This morning, John Calipari released part one of a three-part series addressing the state of →
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 05th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
This morning, John Calipari released part one of a three-part series addressing the state of the Kentucky basketball program. Cal revisited his master plan for the program when he came on board seven years ago, breaking down Kentucky’s success each season in recruiting, wins, academics, and sending players to the NBA. I love Cal, but it’s no coincidence that this manifesto came out with one major recruiting decision hanging in the balance.
With that in mind, I spent the morning looking for the best “Cal-speak” passages to find out what he’s really trying to tell us.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this year is going to be a war. I like the kids we have coming in and I think it could be another special season for us.
This is how I feel about this season:
How have we gotten to become the winningest program during this time frame, win a championship and have the most Final Fours, have the most players in the country reach their NBA dreams, and still stay true to our high academic standards?
This humblebrag is about as subtle as a smack in the face with a 2×4. Seriously, if Marques Bolden was looking for a better pitch than that, well, he should just keep reading.
What I’m most proud of is how those two teams of players performed in the NBA. What it did was it proved the narrative wrong that they were all pros before we got them. They all had pro potential, but the environment of being around each other, being challenged and being held accountable and responsible – even if you’re the best player – has proven to be a great formula.
We develop talent.
One of the myths Calipari’s critics like to perpetuate is that he gets the best talent and just rolls the balls out; that Kentucky is merely a six-month stopover to the league, during which players don’t get any better than they were when they arrived.
…Except for players like Eric Bledsoe, who came to Kentucky as a four-star recruit (247 Sports Composite) ranked 57th best in the country and left as the #18 draft pick. Or Willie Cauley-Stein, a four-star recruit ranked 43rd in the country who left as the #6 draft pick. Calipari may get the best guys, but those guys get even better by playing against each other in practice. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule (Daniel Orton, Alex Poythress, and Skal Labissiere come to mind); however, I’d wager that 90% of the five-star players that come to Kentucky are better off for it.
As Karl Towns said on KSR this morning, it’s easier to make the jump to the pros if you trained alongside pros in college.
Kentucky is not for everybody. And the ones who don’t come here, we’re fine and we do not take it personal.
If they could go back in time, how many of these players do you think would choose differently?
Not every player should come here, and if you’ve been brainwashed to the point of doubt of what Kentucky is and what Kentucky isn’t, you shouldn’t come here.
If you’re naive enough to fall for negative recruiting, this isn’t the place for you.
(PS. Hate us ’cause they ain’t us.)
We’ve posted a combined grade-point average of 3.0 or better in six of the last eight semesters and just posted a perfect APR score of 1,000, which is a four-year composite score, and only 17 other schools have received a perfect score – and no, they didn’t.
Admit it, you all thought I was joking when I said this in 2009, didn’t you?
Now the NCAA Tournament isn’t a seven-game series, and even though we never seem to have an easy path, we’re always right there with a chance.
The Selection Committee still sucks.
I also cannot believe that there’s any program that has better and more meaningful relationships with its former players than we do with ours.
Marques Bolden says he wants a program with a family atmosphere, and, with 22 former players in the NBA and at least three more on the way, there’s nothing like La Familia.
(Oh, hey Bill Clinton.)
Meet my new trainer. pic.twitter.com/UcmaYRWTwb
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 4, 2016
And that’s just in the past two weeks.
On Brad Calipari, a 12-year-old commit, playing at Kentucky:
He will play. You don’t want to be on his position if you’re on my team.
Brad will play.
And as we’re going through this political season, the term flip-flopping has come to the forefront many times. As you’ll see, there’s no flip-flopping here! #NoFlipFlop
Let me drop the mic and just say, #NoFlipFlop.
From day one, we’ve stuck to our goals and fulfilled our promises.
Unlike some coaches, I am true to my word. (**COUGH, down I-64, COUGH**)
This is just a chance for me to mention politics because I like politics and there’s a presidential race going on. Did you see that Bill Clinton was in our locker room?
You’re never going to see me in flip flops. Only Gucci loafers for this boss.
Modern country music sucks.
Stay tuned for more translations when parts two and three of Calipari’s series are released.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 04th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
While back in Kentucky for a much-needed break after his rookie season, Karl-Anthony Towns made a trip up to Wildlife In Need in Southern Indiana to play with the baby lions and tigers.
Towns was a special guest at the animal sanctuary, and the photos from his visit will give our female readers (and some of the males) all of the feels.
A video posted by Karl-Anthony Towns (@karltowns) on
All together now…
As a lifelong sports fan and a full-time sportswriter, I feel like I have a working knowledge of most sports. Hockey is not one of them. Until last night, I had only been to one hockey game in my life, a Nashville Predators game about eight years ago when my friends and I sat in the rafters and really only cared about the beer. With the Preds in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I decided it was time to give hockey another shot. Thanks to a friend of KSR, my husband and I made our way to Bridgestone Arena last night to watch the Preds take down the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in a much, much needed win to take the series to 1-2.
For the first time in a long time, I went into the arena knowing nothing about the team, very little about the sport, and without expectations. After almost three hours near the ice, I can now say that playoff hockey ranks up there with March Madness as one of the most exciting events in sports.
…It may be even better.
Bear with me.
It’s so damn fast
One thing that I really hate about basketball these days is the number and length of timeouts. It gets especially bad during the tournament. Hockey has timeouts, but the game just felt more fluid. The action is nonstop, and trying to keep up with the puck requires way more focus than I was prepared to give, leaving me like this most of the game:
One of the best analogies I’ve heard for the way Tyler Ulis weaves in and around the court and dishes the ball is skating. Watching the players carve their way around the rink, I couldn’t help but think of Ulis and his graceful delivery. Luckily, the action was so quick I didn’t have time to think about how Ulis was leaving and get sad.
I am very much the type of fan that jumps out of their seat, screams, and generally makes a fool of themselves. For this reason, the transition from fan to media person has been very difficult since I started covering events for KSR years ago. (Media folk are supposed to be professional and not react to anything that happens, which is totally unfair and arguably unhealthy if you ask me.) So, last night was a treat for me because I could be as loud and expressive as I wanted to.
Turns out hockey is perfect for that. Not only is the puck flying around the rink at ridiculous speed and making you jump when it smacks into glass, they FIGHT. I knew that coming in, of course, but holy crap it is so much better in person. I’d argue that, outside of boxing, wrestling, etc., hockey is as close to watching the ancient gladiators as we’ll ever get. When a fight starts, the collective heart rate of the crowd soars and our primal instincts emerge. People absolutely lose it, shaking the glass and urging the players to beat the living crap out of one another, a roar that only gets louder as the fight goes on. Even the refs seem in on it.
This brings me to my next point…
The fans are insane
When I was growing up, my dad refused to take me to an NFL game because he thought the fans were too rowdy and rude. Well, he would definitely blush at some of the cheers and jeers last night. After one fight in the third period, a group of guys near us started chanting “F— YOU SAN JOSE” over and over again, and the parents nearby were so busy laughing and yelling themselves they didn’t think to cover their kids’ ears. We complain about the older crowd in the lower arena at Rupp a lot (after being lectured by an older lady for using the term “blue hairs,” I don’t have the guts to use it again), but the older folks at last night’s game were just as intense as the college bros. My favorite was a snowy haired gentleman in a navy blazer with gold buttons who stood up and beat the glass for what felt like the entire third period. It was awesome.
Rupp can occasionally be really loud, but I’d argue that there’s no environment in which people lose their sh!t more than a playoff hockey game. My ears are still ringing.
They do it up right (at least in the Lexus Lounge)
My husband and I were lucky enough to get access to the Lexus Lounge, a private luxury club under the lower arena. I’ve walked by this area several times on the way to and from press row during the SEC Tournament and always been curious, and with good reason. The Lexus Lounge has four or five different gourmet food stations, two huge bars, and tons of TVs to watch the action, including an enormous panorama LED screen that gives viewers a complete, live look at what’s happening on the ice:
The best part? If you’re in the Lexus Lounge, all the food and booze is free. And delicious:
Aside from the food, booze, and multiple TVs, my favorite part of the Lexus Lounge was being able to see the players leave the locker room to head to the rink. The Preds’ locker room door actually opens into the lounge, and they rope the path to the ice off so fans can see the players and cheer them on when they go in and out:
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) May 4, 2016
If you have the means, definitely look into the Lexus Lounge for the SEC Tournament. I said this a lot last night and it bears repeating: Rupp needs something like it.
