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Diallo listed among official NBA combine attendees

The NBA released the names of all 69 prospects expected to attend the combine, and Hamidou Diallo is included.

Diallo is one of five Kentucky Wildcats listed as attending (and confirmed by UK), despite reports that he was planning to sit out. His high school coach, Tom Espinosa, told the Herald-Leader that Diallo’s brother said Diallo would work out at UK instead. Turns out, that report was inaccurate and Diallo will be in Chicago.

Here is the full list of participants from the NBA:

Rawle Alkins (Arizona)
Grayson Allen (Duke)
Kostas Antetokounmpo (Dayton)
Udoka Azubuike (Kansas)
Marvin Bagley III (Duke)
Mohamed Bamba (Texas)
Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)
Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State)
Tyus Battle (Syracuse)
Brian Bowen II (South Carolina)
Mikal Bridges (Villanova)
Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami)
Troy Brown Jr. (Oregon)
Jalen Brunson (Villanova)
Tony Carr (Penn State)
Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
Wendell Carter (Duke)
Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky)
Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova)
Trevon Duval (Duke)
Jacob Evans (Cincinnati)
Bruno Fernando (Maryland)
Melvin Frazier Jr. (Tulane)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky)
Devonte Graham (Kansas)
Devon Hall (Virginia)
Jaylen Hands (UCLA)
Kevin Hervey (Texas-Arlington)
Aaron Holiday (UCLA)
Kevin Huerter (Maryland)
Chandler Hutchison (Boise State)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State)
Justin Jackson (Maryland)
Alize Johnson (Missouri State)
George King (Colorado)
Kevin Knox (Kentucky)
Sagaba Konate (West Virginia)
Caleb Martin (Nevada)
Cody Martin (Nevada)
Yante Maten (Georgia)
Brandon McCoy (UNLV)
De’Anthony Melton (USC)
Chimezie Metu (USC)
Shake Milton (SMU)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas)
Malik Newman (Kansas)
Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech)
Jontay Porter (Missouri)
Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri)
Billy Preston (Kansas)
Jerome Robinson (Boston College)
Mitchell Robinson (Western Kentucky)
Collin Sexton (Alabama)
Landry Shamet (Wichita State)
Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy)
Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech)
Omari Spellman (Villanova)
Khyri Thomas (Creighton)
Gary Trent Jr. (Duke)
Allonzo Trier (Arizona)
Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky)
Moritz Wagner (Michigan)
Lonnie Walker (Miami)
PJ Washington (Kentucky)
Austin Wiley (Auburn)
Kris Wilkes (UCLA)
Kenrich Williams (TCU)
Trae Young (Oklahoma)

Wenyen Gabriel is the only early entrant from Kentucky to not receive an invite. Jarred Vanderbilt is listed as attending, but his playing status is unknown.

UK’s five players are tied with Duke and Kansas for the most on the list.

The combine will be held May 16-20. ESPN2 will televise parts of it on May 17 and May 18 from 3-7 pm.


Monday Recruiting Thoughts on Maxey, Payne and my Honeymoon

Monday Recruiting Thoughts on Maxey, Payne and my Honeymoon

I’m not sure there’s ever a great time to checkout when it comes to UK basketball recruiting, but it appears I missed a lot after getting married on April 21st.

The normal Monday Insider Notes will need another week because I haven’t been behind the scenes working the phones since getting married. Today was my first day back doing radio and the first I’ve really reached back into the recruiting scene. So, allow this post to provide updates on my thoughts and analysis on some of the latest news in the world of UK basketball recruiting.

Supposedly it’s frowned upon to doing recruiting work on your honeymoon. Happy wife, happy life, so I’ve heard.

Tyrese Maxey: This is easily the biggest news I missed while in Hawaii. UK is going to land Tyrese Maxey on Wednesday and that is a major deal. I haven’t been shy about saying Maxey is my favorite guard in the class of 2019. Since watching Maxey at Peach Jam last summer I’ve known that he’s a special player and eventually UK would come around in his recruitment. It didn’t take too much time after his dominating performance last season.

Had Maxey stayed in 2019 and committed to UK I would say he would have a chance to be John Calipari’s best point guard. That’s how highly I think of the 6-foot-4, 185-pound point guard from Texas. I know outlets don’t even have him as the best point guard in the class of 2019, but he has all the potential to be an absolute stud. He has the athleticism and speed that Calipari loves, but unlike some other Calipari point guards Maxey is a great outside scorer.

And Maxey likely reclassifying to 2018 is a major surprise to me (EDIT: Maybe he’s staying 2018, again I’ve been out of the loop). Maxey seems like a great student but it’s not something he has spoken about with media, but when the opportunity presented itself it does seem to make sense for him personally. Obviously UK doesn’t need to add anymore guards for the 2018-2019 season, but you certainly wouldn’t turn away Maxey and it gives Calipari more weapons and options.

