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How Kentucky players dominated the NBA this season

How Kentucky players dominated the NBA this season

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The 2016-17 NBA regular season wrapped up yesterday and this year more than ever, we saw the league turn Kentucky blue, particularly at the top. Twenty-six former Cats played in the league this season, and with another group set to join them in June, let’s review the season that was for the BBNBA.

Complete Season Stats

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(DD = Double Double; While 26 players saw time at some point, only 24 remain on current rosters)

Now, let’s dig a little deeper by comparing those stats to the rest of the league.

In the 2016-17 NBA season, Kentucky Basketball accounted for…

UKentucky_logo The player with the most points in a single game

Devin Booker, 70 points vs. Boston, March 24

Booker scored 70 points, 51 in the second half, earning him the nickname “Mr. 70.” Booker is one of only six players to score 70 points in one game in NBA history, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor, and David Robinson. At just 20 years old, he’s the youngest player to ever do it.

UKentucky_logo The only player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 three pointers in one season

bbnba-townsKarl Towns

That is a bizarre stat, but hey, what a great reminder of what a complete player Karl has become. He’s also the youngest player (the 15th overall and first since Tim Duncan in 2001-02) to tally 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a season. A year after winning Rookie of the Year, Karl is on his way to superstardom.

UKentucky_logo The player with the 2nd most assists and steals

bbnba-wallJohn Wall

John Wall trails only James Harden in assists, with 10.7 per game to Harden’s 11.2. He trails Draymond Green in assists with 2.0 per game, the same average as Green, but Green played two fewer games this year.

UKentucky_logo The player with the 4th most points and 2nd most blocks

bbnba-davisAnthony Davis

Anthony Davis averaged 28.0 points this season, trailing only Russell Westbrook (31.6), James Harden (29.1), and Isaiah Thomas (28.9). He also had the 2nd most blocks at 2.23 per game, trailing Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who averaged 2.64 per game. It’s worth pointing out that Davis sat out a handful of games due to injury this season as well.

UKentucky_logo The player with the most points in the paint per game

bbnba-townsKarl Towns

Karl leads the league in points in the paint per game with 14.1, followed by LeBron James (13.9), Giannis Antetokounmpo (13.1), and Anthony Davis (12.9). Pretty good company.

UKentucky_logo The player who ran the second farthest

bbnba-townsKarl Towns

How intense can NBA stats get? They actually track the total distance run during games, and Karl is second behind CJ McCollum with 205.3 miles. That’s a lot of running.

UKentucky_logo Four of the Top 10 Double Double leaders

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 Rank  Player Double Doubles
1 James Harden 64
2 Russell Westbrook 62
2 Karl Towns 62
4 Hassan Whiteside 58
4 Rudy Gobert 58
6 Dwight Howard 53
7 John Wall 50
8 Anthony Davis 49
8 Andre Drummond 49
10 DeMarcus Cousins 46

UKentucky_logo Three of the Top 10 Rebounders

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Rank  Player Rebounds Rebounds per game
1 Hassan Whiteside 1088 14.1
2 Andre Drummond 1115 13.8
  DeAndre Jordan 1114 13.8
4 Rudy Gobert 1035 12.8
5 Dwight Howard 940 12.7
6 Karl Towns 1007 12.3
7 Anthony Davis 884 11.8
8 Kevin Love 666 11.1
9 DeMarcus Cousins 794 11.0
10 Russell Westbrook 864 10.7

UKentucky_logo Three of 25 NBA All-Stars

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Karl really should have been part of this group.

UKentucky_logo The NBA All-Star MVP

ADavis

Anthony Davis, 52 points

Davis’ 52-point performance broke Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game scoring record of 42 points, set back in 1962. Fittingly, it came in front of a home crowd in New Orleans.

UKentucky_logo Four of the 22 NBA Rising Stars

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UKentucky_logo The NBA Rising Stars MVP

Jamal Murray, 36 points, 11 assists

Murray hit 9-14 threes, the second most in the Rising Stars Challenge behind Daniel Gibson’s 11 in 2008.

UKentucky_logo Three of the Top 6 Rookies in the month of April

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Rank Player MIN FG% 3P% FT% REB AST TO STL BLK PTS
1 Tyler Ulis 37.9 48.5 37.0 78.3 3.8 6.8 2.8 0.7 0.2 20.7
2 Buddy Hield 32.8 46.8 47.4 70.0 4.5 2.2 2.0 0.5 0.0 18.8
3 Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot 33.7 44.9 35.9 96.3 3.3 2.3 1.7 1.8 0.0 18.3
4 Sheldon McClellan 35.0 54.5 25.0 83.3 4.0 0.0 2.0 0.0 0.0 18.0
5 Jamal Murray 33.5 44.9 28.9 100 3.6 5.0 2.1 1.3 0.4 15.1
6 Skal Labissiere 29.4 57.7 66.7 81.8 5.3 1.2 1.2 0.8 0.5 13.3

Skal’s growth since the All-Star break was remarkable to watch, and with him, Ulis and Murray seeing more time due to several starters resting, Kentucky’s rookies shined in the final stretch of the season.

UKentucky_logo Seven players in the NBA Playoffs

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Although the bulk of Kentucky’s talent remains on bad teams because that’s how the draft works, there are seven former Cats reppin’ in the NBA playoffs:

  • John Wall, Wizards
  • Rajon Rondo, Bulls
  • Enes Kanter, Thunder
  • James Young, Celtics
  • Patrick Patterson, Raptors
  • Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies
  • Trey Lyles, Jazz

Terrence Jones was on the Milwaukee Bucks, who made the playoffs, but was waived last week.

