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Matthew Hurt highlights

Scott Jacobson / Post Bulletin

New highlights are featuring Matthew Hurt. The 2019 star is ranked No. 4 in the 247 Sports rankings. The Cats offered back in December, which actually made Kentucky a bit late to the party.

John Calipari visited Hurt in April and the Cats remained active in the scoring power forward’s recruitment. Currently the Cats aren’t perceived as the leader, but plenty can change as Hurt is in no rush to make a final decision.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound prospect is gifted offensively and unselfish on the floor. I’m curious how his game will translate to the college level because 200-pounds at the four position won’t get it done at major college basketball. He certainly is skilled enough to play the three but he will need to be a deadly outside shooter or become a bit quicker to be a high volume scorer as a freshman. It may not scream as a prototypical John Calipari player, but it’s clear the UK head coach is starting to value scorers more than just pure athletes. Regardless, with that much skill offensively any team would be lucky to have him and the Cats remain involved.

In my opinion it may be tough for UK to add Hurt with James Wiseman and Vernon Carey, but if the Cats miss out on Wiseman or Carey they may make Hurt one of their top priorities.


REPORT: Kentucky will begin Two-Game Series with Utah at Rupp in 2018-19

Gene Sweeney | Getty Images

The Kentucky basketball team will reportedly begin a two-game series with the Utah Utes this fall.  According to Bill Riley of ESPN Radio Salt Lake City, Utah will travel to Rupp Arena this season. In 2019-20, the Cats will head west to play the Utes at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Two weeks ago, John Calipari hinted at a pair of potential destination games in the future.  It looks like this is one of those destination games.

Hailing from the Pac-12, Utah has missed the previous two NCAA Tournaments.  Larry Krystkowiak took them to the second round in 2016 before falling to Gonzaga, and to the Sweet 16 in 2015.

It will be just the second time Kentucky has played the Utes in the a regular season game since 1976.  The last time the two played, Ramel “Smooth” Bradley squared up with Andrew Bogut in the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.  More famously, the Comeback Cats took down Rick Majerus’ team 78-69 in the 1998 National Championship.


@NikScalzo

Who is Nik Scalzo? UK’s Latest QB Commit that draws Baker Mayfield Comparisons

@NikScalzo

Kentucky’s 2019 class now has a quarterback.  Nik Scalzo is an atypical recruit that could be the perfect fit for Kentucky.

The right-hander from Ft. Lauderdale first entered Kentucky’s radar last summer when Scalzo made the trip to Lexington for a camp at Kroger Field.  Undersized with little hype, the 5’11” athlete did just enough to catch Darin Hinshaw’s eye.

Between last summer’s camp and today’s commitment, Scalzo threw for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns, earned 15 scholarship offers and is now considered the No. 16 dual-threat quarterback in America.

Evaluated Early

Eddie Gran has developed a knack for finding talent early in South Florida.  It’s what make Kentucky such a coveted destination.

“He was one of my first believers,” Scalzo told Justin Rowland after he received an offer at Kentucky’s Junior Day in February.  At the time, only a handful of small schools and Ivy Leaguers were interested.  Once Gran and Hinshaw got involved, it completely changed Scalzo’s recruiting outlook.  The offer from Kentucky all but sealed the deal, until Hinshaw visited Scalzo’s home four days ago.

A Winner

Scalzo has succeeded against some of the best competition the country has to offer.

A starter for Cardinal Gibbons since he was a sophomore, the only team Scalzo has not beat is American Heritage, the Power-Five talent producing perennial powerhouse that finished the season ranked in the top five nationally.  Scalzo led a tremendous comeback in the final quarter of the Regional Final, but fell to American Heritage in triple overtime to end his junior season.

Once the offseason hit, the Kentucky commit found more success on the camp circuit.  Last month Scalzo quarterbacked the South Florida Express in the Adidas 7-on-7 Championship in Torrance, California.  Dubbed by 247’s Steve Wiltfong as “one of the most talented 7-on-7 fields of all-time,” Scalzo threw a 40-yard touchdown in the championship game to bring home a title.

He LOVES the Baker Mayfield Comparison

It’s not just because he likes to plant flags at midfield after big wins, like he did following the Adidas National Championship.

Or because he shares an affinity for headbands.

@NikScalzo

Like Mayfield, Scalzo is an under-sized quarterback that plays with a chip on his shoulder.  Teams were hesitant to recruit Scalzo, so he had to work hard to prove to Kentucky that he was worth the scholarship.  He did that by using a skill-set that’s similar to the Heisman Trophy winner’s.  He runs plenty of RPOs, but is most explosive when he’s moving around in the backfield, slinging the ball to all corners of the football field.

