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KSR’s predictions for the 2014 football season

KSR’s predictions for the 2014 football season

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Matt, Drew, Ryan, Jared Lorenzen, BTI, Nick Roush and I have turned in our picks for UK’s 2014 football season. Let’s hear yours.


Funkhouser’s Emmy Awards Roundup

Funkhouser’s Emmy Awards Roundup

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(Ed. Note: The Emmys were last night, and the Funkhouser crew was on hand to soak it all in. Below are, in their opinions, the most impressionable moments and issues of the night.)

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Brennan English on Twitter Rage:

My favorite part of the Emmys: Twitter rage.

The reaction of Twitter to any major pop culture phenomena is always good for some menial entertainment , particularly whilst watching the unwatchable—awards ceremonies. Last night was no exception, and my hand-selected cross-section of the Internet did not disappoint in agreeing with me on the worst Emmy winners and snubs. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory bring in jillions of dollars, viewers and Emmys, but the Internet thinks these programs are long past their due date; why can’t the rest of the world see things our way? Well, because for Emmy voters, what’s old is oftentimes just good enough, with the exception of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She clearly isn’t old as she cannot age. So Orange is the New Black, Amy Poehler, even Tatiana Maslany — you may get your turn one of these days; it took The Sopranos five seasons to win the big one. Regardless, Billy Eichner and the critics of Twitter and Tumblr will be here to implode on your behalf.

Mrs. Tyler Thompson on Ricky Gervais:

I’ve been a fan of Ricky Gervais since he starred in the British version of The Office, and his sarcastic twist on the Brits’ self-deprecating humor was really on display last night when he lost the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series to Jim Parsons…again. Gervais tweeted a selfie of his loser face afterwards and later while presenting the award for Best Writing for a Variety Special–”the big one,” he quipped–he gave his acceptance speech anyways. “Ha, ha, I won. I knew I would because I’m the best actor. Better than those other actors — Parsons, Cheadle, H. Macy, Joey from Friends and Louis from Louie, spelled slightly differently.” Gervais also hammed it up when Jimmy Kimmel teased that instead of a movie star face, Gervais had a “television face.” Well, actually, “a Netflix face.” That last one was really hit home since Gervais appeared in a Netflix commercial that aired during the Emmys, spoofing Kevin Spacey in House of Cards and an inmate in Orange is the New Black.

It’s a shame Ricky didn’t win the Emmy, but he’s a much funnier loser.

S.E. Shepherd on the Cran-Stache

Look, this year’s Emmy’s telecast was pretty terrible. Seth Meyers was completely serviceable as host, but his general non-offensiveness went a long way to remind audiences that these award shows are way more fun when they’re hosted by a loose canon. And many of the winners were retreads from recent editions of the Emmys. But the one thing that elevated the telecast from forgettable to Tweet-worthy was a lone line of upper-lip hair on the face of one of the best TV actors ever – Bryan Cranston. Looking like a waiter at a sleazy French restaurant in the 1940s, Cranston unleashed upon the world his greatest creation to date: The Cran-stache. It was sublime in its simplicity, and I’m thankful I was among the millions that had the pleasure of basking in its glory. LONG LIVE THE CRAN-STACHE!

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C.M. Tomlin on the Step-Aside Host and a Nefarious Conspiracy

For all we make of how difficult and judged being a major awards-show host is, let’s face it: it’s gotta be pretty easy. A good monologue and you can coast through the rest of the night. Seth Meyers did a perfectly fine job leading the Emmy charge last night (“Tonight we are all Crazy Eyes”) but, more interestingly, he pulled a maneuver he’s completely accustomed to from his SNL days: ceding the spotlight to those who may possibly upstage him. He introduced Jimmy Kimmel in the first twenty minutes and Kimmel proceeded to deliver a mini-Emmy monologue and pseudo-roast of Matthew McConaughey (“he traded his TV for a conch shell full of weed!”) that legitimately competed with Meyers’. Later he would team up to let national treasure Billy Eichner drag him around New York City upstaging him at every turn and bring out buddy Andy Samberg to steal a Game of Thrones bit. These moves — to share the spotlight when the night could have been dominated by him — fit Meyers’ general M.O.; as head writer for SNL and the program’s Weekend Update anchor, he knows when to share a joke with a colleague. It worked, but overall left Meyers feeling a little in the wings at the end of the night with his lineup of special guests stealing the show.

Awards-wise the big Networks made damn sure that everyone knows cable isn’t getting too big for its britches by taking home best comedy (Modern Family), Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy (Ty Burrell for Modern Family), Best Actress in a Drama (Julianna Marguilies for The Good Wife) and Best Actor in a Comedy (Jim Parsons for Big Bang Theory). I don’t want to sound too conspiracy-theory-guy, but this was Burrell’s second win, Parsons’ fourth Emmy and Modern Family’s fifth consecutive win. While I do believe that both Burrell and Parsons both play sitcom characters who are among the best in television comedy over the last twenty years, it seems a little excessive. And while Modern Family is a consistently solid show, I’m not sure it deserved a fifth consecutive Emmy (that’s a Best Comedy Emmy EVERY YEAR it’s been on the air) for a season that was arguably its weakest yet. Is this the signal that the major networks still run the show? Surely there were stronger overall comedies in 2013-14 — it all reeks of a “not so fast, cable” move from Emmy voters affiliated with more mainstream television.

Richmond Bramblet on a Generally Succcessful Evening

The Emmys were perhaps one of the most entertaining awards shows in recent memory. Seth Meyers handled the hosting duties with ease, and he and his writers came up with fresh bits. Granted, when I first turned it on he was playing “For A Dollar” with Billy Eichner, which will get me every time. The 8:30-9:00 slot was jam packed with comedy, including a Tim Watley reference, and the next two hours flew by because it all seemed new. Speeches weren’t long and drawn out, except I’m not really sure what Jim Parson’s “you can’t account for taste” speech was about. Seth played to his strengths and used his funny friends to make the night a success. Also, Weird Al makes everything better. Get to typing, George…

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Kalan Kucera on An Alternate Universe McConaughey Win

“All right to the tres power, hombres. Man, y’all are beautiful. All these awards man, I just… it makes a man feel blessed to know that people connect so much with his work. It makes a man feel blessed to know he’s a man. Or at least to think of himself as one. To know that if he’s a man, and not some shapeless entity, floating through the aether of time on some journey, a journey that doesn’t seem to have any purpose or… or meaning, or he doesn’t even know what it is that he is. Maybe he just thinks that Lone Star beer tastes good, but maybe that beer doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s a figment, man, not of his imagination, but maybe of some greater being’s mind. Maybe, he’s not an entity, but a neuron in the neural pathways of God man. But if he’s a man and if Lone Star exists then it’s just fiiiiinne and dandy my friends.

I don’t want to accept this award for me, man. I want to accept this award on behalf of all of the better versions of myself that I haven’t even met. All those versions of me in the infinite copies of the Universe man. The ones like, helping kids and stuff. He’s not an actor, he doesn’t get all of these awards and accolades and the praises of his fellow man for the exceptional work he does. But I see him and I nod, slightly, in his direction with respect and honor, the way all McConaugheys in every plain of reality ought to be treated. That’s because, we’re all McConaugheys in our own way. Maybe not a successful one, but that don’t mean that it ain’t true or that it is. We’re just a bunch of neurons, so how could we even know, you know what I’m sayin’?