UKentucky_logo The three top scoring centers

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According to NBA.com, the top three scoring centers in the NBA all went to Kentucky:

Anthony Davis 28.0 ppg
DeMarcus Cousins 27.0 ppg
Karl Towns 25.1 ppg
Brook Lopez 20.5 ppg
Marc Gasol 19.5 ppg

Of course, now that Davis and Boogie are on the same team, this is probably the only year Kentucky will have the top three centers, but hey, I’ll take it. Davis played 65% of his minutes at center this year (which roughly reflects the time before Boogie joined the Pelicans), but from now on, he’ll dominate the forward category. Davis and Cousins also rank in the top three centers (and forwards) when it comes to rebounding, with 11.8 and 11.0 rebounds, respectively.

 

Not a bad year, right?


Mark Stoops’ Impressive Spring Game Guest List

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“Recruiting is a lot like shaving. If you don’t do it everyday you’re going to look like a bum.”  If Mark Stoops’ message to KSR applies this weekend, he’ll be bald for tomorrow night’s spring game.

The Kentucky football program is hosting dozens of elite recruits from across the country, featuring 2018 commits, legacy recruits, stars from the Commonwealth and many more.

Commits

Defensive end Alex Reigelsperger will return to Lexington once again with his five-star wide receiver teammate, L’Christian “Blue” Smith, the highest-ranked recruit Kentucky is pursuing in the 2018 class.  However, nobody will arrive with more buzz than Jarren Williams.

The dual-threat quarterback is one the hottest names in the country, most recently offered by Alabama.  Williams received a call from Stoops shortly after that offer was extended.  He told Alabama’s SEC Country it matters that UK was there when other schools wanted him to switch positions.

“It matters that they were there,” Williams said. “You want to go somewhere where you’re a priority. You don’t want to go somewhere where nobody really knows who you are and the coaches aren’t high on you. I know I’m a priority at Kentucky. They took me in when I didn’t really know anything about recruiting. They have made me feel like I’m a part of the team.

“I’m firmly committed. People have asked me a lot lately where I stand and if I’m looking around. I wouldn’t say that the word is looking. It’s more so I’m listening to what others have to say.”

The Best of Ohio

The talented Lakota West duo will return to campus this weekend.  Xavier Peters is one of the best linebackers in the country and a top 250 player in the nation.  Defensive tackle Tyler Bentley returns to campus with offers from Alabama and LSU.  Bentley’s recruitment has been a back-and-forth battle between the Cats and the Cars, but the SEC West offers will shake things up.

Even though the Cats already have one Ohio tight end committed in the 2018 class, Brenden Bates, Vince Marrow needs to stockpile his position group with Greg Hart and (potentially) C.J. Conrad departing after this season.  Marrow is turning to Leonard Taylor, a four-star 6’4″ tight end who is ranked as the No. 61 player overall in the 2018 class by 247.  Taylor’s Springfield High teammate, Cameron Hoelscher, will also be at UK, his first major college offer.

The Best in the Bluegrass

If you listened to last week’s Depth Chart Podcast, you heard Freddie hype the treasure trove of talent in the Kentucky’s 2018 class.  Two of the best will be in Lexington for the Blue/White Game.  Both have offers from Alabama and just about every college football program in the country.

Waggener cornerback Jairus Brents is a 4-star phenom, ranked No. 166 overall by the 247 Composite.  Considered a Louisville-lean, he visited Florida State last week.  Rondale Moore  doesn’t have overwhelming size, but that doesn’t slow down the 5’8″ Trinity wide receiver.  247 ranks Moore as the No. 79 player in America.  He most recently picked up an offer from Ohio State.  Watch him do work:

Florida Talent

The addition of Eddie Gran, Darin Hinshaw and Lamar Thomas have helped the Cats’ cause in Florida.

The best of the best from perennial national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas will be in the stands tomorrow night.  Nik Bonitto has the most hype.  The Top 100 4-star defensive end has all of the Florida schools fighting off Jim Harbaugh.  His middle linebacker, Rocky Shelton, doesn’t have as many offers from top schools but he has the best linebacker name since Dick Butkus.

Three-star wide receiver Alonzo Clark does not attend Thomas Aquinas, but he is from Ft. Lauderdale.  Hopefully he carpools with the other two.  Running back/athlete Andrew Cunningham is making the trip from Tampa.  The Cats’ toughest competition for Cunningham is from the Cardinals.

Legacy Talent

A pair of early enrollees, Jamin Davis and Danny Clark, have talented younger brothers.  Caden Clark is a sophomore tight end with a scholarship offer from Kentucky.  Jamin’s younger brother Treyon Davis will be a sophomore cornerback at Long County.  For me, this isn’t newsworthy.  If I enrolled early and my little brother didn’t come to the spring game, he’d learn his lesson on Easter Sunday.

Defensive end Tyler Baylor has a unique legacy.  The grandson of NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor was Joshua Paschal and Naasir Watkins’ teammate last year at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland. He’s pretty good too, considered the No. 10 defensive end in the class by 247.

There is a lot more talent on the lengthy guest list, like Missouri running back Donovan Marshall, but I am not brave to steal Stoops’ RSVPs.


Great Moments In Isaac Humphries History

Great Moments In Isaac Humphries History

humphries

Isaac Humphries’ time as a Kentucky Wildcat has come to a close. After two years in a reserve big man role in which he averaged 8.6 minutes per game, Humphries has made the difficult decision to move on to the next phase of his life: playing basketball professionally.

Wherever that leads him — likely in his native Australia or somewhere else overseas — Humphries has played his last minute of basketball in Lexington. It was a two-year run with a couple of breakthrough performances and a lot of trying to find his groove off the bench, and we were all happy to watch his journey.

So tonight, as we say Hooroo! to our favorite Aussie, we revisit the great moments in Isaac Humphries history.

 

I-Zack or I-Zick?

I will forever remember Isaac Humphries as the player whose fairly common first name could not be pronounced correctly by fans and the media for most of his time in front of them. Is it I-Zack? I-Zick?

He finally settled the debate after over a year in Lexington, telling fans at the Big Blue Madness Campout that it’s okay to pronounce it however your accent wants to pronounce it:

So if you’re from Kentucky, don’t force the I-Zack. There’s nothing worse than that, he said. “That’s further away than we were before.”