Is it fair to compare Scalzo to the Heisman Trophy winner?  Probably not, but he embraces and welcomes the comparison (one UK’s coaches use) with open arms.

Talented Teammates

When point guards or quarterbacks commit early, they often pledge to recruit others to join their class.  Scalzo does not have to look far to find talented UK recruits.

Cardinal Gibbons’ offense features three players who hold UK offers: three-star tight end Nikolas Ognenovic, three-star running back Vincent Davis and three-star offensive lineman Jamari Williams.  Ognenovic and Williams are in the middle of a Louisville-Kentucky recruiting battle.  Playing with their high school QB at the next level might be just the advantage Kentucky needs.

A Wise Guy

Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth weren’t recruiting Scalzo because he’s an idiot.  Last fall he posted a report card with a 4.92 GPA, a grade-point average that should be impossible.

There will be Speculation

Kentucky fans have been here before.  They remember what happened after Mac Jones Tweeted, “We’re building something great.”  They also remember when Jarren Williams committed, de-committed, re-committed, then de-committed again.  Those were the last two quarterbacks to commit this early in the process.

While many will wait to share their excitement until later, Stoops will continue to target quarterbacks early in the recruiting process.  Why?  Because they kind of have to.

“A lot of times you develop that relationship early and you get honed in with a certain guy,” Stoops said last fall shortly after Jarren Williams de-committed. “And the quarterbacks are always looking for that perfect fit and you as a program are looking for the perfect fit.”

Will this be the perfect fit for Scalzo and UK?  Only time will tell.  If the commit sticks, the Cats have a gunslinger who plays with a chip on his shoulder; the perfect person to lead the SEC’s perennial underdog.


KSR Food Bracket 2018: The Tournament Bracket

KSR Food Bracket 2018: The Tournament Bracket

It’s time once again to determine the champion of the KSR Food Bracket. Our summer radio tradition features four former heavyweights from past tournaments as the field’s four No. 1 overall seeds. The rest of the field was drawn at random to complete the 2018 edition of the 64-restaurant bracket.

Winners will advance via vote on KSR shows over the coming weeks. Follow along as we eliminate the losers and crown a champion (for real this year).

 

Download and print the entire bracket for your office pool:

(Click to enlarge)


BREAKING: 2019 three-star QB Nik Scalzo commits to KENTUCKY

@NikScalzo

Kentucky has found its quarterback for the class of 2019.

This afternoon, Florida three-star dual-threat quarterback Nik Scalzo made the decision to become a Wildcat.

He committed to Kentucky over the likes of Georgia State, Tulane, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Akron, among others.

Here was the announcement:

Kentucky’s newest commitment visited Lexington back in April, and co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw followed it up by visiting him in Florida last week to seal the deal.

Scalzo has earned Sun Sentinel first-team All-County honors each of the past two seasons. He threw for 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns last season on 175-307 passing. His sophomore year, Scalzo managed 2,221 yards and 27 touchdowns, leading his team to the regional semifinals.

In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Scalzo said it’s a dream come true to play for the Cats in the SEC.

“They believed in me 100 percent, and they overlook my size and just see that I’m a playmaker,” he said. “It was always my dream to play Power-Five conference college football, and my dreams are coming true.”

According to Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal, the Kentucky coaching staff feels Scalzo may be a “Baker Mayfield twin.”

See for yourself with his highlights below:

Welcome home!


Monday Insider Notes: 2019 updates and looking at next season

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day weekend! The Nike EYBL made a stop in Atlanta and one thing is clear- Tyrese Maxey is good and he’s going to be a major recruiting piece for UK in the class of 2019.

In today’s Monday Insider Notes we’ll talk about the class of 2019, Maxey’s recruitment and recruiting, and we will have to discuss the latest “who stays and who goes” with the current Kentucky roster.

Maxey: Tyrese Maxey continues to show why he’s one of the best guards in the country and it starts with his scoring. He’s great with the ball in his hands, he can pull up from anywhere on the floor and his ability to hit from deep has defenders overplaying him, which makes it easy for him to get to the rim. If he plays point guard, which he may end up playing off the ball some, he will be UK’s best scoring point guard since Brandon Knight and I like Maxey over Knight, but there’s plenty of time to let the dust settle on that debate.

Landing Maxey was huge for Kentucky because it allows UK’s staff to spend more time recruiting other big pieces and it allows Maxey to be in the ears of his peers. That’s always an underrated part of getting early commitments, which is something that doesn’t frequently happen with John Calipari.