Ranking the guards: Let’s just assume Maxey picks UK on Wednesday because any other decision would be a shock and moves to 2018 (which isn’t a guarantee). Here’s how I would rank UK’s guards for the 2018-2019 season (as of today):

  1. Quade Green: Gilgeous-Alexander was the better option but I do think Green was overshadowed a bit. He was one of UK’s best outside shooters last season and he will only improve from deep. At times he tried to do too much last year but he will settle in better for a sophomore season and his experience pushes him over the top.
  2. Tyrese Maxey: Again, I may be a little biased on Maxey because I think he will be an absolute star at UK. He is the total package when it comes to shooting, defending and attacking the rim. It will also be great that UK will be able to be patient with Maxey’s development. He won’t be asked to be the guy from day one.
  3. Ashton Hagans: Hagans gets a slight nod over the other guards below because of his tenacity on defense. He’s not the best shooter but he can get to the rim with ease. He should live at the line with his ability to draw fouls.
  4. Immanuel Quickley: Quickley is close to being the No. 1 player on this list, that’s how close these guards are, but Quickley is a little behind the others because he’s not great at one thing. Quickley may be the most balanced guard on the list. He’s a selfless passer, a solid defender, he can get in the paint and he’s an underrated shooter, but I’m not sure he’s the best on the team at any one of those categories.
  5. Tyler Herro: Herro doesn’t want to be known as just a shooter, and for good reason because he’s solid off the dribble, but right now Herro’s shooting will be his ticket to playing time. He is behind defensively but if he lives up to his billing as a shooter he will play.
  6. Jemarl Baker: This may not be fair to Baker but we just don’t know what to expect from Baker after sitting out last season. Some close to the team say he will easily be the best shooter next season, but what does he bring to the table defensively? How are his handles? Can he run off screens? We need those questions answered before ranking him higher.

Regardless of my meaningless rankings, Calipari has options and a versatile group of guards. It’s the deepest backcourt he’s ever had in his coaching career.

Payne: Last week Kenny Payne’s son, Zan Payne, announced he will walk-on at Kentucky. This is a big deal, but maybe not as big of a deal as you initially thought.

Outside of Calipari, Payne is the most important piece of the UK basketball program, so him coaching his son is important, but if a great opportunity presents itself Payne will still leave. Payne has been patient when it comes to his coaching options, and that’s smart, but bigger schools remained interested and will continue to consider Payne moving forward.

He will get his chance at some point and whether it’s next year or in four years Payne will be a head coach. It won’t be hard for him to take his son with him if it’s over the course of the next four years. But, with Payne being patient and passing on mediocre jobs that certainly won’t change with Zan joining the fray at UK.

Zan Payne is actually a nice player that if he stays all four years at UK he will find himself playing meaningful minutes at some point. It won’t be next year, and probably not the year after that, but at some point Payne will get his chance on the floor at UK and could be a nice role player.

Calipari and (Kenny) Payne want to win every game they coach. Duh. Just like every other coach in America. But you better believe the two want to win with their kids on the team. Payne and Calipari are as hungry as ever to win another national championship and they know they have a two-year window to do it. That’s another reason why Calipari is bringing in any and everyone. He’s loading up for an exciting two year run.

Decisions: I haven’t looked into the latest with P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, but I don’t think too much will change until after the NBA Draft Combine. Washington and Vanderbilt were invited, but Gabriel was left off the list. Here are a few thoughts.

Washington: It seems like he is looking for a reason to leave and if he has a nice NBA Draft Combine it may be all he needs to go. I lean slightly to Washington leaving but my guess is as good as yours.

Vanderbilt: Will he be healthy enough to participate in the NBA Draft Combine? If the answer is no, then Vanderbilt should return. If he’s able to give it a go I’m sure his athleticism will give him a promise from an NBA team. That may be all Vanderbilt needs.

Gabriel: It’s a bummer he wasn’t invited, but I’m not sure that will drastically change anything for Gabriel. He was hoping to play his way into the Draft conversation by doing the combine, but his camp knows being drafted is a long shot. It’s not strictly about the NBA for Gabriel. It’s about starting to give some money back for his family. My guess is that Gabriel is weighing oversea options and if there’s a solid payday he will leave, but if the money isn’t right he will return. Shocking, right?

 

Hawaii:

Unbelievable vacation to Kauai for four days and then we went to Maui. I’m well rested and ready to get back in the swing of things. I won’t bore you with honeymoon details, but if you’re interested about Hawaii shoot me a tweet. Just know that if UK ever plays in Hawaii or the Maui Invitational, you should save up your cash to go. Let’s chat about it. @TJWalkerKSR


Audible's Tuesday morning workout at Churchill Downs.

Derby 101: Trends You Can Bet On

Audible’s Tuesday morning workout at Churchill Downs.

