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Hamidou Diallo will RETURN to Kentucky

After waiting until the very last minute in the process, we now know that Hamidou Diallo will suit up for the University of Kentucky Wildcats for the 2017-18 basketball season.

The top-ranked shooting guard in the 2017 recruiting class, Diallo enrolled at UK in time for the spring semester but never left the bench, exclusively practicing with the team for the final three months of the season.  Diallo’s return to Kentucky gives John Calipari nine Top 50 recruits on next year’s roster.

Old enough to enter the NBA draft, the Queens native was projected to be picked at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round.  His home town team was Kentucky’s greatest threat.  The Brooklyn Nets have picks at 22 and 27 and they worked out Diallo, but Hami decided to return to Kentucky to play his way into the lottery.

Prepare to see more of this next year in Lexington.

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If Diallo Returns to Kentucky

Chet White | UK Athletics

After waiting on pins and needles since the NBA Combine, the first report on Hamidou Diallo’s NBA Draft decision revealed he will return to Kentucky.  While we wait for that to be confirmed by Diallo and UK, here’s what is potentially in play for next year’s team with Diallo in the starting lineup.

The Cats have Their Best Player

You can debate on who is the best player on the team.  The 247 Composite ranks Diallo as the No. 9 player in the 2018 class, one spot ahead of Kevin Knox and two spots ahead of Jarred Vanderbilt.  I give the tie to the guy who has a one semester head-start on his peers.

For those people who love rankings, with the addition of Diallo John Calipari will be working with nine Top 50 players, eight five-star recruits and six McDonald’s All-Americans.

Kentucky will be an Elite Defensive Team

You will hear basketball bennies use the term “lengthy” incessantly when describing this team.  Jarred Vanderbilt and Kevin Knox look like your traditional, lengthy small forward that can guard multiple positions, but Diallo’s wingspan still might be longer.  At 6’11,” opposing guards will not be able to shoot over him on the perimeter.

Combine those three with P.J. Washington, Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel, you will have four guys in the starting lineup with wingspans that are close to seven feet long.  Try passing around that.

A Highlight-Making Penetrator

Prepare to see opponents get dunked on.  Diallo can hit threes, but he makes his money driving and creating while attacking the rim.  His length and athleticism make him the perfect player for John Calipari’s dribble-drive offense.  If you’re looking for a former UK player comparison, Archie Goodwin is a poor-man’s Hami.

An Experienced Perimeter Player

We’ve learned throughout John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky that experience is overrated, but it always helps to have an important player who’s been there before.  In his one semester he learned some important lessons from some of the best:

  • How to practice.  All of the initial growing pains are out of the way.
  • How to compete every single day.  Most of these guys have been able to skate by throughout their careers, but as you saw in the 30 for 30, Coach Cal doesn’t put up with you if you aren’t constantly playing at 100 percent.
  • How to balance basketball with everything else.  From the fans to the classroom, he’s been there and can help his new teammates ease into the difficult transition into college basketball.
  • How to guard GREAT guards.  Diallo spent a semester dueling against De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins; three McDonald’s All-Americans, two Top Ten draft picks and a Sweet 16 MVP.  That experience is invaluable.

That list is an abbreviated guess.  I’m sure the lessons Hami learned from semester one in Lexington are countless.

Cam Johnson is (Probably) Out of the Picture

It doesn’t put the nail in the coffin of the graduate transfer’s recruitment, but it might as well.  Diallo will give UK four guards on the roster to play with small forwards who excel on the wing.  Johnson’s options elsewhere probably look much better than the crowded court in Kentucky.

Momentum

Diallo’s decision to return is arguably the biggest draft decision since the Harrison Twins followed in Willie Cauley-Stein’s footsteps and decided to return to UK after appearing in the 2014 National Championship (giving raise to my favorite line ever uttered on KSR: “Before they split defenders, they split a zygote.  The Harrison Twins return.”).  We all remember what happened the following year.  I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

If this report turns out to be malarkey, the Cats will be just fine, but the addition of an excellent shooting guard bumps Kentucky from a Top 15/Elite Eight team to a Top Five/National Championship contender.


NY reporter says Diallo will stay at Kentucky (UPDATED)

I don’t know Bryan Fonseca from Brian Boitano but he says he has sources and those sources tell him Hamidou Diallo will stay at Kentucky for a true freshman season:

Fonseca’s bio says he is an NYPA Award nominee and an insider with Nets Daily, so he seems legit.

IS THIS HAPPENING

UPDATE

UK spokesman cannot confirm the report.

UPDATE No. 2

Another New York reporter contradicts the first report.

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WKYT

Guy Morriss is Battling Alzheimer’s

WKYT

Guy Morriss is fighting a battle he cannot win.  In an interview with WKYT, the former Kentucky head football coach revealed he has Alzheimer’s.

“It’s hard to accept,” he said as he fought back tears.  “Jackie (his wife) knew it.  I just kept denying it.”

Guy Mo had to accept the Alzheimer’s diagnosis nine months ago.  An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with the degenerative disorder.  Primarily a hereditary disease, Morriss can points to 15 years on an NFL offensive line as the primary reason why he needs help with everyday tasks.

“At first I couldn’t write my name. I could not write my name. I didn’t know my ABCs. I couldn’t do that little rhyme.”

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s not the worst part of the disease.

