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John Calipari’s kindness toward Joe B. Hall “extends his life.”

Joe B. Hall was either an assistant or head coach at Kentucky from 1965-1985, and he played as a Wildcat from 1948 to 1949. He took the Cats to three Final Fours in his coaching career and won a National Championship in 1978. Needless to say, his time in Lexington was a major success.

After retiring, however, Hall felt a bit distant from the school he had such a strong passion for.

In an interview with Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader, the legendary coach said current UK coach John Calipari has gone above and beyond to bring him back to the school and make him feel part of the Kentucky family.

Enter John Calipari in 2009. He welcomed Hall back. He reminded the BBN about Hall’s contributions. He joked about Hall’s (unpaid) advice in practices. Maybe not so coincidentally, the crowd roared louder than ever whenever Hall appeared on the Rupp Arena video boards or came to center court, more recently with the aid of a cane, to do the “Y” in the K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y cheer.

“He really did a great job of encouraging me to come to practice,” Hall said of Calipari. “And he stayed close to me, and kept me a part of the program.”

When asked what this kindness meant to him, Hall said simply, “Everything.”

Former Cat and current Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Calipari’s kindness and inclusion has helped prolong and add quality to Hall’s life.

“It extends his life . . . (Hall) perks up,” he said. “He may not ever admit it but, believe me, it adds so many more years.”

Hall told Tipton the attention he receives from Calipari and the Big Blue Nation at Rupp Arena and around Lexington is very much appreciated.

After a pause, he added, “I’m at that age where you appreciate that attention. It’s an age where you’re not that useful, but you appreciate someone thinking you are. So that’s a good feeling.”

Tipton’s article also goes on to discuss Calipari’s giving heart and the former coaches he has developed relationships with at UMass and Memphis.

Jack Leaman, former Massachusetts coach, and Gene Bartow, former Memphis coach, were the two figures Calipari connected with the most and did whatever he could to pick their brains to learn the art of coaching basketball. Both of them have since passed away, Leaman in 2004 and Bartow in 2012, but their respective families couldn’t be more appreciative of the time and effort Coach Cal put in to develop lifelong friendships with both of them.

“It was a relationship that just took off,” Rita Leaman, widow of Jack, said. “It was just wonderful for Jack. He felt still very much a part of UMass basketball even though he was no longer the coach. John makes a lot of people feel that way.”

“When my dad got stomach cancer, John was just incredible,” Bartow’s son, Murry, said. “As his son, I’m just emotional thinking about it. That friendship has meant a great deal to our family.”

For someone that has done so much good for the school in such a short period of time, it’s still incredible to see what John Calipari does behind closed doors and the impact he makes on so many individuals.

Read the rest of Tipton’s excellent article here.


UK Football lands another Australian punter

UK Football lands another Australian punter

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi! Kentucky just landed a commitment from another Australian punter, Max Duffy.

The 24-year-old former professional Australian rules football player is considered the number one punter in the 2018 class by ProKicker.com. Number two? Chance Poore, who has pledged to kick for Kentucky next season:

Duffy will follow in the footsteps of fellow Aussie Matt Panton, who came to Kentucky as a graduate transfer from Columbia earlier this year. Duffy most recently played for the Fremantle Football Club in Australia, but has been training to become an NFL kicker with the help of Prokick Australia, who announced the news:

Here are videos of Duffy punting earlier this year:

And videos of him playing Australian rules football:

And showing off his house in Fremantle after the 2012 Australian National Draft:

Welcome aboard, Max.


Benny Snell’s Historic Sophomore Season

Congratulations.  You just witnessed one of the greatest seasons EVER by a Kentucky running back, arguably the best ever.

In just his second season in the Bluegrass, Benny Snell Jr. has rewritten the Kentucky football record book.  The powerful, persistent running back fought for every single yard, no matter the circumstance.  A player fans are proud to call their own accomplished feats few at Kentucky have ever done before him.

Snell finished the season with 1,318 yards and 18 touchdowns on 256 carries, good for 5.15 yards per career and 109.8 yards per game. Snell led the SEC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, a feat only three other UK running backs have accomplished since 1956: Artose Pinner (2002), Moe Williams (1995) and Sonny Collins (1973).

Snell’s 1,318 yards ranked third among Kentucky single-season totals and it’s the most yards since Pinner’s 1,414-yard season in ’02. Snell became the first Kentucky running back to every rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.  Only two other SEC running backs have recorded more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in their first two seasons, Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno.

Snell shattered Kentucky’s single-season rushing touchdown record and in the process became the school’s career-leader in rushing touchdowns.  He also set a new record for points scored in a season with 110.  Snell is now just 1,427 yards away from passing Sonny Collins as UK’s all-time leading rusher.

There aren’t records for touchdown celebrations, but if there were, he would own those too.

The Heel Click

The “I Told You So”

“L’s Down” No Matter What

The “HOLD ME!”

There’s no denying Snell’s greatness.  What makes his 2017 accomplishments even more remarkable is how he did it and who he was surrounded by.

