By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 10th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Over the course of the last four years, one of the best student-athletes at the University of Kentucky has been UK superstar cheerleader Josh Marsh. It’s a consensus.
In most games, Marsh’s mind-boggling, gravity-defying flips spark the loudest roars from the Rupp Arena faithful.
He even went viral for an impressive run in the end zone at Kroger Field.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) October 12, 2018
While celebrating Senior Day in his final home basketball game at Kentucky last night, Marsh went through his impressive routine, but came up limping on his final run.
After going through some early tests and evaluations with UK team doctors, the early diagnosis isn’t good for the senior athlete.
“I got checked by the doctors at the game and they said more than likely my Achilles is torn,” Marsh told KSR.
In his time in Lexington, Marsh helped lead the UK cheerleading team to four consecutive national championships, adding to the school’s record-setting list of 24 total.
With a gravity-defying human like Marsh leading the way, it’s no surprise the Cats were able to continue their historic streak in his time on campus.
I am convinced Kentucky cheerleader Josh Marsh is actually a machine and/or has springs in his shoes. There is no way this is possible. I don’t believe it. https://t.co/qAsmpuusSn
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 16, 2019
— BIG BLUE NATION #BBN (@UKBasketbalI) February 28, 2019
The KSR family extends our prayers and well-wishes to Marsh during his (hopefully speedy) recovery.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 09th, 2019 @ 8:45pm
Classes for University of Kentucky students will not resume until next Monday, March 18. Throughout the next week, campus will feel a bit deserted, with the majority of students heading home or, if they’re lucky, heading somewhere warm. But, in this regard, the Kentucky basketball team can’t be considered “lucky,” because they’ve chosen to stay in Lexington to get to work.
Following Saturday’s win over Florida, Calipari told media members he planned to give his players the next few days off, saying his staff considered giving the team Saturday, Sunday and Monday off to go home, like they do at Christmas.
“When I do that, my teams go and smash people after that because they’re fresh, they’re alive. Problem is Reid [Travis] didn’t want to do it, PJ [Washington] didn’t want to do it, Tyler [Herro] didn’t want to do it,” Calipari said. “They didn’t want to go back. They said, give us [time] off, and if we want to do work with the individual coaches, we’ll do it.”
Washington enthusiastically stood by his decision.
“We feel like we’re not done yet, so nobody wants to go home yet. We definitely want to get in the gym and work to get back where we need to be and just focus on our end goal.”
That gym-rat mentality dates all the way back to the Bahamas, when reports surfaced of individual players cutting through the hotel to get back to the court late at night. Months later, that mentality is stronger than ever.
“It’s a different group. This is a group, because of their mentalities, that picked the right school… We live here, we train here and we go to class over here,” Calipari said. “These guys are gym rats and love being in the gym. They are curious and want to get better. Really, that attitude has dragged a couple players that normally wouldn’t be that way, to be that way and now their skill set is [improving].”
When asked if he was one of the players who voted to stay on campus, Keldon Johnson just laughed before admitting he just “wanted to go see my mom.” Luckily, Johnson’s mom (and several other families) were able to make the trip to Lexington.
“I told them to stay at the hotels with their families, and they’re having meals with their families. This is, again, it’s a young team and it’s been a long season. It’s been a fast season, but it’s a long season,” Calipari said. “I need their energy, I need them to be fresh mentally and physically, not tired. We try not to overwhelm them with video; we try not to overwhelm them with long practices. But we’ve got to have energy.”
Tyler Herro’s family is one of the ones able to come visit with their son over break. He said they’ll spend Saturday night hanging out, catching up, eating dinner and (maybe) watching the Duke-North Carolina game. He, like Washington, remains confident in his decision to remain in Lexington.
“We just wanted to stay here. We know that over the next month, we’re going to be fighting for our lives. Continuing to get better, keep working out, we’ll have a day off but a lot of guys will be in the gym.”