“I’ve always been a great football player, a coach.  I could” — he held up shaky fists, unable to find the right words — “All the world! It’s not that way anymore.  You wake up one day and everything connects.  The next time you get out of bed, the same problem, then no problem.  It’s just day at a time.

He’s forgotten how to do a lot of things, but some memories are too dear to escape the 66-year old.  He still recalls Kentucky’s 2002 Governor’s Cup upset over Louisville at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  He doesn’t remember pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate Dave Ragone’s name, “but he took a beating,” Morriss said with a laugh.

I began this post with a morbid line because it’s the truth.  Unlike cancer or any other ailment, you can’t beat Alzheimer’s.  It wins every single time.  In the early stages a person might forget names, but near the end they can forget everything, from knowing how to put on clothes or how to speak.

Every person in my family that has lived long enough to get Alzheimer’s has got the disease.  When one relative passes away, another person develops it.  Some are better than others, but all of it sucks.  The good news is that research and development, especially at UK’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, are making advances that could slow the disease’s roll, or perhaps even find a cure in the next ten years.

I applaud Morris for sharing his story.  Awareness is the best way to help; not the patient, but the patient’s family.  The more you understand the disease and how to cope, the better quality of life the patient can live.

To help fight the battle Morriss and Alzheimer’s patients everywhere cannot win, donate to the Alzheimer’s Association, a non-profit that devotes all of its resources to research and support programs for families who are taking care of loved ones.

[READ the WKYT story and WATCH the interview.]


Joe Craft Center locker room undergoing renovation

Back in February the UK Board of Trustees approved a renovation of the men’s basketball locker room in the Joe Craft Center practice facility. The privately-funded project was said to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million and would include changes to the locker and shower space, the lounge, and meeting rooms.

Well that project is now underway, seen here in these photos from the Kentucky basketball Twitter account:

In the end it will look something like this:


Without Bamba, Calipari’s Wildcats are in a Similar Situation

Without Bamba, Calipari’s Wildcats are in a Similar Situation

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Mo Bamba is not coming to Kentucky.  Arguably the most sought after recruit in John Calipari’s 2017 class will head to the Big 12 instead of the Bluegrass.  A few hours after the decision, Calipari announced the addition of the three spring signees — Jarred Vanderbilt, Kevin Knox and Jemarl Baker — essentially calling it quits on the 2017 class.

Coach Cal did not finish the offseason recruiting season with a new Top Two player, but he’ll be just fine.  After all, he’s been here before.  Let me take you back to 2013.

All of the McDonald’s All-Americans

Entering the month of May 2013, John Calipari already had stacked the Kentucky roster with a record six McDonald’s All-Americans.  The No. 1 recruiting class in America, it was touted as one of the greatest classes ever, drawing “40-0” considerations early and often.  You can understand why:

  • Julius Randle — 6’9″ 250 lbs., No. 2 player overall
  • Andrew Harrison —  6’4″ 200 lbs., No. 3
  • Aaron Harrison — 6’4″ 200 lbs., No. 5
  • Dakari Johnson — 6’10” 250 lbs., No. 8
  • James Young — 6’6″ 200 lbs., No. 10
  • Marcus Lee –6’9″ 215 lbs., No. 14
  • Derek Willis — 6’9″ 200 lbs., No. 58
  • Dominique Hawkins — 6’1 170 lbs., No. 151

Four years later, John Calipari has the No. 1 class in the nation, but it’s received exponentially less hype, even drawing concerns from some fans.  Still, Calipari has five McDonald’s All-Americans  ranked in the Top 20 of the recruiting class (and maybe even tenth-ranked Hamidou Diallo?).

  • Jarred Vanderbilt — 6’9″ 213 bs., No. 8 player overall
  • Nick Richards — 7’0 240 lbs., No. 14
  • Kevin Knox — 6’9″ 206 lbs., No. 17
  • P.J. Washington — 6’8″ 230 lbs., No. 18
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — 6’6″ 175 lbs., No. 19
  • Quade Green — 6’1″ 175 lbs., No. 30
  • Jemarl Baker — 6’4″ 185 lbs, No. 83

Just like in mid-May of 2013, it was an impressive class that still had room to grow, with one top-ranked player at forefront near the end of the spring signing period.

Andrew Wiggins

On May 14, 2013, Matt Jones spent two hours on Kentucky Sports Radio calling every famous person in his cell phone to ask: “Where’s Wiggins going?”  Choosing between Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and his parents’ school, Florida State, the Commonwealth was buzzing like never before for a recruit’s decision.

The future No. 1 pick turned down the Cats and his parents to take his talents to the land of the Big 12 in Lawrence, Kansas.  The Jayhawks lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while Kentucky went to the National Title.

Today on May 18, 2017, Calipari’s class “ended” with a whimper when the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick* opted for Texas.  Bamba and Wiggins are much different players, but their unbelievable impact on the game is comparable.

Stability at Center

SKJ by Mark Zerof | USA Today

SKJ by Mark Zerof | USA Today

When Calipari didn’t add a highlight-maker at the end of the 2013 class, the Cats were covered with McDonald’s All-American James Young ready to step in at the wing in Wiggins’ place.  In the post, he had an incoming McDonald’s All-American seven-footer, Dakari Johnson.  His raw offensive talent is not unlike this year’s McDonald’s All-American center, Nick Richards.

