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Confirmed Big Blue Madness visitor list grows to ten

Two more visitors have been added to the confirmed Big Blue Madness visitor list, which now sits at ten total prospects.

Kentucky will now host at least three prospects in each of the upcoming 2020, 2021, and 2022 recruiting classes.

For 2020, the star of the show is No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham, with UK commitments Terrence Clarke and Lance Ware also confirmed to be in attendance. Four-star forward and Bardstown’s own JJ Traynor will also be in Lexington for the event on an unofficial visit.

Cunningham, Kentucky’s top guard target in the class of 2020, received a visit from John Calipari at his school on Monday, sparking significant UK buzz in his recruitment over the past several days. The 6-foot-7 guard out of Arlington, TX is down to Kentucky, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Florida, and Washington, with the Wildcats, Cowboys, and Tar Heels seen as the current favorites.

Traynor, a 6-foot-8, 180-pound forward out of Bardstown, KY, received a visit from UK assistant Kenny Payne last month and took an unofficial to UK last week. The top-100 prospect and No. 1 recruit in the state of Kentucky has not earned a scholarship from the school at this time, though one is expected in the near future. Traynor has not cut his list, though Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky, and Cincinnati are seen as the top contenders in his recruitment.

Clarke, the No. 4 prospect in the class of 2020, and Ware, the No. 33 recruit in the nation (247Sports), both committed to Kentucky back in September.

As for the class of 2021, top-ten forwards Paolo Banchero (official) and Moussa Cisse (unofficial) lead the way, with four-star forward Trey Kaufman also in attendance on an unofficial.

Banchero, ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation (Rivals) and considered a consensus top-four prospect in the class of 2021, recently trimmed his list down to ten. Those in contention? Kentucky, Washington, Duke, Tennessee, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Michigan, Baylor, Georgetown, and Memphis.

Cisse, the No. 9 prospect in the junior class, received an offer from Kentucky back on September 30 when John Calipari visited him at his school. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound Memphis, TN native holds confirmed offers from Kentucky, Connecticut, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Memphis, and Ole Miss, with the Tigers currently seen as the favorite.

As for Kaufman, he doesn’t currently hold an offer from Kentucky, though UK assistant coach Joel Justus made the trip to Sellersburg, IN to watch the four-star forward at his high school. At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Kaufman is listed as the No. 29 overall recruit in the class of 2021 on 247Sports and holds offers from Indiana, Lousiville, Xavier, and Purdue, among others.

Finally, top-15 prospect Brandon Miller and four-star point guard Paul McMillan IV will represent the 2022 class, with Eastern High School (Louisville) prospect James Jewell also making his way to Lexington. All three sophomore recruits will be in town on unofficial visits.

Miller, a 6-foot-6, 175-pound small forward out of Antioch, TN, is considered the No. 11 overall prospect in the class of 2022 in the 247Sports Composite rankings. His lone confirmed offer comes from the Tennessee Volunteers.

McMillan, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard out of Cincinnati, OH, currently holds offers from his hometown Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers. 247Sports lists the four-star prospect as the No. 34 recruit and No. 5 overall point guard in the sophomore class.

To close things out, Jewell, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Louisville, KY, is currently unranked among all recruiting services, though he is considered one of the best up-and-coming prospects in the state and has separated himself as the No. 1 player in Kentucky for 2022.

Known for his elite athleticism, length, and motor, Jewell – who played varsity as a freshman last year – averaged 3.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per game as a role player off the bench in 2018-19.

Needless to say, it’ll be a busy weekend for the Kentucky basketball program…


10 things we learned during this week’s Mark Stoops Show

While Mark Stoops typically speaks to the media twice a week – once on Monday afternoon for a weekly press conference and another post-practice session on Thursday evening – the Kentucky head coach usually uses weekly call-in radio show on Monday evenings to kick back and relax a bit.

During the hour-long show with Tom Leach, Stoops usually opens up about his team’s performance from the previous week, previews Kentucky’s upcoming opponent, and answers questions via phone and social media from the Big Blue Nation.

This evening, Stoops went in-depth about Kentucky’s recent bye week, discussed the injury status Sawyer Smith, and why he’s excited about Jared Lorenzen Day on Saturday, among other topics.