 

That time he serenaded Shannon Spake.

We heard a lot about Humphries’ musical talents soon after he landed on campus, and Shannon Spake had the pleasure of sitting down next to him at the piano for a live performance during this freshman year:

He does have a good voice, but this video made me question why there is a piano in the locker room and I still don’t have an answer.

 

Wildcat Carpool Karaoke.

Humphries’ vocals were on display once again in Kentucky basketball’s attempt at ‘Carpool Karaoke,’ the popular James Corden bit:

Anyone who can hang with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is a great singer.

 

The Spike

Now for the lowest moment of Isaac Humphries’ short career: the time he spiked the ball and cost Kentucky a game at Texas A&M.

He played great on the road and made a huge play that should’ve sealed the victory in the closing minutes, but then his emotions got the best of him. He spiked the ball with excitement and earned a controversial technical foul call.

The call should not have been made, which is why Calipari’s postgame speech to his team was nothing more than, “We got cheated. Let’s go home.”

Still, Humphries felt guilty and was crushed by his mistake. Tyler Ulis said he couldn’t stop apologizing after the game.
 

Kentucky’s win streak when he scored

Up until the final game of the season, Kentucky was 24-0 when Isaac Humphries scored a point in 2016-17. It was like clockwork. Whenever Humphries got a bucket, the ball game was over.

I made a video to commemorate his game-winning shot in the Florida game with his team down 11 early with 12 minutes left in the first half:

It worked every time, until…

 

The UNC Game

Humphries’ best game of his career just so happened to be his last: a career-high 12-point game in the Elite Eight against North Carolina. It appeared he was on his way to earning a spot in Kentucky lore, but in the end he was robbed of being the hero who carried his team to the Final Four.

If the Cats could’ve prevailed in the end, Humphries goes down as a legend. We know what happened instead and it is still too fresh to type it out right now.

But we’ll never forget him knocking down those big shots.

 

All-NCAA South Region

Humphries’ surprise performance against UNC earned him surprise All-NCAA South Region. And it’s not crazy to think that game gave him the confidence he needed to go ahead and make the jump to pro basketball.

Good luck to him and thanks for the memories.


Isaac Humphries is leaving Kentucky

isaac-humphries

We heard some rumblings about this even before the season ended, but this morning, the news just became official. UK just announced that Isaac Humphries is going to pursue his options in the NBA and internationally. He will sign with an agent, ending his career at Kentucky.

“First and foremost, I want to thank the Big Blue Nation for its unwavering support,” Humphries said in a release from UK. “Coming from Australia, I had no idea what to expect when I got to Kentucky, but you made me one of your own. Your support and passion over the last two years has been unbelievable. I can’t thank you enough for making me feel at home.

“This decision didn’t come easily for me. My goal has always been to play professionally. There is no better place to prepare you to take that step than the University of Kentucky. Over the last two years, thanks to Coach Cal and the coaching staff, I’ve gotten so much better and improved my game. I believe I have a lot more I can do, but I also believe that the time for me to take the next step is now.

“At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family. I know turning pro is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I understand that these next few weeks and months with the pre-draft process is going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some realistic truths. But, because of what I’ve learned at Kentucky and the support I have from my family and this school, I also feel like I’m ready to face those challenges and that I’m prepared for whatever is next and wherever that may take me.

“It’s going to be difficult not playing at Kentucky next season and I’m going to miss everything that comes with being a Wildcat. I’ll miss my brothers. The friends I have made here and the relationships I have formed will last a lifetime. During such a developing time of my life, it was a true blessing to be surrounded by such incredible people, fans, and teammates who were always looking out for me and always had my back.”

Last season, Isaac averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor. Sadly, his final game at Kentucky was his best. Against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, Isaac put up a career-high 12 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal in in 21 minutes. After struggling to find his niche all season, he looked like a complete player, hitting jumpers, layups, and free throws, all while playing impressive defense and injecting the team with some much-needed energy.

“This was a difficult decision for Isaac but one that he and his mom put a lot of thought into,” head coach John Calipari said. “Isaac has gotten so much better in his two seasons here and I believe he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. I absolutely understand and fully support his decision and I will do whatever I can to help his dreams come true. You’re talking about a 7-footer who can shoot and can rebound. That has value anywhere in the world. He’s also just 19 years old, the youngest sophomore in the country this past season. Everyone forgets how young he is and how much he’s going to continue to grow and develop. He’s only going to get better and better. My belief is what you saw at the end of this season is just the beginning of his pro career.”

Best of luck to Isaac in the next chapter of his life. We’ll always have this moment of him serenading Shannon Spake:

 


Wednesday’s Top 10: Spring Signing Period begins, Jordan Brand Classic Media Day, STOOOOPS on radio

Wednesday’s Top 10: Spring Signing Period begins, Jordan Brand Classic Media Day, STOOOOPS on radio

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Happy Wednesday, everyone, and shoutout to this baby, who, even at a very, very young age, has his or her priorities in order. Flattery will get you everywhere, friends…even if it comes in the form of a baby picture.

Now, let’s make that baby happy and go over today’s agenda, shall we? It’s a busy one.

1. Today is the first day of the spring signing period

 

Starting today, prospects can make their commitments official, which means that in some point over the next few days, we’ll see signatures roll in from Jarred Vanderbilt, who committed December 23 after the early signing was period was over, and Jemarl Baker, who committed yesterday.

2. Landing Baker was huge

Jemarl Baker’s commitment may not seem like a huge deal because he’s only a four-star, but he’s a player Kentucky desperately needs for next season. Baker is probably the best shooter of the remaining prospects, and although he may not be an elite guy like Kevin Knox, he’s still good and will be around for more than one year. Plus, he’s committed now, whereas Knox is going to wait until April 28 or May 1 to decide. Knox is an incredible talent, but waiting on him is a gamble Calipari can’t afford to make with so few shooters on next year’s roster.