To ensure Johnson did not need to step in to play right away, returning sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein was ready to either temporarily fill the void, or take his game to the next level.  This year’s hyphenated returning sophomore finds himself at a similar crossroad.  Sacha Killeya-Jones wowed during summer practices, drawing comparisons to the former unanimous All-American, but he could never get comfortable during his freshman season, unable to find significant time on the floor.

By all indications, SKJ is prepared to take a Cauley-Stein-sized step up in 2017-18.

An Enormous Roster

I made it a point to list the heights for each of the two recruiting classes.  The first Harrison Twin team to reach the title didn’t have two-platoons with three guys over 6’10,” but they still had the kind of size rarely seen in college basketball.

As the game shifts toward perimeter-oriented style, Calipari’s 2017-18 team will look like his lengthy teams from the past.  Excluding Green and Baker, the rest of the team is at least 6’6,” with the ability to play a lineup ( with Kevin Knox at the wing) featuring four players taller than 6’8.”


Losing Bamba hurts, but there’s more than enough reasons to remain optimistic about next season based on Calipari’s proven ability to cater his style to his players.  Additionally, he’ll have extra time this summer to coach most of his new players for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo.

Any time there is extreme turnover, there’s a significant adjustment period, but if the team that didn’t get Bamba turns out anything like the team that didn’t get Wiggins, hold on, it’s about to be a wild ride.


Five Immediate Thoughts After The Bamba News

mohamed-bamba

Mohamed Bamba’s recruitment is over and it didn’t go in Kentucky’s favor. Here are five quick thoughts on his decision to pick Texas as we get back on our feet after the disappoint blow to BBN’s recruiting momentum…

 

1. Hey, at least he didn’t go to Duke.

If you’re going to lose a recruitment, you always want to lose to a school that’s not a threat. Texas will be a good team next season, but nowhere near as good as if Duke, our arch nemesis, had added Bamba to its roster.

2. He makes a good point about Jarrett Allen.

Bamba wrote:

I can’t say enough about the strides my friend Jarrett Allen made this past year. I saw his footwork improve. I saw the spots they put him in — where he was shooting, passing and stretching the paint like a modern five. Most importantly, I saw his confidence grow throughout the season as he distinguished himself as a possible lottery pick. I’m thankful for the blueprint he laid down and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

Now let’s look at Bam Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones, two other five-star big men from Allen’s class who attended Kentucky. Bam went from projected lottery pick to fringe first-rounder after a year that didn’t live up to expectations; Killeya-Jones didn’t play at all. Calipari’s long-term record with bigs is good, but those are three guys Bamba has known most of his basketball life and probably kept close tabs on last season when Allen proved to make the most strides in one year. One point to Texas.

3. It’s really not a big deal for Kentucky next year.

As nice as it would’ve been to add a game-changer like Bamba, Kentucky is already pretty loaded in the paint, probably too loaded. A month ago you would’ve ranked Bamba third behind Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo based on need; well, you got Knox and Diallo is still TBD.

However, no Bamba puts pressure on Nick Richards and a sophomore Killeya-Jones to perform, but it’s not like Kentucky won’t have a big man because it didn’t get Bamba.

He would’ve been a great addition because he is special. It’s not the end of the world.

4. He is really, really, really smart and I’m a huge fan.

Unlike most (all) player contributions to The Players’ Tribune, I really believe Bamba wrote his own. Watch one interview with him and you know he’s a very special young man outside of his basketball talents. He clearly put a lot of thought into this decision and believes he is doing what’s best for his family, which is all that really matters in the end. How can you not love that he wants to, in his words, “build a long, successful career that will ensure that my father won’t have to drive a cab 70-plus hours a week, including nights and weekends”?  Consider me a big fan of Mo Bamba for life.

5. I still like my team.

When the ball tips next fall, give me the University of Kentucky over anyone.

They’re at the table waiting to eat.

mcdaag-uk


Mohamed Bamba commits to Texas

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Well, crap.

Mohamed Bamba is going to Texas. The five-star big man announced his commitment Thursday morning via his own words on The Players’ Tribune. In the end, he picked the Longhorns over Kentucky, Duke and Michigan in a disappointing decision for Big Blue Nation.

Bamba’s explanation of the decision is a long one and very well-written for the kid who is wise beyond his age. He explains living by a mantra of “filling his jar with big rocks first,” and he names Texas as the program that filled his jar the best, and Shaka Smart and academics as the biggest rocks:

Big Rocks

The Coach

Coach Smart may not have been aware of it, but I put him through a weeklong job interview last summer when he coached me on Team USA in Valdivia, Chile. We instantly formed a bond. Now, the tables have turned, and I’m the one interviewing with him, hoping to show I can play a major role in his team’s success next season. His attention to detail is truly unbelievable — I can’t tell you how many times he picked up on something I mentioned in passing and brought it back full circle several months later. I’ve seen firsthand how much he genuinely cares about me and my family and how he’s going to challenge me to be in a state of continuous improvement.

Beyond Basketball

How can a projected “one-and-done” college athlete get a real college education? That gets thrown around a lot and I want to go on record as saying that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. My academic focus is not just lip service. It’s extremely important to me and my family, but I also firmly believe that the best class I’ll ever take will actually be taught by the people I will surround myself with.

I feel especially fortunate to explore my academic interests within the McCombs School of Business, one of the nation’s top undergraduate BBA programs. Learning from world-class professors and classmates in Austin, a city that’s renowned for tech and innovation, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Oh, and that alumni network — man, the Horns are everywhere! I can see and feel their passion and I’m excited about aligning myself with them for a lifetime of support and learning. I’ve seen firsthand the power of this from my time at Westtown and Cardigan Mountain.