Wow, I just blew my mind. Before I go though, I’d like to thank all of the other nominees. Cranston, you are what you are and what you aren’t man, and I respect that. Jon Hamm. Jon Hamm. Kevin Spacey. Dig your name. Jeff Daniels, I can’t wait to meet ya. Woody, oh, woody. Marty. Good ol’ Marty Hart. The adventures we had man. This award is yours man, in the Universe where you’re me and I’m a Mexican ballplayer man. And I can’t wait to see you in that World mi amigo. I just can’t thank all of you and all of me enough for this heartfelt outpouring man. Who knows what words are about to come out of my mouth, but what else can I say but Alright, Alright, Alright?”

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Aaron Flener on Not Watching At All:

The most interesting part of the Emmy’s, to me, is seeing the people who play the characters I love on their show looking NOTHING like the characters they play on their show. Two examples:

1. Aaron Paul looked entirely too drug free and happy for my liking.

2. Jon Hamm didn’t look like he had a beard on his face, his beard looked like it had eyeballs and nostrils.

I would say more but I only watched the show for around 5 minutes.


What We Learned After Mark Stoops’ Week 1 Press Conference

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1.  Ya never know what defense Mark Stoops is going to throw out there.  There aren’t too many defensive depth charts that look as funky as the Cats, but that will be the theme for Stoops’ second-year D.  If the Cats are in a 4-3 or nickel, Bud Dupree will play defensive end.  If they start in a 3-4,  Bud will step back behind Za’Darius Smith, giving room for Jason Hatcher at defensive end.

Putting Bud and Z on the same side just sounds scary, but Stoops likes the move because it can get Hatcher more quality minutes on the football field.  “That’s going to be a big part of it.  We wanted to get Jason on the field a year ago.  He went through some good growing pains.  He’s getting better,” Stoops said.

2.  Stoops isn’t going to hide anything.  When starting a season against a D-II opponent, many coaches only use a fraction of their playbook so teams down the road have less material to scout.  Coach Stoops will operate in similar fashion, but “we aren’t taking anything for granted.”  The Cats will have a primary focus for their gameplan this week and will try to keep the playcalling within those parameters, but do not expect the Cats to come out cautious.

3.  Playing at home is a great way for young guys to settle in.  Home openers are rarer than you think — UK’s last season-opener at Commonwealth was in 2007 — and Mark Stoops hopes to use it as a springboard for his young squad.  The fans’ support can help gain some early momentum, “We need to go out there and start fast and play good football, play with great energy, play with great discipline, make it exciting for the fans.”

There isn’t much he can do during practice to prepare them for a crowd of 60,000, “they just need to go through it.  We have to throw them out there and see what they can do.”  Stoops said the biggest adjustment will be getting used to the speed of the game, whether it’s pre-snap alignments are being prepared to swap units on the sidelines.   With four redshirt freshmen playing on the offensive line and four true freshmen receiving significant clock at wide receiver, they’ll need to adjust quickly.

4.  You’ll see an early Boom.  Boom Williams and Mikel Horton will have some carries in Week 1, but most of the action at running back will be split between Jojo Kemp and Braylon Heard.  Stanley Williams Jr. is looking for a way to earn the nickname “Boom” from Neal Brown.  His best chance to make a play on the field will be as the starting kick returner alongside Braylon Heard.  You should be excited, Coach Stoops certainly is, “I will be excited to see him with the ball in his hands.  He’s definitely a difference maker. ”

5.  A final roster tidbit.  Stoops said today that he expects to redshirt freshman tight end Darryl Long.  Long is a big guy, but he needs to add to his frame and is not discouraged by the coach’s decision.  Stoops also said today that Josh Clemons tweaked his knee during a preseason scrimmage.  They’ve been using Josh on an “every other day” basis to try and mitigate the chance of injury, but it will be week-to-week as to how Clemons will be used.  They’re hoping he can still be a specialized power running back, but they aren’t going to push him too hard with a deep group of running backs.


Your Week 1 depth chart is out

Your Week 1 depth chart is out

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

It’s game week, and the first depth chart is out! Read it and weep for joy that football is back:

Offense

Tight end
85 Steven Borden, 6-3, 246, Sr-1L
80 Ronnie Shields, 6-5, 254, Sr-3L

Left tackle

70 Jordan Swindle, 6-7, 306, Jr-2L
68 Nick Haynes, 6-5, 319, Fr-RS

Left guard
75 Zach West, 6-4, 318, Jr-2L
74 Cole Mosier, 6-6, 348, Fr-RS

Center
72 Jon Toth, 6-5, 301, So-1L
57 Zach Myers, 6-3, 287, So-Sq

Right guard
69 Ramsey Meyers, 6-5, 300, Fr-RS
64 Max Godby, 6-4, 298, Sr-1L

Right tackle
73 Kyle Meadows, 6-5, 294, Fr-RS
76 Teven Eatmon-Nared, 6-7, 339, Sr-3L

Wide receiver
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
6 Blake Bone, 6-5, 198, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L
82 T.V. Williams, 5-10, 160, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
8 Javess Blue, 6-0, 191, Sr-1L
2 Dorian Baker, 6-3, 197, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
87 Joey Herrick, 6-1, 197, Jr-1L
19 Garrett Johnson, 5-11, 176, Fr-HS

Quarterback
14 Patrick Towles, 6-5, 238, So-1L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS or 7 Drew Barker, 6-3, 216, Fr-HS

Fullback

39 D.J. Warren, 6-0, 251, Sr-3L
10 Jeff Witthuhn, 6-3, 246, So-Sq

Running back
5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr
3 Jojo Kemp, 5-10, 194, So-1L

Special teams

Long snapper
59 Kelly Mason, 6-3, 223, Jr-2L

Holder
13 Jared Leet, 6-3, 196, Jr-2L

Kicker
99 Austin McGinnis, 5-10, 168, Fr-RS

Punter
9 Landon Foster, 6-1, 198, Jr-2L

Kickoff returner 

18 Stanley “Boom” Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS
5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr

Punt returner
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
or 1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L

Defense

Defensive end
6 Jason Hatcher, 6-3, 242, So-1L
47 Jabari Johnson, 6-1, 276, Jr-1L

Defensive tackle
90 Melvin Lewis, 6-4, 320, Jr-JC
69 Matt Elam, 6-7, 375, Fr-HS

Defensive tackle

50 Mike Douglas, 6-4, 288, Sr-3L
67 Cory “C.J.” Johnson, 6-3, 299, Jr-JC
or 96 Regie Meant, 6-4, 286, Fr-RS

Defensive end
94 Za’Darius Smith, 6-6, 263, Sr-1L
91 Farrington Huguenin, 6-4, 275, Jr-2L

Strong-side linebacker
2 Alvin “Bud” Dupree, 6-4, 264, Sr-3L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Middle linebacker
45 Josh Forrest, 6-3, 236, Jr-2L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Weak-side linebacker
33 Ryan Flannigan, 6-2, 225, Jr-JC
or 22 Khalid Henderson, 6-1, 228, Jr-2L

Nickelback
24 Blake McClain, 5-11, 194, So-1L
29 Kendall Randolph, 6-0, 168, Fr-HS

Cornerback
3 Fred Tiller, 6-0, 170, Jr-2L
11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L