3. Who else will join the class?

   

Obviously, Mohamed Bamba is priority #1, followed closely by Knox. Kentucky has offers out to Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith and Pitt transfer Cam Johnson as well. I think you can count on at least two of those five joining the squad, possibly three. If I had to put money on it (and I won’t because I’m not Drew), I’d go with Bamba and Johnson.

Speaking of Bamba and Knox…

4. Today is Media Day at the Jordan Brand Classic

Get ready to hear more from Bamba, Knox, Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington, because today is Media Day at the Jordan Brand Classic, the final high school all-star game of the season. KSR contributor Colleen Wagoner will be on the scene for us to bring you video of the future Cats, so keep an eye out.

5. Derek Willis heads to Portsmouth

Willis was selected to participate in the annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a pre-draft camp that features some of the best seniors in college basketball. The tournament actually starts today, but Willis’ team doesn’t play until tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Willis will play alongside Bryce Alford (UCLA), Jabari Bird (California), Matt Jones (Duke), Mangok Mathiang (Louisville), Erick McCree (Louisiana Tech), DeWayne Russell (Grand Canyon) and Steve Taylor Jr. (Toledo).

(Cue the Matt Jones jokes.)

If you missed it yesterday, Derek and Dom recapped the season in this video for KyWildcatsTV, and it’s great:

6. I can’t stop watching this video of a guy getting run over by a deer

A Canadian man was run over by a deer last weekend after getting out of a coworker’s car, but because it happened on April Fool’s Day (and, you know, who gets run over by a deer?), nobody believed him when he said it happened. Luckily, there was a security camera rolling, giving us the best viral deer video since that poor runner got tackled by one a few months ago.

Turns out the guy is a rapper and plans to write a song about the incident. Of course.

7. Drew Barker probably won’t play in the spring game

Friday night’s Spring Game is right around the corner, and yesterday, both Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw hinted that Drew Barker won’t play. Barker told reporters he’s 75-80% recovered from his back surgery, but the staff doesn’t want to take any chances. On the flip side, Barker said he’s on track to graduate from UK in August and will enroll in the MBA program, and although the temptation to be a grad transfer must be there considering Stephen Johnson’s success last season, Barker said he remains committed to staying at UK and winning his job back.

Barker’s journey at Kentucky hasn’t always been a smooth one, but as someone who helped him write the Drew Barker Diary for KSR back when he was in high school, I’m very proud of how he’s matured, especially after watching this video from yesterday’s media opp:

8. Speaking of quarterbacks, can Alabama please stay away from ours?

If you heard a collective groan across the Bluegrass last night, it’s because Kentucky’s 2018 QB commit Jarren Williams picked up an offer from Alabama:

Go away, Alabama. Seriously.

9. Get ready for the Spring Game with the KSR Football Podcast

Nick, Freddie, Drew, and Jared reunited yesterday at the iHeart Radio studios to bring you a special Spring Game edition of the KSR Football Podcast. It’s been too long since we’ve heard tales of the Versailles Kroger, Forrest Gump jokes, or Nick’s cheesy puns, so do yourself a favor and pull it up on the KSR feed on iTunes or the countless other podcasting services.

Need more? Mark Stoops will be on the radio show at 11:30 a.m. to get you ready for the Spring Game as only he can.

10. The Mavericks claimed DeAndre Liggins

Earlier this week, the Cavaliers waived Liggins, but he didn’t stay out there long. The Mavericks claimed Liggins yesterday and he’ll join fellow former Cat Nerlens Noel on the roster with one game left in the regular season. That’s right, the playoffs start this weekend, which means today is your last chance to see most of Kentucky’s best players in the league. More on that later today in the BBNBA roundup.

Until then, get some work done because the radio show starts in one hour. Remember, STOOPS at 11:30.


10 things you need to know about Jemarl Baker

10 things you need to know about Jemarl Baker

cal-baker

Earlier today, four-star shooting guard Jemarl Baker committed to Kentucky, becoming the seventh member of the Cats’ 2017 class (if you include Hamidou Diallo). By now, you probably know that Baker is a former Cal commit, but since he’s set to make his pledge official tomorrow on the first day of the spring signing period, let’s get to know all we can about him.

1. The Basics

Jemarl Baker
Shooting Guard | 6-4 | 180 lbs.
Eastvale, CA | Roosevelt High School
AAU: Earl Watson Elite
★★★★
ESPN No. 65 | 19 SG Top247 No. 119 | 22 SG
Rivals No. 80 Scout No. 87 | 20 SG

According to 247 Sports Composite, which averages all the major recruiting services, Baker is considered the 73rd best player in the 2017 class and the 16th best shooting guard. He’s a consensus four-star prospect, and with him, Kentucky’s 2017 class remains the best in the country, with a few major prospects still left on the board. Of course, everyone wants to land Mohamed Bamba, but the staff has offers out to three more shooters: Kevin Knox, Mark Smith, and Pitt transfer Cam Johnson. Between Baker and Smith, word is Baker was the staff’s first choice, but they’d like to land at least one of the three remaining guys. They will make room for shooters on this roster.

2. We should probably thank Cuonzo Martin for leaving Cal

Baker committed to Cal as a sophomore and was arguably the best player in Cal’s 2017 class, a player Cuonzo Martin planned to build his offense around; however, once Martin decided to leave Cal for Missouri last month, Baker asked for his release. Here’s the statement he gave Scout’s Josh Gershon:

I committed to Cal as a high school sophomore and signed with the Golden Bears last fall primarily based upon my close relationship with Cuonzo Martin and his ability to develop me not only as a player but also as a person.

Unfortunately that possibility no longer exists for me at Cal due to Coach (Cuonzo) Martin deciding to accept the Missouri job.

Due to those factors I just listed, I have decided to re-open my recruitment and explore all possible opportunities and options. This is in no way a reflection on Cal as an institution or program. Cal is a tremendous school with a historic basketball tradition.