Other lessons Rupp could learn from Bridgestone…
Because of course I made a list:
Get glow bracelets
Each fan was given an LED glow bracelet upon entry last night, and when I pulled the tab to activate mine, I was pretty disappointed that it didn’t immediately light up. (Of course I got the broken one!) Thankfully, I didn’t throw it out because it turns out the bracelets were programmed to light up at different points of the game:
It was really cool.
Make the Wildcat do weirder stuff
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Wildcat mascot is great (Scratch is another story). I really like when the mascot gets creative and wears different costumes to correspond with the opponent or trends, like the bow and arrow. Awesome stuff. We need more of it.
Last night, the Preds mascot Gnash swung down from the rafters while waving a rally towel:
In the second period, Gnash made fun of the Sharks’ good luck charm, a black cat that runs around on the ice:
The Wildcat is off to a great start with his Calipari-eqsue workout video. Keep it up.
Hire Vince Gill to play during timeouts and halftime
Just kidding, but man, Vince Gill sure loves him some Nashville sports. I’ve lived here a decade and have seen him at or performing at multiple games. The best part? Unless it’s his Christmas concert with Amy Grant at the Ryman, he generally gives no effs about his appearance. Last night, he was in an Oklahoma State hoodie and jeans while performing on the fan stage. You do you, Vince.
As an aside, I feel like the moment you say, “Oh, there’s Vince Gill again,” you are truly a Nashvillian.
Game Four is tomorrow night
…I won’t be there in person, unfortunately, but this gives me a chance to see if the experience can translate to TV. Here’s hoping.
By Nick Roush on ©May 04th, 2016 @ 8:08pm
Marcus Lee announced on Twitter that he will be participating in the NBA Combine that begins a week from today in Chicago. It was initially reported that Lee was on the alternate list, but apparently some moves have been made to put Lee into the field. Here’s exactly what he said:
Beyond excited to participate in this years NBA Combine!
— Marcus Lee (@JustMarcusLee) May 5, 2016
A live look at his reaction when he heard the news:
By Drew Franklin on ©May 04th, 2016 @ 12:30pm
Coach Cal has been hitting the gym hard this offseason and today he had a special trainer by his side to push him through his Wednesday workout. It was none other than Karl-Anthony Towns, last summer’s No. 1 overall pick and this year’s likely NBA Rookie of the Year.
Meet my new trainer. pic.twitter.com/UcmaYRWTwb
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 4, 2016
Towns was by Cal’s side in Lexington this morning after recently telling the Sporting News, “I don’t believe (Cal) is going anywhere, I have no doubt that he isn’t going anywhere, but that’s for all of us to find out. He loves it there, he loves Lexington, he loves Big Blue Nation.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves big man is visiting his old stomping grounds before he dedicates his entire summer to becoming a better all-around basketball player.
“That’s what I’m going to do this summer,” he said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “I’m going to do everything I can to my body, to my physical skill set, even adding some components that I feel I can add. I’m just going to do that to be the most complete player I can be.”
Good luck with that, NBA.
The good people behind the Stoops Troops social media accounts sent out new photos of the progress on Kentucky football’s new $45-million training center today.
Installation of the field is now underway, seen through Mark Stoops’ office window, below:
Other shots from around the facility:
The facility is scheduled to be complete this summer, just in time for fall football camp.
By Nick Roush on ©April 30th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
My first Derby story is unlike many first Derby stories. Nearing the first Saturday in May of 2008, I was in the middle of my, let’s call it a “rambunctious” phase. A 16-year old neighborhood rabble-rouser, I got into so much trouble desperately searching for beer during Spring Break that my parents gave me a grounding like never before – double super secret probation until after Memorial Day Weekend.
It was harsh, but just. Luckily my parents were kind enough to find things to keep me busy. Plenty of lawns were mowed, stacks of dishes washed and countless carpets cleaned. With Derby around the corner, they weren’t going to miss the festivities to keep a watchful eye on me from home. The solution? Brantley Security Services.
It was my only chance to do anything at all on the sacred first weekend of May. The $13 an hour was just an added bonus.
An Early Start
Before Churchill Downs was picked up by its ankles and shaken full with people on Derby Day, I got a head start on learning how to stand for 12 consecutive hours by logging time on Thursday (Pre “Thurby” era) and Oaks Day. I knew I wouldn’t get any action on Thursday, and Friday was a disappointment. Saturday better not suck if I was going to arrive at 6:00 a.m. in my uncomfortable black dress shoes and ill-fitting red vest.
The only good news was my detail. I remained inside throughout my three-day trip, but they saved the best for last. Three years removed from the $121 million expansion, I didn’t mind the hidden spires if I got to “work” as the primary police for entering the Matt Winn Dining Room. Named after Churchill’s most famous president, its third floor location was right in the middle of the upper class madness.
It didn’t take long to learn the politics of the track. During my waiting-around time before the gates opened, I did a little exploring up the escalators. Millionaires’ Row gets all the hype because of the name, but that’s where the new money goes to show off. People sit in Millionaires’ Row to tell others they are sitting in Millionaires’ Row. The old money is further upstairs in the Jockey Club Suites, where there are more $100 minimum wager windows than regular windows because they ain’t got time for that. The Matt Winn room lies in between. It’s F-U money that doesn’t like to say F-U loudly and would rather eat a few good meals and place premium wagers, rather than booze their brains out.
The best part about the Matt Winn room is that it’s adjacent to the elevator that takes patrons to the Turf Club. The turf club is THE place to be. It’s where the athletes go to be filthy rich athletes. It’s the kind of place that makes Wes Welker want to make it rain upon exiting. It’s the kind of place where you can see the coolest of the coolest.
I didn’t realize how much money was being thrown around until I met my favorite old man. He was a rather large man that walked with a dip, supported by a cane with a face that was partially hidden by a straw hat, depending on how he was feeling. We’ll call him Mr. Cane. I exchanged pleasantries whenever possible, how else was I going to make extra money on tips? Even though he didn’t get around quickly, he arrived early and never sat still for long. I thought my kind words would help me earn my first tip. Then a tip literally fell onto the floor.
Mr. Cane was halfway down the hall, heading toward the Turf Club when I saw the manila envelope fall from his back pocket. “Sir, you dropped this,” as I half-jogged to the slow mover. He was relieved, “Can you imagine what my son would’ve said if I lost his $10,000?” HELL NO I CAN’T IMAGINE BECAUSE I’VE NEVER SEEN $10,000 IN MY LIFE.
Did my generosity earn any of that $10,000? No. Should have I expected a financial reward for a simple act of kindness? No. But damn it, how else was I going to get tips? I continued showing generosity throughout the day, but it often failed to provide the monetary assistance I so yearned for.
A First Encounter
Mr. Cane’s early presence was uncommon. Few people rush to get to the track for bloody’s and breakfast. They’re too hungover from the red carpet Derby Eve Galas. By 10:00 am the place started buzzing as I anxiously awaited for my first celebrity sighting. What was I hoping for? Pretty much anything. As a 16-year old that had just finished going through my growth spurt, standing for more than 12 consecutive hours was hell. To make matters worse, the breaks to eat were not enough. I needed a meal about every two hours. Instead the devil’s pitchfork poked my belly all damn day.
I digress…let me tell you about what I was actually hired to do. As the gatekeeper of the Matt Winn Dining Room, my task was simple — ask for tickets and check for pink wristbands. Simple. They must have both upon first entering. If not, they’re S.O.L. Sorry, you can’t come in. Lucky for me, that was never an issue. I spent my time charming while looking at people’s wrists and asking for tickets, hoping for the people-watching to pick up.
Finally, something cool/weird happened. Not to me, to the boy scout covering the indoor suites to the left of the my position in front of the dining room. He was the first on the floor with a celebrity encounter, but the kid (no more than 14 years old) asked former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis for a picture, except he didn’t say that; he asked Mr. Evander Holyfield for a picture. He could have called the enormous human being a variety of offensive names, but nothing would have been more insulting than confusing him with his rival. Luckily, Lewis shrugged it off, laughed and obliged. I took the picture, and the biggest man I had ever seen let out one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen.
You probably still don’t understand how massive Lennox Lewis was, so let me restate this — he’s the largest human being I’ve ever laid eyes on. I thought I was a big guy at 6’6”, but Lewis probably had 2 inches on me with the dreads. I got a handshake after taking the picture and let out an involuntarily “holy shit.” This kind of reaction would become common throughout the day.
