkansas are considered his leaders. His brother Marcus played both football and basketball for the Razorbacks, but if anyone can get Monk out of his home state, it’s John Calipari.

Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Monk: “Malik Monk looks to be a battle between Kentucky and in-state school Arkansas, where his brother Marcus Monk starred. Kansas is also a factor in this recruitment.”


3 more to keep an eye on…

Udoka Azubuike
Center

6’10”, 280 lbs.
Jacksonville, Fla. (Potter’s House Christian)

247Sports Composite: No. 13 overall, No. 1 C
247Sports: No. 9 overall, No. 1 C
Rivals: No. 13 overall
ESPN: No. 10 overall, No. 1 C

Leaders: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Georgetown, Maryland, Wake Forest

Calipari, the UK staff, and some of the returning players watched Azubuike play at the EYBL event at KBA last month. With great size, length, athletic ability, mobility and coordination, Azubuike has drawn comparisons to a young Shaquille O’Neal.


V.J. King
Small Forward

6’7″, 179 lbs.
Fairfax, Va. (Paul VI High School)

247Sports Composite: No. 15 overall, No. 2 SF
247Sports: No. 19 overall, No. 3 SF
Rivals: No. 11 overall
ESPN: No. 18 overall, No. 4 SF

Leaders: Louisville, Kentucky, UConn, Virginia, Arizona

The Dirty Birds are the favorite for King, who took an official visit to Louisville last week. King is close with UofL assistant coach Kenny Johnson, formerly of the staff at King’s Paul VI High School in Virginia. He’s visiting UConn this weekend and plans to take more visits in the future, hopefully to Kentucky.


Josh Jackson
Shooting Guard/Small Forward

6’6″, 184 lbs.
Napa, Ca. (Prolific Prep)

247Sports Composite: No. 2 overall, No. 1 SG
247Sports: No. 1 overall, No. 1 SG
Rivals: No. 1 overall
ESPN: No. 3 overall, No. 2 SF

Leaders: Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Louisville, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Auburn

Jackson still doesn’t have a (reported) offer from Kentucky, but it’s only a matter of time. The California shooting guard is now considered the best player in the 2016 class by 247 Sports and Rivals after an impressive spring circuit, which included a 41-point performance in the UAA II in Louisville. He’s a neat kid–a chess whiz whose mother, Apples Jones (for real), was a basketball star in the military. That alone makes me want Cal to give him an offer right now.


Yet another letter from Rick Pitino to a fan

Yet another letter from Rick Pitino to a fan

Exactly one week ago from right now, we shared a letter to Rick Pitino from a fan in 1995 concerning Walter McCarty’s diet. Pitino mailed the letter back to the fan with scathing comments, including “Get a life!” and “You need a checkup mentally!”

Well today we were reminded of yet another Pitino letter, this time in 2001 from a UK fan at Auburn with a short message regarding Pitino’s return to Rupp Arena.

Pitino returned to sender with:

Dear sir,

For a PHD your awfully stupid! Read the newspapers and find out what our country is going through. If you know how to read.

— R.P.

pitino-letter2

 

To be fair, this wasn’t long after the 9/11 attacks. Still, Rick, a little aggressive with the response.

Also, you’re*


Official Coaches’ Itinerary For The SEC Spring Meetings 2015

Official Coaches’ Itinerary For The SEC Spring Meetings 2015

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Welcome to the Hilton Sandestin!

If you’re reading this, you’ve checked into the hotel and made your way to your room to begin a four-day stay at our beautiful Northwest Florida resort. I hope you like the gift basket we left bedside… Golden Flakes, YUM!

Once again, we here at the Hilton Sandestin have the privilege of hosting you and the SEC Spring Meetings, and we’re thrilled to have you back! Last year was such an amazing event (aside from Frank Martin powerbombing a staff member through a glass table for dropping his luggage) and we expect another great week in 2015!

As always, we’re here to make your stay as pleasurable as possible, so don’t be afraid to ask for anything. If we don’t have it, we’ll get it; and if we can’t get it, one of Nick Saban’s booster friends can! (Kidding, Nick!)

Below you will find the official itinerary provided by the SEC for the week’s events. We’ll be seeing you around!

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Tuesday

sandcastles

7:00 – 9:00 am: Complimentary Breakfast in the Sandcastles Restaurant

Located off the resort lobby, Sandcastles is the one restaurant at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa that will offer a full breakfast, free of charge. The menu will vary by day, ranging from fresh and cooked-to-order a la carte options to a wide spread on our breakfast buffet.

9:30 am: The New ‘Cost of Attendance’ Legislation And Its Impact On The League, Emerald Ballroom

The hottest topic at this year’s SEC Springs Meetings is the new ‘Cost of Attendance’ legislation passed by the Power 5 conferences back in January. Many of you have raised concerns with the discrepancies in COA payments and the implications it will have on recruiting balance, so we will address the method of calculation and its impact in our first symposium of the week.

11:00 am: Making The Case For Satellite Camps w/ Mark Richt, Coral Ballroom

Georgia head coach Mark Richt will make the case for change in the SEC’s hard stand against satellite football camps. Richt and many other league coaches have been very vocal about removing the ban against satellite camps, and this year we will open the discussion for change in the ruling.

12:00 pm: Lunch, Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood

Destin’s only – and Northwest Florida’s first – AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. Seagar’s presents fresh seafood dishes and steaks rated USDA Prime Black Diamond (the highest designation the U.S. government gives) in an elegant, romantic and intimate setting.

Or order it from your room!

1:00 pm: Kevin Stallings Complains About Things, Sandpiper Room

For the fifth consecutive year, Kevin Stallings will lead the Kevin Stallings Complains About Things workshop on the first afternoon at the SEC Spring Meetings. All coaches and league personnel are encouraged to attend the entire two-hour discussion, where Kevin Stallings complains about things from around the league.

As in years past, we ask everyone to remain silent while Kevin Stallings complains about things.

Also important to note: this year’s Kevin Stallings Complains About Things was moved to the Sandpiper Room after Stallings’ complaints about the aesthetics and inadequate podium lighting in the Pelican Room.

3:00 pm: Rookie Initiation, Basement

A mandatory event for Jim McElwain and Mike White (Florida), Ben Howland (Mississippi State), Rick Barnes (Tennessee) and Avery Johnson (Alabama), this year’s Rookie Initiation is going to be a blast!

As per usual, only returning SEC head coaches are permitted to lead the initiations, with the exception of Frank Martin, who we’ve repeatedly warned about waterboarding at official SEC events.

Also, hotel staff has prohibited the use of cattle prods and open flames this year after the Donnie Tyndall incident of 2014.

6:00 pm: Andy Kennedy’s SEC Spring Meetings Welcoming Party, Hooters Emerald Coast Pkwy

Andy Kennedy will be at Hooters on the first night of the SEC Spring Meetings for a 10th consecutive year. He’s asked that someone please join him this time. If he’s the only one who shows up, it will be the final Andy Kennedy’s SEC Spring Meetings Welcoming Party.