Who will you make your Kentucky Derby wager?  You can look at the horse race from a variety of angles.  Here are a few things you should consider…

Post Position

Some people bet on horses because they like the name or the silks.  It works more than a handicapper would like to admit (it worked well enough when I’ll Have Another became my first Derby winner).  Many will also base their picks simply off numbers.  Your lucky number might be luckier than you’d think.

Here’s the record of each number dating back to 1930; ITM stands for “in the money” meaning they placed in the top three.

Hofburg is running from the most successful gate, No. 9, and is a 20-1 long shot with plenty of buzz.

Chalk

Since the Kentucky Derby developed a points system for entrants, it’s been a chalky race.  In fact, the last five winners were the favorite.  Always Dreaming had the most value at 5-to-1. Before that trend began, the race was dominated by long shots.  One might say it’s time for the long shot to reign supreme once again.

2017 Always Dreaming 5-1
2016 Nyquist 3-1
2015 American Pharoah 5-2
2014 California Chrome 5-2
2013 Orb 7-2
2012 I’ll Have Another 12-1
2011 Animal Kingdom 30-1
2010 Super Saver 10-1
2009 Mine That Bird 50-1
2008 Big Brown 2-1

A few prep races can also help you win or lose big on Derby day.

The Blue Grass Stakes

I was not alive the last time a Blue Grass Stakes Winner celebrated in the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs.  Nick Zito’s Strike for Gold won both of the state’s premier stakes races back in 1991.

Some of the blame can be put on Keeneland’s shoulders.  The decision to change the track from dirt to synthetic in 2007 was at best a dumb move.  In 2015 Keeneland returned to dirt, moved the race to opening weekend and increased the purse.  Those moves attracted a larger, more competitive field that could produce a Kentucky Derby winner this year.

Good Magic defeated 14 other horses in the largest field of any prep race, giving the horse a look few others have seen.  Trained by Chad Brown, as soon as the rising star wins one Kentucky Derby, many more will follow.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Good Magic has 26 years of Blue Grass Stakes history against him.  Until recently, another trend was not in his favor.  In 2007 Street Sense became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby as three-year old after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the biggest race in the world for two-year olds.  Two years ago Nyquist became the second to accomplish that feat.  Good Magic will try to be the third after defeating Solomini and Bolt d’Oro by five lengths at Del Mar, the horse’s first ever victory.

 

UAE Derby

Unlike the previous two races, a UAE Derby winner has never won a Kentucky Derby.  Unlike previous winners of the UAE Derby, Mendelssohn has a lengthy resume filled with impressive wins.

Before winning his first race on dirt in the desert, he was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf champion.  The $3 million horse’s first race on dirt was incredible, dusting the competition by 18 lengths.  He was a late arrival to Churchill Downs this week, but he has enough pedigree to become the first UAE Derby winner to wear the garland of roses.

Final Fractions Theory

The best horses win the biggest races because they close fast.  If you prefer to pick a closer over a speed horse, there’s an easy way to see if a horse is a closer.  The “Final Fractions Theory” as explained by Jennie Rees sounds complicated but it’s rather simple — in a horse’s final race at a mile and 1/8, if they finish their final 3/8 in under 38 seconds and their final 1/16 in less than 13 seconds, the horse has enough speed at the end to go the distance at the Derby.

That might be a few too many numbers for you to comprehend, but it will help you throw out some Derby horses.  The FFT does not like the horses from the Blue Grass, but it loves the Arkansas Derby runners.  Justify, Bolt d’Oro, My Boy Jack, Audible and Vino Rosso make the cut.

Jockey

Sometimes you gotta pick the person, not the horse.  That’s why I bet on Calvin Borel in the Oaks.

There are many different ways to pick a horse, and that’s what makes the sport of kings beautiful (but only if you win).


Photo by @magnolia_hoops

Zan Payne, son of Kenny Payne, will play at Kentucky

Photo by @magnolia_hoops

Ready for some excellent news? KSR has learned that Zan Payne, son of UK associate head coach Kenny Payne, will play for Kentucky next fall.

Payne, a 6’4″ 200 lbs. forward from Lexington Catholic, will presumably walk on for the Wildcats, which is huge news not only because Zan’s a solid player, but because it increases the chances that his dad will be in Lexington for a few more years. Kenny Payne is the reason many recruits, especially big guys, come to Kentucky, so having his son in the program could provide stability on the recruiting front.

News that Zan was considering walking on at Kentucky first broke late last year, but his father reportedly wanted his son to earn a Division I scholarship elsewhere. He was recently named Third Team All-State by the Courier-Journal after averaging 19.3 points his senior season. Back in December, he put up 22 points and 11 rebounds in front of his dad and Calipari at the Marshall County Hoops Fest, of which he was named Most Valuable Player.

Great, great news on several fronts. Congrats, Zan. We’re glad you’re staying in the family.