In 2016 Benny had Boom Williams, a complementary running back that could lighten his load and change up the pace to throw off defenses.  Williams had 171 carries last year; this year Sihiem King, Lynn Bowden and A.J. Rose combined for 97 total carries.  Snell had 70 more carries than a year ago, but was never fazed.

Snell carried a heavier load with a much larger target.  A mysterious freshman that surprised 2016 opponents became the focal point of the scouting report for Kentucky’s 2017 opponents.  To make matters worse, Kentucky’s offense struggled to keep defenses honest without Jeff Badet and a consistent deep passing threat.  Stephen Johnson was formidable, but he could not stretch out defenses, allowing opponents to stack the box at their leisure.  Still, Snell could not be stopped.

That wasn’t all the adversity Snell was forced to face.  In the preseason his best run blocker and the second-largest player on the team, left tackle Cole Mosier, tore his ACL and was forced to miss the entire season.  Coming off an All-SEC junior year, Nick Haynes was poised for another superb season.  Instead, the offensive line’s captain lost 40 pounds due to Type II diabetes complications and did not play for half a season.  Still, Snell persisted until the offensive line figured it out.

Snell’s sophomore season was one of the best Kentucky fans have ever seen, maybe the best ever.   Luckily, it’s not the last we’ll see from Snell in a Kentucky uniform.


Calipari references Trae Young on Jim Harbaugh’s podcast

Calipari references Trae Young on Jim Harbaugh’s podcast

Last December, Jim Harbaugh came on John Calipari’s podcast, and this week, Calipari returned the favor. Cal is a guest on the Michigan head coach’s “Attack Each Day” podcast, and spent about 30 minutes chatting about his team, the recruiting process, and how annoyed Cal was that Harbaugh met the Pope before did.

The conversation includes a lot of Calipari-isms we’ve heard before, but one interesting part came towards the beginning when Cal dropped a reference to Trae Young, the point guard he once coveted most in last year’s class. Young went to Oklahoma and scored 43 points vs. Oregon on Sunday night.

“Tell me what kind of program you want to be in,” Cal said of how he talks to families on in-home visits. “Tell me how you want to play or be coached. And through the questioning, sometimes I look and say, this is not going to work. Now, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong in not coming to Kentucky. There’s a kid that’s father wanted him to shoot every ball and I said, we just don’t do that here. Well, he’s gone to a school and he had 40 last night as a freshman. The most in 20 years. Well, that may have been right for their son.”

Hmm. Calipari also details the grueling process he’s going through with this team right now, including how he recently played a trick on one of his players during a film session. Classic Cal, so listen to the podcast below. He comes on around the 11-minute mark.


Mark Stoops Addresses “Chaos” Kentucky Displayed vs. Louisville

Mark Stoops usually does not attend his final call-in show.  After Kentucky created chaos in the Governor’s Cup, Stoops set the recruiting aside for an extra day to reassure the Big Blue Nation that they will not see anything like that ever again.

“There’s really no excuse.  There was some things that had to be said.  There was no excuse for the way of the things played out.  I was not very proud of it.  Our team has represented this university by and large very good.  We have some guys doing some great things. The negative stuff and the way we played and the way we represented the university at times Saturday, I was not very proud of it.  That needed to be addressed.

“We had a good long meeting today.  I think we definitely hit home on some things that we needed to do.  I needed to have some individual meetings with some players yesterday and today, got a lot done and got some things back on track.  I don’t anticipate any lingering effects at all.”

Stoops did not elaborate on specifics from the team meeting other than, “that went as good as possible.”  He also met individually with Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware and other players.  They will be disciplined internally.  If the players meet the requirements set by Stoops, they’ll be eligible to return for the bowl game.

Jones and Ware were not alone.  Their actions coincided with Nick Haynes’ complaint about a young staffer, a grievance the senior team captain aired publicly on Twitter about 12 hours prior to kickoff.  From the outside, the Kentucky football team looked like a mess.  Mark Stoops shared a different perspective.

“You’d be silly to think that everything is peachy and perfect all the time and that everybody’s always happy.  You have 110 kids.  There’s a lot of egos in the room, but our team cares about each other.  Nick cares about his team.

“Sometimes there’s things that linger, sometimes kids handle it one way or the other, but to think that everybody in that locker room is completely and perfectly happy with the way the season went for them…I wouldn’t expect them to be.  But there’s absolutely zero issue.  There never has been.

Stoops has often been defensive when backed into a corner.  At the end of tonight’s show he deviated from the norm and tried to inspire the fan base with this three-minute monologue:

“We accept it all.  I know people get tired of it, but what else are you gonna do?  We own it and do the very best we can.  I’m proud of this team and so many good things they do off the field.  I’m not trying to cover that (bad) stuff up, but it’s like– Courtney Love and the stories and the people, Stephen Johnson and the things they’re doing are amazing.

“By and large we’ve represented the university the right way.  We’re gonna go back to work to do that because we care.  We care about this fan base.  We care about the way we represent the university.  I love this team.  I’m not proud of their actions at times, especially this past Saturday, but I’m proud of the growth they’ve made in so many areas. And I really appreciate doing this show with you, the callers, I appreciate the media and the fan base.  You want the expectations high.  You want to deliver.  More so than the expectations, you want to deliver.  I take great pride in that and we’re going to work extremely hard to get that done.