Transportation will be provided. (American drivers only.)

Wednesday

spurrier

6:00 – 7:30 am: Weight Training w/ Steve Spurrier, Fitness Center

The Ol’ Ball Coach is back for an 11th year with his Wednesday morning voluntary workout session at the SEC Spring Meetings. This year Spurrier will conduct a light-weight muscle-builder workout in the fitness center, followed by a brief photo opportunity and Bloody Marys.

Bandanas provided. Shirts prohibited.

7:00 – 9:00 am: Complimentary Breakfast in the Sandcastles Restaurant

 

9:30 – 11:30 am: Sand-tasting with Les Miles.

For those of you who aren’t too full after breakfast, Les Miles will host his annual sand-tasting event on the beach just outside the Hilton Sandestin. Miles, known for eating grass before LSU football games, will also defend his trophy in the sand-eating contest. He ate a record 16 lbs. of sand in just under five minutes in 2007.

pearl-bbq

12:00 pm: NCAA-sanctioned cookout with Bruce Pearl

Auburn’s head coach will host an outdoor barbecue at Barefoot’s Beachside Bar & Grill, overlooking the resort’s stunning beach and two outdoor pools.

Pearl will be serving his infamous Infraction Burgers and Aaron Craft Mac and Cheese.

NO PHOTOS.

1:00 – 5:00 pm: How To Beat John Calipari and Kentucky, Coral Ballroom

If anyone has any idea how to beat John Calipari and Kentucky, please be in the Coral Ballroom at 1:00 pm. All league basketball coaches will be in attendance to, hopefully, develop a game plan that could potentially take down the Cats. Our hope is that, together, we can come up with something. Anything.

John Calipari will not attend. He will fly to Drake’s “Jungle Tour” concert in Auburn Hills for the night.

6:00 pm: A Farewell Toast to Commissioner Mike Slive, Sandcastles Lounge

Join us for a cocktail party in honor of Mike Slive, who will step down in July after 13 years of service as league commissioner. As the seventh commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Slive has overseen perhaps the greatest era of success since the league was founded in 1933.

Turn up!

Thursday

6:30 – 7:00 am: Steve Spurrier’s 30-Minute Abs, Fitness Center

You came to the SEC Spring Meetings to talk conference improvement, but thanks to Steve Spurrier, you can leave with rock hard abs. Spurrier will teach his patented 30-Minute Abs class prior to breakfast Thursday morning.

Wash down that core work at the leftover Bloody Mary bar.

7:00 – 9:00 am: Complimentary Breakfast in the Sandcastles Restaurant

 

9:30 – 10:30 am: Ben Howland’s “How To Convince A Five-Star Recruit To Live In Starkville,” Emerald Ballroom

Mississippi State’s Ben Howland will give a financial lecture on how to sign an elite recruit in one of the worst college towns in America. Howland will not only teach his ways, he will explain how to convince people to believe it’s “because his dad played there.”

This event is sponsored by Adidas.

10:30 am – 12:00 pm: John Calipari Autograph Signing, Barefoot’s Deck

Calipari, back from Wednesday night’s Drake concert, will sign autographs for all SEC Spring Meeting attendees. Each attendee is allowed one signed 8×10 photo, provided in your registration packets. Due to time constraints, Calipari will not be able to sign any additional items, as he has to fly to Chicago for the Drake concert at the United Center. He will return Friday morning.

12:00 pm: Lunch, Hadashi Sushi

Hadashi Sushi Bar at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa allows our guests to sample authentic Japanese sushi in a warm and inviting setting, often with live piano music playing in the background.

1:00 – 3:00 pm: The Billy Donovan Memorial Beach Olympics

Competitive events include:

— Pool Volleyball

— Three-Legged-Race

— Tug-of-War

— Crab-Crawl Relay

— Gators’ Failed Drug Test/Pee Sample Toss

3:00 – 7:00 pm: Live taping of The Paul Finebaum Show

Only Nick Saban and Gus Mahlzan required to attend.

Optional for everyone else.

4:00 – 5:00 pm: Outkicking Your Coverage with Bret and Jen Bielema, Serenity Spa

Bret Bielema is back again to explain how to parlay your power as an SEC head coach into landing a smoking hot wife.

SERIOUSLY, MAN! TEACH US!!!

6:00 pm: A Farewell Toast to LSU head coach Johnny Jones, Sandcastles Lounge

Join us for a cocktail party in honor of Johnny Jones, who will undoubtedly be fired at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season when his team is eliminated in the first round of the NIT. With a talented roster that includes Ben Simmons, the best player in college basketball, Jones will underachieve once again in his final season in Baton Rouge, and the league.

So join us in his final SEC Spring Meetings! Turn up!

Friday

6:30 am: Steve Spurrier’s Full-Body Exercise-Ball Workout, Fitness Center

Steve Spurrier will be in the Fitness Center one last time for attendees interested in a workout before heading home.

Or what’s left of the Bloody Mary bar.

7:00 – 9:00 am: Complimentary Breakfast in the Sandcastles Restaurant

 

9:30 am: Final Send-Off, Grand Ballroom

We will gather in the Hilton Sandestin’s Grand Ballroom for our final meeting at the 2015 SEC Spring Meetings. Commissioner Slive will review the progress throughout the week and the mission ahead as everyone returns to their respective schools around the south to prepare for the 2015-16 academic year.

 

Enjoy your stay and GO SEC!!!


UK Fans of the Day Want the KSR Tour Schedule

UK Fans of the Day Want the KSR Tour Schedule

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It is almost that time of year again folks…the KSR Summer Tour will circle the state for eight weeks this summer as we go and visit all of our affiliates and other events around the state. 32 of our 33 affiliates will be hit (Irvine the exception) along big events (the NBA Draft and Peach Jam) and spots around the state with cool things going on (Ky Speedway, Fancy Farm, Frankfort and Shelbyville). It should be a ton of fun. We will announce the specific location of these stops in the coming days, but for now we wanted to make sure that you got the date on the calendar of those stops closest to where you live. We will once again be giving away UK tickets and other prizes so come see us out and about in this state for a fun eight weeks on the road:

June 22: Prestonsburg
June 23: Paintsville
June 24: Columbia
June 25: NBA Draft (NYC)
June 26: NBA Draft (NYC)

June 29: Shelbyville
June 30: Leitchfield
July 1: Madisonville
July 2: Morgantown
July 3: Hopkinsville

July 6: Morganfield
July 7: Grayson
July 8: Pikeville
July 9: Williamson WV
July 10:Kentucky Speedway

July 13: Cynthiana
July 14: Whitley City
July 15: London
July 16: Peach Jam
July 17: Peach Jam