Safety
5 Ashely Lowery, 6-1, 220, Sr-3L
15 Marcus McWilson, 6-0, 210, So-1L

Safety
1 A.J. Stamps, 6-0, 199, Jr-JC
28 Eric Dixon, 5-11, 193, Sr-3L

Cornerback
16 Cody Quinn, 5-10, 172, Jr-2L
21 Nate Willis, 6-0, 168, Sr-1L

Some quick highlights:

  • UK’s starting wide receivers are Ryan Timmons, Javess Blue, Demarco Robinson, and Joey Herrick
  • The backup quarterback is Reese Phillips OR Drew Barker
  • Braylon Heard is your starting running back
  • Bud Dupree is listed as the starter at SLB, with Jason Hatcher getting the starting nod at defensive end, and of course Za’Darius Smith holding it down at the other defensive end spot.
  • The battle for starting WLB continues between Ryan Flannigan and Khalid Henderson
  • Darrian Miller is not listed on the depth chart, which is worrisome. Hopefully we’ll have an update from Stoops soon during his presser…

WATCH: Every dunk from the Big Blue Bahamas

WATCH: Every dunk from the Big Blue Bahamas

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You’ve seen a photo of every dunk in the Bahamas, now you can WATCH every dunk in the Bahamas in this new five-minute video featuring every slam, cram and jam from the Kentucky Wildcats’ six games in Paradise. Hit play below to see it all:

This is going to be a fun group, Cats fans. Good luck to the competition.


John Calipari’s Summer of Swag

John Calipari’s Summer of Swag

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This morning, the clip of John Calipari calling into Mike Francesa’s show as “John in Kentucky” to defend his coaching skills went viral. If you haven’t listened to it yet, stop right now and go do so. It’s just the latest sign that Swaggy Cal is back, and who can blame him? The Cats look really, really good and it’s only August.

Looking back, Cal’s been swaggy all summer. I spent the afternoon charting his swaggiest moments since his hip surgery back in May. It probably won’t surprise you that there are a lot.

June 30: On the SEC Coaches Summer Teleconference, Calipari took a shot at Jeff Goodman, who put Cal tenth in his rankings of coaches that best develop talent for the NBA:

“Just if you know how I am and what I’m about, if you’ve really followed, I would rather them say that, after my entire group gets drafted – ‘Yeah, I’m not really sure he develops players and he can coach’ and all that stuff; ‘they were pros’ – but they all get drafted. OK, I’m good with that. That doesn’t bother me. Say it as long as they keep continuing to get drafted. And then when they go to the league, they’re on the all-rookie teams, they’re rookie of the year, they’re on Olympic teams, one is the MVP of the NBA. They’re prepared in that sense, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Cal claims he doesn’t pay attention to what the national media is saying, but this proves he totally does, and when he’s feeling good, he’s not afraid to punch back. On that same call, he raved about UK’s “unique situation” of having a core group of veterans to go along with another batch of newcomers. 

July 1: Calipari posts “20 questions every athlete should ask a prospective coach” on his website, his latest recruiting manifesto. After reading it, recruits will pretty much ask themselves one question: “Why wouldn’t I go to Kentucky?”.

July 8: Calipari flies back to Lexington after a book signing in Nashville to lead the team in their first skill instruction of the summer. Most people would enjoy a night in Nashville, or simply go to bed once they got back to Lexington after a late flight. Not Cal. As he put it on Twitter, “I am jacked.”

July 10: Cal films his practice report for CoachCal.com and raves about how his team “loooooooves” playing basketball. He gave an update on a few of the players and gave the camera this look after saying Andrew Harrison did a 360-degree dunk:

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In this report, Cal talked about splitting his team into two lineups for the first time, a hint of the platoon substitutions we saw in the Bahamas. “I had a ball,” Cal said of his first workout with the team. We can tell.

July 16: Calipari goes to the ESPYS and can’t stop laughing.


He also gets a shoutout from Drake, who called him “one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life.”

July 19: Calipari returned home from a recruiting trip to find his team in the gym late at night putting in some extra work. He was so happy he had them pose for a group picture and tweeted about it:

July 20: Heading home after a charity gala, Cal tweets he is “absolutely juiced” to work with his team the next day.

July 21: We all know Cal’s best teams blend talent and experience. After one of their practices, Cal told the Big Blue Nation how happy he is to have older guys to help the freshmen transition into his system:

August 6: In his press conference previewing the Big Blue Bahamas tour, Calipari says that his team “probably shouldn’t win any of the games,” and gives reporters this smirk:

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Looking back at the Cats’ 5-1 record, we’re smirking too.

August 11: For the second game of the Big Blue Bahamas tour, Calipari let Kenny Payne coach while he watched from the stands. Cal was having such a good time that he took a break to film part of the game for ESPNU.

Yeah, I’d say he’s having fun.

August 12: During halftime of UK’s win over Puerto Rico, Calipari came on the radio with Matt, Tom Leach, and Mike Pratt to share his thoughts on his team’s performance. “This could be pretty special,” Cal said before warning fans not to let the haters sabotage the squad with concerns about too many players and not enough playing time. “Don’t listen to them,” Cal said, repeating it again for emphasis. Translation: don’t make the same mistake some of you did last season after the South Carolina loss. He’s got this.

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August 12: In his ESPNU interview during the same game, a Derek Willis dunk got Cal so excited he said “hum ditty ditty” on air. He’s giddy too.

August 14: More sappy than swaggy, but still worth mention. John Calipari tweets about seeing footprints of the sand, which reminded him of the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”

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August 20: After his appearance on the Mike Francesa show in New York, Calipari hears Francesa say he’s not a great X’s and O’s coach, which prompts him to call into the show as “John in Kentucky,” and after hilariously disguising his voice for a few seconds, blasts Frencesa for his comments:

Cal: “Are you saying I can’t coach? Why didn’t you say that while I was sitting next to you? You said ‘he’s not great at X’s and O’s.’ That’s basically saying I can’t coach. You know what they call me? A magician. ‘Cal the magician.’”

Francesa: “Wait a second. Are there better X’s and O’s guys than you?”

Cal: “You think I believe that?”

Francesa: “Yes.”

Cal: “I will pass a lie detector test and say, ‘No.’”

Francesa: “No you won’t. No you won’t.”

Francesa then hung up on him, but Cal had already made his point.

August 21: Cal tweets about his interaction with Francesa: “You can disagree without being disagreeable. Mike Francesa and I are good. Always have been. By the way, once again he’s wrong. LOL!”

LOL! Never change, Cal. Never.


10 Things I Learned In The Bahamas (The Clean Version)

10 Things I Learned In The Bahamas (The Clean Version)

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Good evening, sports fans. Drew here, back at the KSR Lexington office after defying the odds and surviving 11 days on Paradise Island with only a couple of small wounds and one traumatizing blow to my bank account to show for it.

Tonight, as I sit here wishing I were in bed, I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned in the Bahamas. Matt gave us ten on the radio this morning and I’m passing mine along here on the website for those who are interested. If you would like the NSFW lessons, the stories I really want to share, track me down some time and I’ll be happy to tell you all about the adults-only pool on Saturday and the cab ride home Sunday night. Those two stories, and several others, aren’t for the kiddos.

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1.) Karl Towns is the nicest human being in the world and I refuse to listen to anyone who says otherwise.