Utilizing the break may also help the players get in the gym during, apparently, their favorite time of the day: late at night. Calipari said his team often says they’re heading to get shots up around 11 p.m., but “well, you can’t. There’s volleyball in there.” The solution?
“Well, you can go in at two in the morning if you want,” Calipari offered. “Take managers and go in – they will rebound for you.”
It’s great the players are staying in Lexington this week, and it’s even better it was decided by the players themselves. Getting that extra time in the gym before the start of the SEC Tournament and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament could be huge in the coming weeks. But let’s all say a quick prayer for the managers heading to the Joe Craft Center at 2:00 in the morning. That can’t be ideal.
The SEC Tournament bracket is now final. No. 2 Kentucky will face the winner of No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 10 Alabama Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
The LSU/Vanderbilt game has yet to tip, but won’t have an impact on seeding. Even if the Tigers lose, they’ll finish in a three-way tie for first in the SEC with Kentucky and Tennessee, but the tiebreaker insures they’ll be the No. 1 seed in Nashville. But hey, Co-SEC Regular Season Champs!
Who do you want, Ole Miss or Alabama? The Cats only beat the Rebels by four on Tuesday and lost to the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa in the conference opener.
Kentucky survived a sluggish twelve-minute stretch of basketball to defeat Florida 66-57 on Senior Day at Rupp Arena.
The Cats’ slide began just past the six-minute mark in the first half. After Ashton Hagans’ made three-pointer, the Gators went on a 15-5 run by holding UK without a bucket until after halftime.
Kentucky needed P.J. Washington to help them get out of a funk. The sophomore power forward, likely playing in his last game at Rupp Arena, scored seven straight points to help UK retake the lead with 12:43 remaining. His scoring barrage sparked a 13-2 run over the next seven minutes and gave the Cats a comfortable 12-point cushion. The Kentucky lead never shrank to less than eight the rest of the way.
The Cats had four double-digit scorers. Led by Herro’s 16, Washington scored 15 points, while Johnson and Hagans each finished with 14 points.
Tennessee’s loss to Auburn and UK’s win have locked the Cats into a two-seed in next weekend’s SEC Tournament.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 09th, 2019 @ 12:25pm
There has been much speculation about Kentucky forward Reid Travis’ availability today on Senior Day, and now, we might have a little more clarity on the matter.
Ryan “Scoop” Lemond is reporting that Travis will NOT be playing against Florida this afternoon.
Scoop Lemond @ryanlemond is reporting Reid Travis will not play today
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 9, 2019
In Kenny Payne’s press conference yesterday, the associate head coach still considered Travis day-to-day, but hoped the Wildcat senior could suit up this afternoon. “But we’ll see,” he said.
“We’re not in the business of forcing kids to [play]. He knows what his body is, he’ll let us know and we’ll go from there with it,” Payne said.
This morning, the Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account posted a picture of Travis’ jersey hanging in the Rupp Arena locker room one final time.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 9, 2019
While he’ll likely suit up and certainly participate in Senior Day festivities, it’s looking like we’ll have to wait till next week before Travis takes the floor again.
If you’re looking for the next High School basketball star from Kentucky, look no further than Kenny White from Madisonville-North Hopkins. In his short two-game stint at the Whitaker Bank KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16, he was easily the star of the weekend. Against Lincoln County, White went for 21 points in the victory along with eight rebounds and six blocks.
If you think that’s impressive, what the 6’7″ junior did against Warren Central was even better. In the first half ALONE, White nearly had a double-double with 19 points on eight of nine shooting and seven boards. He would ultimately finish with a 27 point-ten rebound double-double. He also hit two threes.