Here are the ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:

Stoops is excited to honor Jared Lorenzen

Kentucky will honor UK football legend Jared Lorenzen on Saturday against Arkansas with “Jared Lorenzen Day,” something Mark Stoops is very excited for.

In fact, he said the team will actually be watching film of the former Wildcat quarterback in preparation of the matchup.

“It’s an honor for us to recognize Jared. He’s one of the most beloved and iconic players of all time here, and we want to recognize him for that. We’ll be watching film on him this week. I just want to continue to embrace the history and the great players that were here. He was definitely one of them. He laid it on the line every week, did whatever it took to win games. You can’t help but put a smile on your face and a little chuckle because it’s like, how did he just do that?”

Practice today was a success

After a rough three-game losing streak, Stoops said his team had a bit of a pep in its step during practice today after a relaxing bye week.

“Practice was really good today for a number of reasons,” the Kentucky head coach said. “It was the first time they were able to catch their breath for a minute after resting up, healing up a little bit. Very engaged and very locked in. It was pretty nice to be in some cool air, got some football weather.”

Sawyer Smith health update

How did Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith look in his first practice back after getting banged up against South Carolina last week?

“No [I don’t have anything to add about his status], I just said in my news conference that he was feeling much better,” he said. “It was great to give him a full week where he didn’t have to throw at all. He’s feeling a lot better out there.”

Other health updates

How about some of the other Wildcats dealing with injuries?

“[Kentucky safety] Jordan Griffin, I just saw him pulling out when I was heading out,” he said. “He said he’s feeling much better today, it was nice to see him basically back to full strength. Almost 100%, so it’s great to see. It’s important for depth, looking at nickel packages and stuff like that. We need as many hands on deck as we can get.”

After a rather pessimistic update this afternoon on defensive lineman Phil Hoskins, Stoops was rather upbeat on his status this evening.

“Phil [Hoskins] was better today, he was out there moving around a little bit,” he said. “He’s not back to full strength yet, but he’s progressing well. It was good seeing him back out there.”

As for wide receiver Isaiah Epps? Not so much.

“Isaiah [Epps], not so much. He was out there last week, made a cut, and he just didn’t react as well to it,” he said. “He’ll need a little bit more time before we throw him back out there.”

As a whole, he could just tell that his team needed some time off to recover.

“Our team is always fun to coach and good to coach. They mean well. But sometimes they can just tell whether they are banged up or not right,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of respect for what they do [in regard to their rigorous daily schedules]. It’s a mental grind. It’s not just “get out there and play” like we did in the street growing up.”

Chris Rodriguez continues to impress

After being one of the lone bright spots in Kentucky’s loss against South Carolina, Stoops said running back Chris Rodriguez continues to impress in practice.

“Chris is doing good, he really is,” he said. “It’s not surprising me. Any of the mistakes he made early on, he’s moved on from it. He’ll definitely see a lot more reps moving forward.”

What makes the bye week so important?

What did the Wildcats learn about themselves during the week off?

“There have been times during my tenure here that the bye didn’t come at the right times, sometimes they come right when we’re finding success and it kind of slows us down,” Stoops said. “There’s no denying that we needed this one though. It was time to hit the reset button. Rest, mentally and physically. It’s a good time for look at ourselves, look at our tendencies, get us ahead on Arkansas.”

How did he get Max Duffy?

Stoops received a question about the recruiting process with Max Duffy and how he was able to secure a commitment from the talented punter.

“Max was a really good get for us, we were actually dabbling with a couple Aussies,” he said. “We were recruiting a few others, really close to getting another that was sensational. Actually a little older than Max. I got in touch with a few guys, got me connected to Max, and thank goodness we did. He is one of the most talented guys regarding his ability to do so many different things. He’d even tell you. There may be other guys with stronger legs, but there’s not many other people out there that can do what he does. He’s a beauty.”

Lynn Bowden at quarterback

An individual called into the show to ask Stoops if star wide receiver Lynn Bowden gets a bit of leniency in regard to his playing style and the playcalls when he receives reps at quarterback.

In short, Stoops says he trusts Bowden to find success, even if he has to go off-script a bit. And he expects to see it if the Wildcats are forced to utilize him at quarterback this week against Arkansas.