These two big rocks were the true keys to my decision — without the coach and without the “beyond basketball” element, the stones, pebbles and sand wouldn’t have mattered that much.

Bamba goes on to list strength, conditioning and skill development as his jar’s “stones,” followed by the campus environment and weather as the “pebbles and sand.”

It’s a very good read from a young man who just broke our basketball hearts.

Mohamed Bamba: “Ready To Rock”


Making The Case For Drafting Fox Over Ball In L.A.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Ford | USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will take a point guard with the No. 2 pick in the draft and there is only one man for the job.

That man is not the hometown kid, Lonzo Ball.

That man is De’Aaron Fox, point guard, from the University of Kentucky.

Let me tell you why Magic Johnson’s decision is an easy one (in my completely unbiased opinion)…

 

De’Aaron Fox isn’t that bad of a shooter.

Sure, to start his freshman campaign at Kentucky, De’Aaron Fox was one of the worst three-point-shooting guards ever (although not even the worst in his own starting five), which is why he’s not projected above Lonzo Ball. But by the end of the year, Fox’s stroke — which always looked the part without getting the results — improved immensely. By season’s end, he was shooting about as well as anyone could want from a speedy, drive-first point guard. He entered the NCAA tournament having gone 7-for-12 in his last six SEC games, showing a massive improvement from earlier in the year when he couldn’t get his outside shot to fall.

From the foul line, Fox was good at 74 percent on the season and even better in the clutch, while Lonzo Ball shot 67 percent over at UCLA.

The Lakers like to run.

The Lakers like to get it and go in transition, and there isn’t a better guard in the draft who can play at that tempo. No incoming prospect is faster with the ball than De’Aaron Fox and there aren’t many guys who are already in the league that can run with him. If Luke Walton wants to push it, Fox and De’Angelo Russell make a backcourt that can really push it.

To be fair, Lonzo Ball is also very good in transition — it’s his biggest strength — but give me the blazing speed that can’t be taught over Ball’s court vision and unselfishness. Like John Wall, Fox can figure that out as he goes.

Lonzo Ball can’t guard me.

He can’t guard you. He can’t guard the person sitting next to you or anyone else reading this. We know he can’t guard De’Aaron Fox and I’m not sure he can guard anyone else in the NBA on the ball. He will get pick-and-roll’d and ISO’d to death at the next level, where, unlike the college game, you can’t hide your defensive inefficiencies. 99 percent of the guys Ball will be matched up with in the NBA are going to blow right past him. Set a screen and it’s a free basket.

Lonzo Ball’s shot is broke.

It’s tough to criticize Ball’s shot because it goes in, but it’s also tough to see him getting as many off in the NBA with that broke-ass form. If he’s open, yeah, it’s a good shot. But what if there are five seconds on the shot clock and he has to get one off over the longer, quicker, better defenders in the league? Not a prayer. He can’t get that shot over a flat-footed Isaiah Thomas with his hands in his pockets.

Lonzo Ball’s shoes are really broke.

This has nothing to do with Ball vs. Fox; however, it should be mentioned that Ball’s shoes are complete trash and blatant Kobe knock-offs.

I’d pass on him with the 50th pick in the Croatian league draft just to keep those shoes off of my court and out of my locker room.

LaVar Ball is an actual crazy person who is doing much more harm than good.

Above all else, at the end of the day, LaVar Ball is Reason No. 1 why teams should pass on Lonzo Ball. He’ll be complaining about Lonzo’s teammates and coaches the moment something goes wrong, and Lonzo will be the one who is punished in the end. Crazy dad did a great job of getting the family name out there — kudos to his marketing — but it’s time to take a seat and let Lonzo do his thing. That won’t happen, though, and whatever team gets Lonzo will be constantly dealing with LaVar’s nonsense. The NBA is a league of grown men making millions upon millions of dollars; do you think they want some kid’s crazy dad inserting himself into their business? Hell, there’s already a target on Lonzo’s back for the things LaVar’s already said, and it’ll only get worse.

Let the next team take Daddy’s Boy and take the safe bet in De’Aaron Fox as your point guard.


Wednesday’s Top 10: NBA Draft Lottery, Diallo works out for the Nets, and arrivederci!

Wednesday’s Top 10: NBA Draft Lottery, Diallo works out for the Nets, and arrivederci!

Ciao, miei amici. Forgive me if I’m a bit distracted today because tomorrow, I take off for Italy for two weeks, with stops in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. I studied abroad in Florence my junior year of college, so this will be a homecoming of sorts, and I am beyond excited. In an attempt to pacify my dog, who starts pouting the instant we bring out our suitcases, I put off packing until the last minute, so today will include lots of laundry and careful decisions. Do I bother packing running gear? (No) Are these wedges comfortable enough to navigate the cobblestones? (Probably not, but I’ll take them anyways) How in the world will I be able to watch the Predators in the Western Conference Finals from there? (Looking at you, XFINITY app on the iPad)

In between all of that, I’ll also be bringing you the latest in UK sports. Andiamo!