Here are some of his highlights from just the first half:
Kenny White throws down the dunk. Madisonville-North Hopkins 5, Warren Central 5. 6:30 1Q. pic.twitter.com/Qu89WngKXf
— Jared MacDonald (@JMacDonaldSport) March 9, 2019
Kenny White’s gonna have a lot more college offers soon, I think. Madisonville up 19-15. pic.twitter.com/vzzShmAnhy
— Josh Moore (@HLpreps) March 9, 2019
Kenny White is a show. pic.twitter.com/98Qi7SvsZH
— Josh Moore (@HLpreps) March 9, 2019
Kenny White with his second dunk tonight to give Madisonville-North Hopkins a 33-26 lead over Warren Central. 2:39 2Q. pic.twitter.com/JlKC7Tjzej
— Jared MacDonald (@JMacDonaldSport) March 9, 2019
Currently, White only has offers from Tennesee-Martin, Kent State, and Evansville. But, I can assure you that will change soon. EKU head coach A.W. Hamilton was in the crowd to watch the junior’s performance, and if I were a betting man, I’d say White will get a call from Hamilton soon.
With another season to go, he will almost certainly get some calls from some Power five schools. Kenny White is definitely someone to keep an eye out for going forward.
Check out some more of White’s highlights here.
Here are some highlights from his first round game against Lincoln County:
Kenny White catches the oop and slams it in. Madisonville-North Hopkins 18, Lincoln County 14. pic.twitter.com/0bxFOhagGm
— Jared MacDonald (@JMacDonaldSport) March 7, 2019
WHAT A SEQUENCE FOR THE MAROONS!!
Who else, Kenny White gets the block, his sixth block of the day! It leads to the two for Madisonville and the fighting Drew Franklins go wild pic.twitter.com/5zQLIW2tlt
— Brent Wainscott (@BrentW_KSR) March 8, 2019
Senior day has arrived and UK will look to end a very successful season on a high note. After defeating Ole Miss earlier in the week to finish 8-2 in true road games this season, the Wildcats will now be hosting the Florida Gators to end the season. A team they are all too familiar with in playing on senior days whether at The O’Dome or Rupp Arena.
The Gators appear to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament despite their 17-13 overall record. Thanks to a weak bubble and three Quadrant 1 wins, Mike White will have UF playing in the big show for the second time in three seasons.
The status of Reid Travis is still up in the air and the Wildcats are still ironing out the kinks without their senior big in the lineup. Today, UK will battle the early wave of emotions from senior day to attempt to collect their fourth Quadrant 2 victory of the season.
Nuts and Bolts
With his third season coming to a close, Mike White is now 84-50 overall at Florida with a 41-28 mark in SEC play. After winning 27 games and reaching an Elite Eight in year two, the Gators have recorded at least 13 losses in each of the last two seasons. Despite a fair amount of winning, the book is still out on the former Ole Miss point guard.
The fact of the matter is that White was charged with replacing a man that turned Florida, essentially overnight, into a perennial contender. Billy Donovan brought home two national championships and six SEC titles to Gainesville. Those are some big shoes for a young head coach to replace. However, the future appears to be pretty bright for this program.
Three of Florida’s top five scorers are all freshmen and are currently not projected to be draft picks. You add that in with five-star guard Scottie Lewis arriving on campus next season and, on paper, Florida will be competing for an SEC title once again next year. In the big picture, White is doing just fine in Gainesville.
Florida is a team built on defense and three-point shooting. Early in his tenure, White has made it blatantly obvious that this will be a defense first program and the numbers prove that. The Gators are 13th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom and under White they’ve never finished outside of the top 25. On defense, Florida will use a zone press in addition to a ball pressure halfcourt man-to-man defense that has switchability at nearly every position. Where they struggle is on the offensive end.
Under Mike White, the Gators only have one top 25 offensive efficiency finish and this season they currently sit at 71st. Florida is middle of the road in the SEC and this appears to be the biggest thing holding the program back. The Gators run a spread offense that is heavily dependent on their point guard creating plays off of ball screen actions. Florida has some solid three-point shooters and when they are on they can play with anyone. It’s when they are off when the struggles come. In the low post, Florida has close to no offense and that really stings when they go cold from the outside.
