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Introducing the KSR Movie Madness Bracket

Introducing the KSR Movie Madness Bracket

movie-madness

Download the bracket and tune in to Thursday’s show for the new movie version of our annual KSR summer tournament. We’re calling it KSR Movie Madness and we hope you will follow along at home or at work as Matt, Ryan, Shannon and I decide our first annual movie champion by voting in each matchup throughout the bracket. You, the callers, will be the deciding vote in any tiebreaker situations.

See your 64 non-comedy movies and the tournament bracket below, decided on by our selection committee; then tune in to KSR for the madness.

bracket-final

[Download the .pdf version here.]


Derek Willis says Sacha Killeya-Jones has the most potential of anyone left on UK’s roster

sacha-killeya-jones

By now, you’re aware of just how young next season’s team will be, which makes the few returning players even more important. Wenyen Gabriel is Kentucky’s leading returning scorer, with 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game, but on today’s show, outgoing senior Derek Willis said he believes another big man will turn some heads next season: Sacha Killeya-Jones.

“I think the kid with most potential on the team didn’t play hardly at all this year, Sacha,” Derek said. “Without a doubt. He has all the skill, all the potential’s there. You have to work with that stuff. He’s been in the gym, doing his thing but it’s hard for someone that young.”

Sacha barely saw the court this season, which was surprising given all the preseason hype. Anyone who watched the team play before the season began would tell you that Sacha was the most exciting player on the court, but that performance didn’t carry over to games. After four years at Kentucky, Derek knows better than anyone how tough it can be to stay motivated when you don’t get a lot of playing time.

“It was hard for me to come in and see the end goal,” Derek said. “Once I started getting on the court and feeling like I was really contributing, then that was when I was like, okay, I’m going to work a little harder and a little harder and that’s when I started staying in the gym more.”

With an offseason to build confidence, Derek thinks the sky’s the limit for Sacha.

“Without a doubt, that will help anyone,” Derek said of more time in the gym. “He’s super athletic, he has a lot of bounce to him. His jump shot right inside the three-point line looks good. It’s all there, he just has to put it together for himself.”

Listen to Derek talk about Sacha around the 38-minute mark.


Wednesday’s Top 10: Cam Johnson on campus, Mark Smith announcing, Preds vs. the Blues

Wednesday’s Top 10: Cam Johnson on campus, Mark Smith announcing, Preds vs. the Blues

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Shoutout to this young KSR and UK fan Blaine Colliver, who refused to enter Alberta, Canada without throwing up his three goggles. Well done, Blaine. I hope you enjoyed Wild Rose Country.

Let’s give him the ten things happening in UK Sports today, shall we?

12131405 1. Cam Johnson starts his official visit

The big news of the day is Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson beginning his official visit to Kentucky. I told you all about Johnson last night and why he would be such a valuable addition to next season’s roster, and it sounds like if he likes what he sees over the next two days, odds are high he’ll become a Cat. Johnson, who will be eligible to play immediately and has two seasons of eligibility remaining, also has Arizona, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, and TCU on his list.

His trip to Lexington comes as…

 2. Jemarl Baker wrapped up his official visit

After committing to Kentucky a few weeks ago, the four-star shooting guard from Los Angeles took his official visit to Lexington to check everything out before signing on the dotted line. Based on his SnapChat story, it looks like he enjoyed himself. Highlights of the story include him hanging at Calipari’s house and getting an up-close look at Cal’s new Air Jordan 8 “Calipari Pack” from Drake, a tour of Rupp Arena and the Joe Craft Center, and even a trip to a horse farm (maybe to meet American Pharaoh like Bamba?).

smith3. Mark Smith announces at 7 p.m.

Kentucky’s other offer at shooting guard, Mark Smith, will announce his decision at 7 p.m. ET at his high school in Illinois. Other than Baker’s commitment, there’s been no indication that Kentucky’s backed off Smith, but the fact that he decided not to visit Kentucky and is announcing on the heels of his official visit to Illinois seems like writing on the wall to me. We’ll have all the coverage on the site tonight.

4. Will Kentucky face West Virginia in the Big 12 Challenge next year?

If you listened to KSR a few weeks back, you heard us mention the possibility of West Virginia being Kentucky’s opponent in next season’s Big 12 Challenge, and yesterday, Oscar Combs took a break from Twitter polls to double down on the rumor, adding that the Cats will likely travel to Morgantown for the showdown with the fighting Huggy Bears. As then-#1 Baylor and #2 Kansas learned last season, taking down the Mountaineers at home is no easy feat. Regardless, I’m already looking forward to the media opps with Cal and Huggins.