UPDATE: Josh Moore of the Herald-Leader interviewed Zan, who said he made the decision to come to Kentucky after suffering a season-ending knee injury in February.

“After I got hurt I decided that it’d be the best decision for me,” said Payne, the son of UK associate head coach Kenny Payne. “UK is gonna help me recover, and when I’m done recovering then I should be good to be on the court.”

Best wishes in your continued recovery, Zan.


What Denzil Ware’s transfer means for UK Football

Denzil Ware stunned everyone a few hours ago when he announced he is transferring from Kentucky. The star outside linebacker graduates this weekend and will be able to play immediately at the school of his choice.

“It was a very tough decision to make,” Ware wrote on social media. “I want to thank Coach Stoops and all the other coaches for everything they’ve done for me. Thank you, #BBN for all the support over these last three years. To my teammates, y’all are my brothers. I’ll always bleed blue. Go Cats.”

Ware played in 12 games last year, finishing with 47 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. He was suspended for the Music City Bowl for an unspecified violation of team rules (which probably stemmed from the trashcan throwing incident vs. Louisville), but tweeted in January he would return for his senior season and participated in spring practice.

What does this mean for Kentucky and Mark Stoops? Let’s talk it over.

One returning star is gone

One of the bright spots going into next season was experience, especially on defense. Over three years at Kentucky, Ware started 30 games and recorded 156 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Last year, Ware was second to only Josh Allen in tackles for loss and sacks. Kentucky still has Allen, Mike Edwards, and Jordan Jones back on defense, but losing Ware is a major, unexpected blow.

Will Joshua Paschal take his spot?

Allen and Ware dubbed themselves the “Blitz Brothers” last season and were a formidable duo. With Ware gone, Joshua Pashcal is the obvious choice to fill the void. Paschal played defensive end this spring, but Drew Franklin thinks he’s the perfect man for Ware’s job:

Josh Allen needs a new Blitz Brother

Instead of moving Paschal, Stoops could open Ware’s spot up to Boogie Watson, Kengera Daniel, or redshirt freshman Jordan Wright. Thankfully, there are options, but these are major questions we didn’t anticipate asking a few weeks back.

Are top players transferring becoming a trend?

This is the second year in a row a starter has left the program as a grad transfer. Last year, wide receiver Jeff Badet — Ware’s former roommate — left Kentucky for Oklahoma and ended up signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. Was the allure of winning big elsewhere enough for Ware to give up a starting spot in the SEC or was he simply ready to cut ties after a messy end to his junior season?

We’ll probably never know for sure, but senior stars leaving definitely doesn’t need to become a trend.


Need to Know: Tyrese Maxey

Need to Know: Tyrese Maxey

Earlier tonight, we found out that Tyrese Maxey will announce his college decision next Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what you need to know about the five-star point guard, who is currently still in the 2019 class.

Tyrese Maxey
Guard | 6-3 | 185 lbs.
Garland, Tx. | South Garland
AAU: RM5 Elite
ESPN No. 14 | 3 SG Top247 No. 17 | 2 PG
Rivals No. 14 | 3 SG 247 Comp. No. 13 | 2 PG

He’s only a few classes away from being able to reclassify

Maxey told reporters on the EYBL circuit he only needs to finish up a few classes to reclassify and he’s in great academic shape on both. He said the decision on whether or not to make the jump would come in the next week or so, at which time he could also announce his college choice.

You can put two and two together.

Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite

The Cats own 92% of the picks in Maxey’s Crystal Ball, including that of recruiting guru Evan Daniels, who cemented his pick for Kentucky back on April 21 after Maxey hosted Cal on two in-home visits and raved about the possibility of sharing a backcourt with UK commit Ashton Hagans.

“I talked to Ashton a little bit. I hit him and told him good luck this weekend,” Maxey said, via Chris Fisher. “We both like to play defense and compete which would make us better in practice if we go at each other. But him being a really good passer and me being a good shooter and playing off each other, it could be special.”

A week later, he liked the idea of playing with Hagans so much…

He’s already calling himself and Hagans a “duo”

On the next stop of the EYBL circuit, Maxey pretty much let the cat out of the bag to Kyle Tucker.

“We call ourselves The Duo,” he said, pausing a beat before correction himself: “A possible duo. I’m sorry. Trying not to laugh.”

What did Hagans make of Maxey’s tweet earlier?

Calipari thinks he’s a combination of Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray

Cal likened 2019 guard Jalen Lecque to John Wall, but sees a mixture of Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray in Maxey for his ability to play on or off the ball. That versatility will help Maxey adapt what could be a ridiculously guard-heavy roster next year.

He’s not scared of competition

All of those guards would scare off some five-stars, but not Maxey.

“Challenge is really good for competition,” Maxey said, via Chris Fisher. “That’s why we play basketball.”