1. The NBA Draft order is officially set

Last night was the NBA Draft Lottery, and the Boston Celtics drew the first pick, followed by the Lakers and the 76ers. Here’s the complete order of the first round of the draft now that the lottery’s over:

1. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Philadelphia 76ers (from Sacramento)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings (from Philadelphia)
6. Orlando Magic
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
8. New York Knicks
9. Dallas Mavericks
10. Sacramento Kings (from New Orleans)
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Detroit Pistons
13. Denver Nuggets
14. Miami Heat
15. Portland Trail Blazers
16. Chicago Bulls
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. Indiana Pacers
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Portland Trail Blazers (from Memphis, via Denver and Cleveland)
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
22. Brooklyn Nets (from Washington)
23. Toronto Raptors (from Los Angeles Clippers via Milwaukee)
24. Utah Jazz
25. Orlando Magic (from Toronto)
26. Portland Trail Blazers (from Cleveland)
27. Brooklyn Nets (from Boston)
28. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston)
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Utah Jazz (from Golden State)

2. Mock Draft season is now in overdrive

NBA pundits went into overdrive last night, pushing out instant reactions to the lottery order. Here’s Jonathan Givony of Draft Express‘ take:

5. De’Aaron Fox — Sacramento Kings
6. Malik Monk — Orlando Magic
32. Bam Adebayo — Phoenix Suns
35. Hamidou Diallo — Orlando Magic

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chad Ford believes Monk will go off the board first, to Philly at #3:

3. Malik Monk — Philadelphia 76ers
5. De’Aaron Fox — Sacramento Kings
23. Bam Adebayo — Toronto Raptors
27. Hamidou Diallo — Brooklyn Nets

My initial reaction was Fultz first, Ball second, and Fox to the 76ers.

3. Joel Embiid was the real MVP

Embiid had a ball representing the 76ers, showing up to the stage with a Shirley Temple and doing this weird maniacal laughter thing as his squad’s chances of a top pick got better and better:

Embiid is hilarious.

4. Hamidou Diallo works out for the Nets today

Where you going, Hami? I wish I knew, and honestly, that’s the question I look forward to getting away from the most. According to Adam Zagoria, Diallo worked out for the Chicago Bulls on Monday and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. The Bulls have the 16th pick in the draft and the Bucks the 17th, and the latter reportedly has “high interest” in Diallo. The Bucks drafted Thon Maker last year, so clearly they don’t have an issue rolling the dice on a prospect who hasn’t played college ball. Tomorrow, Diallo will meet with his hometown Nets, who have the 22nd and 27th picks. That meeting could decide it all.

5. Dominique Hawkins has gotten interest from NFL teams

Dominique Hawkins is determined to continue his basketball career, but yesterday we found out that he’s garnered some interest from some professional football teams as well. Jonathan Givony told Ben Roberts that NFL teams have reached out to Hawkins to see if he’d be interested in switching careers to play defensive back, but for now, Dom is sticking with basketball. So, if you’ve ever said, “Man, Dom would make one hell of a safety,” pat yourself on the back because the NFL agrees.

6. Maria Taylor will replace Samantha Ponder on “College Gameday”

Kansas-1459

Shoutout to one of my favorite women in the business, Maria Taylor, on her promotion to “College Gameday.” Taylor hosted “SEC Nation,” the SEC Network’s version of “College Gameday,” last year, and will replace Samantha Ponder, who will host “Sunday NFL Countdown” this fall. I’m very happy about the news because Taylor has the brains and wit to match her beauty, and should be a great fit for one of the last few things ESPN does well.

Speaking of badass ladies…

7. Kendra Harrison is back running hurdles five days after surgery

The former UK track star and current world record holder broke her hand before a race earlier this month, and not only did she run that race anyways and win it, she’s back on the track running hurdles five days after her surgery. Rock star.

8. The Titans gave every offensive line squad goals last night

The Nashville Predators rallied to beat the Anaheim Ducks in a thriller last night to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Before the game, Marcus Mariota and the Titans offensive line served as the hype guys, throwing catfish on the ice and chugging Bud Light tallboys:

Talk about squad goals.

9. Would you rock a “romphim”?

If you answered yes, please get off this website.

10. Radio in an hour

You know the drill.


A Look at Stoops’ 2018 Class and Who’s Next

The last two weeks on the recruiting front have been two of the best during Mark Stoops’ tenure.  Since April 30, the class of 2018 has added four impact recruits: a trio of offensive linemen and quarterback Jarren Williams.

Now the 21st ranked recruiting class in the nation, third in the SEC, here’s what Stoops has in the eight-man class, along with his top remaining targets.

Elite Offensive Linemen

Before April 30, Kentucky had zero offensive linemen in the class.  Since then John Schlarman has had plenty to smile about.

The first piece to fall was Darian Kinnard.  The lowest-ranked of the offensive line recruits as the No. 32 offensive tackle, he has the desired measurables at 6’7″ 335 pounds.  From St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, he’s already gained valuable experience playing for Chuck Kyle, a coach who’s won three national titles.

Michigan’s Marquan McCall was an important addition to the offensive line and to Kentucky’s recruiting strategy.  The first Michigan commit for Mark Stoops, Steve Clinkscale convinced the best player in the state of Michigan to turn down Jim Harbaugh and leave home for Lexington.  The No. 4 offensive guard in the class and Top 100 player overall has exceptional size (6’4′ 320 pounds) for an agile interior lineman.

McCall via 247

Marquan McCall via 247

Pass Rushers with Great Teammates

Kentucky’s first commitment in the class came from a Florida defensive end who excels with his hand in the dirt.  Mark Stoops has groomed some phenomenal outside linebackers but has struggled to find five and three-technique defensive ends who are tasked to play with the big dogs in the trenches.  At 6’4″ 250 pounds, Davoan Hawkins has what it takes to play inside with the big dogs.  From Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Florida, he also brought a teammate to Kentucky, wide receiver Marvin Alexander.