I just feel that due to the current circumstances, I need to consider all my options. I appreciate people understanding the current situation I am in.

It didn’t take long for another Cal to come into the picture.

3. He only needed four days to take Calipari up on his offer

Baker came on the radar when he decommitted from Cal on March 28, and with the recruiting dead period ending on Thursday, John Calipari was in his living room in Los Angeles on Friday night. Cal extended a scholarship offer on that trip, and after taking the weekend to think about it, Baker accepted this morning, picking the Cats over Arizona, Maryland, Marquette, Oregon, Utah and Virginia. Duke also had interest.

4. He fills a huge void on next year’s team

Anyone can look at Kentucky’s roster for next season and tell you they need shooters; Baker fills that need. He led the Under Armour circuit with 41 threes this past season for Earl Watson Elite, and made 94 threes as a senior at Roosevelt High. On Earl Watson Elite, he averaged 16.8 points a game and was in the top 10 of scoring on the circuit; at Roosevelt, he averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

“Jemarl is the best shooter in the country,” Earl Watson Elite program director Ryan Silver told Scout. “He has a relentless work ethic and is a proven winner.”

Here he is in action:

5. Evan Daniels says he’s “exactly what Kentucky needed”

If there’s one analyst I trust in recruiting, it’s Evan Daniels, who told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts that Jemarl is just what Calipari needs to round out next season’s roster.

“Jemarl brings shooting to the table,” Daniels said. “I think that was what Kentucky’s recruiting class was missing. He’s a really good shooter off the catch, and he has good range and a quick release. He’s exactly what Kentucky needed.”

Plus, odds are he’ll be around for a few years, providing consistency at a crucial spot.

6. ESPN calls him a “willowy scorer”

Want more intel on Baker? Here’s ESPN Insider’s scouting report, which was updated today.

“Baker is a willowy scorer who has a feathery jump shot that extends out to 22-feet and his ball skills are tight. He can nail jump shots off the catch or convert it off his 2-dribble pull-up. He plays on balance and has remarkable savvy and poise for a player of his youth. In addition, he has the ability to slash his way to the rim and his body control is excellent.”

ESPN says that while Baker needs to get in the weight room (did Lynn Marshall write this?), he should still be considered one of the most elite shooting guards in the class.

7. His first name is pronounced “Jamal”

“Jemarl” is a pretty unique name, but according to Chris Fisher, it’s actually pronounced like “Jamal,” so just forget about that “r.” Don’t worry, UK assistant Joel Justus already got the “Baker” puns off to a fast start:

I have a feeling we’ll be using the 👨‍🍳 🍰 🎂 🍞 emojis a lot next season.

8. He loves Disneyland

Who doesn’t?

Happiest place on earth! ✨

A post shared by Jemarl Baker (@__jroc3__) on

9. He’s squared off vs. the Ball brothers several times

Looking for the next chapter in the Kentucky vs. the Ball family saga? Baker’s Roosevelt High plays the Balls’ Chino Hills regularly, and if you’ve watched one of LaMelo or LiAngelo’s many highlight reels, you’ve probably seen Baker. Back in December 2015, Baker dropped 30 points on Chino Hills, hitting 80% from the three-point line:

This past December, he and LaMelo got in another shootout, but Chino Hills ended up coming out on top.

10. He led his team to a state championship

While the Ball family was focused on other things, Baker helped lead Roosevelt to the CIF state Division I Championship. The win was an emotional one for Baker, who wrote this on Instagram afterwards:

A state championship and becoming a Kentucky Wildcat in the span of a few weeks? I don’t know how anyone could argue Baker’s not good enough now.


The KSR Football Podcast’s 2017 Spring Game Preview

We got the gang back together to discuss Spring Practice and preview Friday night’s Blue/White Game.  Drew, Jared, Freddie and Nick discuss all of the important stories from spring, sprinkled in with plenty of shenanigans, including:

—  Has Jared changed his mind about Dorian Baker?

—  It’s no longer Charles, it’s Chuck Walker.

—  Jared’s favorite player has “the touch of a baby gorilla.”

—  What did Drew do Sunday to get into trouble?

—  Clevan Thomas’ early impact.

—  Players you haven’t heard of that will shine in the Spring Game.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Jemarl Baker commits to Kentucky

jemarl-baker

John Calipari has a new guard from the Class of 2017 to help fill the huge vacancy left open in his backcourt.

According to Evan Daniels of Scout.com fame, Jemarl Baker has accepted his scholarship offer from Kentucky and will be a Wildcat next season.

Jemarl Baker
Shooting Guard | 6-4 | 180 lbs.
Eastvale, CA | Roosevelt High School
AAU: Earl Watson Elite
★★★★
ESPN No. 65 | 19 SG Top247 No. 119 | 22 SG
Rivals No. 80 Scout No. 87 | 20 SG

The former Cal-Berkeley signee told Daniels, “I’m honored and humbled by the experience and greatly appreciate coach Cal believing in my abilities. I work extremely hard and to see it paying off means the world to me. I know I’m going to be challenged and pushed every day by the coaching staff and it’s something I look forward to. I get to compete with some of the best players on a daily basis.”

Read the whole story here.


Kentucky’s 2017 Recruiting Board and Predictions

Kentucky’s 2017 Recruiting Board and Predictions

As John Calipari and his staff grind out the final stage of recruiting the Class of 2017, let’s take a look at the five names on the board with predictions for each prospect.

As many as three of the following names could join Quade Green, Shai Alexander, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards as new Wildcats from the class.

 


Mohamed Bamba
Power Forward/Center| 7-0 | 216 lbs.
New York, NY | Westtown
AAU: PSA Cardinals
★★★★★
ESPN No. 5 | 2 C Top247 No. 3 | 2 PF
Rivals No. 4 | 1 PF Scout No. 2 | 2 C

By now you know all about Mohamed Bamba. The five-star big man is as good as it gets when it comes to the physical tools of the game. He recently measured out with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and a 9-foot-6 standing reach, which would be the second longest in the NBA. He is a one-of-a-kind rim protector and one John Calipari would love to add to next year’s roster.