This will be the 142nd meeting between the two SEC programs with Kentucky owning a 101-40 series lead. After being swept last season, UK will be looking to return the favor this afternoon. Mike White is one of only five current SEC head coaches that owns a win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Overall, White is 3-4 against UK while John Calipari is 15-8 against Florida.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 10.5 point favorite with a total of 128.5 That’s a projected final score of 69.5-59. On the year, UK is 15-14-1 against the spread while Florida is 12-18. The Gators have been a dog 10 times this season and are 3-7 against the spread in those games. After covering seven in a row, UK is just 2-5-1 against the number in its last eight games. The under is 8-2 in the last 1o games for both Florida and Kentucky.
Speaking of young freshmen, the Gators have two in the backcourt that are playing a big role. Florida is heavily dependent on point guard Andrew Nembhard and sharpshooter Noah Locke. Both have been excellent for most of the season and are a big reason why this basketball team will be playing into March.
Nembhard is a 6-foot-5 point guard who ranks third in the SEC in assist rate and has become a much more efficient offensive player in SEC play. The Canadian point guard has played at least 32 minutes in the last six games and plays a huge role for this team. Florida really has no other point guard on the roster and Mike White asks this freshman to do a lot.
Next to Nembhard is Noah Locke and the newcomer has been a pleasant surprise for the Gators. The Maryland native was a bench piece in the non-conference before turning into one of Florida’s most important offensive players. The 6-foot-3 off guard is shooting 36.9 percent from three in league games on 122 attempts. The three-point specialist has only attempted 75 two-point field goals this season and Florida hunts three-point attempts for the young shooter.
There’s more than just youth in the Gator backcourt, however. KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson both entered their senior seasons with All-SEC expectations, but each is coming up a bit short in their final year in college. The duo is only putting up 20.8 points per game this year after chipping in 26.5 per game last season.
Allen, the former high school rival of Malik Monk and second-team All-SEC member in 2017, leads the team in scoring but the Gators still need more. The Arkansas native is putting up 12.2 points per outing and is shooting 33.1 percent from three. The two-guard is in a very big shooting slump as he is 4-for-25 in his last three games. This cold spell was the biggest culprit in consecutive home losses to Georgia and LSU.
Speaking of slumps, wing Jalen Hudson went through some big time sluggish runs this season. The former Virginia Tech transfer put up over 15 points and hit 78 threes in his first season in Gainesville. This season he is putting up just 8.6 points and is shooting just 27 percent from three-point range.
Hudson was a player many considered a borderline NBA prospect before the season and that stock appears to have now gone down the drain. The senior has been woefully inefficient despite accounting for 29 percent of the team’s shot attempts. However, he has turned the corner as of late and has had double-digit scoring efforts in the last five games. In the recent loss to LSU, Hudson put up a season-high 33 points.
The Gators have a nice blend of youth and experience, but there’s no denying that it’s been a weird mix this season. It’s a major reason why this team has been so inconsistent all year.
Down low, the Gators have also dealt with some disappointment but it was largely do to injury. Four-man Keith Stone was lost for the season at the beginning of SEC play due to a torn ACL and Florida has really missed his versatility on the offensive end. The junior was a competent floor spacer who was shooting 40.5 percent from three when he was knocked out of the lineup. Without him, the Gators have had to lean heavily on another rookie.
Keyontae Johnson has exceeded expectations in his first season playing college ball and the undersized forward is going to have the chance to develop into an all-conference level performer. The 6-foot-7 forward has shown the ability to hit jumpers in addition to being able to get buckets in the paint. He’s been a quality rebounder and overall solid defender. He’s the glue guy for this team.
Next to Johnson in the post is senior five-man Kevarrius Hayes and Mike White could not ask for much more from the rim protector. Hayes is very limited offensively. He is out there to set screens, rebound, and anchor the defense. The senior ranks seventh in the SEC in block percentage, ninth in steal percentage, and fourth in offensive rebound percentage. He’s an excellent role player and is easily this team’s best paint player.