July 20: Whitesburg
July 21: Manchester
July 22: Somerset
July 23: Harlan
July 24: Dickmann’s

July 27: Campbellsville
July 28: Owensboro
July 29: Benton
July 30: Paducah
July 31: Fancy Farm

Aug 3: Bowling Green
Aug 4: McKee
Aug 5: Glasgow
Aug 6: Jamestown
Aug 7: Monticello (Raft Up)

Aug 10: Frankfort
Aug 11: Maysville
Aug 12: Danville
Aug 13: Lexington
Aug 14: Louisville

Please come out and see as many of the shows as you can…they are a lot of fun and it is always a good time around the state. You never know who will show up, what we will give away or how many run-ins with the authorities Ryan Lemond will have. It should be another fun summer on the road…

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8 Things UK can do with the Kirwan and Blanding Towers

8 Things UK can do with the Kirwan and Blanding Towers

UK recently announced plans to keep the Kirwan and Blanding dormitory towers vacant for the upcoming school year. The 23-story towers have been a fixture on UK’s campus since they were built in 1963, but over the years, have fallen more and more into disrepair. Demolishing or renovating the towers would apparently cost more than $10 million, so there is no long-term plan for them yet. Until the administration decides what to do with them, they’ll remain vacant.

Well, just letting the towers sit there sounds pretty boring to me, so I spent the day coming up with some ideas on what the university can do with them. Shoutout to Fake Barney for his contributions.

1. Use them for the ultimate basketball walk-on try out

Sam Malone, Brian Long, and Tod Lanter are gone, and while UK has already added one walk-on for next year’s team in Jonny David, there are still a few spots open. Being a UK walk-on is the dream of a million kids across the Commonwealth and it isn’t for the faint of heart, so why not hold a Hunger Games-style competition to find the cream of the crop? Each floor could have a different UK basketball-related obstacle, such as:

  • Basketball drills (obviously)
  • Dodging jersey chasers
  • Who can post the most interesting behind-the-scenes Instagram/tweets
  • Racing the stairs against Alan Cutler
  • Answering stupid questions from the media while still being polite
  • real life Super Smash Brothers Tournament
  • Turning one floor into a giant cold tub to see who stays in the longest
  • Reciting the entire first chapter of “Players First”
  • Clapping/cheering competition
  • Middle of the huddle hype dance-offs

To make things interesting, release a live wildcat in the tower to eliminate the weakest competitors. Whoever comes out first/alive makes the team.

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2. Let them decompose for 25 years then use them as a zombie apocalypse training center

The towers are already in pretty bad shape, so why not let nature take them over for a while and then use them as a training ground for a future zombie apocalypse ala “The Walking Dead”? Willie Cauley-Stein is a huge fan of the show and often told reporters that one day, he wants to learn to fight zombies. Once Willie’s done with basketball, invite him to run the “Willie Cauley-Stein Center for Fighting Zombies and Making Cool Graffiti.”

3. Put all of the UK fraternities in one and the sororities in the other

Think of how fun this would be. Frat houses are gross anyways, so put all of the frats in one building, one per floor, and sororities in the other. Install zip lines so people can go between the two for parties. Put in cameras and make it the ultimate college reality show.

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4. Turn them into a Crazy UK Fan Rehabilitation Center

The Kentucky fan base is the best in all of sports, but we definitely have our share of crazies. To help the crazies “see the light,” lock them in the towers for “rehab.” What qualifies as “crazy”?

  • People who email Matt more than three times per week
  • People who call into Calipari’s radio show to complain or tell him how to coach
  • Anyone who complains about autograph tours
  • Actually, anyone who still writes letters to the editor
  • KSR comment section trolls
  • Anyone who wants to “FARRRR CAL”

To give the crazies perspective, put TVs in each room and play all of the Billy Gillispie games on loop.

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5. Sell them to KSR for our new headquarters

Sure, they’d need some major renovations, but our sponsors can help us out with that, right? Wendy’s, Boone’s Butcher Shop, and Sleep Outfitters could all open up shop, and we could make at least one of the towers into an entertainment complex for fans. Fake Barney can run the daycare, Shannon could host booty-shaking contests, Drew could open a bar, Ally and Fake David Beckham could give soccer lessons, Josephine could run a chicken and dumplings restaurant, I could finally have an apartment to stay in when I come in for games…the possibilities are endless.

doronladiesman

6. Give one floor to each UK player in the pros

In the Calipari Era, former players returning to campus has become an annual tradition. As a way to say thank you, why not give each UK player drafted a floor of the towers? There are 23 floors in each, 46 total. If all seven players are drafted this summer, there will be 25 UK basketball players in the pros, so give some to the NFL Cats as well. Renovations shouldn’t be a problem since they all make pretty good money.

Doron Lamb may not be in the NBA anymore, but he was part of a National Championship team and he’s hilarious, so give him a penthouse.  Can you imagine the parties? Who up? Doron up, up in the penthouse, girl.

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7. Turn them into Haunted Towers

Between the football and basketball programs, we have enough ghosts to fill up more than two towers. Billy Gillispie probably needs something to do, so invite him to be the resident ghost. Not spooky enough? Play Kentucky Joe over the intercom 24/7.

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8. Win #9 and burn them down

Couch fires are so 2012.


The Top 12: Ranking UK’s Opponents

@UKCoachStoops

Summer months leading up to football season can be best described as a double root canal with the excruciating sounds of Florida-Georgia Line playing on continual loop. Patience is a virtue or so I’ve read.  Obviously I’ve not quite grasped that concept. Now, on to the schedule.  The highly dangerous Ragin Cajuns open the season with arch-rival Louisville wrapping it up on Thanksgiving weekend.  Between those two are a bevy of teams with varying levels of difficulty. Here’s how I rank UK opponents 1-12:

1. Auburn-QB Jeremy Johnson could compete with Boom Williams and Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter for the 2015 SEC Break-out Player of the Year. Gus Malzahn’s offense can at times score at will while new DC Will Muschamp didn’t exactly win over the hearts and minds of Gator Nation, he successfully coordinated defenses prior to his tumultuous time in Gainesville. The Tigers also will give a look into Kentucky’s future.  Its roster is built for speed more so than power, similar trend for Recruiting Coordinator Vince Marrow.

2. Georgia-The Dawgs. All that talent. SEC’s annual “what could have been” team has reloaded with a new crop of 5 star recruits.  QB competition lingered with hint of possible incoming transfer but unlikely. Georgia has the best OL in the league, Nick Chubb plus 3-4 All American back up RB’s. UGA could either run the table to Atlanta or under-achieve at 8-4.

3. Missouri-Week 8, Mizzou will be discussed for being an East contender, a division it’s won in consecutive years. Gary Pinkel has quietly out-coached his peers and developed a DL factory that will continue to produce and travel several future NFL defensive linemen to Commonwealth Stadium. With little offensive flash, opposing fans often nap then look up at the scoreboard and be down 14 going into the fourth quarter.