The instructions I received to become a teenage security officer were pretty simple. I got a vest, was told which color I could allow into my room and was handed a color-coded piece of paper as my “guide to being a security guard.” Kept in my rear left pocket, it had the colors of each different area and who could get in where. Only a few had clearance to go anywhere, definitely not those arrogant SOB’s in Millionaires’ Row (but it sure was glorious to tell them “No, you’re not allowed in here”). However, few guests tried to slide into the Matt Winn room without a pass, so it wasn’t of a problem.
My first problem was nearly a nightmare.
Naturally when guests sit at a dining room, they fill a table with eight people. As one party entered, there was usually a little bit of chaos as I checked them all in. After about 30 seconds of back and forth schmoozing, I’d try to slide a betting tip in there and wish them a good day. I’m certain there was at least one occasion when a big group of Italians snuck a few passed me behind their BS niceties.
Then I encountered a group without anything. No wristbands, no tickets, no lanyards holding tickets. Nothing. The men in suits in suits surrounded two women. One was a dark-skinned, dark-haired bombshell in red. The other wore a plain gray dress, with a wide low-hanging gray hat to match. Even though her face was partially covered, she reminded me of Renee Zelwegger in “Me, Myself, and Irene.”
As they approached my territory in front of the door, the women never flinched, continuing their gossipy, giggly conversation as I asked, “Ma’am, may I see you wristbands?”
I was met with an open-palm to the chest. “They’re fine,” a suited-man instructed me, never breaking stride. I was speechless. I turned around with my arms up, dumbfounded as to what to do next. I asked the guy manning the elevator to my right, “what was that?”
He responded by pointing to his left pec. “You see the pin?” My face must have only looked more perplexed by the response. “Secret service.”
My friend Will was more familiar with their kind and knew a Secret Service pin when he saw it. It was the ultimate, “Don’t F with me” mark in society that I had never seen before. It was also a mark conveniently left off of my rear left pocket reference sheet. Thanks a lot Brantley. After debating for an hour or so as to why Secret Service was there, a scheduled bathroom break across the hall from out stations revealed that the woman in gray was Ms. Chelsea Clinton, Matt Winn’s most famous patron for Derby 134.
MP’s Don’t Play
At this point in the story, you’ve read 1,400 words and you’re ready to stop when you see that Lennox Lewis and Chelsea Clinton are the most famous people involved so far. Don’t worry, it’s about to go into fifth gear.
Before I go any further, I must discuss my relationship with my elevator-guarding friend, Will the MP. Will spent his first weekend of May each year with his MP group from Ft. Knox, raising money for their annual ball. It only took two days for his company to raise enough money to party their asses off once a year.
I learned a lot from Will. For the first time in my life, I was talking to an active member of the military. I got some perspective I’d never encountered before, helping me understand and respect the sacrifice. It wasn’t just the cool stuff MP’s got ahold of (even though we did spend a solid 30 minutes talking about anti-lethal riot weapons), it was stuff like, “don’t lock your legs or you could pass out.” If he had not told me that my tall ass would’ve passed out at least once.
Will was great. Not only did I have a buddy 10 feet to my right to shoot the ish with when we had hours of downtime, I had somebody with a spine to help my softside. I’m not ashamed to say that I was hesitant to be an enforcing security guard. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Will lived by rules, and by god they were enforced.
The beautiful part about his job specifically is that his elevator was the gateway to a variety of places: the Matt Winn room, the indoor suites and the Turf Club. It didn’t matter who walked out of those elevator doors, if they didn’t have their tickets and their wristbands, they weren’t going any farther. That’s exactly what happened when Terrell Owens walked through the door.
T.O. was an astounding physical specimen in his gray suit. You don’t expect wide receivers to be 6’6” yet the best of the best was taller than me. At first I was taken aback. This is when T.O. was T.O.; before he was a reality TV star, he was the Cowboys’ best receiver, arguably the best in the NFL. He was surrounded by a dude that was either Kimbo Slice or Rick Ross or just another big black guy with a big bald head and a massive beard, I’ll never know. He had a handful of beautiful women as his shield in front, with one acting as a de facto tour guide. When Will the MP asked where their tickets and wristbands were, she only had a sheet of wristbands to show.
Will the MP was Team NFs before Team NFs was a thing. He didn’t care that it was T.O. That guy didn’t have tickets and a wristband, so he wasn’t getting to the Turf Club. I approached the barricaded area to act as a second wall. I meant to look like a badass, but I was really just trying to do my best to miss zero parts of this astonishing situation. T.O. was pissed. The beautiful tour guide was forced to go back downstairs to fetch their tickets in order to get through. We stood with our hands folded at our waste to assert our authority, while an aviator-adorned and angry T.O. cussed under his breath to Kimbo/Rick Ross/big black bald bearded man.
The standoff lasted a solid 15 minutes, maybe more. Rich people with their fancy camera phones came by to take pictures. T.O. begrudgingly offered smiles, until he got too impatient for me and Will the MP. Finally the woman returned with the tickets, allowing T.O. to advance to the Turf Club.
Movin’ On Up
The chaos surrounding the stoppage of T.O. appeared to be the climax of the day, but there was a lot more Derby to be done.
A slew of other celebrities would pass through our area throughout the day. Nobody was more kind than the late Anna Nicole Smith’s babby daddy. Fresh off a paternity custody victory, the soul-patched and frosted-tipped Larry Birkhead passed through with baby Dannielynn. A nice guy, he shared a few words with us before heading to his final destination. UofL’s former star center, David Padgett, walked by fresh off an Elite Eight appearance. I had seen Shagari Alleyne throw down dunks at Freedom Hall against Austin Peay, but I never realized how massive a 7-footer actually was until I stood next to Padgett. But those two were just the pre-lims.
The day seemed almost done around 3:00, even though we were still three hours from Derby post-time. A middle-aged man with a Nikon around his neck was walking around the area, examining each picture and piece of art closely, until he neared the entranceway to the Matt Winn room.
“Can I help you?” I asked the gentleman. He was a horse guy, a part-owner of the Derby longshot Denis of Cork. The gray horse barely made it into the field, but he didn’t care, he was just happy to be there. He told me was a relative of Matt Winn, and just hoped to look around the room named after his kin. I was happy to oblige, and he was happy to give me a cork, emblazoned with the horse’s silks. That was more than enough to give me a “Derby Horse,” a tip that I would give to people going in and out of the room.
Unforuntately, Denis’ owner distracted me from the greatest celebrity sighting I would ever behold – Hugh Hefner and the Girls Next Door. I caught a fleeting glimpe as they passed through to the Turf Club when I heard someone shout, “HEY HEF!” I saw him wave, with his beautiful reality star girlfriends in tow. Shielded by their massive hats, I was disappointed to only catch a glimpse. But, the best was yet to come.
Approximately 30 minutes later, my boss lady came by. Looking for people to rotate as others took their lunch break, I was competent enough to earn a temporary promotion. She moved me upstairs to the Jockey Club Suites. I was placed in front of the Aristides Suite, named after the Derby’s first champion. What I saw was overwhelming, but I had to play it cool.
The Aristides Suite was reserved for the big wigs. Paul Hornung, Vince McMahon, the Governor of Kentucky all passed through to the expensive betting windows were they cut up, gambled and ordered drinks before returning to their luxurious balcony seats. Holding back my giddiness wasn’t too difficult because I was exhausted, until Kendra showed up.
I saw the big boobed bombshell making the walk from one of the Millionaires’ Row suites towards the balcony to my right. Her sleeveless pink dress showed off The Girl Next Door’s assets well, very well. As she drew closer, I took a big gulp and just hoped she might say something. Then, she did.
“What’s going on in there?” she pointed towards the room, asking nobody, but I was there to respond. “A great time, if you’d like to see for yourself.” She laughed and my heart melted. She didn’t stop, but my heart did.
I just talked to Hef’s girlfriend! had to be all over my face. I don’t think I blushed in front of her, but my eyes were as wide as the hallway. She continued on to the coveted balcony overlook of the paddock with a camera crew in tow. Even though that was nothing eventful enough to make it onto the reality show, my reality entered unforeseen territory. I may have encountered more famous people during the 30-minute period as a temporary protector of the Aristides Suite, but my memory is forever fogged with that unreal interaction.