As for Kentucky’s chances, there is some noise around Texas and Duke right now, but some folks I’ve spoken to seem very confident he becomes a Wildcat. He is very close with Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo, and those relationships should help steer him to Lexington.

Considering: Duke, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas

Prediction: Kentucky

YouTube Video:

 

Kevin Knox
Small Forward | 6-8 | 195 lbs.
Tampa, FL | Tampa Catholic
AAU: E1T1
★★★★★
ESPN No. 7 | 2 SF Top247 No. 13 | 4 SF
Rivals No. 9 | 2 SF Scout No. 7 | 2 SF

While Bamba would make a great addition to UK’s class, Kevin Knox is more of a player of need. Knox is a versatile scorer on the wing, which is exactly what Kentucky lacks, and Calipari loves his game. Most believe he will eventually end up in the ACC, but Kentucky isn’t going down without a fight.

Knox will play in the Jordan Brand Classic this Friday night.  His father, Kevin Knox Sr., told T.J. Walker today he will make his final college decision on either April 28 or May 1, depending on national TV availability.

Considering: Duke, Florida State, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina

Prediction: North Carolina

YouTube Video:

 

Jemarl Baker
Shooting Guard | 6-4 | 180 lbs.
Eastvale, CA | Roosevelt High School
AAU: Earl Watson Elite
★★★★
ESPN No. 65 | 19 SG Top247 No. 119 | 22 SG
Rivals No. 80 Scout No. 87 | 20 SG

Jemarl Baker is one of three new names on the board as Calipari looks for help to rebuild his backcourt. Kentucky loses six guards from this past season and Baker, a former California commit, recently received a scholarship offer to fill one of those spots.

Baker released a list of nine schools he is considering, but he is reportedly leaning toward Kentucky. I expected to hear of a commitment over the weekend shortly after Calipari paid him a visit late last week.

Considering: Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Kentucky, Marquette, Maryland, Oregon, San Diego State, Utah

Prediction: Kentucky

YouTube Video:

 

smith Mark Smith
Guard | 6-5 | 225 lbs.
Edwardsville, IL | Edwardsville High School
AAU: Ramey Jets United
★★★★
ESPN NR Top247 No. 184 | 40 PG
Rivals No. 78 | Scout — | 35 SG

Mark Smith was the first of the new guys to pop up as a potential shooter on next year’s squad. Illinois’ Mr. Basketball is a hot name in recruiting right now (the Big Ten loves him) after he emerged as a basketball star in his senior season. He had previously been committed to play baseball at Missouri.

Michigan State is the presumed leader over Illinois and a handful of others, including Kentucky. Of the three backcourt players on UK’s radar, he likely ranks third on the priority list.

Considering: Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Missouri, Northwestern, Ohio State, Texas

Prediction: Michigan State

YouTube Video:

 

Cameron Johnson
Guard| 6-8 | 210 lbs.
Moon Township, PA | Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
TRANSFER from Pittsburgh

Rounding up the recruiting board is Cameron Johnson, a very attractive grad transfer out of Pittsburgh. Unlike most grad transfers, Johnson has two years of eligibility as long as he completes his graduation from Pitt this spring. He will be able to play immediately and UK would love to add him as a shooter. He shot 41.5 percent from outside on almost 300 attempts last season.

Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said there is “a good chance” he goes to Kentucky.

Considering: Arizona, Baylor, Florida, Iowa State, Kentucky, Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, TCU, Texas

Prediction: Kentucky

YouTube Video:


Eight Observations from Today’s Scrimmage

@UKFootball

@UKFootball

Stephen Johnson is the Real Deal

Johnson has done everything asked of him this offseason: gain weight, speed up his release and improve accuracy on intermediate throws.  Even though his unit had their worst 20 minutes of the spring earlier today, he did not shy away from the disappointing performance, he accepted responsibility.

The final unanswered question will remain unanswered.  No, we didn’t seem him throw the tight end dump out of the run-pass-option to C.J. Conrad for two reasons:

1. C.J. Conrad is wearing a red jersey, playing sparingly because of injury.
2. Run pass options aren’t LIVE in spring practice because they don’t want Stephen to get hurt, negating the live simulation that affects the timing of the route.

Regardless of circumstance, Johnson will get figured out over the next five months.

Don’t Doubt the D-Line

An easy target for “experts,” they showed they aren’t nothing to mess with during today’s scrimmage.  Focusing on penetration and aggressive play, they’re getting into the backfield and creating chaos as soon as the ball is snapped.

Naquez Pringle is evolving into a vocal leader, Adrian Middleton played exceptionally well, while the young guys — T.J. Carter and Kordell Looney — surprised on numerous occasions.  Carter’s pass deflection in coverage off a zone blitz proved he has the elite athleticism necessary to succeed in the SEC.

Believe the Hype: Clevan Thomas

I have a good feeling this No. 18 will live up to the number’s lofty expectations.  His body has changed in just a few short weeks on campus.  He’s sturdy in the middle of the field, unaffected by swarming defenders.  His hands attack every ball thrown his way, and there are a lot of balls thrown his way.  As the second team slot receiver, nobody was targeted more than Thomas.  He’ll play an important role this fall.

Buy Dorian Baker Stock

You’ve heard it before, but you’re going to hear it again.  Dorian Baker is back.  Deal with it.

It’s like a switch has gone off in his head.  There’s an aggressive aura surrounding the stoic personality.  It’s not just the way he’s attacking passes with his hands; it’s the way he’s separating from his opponent.  He didn’t win every ball against Chris Westry, but he did win a few in spectacular fashion.  More importantly, he’s making routine plays look routine.

Josh Allen is a Monster

Without Denzil Ware on the field, the defense didn’t skip a beat.  Allen was making plays all over the field.  He’s made plenty of tackles for loss in the past, but I was most encouraged by his ability to drop back into pass coverage.  Last year his reaction time was a half-second slow; now he’s much more comfortable.