“We’ve knocked down some doors.  We’ve gained on some people.  We’ve improved in so many areas and we’re gonna keep on going.  There’s so much turmoil, there’s so much chaos, there’s so much bad stuff out there.  I’m proud of the good things we did.  The bad stuff and the areas we need to improve, we’re going to do it and we need everybody to do it.  I know I said that at the day one press conference and I say it now: it takes all of us to get this done, to win in the SEC

“…We need everybody.  We need this fan base. Don’t get discouraged and disgruntled.  I promise ya, we’ll get our arms around this.  The chaos that went on Saturday, we’ll get it straightened out.  This is a team that cares.  They’re fun and they’re passionate.  We’ll get back to our winning ways.  Where ever this bowl game is, we’re going to go there and represent you the right way and play hard and have some fun and win this football game.  I greatly appreciate ya and I can’t wait to  see ya at the bowl site.”


Mark Stoops Explains Why Jordan Jones Re-entered the Louisville Game

Jordan Jones drew the ire of Kentucky fans for his actions in Saturday’s Governor’s Cup.

The Kentucky linebacker started a sideline skirmish in the first quarter with Lamar Jackson that got dozens of players involved.  Then in the second half, Jones committed unnecessary roughness penalties on consecutive plays for late hits.  Jones was sent to the sideline immediately after, but returned to action later in the game.

Mark Stoops explained on tonight’s call-in show that Jones returned because his replacement, Eli Brown, was injured.  The only other option at that time was to pull a redshirt on freshman Jamin Davis.  “There wasn’t really a lot of options at that point,” he said.

“At that point you really feel like you’re letting other people down.  Honestly the easy thing to do is keep him on the sidelines when the game is out of hand at that point…I didn’t want to pull a redshirt off another guy that had been rapping with us.  That’s not fair to the redshirt kid, obviously.”

In Stoops’ eyes, going back into the game after he was publicly disciplined was more shameful than staying on the sideline.

“For him, it’s actually more painful for him to go in after he’s been disciplined like that and talked to and embarrassed, to go back and play than it is to sit on the bench.

“The good things you do and the bad things you do, they’re going to be visible. You own them. There’s no excuse for what he did and the way he acted.  He’s embarrassed by it and doesn’t like it.  He’s worked hard to do a lot of good things, but putting him back in would’ve penalized more people if I left him on the bench.”

Earlier this year at South Carolina, Jones was injured and unavailable to play.  When Eli Brown went down with an injury, Boogie Watson played one snap at the goal line and made a tackle.  When Jones was able to return to action a few weeks later, Watson returned to his original position at outside linebacker where he’s remained since.

Stoops said Jones will not be suspended for any portion of the bowl game, unless Jones fails to complete the requirements set forth by the head coach at today’s one-on-one meeting.

“It would be easy for me to dismiss him and move on,” he said. “But that’s not the business we’re in.  That’s the easy way to go.  The hard thing is for me to continue to develop and grind and have him be accountable and make him the person and the player that he can be.  That’s what you struggle with as a coach. Sometimes in this day and age, we want to just move on and dismiss people too easy. I can’t do that. I’ve gotta just keep on working.”


Calipari on low attendance: “I get it”

The crowd in the upper deck of the Vermont game on November 12

There were plenty of empty seats at Rupp Arena last night, and while it’s easy to pinpoint the reasons why, there’s no denying that attendance this season is down. Through six home games, Kentucky’s attendance at Rupp has dropped almost 15% from last year’s average of 23,461. Even if you compare the numbers to six of the first seven home games last season (I omitted UCLA because it’s a marquee opponent), attendance is down 10%.

Average attendance through six home games in 2017-18: 20,092

  • Utah Valley: 19,807
  • Vermont: 20,174
  • ETSU: 20,168
  • Troy: 19,548
  • Fort Wayne: 20,645
  • UIC: 20,212

Last year (omitted UCLA because it’s a marquee opponent): 22,265

  • SFA: 22,683
  • Canisius: 22,009
  • Duquesne: 21,327
  • Cleveland State: 22,441
  • UT-Martin: 23,324
  • Valparaiso: 21,805

We’ve discussed the reasons why attendance is down this year ad nauseam: weak non-conference home schedule, terrible timing (Friday and Sunday games are not ideal), increase in student ticket prices, the convenience of watching on TV at home, and a general decline in interest in this year’s very young squad. When asked about it last night, John Calipari said he’s noticed the trend, but pointed out Kentucky still has the highest home attendance in the country (they’ve led the nation 19 of the past 22 seasons).

“Sunday at six,” Cal said when asked why there were a lot of empty seats last night. “TV. This is a fun team to watch and I think people will — they will come here. Our attendance is down and it’s really sad because we’re No. 1 in the country in attendance and — we’re No. 1 in the country in attendance. It’s kind of like you guys saying to me, ‘Cal, you only won by 22, can you tell me what’s wrong with the Cats?’ I think people will jump in and do it. And some of it is students — Sunday night. I’m not — we have a large student section and I think they’re trying to do something with some of the student tickets. But I get it. I mean there’s some games I don’t feel like coming and I got to come here anyway, geez.”