My biggest takeaway from the entire trip is being around Karl Towns and seeing what an incredible young man he is. He’s truly the nicest person I’ve ever encountered and he’s only 18 years old. At one point late in the week I asked him his favorite moment of the trip and he told me, “I really enjoyed going to the church to wash the children’s feet.” I said, “Karl, you had 19 and 10 in your second game and you’ve spent an entire week in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Don’t give me the ‘media’ answer, tell me what’s been the most fun.” He said, “Seriously, volunteering our time to make an impact on their lives meant so much and I had a blast. I gave one kid my favorite socks off my feet because he was the last one left and they ran out. I couldn’t let him be the only one to not get socks.”

Yeah, take a second to let that tug on your heart string. It is one of the many stories I could share of Karl being the perfect human being all week. He was genuinely excited to meet each and every fan and he is going to make Big Blue Nation very, very, very proud as we get to know him even more. Think of all the generous things guys like Nerlens Noel have done since leaving, and then get ready to see Karl do them on a weekly basis.

2.) If two guys you just met at the bar ask you to go out into the middle of the ocean on their boat the next day, throw a case of beer on ice, meet them at the marina, and hope they, or the sharks, don’t murder you.

Looking back, maybe it wasn’t in my best interest to go out into the middle of the ocean with two strangers on a fishing boat, but it’s one of my favorite memories of the week. My thought process was: One of the guys, Chris, had a massive beard so I knew he could be trusted. Bearded guys go by the same code you regular folk wouldn’t understand. And Ty, the captain of the vessel, was too drunk to explain the boat or how boats work at the time of the invite so I assumed he would be too hungover to tie me up and toss me in the water. So, I went. And it was awesome.

We went wayyyyy out into the water and talked about all of the terrible ways we could die out there without the world ever knowing. That was almost the case when Chris noticed a pretty severe gas leak from one of the spare cans, just as Ty fired up another Bahamian cigarette a few feet away. Now, I’m not quite ready to leave this earth, but I must admit, death by boat explosion off the coast of Paradise Island would be one hell of a way to go out. You can’t script that.

3.) If Karl Towns is the nicest 18-year-old, Tyler Ulis is the meanest. 

I didn’t have many personal interactions with Tyler on the trip, but we all saw what a mean S.O.B. he is on the basketball court. His play may be the biggest story of the Big Blue Bahamas games. He is so advanced for a freshman point guard in August and he plays with the cliche ‘chip on his shoulder’ every time he is in the game. So active on both ends, amazing court vision, and a surprisingly deadly three-point shot.

If it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times: Cal is going to have a hard time keeping Ulis off the floor next season.

4.) Slice has no idea what he signed up for.

I heard Slice telling a couple of stories about how crazy some of the Kentucky fans were in the Bahamas and how much BBN loves its basketball. I told him, “Coach, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until the Big Blue Madness campout.”

He claims to know what to expect, but I hope Kentucky Wildcats TV has a camera on him the first time he pulls into the Joe Craft Center when Tent City is up and running. That is when he will really see the passion of UK fans and he will truly see, “You people are crazy.”

In related news, Slice is still awesome.

5.) When the Cain pool at The Cove says ‘Adults Only,’ it means ‘ADULTS ONLY!!!’

That’s all I’m saying. If you ever get a chance to go, don’t you dare let that pool water get in your mouth. There isn’t enough chlorine in the world.

Very nice scenery, though.

6.) Da’Sean Butler is almost as nice as Karl Towns.

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(AJ, Hubby, Me, Da’Sean Butler, an unforgiving Sean)

Butler was hanging out with UK fans all week, often apologizing for what he did to the 2010 team in the Elite Eight. My friend Sean, who wasn’t ready to forgive, went as far as to kick Butler in the shin (pretty hard too) when I first brought the former Mountaineer over to our table at Dragons. Butler said, “Did you just kick me in the shin?” Sean said, “Yep. And you deserved it.” That somehow led to the two of them being best buddies all week, plus an invitation for us to visit him in France next summer.

As Hubby put it, “I hate to love that guy.”

7.) Marcus Fuggins is KSR’s favorite non-UK college basketball player.

Fuggins, a center for Morehead State, drew the unfortunate honor of sitting in the middle of the KSR gang on the flight to the Bahamas, a flight that consisted of Morehead players and coaches, KSR, and no one else. Keep in mind, we had all been stuck in the airport for several hours before boarding, so it was an obnoxious ride between the very inebriated Tall, Hubby and the Turkey Hunter. (I fell asleep.) A few days later we ran into Marcus at the casino and he stopped and asked for the guy in the jumpsuit. That “guy” was Hubby and that jumpsuit was this:

Tall, Hubby, and Sean Woods

Fuggins and Hubby hugged it out like they’ve been boys for life and we named him our favorite non-UK player. He’s invited to any and all KSR functions from now on.

8.) Nothing in the Bahamas is cheap.

Whatever number you have in your head, multiply it by at least three. That’s what you’ll need to go down there and really do it right. I’m thinking about live-streaming my reaction whenever I look up my balance later this week. Flener bet me I can’t keep a straight face. He predicts laughter or tears. I’m thinking it’ll be both.

9.) Coach Cal’s swagger is at an all-time high.

NOTHING will bring Calipari down from the high he is on after seeing his team play competitively in August. He warned BBN on the radio broadcast, “Don’t let anyone bring us down because they’re going to try to. DON’T DO IT.”

Before the exhaustion set in around Friday evening, Cal was bouncing around the resort, high-fiving fans and having a blast. He likes his team this year, no doubt. We might even get an “I love my team” before the year is over.

10.) Kentucky is really good at basketball.

But you don’t need me to tell you that. You have six games saved on your DVR to confirm what you already knew all summer. It’s going to be a fun year.

Go Cats and shout-out to the Donnelly family for the dinner at Chop Stix.


The token "shoefie" with Karl Towns

Ten Leftovers from the Bahamas Trip

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The Big Blue Bahamas trip is finally over, and before we completely shift to football, I thought I’d share some of my final thoughts now that I’m back in the land of reliable wi-fi and reasonably priced food. Here are my ten takeaways from three nights in paradise and six unbelievable exhibition games.

Being stranded at a gym in the Bahamas will bring out the best in people

We’ve told you all about the setup at the gym, which was about a thirty minute ride from the Atlantis. You had your microwave popcorn, enormous boiled hot dogs, and regularly changing prices at the concession stand, which was still so much cheaper than the Atlantis that people would bring coolers to load up on $1 Cokes and water to take back. The gym itself was a hoot, with no boundaries between the players and fans so that if you wanted to play photographer for the day, go right ahead. Plop right down on the baseline. The postgame interviews (with five reporters) took place in the VIP Lounge, which also served as the referees’ changing room.

After the Friday interviews, my husband and I went outside to catch the fan shuttle back to the Atlantis to find that all of them had already left. We tried to get on the UK team and staff shuttles to no avail, and the bus driver taking the Dominican team back offered to let us ride along, but there weren’t any open seats left. Around this time, Jerry Tipton and Kyle Tucker joined us as we contemplated getting a taxi or simply walking back with Dakari Johnson’s mom, and things got a little desperate. Jerry Tipton had the line of the day about UK not letting us ride the staff shuttle when he puffed his chest out and said “They should know better than to piss me off.” Finally, we spotted one lone bus leaving the parking lot. The four of us–KSR, Courier Journal, and Herald Leader joined together–chased it down, and the driver agreed to take us back. Hurrah! We jumped on, and headed to the back, where none other than Jay Bilas was stretched across the back row. It was a hot but memorable bus ride, and I feel like we all bonded a bit, to the point that towards the end of the trip, my husband and Jerry were even buying each other $1 Cokes at the concession stand.

Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

Hum-Diddy-Diddy, yes we’re really giddy

You’ve heard it ad nauseam by now: we are really, really good. Yes, exhibition games, and yes, August, but we are damn good. So good that Jay Bilas told the team they have “an extraordinary opportunity” to make history. So good that John Calipari was reduced to “hum diddy diddy!” after a Derek Willis dunk. Everyone in the BBN is giddy, and while it is important to keep the lessons from last season in our minds, it’s really hard not to get excited for November. This group has talent AND experience, especially at point guard, where they’ll need it the most. Hum diddy diddy.

I am #TeamPlatoon

What makes this team so special? The quality of the depth. The fact that John Calipari can rotate two platoons throughout the game is what makes this team better than any other in the country, and that’s even without Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles. The platoon system was the talk of the trip, and solves that “too much talent” riddle the national media’s been dangling over the program. The platoon system gives the Cats two completely different looks; Team 1 (the Harrisons, Booker, Poythress, and Dakari) is much more physical, and can pound the ball inside with ease, while Team 1A (Ulis, Hawkins, Willis, Lee, Towns) brings the energy, moving the ball the length of the court in a blink of an eye and pestering defenses into quick turnovers. Not only does the platoon system allow Kentucky to attack opponents in two different ways, it keeps the legs fresh, completely wearing other teams out. Calipari said he’s considering using the platoon system at times during the regular season, and I’m all for it. Like Willie Cauley-Stein said, it’s “genius.”

The token "shoefie" with Karl Towns

The token “shoefie” with Karl Towns

Karl Towns is the BBN’s new BFF

I know we’ve been saying it for the past week, but Karl Towns is pretty much the nicest person ever. Whereas some of the players seemed a little shy with fans, the Big KAT embraced all of them, taking pictures and “shoefies” with anyone who asked. He’s by far the most outgoing player of the bunch, and after a simple conversation with him, you feel like he’s your new best friend. After we learned that he changed his name from Karl Towns to Karl-Anthony Towns just so he could have the initials KAT, I can see why it was so hard for Drew Franklin to stop hugging him.

On the court, he’s just as good, and despite the loaded roster, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the starting five by the end of the season. The thing I took away from watching Karl is how competitive he is. You heard him talk about how his missed free throws were “unacceptable,” and when you watch him play, he celebrates each basket he makes and chastises himself for each miss. He’s right up there with Tyler Ulis as one of my early favorites.

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Two favorites from my trip: The Poop Deck and Bush Crack

If you’re ever in the Bahamas, you must do two things: eat at The Poop Deck and try Bush Crack beer. Both have ridiculous names, but are delicious. The Poop Deck, across the bridge from the Atlantis, had the best seafood I ate on the trip, and Bush Crack is by far the best Bahamian beer over Sands and Kalik.

The team that hangs together wins together

Even though I’m technically considered “media” now, I’ll always be a fan first. And as a fan would, I geeked a bit over just how accessible the players and coaches were throughout the trip. From seeing the coaches in the casino, the players around the hotel, and being able to sit as close to the action as you wanted at the games, it was truly an all-access trip. It was also great to see how close this team is on the court and off the court. It’s early, but they really do seem like brothers, hanging out in packs each night and cheering each other on during the games. I haven’t seen this many smiles around the Kentucky team since 2012, maybe 2010, and after a rough regular season last year, it’s good to see that the fun times are carrying over from the postseason. Fittingly, during the warm-ups on Saturday, Pharrell’s “Happy” came over the loudspeakers, which immediately reminded me of Dallas, and when I looked over at the team, they were all smiling and mouthing the words right along with me.

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The hype behind Alex Poythress is totally real. He’s a different player.

I’ll admit it: I was a little bit skeptical when I read all the practice reports claiming that Alex Poythress was a changed player. Been there, heard that. But Poythress proved himself in the Bahamas, leading all scorers with 71 points for the tour and showing off an unwavering confidence we’ve only seen in glimpses during his career at Kentucky. Alex has the tools to be a special player, and with a chip on his shoulder, he’s finally using them. Let’s hope beast mode stays engaged.

The Preclearance Customs at the Nassau Airport is awesome

The Bahamas is one of a few airports in the world that has US Border Preclearance facilities, so that you go through your customs before you get on the plane back to the US. We had a really tight connection in Charlotte, so this was much appreciated. Wikipedia tells me that airports in Bermuda, Aruba, Ireland, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates also do this, and more places should join in. Looking at you, Cancun.

A special start to a special year

This season is one we need to cherish. I don’t think the Cats will ever have this many talented, experienced players again, and two months before the season even starts, they look damn good. Sure, they may have lost the last game, but six games in eight days would wear out any team, and as several people have said, a loss could be the best way to keep the team humble and hungry. Besides, it’s August. Hush up, trolls.

Basketball in August is nice, but it’s time for football

The Bahamas were awesome, and it was a trip I’ll never forget, but it’s time to get ready for some football. I can’t wait.


Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Patrick Towles is your starting quarterback

Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

It’s finally official. Mark Stoops just announced that after “thorough evaluation and a hard fought competition,” Patrick Towles has been named Kentucky’s starting quarterback. Here are Stoops’ quotes about the decision:

“After thorough evaluation and a hard fought competition, we are naming Patrick Towles as our starting quarterback. This competition has brought out the best in our quarterbacks and I’m confident in Patrick moving our team forward.”

Patrick has been considered the frontrunner since spring practice. No word on whether Reese Phillips or Drew Barker will be the backup, but hopefully we’ll hear more at today’s open practice.


The Cats withstand their biggest test yet, and celebrate with an ice water bath

The Cats withstand their biggest test yet, and celebrate with an ice water bath

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It took a week, but Kentucky finally got the big test it needed from the Big Blue Bahamas tour, finally putting away a fiesty Champagne Chalons-Reims team 77-72. Here are my headlines from the game, and the icy celebration afterwards:

When the going got tough, Slice shook up the lineup

Late in the game, a whole new lineup took the floor: Tyler Ulis, the Harrison Twins, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee. It’s the first time we’ve seen the Cats stray from the platoon rotation we’ve gotten so accustomed to on this trip, and Slice said that he made the decision so he wouldn’t “get voted off the island.”

“The reason to make the decision – speaking to somebody in here before the game, I actually didn’t want to get voted off the island tonight, you know? We thought maybe we’ll just go with some experience, some guys that have been in situations like that before.”

It’s the first time we’ve seen Tyler Ulis play alongside the Harrison Twins, and I must say, it looked pretty awesome. Ulis had the play of the game at the end, when he pestered Lionel Chalmers into a turnover and took it down the court for an easy layup. The basket brought the team and the fans to their feet in a roar that made the bleachers shake. Slice said that play was a perfect example of what Ulis brings to the team:

“His (impact) was the next-to-last possession that they had. That’s what he does. He wears you down. He’s got quick feet and a big heart, Tyler Ulis. He’s going up against somebody that has a lot more games under his belt, but Tyler has a big heart and he made a big play. He stayed yard for yard, foot for foot, inch for inch, and disrupted their offense and turned it into a turnover for them and an easy basket for him and the score that we needed at the end.”