UK has some of the best recruiting coaches in the country. I’m not sure there’s a better head coach than John Calipari. Now that Jeff Capel is a head coach I think Kenny Payne is clearly the best assistant coach in the country. Joel Justus does an amazing job building relationships early in the recruiting process and is great at identifying talent. Tony Barbee is underrated as an assistant coach, too.

But those four guys don’t get as much access or time with elite recruits quite like Maxey does/will, and that’s why he will be so important to UK’s recruiting efforts. The reason this is most important is because opposing schools are going to use Maxey to negatively recruit against the Cats.

Maxey is a score first point guard and schools like Duke, Kansas, Memphis and other programs will sell recruits that they won’t get enough touches playing with Maxey. It’s obviously an easy argument to pick apart, but when grown men are telling this to kids the recruits may be more inclined to believe it.

But having Maxey playing with and against these kids, spending late nights traveling or being in the hotel will help UK’s chances. Maxey is a great scorer but he’s far from selfish as a player and it’s my opinion most recruits know that. You’ve already had some recruits say they would like to play with Maxey.

We’ll talk more about it but I think Kentucky will have a super class in 2019, and Maxey and D.J. Jeffries will lead the charge.

James Wiseman: I still think Kentucky remains in a great spot to land Wiseman and I think the Cats have a solid lead over Memphis the more I hear about this recruitment. But that’s where things are as of today. One thing I often hear is that “where things currently stand” or some version of that phrase, and it can be a little concerning because of the pressure on Wiseman to stay home.

UK would love to have Wiseman commit as soon as possible because the longer the recruitment drags on the more Wiseman will hear from Memphis fans, Penny, and the sense that he needs to stay home. But even if the recruitment drags out the Cats will continue to be in a great position.

I’ve said from the day Penny took the Memphis job this will be a heart versus head decision. Wiseman and his family love UK’s staff, but they know going to Kentucky is the smart choice for his future. However, it’s going to be hard to tell Penny no. Penny has been there for Wiseman for a long time and the two are friends. The only way the tide turns in this recruitment is if telling Penny becomes too hard. Maybe that happens but I’m told Wiseman understands some of the risks that could come if he decides to play at Memphis.

Penny has never coached an NBA Draft pick as a college coach, Memphis doesn’t get half the exposure that UK does, and Wiseman’s chances of making a tournament run at UK is far greater than at Memphis.

UK is still the leader here and I wouldn’t expect it to change anytime soon. He plans on taking all five official visits but I’d guess this recruitment ends in the fall.

Vernon Carey: There never has been a great deal of buzz between UK and Carey, but that needs to change. I’m not sure if UK is the leader as of today for Carey, but I think the Cats will have a great chance to position themselves at the top spot the longer this recruitment continues.

UK told Carey over the weekend that they’d love for him to commit ASAP, but that won’t be happening. This recruitment will end in the fall at the earliest, but it could last into 2019. Don’t expect a summer decision.

UK has been selling Carey and Wiseman playing together, which could certainly work with Carey living on the block and Wiseman spreading the floor. I would be completely shocked if UK didn’t land at least one of these two players and I think there’s a better chance UK lands both than none.

We’re still five months away but look for Carey to visit UK for Big Blue Madness.

Keion Brooks: UK will be strong at the guard position in 2019-2020 and the Cats should (assuming they land at least one of Wiseman/Carey) strong in the frontcourt, but Brooks will be the leading candidate to come in and replace Keldon Johnson on the wing for the 2019-2020 season.

Brooks would be the perfect player to add in the class of 2019 because he’s not going to scare away any other players (although maybe he should because of his talent level) but he’s good enough to make a major impact from day one.

Brooks at the wing almost seems to make too much sense for UK and while I wasn’t told a timeline I believe the Cats may currently lead.

Bryan Antoine: He cut his list to five schools and the Cats join Florida, Duke, Kansas and Villanova. UK will have a chance with Antoine but all signs point to Duke, which isn’t shocking. UK isn’t out of it for any other guards in 2019 but the players that have to have the ball in their hands to score may be a tough sell with Maxey locked up already.

UK will have a chance with Antoine and Lewis, but I’m thinking Maxey joins mostly returning guards in 2019-2020. Maybe Antoine falls in love on his visit to Kentucky but it’s going to be a long shot.

NBA Decisions:

The NBA Draft Combine is this week and it should tell us more about the decisions of P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and possibly even Wenyen Gabriel (who won’t be at the combine).