He echoed those comments on the radio a few minutes later.

“[The media] said we’re having low attendance. Attendance hasn’t been as high. Well, you’re right. We’re No. 1 in the country in attendance, we’re just not as high as we’ve been. That’s kind of like when we win by 16 and you people are mad we don’t win by 25. We’re No. 1 in attendance. And there are games I don’t feel like coming to, so I get it. The issue with us is never going to be our fans. That’s the strength of this program.”

Hopefully as the schedule levels out and conference play approaches, the numbers will go up. As Calipari said, this team is fun, and you really can see them progress from game to game.


I’m still mad about Saturday

Saturday was the first time I’ve ever been ashamed of a Kentucky team.

Over my thirty-or-so years as a fan, there have been times I’ve been angry, upset, or disappointed in teams, yes; but Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware, and, to some extent, Mark Stoops’ actions during Saturday’s game left me so disgusted I needed a cooling off period before writing about it. Even though the past 48 hours have included a feel-good basketball win and more drama in Knoxville than we could ever dream of, I’m still mad. Never before has a Kentucky team done something to make me say, ‘You know what? If this is what it’s going to be like, I don’t want any part of it.’ I can take being outmatched, I can take bad breaks or even bad luck, but I can’t take bad behavior.

Jones’ fight with Lamar Jackson wasn’t even the worst part of Saturday, although it was pretty bad. We can argue for hours over who started it — Jones butted Jackson’s shoulder, prompting the shove that really got it going — but Jones took it too far when he went for Lamar around the middle after being knocked down by Malik Williams; that turned what should have ended as a shove fest into an all-out on the ground brawl. The fact that Jones’ teammates rushed in sequester him, with Josh Allen going as far to pull Jackson out of the melee, tells you all you need to know: Jones cannot control his temper, and his teammates know it.

But again, this was not the worst part. While all of that was going on, Denzil Ware, a team leader, pushed Louisville offensive lineman Geron Christian with a trash can. An actual trash can.

Obviously, a plastic trash can wasn’t going to do any physical harm to a giant man dressed in pads and a helmet, but the act itself is, for lack of a better word, trashy, and the fact that Ware seemed to show no remorse afterwards, joking about it on Twitter, is telling. Simply put, as a Kentucky fan, it’s hard to swallow behavior we’re used to seeing from Louisville, and it’s impossible to defend it when we’ve spent hours mocking it from the other side. Keep in mind, Jones and Ware aren’t freshmen. They’re juniors and they should know better, and if they don’t, their coach definitely should, which brings me to my next point, the most egregious of all.

Both Lamar Jackson and Jordan Jones should have been ejected from the game for fighting. Instead, they were given unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. While Jackson held his composure throughout the rest of the game, Jones did not. Jones shoved Lamar Thomas for slapping hands and talking to Jackson after the fight, got back-to-back unnecessary roughness penalties in the third quarter, and was essentially a side show, pacing the sidelines and shouting at coaches in the huddle. Jones was a major distraction, but instead of putting an end to it and sending him to the locker room, Mark Stoops kept him in the game.

Afterwards, Stoops said Jones’ conduct bothered him “to the core” and he doesn’t want it to represent the university, but actions speak louder than words. Instead of setting an example to the rest of the team that this type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, Stoops showed them that it would. Even though he described Jones’ behavior as “selfish,” keeping Jones out there was the most selfish act of all. Maybe Nick Haynes was trying to tell us something on Friday night. Lack of discipline early on in a coach’s tenure is forgivable; in year five, it’s alarming.

I am far from an insider as to what’s going on with this program; however, as a fan, when the team I love starts acting like punks, I can’t just sit idly by. Losing to Louisville is bad enough, but losing like that? That’s just salt in the wound.


Adidas says evidence shows Pitino was “aware and supported” pay for play

Adidas has asked a federal judge to drop Rick Pitino’s lawsuit, arguing Pitino was well aware of the funny business happening in the recruitment of five-star guard Brian Bowen. Adidas says Pitino was “both aware and supported” the pay-for-play scheme, which is why Pitino’s lawsuit against Adidas should be dismissed immediately.

Pitino has long maintained he had ZERO knowledge of any payment to the Bowen family in Bowen’s recruitment. Now with Adidas testifying Pitino was aware and supportive, he may finally be exposed for his involvement and blatant lying when asked about it.

Pitino is going to regret his lawsuit against Adidas, should more evidence come out that directly implicates him.

WDRB has the full story here.


UK vs. UIC Recap: The Blowout We’ve Been Waiting For

UK vs. UIC Recap: The Blowout We’ve Been Waiting For

After yesterday’s football debacle, an easy basketball win was exactly what the doctor ordered. Kentucky cruised over University of Illinois-Chicago by a score of 107-73 tonight to give John Calipari his 700th win. Four Cats had career highs: Kevin Knox with 25 points, Hamidou Diallo 19, PJ Washington 17, and Shai Alexander 14.