The French team was a totally different French team

Slice joked that even though the roster was the same, the French team looked like a totally different team than the one the Cats cruised by on Monday. Playing with a chip on their shoulder, the French did not surrender, led by former Syracuse big man Darryl Watkins, who had 20 points. Watkins and his fellow grown men gave the Cats all they could handle, and even in the final minute, there was some worry they’d pull off the upset. Slice called it the test this team needed after four relatively easy wins. “We actually needed a test. This was good for us,” Slice said. “We’re learning a lot about our team. And maybe as important, they’re learning a lot about themselves. This was a game that we needed.”

Someone close to the program told me that the French team has been practicing non-stop since Monday’s loss, which was one of their first times playing together as a group. It showed, and had I not seen one of the assistant coaches shaking what his mama gave him on the dance floor Thursday night, I would have thought they’d slept in the gym all week. Hats off to them.

The banner after Da'Sean was done with it

The banner after Da’Sean was done with it

Da’Sean Butler pissed off Kentucky fans again

Da’Sean Butler has been doing his best to get on the Big Blue Nation’s good side this week, even getting on his knees to apologize to UK fans for beating John Wall’s squad back in the 2010 Elite Eight. Well, he got back on our bad side a little bit today. I’m not sure if this came across on TV, but after a particularly hard foul, Da’Sean Butler took his aggression out on the “Big Blue Bahamas” banner, knocking one side of it down. This earned him plenty of boos from the fans, who were calling for the ref to throw him out of the game. Don’t mess with our banners, Da’Sean.

Karl Towns finally hit that three

Karl Towns’ three drought finally ended in the second half when he hit one from behind the arc. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

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Willie Cauley-Stein has his own logo now

After the game, we got to interview Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein, who was wearing a t-shirt with a “WCS” logo on it. When I asked him about it, Willie said it was a “prototype” designed by one of his friends. I’ve seen it before on his Twitter profile, and I’m a fan.

The mystery of Trey Lyles’ leg injury continues

Jerry Tipton seized the chance to ask Trey Lyles about his leg injury, and unfortunately, we didn’t really get any more details. Here’s the transcript of what was said.

What’s keeping him sidelined: “I had an injury a couple months ago and just working my way back from it.”

What’s the actual injury: “It was just my leg.”

When will he be cleared: “I’m probably two weeks behind Willie. I have one more CT scan I gotta go get, too.”

The mystery continues.

Watching the team do the Ice Bucket Challenge was awesome

KSR heard that John Calipari and the team were going to accept Eric Bledsoe’s ice bucket challenge on the beach after the game, and we hurried back to be able to see it. We arrived just in time, and the pictures and videos were priceless. After taking their ice bath, the team hilariously split into two, half of them running up the beach towards the pool and half of them running into the ocean.


Photo by Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Reese Phillips

Photo by Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Photo by Darrell Bird | CatsPause.com

Right now, Reese Phillips is the mystery man of the quarterbacks race. The redshirt freshman has drawn praise from his coaches for his consistency, and to many, appears to be running neck and neck with Patrick Towles for the starting QB spot; however, the BBN doesn’t know a lot about him. Towards the end of Media Day last Friday, I noticed Reese and Maxwell Smith standing off to the side while Drew Barker and Patrick Towles answered questions from reporters. The two were tossing a ball back and forth, so I went up and tried to get to know the QB from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here’s what I found out:

1. He’s still working on that reality show

Earlier in the summer, Reese tweeted that he wanted to start a reality show for the Big Blue Nation to get to know him better. Of course, I had to follow up on that. Reese says “it will happen eventually,” but he needs some help to get it off the ground. What would a Reese Phillips reality show look like? He says it would start by just focusing on him, and after a few episodes, focus on the team as a whole. Reese thinks the show would be such a hit, it would get better ratings than “Keeping up with the Kardashians”: “Absolutely, that show is just bad.” While Reese kept insisting the show will happen, Max Smith kept yelling “He’s lying, he’s never gonna do it!” in the background, so make of this what you will.

2. He’s the baby in a big family

Reese says he wants the BBN to know that he’s from a big family, with six brothers and sisters. Reese grew up in Chattanooga and is the baby of the family, and the first to go outside of Chattanooga for college. Even more…

3. He grew up a Tennessee fan, but he isn’t one anymore

Reese says he was a huge Tennessee fan growing up, but says he wants everyone to know he’s not one anymore. Reese said that Tennessee not recruiting him had a big part in that. “The whole recruiting process helped. Even before Kentucky came in, it helped because you can’t have favorites. Then you’ll just get crushed if they don’t talk to you. And they didn’t talk to me,” Reese said of Tennessee. “It was like you know what, you don’t like me, I’m not going to like you.” For the record, Phillips was a two-year all-state quarterback for Signal Mountain High, racking up 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions in his senior year. Yet, not even a look from the home state school.

4. In fact, he got rid of all of his Tennessee gear

Reese was so done with Tennessee when he committed to Kentucky that he got rid of all of his Tennessee gear, even the stuff autographed by UT star Eric Berry. “I love Kentucky now. I don’t like Tennessee at all.” Reese says his family has followed suit, and only cheers for the Cats these days.

5. He has two celebrity crushes, and they couldn’t be more different

Reese couldn’t just pick one celebrity crush, so he gave me two: Jennifer Aniston and Nicki Minaj. One side of the spectrum to the other, right? Reese maintains that the only reason he picked Minaj was “because she can rap,” but after Max Smith and Patrick Towles called him out on it, he admitted that Aniston was the one you take home to mom and Minaj “the one you hide.”

Actually, that whole segment with the QBs talking about their crushes is too good not to share in full:


UK appears to be very, very good at basketball

UK appears to be very, very good at basketball

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I really don’t know what to tell you, Cats fans. I mean, is this real life? Did we just watch back-to-back unbelievable basketball games from UK in the middle of August? I want to keep my expectations for the upcoming season in check. I want to see this team slip up so all of those unwanted “perfection” thoughts escape my mind. I want a reason to think it’ll be another year of waiting ’til March to see them peak. But, man, the team we’re seeing down here in the Bahamas appears to be the real deal and they are lightyears ahead of where last year’s team was at this point in the season. They just blew out a team of professionals, GAMs if you will, in a game I somewhat expected UK to lose. Boy was I wrong. The Cats rolled all over Chalons-Reims, 81-58, and now my phone is blowing up with “We good” text messages from back home in the States. Let’s talk about today’s stellar showing…

 

Karl Towns followed up his big debut with an even bigger performance.

Towns is wasting no time in making an impact on this team. He was the game’s MVP in only his second appearance for Kentucky, scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, plus three flashy assists. The no-look pass to Dominique Hawkins was my favorite moment of the game because (a) it was a gorgeous pass and (b) I did not expect to see Dominique throw down a baseline dunk. Alex Poythress and the Harrison twins went crazy on the bench when it happened. Get up, young fella.

After the game, Andrew Harrison spoke highly of his new freshman big man, who was sitting next to him during the interview. He said the future is bright for Towns and he is really looking forward to playing with him when it matters.

Also from the postgame action, Towns said he was satisfied by his day but he missed two free throws and that is unacceptable, leading to a pretty good laugh from Andrew.

Double figures for Alex Poythress, again.