Washington: Washington won’t need to dominate for him to keep his name in the NBA Draft, and the great part about P.J.’s game is his consistency. In my opinion the only way Washington has to think more about this decision is if he goes to Chicago and completely stinks, which I don’t think happens.

Washington wants a guaranteed contract, which used to just be for first rounders. Now second round picks are frequently getting more guaranteed contract so the idea that Washington has to be a first rounder should have an asterisk next to it. As long as Washington is projected as a top 40 pick I believe you see him stay in the NBA Draft.

Vanderbilt: He will go through meetings and the topic of those meeting will likely be his health. Surprisingly there’s actually been a very positive pro-Vanderbilt buzz from NBA teams, but how healthy he is will determine if he’s worth the risk. Don’t expect him to go through drills or participate in five-on-five scrimmages, but if NBA teams feel like he’s on the verge of being healthy he will stay in the draft. Of course this will be trickier to measure because we won’t be able to see/follow those meetings.

Gabriel: He won’t be at the NBA Draft Combine but I think it’s more likely he comes back to Kentucky if Washington and Vanderbilt leave. If one comes back then I think it’s more likely Gabriel stays in the NBA Draft. Gabriel wants to go pro and be able to provide for his family, but the only way he’s coming back if there’s a window for him to put up solid numbers. It makes sense.

My Guess: It’s just a guess but I think Washington and Vanderbilt stay in the draft and Gabriel returns. My confidence level is high in Washington leaving, it’s about 50/50 on Vanderbilt and Gabriel depends on the other two, in my opinion.

Backup Plan: If just one of Vanderbilt/Washington leaves, the Cats have a backup plan and it’s not a major surprise. Stanford senior Reid Travis is working out for NBA teams but wasn’t invited to the NBA Draft combine. It seems highly unlikely he stays in the NBA Draft but just continue to keep an eye on the UK roster situation. Travis is a name to remember.


Supreme Court lifts ban on sports betting (LESSGOOOOOO)

Today is a monumental day for people who like to bet on sports.

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that the federal ban on sports betting is unconstitutional. In a 7-2 vote decision, Supreme Court justices threw out the 25-year-old law that prohibited gambling anywhere outside of Nevada.

Each individual state can now do as it pleases when it comes to sports betting, and many are already prepared to jump on board and capitalize on the opportunity. New Jersey, which won the battle to change the law, is expected to have its sports books up and running within the next couple of weeks.

Your move, Kentucky.


John Calipari: the most underrated talent evaluator in the nation

From the time he first set foot on campus, John Calipari has been arguably the most dominant recruiter in college basketball. It’s a reputation he’s had since his time at Massachusetts, and later, Memphis.

Raking in top-five talent hasn’t just become possible under Coach Cal, it has become the norm. Kentucky has managed the No. 1 or No. 2 overall recruiting class in the nation in every season since 2009, securing a top-two overall prospect in five of those years.

The massive recruiting victories have been fun to see over the years. That being said, where Calipari has been most impressive has been his ability to find diamonds in the rough a little bit further down the board.

In his first year at Kentucky, Coach Cal signed Eric Bledsoe, a four-star point guard from Birmingham, Alabama. Listed as 247 Sports’ No. 68 player in the class of 2009, Bledsoe only held offers from Memphis, Florida, Cincinnati, and Alabama. The minute Kentucky came calling, he joined the top recruiting class in the nation led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

His lone season at Kentucky, he averaged 11.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per contest. After declaring for the NBA Draft, he was taken with the No. 18 overall pick, where he has slowly worked his way up the totem pole to stardom. After averaging just no more than eight points per contest in his first three seasons, Bledsoe has averaged over 17 points per game over the last five seasons and accumulated a total of $62,104,069 career salary.

In 2012, four-star center Willie Cauley-Stein signed with Kentucky over Alabama, Florida, and Kansas State, his only other offers. Listed as the No. 43 overall prospect, the 6-foot-11 center out of Olathe, Kansas accumulated 843 career points, 655 rebounds, and 233 blocks at Kentucky. His junior year, Cauley-Stein worked his way to consensus first-team All-American honors and the No. 6 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. By the end of his college career, WCS was known as the most elite defender in college basketball with the ability to defend all five positions on the floor. Oh, and he had some pretty ridiculous dunks, too.

In 2014, John Calipari pulled in both Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, two widely underrated players in the class. Though many services finally gave him a five-star bump, Booker finished as a four-star prospect and No. 29 overall according to Rivals.com. When he first started receiving interest from the Cats, Booker was ranked down in the mid-40s as a consensus four-star prospect, known for solid shooting ability and below-average defensive skills. Almost immediately, Booker was the perfect shooting spark off the bench, and he worked his way into draft lottery position in just one season.