That was really fun, so let’s talk about it.

The offense was GOOD

Yes, the opponent was UIC, but Kentucky’s offense looked the best it has all season tonight. The Cats shot 66.7% from the floor, well above their 48% average coming in. It was a balanced affair, with six Cats finishing in double figures.

“Everything they did was very sharp, very crisp offensively,” UIC head coach Steve McClain said afterwards, noting that UK looked much better than they did in the tape he watched. “It created problems for us all over the place.”

After seeing this team go through scoring droughts, tonight’s shooting was one of many welcome sights, along with some really impressive ball movement.

Kevin Knox led the way

Knox was easily the best player on the floor tonight, putting up 25 points off 9-13 shooting and 7-10 from the charity stripe. Knox scores with incredible ease, and is doing more of what Calipari wants: driving instead of settling for threes.

“You can see I’m starting to figure out Kevin,” Cal said. “Putting him in spots where he can make baskets.”

The more I watch Kevin Knox play, the more thankful I am he chose Kentucky instead of Duke. His versatility is what could make Kentucky a contender come March.

Hamidou Diallo had two SportsCenter Top 10 worthy dunks

Diallo’s career-high 19 points included two monster dunks that could end up on SportsCenter tonight:

Good luck stopping Diallo in the lane. When he plays like that, he’s unstoppable.

PJ Washington was a bully again

After a rough start to the season, we got a glimpse of the PJ Washington we’ve all been waiting for. Washington had a career-high 17 points off 6-7 from the floor and 5-7 from the line to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Most importantly, he bulled his way to the basket with a confidence that hopefully snowballs after tonight’s performance. I was really happy to see that PJ tonight.

UIC’s coach looks a lot like Pat Riley

If you did a double take when you looked at UIC’s bench, you’re not alone. The Flames’ head coach Steve McClain looks like a mid-major Pat Riley, or maybe Michael Douglas’ cousin. The resemblance really is striking.

Turnovers

The one thing you can nitpick tonight? Quade Green had four turnovers, three in the first half. After the game, Calipari admitted he’s being very hard on Green right now in order to force him out of his comfort zone.

“I’m all over Quade,” Cal said, comparing it to the process he went through with Marquis Teague early on in the 2011-12 season. “I told him after the game, who am I on the most? Quade. I’m trying to get him to play a way he’s not playing yet.”

Quade still had 12 points (including two threes), six rebounds, four assists, and one heck of a SEC Network stare down:

The schedule slows down considerably

Let’s be blunt: this month has sucked. With seven games in 16 days, this team was thrown into the fire with very little time to absorb any of the lessons they were given; now, with only five games in the month of December and a week between each one, they can finally learn. Calipari said he’s giving the team the next two days off, then it’s back in the gym.

“We basically have seven days of practice, finally, to where we can try to get better and I can try to focus on some areas that I know we got to get better at and I can try to focus on some areas that I know we got to get better at.”

I think Calipari spoke for us all when he said he’s happy things are slowing down a bit.

“We all need a break, I need a break. So going into a little break, I’ll probably do a little recruiting here in the next couple days, but they don’t need to see me and I’m kind of happy I’m not seeing them, how about that?”

Preach. What a bizarre and brutal month.

You can see progress

A blowout of a 2-2 team shouldn’t have you booking your room in San Antonio for the Final Four, but tonight’s win was a nice reminder that this group is making progress. They may not be where Calipari’s other teams were at this point in the season, but they have made definite strides in the right direction.

“This was the closest we’ve played to a 40-minute basketball game this year,” Cal said. “That’s the best we’ve played. That’s by far the best we’ve played. We were efficient, we passed the ball, we made shots. We took one bad shot — Kevin Knox took one in the first half, a step back — short of that, I don’t think we took a bad shot.”

After a rough 24 hours, what a nice way to end the weekend.


Player breakdown from Kentucky’s 107-73 victory over UIC

Kentucky fans begged for it, and they finally got it: 40 minutes of complete basketball from the Wildcats.

And boy did they put on a show.

Six different Wildcats reached double-digits, and five Cats managed career-highs in points. They had their most efficient game of the season, shooting 66.7% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. Ball movement was great, they made smart decisions in transition, and they converted on the easy baskets. Overall, this team is taking impressive steps forward in the last few games.

Let’s break this thing down:

Kevin Knox is developing into a superstar before our very eyes

In the first few games of the season, Knox was cold as ice shooting the ball. Other players stepped up in his absence to help pull out victories, but we were still waiting for the lightbulb to go off for Calipari’s prized freshman.

Under the bright lights at the Champions Classic against Kansas, a star was born. Knox was able to knock down huge shots from beyond the arc and prove why he was so highly touted out of high school. Ever since then, he’s been a superstar.

Tonight, the 6’9 freshman finished with a career-high 25 points on 9-13 shooting. He also managed two rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal, along with seven made free throws on the night.