More Rotation at Offensive Line

It’s hard to tell who will be John Schlarman’s first five on the field.  The first unit featured (from left to right) Mosier, Stenberg, Bunchy, Big George and Meadows.  However, that wasn’t the first team every time.  Pieces were constantly shifting, making it difficult to track throughout practice.  It will be interesting to see where the chips fall when he’s forced to pick starters at Southern Miss.

Sihiem King Brings Something Different

It’s been a long time since Kentucky had a running back that could consistently catch passes out of the backfield.  King does it well, and looks comfortable with the ball in his hands.  Previous “scat backs” were slated into that role simply because they were small running backs.  King plays with the confidence of an every down back, but with the skill set of an NFL scat back.

Run Defense Discipline

This was the best thing I saw today.  The biggest defensive emphasis all spring is starting to show on the field.

Last year Mike Edwards and Jordan Jones made a ton of tackles by scraping and making plays a few yards downfield.  That was not the case today.  The front seven read their keys well, and it wasn’t limited to the first string.  There was interior penetration and outside containment.  Benny Snell still found a few small holes, but he never got too far.  The greatest weakness on last year’s team may become a strength, thanks to the rush offense the defense battles every day in practice.


It was an “Awful” Day for Eddie Gran’s Offense: “I think they’re drinking some Kool-Aid, and it’s bad Kool-Aid.”

It was an “Awful” Day for Eddie Gran’s Offense: “I think they’re drinking some Kool-Aid, and it’s bad Kool-Aid.”

gran-ksr

“We sucked.”

Stephen Johnson’s blunt description of the offense’s performance during the 20-minute scrimmage of this morning’s practice is accurate.  Eddie Gran minced no words to describe the way his offense finished practice No. 12.

“They were awful,” the offensive coordinator said.  “They whipped us.  I don’t know what else to say.  Their 11 whipped our 11.  For an hour and a half today we whipped them.  For the last twenty, we got smoked.”

The scrimmage started with a few disruptive plays from the Kentucky defensive line.  After a few tackles for loss, the defensive sideline was energized.  They weren’t just talking smack, they were screaming, feeding off one another to create insurmountable momentum.  Gran was extremely disappointed, calling it “an absolute joke.”

“I think they’re drinking some Kool-Aid, and it’s bad Kool-Aid and I gotta get ’em to quit drinking it,” Gran said.

When the tide was starting to turn and the defense began jawing, Gran was hoping to see somebody take charge of the offense.  Instead of fighting to get out of the hole, nobody answered the call.  “I’m looking for somebody to be that guy.  I’m looking for those people and I didn’t hear a word,” Gran said.

Stephen Johnson let the blame fall on his shoulders.  “It’s all on me.  This is my offense.  This is my team.  I have to be able to bring our guys up when we’re in a little lull like that.  That’s really all on me.”

The offense has two practices to turn things around before the spring season culminates in Friday’s Blue/White Game at Commonwealth Stadium.  Eddie Gran knows how to solve the problem:

“It’s time to drink new Kool-Aid.”


Meet Boss, Freddie's newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

The Depth Chart Podcast: “The Paradigm has Shifted.”

Meet Boss, Freddie's newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

Meet Boss, Freddie’s newest Jack Kain Ford F-250.

“Kentucky is a no longer a basketball state, it’s a football state.”  It’s a ludicrous statement, but not as ludicrous as Freddie Maggard’s use of the word “paradigm,” especially when you look at the talent on the high school level.  In the 2019 class (juniors-to-be) there are six Top 250 players in the country, already with an offer sheet that includes every traditional college football powerhouse.

Kentucky’s winningest high school football coach, Philip Haywood of Belfry, joined the program to discuss the evolution of talent around the Commonwealth.  He also shared stories about future Wildcat Austin Dotson and much more.  There’s also plenty from Spring Football, including:

— Red jerseys didn’t exist when Freddie played.

— A game of over/under from last year’s stats.

— Dorian Baker’s pre-senior year progression.

— Freddie refuses to accept that Burgoo is delicious.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Malik Monk wins the Jerry West Award

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Tonight, the National Basketball Hall of Fame announced Malik Monk as the winner of the Jerry West Award. The award is annually given to the nation’s best shooting guard. The award was first given in 2015, when Ohio State’s DeAngelo Russell won. Last season, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield won the award. This year, Monk beat out other finalists, Luke Kennard, Peter Jok, Marcus Foster and Bryce Alford.

The award puts a cap on what will go down as a historic career for Malik Monk. Monk finished the season averaging 19.8 ppg, with most of those coming on 104 threes. Monk’s explosive performances this season will forever be engrained in Kentucky fans’ heads. Congrats to Malik on what will not be the last of awards to come.

 


REVIEW: The Calipari 30 for 30 will make even his haters think twice

REVIEW: The Calipari 30 for 30 will make even his haters think twice

Screen_Shot_2017_02_02_at_10.07.54_PM.0

[Ed. note: ESPN’s 30 for 30 on John Calipari, “One and Not Done,” debuts next Thursday, April 13 at 9 p.m. on ESPN, but I was able to get my hands on an advanced copy. After viewing it last night, here are my thoughts.]

There are a lot of people in this world that don’t like John Calipari; as a Kentucky fan, odds are you’ve encountered a lot of them in the last eight years.

“Cal’s a cheater!” they say. “Look at what he did at UMass and Memphis!”

“How does it feel to make a deal with the devil?” a Georgia fan had the audacity to ask me a few months ago. “It’s only a matter of time, isn’t it?”