5. UK Baseball hosts Xavier

Need a baseball fix? The 6th ranked Bat Cats host Xavier tonight at 7 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK’s recent success has them in the mix for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament, which means they’ll be able to host postseason games, so every game’s important now. You can watch on the SEC Network. This weekend, the Bat Cats travel to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks, who rank third in the SEC East behind Kentucky and Florida.

On that note, be sure to check out the latest episode of the KSR Baseball Podcast featuring Trey Huntsman, former head coach Keith Madison, and this week’s guest, D1 Baseball writer Aaron Fitt. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.

6. The Preds start their second round series with the Blues

After sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators are back in action tonight in Game 1 of their second round series with the St. Louis Blues. As a relatively new hockey fan, I’ll admit, I don’t know much about the Blues other than the Preds won their regular season series against them 3-2 and they’ve got a great goalie. So, we’ll see what happens when the puck drops tonight at 8 p.m. ET in St. Louis. It’s on NBC Sports Network if you’d like to watch.

Oh yeah, in a fit of excitement after Game 3 last week, I gave in and bought a jersey. PK Subban, you and I are in this together now, buddy.

7. One episode left in 13 Reasons Why

The 13-part Netflix sensation about a teenage suicide has been the talk of the nation in pop culture the past month and thankfully, it’s finally picking up after a long stretch of “Why won’t he just go home and listen to the tapes?!”. Seriously, I know that would make for a terrible TV show, but isn’t that we all would do? Looking forward to finishing it tonight. 

8. Forecast for this weekend’s half/full marathons looks steamy

Lots of half and full marathons going on this weekend, including the Kentucky Derby Festival marathon in Louisville and the Rock and Roll Marathon here in Nashville. I’m running in the Nashville half for the second year in a row and unfortunately, the forecast looks hot and humid. If you need me, I’ll be drinking water today.

9. Catch Bam Adebayo on his autograph tour

Yesterday, Bam made the news that he’ll stay in the draft official via a release from UK, thanking his coaches, teammates, and the fans for helping him grow as a player and person over the last year.

“This process we went through at Kentucky was a tough but a rewarding one. It was everything I wanted when I decided to come to Kentucky. It taught me a lot. It taught me how to be a better man on and off the court. I have improved so much since the beginning of the season thanks to the hard work of the coaching staff. They helped me with every step of the process along the way and they never gave up on me.

“I also want to thank my teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to grow with. We were all like brothers. I also want to thank the fans for their support and everything they do for us. Their passion is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

You can catch Bam on his autograph tour, which starts Friday in Somerset and Glasgow:

10. KSR is live from Sleep Outfitters in Morehead

Come on out to 352 Kroger Center Drive to enjoy the show, and when it’s over, stick around to see Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries, who will be signing autographs starting at noon.


The 10 Things You Need To Know About Cam Johnson

The 10 Things You Need To Know About Cam Johnson

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Tomorrow, shooting guard Cameron Johnson will arrive on Kentucky’s campus for a two-day official visit. Johnson is a grad transfer from Pitt in search of a new home and Kentucky is one of six schools he’s considering. Given Johnson’s skills as a shooter, his three years of college experience, and two remaining years of eligibility, he is a hot commodity on the transfer market for programs in search of experience, like the Cats. With that in mind, let’s get to know Cameron Johnson, aka “Cam.”

1. The Basics

12131405

Shooting Guard
6-8, 210 lbs.
Birthdate: March 3, 1996
Hometown: Moon Township, Pennsylvania
Class: Redshirt sophomore

As a high schooler, Johnson was considered the 60th best shooting guard in the 2014 class by 247 Sports. He picked Pitt over Columbia, Penn, Boston College, Stanford, Rice, Richmond, and Virginia. If those Ivy League offers aren’t indication enough, Johnson is one smart cookie, a two-time all-ACC academic team selection with a 3.9 GPA. After three years at Pitt, he will graduate this spring and have two years of eligibility at the school of his choice. His final list: Kentucky, Arizona, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, and TCU.

2. He averaged 11.9 points off 44.7% shooting last season

Kentucky is in dire need of shooters for next season, and Johnson’s a pretty good one. Last year, he averaged 11.9 points off 44.7% shooting, 41.5% from behind the three-point line. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Here are his season averages:

SEASON MIN FG% 3PT% FT% REB AST BLK STL TO PTS
2016-17 33.3 0.447 0.415 0.811 4.5 2.3 0.3 0.9 1.2 11.9
2015-16 11.7 0.397 0.375 0.808 1.8 0.5 0.2 0.3 0.5 4.8
2014-15 14.4 0.394 0.348 0.500 1.1 0.5 0.4 0.1 0.5 4.5

Here’s how Johnson’s 41.5% three-point shooting average compares to past Kentucky shooters:

  • Malik Monk: 39.7%
  • Jamal Murray: 40.8%
  • Devin Booker: 41.1%
  • Doron Lamb: 47.5%

Man, who would have guessed Doron Lamb had the highest three-point percentage of that bunch?