4. Tennessee-In college football terms, all those pimple faced freshmen have grown into adolescents.  If QB Josh Dobbs on the field play can match his academic excellence, the Vols will be back in the hunt. Playing Tennessee Week 8 is a change to a long history of late season match-ups and losses.  Perhaps date variation will yield different result.

5. Mississippi State-Pre-season SEC Player of the Year Dak Prescott is back. See what I did there?  At least I didn’t go, “Dak is Back”.  Couple that with an aggressive, talented receiving corps and the Dogs will be a pass-heavy team with great consideration on Prescott’s shoulders.  Graduation hit the offensive line and defensive depth, hard.  Junior DT Chris Jones entered 2014 as an All American but was 2nd team on Dog depth chart.

6. Louisville-Clint Hurtt’s 20 plus recruits are now in the NFL. Cardinals are plugging the dam with transfers, a risky proposal. But these transfers can flat out play. With seemingly 74 QB’s on its roster settling on a starter will be priority one going into opener against Auburn. 

7. South Carolina-Sadly, this seems to be the beginning to the end of the Spurrier era. The Ole Ball Coach revolutionized the SEC in 1990 but last year his team just didn’t look right. Gamecocks struggled to maintain leads, threw untimely interceptions, and appeared defensively unprepared. Uncertainty at QB will lead to Spurrier frustration.  Game two in Columbia will define both teams.

8. Florida-Gators are no longer the scariest reptiles in the south. Astonishingly, 8 UF players were drafted off an under-achieving team that was one blown play clock penalty away from losing to the Cats in Gainesville. Consistent conference theme applies, questionably quarterback play with its offensive line in dire straits having a limited number of scholarship players on its roster.  Florida does have the best CB in football, Vernon Hargreaves III.  Mr. Barnhart, you might want to grease up the goal posts for this one.

9. Louisiana Lafayette-Scary, scary opener. This won’t be the last time you’ll hear this from me. ULL can (did not say will) beat Kentucky in the opener. Will that happen, that’s for a later discussion. Four consecutive 9-4 seasons including bowl wins fuel the Ragin Cajuns into Commonwealth Stadium.  Expect 30 carries from Sunbelt Player of the Year Elijah McGuire and a physical, athletic, and angry team. 

10. Vanderbilt-Problematic quarterback play prompted its first year offensive coordinator to not get a second season. The 14 Dores started three different quarterbacks while going 0-8 in the SEC. Defense also was an issue, leading Head Coach Derek Mason to take over play calling duties, a role he excelled at while at Stanford.  Supposedly this move provided a spark. Summary, James Franklin is one heck of a football coach.

11. EKU-In what may be the most anticipated game of the year, the Colonels make the 20 minute drive to Lexington. I fully expect Dean Hood and Mark Stoops to control their respective teams as pre-game prep talks will not be necessary.  At this juncture of the season, expect to see Stoops implement personnel moves as rookies and redshirts could supplant veterans at certain positions. I highly respect EKU.  The university has provided many eastern Kentucky athletes and students an opportunity. I know some of its coaches, many alumni, as well as current and former players. So don’t take this personally.  Lines have been drawn in the sand, neutrality thrown out of the window as what was once was a feel good game of keeping money in the state has transitioned to a grudge match that’s been brewing for 30 years.

12. Charlotte-The 49’ers first year in Division 1 or whatever college football’s highest division is now labeled could be a tough stretch. I do feel the University has properly built its program. By not rushing, administration has calculated the move which has not been the norm in some football newcomers.

This is a pre-pre-season list.  Before hitting send I just read where Steve Spurrier said that South Carolina will most likely not accept a QB transfer.  As news blotters are also now filling, a lot can happen during the summer.  We’ll dive into W/L’s at a later time. 

Note-I failed to mention that when ranking teams I put zero, none, zilch, absolutely no credence in team or conference bowl records.  Think through this, gauging teenager’s performance following an all-expense paid vacation in an exhibition game is not exactly the most scientific manner to evaluate. 


KSR’s 2015 Summer Calendar

KSR’s 2015 Summer Calendar

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This weekend is the unofficial start to summer, which means we’ve only seen the beginning of those annoying Target commercials. While the Kentucky sports landscape may seem bleak over the next three months, I went through the calendar and raked up plenty of events to keep us entertained from now until kick off in the new Commonwealth Stadium in September.

Spray on some sunscreen and come along. I’ll show you.

THE REST OF MAY

Photo by David Wegiel | UK Athletics

May 23-24: NCAA Softball Super Regional

The UK softball team will make its fourth appearance in the NCAA Super Regional this upcoming weekend in Gainesville. As someone who cares very little about the little round balls, even I was captivated by their run last year. Here’s their schedule this weekend:

Saturday, May 23
Kentucky vs. Florida – 1 p.m. ET – ESPNU

Sunday, May 24
Florida vs. Kentucky – noon ET – ESPN
Kentucky vs. Florida – 3 p.m. ET – ESPN

JUNE

June 6: Saturday Night Prime Time Camp

UK’s football camps have taken a huge step up in the Mark Stoops era, and the staff is kicking things off on June 6 with the Saturday Night Prime Time Camp, which is open to rising high school junior and seniors only. The Sunday Showcase camp is on Sunday and both are great chances for Kentucky to host and court elite talent from around the country. According to the staff, the Saturday Night Prime Time Camp is HUGE.

June 6: The Belmont Stakes

Will American Pharoah become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978? For horse racing’s sake, I sure hope so. Many are calling Pharoah the best Triple Crown contender since Smarty Jones in 2004, and America will be watching to see if he can pull off something only eleven other horses have in the history of the sport.

ulis-blood

June 9: Basketball players report to campus

In recent years, summer workouts have become the norm for the basketball team, and if players aren’t able to come early, they’re noticeably behind the rest when the season starts. While some of us are still stuck on the end of last season, it’s comforting to know that the Tyler Ulis era at Kentucky begins in two and a half weeks.

June 22: The KSR Summer Tour of Affiliates kicks off

For the fourth year in a row, Matt, Ryan, and Drew will tour the state to visit all of the radio show’s affiliates. There’s over 30 affiliates now, which means the tour will take almost two months. The schedule is still being finalized, but we’ll post it as soon as it’s ready. Get your hole in the wall, down home cookin’ restaurant recs ready.

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

June 25: The NBA Draft (New York City)

Kentucky set the record for the most players drafted from one school back in 2012 when six Cats’ names were called: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. There’s a good chance Kentucky will break its own record this go around as seven players wait to hear their futures.

Karl Towns will go either first or second, Willie Cauley-Stein most likely in the top ten, and Devin Booker and Trey Lyles possibly in the lottery. Dakari Johnson and Andrew Harrison could potentially sneak into the first round, while Aaron Harrison needs to impress in workouts over the next month to ensure his name is called. If all seven players are drafted, it will be a landmark moment for the program and the telecast will be even more of a UK informercial than in years past.