As for Ulis, he finished as ESPN’s No. 25 recruit in the class of 2014, though he was ranked anywhere from the late-30s to the early 50s for the majority of his junior and senior campaigns. At 5-foot-9, 145-pounds, analysts believed there were major doubts that Ulis could compete against elite division-one talent due to his size. As a sophomore, Ulis not only became the best point guard in college basketball, but arguably the best at the position in Kentucky basketball history.

Already considered one of the top scorers in the league, Booker is now climbing toward greatness in the NBA. He already has a 70-point game, sits behind just LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard for the most points in NBA history for a teenager, the third-youngest player to score 4,000 career points, etc. When his contract expires next offseason, Booker is going to be a very, very rich man.

Ulis has had his ups and downs, but he has carved his role as a solid point guard for the Suns, starting in over half of the team’s games this year. He averaged nearly eight points and over four assists in just 23 minutes per contest last season, including a very impressive run to end the year. He also has two years left on his contract, meaning he still has a lot of time to take another step up in the league, similar to Eric Bledsoe in his early days as a professional.

This past season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came in as a consensus four-star expected to be nothing more than a solid role player off the bench. Listed as ESPN’s No. 35 prospect in the nation, Florida, Syracuse, Texas, and UNLV were his only other offers out of high school. Most anticipated at least two or three years of him at UK. As the year progressed, however, SGA developed into Kentucky’s most consistent scoring weapon and one of the top point guards in college basketball. He’s expected to be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft with the potential to be an instant-impact player in the league.

Jemarl Baker sat out his freshman year with an injury, but current and former Wildcats say he was easily the best shooter on the team last year and could be a major weapon from the perimeter for the Cats this season. Some compared him to Ray Allen out of high school.

Similar to Gilgeous-Alexander, Baker was a consensus four-star prospect, with 247 Sports ranking him as low as No. 73 overall. No one knows how good he will end up being, but early reports are impressive.

Almost a year ago to the day, Kentucky reached out to Keldon Johnson, the No. 33 player in the class of 2018, who as a junior averaged 21.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.4 steals per contest. Now, Johnson is a consensus five-star prospect, with his highest rating coming from ESPN as the No. 7 recruit in the class. Those that have seen him play in person believe he will almost certainly be Kentucky’s best player next season. The media has finally given him the respect he deserves, but Calipari was on him well before he was considered elite.

Tyler Herro, 247 Sports’ 35th best recruit in 2018, is considered one of the smoothest scorers in the nation with immediate-impact ability next season at Kentucky. Zion Williamson told KSR at the Jordan Brand Classic that he was the most underrated recruit in the nation. After seeing him in person against some of the best competition in America, there’s little doubt in my mind Herro elite potential, especially on offense. He’s garnered Devin Booker comparisons, and I don’t necessarily think that’s unfair.

DJ Jeffries is currently listed as the No. 53 overall prospect in the class of 2019, though those that have seen him play say he will be shooting up the rankings, as well.

He’s had his misses, but more often than not, Coach Cal has converted on the lower-tier talent.

Duke has had four-star prospects over the years in Quinn Cook, the Plumlee brothers, and Amile Jefferson, among others, but none developed into sure-fire NBA talent. Even with the elite guys(*cough* Jahil Okafor *cough*), Duke’s NBA prospects have been massively underwhelming. Aside from Kyrie Irving (who played a whopping 11 games at Duke), Jayson Tatum (exceeded expectations), and Brandon Ingram (potential, still a work in progress) Coach K has underwhelmed when it comes to putting his guys in position to thrive in the NBA.

North Carolina has been solid at developing lower-ranked talent (Luke Maye), but that’s mainly because Roy Williams rarely pulls in elite prospects (Tony Bradley was UNC’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade). Kansas has had a few lower-tier hits that thrived at the college level (Devonte Graham, Frank Mason, Udoka Azubuike, etc.) and a few more studs that have been sure-fire pros (Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid), but it still falls short to Kentucky’s track record. Are there any other schools that combine the underrated gems and elite like Coach Cal and Kentucky? I can’t think of any.

Calipari is known for the elite five-stars and NBA-ready prospects. His critics say he only has to roll the balls out in practice because the players are so good and don’t need coaching (something we have proven wrong time and time again).

Where he doesn’t get enough credit, however, is finding and developing lesser-known talent into excellent college and NBA players.


@jalengeiger

YAHTZEE! 2019 three-star DB Jalen Geiger commits to KENTUCKY

@jalengeiger

This morning, Kentucky four-star commitment Keontra Smith flipped his commitment to Miami (FL), and Vince Marrow wasn’t too happy about it.