I’ve learned that defending Calipari to his haters is useless because, at this point, their perception of him has hardened into rock. Even after reaching the pinnacle of his career, Calipari remains the most polarizing figure in college basketball, which is why ESPN’s 30 for 30 on him is so fascinating. “One and Not Done” chronicles Calipari’s career from his upbringing as the son of blue collar parents and the grandson of Italian immigrants to his induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame, but the part that was most interesting to me was Calipari’s rise from a junior counselor at Five-Star Basketball Camp to his first head coaching job at UMass. That’s always been a time Calipari talks about fondly, but director Jonathan Hock uses testimonies from Cal’s friends, colleagues, former players, and yes, enemies, to bring it to life. I can’t share specifics from the film, but what struck me most was how Cal’s peers described his relentless ambition, which sometimes, as even he admits, got out of control. I’m paraphrasing here, but as one of Calipari’s mentors says, what makes Cal so great is that if you lock a bunch of people in a dark room and throw away the key, he’ll be the first to find a way out.

By now, you know all about Calipari’s career, so you should be familiar with most of the ground the documentary covers (the never-before-seen footage and pictures are awesome); however, Hock’s biggest achievement is exploring how Cal is perceived in the public eye. He sheds light on the parts of Cal’s life and career that most may not know about (or choose to ignore) while balancing it with the chorus of criticism Cal has received throughout. The documentary includes several of Calipari’s former players and friends, but also former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who serves almost as a reminder of those Cal has burned along the way. You can hear echoes of Cal’s enemies in Calhoun’s voice as he recalls Cal blazing the recruiting trail at UMass, and through interviews with others, sense the struggle many coaches had in dealing with an up and comer who, for lack of a better phrase, gave no f—s. That chip on Cal’s shoulder may be covered in $3,000 Italian wool now, but watching and hearing about how sharp it was back in the day tells you a lot about the man he is today and why he’s been so successful AND controversial.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 12.31.11 PM

The documentary spends plenty of time on the Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose ordeals, the crux of any Calipari hater’s arguments; Hock does a good job of painting both of those stories in a responsible light through interviews with Cal, Camby, Rose, and those who covered UMass and Memphis at the time. After watching it, it seems pretty clear to me that Cal had no knowledge of either of the trespasses, but that will probably do little to deter those who have spent decades believing otherwise. More interesting to me will be what those people say after viewing the part about Cal’s relationship with William Wesley, aka World Wide Wes, which actually began when Wes sought him out to coach his nephew, Dajuan Wagner, at Memphis. Again, I can’t talk specifics, but that interaction laid the foundation for not only Calipari and Wes’ relationship for years to come, but Cal’s selfless approach to players going to the NBA. Wagner’s story is one I wasn’t familiar with, and even to those who hate Cal the most, humanizes his philosophy. That story is echoed in all of the stars Cal’s coached: Camby, Rose, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns, Devin Booker, who all speak during the documentary. By now, we know why Cal encourages players to chase their dream, even if it comes at the expense of his own success; this documentary shows that side of him to the world.

My final takeaway from the 30 for 30 is this: John Calipari blazed a path for himself in this industry and didn’t care about making friends along the way. However, when it all comes down to it, he does care about validation, which makes the end of the documentary so powerful. As Cal’s former players gather around him on stage at the Hall of Fame induction, it’s hard not to be moved. By now, the harshest of his critics can’t argue with his success, and those who hate him? After seeing this documentary, they can’t help but soften, even if they won’t admit it.


Breaking down Kentucky’s new options at shooting guard

Breaking down Kentucky’s new options at shooting guard

smith-baker-johnson

With the recruiting dead period over, John Calipari is hard at work to fill in Kentucky’s holes at shooting guard for next season. So far, we know Cal has offered Mark Smith and Pitt transfer Cam Johnson, and he’s expected to extend another offer to Jemarl Baker in Los Angeles today. Once all the offers are out, who will commit first to fill the spots? Let’s break down each target.

Mark Smith

Combo guard | 6’5″ 225 | Edwardsville, Illinois | 2016-17 averages: 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds

Smith focused on baseball for most of his high school career, but an elbow injury last year forced him to hang up his spikes and pick up his sneakers. A year later, Smith won Illinois Mr. Basketball after a monster senior year and picked up a scholarship offer from John Calipari yesterday. At 6’5″ 225 lbs., Smith is similar to the Harrison Twins in terms of size, and can bully to the rim while shooting it consistently from the outside.

Smith has offers from Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Kansas State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Kentucky, and Michigan State. He’s expected to visit Michigan State this weekend.


Jemarl Baker

Shooting guard | 6’4″ 180 | Los Angeles, California | 2016-17 averages: 17.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds | 2016-17 shooting averages: 39% FG, 34% 3PT, 78% FT

Calipari is traveling to Los Angeles today to visit former Cal signee Jemarl Baker, who was released from his letter of intent after Cuonzo Martin left to take the job at Mizzou. Maryland, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, Duke, Marquette, Virginia, and Arizona State are also interested in Baker, and he’ll likely pick up a scholarship offer from Calipari tonight.


Cam Johnson

Guard | 6’8″ 210 | Moon Township, Pennsylvania | 2016-17 averages: 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists | 2016-17 shooting averages: 44.7% FG, 41.5% 3PT, 81.1% FT

This morning, we found out that Kentucky has offered the ex-Pitt guard, who is a redshirt sophomore, but will graduate from Pitt this spring. Johnson can play right away and will have two years of eligibility remaining, and although Calipari spoke out against grad transfers recently, it’s worth pointing out that Johnson’s coming from a school in a major conference, not a mid-major. Plus, he’s from Cal’s hometown of Moon Township and Cam’s dad played at Pitt while Calipari was an assistant there in the late 80’s.

Johnson is most similar to Kevin Knox, and if Knox goes elsewhere, he’d be more than a consolation prize. Of the three options at shooting guard right now, I may want Johnson most because he’s got two solid seasons of experience at the college level.

So, what happens? My guess is Cal takes whichever guard commits first between Baker and Smith, and Johnson if he misses on Knox, who is scheduled to announce his decision in the coming weeks. But what happens if Johnson wants to go ahead and make his decision?