Alex Reigelsperger tends to trend more to the outside linebacker mold.  The most vocal member of the 2018 class, he quickly emerged as a leader.  His next and most important task: convince L’Christian “Blue” Smith, his Wayne High School teammate, to join him in Lexington.

A Program-Changing Quarterback

I don’t care how many great recruiting classes Mark Stoops has, it’s hard to do anything without above-average quarterback play.  Of all the things that made last season two wins better than the previous two, consistent quarterback play deserves most of the credit.  Kentucky has found some consistency; Jarren Williams is the dynamic playmaker that can take Kentucky to places never before seen.

For the people who prefer rankings, the dual-threat quarterback is just a three-star, but that won’t last long.  An Elite 11 finalist, he’ll be a four-star, Top 150 recruit when it’s all said and done.

Williams currently has three passing targets to choose from in the class: tight end Brenden Bates and wide receivers Marvin Alexander and Shockey Jacques-Louis.  There will be a few more offensive weapons needed at running back and one special wide receiver.

Who’s Next?

L’Christian “Blue” Smith

They don’t make outside wide receivers much better than Blue Smith.  The Top Five wide receiver does everything well — catches jump balls, creates separation at the line of scrimmage, gets yards after catch.  You name it, he does it  He also is/was Wayne High School teammates with two UK guys, Alex Reigelsperger and Tobias Gilliam.  Kentucky is in a good position with Blue, but Ohio State looms.

Tyler Bentley and Xavier Peters

If Kentucky could land the dynamic duo from Lakota West High School (Cincinnati), it would bring superstar power to two positions of need, inside linebacker and defensive tackle.

The recruitment of Bentley, a Top 50 defensive tackle, was initially a two-horse race between Kentucky and Louisville.  He decided to push a summer decision back once the big dogs got involved: Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and LSU.  Still, the Cats are the 247 Crystal Ball favorites.

As Jordan Jones and Courtney Love’s time at Kentucky nears a conclusion, Stoops turns to Xavier Peters.  A consensus four-star Top 250 prospect and an Opening Finalist, Penn State is Kentucky’s toughest competition for the elite linebacker, even though he has an Alabama offer.

Tyreke Smith

A defensive end from Cleveland Heights High School, the home of Dorian Baker, he’s one of the ten best pass rushers in the country and a Top 150 player overall.  Today he trimmed his list to 12 and the Cats made the cut.  Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and USC are the early leaders, but he told Rivals, “I am definitely going to go see Kentucky.”

A Running Back

Benny Snell and Sihiem King will be finished at UK after the 2018 season, leaving just three running backs on the roster.  This position of need will likely be filled by a late-emerging target who surfaces in the middle of the season.

Another Michigan Kid

When Steve Clinckscale first went to Michigan, McCall wasn’t the only player to see on his agenda.  Many of the elite athletes he offered were younger, following Kentucky’s “Find ’em First” approach, but there will likely be one or two more from the Great Lake State to follow in McCall’s footsteps in the class of ’18.  One name to keep an eye on: DeAndre Square, a Top 25 safety in the class.


Jarren Williams RECOMMITS to Kentucky in live interview on KSR

Jarren Williams RECOMMITS to Kentucky in live interview on KSR

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If you’re listening to Kentucky Sports Radio, then you just heard the exciting news: four-star dual threat quarterback Jarren Williams just recommitted to Kentucky live on air.

“I’m recommitting to Kentucky,” Williams said on KSR. “I prayed about it and my heart has always been with Kentucky, so I’m making that move.”

After receiving offers from schools like Alabama, Florida, and LSU, the 6’2″ Georgia native reopened his recruitment on April 24, a decision he said he actually made out of respect to Kentucky, not wanting to give the program or staff a bad look while he took additional visits.

“The reason I decommitted was because talking to the coaches and stuff and my parents, we had decided to take some more visits and do camps. Being the face of the class, out of respect for the university, I thought it would be best to go ahead and decommit. That was that and talking to Coach Hinshaw and Coach Stoops and praying about it a lot, I just really got that feeling that this was the spot for me and we just decided to shut it all down and come back home.”

Vince Marrow and Darin Hinshaw visited Williams at his high school as recently as this weekend to see him play in his spring game. Coaches from the University of Georgia were also there after offering Williams on May 4, but Williams’ loyalty to the UK coaching staff was stronger than the pull to play for his home state school.

“I knew that I’d always be surrounded by great people,” Williams said of Kentucky. “They’ve always been up front about everything and I know I could trust them. They’ve always supported me, even the fans, they’ve been very supportive. That’s the kind of stuff that stands out to me. All the glamour and all that stuff, that doesn’t make my decision. It’s about the little stuff, being able to trust in the Lord Jesus. When I go up there, I just get that feeling. This is where I belong. There’s no other feeling like it.”

There’s a long ways to go until Signing Day, but the fact that Williams recommitted in spite of offers from the best programs in the country — including his home state Bulldogs — is a very good sign this pledge will stick. From here, Williams will resume his role as one of the lead recruiters in Kentucky’s 2018 class, which he will represent in the Elite 11 Finals June 2-4 in Los Angeles.