JULY

July 4: Happy Birthday America

Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year, but that won’t stop me and Richmond Bramblet from holding our annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest LIVE BLOG. (Richmond, if you’re reading this, you’re doing it.)

July 4-20: NBA Summer Leagues kick off

With potentially 25 former Kentucky players in the league after the Draft, there’s a good chance we’ll see several of them play in the Summer Leagues in Orlando, Utah, and Las Vegas. Here’s a list of teams participating:

Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA D-League Select, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards

And the different league dates:

  • July 4-10: Orlando Summer League
  • July 6-9: Utah Jazz Summer League
  • July 10-20: Las Vegas Summer League

July 13-16: SEC Football Media Days (Birmingham, Alabama)

For the third year in a row, I’m headed to lovely Birmingham to cover the SEC Media Days. Mark Stoops and the Kentucky representatives aren’t up until Wednesday, but I’ll head down Tuesday morning to take in the sights, sounds, and crazy Alabama fans in the Wyndham Hotel lobby.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Monday, July 13: SEC Commissioner, Auburn (Gus Malzahn), Florida (Jim McElwain), Vanderbilt (Derek Mason)
  • Tuesday, July 14: SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw; South Carolina (Steve Spurrier), Texas A&M (Kevin Sumlin), Mississippi State (Dan Mullen), Tennessee (Butch Jones)
  • Wednesday, July 15: Alabama (Nick Saban), Kentucky (Mark Stoops), Arkansas (Bret Bielema), Missouri (Gary Pinkel)
  • Thursday, July 16: LSU (Les Miles), Georgia (Mark Richt), Ole Miss (Hugh Freeze)

July 15-19: EYBL Peach Jam (North Augusta, South Carolina)

Matt, Drew, and Tomlin will go to North Augusta once again to give you the latest buzz on the recruiting scene, the coaches and media in the bar scene, and the peaches scene. Peaches for you, peaches for me.

July 17: Friday Night Blue Lights Camp

Another big camp and opportunity for Mark Stoops and staff to impress the nation’s elite recruits. The 2016 class is already off to a good start, and clinics like this will give the staff a chance to show off the progress on the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium and practice facility.

July 25: UK Football Women’s Clinic

I wasn’t able to attend last year’s clinic, but I’ll be there this year in hopes the coaches will give us a glimpse of the new stadium. Registration hasn’t opened yet, but ladies, go ahead and clear your calendars for a fun day of football.

AUGUST

Early August: Football Media Day, Fan Day, Fall Camp begins

Players report to campus and fall camp begins during the first week of August, which will be followed by Media Day and Fan Day. Exact dates haven’t been announced, but rest assured, Matt will walk around the field barefoot to interview coaches and players.

August 11-13: USA Basketball Men’s National Team Mini Camp (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall are all on the 34-player roster for Team USA, with Davis and Cousins participating in the FIBA World Cup last summer. The 2016 Olympics are around the corner, which makes this year’s mini camp even more important. Will any other Cats receive an invite?

kash-daniel

August 13: Kash Daniel announces his decision

The four-star linebacker currently has offers from Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina, and Purdue, along with interest from Ohio State and Florida. The Paintsville native will narrow his list to four next month, and moving up his decision date has to be a good sign for the Cats, who were the first to offer and have the momentum in his recruitment so far.

August 14: The final KSR Summer Tour Stop in Louisville

The summer tour schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, but it traditionally includes an appearance from Mark Stoops to get us all fired up for football season. Is it strange that I’m already excited for Ryan Lemond’s pep talks?

SEPTMEBER

commonwealth

September 5: UK vs. Louisiana Lafayette

We made it. Bring on football and fall.


Ranking Kentucky’s 13 non-conference games in order of sheer enjoyment

Ranking Kentucky’s 13 non-conference games in order of sheer enjoyment

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.20.53 PM

Kentucky’s 2014-2015 non-conference schedule is out, which means two things: 1) You can finally plan your late fall/early winter social gatherings, and 2) We can finally turn the page and focus on next season. With that in mind, I spent the afternoon ranking UK’s 13 non-conference games not in terms of difficulty, but sheer enjoyment. Because that’s how we do things around here.

13. WRIGHT STATE (Rupp Arena, Friday, Nov. 20)

This will be the fourth meeting between Kentucky and Wright State, and, predictably, the Cats lead the series 3-0. According to last season’s KenPom and RPI, the Raiders are the second worst team on UK’s non-conference schedule behind South Florida, but because this game doesn’t take place in Miami and, I’m sorry, Wright State basketball doesn’t really get my toe a tappin’, it registers the lowest on my radar. It’s okay. Someone has to be last.

12. NJIT (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Nov. 14)

The only reason NJIT is ahead of Wright State in my rankings is because I can already tell we’re going to have fun with their nickname–the Highlanders. In fact, it’s really a shame the NJIT game is the day after the season-opener against Albany because it probably won’t get the attention it deserves. Except from me. There can only be one!

11. EASTERN KENTUCKY (Rupp Arena, Wednesday, Dec. 9)

It seems like most of the tension between the Cats and our neighbors down I-75 is on the football side, or this matchup would rank higher on my list. This is the second consecutive season UK will take on Eastern, who made it to the CollegeInsider.com quarterfinals last year because apparently that is a thing. Former UK men’s basketball manager Dan McHale is now the head coach at Eastern, giving the affair even more of a Bluegrass feel. I can already tell we’re going to like his postgame presser.

10. ALBANY (Rupp Arena, Friday, Nov. 13)

Nothing about Albany excites me, or probably anyone. Like our own state capital, they’re kind of the afterthought of their state, which is pretty sad; however, their mascot is a Great Dane and they’re the season-opening opponent, which boosts them up the list a bit. Ain’t no game like the first real game at Rupp, after all.

9. ILLINOIS STATE (Rupp Arena, Monday, Nov. 30)

Nothing says sexy like Monday night basketball. Illinois State was actually pretty decent last season, making it to the second round of the NIT. The Redbirds even upset Wichita State during in the MVC Tournament and have beaten at least one Top 25 team in each of its last four seasons. That last factoid made me move them two spots up in my rankings. Eek?

8. BOSTON (Rupp Arena, Tuesday, Nov. 24)

UK beat Boston 89-65 last season in a game that will always be remembered for Dominique Hawkins’ dunk. The only reason the Terriers are in my top ten is because I have an excuse to post this video again:

7. OHIO STATE (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 19)

This game is part of the second annual CBS Sports Classic, aka “The Extra Neutral-Site Non-Conference Event Calipari Wanted.” Normally, a game against the Buckeyes would be higher on my list, but D’Angelo Russell and their second leading scorer–Googling..Googling–Sam Thompson are gone. Nevertheless, this is a weekend in New York, so let’s go.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 3.07.55 PM

6. ARIZONA STATE (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015)

Bobby Hurley returned to Rupp last season as the head coach of Buffalo, and he’s back again with Arizona State. This game will get attention for more than just the boos he’ll receive; Hurley is a darling in the coaching world and many think he can make some noise at Arizona State. At the very least, he can be the star of some craptacular Photoshops.