Call to Post
Back on my patrol at the Matt Winn room, the day was flying by, to Will and I’s delight. Standing around with a smile on your face and schmoozing with rich folk is fine, but after so many hours all you can think about is loosening your tie and kicking your shoes off.
As I checked the program and the time, we were moving well ahead of schedule. “Hey Will, we could be getting out of here sooner than we thought,” I mentioned once, or twice, or ten times. Until I realized it wasn’t going to happen.
The penultimate race ended a few minutes before 5:00, giving the weary workers hope that the day would end early. My naïve brain didn’t realize that Derby wasn’t just like another normal race. Instead of the typical 40 minutes or so between races, there were almost two hours of waiting until the 6:38 post time. The additional time allows for more bets to be placed, more booze to be drank, and more Derby BSing.
After a deep sigh and a mope or two, I figuratively picked up my bootstraps and trudged along. I passed the time by giving out tips to anyone and everyone that would listen. My Derby horse was an easy choice – the 27-1 longshot, my horse of destiny, Denis of Cork.
The people who just wanted to win were rolling with the favorite, Big Brown. The women loved Eight Belles, the fist filly to run in nine years. The Santa Anita and Blue Grass winners, Pyro and Colonel John, were pretty popular, but whenever I asked who their horse was, Denis’ name never came up. I liked him because I met his owner, and you can’t hate on a gray horse with Calvin Borel on the mount near the rail at #3.
For the fancy rich folk, I was giving a hot take before they were called hot takes. They might have thought it to be a controversial pick, but I knew that something special was going to happen. After I told this tip to one of the Italians that snuck in guests right past me, he said he liked the tip so much he was gonna bet on it. I told him, “It’s a smart move,” while I thought, “You’re so full of it.” He returned ten minutes later with a $50 to win ticket for #3, “This one’s for you.”
I felt my face light up. The tip I had been waiting for finally came, only because I gave another tip. It was perplexing. I gave him a, “Thank you so much sir.” To which he responded with a cool, “I bet you’ll earn it.”
As grateful as I was, he couldn’t have put at least $5 on the horse to place? I don’t think I was being too conservative, I just wanted any amount of money I could possibly get my hands on. If this bet was going to be the only tip I got from the day, going all-or-nothing made me wish I had told him Big Brown was going to be the winner.
Time was ticking…closer…and closer. Fewer and fewer people were coming in and out of the room. Finally, the call to the post. I could hear it ring through the speakers but could only see the track if I backed into the dining room five yards or so in from the door and got onto my tiptoes. I was hesitant at first, but when “My Ole Kentucky Home,” I simply couldn’t stay away from the emotional Kentucky tradition.
At this point I resigned to fulfilling the duties of my job. I had my eye on the door, but if somebody wanted to come in, I didn’t care. I was going to watch the Derby in person for the first time. To make things even better, I could see the entire track through the massive third floor glass windows. Before I knew it, the gate was filled and they were off.
It seemed a little surreal from behind the glass. There was a peculiar feeling inside; it was just too quiet. Watching with a wide view instead of the TV zoom was an unfamiliar sensation. The horses all moved in a massive group, with little differentiation between one or the other. The exception was the gray Corker near the bottom of the rail. As they neared the final turn, I was ready to say, “I TOLD YOU!”
Borel moved Denis of Cork to near the front and I could hardly contain my excitement. If he held on, I could double what I made in the three days with my Italian man’s one winning bet. “Holy shit,” I said under my breath, throwing my hands into the air, pausing midway through my exclamation to look around and make sure no one of authority saw me.
During that quick hesitation, Big Brown showed his stuff. I covered my mouth and the apathy set in. Big Brown won. Denis of Cork was third. If only he had given me that damn show bet.
During my first Derby I saw some things I will probably never see again. I didn’t win, but I did figure out how to make the best out of a bad situation, my first step in “growing up.”
Instead of being stuck in my house or bitching about being on my feet all day, I learned about the track. I met people that widened my narrow perspective on life. I blushed. I lost.
Most decisions you make as a teenager won’t affect you for the rest of your life, but trying to get beer on Spring Break did. I worked for the attorney that helped me avoid serious legal trouble. While working for the attorney, I thought I found my vocation, until I began listening to Kentucky Sports Radio while organizing the file room in the basement. Now I’m telling you this story on Kentucky Sports Radio.
The story did not complete its full circle until I attended Derby for the first time as an adult. I finally won received that coveted tip — $10 across the board on I’ll Have Another.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 29th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
Yesterday, John Calipari broke the Big Blue internet when he released a video of himself working out and talking about staying at Kentucky for another 20 years. In the past, Calipari has hinted at retiring at Kentucky, but watching him sweat and bob on the elliptical while fantasizing about how many draft picks, championships, and All-Stars he would accumulate over the next twenty years is the most concrete statement we’ve had yet.
“I gotta get my body right. Can I coach to my mid-70’s? Maybe. And what would that mean if I’m at Kentucky for another 20 [years]? What would that mean? Championships, draft picks, #1, lotteries. No doubt, I would have 12 guys in the NBA All-Star game. No doubt. What about wins? So, let’s see if I can get in that type of shape so when I’m 75 I’m still doing this stuff.”
So, what would happen if Calipari stayed at Kentucky another 20 years, until 2036? I’m glad you asked…
🏆 2-3 more NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
So far, Calipari has one national championship at Kentucky, and if you do the math, that would mean he’ll get 2-3 more titles over the next twenty years. Considering the number of near misses in past years, this number could be MUCH higher.
3-4 National Championships TOTAL during Cal’s career at Kentucky, bringing Kentucky’s total to 10-11
Calipari has been to 4 Final Fours over the past seven seasons for a 0.57 per year average. Using that average, Kentucky is on pace to go to 11-12 more Final Fours over the next 20 years.
15-16 Final Fours TOTAL during Cal’s career at Kentucky, bringing Kentucky’s total to 28-29
🏀 620 more WINS
Calipari has amassed 217 wins at Kentucky so far, which averages out to 31 per season. Using that average, he’ll get 620 more wins at Kentucky over the next 20 years.
837 wins TOTAL during Cal’s career at Kentucky, bringing Kentucky’s total to 2,827 and Calipari’s career total to 1,282
During the Calipari era, 25 players have been drafted, a sterling average of 4.17 per year. Using that average, 83-84 more Kentucky players will be drafted in the next 20 years.
108-109 draft picks TOTAL during Cal’s career at Kentucky, bringing the total number of players drafted in Calipari’s career to 117-118 and the total in Kentucky basketball history to 201-201.
💰💰 43-44 more LOTTERY PICKS
During the Calipari era, 13 players have been drafted in the lottery, an average of 2.17 per year. Using that average, 43-44 more Kentucky players will be lottery picks in the next 20 years.
56-57 lottery picks TOTAL during Calipari’s career at Kentucky, bringing the total number of lottery picks in Calipari’s career to 60-61.
☝️10 more #1 DRAFT PICKS
Three Kentucky players have been drafted first during the Calipari era (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns). At this rate, Calipari will have ten more #1 draft picks over the next 20 years.
13 #1 draft picks TOTAL during Calipari’s career at Kentucky, bringing the total number in his career and Kentucky basketball history to 14.
Last year, three Kentucky players were named NBA All-Stars: John Wall, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. At that rate (which, given the talent UK has produced in the past seven years, is very conservative), at least 10 more players will be named NBA All-Stars. AT LEAST.
13 NBA All-Stars TOTAL during Calipari’s career at Kentucky, which eclipses his goal of 12.
Now, get in shape so this can happen, coach.
Matthew Mitchell came on KSR this morning to address the turmoil surrounding the UK Hoops program and, well, it was awkward. First of all, kudos to Mitchell for agreeing to come on; however, after twenty minutes, I’m not sure we learned anything. Mitchell danced around the issues and didn’t give any clear answers to what was admittedly a very tough line of questioning. Here’s a brief recap of his appearance, along with the full clip of the interview.
Matt started by asking the obvious: after six players, two future players, and three coaches distanced themselves from the program, what the heck is going on?
“I think you have an opportunity to grow through times like this,” Mitchell said. “It definitely was a tumultuous end to what was a really enjoyable season for me on the court. The kids really played hard, showed up every day with great attitudes and worked hard on the court. We got some great results, made us very proud. I think if you put it in the context of it all happening right now, it’s really not accurate that it’s happening right now.”
Mitchell admitted that maybe the program grew too quickly after its initial success during his tenure and that that the coaching turnover in 2014 may explain some of the issues since.