That alone makes me like him.

James Wiseman wants to play with him

The coveted big man was asked which players he wants to team up with at the next level and Maxey and Hagans were the two he named. It seems like Maxey and Hagans are both making the jump to 2018, but if they’re not, Wiseman could very well get his wish.

He follows a ton of UK Twitter accounts

Maxey is tapped into the BBN on social media, following all of the basketball coaches, players, commits, reporters, and fan accounts, including…

He hit this impressive game-winner last weekend

Why does Calipari want Maxey? Check out how he cooly clears the lane to go at the rim, and, after seeing the double-team, pulls up and sinks the game-winning jumper with a hand in his face.

Is it Wednesday yet?


Denzil Ware announces he will transfer to another school

Denzil Ware is transferring to another university for his final season of college football. He announced the news on Twitter late Thursday afternoon.

“It was a very tough decision to make,” Ware wrote. “I want to thank Coach Stoops and all the other coaches for everything they’ve done for me. Thank you, #BBN for all the support over these last three years. To my teammates, y’all are my brothers. I’ll always bleed blue. Go Cats.”

Ware will graduate from UK this spring with a degree in community and leadership development. He will be eligible to play immediately as a grad transfer, wherever he ends up for his final season.


5 Suggestions for Kentucky’s 2019-20 destination games

5 Suggestions for Kentucky’s 2019-20 destination games

Yesterday, John Calipari teased two “destination” games vs. Power 5 opponents in the 2019-20 season. The guys discussed what the destinations could be on this morning’s show, but as KSR’s travel aficionado, I wanted to weigh in with my own suggestions.

The 2019 Champions Classic (Kentucky vs. Michigan State) is already set to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City, so I’m eliminating the Big Apple from the list. The site of the 2019 CBS Sports Classic (Kentucky vs. Ohio State) has yet to be announced, but the event may rotate back through Las Vegas and New Orleans (it takes place in Chicago in 2018). Given how often Kentucky plays in Indianapolis, I’m going to take it off the list, along with Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, where the Cats have played in recent years. That leaves surprisingly few “destinations” in the United States, which may mean Calipari really is thinking outside the box.

Here are my best guesses.

 

Toronto, Canada

Canada in November or December? Hear me out. Calipari’s tapped into the Canada pipeline in recent years, unearthing gems like Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. With Canadian basketball on the rise, this could be another way to keep that connection to the North strong. Plus, Drake.

Potential opponent: Syracuse (That’s the only Power 5 school I can think of near Toronto, so this is just a wild guess.)


Rome, Italy

Ciao, Roma! Calipari is Italian and a devout Catholic, making Rome an easy suggestion. I’m not sure Cal would be up for taking his team overseas for one regular season game, but if planned correctly during December, it could happen. You know Calipari would be first in line for mass at the Vatican in hopes of meeting Pope Francis.

Potential opponent: Notre Dame (Dublin could be another possibility if we’re playing the Irish, but Cal loves pasta more than potatoes.)


Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon may not scream “VACATION DESTINATION,” but it is home to the Nike World Headquarters. Considering Kentucky missed the PK80 last year, this could be a nice way to make up with Phil Knight and strengthen the relationship between Kentucky and Nike. Plus, think of all the awesome craft beer we can drink.

Possible opponent: Oregon


Hawaii

Calipari hates early season tournaments like the Maui Shootout because teams play so many games in so little time, but what about one game? That’s still a lot of traveling, but it’s a trip that would be very popular with fans, especially in December.

Possible opponent: UCLA


Las Vegas, Nevada

Yes, Kentucky’s been there recently, but Vegas is an obvious choice to me. Watching Kentucky play North Carolina at T-Mobile Arena back in 2016 was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had as fan, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Possible opponent: Ohio State in the 2019 CBS Sports Classic, Indiana (Something tells me the Hoosiers will be on the 2019-20 schedule)

 

Your turn. What are Kentucky’s two mystery destination games in 2019-20?

 


Kevin Knox on who comes back to Kentucky

Will PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Wenyen Gabriel stay in the NBA Draft or return to Kentucky for another season? They have until May 30 to decide, but this morning, Kevin Knox gave us his predictions.

“Personally, I think we’ll have some guys come back,” Knox said on KSR. “I don’t know who, but I think we’ll have a pretty good squad next year. I know Quade [Green] is coming back, he announced, and Nick [Richards]. Those two guys will definitely help us next year with great scoring. Nick will have a better year next year.”

“I think [Jarred Vanderbilt], he declared for the draft, I think he has a pretty good shot. He played really well when he was hurt. He has a good shot of coming back. PJ [Washington] has another good shot. If you get PJ and Vando back, I think next year’s team has a really good shot at winning a championship. They’ll be really good if those two come back.”

What about Wenyen?