Keys to Victory
- With any senior day, you have to worry about slow starts. The pregame will be totally different due to the senior day ceremonies and UK will be using a new starting lineup for the first time this season. The Gators are heavily dependent on the three-point shot and they could put Kentucky in a very early hole if they are on early. Kentucky’s defense must be ready to go from the jump to give the offense time to establish some rhythm.
- KeVaughn Allen is this team’s top scorer and has scored over 1,600 points in his collegiate career. The senior torched Kentucky for 24 points in Rupp Arena a couple seasons ago. The Arkansas native has been cold as ice the last couple games and is due for a breakthrough. UK needs to make sure it doesn’t happen this afternoon. If Allen is on, the Gators become a much more dangerous team on the offensive end.
- On Tuesday, the rebounding numbers were embarrassing for UK and they’ll be facing a similar offense in Florida. The Gators can’t spread the floor five-wide like Ole Miss, but most of the time they use spacing in ball screens to create lanes for dribble drive actions. When UK gets defensive stops they must be able to end the possession with a rebound and not an extra shot. It will be important for UK to team rebound and get a body of Keyontae Johnson and Kevarrius Hayes whenever a shot goes up.
- It’s been a rough go for Ashton Hagans, but the freshman made some nice offensive plays downhill in the second half against Ole Miss before a couple of iffy decisions in crunch time. In the last meeting against Florida, Hagans had just an average game. Against an excellent defensive team, this is a great spot for the rookie point guard to build some confidence going int0 postseason play. Expect the Gators to ball pressure Hagans a ton and if he can start to figure out some solutions that will be a great sign for UK’s offense.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
He may not have played a whole lot of minutes or scored many points over the course of his four-year career, but Kentucky walk-on guard Jonny David has made an impact on the team that extends well beyond the box score each night.
Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne said this afternoon that without David’s positive influence in the locker room and guidance as a role model in the UK facilities every day, this program simply wouldn’t be what it is right now without him.
“Jonny David is one of the kids that has been here that’s made a major impact through practice, through being a positive influence on his teammates,” Payne said. “He gets along with everybody. He’s supportive of everybody. He doesn’t get the credit which none of these kids do when you’re in a role like he’s in. But, the day-to-day stuff that he brings to the table keeping guys positive on the bench, working out in practices, playing every position on the floor.”
Used as a human victory formation over the course of his four seasons in Lexington, David has accumulated a total of seven points, one rebound, and four shot attempts (1-4 overall, 1-3 from three) in 30 career games.
And Saturday, David will go through Senior Day facilities and start in his final game as a Kentucky player at Rupp Arena.
“I really didn’t hit me until today,” David said. “A lot of stuff was coming out. Obviously, I’ve thought about, yeah, it’s my last time at Rupp and everything. But it kind of hit me today, it’s the last time, I got a little sad for a second. But it’s more about celebrating it and celebrating the four years and I’m looking forward to it.”
During Kentucky games, it has become a tradition for the Big Blue Nation to erupt when David tosses away the warmups and jogs over to the scorer’s table.
When he steps onto the Rupp Arena floor, though, it’s the deafening “SHOOOOOT” chants that mean the world to the senior guard.
And tomorrow, you better believe he’ll make the most of those chants if the opportunity presents itself. If not, just coming away with a victory will more than make up for it.
“I’m not going to unnecessarily force anything up, but I won’t pass up a shot, I’ll tell you that,” David said. “I just hope as a team, we get better, we get the win. That’s really what it’s all about. I’m a team guy, not a selfish person at all. If anything else happens, that’s a bonus.”
What will David remember most about his time in Lexington? A few specific things stand out.
“Just everything. The program in general. It’s the top in the country. The people, especially all of the behind the scenes people that I’ve become close with over four years. The coaches, the town. The relationships that I’ve built are definitely going to last a lifetime, but those are things I will definitely miss.”
Will he get emotional?
“I don’t know, that’s going to be an in the moment thing. I think I’ll be more happy,” he said. “It’s more about us celebrating four years being here. It’s going to be an in the moment kind of thing.”