“I think all of these events are really a culmination of us trying to improve the program to get better,” Mitchell said. “As Kyra [Elzy] left for Tennessee and Matt [Insell] left for Ole Miss, we’ve been trying to recreate that and it’s been hard for me and I think that’s what my responsibility is. I’ve got to do a good job of making sure we have some stability on the staff. That’s 100% on me.”
So…what are we supposed to make of the three assistants that just left?
“Well, one situation is I didn’t renew a contract and that is me deciding that the coach [Amadou] and I are not going to go forward and renew the contract, and that’s between that coach and me,” Mitchell said. “The other two coaches [Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker] decided they didn’t want to be here. I explained their value and what they could do at Kentucky and they decided that wanted to be elsewhere.”
There have been rumblings on social media from former players that Mitchell is too hard on his players, which Mitchell denied has any impact on the departures.
“I do not. I have been a demanding coach, but as I said, we — every practice has been open. I have certainly grown as a coach and in my younger days — have I learned how to be a better coach? There’s no question about it. The intensity that you have as a young coach, do you learn how to be more effective with that? You do. I make no bones about being a tough coach and a coach that is intense, but I love our players. We’ve had great success here.”
When pressed, Mitchell refused to pin this on one situation or incident, instead preaching the need for stability.
“I understand that it doesn’t look good and I understand that there are things on social media that you want this all buttoned up and I understand that our entire staff left, but I can’t really deal — those are people’s lives they want to live and what I need to do now as we turn the page here and move forward is make certain we are getting closer to people who want to be in the building.”
“Ultimately, it’s all on me because I’m making the decisions to bring people here,” Mitchell said. “We need to get it better and we need to get it more right than we’ve gotten it. We have to. That’s 100% on me. I have to build a staff where we can have a level of stability going from year to year.”
“The seven players that are in that locker room right now that are on campus are absolutely the kind of people we want in that program and I’ve got to make sure I’m there for them.”
After a brief hiatus the KSR Football Podcast is back to break down the Blue/White Game. There’s plenty of random shenanigans thrown in there too, making for a fantastic hour and a half of entertainment. Some highlights:
— Just how great are Kentucky’s cornerbacks?
— How the Cats can cover up deficiencies.
— How did Freddie and Jared’s Spring Games work?
— Jared’s NFL Draft story and who is the most likely Wildcat to have his name called.
— What Freddie learned from his Q&A with Mac Jones.
What in the world is happening with UK Hoops?
That’s the question on all of our minds this evening. Since October, six players and two assistant coaches have left the UK Hoops program, and two high school stars committed to the team have reopened their recruitments as well. To give you some perspective, over Matthew Mitchell’s eight seasons prior to last year’s, nine players transferred out of the program. In the past two days alone, one current player, two future players, and one assistant have severed ties with Mitchell and his squad, leaving fans and media looking for answers.
While we wait to hear from Matthew Mitchell himself, here’s a timeline of who’s left the program in the past eight months.
October 16, 2015: Oregon transfer Chrishae Rowe dismissed from team
Rowe transferred from Oregon to Kentucky in January 2015 after earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. She would have been eligible for the 2015-2016 season, but was dismissed from the team in October for “failing to uphold the program’s standards.” She is now at Ole Miss.
October 26, 2015: Linnae Harper announces plans to transfer
Harper was one of Mitchell’s highest-rated recruits and, coming into her junior year, one of the best players on the team. As a sophomore, she led Kentucky in rebounding and was the only player in the country under 5’8″ to average more than seven rebounds per game. In her goodbye letter to fans, she said her decision to leave Kentucky was the most difficult of her life. She is now at Ohio State.
November 3, 2015: Morgan Rich announces plans to transfer
The true freshman became the third player in as many weeks to leave the program. The Allen County-Scottsville native was a Top 30 player in the 2015 class and had to sit out Big Blue Madness because she “had not met certain program standards to practice,” according to UK. She is now at Oklahoma.
December 11, 2015: Kyvin Goodin-Rogers transfers to Western Kentucky
The junior from Marion County started 15 of her 39 games at UK after missing her freshman season due to health reasons. She averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds. At the time, KSR was told a decrease in playing time was the main factor in her decision to leave. She is now at Western Kentucky.
March 29, 2016: Ivana Jakubcova announces she will transfer
The Slovakia native was at UK for two seasons after transferring from Murray State junior college in Oklahoma. She missed her junior season due to injury and played sparingly in her senior season, averaging only 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. She will graduate from UK in May and spend her final year of eligibility at a different school.
April 14, 2016: UK decides not to renew Adeniyi Amadou’s contract
Amadou joined the staff in 2014 after Mitchell decided not to renew Sharon Pillow and Jeff House’s contracts and fellow assistant Danielle Santos resigned to take a job at Florida State. A few weeks ago, a UK spokesman confirmed to the Herald-Leader that Amadou’s contract would not be renewed. He was responsible for working with post players Evelyn Akhator, Alexis Jennings, Alyssa Rice, and Batouly Camara.
April 25, 2016: 2017 commit Madison Treece reopens her recruitment
The 6’4″ Treece is considered the 5th best post player and the 30th overall player in the 2017 class by ESPN. She committed to UK back in October, but yesterday, her mother told ESPN that she’s reopening her recruitment.
April 26, 2016: Batouly Camara announces she will transfer
In her freshman season, Camara averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds, starting 14 of the 33 games in which she played. Camara was a highly-touted recruit, ranked as high as 9th in the country, and picked UK over UConn. In her goodbye letter to fans, Camara said that remaining at UK was not in her best interest. Interestingly, she thanked her teammates, friends, and “those staff members that have supported me through this challenging year.”
— B a t o u l y ➰ (@BatoulyCamara) April 26, 2016
April 25, 2016: Assistant coach Tamika Williams-Jeter resigns
The former UConn star joined Mitchell’s staff in 2014 and worked primarily with the guards. Her contract was set to expire on June 30.
April 26, 2016: 2016 commit Lindsey Corsaro reopens her recruitment
Corsaro is ranked the 35th best player in the country by ESPN and was one of only two signees for UK next season, the other being Chanin Scott. Only three weeks ago, Corsaro told reporters at the McDonald’s All-American Game she was “so excited” to be a part of the Kentucky program:
UK confirmed that Corsaro has been released from her LOI, but that Mitchell and staff are still actively recruiting her. Her father gave this quote to the Indy Star this afternoon:
“It’s a tough situation for us,” said Corsaro’s father, Greg Corsaro. “Kentucky has had some uncertainty the last couple months with some coaches and players and Lindsey felt like she should reconsider her options. She’s not ruling out Kentucky.”
April 26, 2016: Kyra Elzy rejoins the staff as associate head coach
Elzy was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Mitchell at Kentucky from 2008-2012 before leaving to join Holly Warlick’s staff at Tennessee. This afternoon, Jen Smith reported that Elzy will rejoin UK’s staff as associate head coach.
April 27, 2016: ?
As it stands now, UK’s roster for next season only includes eight scholarship players:
- Freshman (incoming): Chanin Scott
- Sophomores: Maci Morris, Taylor Murray
- Juniors: Makenzie Cann, Alexis Jennings, Alyssa Rice
- Seniors: Evelyn Akhator, Makayla Epps
At 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Matthew Mitchell will hold a press conference at Memorial Coliseum, presumably to address the departures and the hiring of Kyra Elzy.
Until then, stay tuned…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 25th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
If you spent your weekend away from the computer like I did, you missed a lot of recruiting news. This weekend was the second of the spring evaluation period and most of UK’s 2017 targets were in action at the Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis. As always, John Calipari was a busy man, holding court at the Jonathan Byrd’s Grand Park Fieldhouse from Friday to Sunday, with a quick detour to Atlanta on Saturday afternoon for the Adidas Gauntlet. Oh, the places you’ll go and the recruits you’ll see when you have access to a private jet!
A lot happened in the last recruiting period before July, so I spent the day catching up on the latest and breaking it down into ten takeaways for you.
1. He pretty much saw everybody
All thirteen 2017 players with Kentucky offers played in the event in Indianapolis, making the EYBL event the perfect opportunity for Calipari and staff to really hone in on who they want to prioritize in the class. Here’s a list of who Calipari and Kenny Payne watched in Indy Friday through Sunday:
- Kevin Knox
- Gary Trent Jr.