“Yeah, I think he has a really good chance,” Knox said when asked if he thinks Wenyen comes back. “I know he can really shoot the ball, and that’s what a lot of scouts like about him. I think he has a really good chance.”

Knox even shared his views on Kentucky’s incoming freshmen. Here’s his scouting report:

Immanuel Quickley: “I played with him on the USA Team when we were in Spain. He’s a really good player, a good leader, a good three-point shooter. He’s really vocal on the court.”

Ashton Hagans (whom he spoke of as if he had already reclassified to 2018): “You’ve got Ashton Hagans, who I think is similar to Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]. Just a little bit shorter than Shai, but really good at getting to the rim, physical, really good defenders. One of the best defenders in the class.”

Keldon Johnson: “He plays with a chip on his shoulder. I think he’ll be one of the best. He talks a lot of trash, but one thing about him, he can back it up too. He’s really good. I think he’ll be one of our better players next year.”

EJ Montgomery: “EJ is a really smooth guy that’s coming in that’s going to help Nick out on the rebounding, Vando if he comes back, PJ if he comes back. There’s a lot of guys he can really help next year.”

Tyler Herro: “Really good smooth player. He talks trash too, you can watch his film and tell he talks trash, but he backs it up as well. He’s a really good three-point shooter that does a really good job.”

Kevin, if this NBA thing doesn’t work out, you’ve got a future in scouting.

Hear Kevin’s breakdown of next year’s team in Hour 2 of today’s podcast:


Ten Things to Know about New UK Wide Receiver Ahmad Wagner

Ten Things to Know about New UK Wide Receiver Ahmad Wagner

Kentucky football’s latest addition from Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow’s Ohio pipeline has taken a strange journey to Lexington.  Here’s more on the man that will change Kentucky’s wide receivers’ room this fall.

1. An Inexperienced Wide Receiver

Wagner only played one year of high school football.  It did not take long for him to stand out in the crowd.  The 6’7″ sprinter on the outside gained more than 1,000 yards and caught 17 touchdowns in his only season on the gridiron for Wayne High School, a place Marrow recruits frequently.

The 247 Composite gave him a four-star ranking as the No. 284 player overall in the 2015 recruiting class.  To compare that to other Wildcats from the 2015 class, Wagner was ten spots higher than C.J. Conrad; only Eli Brown was ranked higher.

2. Kentucky was his only Offer

Plenty of other schools, including Ohio State, gauged interest, but only Kentucky extended a scholarship offer.  He remained committed to Fran McCaffrey’s basketball team, but that offer might have paid off three years later.

“It’s all kind of strange to me because I still didn’t think I was that good,” Wagner told Land of 10 in January. “It’s really flattering, and it’s a blessing that people saw that kind of potential in me.”

3. He Only Needs One Hand

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the catch, the double-move or that he kept his feet and toed the sidelines to score.

4. A Track Star

Typically wide receivers are either big or fast, not both.  Wagner is the complete package.  As a sprinter, he was the anchor of his school’s 4×100 team that finished fourth in Ohio’s largest division.

5. He Returns Kicks Too

Wagner really does do it all.  In the Division I Sate Title, he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.  Wayne eventually fell to St. Edwards, that year’s National Champions, but it’s not for a lack of effort.  He caught five passes for 55 yards, including an 11-yard fade for a first quarter touchdown.

6. A State Champion

He came up just short of a football state title, but was still able to get a ring on the basketball court.  An all-state selection in both sports, he averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in his final two season of high school basketball.

7. He wasn’t bad at Iowa

In three years he started in 25 games for the Hawkeyes.  Wagner shot over 50 percent and was named Iowa’s Most Improved Player following his sophomore season.  A his minutes dwindled halfway through his junior season, the whispers for him to make the switch to football grew too loud to ignore.

8. Wagner Took Down P.J. Washington 

One of the brightest moments from his high school prep career was against Kentucky Wildcat P.J. Washington.  In 2015 Wayne earned an overtime victory over Findlay Prep, the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation that featured a roster full of future college stars: Arizona’s Alonzo Trier, UNLV’s Derryck Thornton, Maryland’s Justin Jackson and P.J. Washington.  A small sample of Wagner’s best dunks from the tournament.

9. Not the First to Flip from Basketball to Football

The NFL is filled with superstars who did not play college football.  Almost all of them have comparable size and athleticism to Wagner and they’re primarily tight ends — Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzales.

Wagner is different from the rest because he’s making the switch before his NCAA eligibility expires.  George Fant played one season of football at WKU, but he plays more downs in one game as the Seahawks’ left tackle than he did for the Toppers.  Wagner is also switching schools.  If that’s happened before, I’d be shocked.