“We only want guys that want to be here. Trust me BBN we are going to get it done,” he tweeted.

Just a few hours later, the Cats found their replacement.

Three-star cornerback Jalen Geiger has committed to KENTUCKY!

Geiger, a 6-foot-1 corner out of Columbia, SC, chose Kentucky over Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Boston College, among others.

The newest Wildcat visited Lexington back in April, and earned a scholarship from Kentucky soon thereafter.

Watch his highlights below:

Welcome home!


@Robinson_era

Wandale Robinson Breaks Down his Latest Visit to UK with KSR

@Robinson_era

Wandale Robinson has visited the University of Kentucky’s campus countless times.  As the nation’s ninth-ranked all-purpose back nears a decision, the Frankfort native described to KSR a much different atmosphere during last night’s unofficial visit to UK.

Robinson spent most of his time with Vince Marrow, Michael Smith and Mark Stoops.  They toured the facilities, took photographs and went to The Cliff to watch the UK baseball game.

“Coach Marrow’s now the one taking over my recruiting,” Robinson told KSR.  “Coach Marrow and (wide receivers) Coach (Michael) Smith, they’ve been coming hard at me a lot.  I really got to spend a lot of time with them.”

Over the last month, Marrow has spent more and more time talking to Robinson.  Now his lead recruiter, Robinson likes the pitch he’s hearing.  “It changed things a lot because he recruits hard.  The stuff he tells me, it’s true whenever you sit down and look at it.”

Last night he also got to spend time with a new member of Mark Stoops’ staff that might be a game-changer, Freddie Maggard.

“I never really got to talk to Freddie once he got there about the Player Development stuff.  That aspect of what they provide whenever you get on campus and once you get done with football, how he helps you and stuff like that.  It was very helpful.”

In his capacity as Director of UK Player Development, Freddie cannot recruit.  However, once players are on campus he’s free to meet with them, describe his role and explain to them what UK’s program has to offer.  It’s not the first time the two have talked.

“Personally, Freddie saw me whenever I was a freshman. He came and spoke to my team during camp week, and he told me I was going to go play SEC football.  So I just know how he is and the things he would provide.  He’s a Kentucky kid and he told me, ‘Kentucky people want Kentucky kids to play at Kentucky.’  He was able to explain to me how all of that works.”

One of the best recruits from the state of Kentucky, last year Wandale led the state in rushing (2,330 yards) and scoring (260 points) to earn First Team All-State honors.  Robinson carried Western Hills to an 8-4 record behind 13.3 yards per carry, 13.7 yards per catch for a total of 3,276 all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns.  Most of the points came on the ground (33 to be exact), but he scored in a variety of ways with six through the air, three off kick returns and one score from a punt return.

Robinson does it all, and that’s exactly what Kentucky’s coaches want him to do in Lexington.

“If you were to come here, the punt return job, you can win that as long as you can catch punts and do what you do,” Robinson recalled the UK coaches’ pitch.  “You’ll be replacing Lynn (Bowden) your sophomore year, but you’ll still play about 30-40 snaps your freshman year.  They said (I’d play) the Wildcat, slot, running back, so I’ll be moved around a lot.”

UK is not the only program pursuing “Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden.”  Duke, Indiana, Northwestern and Nebraska have also put on the full-court press.  “Ohio State’s been on me really hard, but still has not offered me.  It’s kind of weird.”  He’s visited all of his potential suitors, except for Nebraska.

Robinson does not have a firm decision date, although he wants to make a choice before the start of his senior football season at Western Hills.  He plans on creating a video to make his decision, one that’s prepared to begin production whenever he’s ready.

“Whenever my time-table is right, whenever I feel right, that’s when we’ll start,” he said. “I just have to sit down and talk with my family; just really look at everything that each team provides for me and make the best decision for me.”

Until then, the University of Kentucky coaching staff is going to do everything they can to convince Wandale that staying home will be his best possible decision.

@Robinson_era


De’Aaron Fox says Jarred Vanderbilt is “The Best Rebounder I’ve Ever Seen”

One former Cat is happy to praise another Kentucky Wildcat.

The Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox made an appearance on the latest episode of The Ringer NBA Show.  He talked about his first year in the league, what it’s like to go through NBA Draft process and many other goofy topics, but what’s most intriguing are his comments about the Kentucky Wildcats in this year’s NBA Draft.

Few people know the players better than him.  Fox watched most of Kentucky’s games and played against the team in pick-up games last summer.  He knew right away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be a star.