“A couple things. One of our best plays against South Carolina was where we had one thing scripted, Lynn ad-libbed, the play broke open, and he took it down to the one or two (yard line),” he said. “That was a broken down play where he just created on his own. You can go back and look at a player like Lamar Jackson. When we played him, there were so many plays that stood out because he can sit back there, and because of the disciplined run lanes, he can take his time and make plays through the air. Then there are other plays where you can have him for a four-yard loss and he turns it into an eight-yard gain. All of those players have plays called, but they have the ability to pull it down and do certain things. Some of it is between them and God. It’s instincts.”

He compared the situation a bit to punt and kick returners.

“It’s like people in the return game,” he said. “Someone may have electric speed, but they don’t rip many off because they don’t see the field as others. Sometimes you just have to let [guys like Lynn] do their thing, let them play.”

The tight ends are progressing

How do the tight ends look in practice?

“They’ve been doing really good, they really are. They’re getting better,” he said. “Part of the run game, they need to be physical. They need to be 100% on our looks and on their blocks. There is a lot going on up there. Again, I give so much credit to Coach Schlarman and our offensive line. There is a lot going on in a short amount of time.”

Balance of plays

Stoops received a call asking about the offense slowing down when they revert back to old tendencies or go away from what has been working in recent games.

While he believes there are just as many mistakes in regard to calling too many pass plays as there are with calling too many run plays, he does understand that they have to get better at finding the right balance.

“A lot of people look at things, and when the drive slows down, if it’s because of run plays, then that’s a fair criticism,” he said. “But sometimes it’s because of us throwing the ball too much. I get really upset when we get ahead of the chains, we’re ripping it, we throw it incomplete on first down, gain just a yard or two on second, and are stuck behind the chains on 3rd and long. I think that’s a tough balance, I really do. I think it’s tough. Is that a fair criticism though? Sure. We just need to find the right formula. And when we’re banged up, especially at quarterback, then we really need to find that right formula.”

Xavier Peters

How close is Florida State transfer Xavier Peters to seeing the field?

“He’s doing good, definitely getting better,” Stoops said. “A young man like that, he has a lot of pressure on him. He was a highly-recruited player coming out, people expect him to live up to that because of it. I think he’s getting closer and closer. When he’s ready, he’ll definitely be helping us.”

How does he keep his team focused?

To close things out, Stoops was asked about how he keeps the team morale up during difficult times.

In short, he’s confident in his team to bounce back mentally just as much as he expects them to physically.

“I think it’s not difficult for our players and team. Do we go through difficult times? Absolutely. The schedule doesn’t relent,” he said. “We went on the road and played two teams like us who had good moments and bad moments, had their backs against the wall. We’re hoping to do that this week. We’re going to play better. Our team, they’re always engaged. They try and they work. The situation changes every week. We’ve been dealt some hands that no one anticipated, I didn’t expect to be short my three top quarterbacks. It is what it is. We just have to adapt to it, find a way to win.”


SOURCE: John Calipari will visit 2020 No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham today

(Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports)

Kentucky head coach John Calipari will be in to see his top guard target in the class of 2020.

Sources told KSR this morning that Calipari will visit 2020 No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham today, with the 6-foot-7, 215-pound confirming the news to KSR not long after.

Cunningham, the consensus No. 2 prospect in the nation and top overall guard, is scheduled to take his official visit to Lexington this weekend for Big Blue Madness.

This morning in my Pilgrim’s Insider Notes post, I wrote that immediately following 2021 five-star guard Devin Askew’s official visit this past weekend, the UK coaching staff turned its attention to preparing for Cunningham’s upcoming trip to Lexington.

Sources tell KSR that Kentucky is recruiting both Cunningham and Askew for the class of 2020, and there is a puncher’s chance of that scenario coming to fruition. I am told that as soon as Askew’s official visit wrapped up in Lexington, the staff’s recruiting focus shifted entirely to Cunningham’s official visit scheduled for this weekend.

“Next week is the big one,” one source close to the situation told KSR. “[They are] not playing around, going for the kill.”

Cunningham has taken three official visits thus far to Oklahoma State, North Carolina, and Florida, with a trip to Washington also scheduled for Oct. 18 after the five-star guard wraps up his visit to Lexington.

Oklahoma State has long been seen as the runaway favorite to land the Arlington, TX native, though North Carolina and Kentucky have picked up serious momentum in recent weeks.