When asked about his best memory at Kentucky, he reminisced about his freshman season when he got to go heads-up with his brother when the Cats took on South Florida in 2015.
“It’s still probably my freshman year, down in Miami, we played USF and I got to play against my brother, score my first points,” he said. “He still brings that up when Isaac (Humphries) swatted him when he drove. That’s probably still one of my best memories.”
The Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account sent out a video this afternoon highlighting David’s time in Lexington.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 8, 2019
Kentucky head coach John Calipari also had one final message for his senior guard before his big day.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 8, 2019
Here was David’s entire media appearance Friday afternoon:
One final hoorah. Go get ‘em, Jonny.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Believe it or not, Saturday afternoon marks Kentucky’s final regular-season game of the year. Then, it’s tournament time – first, the SEC Tournament in Nashville, followed by, of course, the Big Dance. But if you feel like this college basketball season has flown by, you’re not alone.
“It’s gone by, like right out the window,” PJ Washington said during a media opportunity Friday afternoon. “I can remember the Bahamas like it was yesterday. I can remember having so much fun throughout the season, and it’s just fun to look back and see how much we’ve grown so far.”
This season has been fun for the Wildcats, and there’s still (hopefully) plenty of fun to come throughout the next few weeks. However, flipping the calendar to March also means it’s crunch time.
“You come to Kentucky to play basketball,” Assistant Coach Kenny Payne emphasized. “November, December, January, February is great. But this is it; the time is now. There’s an urgency among all of these kids to play their best basketball now – starting now.”
That urgency has created a shift in the team’s mindset, according to Washington.
“I think it’s really switched. It’s switched ever since we started losing early in the season, honestly,” Washington said of the team’s outlook heading into post-season play. “We’re just out to win every game and be focused in practice and walkthroughs… Just to focus on every opponent and not take anybody lightly. We’ve been doing that and we know everybody’s going to give us their best game of the season.”
Realizing the importance of each game while recognizing you’re done getting “easy” wins is huge for every Kentucky team come this time of the season. Florida is coming into Rupp Arena as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, and a win over the No. 6 Wildcats would greatly improve their resume and significantly improve their chances of making the “bubble IN” list, rather than the “bubble OUT” one.
The SEC Tournament isn’t the end-all, be-all for a team like Kentucky, especially the final game on Sunday, but a bad showing early in the week could hurt Kentucky’s seeding, in terms of opponents and location. And a slip-up in the NCAA Tournament… Well, that’ll send you packing. But, according to Coach Payne, that’s what this team is prepared for by March.
“It’s different when you’re not playing for something when you’re playing Kentucky. Well, when everybody’s playing for something, it’s a little different. There’s a different pressure to it,” Payne said. “That’s why we play all of the non-conference games that we play, so we get used to playing in big games where it means something.”
Starting this Saturday, every game the Cats play will mean something. But that’s what March is all about, right?
By Nick Roush on ©March 08th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Jon Sumrall is right where he belongs.
Fifteen years after he played linebacker for Rich Brooks’ Wildcats, Sumrall returns to Lexington to coach Mark Stoops’ inside linebackers.
“The University of Kentucky means a lot to me,” Sumrall said. “I had the opportunity to play here. To be able to wear the UK logo on my chest gives me a little extra juice. I’m already a firey, emotional coach, but it gives me a little extra oomph and excitement. That had a definite pull.”
His background helps him blend into the program seamlessly, while his style reflects the Cats’ head coach.
“I coach with a chip on my shoulder,” Sumrall said. “The fact that I achieved [as a player] is a big deal, because I probably didn’t belong at this level, truthfully. I prided myself on what to do, being able to communicate clearly and confident, and try to do things the right way.”
How he played is how he coaches, which sometimes requires him to play.
“He’s got more energy. He’ll run behind you during a play,” Chris Oats revealed. “If you make a mistake, he wants you to go 100 miles per hour.”