His jumper was falling, he was converting on tough mid-range floaters, he finished dunks in transition, etc. His versatility proved to be one of the difference-makers for the Cats tonight, just like it will be in March. Just like Justin Jackson for UNC last season, Knox’s ability to finish over just about any defender you throw at him will be impossible to stop. If other players continue to find their footing and contribute, this will be a deadly basketball team before we know it.

Hamidou Diallo was exactly who we thought he could be

When you get an athlete like Hamidou Diallo to commit to your school, you expect dominating performances to occur every once and a while.

Tonight, that’s exactly what we saw.

In transition, Diallo threw down some ridiculous slams and became a massive spark plug for the team’s momentum. He finished the day with 19 points on 8-11 from the field, three rebounds, four assists, and a steal in just 26 minutes of action.

He didn’t settle for lazy jump shots like we’ve seen several times in his young Kentucky career. He found mismatches, out-muscled opponents, and found ways to score. It was a brilliant outing for Diallo, and he likely found the perfect recipe for success going forward this year.

Play like that, and Kentucky will be hard to beat.

With confidence, Nick Richards can be special

To start the year, I don’t think I’m alone in saying five-star center Nick Richards was underwhelming. He’d get beat on the glass, commit quick and easy fouls, turn the ball over trying to do too much, etc. He didn’t provide much when he was out on the court.

After seeing a specialist recently, Richards has regained confidence, and the on-court product is special. He finished the game with 11 points on 4-6 shooting and 3-5 from the free throw line, three rebounds, three blocks, one assist, no turnovers, and just one foul.

Over the last two games, Richards has become exactly what Kentucky needed in the post: cleanup baskets, athleticism, grit, blocked shots, and intelligence.

He doesn’t have to be Hakeem Olajuwon and become a deadly post threat. Make the gimmes, throw down a nasty dunk or two to bring the crowd to their feet, play defense, and grab rebounds. Do that, and Kentucky has a darn good shot at winning basketball games.

The entire team is starting to click, but a lot of that has been due to the emergence of Richards in the post.

PJ Washington was a bully in the paint

Similar to Richards, we have seen some pretty wild up-and-down moments from PJ Washington this year. One day, he turns into Charles Barkley in the paint and decides to crush anyone in his way. The next, he’s practically invisible or transforms into a turnover machine. Tonight, we saw the best of Washington, where he finished with 17 points on 6-7 shooting and 5-7 from the free throw line.

He was a five-star prospect out of high school for a reason. Washington has the potential to be dominant every single night, he just has to find the consistency and let the game come to him. When he rushes, he turns the ball over and commits silly fouls. When he plays with an edge, but stays under control, he can be one of the top power forwards in college basketball.

Tonight was a step in the right direction.

Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dominated the point guard position

When one of them struggled, the other stepped up. Eventually, they both got their legs underneath them and provided incredible performances for the Wildcats.

Together, they combined for 26 points on 65% shooting (3-4 from three), 11 rebounds, ten assists, and three steals, doing just about everything you’d hope for in a backcourt. Combine that with Diallo’s big game, goodness gracious…

Turnovers continue to be a problem with each of them, as they finished with six combined, but they both cleaned things up in the second half.

Other players may have had “sexier” performances, but the Kentucky backcourt put on a show.

Tai Wynyard provided solid, efficient minutes

Following a strong offensive rebound and putback, Wynyard became the fifth Wildcat to finish with a career-high in points scored tonight.

In just five minutes, the Kentucky center managed four points on 2-2 shooting and three rebounds, to go with zero turnovers and just one foul.

Sacha Killeya-Jones has been a stud for the Cats off the bench, but we’ve been waiting for Wynyard to show what he can do for the team in limited minutes.

He may have earned some more minutes from Calipari tonight.

We’re still waiting on Wenyen

Wenyen Gabriel was expected to be the glue guy for a ridiculously young Kentucky basketball team. For the most part, he has been as a seasoned veteran.

When the team needs a leader to look to for help, he has been that. When the team is struggling, he finds a way to come up with a big play to shift momentum. He has done all the little things Coach Cal has asked him to do.

When he’s on the court, though, he’s not the scoring threat we all expected him to be. He’s not knocking down as many open jumpers as we expected, and he’s not providing a lot of length on cleanup baskets around the paint. We all know he can do it, but he just hasn’t found his groove yet.

Tonight he finished with just three points on 1-4 shooting, but thrived elsewhere with four rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal. When he finds his footing in the scoring department, Gabriel is going to be an absolute stud on this team.

It’ll come, but we’re just not there yet.


I like my team. A lot.


At some point, this coaching staff needs to be held accountable

Almost five years ago to the day, Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was introduced as head football coach at Kentucky. He had taken the nation’s 108th-best defense in 2009 and transformed it into the No. 2 total defense in America in just three seasons, and was easily considered one of the most brilliant young football minds in the game. He was a hard-nosed, disciplined, defensive-minded coach, and it was exactly what this program needed.

In an official statement following the hire, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Stoops’ ability to develop defenses and his big-game coaching experience were two of the top reasons for bringing him to Lexington.

“Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark.  He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career.  That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky.”