3. He injured his shoulder his freshman year

Johnson played in the first eight games of his freshman season before injuring his shoulder and receiving a medical redshirt. That’s why as a graduate transfer, he’ll have two years of eligibility remaining, which is pretty rare. Yet another reason Calipari wants him, despite his disdain for the grad transfer process (which I’ll get to in a bit).

4. His father played for Pitt around the time Calipari was an assistant there

Not only was Cam Johnson born in Calipari’s hometown of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, his dad was a player at Pitt around the time that Calipari was an assistant on the Pitt staff. Cal left Pitt to take the head coaching job at UMass in 1988, which is also the year that Gilbert Johnson, Cam’s dad, joined the program as a junior college transfer. Calipari’s years at Pitt were the time in which he was cutting his teeth as a recruiter, so odds are he had a hand in bringing Johnson on board. If that’s not enough, Johnson Sr. has known Kenny Payne for over 30 years, according to the Herald-Leader.

In a hilarious aside, check out “Tips from the Panthers” on the back of Gilbert Johnson’s playing card:

True then and true now.

5. His brother played for Calipari’s alma mater

Need another Calipari connection? After transferring from Princeton, Cam’s brother Aaron played for Clarion, just like Calipari. Not only that, Aaron was a recipient of the John Calipari Endowment Scholarship. When it comes to this grad transfer, it really is a small world.

6. His breakout performance came against Syracuse in the 2016 ACC Tournament

Johnson came into his own in the opening round of the 2016 ACC Tournament, when he scored 24 points including four threes to help Pitt beat Syracuse:

7. He carried that performance into next season

Johnson finished fifth in the ACC in three-point percentage (.415) and eighth in three-point field goals (2.36 3pg.) last season. Not too shabby in a conference that also included Luke Kennard, Joel Berry II, and Kyle Guy.

8. Why is he leaving Pitt?

Aside from the fact that he’s finishing up his degree and can go to a higher profile program, is the fact that Kevin Stallings is now his coach good enough reason? It would be for me. Stallings took over at Pitt after Jamie Dixon left for TCU last year, which also explains why TCU is on Johnson’s list.

9. Why Calipari would make an exception for this grad transfer

During the tournament, Calipari went on a rant about grad transfers during one of his media opportunities, complaining that they leave mid-major programs in a lurch. This was in response to Drexel firing Cal’s friend Bruiser Flint after the program struggled to recover from Damion Lee transferring to Louisville. While Calipari pursuing a grad transfer a month after going on that rant seems hypocritical, here are three reasons why it’s not:

  • Pitt is in the ACC, arguably the best conference in the sport
  • Stallings is just in his second year there and a player wanting out after a coaching change is pretty common (especially when it’s Stallings…it’s worth mentioning that Johnson is one of four Pitt players to leave the program since the season ended)
  • Johnson has two years of eligibility remaining. That’s a lot of time to reshape your future, and considering Pitt’s in rebuilding mode, this is the perfect opportunity

10. He’s more than a consolation prize for Kevin Knox

Most recruiting pundits don’t think Kentucky is among the favorites for five-star small forward Kevin Knox and consider Johnson as an excellent consolation prize. I think he’s more than that. On what will essentially be a brand-new roster, Johnson can provide some much needed experience in the backcourt, along with reliable shooting. His off the court success in the classroom doesn’t hurt either. For all of those reasons, while we would love to have Knox, I think Johnson’s a more important addition. Fortunately, we’re hearing if this visit goes well, the chances are high he’ll be a Cat.

So, come on down and enjoy yourself, Cam.


One And Done: Goodbye, Bam

One And Done: Goodbye, Bam

bam-adebayo

Bam Adebayo is gone.

Kentucky’s lovable big man reportedly hired an agent after initially leaving open the option to return when he declared for the draft two weeks ago. The hiring of the agent ends his amateur status and college eligibility, thus ending his time as a Kentucky Wildcat. Your hopes and prayers for a sophomore season went unanswered.

In my opinion the move was the right one, although others will say different. That’s a conversation we can have some other time. For now let’s just look back on Adebayo’s one season in Lexington as he looks ahead to the next phase of his basketball life.

 

The Commitment

Bam Adebayo made a special guest appearance on Mike & Mike in November of his senior season to announce his college decision.

That decision was, of course, to attend the University of Kentucky:

Adebayo chose Kentucky over North Carolina and Auburn, as well as interest and offers from many other schools.

The fifth-ranked player in his class, Adebayo cited John Calipari’s ability to get players to the next level as one of the main reasons he picked the Cats.