The fiery energy Sumrall carries with him from the field, into the homes of recruits, is inspired by a quote from Bear Bryant.
“If you’re not fired with enthusiasm, you’re going to get fired with enthusiasm.”
Many of the lessons Sumrall took with him into coaching stem from his time playing for Coach Brooks. The mentality that made Kentucky successful in the mid-00s is not much different than what the program plays with now.
“I see a lot of Coach Brooks in Coach Stoops,” Sumrall said. “They both built their program here similarly. They weren’t looking for an overnight quick fix. They did things blue collar, tough, hard-nosed, just kind of consistent daily-process driven,” he continued.
“Coach Stoops and what he’s accomplished here and what he’s building here speaks for itself. The opportunity to be a part of that and help build upon what they’ve been doing, couple that with the opportunity to come to where I played, was something I just couldn’t turn down.”
A fiery, passionate personality leading a group of talented inside linebackers, once Sumrall gets rolling on the recruiting front, you’ll understand why he is the perfect fit for the Kentucky football team.
By Nick Roush on ©March 07th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
In 2018, Kentucky’s defense never looked better. Replicating a similar equation will not be simple, but Boogie Watson believes Mark Stoops found the right man for the job.
“He’s a football genius in my opinion,” Watson said Thursday morning. “Coming from the NFL, since the first day he got here he helped me out with everything I’ve done. His pass rush techniques have helped me tremendously. As a whole defense I think he has some good schemes he’s installing right now.”
That genius is Brad White. Last month Stoops promoted Watson’s outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. White replaces Matt House. The man who orchestrated Kentucky’s defensive turnaround departed to coach linebackers for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to touch all aspects of this defense. Obviously, Coach House did a phenomenal job, so big shoes to fill. The nice thing is I don’t have to do it by myself. I have a lot of really capable people to lean on, people that have been there before,” White said. “In terms of being your first time calling [plays], I couldn’t have a better situation.”
White will be surrounded by a few former coordinators and head coaches. Prior to taking the job at UK, Stoops was a defensive coordinator at two power five programs. Steve Clinkscale previously coordinated Cincinnati’s defense. Dean Hood was a head coach at EKU and coached White in college as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator. They veterans shared simple advice to White as he makes the transition from position coach to coordinator.
“Be you. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t try to be Coach Hood. Don’t try to be Coach House. Don’t try to be Coach Stoops. I’ve gotta be me. The way I coach is the way I coach and our defense is our defense. There may be some nuances here and there. The way I call a game may be slightly different based on feel and flow, but again, I don’t think there’s going to be that much change in that regard.”
By keeping the hire in-house, continuity in scheme is a theme of Kentucky’s defense.
“It’s not like we’re starting from scratch. Our defense is our defense,” White said. “Coach Stoops hasn’t changed a lot in seven years. That’s a positive. We can build on that.”
They aren’t starting from scratch, but White does have a lot of production to replace. He inherits a defense that finished 6th in scoring and 23rd in total defense, but only returns four starters. He must find a completely new secondary and call a defense without Josh Allen, White’s protege that’s arguably the school’s greatest playmaker.
Filling in the gaps will not happen overnight. Kentucky has a dozen more spring practices and a fall camp to find new defensive playmakers. Everybody has a clean slate. White does not care who you are. He wants players who will help the defense achieve his ultimate goal.
“When you turn on the film, you have 11 guys flying to the ball every single down. You have 11 guys playing violent with their hands every single down. They got their eyes in the right place. They’re playing with technique. Nothing requires talent here. What it does require is effort, strain and sticking to the technique each position coach is teaching.”
White’s philosophy is so simple, one might say it’s genius.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 07th, 2019 @ 10:45pm
With one game left in the regular season, Kentucky is officially out of the race for the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. LSU’s win over Florida last night means the Cats will be either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed next week, the former only with a little help from Auburn.