10. He Can Play Right Away

Usually D-I transfers can’t play right away.  According to Jen Smith, Wagner’s case is different.  He will reportedly be able to play right away and will have TWO years of eligibility.  There’s only one appropriate reaction to this news:


Kevin Knox “really wanted to come back” to Kentucky

Kevin Knox ended up declaring for the NBA Draft, but he insists the decision to leave Kentucky was a tough one. This morning, Knox told KSR he really wanted to come back for his sophomore year, but ultimately, couldn’t risk losing his dream of playing professionally.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘He’s just saying that to say that,’ but I actually was really thinking about coming back. I was thinking about what we could do next year, my sophomore year. A lot of great guys are coming in. We had some unfinished business this year and I really wanted to win a national championship. I was really torn. I was talking to my parents about it. I really wanted to come back. The fans were crazy. I just wanted another year at Kentucky, but it just didn’t happen.”

“It’s been my lifelong dream,” Knox said of the NBA. “A lot of people said I could have come back next year and been a higher pick, but I’m a lottery pick this year, or at least that’s what they say, so I want to make sure. That’s been my dream. I’ve always dreamed of going up on that stage. Why not go when you have the chance? I want to just make it happen this year.”

The “will he stay or will he go” debate is tiresome, but Knox’s comments seemed very sincere. Listen below at the start of the second hour.

And be sure to check out Knox’s autograph tour, which wraps up this week:


The KSR Baseball Podcast E31: Home Plate Stomping

Coach Keith Madison and Trey Huntsman are fired up after Cliff Hagan Stadium’s home plate took a beating this weekend against Missouri.

Things got heated in the high-scoring series when the Tigers and the Cats took turns taking subtle shots at the other by stomping on home plate.  At the end of the day, the good guys were victorious, and the KSR Baseball Podcast is here to talk about it all.  Highlights:

—  The significance of Kole Cottam’s grand slam.

—  Stay classy, baseball.

—  Sentimental stories from The Cliff.

—  A few reasons why UK’s bullpen has struggled.

—  The importance of winning the next series at Tennessee.

—  Learn about the many special events surrounding the final series next weekend at The Cliff.

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.


D.J. Jeffries Reaffirms UK Commitment and is Recruiting James Wiseman

@BSnow247

Penny Mania is sweeping the city of Memphis, but D.J. Jeffries isn’t buying it.

The tenth-ranked small forward in the 2019 recruiting class was John Calipari’s first commitment in the class.  Since he made the decision in March, his former AAU coach was hired to lead Memphis’ basketball program.  Even though he has plenty of connections to what could be considered his hometown school, Jeffries is sticking with the Wildcats.

“[Penny Mania] is crazy. I hear it and stuff, but I just try to ignore it, because I know I’m going to be at Kentucky. I hope the best for Penny,” Jeffries told SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker at this weekend’s Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis. “It’s not going to sway me. I’m going to stay at Kentucky.”

One person who could be swayed by Memphis’ Penny Mania is James Wiseman.

The top-ranked junior in America is teammates with Jeffries and played for Team Penny prior to Hardaway’s rise to the collegiate ranks.  Once a lock to Kentucky, now it’s essentially a toss-up between the Wildcats and the Tigers.  Jeffries is doing what he can to convince Wiseman that Kentucky is the best possible collegiate destination.

“I’m trying to work on James,” Jeffries said. “It might be his dream school, because you know, Coach Cal knows what’s best for kids. He’s a top player, he wants to go one-and-done, and Cal’s got a good system to do that, so I think it’s somewhere he would want to go.”

Wiseman has been completely surrounded by Memphis buzz, but John Calipari will not yield.  At least one staff member has watched the Bluff City Legends in every EYBL contest.  When they aren’t watching, Jeffries is talking.

See what Jeffries did against R.J. Barrett last year on the EYBL. 

[SEC Country]


WATCH: Tyrese Maxey Sinks EYBL Game-Winner

Jon Lopez | Nike

Tyrese Maxey made waves on and off the court this weekend at the Nike EYBL in Indianapolis.

He started the weekend strong.  With a slip of the tongue on Friday night, he let the cat out of the bag by describing himself and Ashton Hagans as “the duo.”  A week after giving unsure statements about his future, he told reporters he’d know within a week if he was reclassifying (and committing).  Since then, all of the buzz has been, “Maxey will be a Kentucky Wildcat.”

While the chatter consumed the sidelines, Maxey put on a show in-between the lines.

Saturday morning’s game against Marvin Bagley’s former team, the Phoenix Phamily, came down to the wire. With the game tied at 64 with 17 seconds to play, Maxey cleared out the lane and attacked the rim.  When a double-team came, the combo guard pulled up at the elbow to drain the contested game-winner with less than a second to play.

Another angle (with more highlights of his 24-point performance):

After he nailed the shot, Maxey said, “I don’t need the ball screen.  That’s money.”

Maxey was money on more than one occasion at the Session 2 of the Nike EYBL.  He closed the session by scoring 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting.  He added on 4 rebounds and 3 steals in a four-point overtime victory.