- John Petty
- Mohamed Bamba
- Hamidou Diallo
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Trae Young
- Nick Richards
- Tremont Waters
- PJ Washington
- Wendell Carter
- Jarred Vanderbilt
- DeAndre Ayton
While the act of making that list is enough to wear me out, Calipari did as Calipari does, straddling courts and watching several targets at once.
2. Cal ran into Tubby Smith
This blurry picture of the two made the rounds Saturday morning, inspiring captions upon captions. It’s still a little weird to see Tubby decked out in Memphis gear, but here’s hoping Calipari passed along some good advice, like, “There are better rib places than Rendezvous,” or “I’m sorry to break it to you, but the pyramid really is just a Bass Pro Shops now.”
3. The Trae Young/Michael Porter package deal remains strong
I know, I know, NOT ANOTHER PACKAGE DEAL. While the majority of package deals between elite basketball recruits rarely come to fruition, Mokan Elite teammates Trae Young and (Not That) Michael Porter set the likelihood that they’ll attend the same college at 85%. Right now, a handful of schools have offered both, including Kentucky, and the Cats seem high on both’s lists, with Porter calling Kentucky a “dream school” and Young getting a ton of attention from Calipari this spring. What would you get in the 6’2″ Young? Calipari told the Norman, Oklahoma native he considers him a combination of Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight.
Yes, please. We’ll take both.
4. Wenyen Gabriel is in Hamidou Diallo’s ear
A few days after getting a scholarship offer from Kentucky, five-star shooting guard Hamido Diallo scored 33 points (12-18 shooting) and grabbed 12 rebounds with Calipari in the stands, including this ridiculous dunk:
It turns out Diallo is friends with future Cat Wenyen Gabriel, who is already recruiting him to come to Lexington:
“Yeah, he’s basically telling me, ‘What am I waiting for?’,” Diallo told Ben Roberts. “He’s just been telling me to join and stuff like that.”
Kentucky already has a solid lead over UConn in Diallo’s Crystal Ball, but keep it up, Wenyen.
5. Four 2017 targets are already planning on coming to Big Blue Madness
We still don’t even have a finalized roster for the 2016-2017 season, but that’s not stopping the 2017 recruits from planning their visits to Kentucky for the fall. Wendell Carter, John Petty, Gary Trent Jr., and PJ Washington all confirmed to Ben Roberts they plan on attending Big Blue Madness in October, which, really, I’m only excited about because it will be the debut of the new center-hung scoreboard. Hopefully it will live up to everyone’s expectations.
6. Calipari really, really likes Romeo Langford
How much does Calipari like 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford? After watching his 2017 targets play in the morning session in Indianapolis, he flew to the Adidas event in Atlanta just to see Langford play one game. Langford earned scholarship offers from Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas last week, and if that wasn’t indication enough that Calipari wants him, Saturday afternoon’s jetsetting should hammer the message home. With Calipari watching, Langford put up 20 points and 11 rebounds in a performance ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein called “nothing short of sensational”:
ESPN 25 guard Romeo Langford was nothing short of sensational this weekend. At 6-foot-4, he is a high-level athlete with a terrific wingspan. His physical tools don’t initially jump out, but he is the total package. He has a skill-set and the type of effortless smoothness that just can’t be taught. He is also a truly elite perimeter rebounder.
From there, Calipari flew back to Indianapolis to — you guessed it — do some more recruiting.
7. In Atlanta, Calipari was joined by Twany Beckham
Beckham lives in Atlanta and stopped by the Adidas Gauntlet to check out the action, and, coincidentally, see his former coach, who was sporting quite possibly the most Dad pair of Dad jeans I’ve ever seen. Twany even joined Cal and Robic courtside to see Romeo Langford:
8. John Petty talked to Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins about playing for UK
Petty was the first player in the 2017 class to get an offer from Kentucky, and many, including this blogger right here, think he could be the first to commit. The 6’6″ small forward from Huntsville, Alabama has been a UK fan since he was nine, and told Ben Roberts this weekend that he’s already talked to fellow Alabamans DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe about playing for UK.
“They tell me it’s a great school,” Petty said. “They tell me how Coach Cal is as a coach and as a man, period.”
Petty said the pull to stay home and play for Avery Johnson at Alabama is also strong and that he’s not in a rush to make a decision. Totally the right way to do it, but whenever I read his quotes, it sounds more and more likely he’ll be a Wildcat.
9. What is going on with DeAndre Ayton?
The oddest story on the recruiting scene in recent weeks has to center around De’Andre Ayton, the consensus #1 player in the class. Seems like everyone would be all in on trying to land the 7-footer from the Bahamas, who looked every inch the best player in the country over the weekend; however, when Ayton spoke with reporters, he said only one school is after him right now: Kansas.
Huh? Ayton said he thinks other coaches believe he will skip college and take the Thon Maker route; however, he claimed that isn’t so, telling SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell that both he and his mother think college is “a must.” Ayton insisted there are no eligibility concerns, but right now, I’m questioning his sanity after reading his response when asked if Kentucky was still involved in his recruitment:
“Kentucky, right now they’re mediocre. I’m not really big on who is really out there right now.”
Maybe “mediocre” means something else in the Bahamas. Or maybe Calipari and others are backing off for a good reason.
10. Nick Richards’ quotes about Kentucky and Indiana speak volumes
Kentucky is considered the early leader for the nation’s number two center from St. Patrick’s in New Jersey, where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dakari Johnson also played high school ball. The 6’11” New York native also has an offer from Indiana, and when asked about the two programs, gave TJ Walker a response that speaks volumes:
Nick Richards on IU: "I don't really know much about (it)."
Richards on what he knows about UK: "A lot, actually…Biggest stage in bball."
— T.J. Walker (@TWalkerRivals) April 23, 2016
I realize the Hoosiers just got the best of us, but that’s pretty telling commentary on the trajectory of each program in the past ten years. Brag all you want about your two wins over Kentucky, Indiana fans, but I’m pretty happy with how things are going in Lexington.
That’s it — no more coaches at recruiting events until July. If only we had some commitments to keep the news flowing between now and then…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 21st, 2016 @ 11:00pm
As Kentucky fans, we know a thing or two about recruiting. Heck, this site was pretty much founded on the question, “Any update on Patterson or Lucas?”. In the John Calipari era especially, we’ve become accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the recruiting process and the toll it can take on the psyche. Terrence Jones, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins, and Jamal Murray come to mind when thinking of the biggest recruiting dramas of the Calipari era, and as we continue to wait on Marques Bolden’s decision, I’ve noticed a familiar pattern unfolding…
Here are the twelve stages of the recruiting process for fans.
When the recruit gets an offer from Kentucky…
1. Discovery 🤔
Basketball recruiting has become infinitely easier to cover since Calipari came to town. Not only does he only offer twenty or so guys per class, he generally gets who he wants, making it extremely easy as fans to keep up. The early stages of the process are simple: check the player’s rankings, judge whether or not he looks like a “Duke kid,” watch a few videos, and forget about it for a while.
If the recruitment drags out…
2. Obsession 😬
Generally, the bigger the recruit and the longer their recruitment, the more we obsess. We’ve all been there. The F5 key gets a workout, you visit KSR and message boards an unhealthy amount, and you cling to every bit of scoop you can find, even if it means shushing your significant other or coworkers during KSR. Some people even tweet the player begging them to come to Kentucky, which reminds me: NEVER TWEET A PLAYER.
…Unless you know him or you’re a very attractive female around his age, and even then, that’s still strange. Don’t do it!
3. Bargaining 🙏
The stage is most common around the time current players make their NBA decisions.
If so-and-so goes to the NBA, then he will definitely come, right?
If all the other signees gang up and recruit him, the peer pressure will surely sway him, right?
What if one guy threatens to break his legs? THEN he’ll come!
What if I tweet him??
NO! NEVER TWEET A RECRUIT!
4. Anger 😡
Why hasn’t he decided yet?? Why is it taking so long?? What is he, a DIVA?!
If one were to make an equation for recruitment process, the length of time a recruitment takes would correspond directly to the amount of rational thought left in a fan’s brain. The longer the recruitment, the less logic left.
Again, best to refrain from tweeting during this phase.
5. Indifference 💁🏻
At some point, you get so exhausted with the recruitment that you just stop caring for a while. This is the stage I’m at with Marques Bolden right now. I still think he’d be a great addition to the squad and want him to pick Kentucky over Duke, but emotionally am over it.