“Oh yeah, this is it,” Williams said when asked if this was his final decision. “I’m shutting it down. This is it now. I know where my heart belongs. I’m committed 100%. I’m shutting it all down.”

Stay tuned for more on Williams’ commitment as the day goes on.

 


YAHTZEE! 2018 Offensive Lineman Quintin Wilson Commits to Kentucky

@Q_wil42

@Q_wil42

Cincinnati center Quintin Wilson has committed to Kentucky.  The 6’3″ 290-pound three-star recruit used his commitment as a gift to his mom on Mother’s Day.

@q_wil42

@q_wil42

Considered the No. 8 center in the country, the Walnut Hills High School star chose Kentucky over Duke, Virginia, Cincinnati and Minnesota.  Wilson becomes the third offensive lineman in the eight-man 2018 class and the fourth from the state of Ohio.  247 Sports hasn’t bumped UK’s ’18 class to No. 22, third in the SEC.

John Schlarman will get to work with the nation’s No. 32 offensive tackle, Darian Kinnard, the nation’s No. 4 offensive guard, Marquan McCall, and the nation’s No. 8 center, Quintin Wilson.  Watch Wilson do work:


Kentucky Football Notes of the Week

Kentucky Football Notes of the Week

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Kentucky secured a commitment from the top rated prospect in Michigan as secondary coach Steve Clinkscale traveled north to land four-star offensive lineman Marquan McCall. McCall is rated as a top 5 guard nationally. His recruitment proves that Stoops’ out-of-state reach can go well beyond Ohio and Florida.

I’m taking some time off and this is my last post for a while. So, let’s check out all the recent goings on surrounding Kentucky Football…

3 Players With The Most to Gain in the Offseason  

 Linebacker Jamin Davis

The early enrollee was one of the spring game’s standouts after recording 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Davis’ instincts, physicality, and character supersede his lack of experience. Summertime weight and strength gains are vital for the rookie from Ludowici, Georgia. Currently listed at 212-pounds, Davis may push for immediate playing time if he can surpass the 220 mark.

 Running Back Bryant Koback

Bryan Koback suffered a season-ending injury after posting a 375-yard rushing performance early in his senior year of high school. Prior to the injury, Koback rushed 93 times for 1,096 yards and 21 touchdowns in a shortened season. The early enrollee didn’t participate in spring practice while he focused on rehabilitation.

History tells us that Eddie Gran will need more than 3 running backs for 2017. Currently Gran is counting on Benny Snell, Sihiem King, and AJ Rose to carry the mail. The Wildcats need the true freshman to heal and regenerate in the offseason in order to provide a 4th option. Hopes are that he regains the speed and elusiveness that attracted Vince Marrow’s eye during his days at Springfield High School.

 Linebacker Eli Brown

Brown stepped up and showed out during spring practice as his play was singled out by defensive coordinator Matt House as well as Mark Stoops. The sophomore from Bowling Green is listed at 215-pounds which is 5-10 lb’s shy of a desirable weight for an inside linebacker. He’s shown explosive play and sideline-to-sideline capability. But, an increase in his between-the-tackle fist fight prowess will only come with additional strength and weight gains. Brown should see a significant upsurge in playing time in 2017 and has all the tools to be special.


Early Signing Period

Beginning with this recruiting cycle, prospects can sign their National Letter of Intent (NLI) during an early signing period that ranges from December 20th through the 22nd. Will this 72-hour window be the end-all solution for programs such as Kentucky? I’m yet to be convinced. While in no way can it hurt, let’s wait to see at least one recruiting rotation filter through the new system prior to passing judgement.

UK’s Class of 2017 pledged early and stayed committed all the way through National Signing Day. Only Lynn Bowden, Yusuf Corker, and Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald came into the fold after December 22nd. The Class of 2015 was quite the opposite. It lost a portion of players from decommitment but gained eventual starters late in the process.

Will a high percentage of players sign early or will they drag out the process until February? Are 48 days between the first and final signing days enough to make a substantial difference? There’s no way to accurately answer those questions. We’ll see how it plays out. You can listen to three UK has-beens discuss this and more topics on the Depth Chart Podcast here.


KHSAA State Football Championships Moving to Kroger Field

Kroger Field will host the KHSAA state football championships beginning this December. This includes all classifications: A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A. Excellent news for the University of Kentucky as well as traditional powerhouse football programs in eastern and central Kentucky.

I’ve either played in or attended title games at the old Cardinal Stadium, Papa John’s, and those hosted by WKU. All have been hospitable sites and provided travel ease for programs within their immediate vicinities. It’s now UK’s time to showcase its new shiny facilities.


Service Trip to the Dominican Republic

CJ Conrad, Jordan Bonner, and Denzil Ware are spending a portion of their offseason on a service trip to the Dominican Republic. Not much more to say other than take a look at these inspiring and heartwarming pictures. Really proud of these guys.

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@UKFootball

This picture of Denzil Ware is priceless:

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@UKFootball

OLB Jordan Bonner’s selfie game is strong:

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I’ll be completely off the grid starting Saturday. But, if you’re in the area stop by the 6th Annual Passing for a Purpose football camp that will be held at Harlan County High School’s Coal Miner Memorial Stadium. The camp starts on Saturday morning and runs from 8:00 a.m. through 3:00 p.m. Cost is $10.00 with 100% of proceeds going to Cumberland Hope Community Rehab Center.

Have a great week.