Check out some of his most recent Nike EYBL highlights below:


Weekend Recap: Pro Day Notes, Recruiting Updates and More

Weekend Recap: Pro Day Notes, Recruiting Updates and More

(Photo: Twitter/@KentuckyMBB)

Good morning! It sure is nice to wake up without a hangover from the day after a Kentucky football loss. We did three straight Mondays of those so it feels good to breathe a little better and enter this new work week without the weight of defeat on our hearts. Kentucky is back to its regular football routine this week — get excited about that — as the Cats focus on the upcoming game against Arkansas in Kroger Field.

Before we buckle down and attack this week together, a recap of a rather busy weekend with no football:


UK BASKETBALL PRO DAY


A bye weekend for the Kentucky football team allowed the Kentucky basketball team to sneak in and borrow the spotlight for a day or two. Coach Cal’s program held its sixth annual Pro Day, a preseason event to promote the program and its players in a televised workout in front of scouts from every NBA franchise. I don’t know what it did for the players’ NBA futures, but Pro Day did its job in igniting a fan base that is growing hungrier and hungrier for basketball season.

Here are some of the highlights

— Nate Sestina was the MVP. Sestina opened a lot of eyes during his introduction to Kentucky basketball fans, mostly for how well he shot the ball. In case you haven’t heard already, Sestina hit 20 out of 24 three-pointers while on camera and he didn’t need the rim on most of the makes. The shot looked great, folks, and the performance has many of Big Blue Nation’s most excitable fans losing their collective minds over Sestina’s potential. He will get a lot of those looks from the pick-and-pop, and Pro Day suggests he can thrive in that role, so why wouldn’t we get excited?

Johnny Juzang can really shoot too. Maybe the hype’s real? Juzang showed off his jumper in the scrimmages, hitting a couple of three-pointers (in a row, I believe) in the 5-on-5. The quickness from catch to release is a real beauty when Juzang is letting it fly, and at his size he will have no problem getting them up. The looks test says Juzang will be the best shooter on the team. We’ll have to wait to see how good that actually is.

— Before we got to the good stuff like Sestina and Juzang looking like Splash Brothers, we did have to fight through a slow start. The program began with drills — 3/4 Court Sprint, Jump Testing, Shuttle Run & Lane Agility, Full Court Drills, in that order — before getting to the shooting and scrimmaging portion of the evening. There was a lot of talking to fill time.

Kentucky is LONG. Pro Day taught us that seven players on the team have a seven-foot wingspan or better, which is nice for Calipari’s goal of being a long, disruptive defense.

Dontaie Allen with a surprising 7’2 wingspan there.

— Jimmy Dykes believes this team’s strength will be its defensive versatility. In summarizing his thoughts on the day and UK’s team as a whole, Dykes said he believes the offense will struggle early and defense will need to carry the load, and that defensive versatility will ultimately be what makes UK go.

— Tyrese Maxey hit a step-back three-pointer in Nick Richards’ face at the buzzer. It was nasty but also lovely. Kid’s going to be REAL good.

— Two of the scouts in attendance were none other than Tayshaun Prince and Chuck Hayes, a couple of former Wildcat greats. Prince, now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies front office, did an interview with Jimmy Dykes in which he had a lot of nice things to say about Big Blue Nation.

— Once it was all over, Calipari tweeted, “If our guys practice that hard every day and talk like they did throughout the whole #UKProDay, we will be fine. Only two guys got cramps. I expected half the team to get them. I like my team.”


UK BASKETBALL RECRUITING


— Though UK’s Pro Day was the headline, we cannot let the news of Devin Askew’s visit slip under the radar. A five-star guard in the Class of 2021 (for the moment), Askew was in Lexington for an official visit to the University of Kentucky over the weekend and it went very, very, very….. very, very… very, very, very well. Askew did not announce a commitment to Kentucky before heading back to Santa Ana, Ca., but both sides walk away extremely happy with how the visit went. His announcement is expecting to come soon.

— More good news! Cade Cunningham will visit for Big Blue Madness after all. The No. 1 guard in America will skip USA Basketball training camp in Colorado to attend Big Blue Madness this coming Friday. Cunningham is reportedly warming up to the idea of becoming a Wildcat, as opposed to Oklahoma State, where his brother was just hired on as an assistant. This is an enormous visitor ahead for Calipari and his staff.