When the announcement date is set…
6. Obsession 😬
The announcement date is finally set, throwing your emotions back into the vicious cycle. In the days leading up until the announcement, you frantically search for every bit of scoop you can find. Your mood shifts with the 247 Sports Crystal Ball, boosting with each UK pick and plummeting with each flip to another school. When your wife asks you why you’re in such a bad mood, you tell her to blame Jerry Meyer.
7. Fixation 👀
Finally, the moment is here! Your coworkers pick up on your anxiety and steer clear. You’ve got the live stream of the announcement pulled up along with KSR’s live diary, and all you can think about are the hats on the table.
Why is the Kentucky one on the right? Why is the brim of the Duke one straight and the rest bent? Oh God, is he wearing a red tie?!
8. Panic 😱
Crap, he’s wearing a red tie. He’s definitely picking Kansas.
If the kid picks Kentucky…
9. Happiness 😃
The surge of joy when a big recruit picks Kentucky is like the ultimate sugar high. Common side affects include tweeting with way too many exclamation marks!!!!!!!!, reaction GIFs, and probably (and falsely) bragging that you were confident all along, you knew Calipari had this in the bag. He’s John Vincent Calipari, after all. Landing recruits and listening to Train, it’s what he does.
If you’re really excited, you’ll probably find a way to work in a shot at Rick Pitino and Louisville. Game, blouses.
If the kid doesn’t pick Kentucky…
10. Shock 😳
It’s always a surprise when a recruit doesn’t pick Kentucky these days because, well, why would you not pick Kentucky?! Wait, maybe he’s pulling a prank or misspoke…
(I still hurt for Carlton Bragg. How embarrassing.)
That jolt of shock quickly morphs into a brief period of…
11. Depression 😞
This phase lasts maybe ten seconds, longer if you really liked the kid and torture yourself by sitting through the rest of the press conference to see what he had to say about Kentucky and Cal.
12. Acceptance 💁🏻
With the number of misses in the 2015 class, this is a stage we became pros at last year.
Well, enjoy never being on national television, buddy.
We’ll be fine, just look at the rest of the roster.
Probably would have made for a crowded backcourt in the long run.
Didn’t want him anyways.
(…Even if you kind of did, but you would never admit it.)
The spring recruiting season is underway, and over the next several months, KSR will be introducing you to Kentucky’s targets in the 2017 class. Tonight, we’ll start with the first player in the 2017 class to get an offer from Kentucky, five-star small forward John Petty.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward | 6-7 | 180 lbs.
Huntsville, AL | J.O. Johnson
|ESPN||No. 10 | 1 SG||Top247||No. 23 | 6 SF|
|Rivals||No. 17||Scout||No. 19 | 3 SG|
The other contenders
Petter has offers from Kentucky, Alabama. Auburn, Florida State, Kansas, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt, but the Cats and the Crimson Tide have shown the most interest.
Petty recently admitted to AL.com that, even though he grew up in Alabama, he grew up a Kentucky fan.
“Kentucky’s been my favorite school since I was nine,” Petty said. “I just love the school period. Academically, sports wise, period, all that. That’s just been my school since I was nine.”
Those words are even more encouraging when you watch the clip:
…and when you look at his Twitter page, which we’ll discuss a little later.
Petty was recently named Mr. Basketball in Alabama after averaging 19.9 points, 7.3 rebounds. 4.1 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.8 steals for J.O. Johnson. He also led the Jaguars to their second straight 5A State Championship.
The ties to Kentucky don’t end with Petty’s childhood; Petty’s high school coach Jack Doss is a friend of Calipari’s going back to Cal’s Memphis days and also knows Kenny Payne from back when Payne was a high school star in Mississippi. It probably won’t surprise you that Doss is also a Kentucky fan.
“So it’s kind of a family bond there,” Doss said in an interview with the Herald Leader in March. “My wife loves [Payne] to death. She adores Coach Cal. And I’ve always loved their program. Even when I was growing up as a teenager, I was a big Kentucky fan.”
I like how this is sounding.
- 4/26/2015: Calipari watches Petty play at the EYBL event in Lexington
- 5/05/2015: Kentucky offers Petty
- 10/16/2015: Petty visits Kentucky for Big Blue Madness
- 12/06/2015: John Calipari watches Petty at the Marshall County Hoop Fest
- 4/16/2016: John Calipari watches Petty at the EYBL event in Brooklyn
- 4/18/2016: Avery Johnson visits Petty
- 4/19/2016: John Calipari visits Petty
Not included are the numerous times Calipari’s visited Petty at his high school in Huntsville.
- Long and athletic
- Very aggressive going towards the basket
- Great passer, able to push the tempo
- Decent jump shot, particularly from mid-range
- Makes the extra effort on defense
- Team-first attitude
In regards to the latter, Petty embraces the challenge of playing alongside other elite players, yet another sign he could pick the Cats. From an interview with the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts in December:
“He’s just honest,” Petty said of Calipari. “He tells me he’ll have a lot of great talent coming in, so you have to fight for your position at Kentucky. And that’s no problem. I like to compete. I’m a competitive person.
“I’m a team person. So if I went somewhere like that, I wouldn’t mind. … I’m all about the team. It’s never just me. I wouldn’t mind going to a team with a lot of standout athletes.”
Petty’s final strength? His hair, which makes De’Aaron Fox’s mane look tame:
This is a reference that maybe 0.003% of you will get, but his hair reminds me of Italian rapper Caparezza’s, seen here in cartoon form in the classic 2005 hit, Jodellavitanonhocapitouncazzo:
What can I say, I watched a lot of MTV Europe in the fall of 2005.
- Struggled in his first outing with his new EYBL team, “We All Can Go”
- Needs to continue to develop his jump shot
- Not consistent from three-point range
Social Media Profile
In this day and age, the best way to gauge what a recruit is like off the court is looking at their Twitter account. What does Petty’s say about him? He really loves: 1) retweeting other tweets; and 2) Kentucky. Case in point:
He even retweeted De’Aaron Fox’s recent post about his next stop being Lexington:
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty promising.
Likelihood to commit: Very Likely
And it may happen sooner than you think. When asked, Petty said he didn’t know exactly when he was going to commit, but “it’s coming soon.”
“It’s coming soon. I really don’t know any exact day or time yet, but I can feel it coming. It’s coming.”
Maybe today’s in-home visit will help spur things along?
John Calipari had a very, very busy weekend as he made the most of the three-day evaluation period that began last Friday and concluded on Sunday. Calipari and his assistants were in New York for the Under Armour Association and Nike EYBL events, the kick-off to live recruiting in 2016.
It was tough to keep track of Cal throughout the weekend, but here is a pretty accurate timeline of events, tracked via the bug we placed in his Salvatore Ferragamo loafers.
— 6:00 pm —
Under Armour: Indy Hoosiers vs. Canada Elite
This past weekend’s action began Friday evening with Cal in attendance to watch a pair of Indy Hoosiers; Kris Wilkes and Paul Scruggs. Wilkes and Scruggs combined for 31 of Indy’s 48 points in a losing effort to Canada Elite, with Wilkes’ 24 leading all scorers.
Small Forward | 6-7 | 190 lbs.
Indianapolis, IN | North Central
|ESPN||No. 27 | 7 SF||Top247||No. 17 | 4 SF|
|Rivals||No. 12||Scout||No. 13 | 3 SF|
Point Guard/Shooting Guard | 6-4 | 200 lbs.
Indianapolis, IN | Southport
|ESPN||No. 36 | 7 SG||Top247||No. 16 | 2 PG|
|Rivals||No. 32||Scout||No. 28 | 6 SG|
Wilkes attended Big Blue Madness last fall in Lexington. Scruggs’ most recent visit to UK was back in January of this year.
— 6:45 am —
“Fox and Friends”
Cal’s Saturday got off to an early start when he made a special guest appearance on the Fox & Friends morning show to discuss the one-and-done rule, his program’s Academic Progress Rate and his outlook on life. He told the show’s hosts, “I don’t feel like I’ve ever worked a day in my life. I love what I’m doing. If you make it about other people, life becomes easier.”
— 8:00 am —
Nike EYBL: Mokan Elite vs. Spiece Indy Heat
The recruiting action got underway Saturday morning with the first game at the EYBL event in Brooklyn, where Calipari watched Trae Young, one of the top point guards in the class, and his Mokan Elite teammate, Michael Porter Jr.
Point Guard | 6-1 | 170 lbs.