If the SEC Tournament began today, Kentucky would be the No. 3 seed, playing the winner of Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M/Vanderbilt Friday night around 9:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the bracket through last night’s games:
How will Saturday’s games impact the bracket? If you want Kentucky to avoid the late Friday night game (and you should, for everyone’s sake), you better cheer like hell for Auburn to beat Tennessee on Saturday. If that happens and Kentucky takes care of Florida, the Cats and the Vols will have matching 15-3 conference records. Because the head-to-head series is 1-1, the tiebreaker would become winning percentage vs. the No. 1 seed on down the list. Both teams lost to LSU and beat South Carolina (Tennessee beat them twice and Kentucky once, but it’s based on percentages, so considered a push), but Kentucky beat Auburn twice, so the Cats would secure the No. 2 seed and a few more hours of rest heading into what will be a war on Saturday.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 06th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad will have to wait even longer to learn about his future in football.
After missing the NFL Combine this past weekend after medical testing revealed a heart issue, Conrad tells KSR that he will also not be able to participate at UK Pro Day on March 22.
The former Wildcat sent out the following tweet on Friday when he heard the first set of news.
— CJ Conrad (@cjconrad1) March 1, 2019
Conrad says that he will undergo more testing and should learn the results in two weeks or so. At that point, we’ll know more about where his future as a professional football player stands.
In four years at Kentucky, Conrad managed 80 total receptions for 1015 yards and 12 touchdowns.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 06th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
John Calipari has brought plenty of new words and phrases into Kentuckians’ vocabulary over the past decade. From “tweak” to “everyone’s Super Bowl” and from “brother’s keeper” to “you people are crazy,” the Wildcats’ head coach has given fans plenty of Calipari Catchphrases over the years.
But it wasn’t until last season Calipari honed in on a new phrase. This one doesn’t rhyme and it’s not even necessarily very “catchy,” but it has been used quite a bit in the last year and a half: one-handed rebounds.
It started with Nick Richards last season, and although he’s obviously not the first basketball player to struggle with pulling in boards, the 2017-18 season marked the first time Calipari spent a significant amount of time harping on it. And Coach Cal hasn’t stopped this season. But now, Richards isn’t the only one under the single-handed microscope: Tyler Herro is guilty as well.
“There are certain things we do, and we drill how we are going to play. Those are the things that drive me nuts. Everything we do is with two hands [in practice]. So if a guy goes to grab the ball with one hand, I lose my mind,” Calipari admitted after the Ole Miss game Tuesday night. “For five months, that’s all we’ve talked about. Every drill in everything. We are not losing the game because you are going to go after the ball or a rebound with one hand – we are not. We may lose in other ways, but it is not going to be that.”
The call-out comes one game after the camera caught Calipari having a rather… intense conversation with Herro. But, according to Cal, Herro had made several consecutive mistakes at that point and, after the fourth or fifth reminder, Calipari had seen enough. After the Ole Miss game, Coach Cal revisited the mentality he has during those heated moments.
“We are coaching them. If we’re asking you to do something and you don’t do it, you’re going to hear about it and we’re going to hold you accountable,” Calipari said. “We’re also going to tell you how much we love you and how proud of you we are and all of that stuff. But we’re going to hold you accountable. And that’s why I said you’ve got to grow up coming here. This is one where it’s not easy.”
After struggling in Knoxville, Herro came out battling in Oxford. He spent a good portion of the first half perfect from the floor. Even though Herro finished with 20 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting against Ole Miss, Calipari said the guard still made some simple mistakes, and those mistakes showed a “slippage [that] goes back to high school.”
“By trying to steal and not getting it, you gave them a three and a chance to beat us,” Calipari said of Herro’s decision during one of the final plays of the game. “Why did you do that? That is a high school move. You aren’t trying to steal it, we are just going to stay in front and make him take a tough shot. Those are all things that I talk about after the game and we show on tape.”
Despite the mistakes, including those one-handed rebounds, Calipari seems content with the progress his team is making, saying “I have great kids. Every one of them, from top to bottom.”
You could even say… “I like my team.”