5. SOUTH FLORIDA (American Airlines Arena, Miami, Friday, Nov. 27)

UK will head to Miami the day after Thanksgiving for a matchup with our old friend Orlando Antigua, the coolest man with the coolest Twitter profile pic ever. A lot of people are guffawing over the scheduling of this game–right after Turkey Day and right before the UK/Louisville football game–but a trip to Miami in late November has me volunteering to leave my family’s festivities early. (Sorry, family. Love you.)

4. UCLA (Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3)

The next week, the Cats will cross the country to play UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, another warm weather showdown. This is the first game in a two-year home-and-home series with the Bruins, and the first time Kentucky has ever played in Pauley. Last year, the Cats embarrassed UCLA 83-44 in Chicago, but the Bruins rebounded to make the Sweet 16.

With palm trees, In-N-Out Burger, and Pauley, it’s a true testament to the greatness of this year’s non-conference schedule that this game doesn’t rank higher.

3. LOUISVILLE (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015)

Louisville will be terrible this year, but that may make this game even more fun. In fact, if it were the same team with any other name, this game would be much lower on my rankings, but Louisville is Louisville and beating them in late December has become a holiday tradition.

2. KANSAS (Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016)

I went back and forth between this game and Duke for the number one spot, but ultimately put UK’s trip to Allen Fieldhouse second on my list; I could even list them 1a and 1b. I’ve never been to The Phog, but I’ve heard great things, and hopefully I’ll draw this trip out of the KSR assignment hat. After the Cats wiped the floor with them last year, the Jayhawks will be out for revenge, and I hear that place can get quite loud. Bring it on.

1. DUKE (United Center, Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 17)

Even just typing those four letters gets me hyped. It also makes me gag a little bit, especially when I went through the Google search and saw all their Championship pictures. Duke had nothing to do with Kentucky not making the finals, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate them for winning. (That was supposed to be us! That was supposed to be our blue and white confetti!)

Both teams are totally different now, but I still want Kentucky to beat them very, very badly. I bet Tyler Ulis does too.

Your turn.


The non-conference schedule is out

The non-conference schedule is out

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.20.53 PM

We knew most of these games already, but the date for the Louisville game is finally confirmed as December 26. Also, that game with Arizona State looks pretty enticing.

Thoughts?


Doctor wrote Rick Pitino a letter in 1995, Rick Pitino responded

Doctor wrote Rick Pitino a letter in 1995, Rick Pitino responded

Way back in 1995, when Rick Pitino was the head coach at the University of Kentucky, Dr. David Kinnaird of Louisville wrote Pitino a letter expressing concerns with Walter McCarty’s diet. In Kinnaird’s words, he was “appalled” after reading about the “inappropriate treatment of a fine, college basketball player, Walter McCarty.”

Pitino was trying to bulk McCarty up to be a stronger presence inside for the Wildcats and Doc Kinnaird wasn’t a fan of his method:

This ill-advised excess feeding schedule (including alarming quantities of potentially harmful flips-cholesterol) to bring his weight to a predetermined game weight may well be deleterious to his general health by exposing him to later endocrine, physiologic, and cardiovascular disorders — as well as possible disturbing psychologic derrangements. How much emotional stress can be brought to bear on a healthy, competitive, student athlete whose every waking hour (except for basketball practice sessions) is filled with the pressure to eat copious, repetitive meals?

It is my fervent wish that you abandon this insensitive handling of a fine young man for the good of basketball in general, the UK basketball program and Walter McCarty, in particular.

Pitino received the letter and promptly mailed it back to Kinnaird with his own annotations.

Now fast forward to today and we’ve obtained a copy of the letter from Kinnaird’s grandson, complete with Walter McCarty’s autograph from a signing after college:

pitino-letter

Some of Pitino’s better annotations include:

— “Dear David, Get a life!”

— “Thanks for the medical help we don’t need.”

— “Please don’t write again, you are boring me and wasting value time with your gibberish.”

— “You need a checkup mentally! You should not be handling patients.”

In Pitino’s defense, I’m sure the staff knew exactly what they were doing with McCarty’s nutrition, as he points out in his rebuttal. He also notes that it was all “good-natured fun” and he was “joking” in whatever report/comments Kinnaird was so upset over.

If anyone has one of those Microfilm readers or a stack of old Courier-Journals laying around, throw us a bone and send us what Pitino said that got Kinnaird all worked up.

Until then, you are boring me and wasting value time with your gibberish. Get a life.

*** UPDATE ***

99 times out of 100, if you ask the internet for a favor, the internet will oblige. Thanks to a KSR reader in a library, we now have a copy of the Courier-Journal article that sparked the letter to Pitino:

 

Okay, Doc had a point. According to the story, McCarty was devouring almost 11,000 calories a day, beginning with French toast, sausage biscuits, bacon, pancakes, four ounces of syrup and 20 ounces of juice, and ending with six slices of pizza as a bedtime snack.

Pitino refused to start McCarty until he ballooned up to 230 pounds. “I’m fed up with it,” he said of McCarty failing to meet weight.

I guess it worked.


Karl Towns’ 4 Draft Day Scenarios

Karl Towns’ 4 Draft Day Scenarios

karlcollage2

Last night, we all got a taste of what it would be like to be a Knicks fan. The Knicks, the team with the second best odds to get the first pick in the NBA Draft, ended up with the fourth pick, pretty much destroying our dreams of Karl in a Knicks uniform; however, the lottery put some very interesting scenarios on the table. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the first pick, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers. Karl and Jahlil Okafor are pretty much guaranteed the top two spots, but in what order?

Let’s break down each scenario.

karl-timberwolves2

1. Karl goes first to the Minnesota Timberwolves

If pretty much any other team had gotten the first pick, there would be no question that they’d pick Karl; however, Flip Saunders has made it known that he prefers Okafor. That being said, there are reports today that Saunders is now torn between Okafor and Towns. What a problem to have, right? Although Saunders may have been immediately drawn to Okafor, there’s over a month until the draft, and as we know, it only takes Karl a few minutes to make a good impression.

Some argue that Towns would actually be a better fit with the Timberwolves than Okafor because of his versatility. Whereas Okafor may be the better player offensively right now, Towns is much stronger on defense, and towards the end of the year, became Kentucky’s go-to guy for scoring. He’s also shown flashes of a mid-range to outside game, which may have scared the bejeezus out of us early on last year, but could allow him to play alongside Gorgui Dieng.