Maxey averaged 22.75 points per game with UK’s coaches on hand in Indianapolis.  Through two weekends he has the second-highest single-game scoring performance and is fifth in scoring (23.7 ppg.) while shooting 52 percent from the field.

He proved that he’s one of the best prep performers in the country.  We’ll find out in the next week or two if Tyrese Maxey will in fact be a Kentucky Wildcat this fall.


How can John Calipari make a ridiculously loaded backcourt work next season?

When John Calipari signed his first recruiting class at Kentucky, many wondered how he would make two true point guards in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe work in the starting lineup.  We then saw it again with the 2014-15 team with an extremely talented backcourt mix, and then again with a trio of Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, and Isaiah Briscoe the year after.

Next season, however, Coach Cal is trying to do something that has never been done before.

At one point, it looked like the Cats would only be bringing in guards Immanuel Quickley and Tyler Herro to join Quade Green and Jemarl Baker in Lexington. Quickley is a five-star McDonald’s All-American point guard for a reason, but after seeing him play several times in person, it’s no secret it may take some time to find his footing in college. As for Herro, I’m higher on him than most, but he’s still a pure scorer with obvious defensive struggles. We’ve heard great things about Baker’s shooting ability, but we haven’t seen him play a minute of college basketball, so who knows what we are going to get with him. Depth was an obvious concern.

Now, the No. 1 point guard in 2019, Ashton Hagans, is committed to Kentucky and likely reclassifying to the class of 2018. Tyrese Maxey, the second-best point guard in 2019, is also heavily considering the Wildcats and reclassifying to 2018, as well. We will learn about his final decision next week. Coach Cal went after the top-two guard options available, regardless of class.

If things go as planned, Green, Quickley, Herro, Hagans, Maxey, and Baker will all be in Kentucky uniforms next season, giving the Cats arguably their deepest backcourt we’ve seen in the Coach Cal era. Four five-stars and two four-stars, each bringing something elite to the table. Ever since the Coach Cal era began at Kentucky, the national championship has had one or two elite players in the backcourt. With his latest master plan, he’s planning on having six major contributors at guard. Six.

So how is Calipari going to make it all work? Is too much of a good thing a bad thing?

Absolutely not.

If Calipari locks up Hagans and Maxey for 2018, he will have just about everything he has been begging for in his time at Kentucky. Veteran leadership in Green, size/athleticism/defense in Hagans, elite scoring from all three levels in Quickley, and pure shooting in Maxey, Herro, and Baker. And he’ll be able to use them both in the starting lineup and off the bench.

A lot of the potential lineups depend on whether we’ll see PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and/or Wenyen Gabriel return. If all three return, the Cats can go big and dominate up front. If one or two leave, there will be more than enough help in the backcourt to throw something new and unique at the opposition. Guard-heavy lineups have worked at Kentucky, specifically with Ulis, Murray, and Briscoe in 2015-16, and they’d have the ammunition no matter what happened with the NBA decisions. For this argument and the best possible scenario, let’s say all three return.

We’d likely see a ridiculous rotation of:

Quade Green/Immanuel Quickley/Jemarl Baker

Ashton Hagans/Tyrese Maxey/Tyler Herro

Keldon Johnson/Jarred Vanderbilt

PJ Washington/Wenyen Gabriel

Nick Richards/EJ Montgomery

Who can compete with that?

Calipari preaches “positionless” basketball, so we’d see Green, Hagans, and sometimes Johnson bring up the ball and facilitate the offense. He said we’d never see the platoon system ever again, but he’d have so much talent on the bench that he’d have no other option but to utilize mass-substitutions.

Shooting lineup: Maxey, Baker, Herro, Gabriel, Montgomery.

Guard-heavy lineup: Green, Hagans, Maxey, Johnson, Washington

Defensive lineup: Maxey, Hagans, Johnson, Vanderbilt, Richards

Length/size lineup: Hagans, Johnson, Vanderbilt, Montgomery, Richards

Whatever Coach Cal wanted to do, he would be able to make it happen. Whatever defenses threw at him, he’d have a response. If a player is struggling, there are two or three options on the bench to replace them with. Foul trouble, depth to respond. It’s the dream scenario.

With 200 possible minutes and 12 legitimate players expected to receive playing time, that boils down to about 16.7 minutes per player. Guys like Green, Washington, and Vanderbilt would obviously earn more minutes than guys like Quickley, Baker, and Herro, but everyone in the rotation would have a chance to come in and make an impact. Like we saw in 2014-15, the Cats would be able to wear down the opposing defenses with the first unit, and see little-to-no dropoff in the second unit to go in for the kill.

We all knew Calipari had something up his sleeve when reclassification rumors started to trickle out.

Nothing is set in stone, but if Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans both end up at Kentucky in 2018 (as expected), things could get really, really interesting.