In 2013, 51,000 fans filled Commonwealth Stadium for Mark Stoops’ first Spring Game. Excitement around the program was contagious, and recruits couldn’t help but want in on the action. Top-ranked prospects came to Kentucky based on promise and newfound hope for the future, and for the most part, this coaching staff has done just that.

“Why not Kentucky?” they said. Why not come to Lexington and turn around a program and reinvigorate a fanbase? Why not be part of something special that no one in the nation thinks you can do? The message was simple, but it was effective. And it worked.

With that, we saw epic moments over the next several years. The debut of the “WildKemp” and “Grove St. Party” against South Carolina, Stoops’ first ranked victory as a head coach against Missouri, the top-ranked recruiting class in school history, and knocking off Louisville on the road as 25-point underdogs. We’ve seen larger-than-life figures such as Benny Snell, Stephen Johnson, and Boom Williams come through the program, and countless promising underclassmen showing immense potential. To say we haven’t had some fun would be a lie.

The coaching staff raised and embraced expectations, telling us to dream big with this football program. Super Bowl commercials, four and five-star recruits, new facilities, renovations, etc.

This was a losing program, and the fanbase finally gave in to that narrative in the Joker Phillips era. “That’s so Kentucky football” was the go-to phrase at the time, referring to the program’s knack for acting out Murphy’s Law game after game: “Anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.” Stoops and his coaching staff developed the “winning” culture around the program, something we haven’t seen on a consistent basis in quite some time, and it has translated to back-to-back bowl births for the first time since the Rich Brooks era. Yes, the same bunch of Wildcats that the school just honored at Kroger Field during Kentucky’s victory over Tennessee a few weeks ago.

Back-to-back seven-win seasons would be reason to celebrate for Kentucky football fans in most years. So why does this season feel like a let-down?

Expectations.

In nearly every opportunity to take this program to massive heights, Kentucky has fallen flat. The Cats have had meatballs thrown right down the middle to them, just begging to be hit out of the park with national respect waiting for them at home plate. Each time, they have whiffed, striking out swinging (sometimes watching) time and time again.

The Thursday night game against Auburn, the last two Florida home games, the Halloween game against Tennessee, Georgia last year, etc., when the school begged the fans to pack Kroger Field, they did, and left thinking “What if?” When the opportunity for nine wins this year was gift-wrapped with a bow, Kentucky managed to choke that away. Seven wins is solid, but instead of making this year one for the ages, it ended up being just a decent UK football season.

Barnhart brought Stoops in for “big game” experience, but he has been unable to win the big games to take the next step up and put the Cats on the map.

But why?

Former defensive coordinator DJ Eliot was the main recipient of criticism for the first four years of the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky. The top defenses under Eliot ranked 68th in scoring defense and 56th in total defense, with lows in the upper-90s. After giving up over 1000 total yards just two games into the season last year, Stoops took over the playcalling duties, and the unit improved as a result. Even still, they finished 88th in the nation at year’s end, and Eliot left the program following a mutual breakup.

Instead of bringing in a big-name hire to replace Eliot, Stoops kept it in-house by promoting special teams coordinator Matt House. In his first season as defensive coordinator, House’s unit finished the regular season ranked 92nd nationally, worse than last year. After a fine start to the season, the defense regressed, and opposing offenses walked all over them in the latter half of the year.

Some of his defensive schemes and approaches have been questionable, to say the least. Adjustments have been slow, if not non-existent, and monstrous numbers against this unit have become the norm.

After the game yesterday afternoon, House commented on Jordan Jones’ errant behavior resulting in multiple personal foul penalties and one unsportsmanlike conduct foul, telling reporters it was unacceptable.

“Just not acceptable,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no sugarcoating it. It’s not acceptable.”

Though I agree with his statement, as Jones’ behavior was disgusting and embarrassing for the university, I’m not sure House is in position to point fingers at this moment in time. His unit has been the laughingstock of the SEC for the vast majority of this season, and it has single-handedly cost the team victories.

Kentucky defensive backs coach Steven Clinkscale took over a secondary that many considered the most talented in school history and has done nothing to show for it. Quarterbacks have had field days against the Wildcat defensive backs, with the only real success for UK in recent weeks coming against Kyle Shurmur and Vanderbilt. Basic fundamentals have not been taught, both tackling and coverage, and that’s at the coaching level.

Ten minutes into yesterday’s game, a shoving match between Lamar Jackson and Jordan Jones began, and eventually developed into a full-out brawl. As things cooled down, the cameras caught Kentucky wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas shaking hands, talking, and giggling with the Cardinal quarterback. Jones went up to Thomas, pushed him aside, and got in his face for interacting with the rival in a time like that.

Again, Jackson instigated the fight by shoving Jones, and the UK coach shook his hand and talked it up with him as it was unfolding. Thomas recruited Jackson to Louisville and they have great respect for one another, but that’s inexcusable. Your own (extremely emotional and passionate) player just got in an all-out brawl with him, you should be standing up for your guy, the Kentucky player. It’s not his job to coddle and comfort the opposition to make sure his feelings aren’t hurt. You’re not on the Louisville sideline anymore. If you want to be, go for it. This is a rivalry.