Pros: Towns would join a roster already loaded with young talent, including Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammed, Anthony Bennett, Adrien Payne, and Zach LaVine. Once that group gels and matures, watch out. Karl and Wiggins are already friends and together, could lead the Timberwolves back to relevance. Plus, there’s the chance to play with Kevin Garnett, who Karl said last night could be a great mentor.

Cons: He’d have to live in Minnesota, which, if you like lakes and the Mall of America, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Karl being Karl, he’d make the best of it. I can already see him on that roller coaster in the mall, hands up. He’d probably even take up ice fishing.

karllakers

2. Karl goes second to the Lakers

Should Minnesota go for Okafor, this is obviously the next option for Karl. And, once you get over not having the bragging rights of being the #1 pick, it might be the best option.

Pros: Not only would Karl get to be the face of an historical franchise–we know he’s a sucker for those–he’d have a chance to team up with fellow Cat Julius Randle. Can you think of a better front court? There are rumors the Lakers may go after Rajon Rondo as well, which would make for a lot of jersey shipments to the Bluegrass state.

Like Garnett in Minnesota, Karl would also have the chance to learn from Kobe Bryant, with whom he’s already familiar. Bryant gave Karl a pep talk three years ago when the Dominican Republic national team played Team USA in the 2012 Olympics.

“The biggest thing I took away from that game was a confidence level that I could play with these players, that I can play with the best of the best,” Towns told Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears. “Kobe talked to me. … He told me to make sure I keep working hard and he talked about some other things. We had a good conversation.”

Cons: None. It’s California.

3. Karl goes third

Not gonna happen. And if it does, I will riot.

4. The Knicks bring in Kevin Costner from “Draft Day” and trade for the #1 pick

No one believed Sonny Weaver Jr. could turn the Cleveland Browns around, but he somehow turned the program’s 7th pick into a 1st pick, a 7th pick, AND a star punt returner for the hell of it. I suggest Phil Jackson get Kevin Costner on the phone right now and pressure him into some method acting to bring Karl to New York. “Draft Day 2″ perhaps?!


Obviously, my preference is scenario #4, but sadly, I don’t see that happening.

Minnesota may have more talent to surround Karl with right now, but teaming up with Randle to rebuild one of the league’s greatest programs is more than just a consolation prize. It’s the dream. Add in the possibility of Willie Cauley-Stein going to Sacramento to play with Boogie and a blue-hued Lakers/Kings rivalry? Fuggedaboutit.


Calipari says goal was to send eight players to NBA, not win national title

@traceyflinter

If you’re not a fan of Coach Cal’s Players First mentality, you might want to sit this one out. Take a quick break from the computer, grab a Wendy’s Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken sandwich, steal an ambulance for a Fireball run, go enjoy the weather, whatever. This one’s not for you.

For everyone else, Calipari went on one of his better Players First rants today while speaking at Alltech’s Rebelation closing session in Rupp Arena this morning. It was a different kind of crowd — business minds, not UK basketball fans — so his message focused on leadership and coming together as a team for a common goal.

But while relaying that message, Calipari said the goal last season was to get eight players draft, not win the national title.

“Last year we started the season with a goal,” he told the Alltech Rebelation crowd. “You may think that goal was to win the national title and win all the games and be… It was to get eight players drafted.”

His point, I think, was to say if those eight players maximized their potential, everything else would fall into place. If everyone on the team played for each other, the rest would come. I think. But that one statement won’t sit well with some people. (Hopefully they took my advice and logged off.)

Cal also talked about last season’s disappointing end, saying he’s very proud of what they accomplished as a group and as individuals.

“This year, we were trying to win every game and we fell short of what we were trying to do,” he said. “But we still did historic things this year and seven players are going to be drafted. I can tell you, I feel great about what happened because players got better, they did what they had to do… College basketball is not the NBA best-of-seven. It’s one game.”

You can listen to Cal’s lecture here. It’s so John Calipari.


Kentucky’s Non-Conference Basketball Schedule As We Know It

It shouldn’t be long before the University of Kentucky releases its 2015-16 non-conference basketball schedule to the public, for message board assholes to complain about irrationally. We already know of 12 of UK’s upcoming opponents and nine of those games are set in stone with dates and venues.

Highlighting the non-conference slate, in my opinion, is a mid-November game with defending national champion Duke in Chicago for the Champions Classic. It will be Big Blue Nation’s third trip to the Windy City in three years. We’ll also have trips to Kansas, Los Angeles, New York and Miami, so load up on those frequent flyer miles now.

Here is how the schedule stands as of today:

 

Kentucky vs. Albany
Lexington, KY
TBD

 

Kentucky vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology
Lexington, KY
TBD

 

Kentucky vs. Duke
Chicago, Il. 
Champions Classic
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Wright State
Lexington, KY
Friday, November 20, 2015

 

Kentucky @ South Florida
Miami, Fl.
Friday, November 27, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Illinois State
Lexington, KY
Monday, November 30, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. UCLA
Los Angeles, Ca.
Thursday, December 3, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky
Lexington, KY
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Arizona State
Lexington, KY
Tuesday, December 12, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Ohio State
Brooklyn, NY
CBS Sports Classic
Saturday, December 19, 2015

 

Kentucky vs. Louisville
Lexington, Ky.
TBD

 

Kentucky @ Kansas
Lawrence, Ks.
Big 12/SEC Challenge
Saturday, January 30, 2016


Breaking Down The 3-4 Defense and Why It Makes Sense

Breaking Down The 3-4 Defense and Why It Makes Sense

lewis-forrest

Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith now play on Sundays. Their exit along with recruiting undercurrents abetted in Mark Stoops’ commitment to the 3-4 defense. Football philosophy or scheme can be difficult to understand. In my attempt at writing, one of my primary goals is to translate coach-speak to layman’s terms.

Before discussing the driving forces or “why” the 3-4 move, let’s begin with basic terminology. In defensive scheme identification (examples: 3-4, 5-2, 4-3), the first digit designates the number of defensive linemen. The second figure specifies the number of linebackers. So, the 3-4 features three defensive linemen and four linebackers. Due to brevity, this posts focuses on the defensive line. Linebackers will be covered in a later post.

 

The Big Fellas

DT/NG (Defensive Tackle/Nose Guard) lines up in the proximity of the offensive center; main responsibilities include occupying the center to prevent double teams, creating chaos with quarterback-center exchange, gap responsibility, and applying middle pressure versus the pass. By occupying the middle of the field, the NG influences running backs angle to line of scrimmage. Tackles and sacks are a bonus. Statistical excellence is rare. Prototypical size is 6’0 or taller and minimum 300 pounds. Strength; girth, and burst off line of scrimmage necessary. Nasty streak mandatory.