Friday’s Top 10: Kentucky takes over the NBA Combine

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Shoutout to these fine fellas, who repped the Cats on a recent golf outing. Talk about a scenic spot. It’s been a really long week, so why don’t we all just give up on this work thing and hit the links? Yeah? Nah? Okay, fine. Read over today’s top 10 instead, because it’s a busy day here in the land of UK sports.

1. A LOT of stuff happened at the NBA Combine yesterday

You know, there was actually a point early on yesterday in which I was searching for news to post. And then ESPN2’s coverage of the Combine began. First, the measurements were released, and we saw that Hamidou Diallo’s 6’10” wingspan has grown to 6’11.25″, making the 6’4″ guard even more of an athletic specimen. Then, Diallo recorded a 44.5″ vertical jump, the second highest in NBA Combine history, and if you look at stats beyond the Combine, the eighth highest in league history:

While we knew Hami was a great athlete going into the Combine, that measurement is eye-opening, passing Andrew Wiggins’ 44″ vertical we all drooled over a few years back.

2. At some point, Calipari showed up

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Since Diallo declared, we haven’t heard much from him or Calipari on the matter, so Cal did as Cal does and got ahead of the situation by coming to the Combine to support his guys and address reporters. How would Cal deal with a none-and-done? Basically, he said if Hami is projected to go in the first round, particularly before pick 22, it would be hard to tell him to come back to school. If Hami’s projected to go in the lottery? Cal joked he might as well retire.

“Hami, he practiced with us. The last guy to do that was Enes Kanter. He practiced for the year and he was the fourth pick in the draft. Hami practiced four months. If he’s a lottery pick, I’m retiring, I’m done. There’s nothing more I can do. He has a chance of being drafted and doing all this stuff. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. People are mad, ‘He didn’t play!’ This is what this is for. And if at the end of the day, if someone going to draft him in the first round, 21, 25, lottery pick, it’s hard for me to tell him to come back.”

3. Hami said both doors are still open

We finally got to hear from Hami, both on ESPN and in an interview session attended by reporters in Chicago. In both settings, Diallo insisted he hasn’t made his mind up and is keeping his options open. He spoke a lot about his close ties with Kentucky’s 2017 class, a “brotherhood,” but “if now is the time, then so be it.”

With more meetings with teams coming up next week, Hami’s decision probably won’t come soon. We’ll know for sure on May 24, the withdrawal deadline.

4. Here are all the Combine Measurements

Full name Height Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Body Fat % Hand Length Hand Width
Bam Adebayo 6’8.75″ 6’9.75“ 242.6 7’2.75“ 5.2 9.5“ 8.75“
Isaiah Briscoe 6’1.25“ 6’2.75“ 222.4 6’9“ 11 9“ 9.25“
Hamidou Diallo 6’3.75“ 6’5“ 197.4 6’11.25“ 5.2 8.5“ 9.5“
De’Aaron Fox 6’2“ 6’3.25“ 169.6 6’6.5“ 4.5 8.5“ 8.5“

Basically, Fox and Bam lost weight, and Briscoe gained.

5. Speaking of Briscoe, he did well yesterday

Hami stole the headlines, but Isaiah Briscoe turned in a great performance in both the shuttle drill and the 5-on-5 scrimmages. Briscoe ran the fastest shuttle at 2.85 seconds and in the scrimmage, scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while leading all players with 7 assists. All in all, it was a good day for Briscoe, who needs momentum to boost him into the second round.

6. Today, we’ll hear from Bam and Briscoe

Diallo spoke to reporters yesterday, and today, we’ll hear from Isaiah Briscoe and Bam Adebayo. (De’Aaron Fox was scheduled to speak to reporters Thursday, but declined.) Last night, Calipari took Bam (and probably all of his guys) out to dinner and posted a tweet saying how proud he was of the big man:

It appears they’re at Rosebud on Rush, which makes me very jealous because it’s one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.

7. UK Baseball hosts Tennessee

It’s a big weekend for Nick Mingione’s squad, who will host Tennessee for a three game series. It’s Senior Weekend for the Cats, and senior outfielder Storm Wilson admitted that the fact that they’re playing Tennessee has special meaning.

“That rivalry kind of hits home with me,” Wilson said of the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry. “I was a Tennessee fan growing up (because of) my dad.”

Do Wilson and his fellow Bat Cats a favor and get on down to The Cliff this weekend. Tonight’s game starts at 6:30 p.m., tomorrow’s at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s finale at 1 p.m.

8. UK Softball lost to Auburn

Unfortunately, UK’s run in the SEC Softball Tournament ended with a 2-0 loss to Auburn in the quarterfinals last night. With a 36-17 overall record, all the Cats can do now is await their fate on the 2017 NCAA Softball Selection Show, which airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2

9. It’s Game 1 for Preds/Ducks, Game 6 for Wizards/Celtics

Yes, more hockey! Tonight, the Preds take on the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals, which means any spare time I have today will be spent honing my skills in Duck Hunt:

In the NBA playoffs, it’s do or die for John Wall and the Wizards, who will host the Celtics tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Celtics lead the series 3-2. Cheer on Wall at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

10. Seth Davis out at Sports Illustrated

After the massive layoffs at ESPN, it appears no one is safe in sports media, not even Seth Davis, who was laid off by Sports Illustrated yesterday. Davis, who is also an analyst for CBS Sports, has worked for SI since 1995. Judging by his tweets, he’d rather have a job in politics anyways:

Radio in an hour…