Norman, OK | Norman North
|ESPN||No. 20 | 2 PG||Top247||No. 26 | 4 PG|
|Rivals||No. 13||Scout||No. 26 | 3 PG|
|Michael Porter Jr.
Small Forward | 6-9 | 215 lbs.
Columbia, MO| Father Tolton Catholic
|ESPN||No. 3 | 1 SF||Top247||No. 4 | 1 SF|
|Rivals||No. 2 | 1 SF||Scout||No. 5 | 1 SF|
Young and Porter were each outstanding in Mokan’s 81-62 win. Porter led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds to Young’s 19 points, six assists, five rebounds and eight turnovers.
— 9:30 am —
Nike EYBL: The Family vs. Expressions
Nike EYBL: WACG All-Stars vs. E1T1
Up next on Calipari’s schedule was a glimpse at five-star center Nick Richards from St. Patrick’s, the same New Jersey high school that produced Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dakari Johnson.
Center | 6-11 | 235 lbs.
Manhasset, NY | St. Patrick’s
|ESPN||No. 12 | 3 C||Top247||No. 21 | 2 C|
|Rivals||No. 19||Scout||No. 20 | 8 C|
The big man, considered an early UK lean by some, had 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks with Calipari and Tony Barbee looking on in the Expressions’ 68-51 win.
Also during the 9:30 am slate of games, Calipari popped in to see five-star shooting guard John Petty against five-star small forward Kevin Knox. Petty had a rough one in front of Calipari, connecting on only three of his 11 shot attempts for nine points in the game. He was the fifth leading scorer on his team in a loss.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward | 6-7 | 180 lbs.
Huntsville, AL | J.O. Johnson
|ESPN||No. 10 | 1 SG||Top247||No. 23 | 6 SF|
|Rivals||No. 17||Scout||No. 19 | 3 SG|
Petty is my pick to become the first member of Calipari’s 2017 recruiting class. Cal is visiting him again today.
Knox played very well, scoring 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field.
Small Forward | 6-8 | 195 lbs.
Tampa, FL | Tampa Catholic
|ESPN||No. 6 | 2 SF||Top247||No. 7 | 2 SF|
|Rivals||No. 7||Scout||No. 6 | 2 SF|
Many have Duke favored for Knox in the early stages of his recruitment.
— 11:00 am —
Nike EYBL: Phoenix Phamily vs. RM5
Calipari stuck around the EYBL for the third set of Saturday morning games, this time to watch Marvin Bagley of Phoenix Phamily. Bagley is the consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class.
Power Forward | 6-10 | 200 lbs.
Phoenix, AZ | Sierra Canyon
★★★★★ (2018 Class)
|ESPN||No. 1 | 1 PF||Top247||No. 1 | 1 PF|
|Rivals||No. 1 | 1 PF||Scout||No. 1 | 1 PF|
Bagley had 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the win.
— 2:00 pm —
Nike EYBL: California Supreme vs. PSA Cardinals
The next John Calipari sighting came at the Nike event’s 2:00 pm game that featured DeAndre Ayton, the best player in high school basketball, against Mohamed Bamba, the second best player in high school basketball.
Devin Booker joined Cal courtside for the weekend’s main event.
Ayton did not play up to his standards in his first appearance of the April evaluation period; he scored only seven points in the nationally televised game on ESPNU.
Power Forward/Center | 7-0 | 235 lbs.
Phoenix, AZ | Hillcrest Hoops
|ESPN||No. 1 | 1 C||Top247||No. 1 | 1 PF|
|Rivals||No. 1 | 1 C||Scout||No. 1 | 1 C|
Bamba, on the other hand, made a case for taking over the No. 1 spot with a double-double — 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Power Forward/Center| 6-11 | 210 lbs.
New York, NY | Westtown
|ESPN||No. 4 | 2 PF||Top247||No. 3 | 2 PF|
|Rivals||No. 3||Scout||No. 2 | 2 C|
Bamba’s PSA Cardinals won a tight one, 69-68.
— 3:30 pm —
Nike EYBL: The Family vs. Mokan Elite
Calipari stuck around Brooklyn for even more basketball and a closer look at Trae Young and Michael Porter, the first two players he watched Saturday morning. Young and Porter had another big performance in their second game in front of Cal, combining for 45 points. Porter’s 26 came on 11-of-13 shooting from the field, while Young hit seven of his 13 shots for a second straight 19-point performance.
Bill Self was also in attendance to scout out two of his top and nearby targets.
— 5:00 pm —
Nike EYBL: Team Penny vs. Las Vegas Prospects
Nike EYBL: Mean Streets vs. WACG
The basketball continued for Calipari, now going on his ninth consecutive hour of Nike EYBL. In this one he got a look at five-star point guard Troy Brown versus five-star power froward PJ Washington in the 5 pm game.
Power Forward| 6-7 | 225 lbs.
Dallas, TX | Findlay Prep
|ESPN||No. 19 | 5 PF||Top247||No. 29 | 11 PF|
|Rivals||No. 23||Scout||No. 23 | 4 PF|
Washington went for 17 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Brown had 11 points in the win.
|Troy Brown Jr.
Point Guard | 6-6 | 200 lbs.
Las Vegas, NV | Centennial High
|ESPN||No. 22 | 4 PG||Top247||No. 19 | 3 PG|
|Rivals||No. 8||Scout||No. 7 | 2 PG|
Cal also popped in the 5 pm game between Mean Streets and WACG for another look at John Petty. Petty scored only five points for yet another mediocre showing in front of Kentucky.
— 6:30 pm —
Nike EYBL: The Rens vs. New York Lightning
Cal continued to stick around Brooklyn on into the night for a look at Hamidou Diallo, one of the best scorers in the class.
Shooting Guard | 6-4 | 170 lbs.
Queens Village, NY | Putnam Science Academy
|ESPN||No. 14 | 2 SG||Top247||No. 10 | 2 SG|
|Rivals||No. 10||Scout||No. 9 | 1 SG|
Diallo scored 26 points in his April 2016 debut on 9-of-13 shooting from the field.
— 9:00 pm —
Under Armour Association (U16): Texas Hard Work vs. New Heights
Calipari finally left Brooklyn to catch some of the UAA event on the main island. He was spotted courtside for one of the younger games Saturday night, featuring Gerald Liddell, a five-star small forward out of Texas in the 2018 recruiting class.
Liddell scored 22 points in the win in the U16 division. He’s going to be one to really watch next summer.
— 9:30 am —
Nike EYBL: PSA Cardinals vs. Oakland Soliders
Calipari made it back to Brooklyn Saturday morning for more Nike EYBL basketball, as if he didn’t see enough the day before. He began the day by checking in again on Mohamed Bamba, one of the stars of Saturday’s action.
Bamba shined once again Sunday morning, this time tallying 17 points and 16 rebounds in a win.
— 12:30 pm —
Nike EYBL: Albany City Rocks vs. Southern Stampede
Calipari made a brief appearance in the 12:30 pm game to see Hameir Wright, a prospect who could potentially climb the rankings with a breakout this summer. Wright is a four-star power forward ranked No. 59 in the ESPN 60. He scored 11 points with nine rebounds in the win.
— 1:00 pm —
Lunch and back-pats
Coach calipari just walked in the spot I'm eating at
— AmsterdamDidIt™ TCMG (@AmsterdamDidIt) April 17, 2016
I said "wuss up coach" he said "hey" and patted me on the back
— AmsterdamDidIt™ TCMG (@AmsterdamDidIt) April 17, 2016
— 2:00 pm —
Nike EYBL: Phoenix Phamily vs. The Family
After a quick bite to eat in Brooklyn, Kenny Payne joined Calipari courtside for another look at Marvin Bagley in Bagley’s final game of the weekend. The big man finished with 19 points in front of the UK staff, as well as eight rebounds and five assists.
— 3:30 pm —
Nike EYBL: PSA Cardinals vs. The Rens
And in the final game of the first EYBL session of the year, Calipari was on hand to watch Mohamed Bamba and Hamidou Diallo one last time in the battle of the two New York stars and AAU programs. Bamba was a beast, just as he was all weekend, with 16 points and 19 rebounds in the finale. He finished with averages of 15.3 points, 15.7 boards and 3.3 blocks per game in the three games.
Diallo had 17 points and five rebounds to close out arguably the best overall weekend performances.
Calipari will likely hit it again this coming weekend for the second live period of the year in Indianapolis for the second sessions of the UAA and EYBL circuits.