Projected starter: Melvin Lewis, 6’4 330 Sr

DT alignment varies, normally covering an offensive guard/tackle. This defender is more apt at rushing the passer, but also eats up blockers and maintains gap responsibility while making line of scrimmage tackles. Mainly he occupies leverage to force ball carriers toward linebackers. Terms like eating up blockers aren’t literal. Cannibalism isn’t a required trait. By maintaining contact with OL, blockers can’t release to second level linebackers who are then freed to make tackles. By occupational description, defensive linemen are selfless by nature. Optimal size is 6’2, 280-plus. Required traits are quickness, disruptiveness, and discipline. Based on down-distance, this position can also be played by a WDE (Weak-side Defensive End).

Projected starter: CJ Johnson, 6’3 300 Sr

SDE (Strong-side defensive end) is the pass rush specialist but also called upon to maintain edge containment with run-stop responsibilities. This is the glory position of the group. With headlines comes requirements. Winning one-on-one battles against offensive tackles is a skill set similar to a power forward on the hardwood. Both require individual moves, confidence, and fortitude. Sacking the quarterback is as much about attitude as technique and ability. SEC height-weight standard varies, but 6’4, 260-plus is standard.

Projected starter: Farrington Huguenin, 6’4 272 Sr

5 Reasons Why the 3-4 Makes Sense

1. Recruiting. Recruiting defensive ends is a difficult proposition. 4-3 scheme requires two DE’s compared to one designated pass rusher in the 3-4. Simple mathematics apply. DE’s also take time to develop. Example, 2015 class included one DE, Kengera Daniel who will be special in time. Defensive Line Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh’s late signing of junior college defensive linemen Courtney Miggins and Alvonte Bell will provide an immediate impact. DE’s are valued commodities. With recruiting battles over these prized possessions imminent, UK’s best course of action is sign one-two HS DE’s and one JUCO player per year.

2. Abundance of Tweeners. Kentucky’s roster is littered with defenders formally designated as defensive ends that are now listed as outside linebackers. Jason Hatcher, Denzil Ware, and true freshman Josh Allen come to mind. An additional, common tweener move is transitioning larger safeties to LB. Through the recruiting process, linebackers are often identified as Athletes first then moved to OLB out of necessity. Kentucky has a successful track record in this process.

3. In the Middle, Bigger is Better. Enormous, space eating nose tackles are required. UK has two. Potential All SEC DL Melvin Lewis is one of the most improved players in the Southeastern Conference. Listed at 6’4, 342 (cough) Lewis is disruptive and a timely pass rusher. Melvin’s 2015’s effectiveness lies in Matt Elam’s progress. The celebrated recruit experienced several “welcome to the SEC” moments. If Elam can provide consistent depth and quality minutes, expect a much improved run defense.

4. Immediate Support. Four linebackers takes immediate pressure off the strong safety (SS) and cornerback (CB) positions. Both 2015 concerns. One of the SS’s primary goals is close to the line of scrimmage run support. Through simple LB alignment, stress is relieved for immediate action freeing up whomever wins the SS race to pass coverage especially in play action scenarios. As for cornerbacks, same can be applied. 3-4 specializes in stretching offensive plays horizontally relying upon LB’s to make the majority of tackles. Again, having an additional LB in flat coverage and run support will free up cornerbacks to primarily focus on pass coverage. I can’t help to think this wasn’t a significant part of the scheme change.

5. Identity. Defensively, Kentucky is at an identity juncture. Historically, the Cats have tried, and failed to over-power conference opponents. Being a fast and aggressive unit better fits current culture. Building a roster with organic flexibility for inter-changeable parts is simpler in the 3-4. Most importantly, this team needs to take on the personality and identity of its Head Coach. Tackling and physicality are non-negotiable and required upgrades. Commitment to the 3-4 does not guarantee either. Personnel upgrade does. Schematic consistency builds confidence and familiarity. At the University of Kentucky, an attacking defense is more likely to succeed than the 4-3 that leans upon reading and reacting. In a league of Alpha predators, UK has to be the aggressor. In 2015 and going forward, the 3-4 is the best fit for Kentucky and I feel is more suited for its current roster.

I’m not a coach, nor am I a writer. I provide opinion. Hope it doesn’t stink.


What the New Calipari Deal Means

What the New Calipari Deal Means

John-Calipari

John Calipari is signing a new deal with Kentucky that will add on another year to his contract and increase his salary to $8 million. His total take now will be 7 years, $54 million as he continues his time in Lexington through the 2021-2022 season. The new deal also features a $1.6 million longevity bonus that kicks into effect on July 1. It is part of a package for Calipari that began increasing last year (when his average salary went from 5 million to 7 million) and is intended to keep him at Lexington until he retires.

So what does the new extension mean? Well first of all, this was not a direct response to rumors of a NBA team having interest in Calipari. Well not exactly. This deal has been in place for a couple of weeks and was part of a deal that Kentucky was instituting for Calipari beginning at the end of the season. The goal of this deal is of course to keep Cal in Lexington and the $1.6 million bonus acts as a big of an incentive to keep him here. Since Calipari has no “buyout” in his contract, if he ever leaves, there is no penalty for him hitting the road. However by making the $1.6 million paid after the NBA Finals and after the Draft, the theory is that any NBA team that wants Calipari will have made its choice before that date. If Cal leaves, he is leaving that money on the table to take the job…hence it is the closest thing possible to a buyout under the terms of the contract as structured.

So while this deal may not be a response to the Pelicans’ job coming open, it could of course be the case that its release tonight may be. There are four teams with Calipari ties that could be looking for a coach at the end of the year. The Pelicans, Cavs, Bulls and Wizards, all have coaching situations that are at least flexible, if not in the danger zone depending on what the next few days hold. Each have players that Calipari has connections to as their best player and each are in a position to win in the years to come. I don’t think Calipari would be interested in the Pelicans and I am not sure if the Bulls/Wizards would be interested in Calipari. But the goal of this deal is to at least dampen the talk that is sure to come in the days ahead. As Cleveland continues to march on, that will be the job to watch, especially after their courtship of Cal last year. The hope is that the extension and the attractiveness of the UK job as a whole will keep him here.

As far as whether this contract extension means that Calipari is definitely staying…well I don’t think you can for certain say that. If the dream offer is out there, Calipari will consider it, even if it comes this summer. Calipari would want full player control on a team that can win…there aren’t many of those out there and such a team would have to pay more than he makes now…which is a lot. It is becoming harder and harder to see such a marriage being created. But I also think today’s news makes clear that reports that Calipari wants to leave Kentucky for the NBA are incorrect. He is content at UK and if he ends up retiring here, I think he will be happy. You can never completely exclude the perfect offer but I think tonight what I thought earlier this afternoon…if Calipari makes it through this summer as the UK coach, he will retire here. I still don’t think that is 100% assured, but today’s events continue to make it more likely and should at least dampen the NBA chatter.

And just keep pulling for Cleveland…we need the Cavs to realize, once you go Blatt, you never go back.