“Shai played his self into the lottery,” Fox said.  “I could’ve told you before the season.  Shai is just really smooth.  He came into his own in the middle of the season.”

He’s only known Gilgeous-Alexander for about a year.  He’s played with Jarred Vanderbilt since they were in fourth grade.  Despite last season’s injury problems, Fox believes Vanderbilt is the best rebounder he’s ever seen on a basketball court.

“For him, once he gets healthy, he’s the best rebounder I’ve ever seen; seen, played with, played against.  He’s 6’9.” He can really handle the ball. He can play point guard if you really need him to. But he can go get the rebound and push the ball down the floor with anybody.”

Even though we only saw Vanderbilt in limited action, the numbers do not lie.  Bryan Kolbrasky compiled the following total rebounding percentage numbers with some of college basketball’s best.

  • Jarred Vanderbilt — 25.7%
  • Joel Embiid —21.7%
  • De’Andre Ayton — 21.4%
  • Mo Bamba — 20.2%
  • Anthony Davis — 19.0%
  • Robert Williams — 18.9%
  • Karl Anthony-Towns — 18.5%

Currently declared for the NBA Draft, Vanderbilt received an invitation to next week’s NBA Combine, but it’s unclear if injuries will allow him to participate.  His future remains unclear, but Fox clearly believes nobody rebounds better than Vanderbilt.

You can see the entire interview below, or listen to The Ringer NBA Show here.


Kentucky Roars Back To Win The Series Against Mississippi State

Kentucky Roars Back To Win The Series Against Mississippi State

It took the offense eight innings to get rolling, but the bats woke up at the right time in Saturday’s game. #21 Kentucky wrapped up a series win over Mississippi State today by coming from behind to beat the Dogs 4-1. The win bumped UK to .500 (13-13) in conference play and 33-17 overall.

Recap

MSU scored one run in the first and held onto the 1-0 lead into the eighth inning. The Cats rallied in the bottom of the eighth to take a 4-1 behind a two-run single by Luke Becker and a pair of unearned runs courtesy of an error by the pitcher. UK’s offense struggled for the majority of the game, but the young pitching staff kept the game close before the eighth inning comeback. Today marked UK’s sixth win of the season when they trailed after seven innings and the fifth straight series win at home over Mississippi State.

Zack Thompson made his second start back from injury today. The Bulldogs knew Thompson would be on a tight pitch count, so they grinded out some tough at-bats and got his number of pitches up early. MSU put two men on before Hunter Stovall drove in the first and only run of the game for MSU with an RBI single past Luke Becker into right field.

From that point forward, Thompson and the UK bullpen shut down MSU’s offense. Thompson finished his day after four strong innings before Mason Hazelwood entered in the fifth. The freshman struck out three in 3.1 shutout innings in relief today. Hazelwood’s longest outing of his career kept MSU’s lead at one throughout the middle innings.

The young pitchers for UK were quieting MSU’s offense, but the bats struggled to wake up against Ethan Small. The Dogs’ starting pitcher shut out UK in six innings. UK’s offense reached base seven times against Small but could get the tying run home.

The masterful effort by Hazelwood and fellow freshman Jimmy Ramsey (1.2 innings, winning pitcher) gave UK momentum in the eighth inning. After Ramsey got two big outs to end the top of the eighth, the bats finally warmed up in the bottom half of the inning. Trey Dawson and Tristan Pompey both collected singles to start the frame before the powerful Kole Cottam stepped to the plate and delivered one of the biggest hits of his career. It wasn’t a home run this time for Cottam, but a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. The three consecutive singles set the stage for senior Luke Becker. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Becker hit a soft line drive over the shortstop’s head to score a pair of runs and give UK the 2-1 lead. With the Cliff roaring, SEC home run leader Luke Heyer dropped down a bunt that the MSU pitcher threw into foul territory. Cottam and Becker came around to score two important insurance runs on the error to put UK in front 4-1.

Nick Mingione decided to stick with Ramsey in the top of the ninth. The freshman forced three flyouts to left field as UK clinched the series with a 4-1 victory on Saturday night.

Game Notes

Underclassmen shine on the mound- With so many guys out this weekend, UK needed tonight’s pitchers to get as many outs as possible. Under the circumstances, what Thompson, Hazelwood, and Ramsey did tonight was remarkable. All three pitchers allowed two or fewer hits and struck out a combined six batters in the win.

Pompey continues to hit well- The team’s leadoff man now has five consecutive multi-hit games after going 2/4 tonight. He is  4/6 with two doubles, four RBIs, and three runs this weekend.