Poythress scored 16 in the win, the second-highest individual total from the game. Kenny Payne said afterward he believes Poythress will “have a phenomenal year” for the Cats:

“He came back to school to prove to the world I’m one of the best forwards in the country. You see his athleticism. It is one of the most athletic forwards in the country. Now mentally he has to put together the fight, the determination to go out and prove to people how good he is because some people still question because they see the inconsistencies. Me personally, I think he’s going to have a phenomenal year. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he came back.”

Love it.

Andrew Harrison punch all over some guy.

He’s not just a shooter anymore. This poor defender found that out the hard way.

It’s funny, just yesterday Aaron told us we can expect to see more dunks from him. He failed to mention it would be the following day and all over someone’s face.

UK responded well after getting “hit in the mouth.”

Dunks and no-look passes are great and all, but the most exciting takeaway from the game is how UK handled being down early. They got hit in the mouth to start the game, as Kenny Payne put it, but they made adjustments, stayed physical and responded with their own flurry of punches. That’s a very bright sign for the future, how this team will handle the situation when things aren’t going their way. We learned today they’re tough enough to play through it.

I really, really, really, really love Tyler Ulis.

Andrew is still my guy, but I want Ulis to be on the court as much as possible. He’s terrific.

UK may play 10 or 11 guys during the season.

It’s very unlikely Cal will use a 10- or 11-man rotation once the real basketball gets here, but Kenny Payne said it is a possibility. “I think as long we dictate the pace defensively, if we’re initiating everything that happens on the floor, we can play 10, 11 guys,” he said. “If the other team dictates, we won’t be able to play that many guys. We have to control the tempo of the game. Our numbers are unbelievable. The number of quality players we have are unbelievable. We just have to make sure that, in order to play those guys, that we don’t let the other team control what we’re trying to do. We control them.”

If Cal goes to his usual seven or eight, he’s going to have one heck of a decision to make about which players to roll with. Payne told us, “That’s why you pay John Calipari a whole lot of money. He’ll figure it out.”

Trying to think of something negative to say…

Got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Someone please talk me down from this basketball high.

I’m just going to leave this here…

@L_A_Weaver

Go Cats.


Takeaways From UK’s First Game In The Bahamas

Takeaways From UK’s First Game In The Bahamas

Day 1 of basketball in the Bahamas is in the books and fans are very satisfied with what they saw from the Cats in their first outing. The KSR quintet is now back at the resort after a long and potentially dangerous ride in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck and we’re about to head out to see how people do Sunday Funday around here. But first, I’ll share with you my observations from the game.

*****

Alex Poythress was at his best.

“He was terrific,” Coach Cal said of his veteran forward. “That’s as good as he’s played.”

Poythress was very active on both ends, showing off that incredible athleticism he possesses. He looked like the Alex Poythress from the Duke game his freshman season when he was hauling in rebounds and dunking over the top of defenders. His missed dunk today against Puerto Rico, a one-handed attempt off an Aaron Harrison lob, would’ve been a SportsCenter Top 10 play, no doubt. Harrison estimates Alex’s hand was 12 feet in the air when he caught the ball.

Calipari added, “He just does things the normal players can’t do. To be honest, the stuff he does, I can’t teach. I wish I could but I can’t.”

Awesome performance from Alex and it made me even more optimistic about his game this coming season.

It’s going to be tough to keep Tyler Ulis off the floor.

The Ulis debut backed up everything we’ve heard and seen from UK’s summer practices. The kid is good. He lived up to the hype today by showing off his stifling defense in the full court and his vision on the offensive end. He goes wherever he wants with the ball and puts it in the hands of the open man, leading Jay Bilas to say on the broadcast, “A lot of guys look, but he sees.” The box score credits him with five assists but it could’ve easily been more. He’s going to be very valuable in the UK backcourt this year.

The Five-In, Five-Out rotation will continue.

Coach Cal’s “platoon” strategy will stick around all week, he told us after Game 1. He considered going down to an eight-man rotation but the six games in eight days schedule is an exhausting stretch of basketball and he wants to keep the players as fresh as possible.

Alex said he likes the five-man units because it allows them to go all out while they are in without having to worry about wearing themselves out. Aaron wonders if they may keep it up once the real basketball begins in the regular season.

Aaron Harrison believes this group is special.

“Not many teams, college or pro, can say you have 10 guys that can actually be on the floor and compete. So we’re just a special team.”

Harrison is going to be a special player, too. He looked to be an all-around better player today, showing off improved skills across the board, including a nice one-handed flush on a drive down the lane. In the postgame press conference he said we can expect to see more of those in his sophomore campaign.

Dakari Johnson is in great shape.

Much like the Tyler Ulis talk coming out of summer practices, Dakari’s weight loss has been a hot topic in BBN and it was on display today. Dakari shed several of those chubby pounds and it’s made him a better player because he is running the floor and sustaining energy at a rate he just couldn’t do last year. I was a big believer in Willie being this team’s starting center, but I’m not so sure after seeing the new Dakari Johnson.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison are also in much better shape than they were a year ago.

Karl Towns is the real deal.

Also from the living-up-to-the-hype department, Karl Towns is the truth. The new big man and 2014 Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year is smooth yet powerful with the basketball. He’s very skilled offensively and may be one of the team’s go-to scorers before the season’s over. I’m excited to see what he does in the week ahead after flirting with a double-double in his first appearance in blue. Something tells me he is just getting started.

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Devin Booker too.

Speaking of smooth, Devin Booker has a gorgeous jumper. I believe there was a stretch when he hit a three, stole the ball and then made a nice dish to Aaron Harrison for a score. Or maybe I made that up. Something cool happened and he played a leading role in my excitement. He, like the others, is going be very fun to watch. (This is getting repetitive but they all looked so good today.)

Andrew Harrison’s crossover was lethal.

And it led to this awesome photo from UK photographer Chet White:

We’ll shut’er down after that one.

Go Cats, everybody.


Matt Elam delivers the best recruiting pitch yet for in-state stars

Matt Elam delivers the best recruiting pitch yet for in-state stars

Freshman defensive tackle Matt Elam was a popular guy today, fielding a wide variety of questions, mostly about his size. I’d say his personality is larger than life, but for him, that’s almost impossible. Elam’s size is staggering from every perspective, and instead of being insecure about it as some might, Elam rolls with the punches, embracing the jokes and proudly standing at his full height of 6’7″. Elam is already a pro with the media, which is good, because he had a huge crowd around him all day. Elam politely and enthusiastically answered each question, practically glowing when he talked about his decision to come to Kentucky, and the importance of in-state players to the program.

“I’m proud that I came here, and I’m happy with it,” Elam told me, with his huge chest held high.”A lot of people were surprised I picked Kentucky over Alabama, but I’m an in-state guy and the coaching change really just opened my eyes.” Elam maintains that had Mark Stoops not been named UK’s head coach, he wouldn’t have considered Kentucky, and picking the Cats over Alabama was about more than just winning. “Coach Stoops, Coach Brown and Coach Brumbaugh, I just know that they can help me along in this process and make me a better player, and that at the end of the day, that’s where you need to go. You can’t just go to a program that’s just winning. You can go to a program anywhere that’s just winning, but I wanted to come here and be the man and get help and get me where I need to be for the next level.”