After the game, Stoops commented on the fight and how he felt he didn’t prepare his team well enough for the rivalry. He went on to say his team lacked discipline and how disappointed he was in that.

“I didn’t do a good enough job of preparing ourselves for this game and this rivalry,” Stoops said. “We certainly did not play with the discipline and the character that this team has. It’s not acceptable. It’s not okay. I was very disappointed in that and that needs to be addressed and improve. That’s probably the biggest disappointment.”

Year five, and we’re talking about not being prepared for the final game of the season and the rivalry that comes with it. Year five, and we heard yet another “I take responsibility and need to get it corrected” post-game quote.

Players have been on social media talking down on the program and the coaching staff from the start of the season. We saw emotions get high yesterday, where a massive fight broke out including a trash can being thrown at a Louisville player on national television. The University of Kentucky was embarrassed as a result.

The regular season may be over, but issues in the locker room may just be getting started if Stoops doesn’t jump on it and do something about it immediately. He cannot let those wheels fall off.

This is a roster made up of Stoops’ “guys,” so the “Joker leftover” excuses are no longer valid. Kentucky just had their easiest schedule in years and choked away the opportunity for their first nine-win regular season since 1977. The “tough schedule” excuses are no longer valid.

Who needs to get fired? I’m not certain. Should we see another shift in playcalling duties? It’s possible. Do we need to see change? Absolutely.

Mark Stoops and company raised expectations when they came to Kentucky, and they need to be held accountable when they don’t reach them.


WATCH: Denzil Ware uses a Trash Can in Sideline Brawl with Louisville

WATCH: Denzil Ware uses a Trash Can in Sideline Brawl with Louisville

Kentucky’s loss to Louisville just got uglier.

After a first quarter collision at the goal line, a brawl broke out between the Cats and the Cards.  Jordan Jones and Lamar Jackson were the catalysts. Lonnie Johnson and another Louisville player were also penalized.  One player who was not flagged: Denzil Ware.

On the far-side of UK’s sideline beneath the stands, the Kentucky outside linebacker picked up a trashcan to push Louisville offensive lineman Geron Christian. One fan in the crowd captured it.

From another angle.

As Tennessee taught us, there’s no place for trash cans in college football.


Kentucky Embarrasses Itself in Blowout Loss to Louisville

Kentucky Embarrasses Itself in Blowout Loss to Louisville

Karma is a bitch.

After dancing on Louisville’s grave for a year, Kentucky fans had to endure an afternoon of embarrassing awfulness.  The final score was 44-17, but it might as well have been 372-0.  Louisville destroyed Kentucky, and most of it was their own fault.

That’s not to take away from Lamar Jackson’s amazing performance.  Seeking vengeance for the fumble, he got exactly that.  Jackson rushed for 156 yards and he completed 15-of-21 passes for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Lamar made a few plays that only Lamar can make, but Kentucky did him a few favors.  They missed tackles, left receivers open and committed enough penalties in one day for an entire season.

The first scuffle near the end zone was not egregious.  It’s not the first time teams have been separated in a rivalry game, but after that it got out of hand.  Jordan Jones seemed to have no interest in remaining in the game.  He committed three stupid, dangerous, unnecessary roughness penalties and in the process made a fool of himself.  Kentucky’s dismal display of discipline was the cherry on top of an embarrassing senior day performance.

To make matters worse, all of it completely overshadowed an excellent game by Benny Snell. He was prepared to carry Kentucky to a victory, finishing with a career-high 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Snell did not receive any help.

Losing stinks.  Today was worse, much worse.  Hopefully this embarrassing effort does not completely diminish the contributions from this seven-win team, but it’s going to be awfully hard to forget this quickly.


Highlights from the Senior Class, Mark Stoops’ First True Recruiting Class

When Mark Stoops salutes the program’s 25 seniors this Saturday, he will be sending off many of his first recruits.  The Class of 2014 was the first full class of Stoops’ recruits — the highest-ranked in school history at the time — that had to be sold on a vision of change.

“It was definitely a challenge, because they had to believe what you were telling them.  The results weren’t there yet,” Mark Stoops said this week.  “I greatly appreciate them and the faith and the confidence they had in myself and in our coaches to do the things we’re doing to help build this program.”

The Cats were just 2-10 the season before Stoops convinced guys like Garrett Johnson and Kyle Meadows to turn down perennial powerhouses to go to Kentucky.

“They had a lot of programs established that they could go to,” said Vince Marrow.  “It’s hard to believe when you’re 2-10…but they believed in it.  I think they have made their mark.  They’re going to leave with all the young guys a winning program because the last two years we’ve went to bowl games.  It really was good and I appreciate their families and all of them because they really believed in something that was really hard to believe in.”

They changed the program and made some incredible plays along the way.

Charles Walker

Drew Franklin’s favorite football player and the Heisman Trophy frontrunner gave UK its first special teams touchdown in six years with this punt return touchdown vs. New Mexico State.

He almost had another against Florida, but cut it back inside.

Chuck’s receptions are less-documented on the internet, but the impact is undeniable.  A reliable target on third and fourth down, he frequently made clutch catches to keep drives alive.

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