Hosting update- UK has put themselves back into the hosting race with three big wins this week. They would almost be guaranteed a projected spot if they sweep tomorrow. It was said this week that UK needs to win four or five of their final six SEC games in order to land a hosting spot. This weekend’s win will look great when the selection committee review’s UK’s season.

Postgame Comments- Check out Mingione’s postgame interview following the comeback win.

 

Kentucky and Mississippi State will be back in action tomorrow at 3 ET on the SEC Network. Sunday’s game will be the final regular season game at the Cliff. 


Kentucky to play UNC Greensboro next season

We have another UK basketball game for you to add to your calendar.

Kentucky will play the Spartans of UNC Greensboro in Rupp Arena on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

The Spartans went 27-7 and 15-3 in the Southern Conference in 2017-18 under head coach Wes Miller, who is set to coach the team for a seventh season. UNCG won the Southern Conference crown a year ago and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, but fell in the first round to Gonzaga in Boise. (We were at that game.)

UNCG returns four of its top five scorers from a year ago and will likely be picked to repeat in the Southern Conference.

Its addition to UK’s schedule continues Calipari’s theme of playing conference champs.


Why hasn’t Kentucky offered KyKy Tandy?

Why hasn’t Kentucky offered KyKy Tandy?

Hopkinsville’s KyKy Tandy is earning offers from several college basketball programs as he enters the summer before his senior season at University Heights Academy. His latest came from Gregg Marshall and Wichita State, which brings his list to 10 schools that have extended an offer. That list also includes SEC schools Tennessee, Ole Miss and Florida, as well as Cincinnati, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, New Mexico State and nearby Western Kentucky.

But one school is noticeably absent from his offer sheet: the University of Kentucky. So why is that?

For starters, I think Tandy — though very, very good — isn’t quite the level of guard John Calipari can typically hand-pick from the high school ranks. He is currently ranked as the 28th best shooting guard in the 247 Sports Composite (although that ranking will likely improve soon) and there are several other guards who are already on Kentucky’s big board as major targets. Many UK fans see him as a Dominique Hawkins-type addition to the roster, but Tandy is too good (especially in his own mind) to take the Hawkins path of coming off the bench for four years. He wants to shine right away. His father said so.

Calipari could eventually offer Tandy, and maybe he will, but at this stage in the process it doesn’t seem he is in a rush to throw an offer out to someone who isn’t part of his Plan A for the Class of 2019. And that Plan A is already off to a great start with the commitments of DJ Jeffries and Tyrese Maxey, and being in a great position with James Wiseman, Jalen Lecque and Keion Brooks.

Then there is Tandy’s father, who made headlines with his comments to Kyle Tucker. His exact words were: “If he does get an offer, he’s not going to Kentucky with three or four point guards there. He’s not no bench player. And that’s what they think he is: He’ll just come in and play four years. No, no.” [SEC Country]

While I admire his father’s confidence and wanting the best for his son, that attitude is exactly what Calipari stays far, far away from. If you’ve followed Cal closely over the years, you know he has very little tolerance for parents who give ultimatums and can’t let go of control. All the kids he has gotten and succeeded with in the past, they had parents who stepped away and let Calipari work his magic. He wants to be trusted; not told how things will work out. So Tandy’s father might’ve cost his son the opportunity to be a Wildcat by rubbing Cal the wrong way with his comments. Again, there is nothing wrong with what Tandy’s father said and how he sees his son’s value to a team; it just isn’t going to get him a Kentucky uniform as long as Cal is in charge.

Now for a third reason behind Kentucky’s hesitance to extend an offer to Tandy, and it’s only a theory of mine: This tweet did not sit well.

Tandy tweeted his Kansas State offer less than 24 hours after Kansas State beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Was it a troll job? Or did Bruce Weber really call Tandy on the day between the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight, one game shy of the Final Four, to extend a scholarship offer? It sure seems like Tandy waited to tweet the offer. Whatever the case, though, I’ve heard whispers that it did not go unnoticed by the UK staff and the timing did not help his chances.

So there you go. Three reasons why I believe KyKy Tandy still does not have an offer from the University of Kentucky. Personally, I want nothing but the best for Tandy because he and I are from the same dirt (shout-out Region 2/shout-out El Bracero/shout-out Ferrell’s) and we have a few mutual acquaintances, but I’m afraid he has some factors working against him at this point in his recruitment.

As it stands today, right now at this very moment, I think Cal would lean toward the other in-state prospect, Dontaie Allen, over Tandy.

But Tandy still has a whole summer on the Under Armour circuit and his senior season of high school to change Cal’s mind.