Lots more (and more thorough) recruiting talk ahead in Jack Pilgrim’s insider notes. He will publish a new version of the notes later this morning.


NFL


How is Austin MacGinnis not on an NFL roster? How? HOW?! I do not get it. Obviously we are biased here, but it makes no sense that a proven kicker with game-winners and all-time records on his college resume can’t get a phone call when many of the kickers in the league can’t make a field goal. I watched the Titans’ kicker miss ALL FOUR of his field goal attempts in the Titans’ 14-7 loss to the Bills. I was saying all kinds of words someone shouldn’t say out loud in KSBar, but it was painful to see because (a) it screwed my Titans and (b) MacGinnis can’t get a call. What in the actual %&$# am I missing here?

Meanwhile, down in Dallas, former Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson wore Randall Cobb’s old Kentucky jersey on the sideline of the Packers’ game against Cobb and his new team.


Sports Gambling


Circa Sports released its opening lines for Week 7 of the college football season and Kentucky finds itself as a 6.5 point favorite against Arkansas.

The total on the game is 54.5.


NBA Preseason


Did you know NBA preseason play began over the weekend? Well, it did, and several former Kentucky Wildcats played well.

PJ Washington shined in his professional debut with the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, scoring a team-high 16 points in only 19 minutes played off the bench. Washington went 6-of-7 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and grabbed five rebounds in the loss to Boston. Washington’s two UK alum teammates, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk, did not play.

— Keldon Johnson also made his debut, but it didn’t go as well as Washington’s. Truth be told, it didn’t go well at all. Johnson made only two of his team-high 14 shot attempts, with three misses from outside and two at the foul line.

— Journeyman James Young exploded for 31 points on the Memphis Grizzlies. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? (You didn’t.) Can you name which team he did it for? (You can’t.) Answer: Young’s 31 points were scored for Maccabi Haifa, a professional Israeli basketball club and Young’s new team, apparently. Maccabi Haifa traveled from Israel to West Tennessee to help the Grizzlies get ready for the upcoming NBA season. There is a lot to digest in this paragraph.

— Out in LaLa Land, Anthony Davis stole Lebron James’ show with 22 points and 10 rebounds in his first action as a Laker. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, a fellow UK alum, said of A.D., “He’s a monster. It’s going to be very difficult to slow him down with what we had around him. I’m excited about what he’s going to do, and Lakers fans should be too.”

— Isaac Humphries made the Orlando Magic with three minutes played. Hey, that is more than no minutes played.

— Andrew Harrison got seven minutes with the Golden State Warriors and scored four points with two assists.

De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen Gabriel came to Kentucky together, and now they’re together again on the other side of the world, in India, playing for the Sacramento Kings. The Kings played two games against the Indiana Pacers in the first ever NBA action held in India. Fox was greeted by chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” from the crowd while at the foul line. That’s pretty cool.


MLB Playoffs


Eat it, St. Louis fans.

Chop on!


What’s Ahead


— Mark Stoops will address the media in the return of his weekly Monday press conference following a week off. You can hear his comments right here on KSR beginning at noon today. Stoops will likely tell us the status of Sawyer Smith, the status of the offense with Lynn Bowden at quarterback, and what is ahead for the week of the Arkansas game.

— A new UK football depth chart will be released around 11 am. Refresh KSR around that time until it pops up to see the rotation for Arkansas week.

— Want something fun to do after work (in Lexington)? Come to KSBar and Grille from 5-6:30 today to hang out with me and my friends from UK Federal Credit Union. UKFCU will be giving away some very nice prizes and we’ll be having lots of fun, way too much fun for a Monday evening.

— The “Hammer It Out Of The Park” cash giveaway continues at KSBar and Grille with four MLB playoff games today beginning at 1:00 in the afternoon. If you’re at KSBar when there is a home run in any of the playoff games today through the World Series, you can win $50 cash just for being there when it happened.

— There will be a new KSR Football Podcast. Sometime later tonight, a new KSR Football Podcast will pop up on your podcast feed. I haven’t heard it yet because we haven’t recorded it yet, but it’s a great episode. I just know it.

 

Now get out there and punch this Monday in the face.