Elam and fellow in-state star Drew Barker were the linchpins of the 2014 recruiting class, and Elam said he hopes their decisions inspire more top in-state talent to stay home and be a hero (hint, hint Damien Harris). “I feel like we just love the state of Kentucky, we need more players from the state of Kentucky because that’s the cornerstone. That’s what you need to build on is players from Kentucky. You can go out and get these other players, but I feel like we definitely have some pride. We saw this community of football heading more towards basketball, and definitely just want to bring more wins and more people into football in Kentucky.”

My perspective of Elam, from 5'4".

My perspective of Elam, from 5’4″.

Madison Southern star Damien Harris is in a similar position as Elam was, being recruited by the elite of the elite, yet still feeling the tug to help turn around the home state school. It’s a difficult decision–Elam called it the hardest of his life–but he insists it’s possible to achieve your NFL dreams at UK while helping build the program you grew up loving:

“You don’t have to leave to go to a different school to play and go to the league (NFL) or whatever your dreams are. You can definitely handle those type of things here. It’s in the SEC, there’s a lot of positive things about being at Kentucky. You can look at the past records and everything, I mean, they haven’t been winning a lot of games, but wins aren’t everything to me. If you’re getting better, that’s good for you.”

Elam says he knows change won’t happen overnight. In fact, when asked what he wants his legacy at UK to be, Elam said he wants to be one of the guys to help get the ball rolling. “Just a guy that helped change the program and lead it into the right light. I don’t expect Kentucky to go from winning two games to being undefeated, that’s just unrealistic. I just want to see improvement in everything and guys coming in from in-state and guys staying here because Kentucky is a great school. It’s not just a basketball school, it’s football, too, and the coaching staff is going to change that.”

In his quest to build the Kentucky football program, Stoops couldn’t have asked for a better cornerstone than Elam.


Everything you need to know about the Bahamas Trip

Everything you need to know about the Bahamas Trip

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On Friday, the team leaves for the Bahamas, which means that on Sunday, Kentucky basketball will once again be back in our lives for real. This trip is the ultimate fix for the fan base that needs it the most, a treat so sweet just thinking about it gives me a toothache. Whether you’re watching at home or lucky enough to witness the games in person, here’s all you need to know about the Bahamas trip.

Let’s start off easy. Here is the schedule:

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What about broadcast coverage?

It’s a little bit confusing, so I’m glad you asked. If you’re following the games on the radio, here’s the schedule you need to know for the weekdays:

10:00 – 11:30 a.m.: Matt and Drew live from the Atlantis
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Ryan Lemond and Jared Lorenzen take over
12:30 – 1:00 p.m.: Matt and Drew live from the arena
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt call the game (ESPNU or SEC Network television coverage)
Approximately 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Matt’s postgame show live from the arena

For the weekend games, there will be a 30-minute pregame show and an hour postgame show. The postgame shows have potential for hilarity because Matt will be doing them by himself from the arena while the media (all six of us), players, and fans shuttle back to the Atlantis. Apparently the arena isn’t in the nicest area of Nassau, so hopefully Tom Jurich doesn’t know any Bahamian gangs…

This is where the games will be played

@OhioStateHoops

@OhioStateHoops

In fact, that’s the Ohio State team practicing today. Speaking of…

North Carolina, Ohio State, Pitt, Ole Miss, and Cincinnati will also be playing exhibition games in the Bahamas

However, they will be playing against local teams like the Commonwealth Giants, Bahama All-Stars, Street Legends All-Stars, Providence Storm, Atlantis All-Stars, and the PJ Stringers. North Carolina and Cincinnati are the only teams that will still be in the Bahamas while Kentucky is there. If you’re really interested, here are their game times:

Aug. 15: North Carolina vs. Providence Storm, 5 p.m.; Cincinnati vs. P.J. Stringers, 7 p.m;
Aug. 16: North Carolina vs. Bahamas All-Stars, 5 p.m.

Luckily for Ole Roy, there’s a Johnny Rockets in the Atlantis resort so he can get his milkshake fix.

For those going to the Bahamas…

Get ready to spend even more money

This trip is not cheap. It wasn’t cheap when you booked it, and it sure as hell won’t get any cheaper once you’re there. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s been to the Atlantis says they’ll charge you for EVERYTHING, so heads up. For instance, there’s an additional 15% gratuity charge on everything you purchase, from coffee to candy bars to souvenirs. Also, there’s a one-time $20 bellman fee that you can’t avoid. Also, don’t move stuff in the mini-fridges. The items are on sensors, so if you move that $4.50 bottle of water, it’s yours.

My advice? Bring packaged food for snacks/breakfast. My husband and I can only afford to go four days (Thursday-Sunday), and we’re planning on taking plenty of granola bars, protein bars, beef jerky, packaged snacks, etc. as we can fit in our suitcases. As long as it’s commercially packaged, it’s fine to get through customs. Word is there’s a small grocery store and liquor store across the street from the resort so you can stock up on stuff at a much cheaper price. We’re packing a soft-sided cooler in our bag so we can take drinks down to the pool or beach. Or rather, my husband can do that while I work.

However, I say all of this and I’m sure it will only go so far. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and at some point, you just have to stop worrying about penny pinching and enjoy yourself. If you’re going on this trip, you know it’s expensive, but you also know it’s worth it for the memories. (At least this is what we’ll tell ourselves when the credit card bill comes.)

Oh yeah, pack sunscreen too. Your skin and wallet will thank you for it.

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Prepare for the hair braiders

If you are a female, prepare to have women come up to you on the beach and offer to braid your hair. No, this is not a fun sleepover-style bonding experience–they want you to pay them a good chunk of change to braid your hair Bahamian style. I will not be doing this.

Do the slide

Regardless of how you feel about water parks, the Atlantis has one of the best ones in the world. The main attraction is the “Leap of Faith” water slide, which is built like a Mayan Temple and drops riders 60 feet into a shark-filled lagoon. You’re inside a tube, of course, so the sharks can’t get you, but still, sharks. Back in 2008, a female reef shark apparently jumped out of its tank and landed on the slide, riding it down and dying in the chlorinated water. So, I guess it’s a little haunted, too.

I have a feeling we’ll see a video of the team going down this slide at some point, possibly with Willie wearing his beloved GoPro camera on the ride down. (Make it happen, KyWildcatsTV!)

Prepare for a line

Cruise ship passengers can buy a day pass to the water park, as can people staying at other hotels, so it will be busy. I read that if you go after the cruise shippers head back to their boats in the late afternoon, it’s not as bad, which is perfect, because we’ll be busy with basketball until then anyways.

For those watching at home…

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Don’t forget to take your earphones to work

Every game starts at 1 p.m. ET, smack dab in the middle of the workday. For the three games during the week, plan on taking your earphones to listen to the radio coverage online, or if you are an expert at angling your monitors/arranging windows, watch it on WatchESPN.com. Don’t forget to keep a window open for the KSR Live Blog.

Plan lunches accordingly

It’s like March Madness all over again. Don’t worry, your boss will understand if your lunch runs late. Even if he/she doesn’t, whatever. It’s Kentucky basketball.

Clear off the DVR

If there’s no way you can see the games during the day, make sure you have space to record them on your DVR. This can understandably cause some angst. For instance, it’s safe to delete those old “Game of Thrones” episodes because they’re on HBOGO, but what about the tournament games from this past season and 2012? (Don’t roll your eyes, you know you have some of them saved too.) Delete responsibly, and for the love of God, cancel that season pass for “House Hunters.” It’s time.