That Story About The Coffee Table

It wouldn’t be a tribute to Bam Adebayo without regurgitating the story of how he became Bam in the first place. As legend has it, Adebayo picked up the family coffee table while watching The Flintstones with his mother when he was only one year old. The nickname was born from there and the story was told way too many times throughout this past season.

The Dwight Howard Comparisons

Though he absolutely hated it, Adebayo was often compared to Dwight Howard when he first got to campus. However, we quickly learned to never, ever, ever compare him to Dwight Howard to his face, unless you had a death wish.

The good people over at KSTV had some preseason fun with Adebayo’s teammates and the uncanny resemblance:

I guess being compared to Dwight Howard isn’t a good thing these days, at least not as good as it was 10 years ago.

The Preseason Hype/Early NBA Projections

Adebayo was the fifth overall pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in CBSSports.com’s first NBA mock draft for the 2017 draft, while Chad Ford over at ESPN.com projected Adebayo would go 12th overall, still in the lottery.

“Bam Adebayo already has the NBA body and athleticism that teams crave in their power forwards,” Ford wrote last fall. “He’s an explosive athlete who plays with a great motor. He’s going to be a rebounding and shot-blocking machine for Kentucky.”

Meanwhile, college basketball media types (us included) threw around that “beast” word to describe what we expected to see out of the freshman.

John Calipari also called him a beast when he said, “We have to buy a couple more backboards down at Rupp, because we only have three and I’m afraid if he breaks one or breaks two … like, this kid, he’s a beast.”

Calipari even hinted at the possibility of Adebayo developing at the rate of Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis by the end of his first season.

The Underwhelming Start

It was obvious out of the gate that Adebayo would need some time to find his footing in college basketball. The look test he passed with flying colors over the summer didn’t translate to the college game right away. Sure, he bullied some of the inferior competition on Kentucky’s early schedule, but Adebayo struggled when he ran into players who would push back. Foul trouble was also an early criticism and focal point for the coaching staff.

Above all, Adebayo’s rebounding was the most underwhelming aspect of his game. Once predicted to be a double-double machine for the Wildcats, the big man had only three double-doubles in his first 27 games in college, and scoring was never the problem.

The Dunks (Bam Slams)

There was no shortage of dunks (or Bam Slams) from Adebayo in his one season at Kentucky. He set a new record for the Calipari era with 101 dunks on the year, surpassing Anthony Davis’ record of 92 dunks in the 2011-12 season.

Here is one of the those 101 dunks:

11

And here is another:

22

The Late Emergence

While the double-doubles were hard to come by through the first four months of the season, Adebayo had no problem getting them by the end. Once that switch flipped and the light came on in mid-SEC play, Adebayo closed the season with an average of 14.3 points and 10.2 rebounds in the nine games leading into the NCAA tournament. The late emergence led Matt Norlander to write a piece titled “Why Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament prospects rest on Bam Adebayo’s shoulders” and predict Adebayo would become a breakout star in March.

The NCAA Tournament

Adebayo went on to score 28 points and grab 28 rebounds in Kentucky’s first two games in the tournament. The second of those games, against Wichita State, came with some extra motivation thanks to Wichita’s Darral Willis Jr. saying he would shut Adebayo down.

Bam’s mom was pretty excited about Kentucky’s win and her son’s double-double response to Willis Jr.’s comment:

The Goodbye

Back on April 5, Adebayo said goodbye to Big Blue Nation:

“This process we went through at Kentucky was a tough but a rewarding one,” Adebayo said. “It was everything I wanted when I decided to come to Kentucky. It taught me a lot. It taught me how to be a better man on and off the court. I have improved so much since the beginning of the season thanks to the hard work of the coaching staff. They helped me with every step of the process along the way and they never gave up on me.

“I want to thank my teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to grow with. We were all like brothers. I also want to thank the fans for their support and everything they do for us. Their passion is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

“I feel I’m making the right step in declaring for the draft, but I want to be absolutely sure that I’m making the right decision for me and my mom. I’m looking forward to the process and I appreciate the support of the coaches, my teammates and the fans. No matter what happens, it’s been an unbelievable ride.”

An unbelievable ride indeed.


Report: Bam Adebayo will sign with an agent and stay in the draft

UF-8981

BREAKING NEWS. According to Jon Rothstein, freshman Bam Adebayo will sign with an agent and therefore stay in the 2017 NBA Draft:

Bam declared for the draft 19 days ago, and after going home to North Carolina this weekend, apparently decided to stay in. Right now, he’s projected anywhere from 17th to 31st in the major mock drafts.

There you go. Best of luck to Bam as he chases his dreams.


Monday’s Top 10: Diallo will test the waters, latest on recruiting, and UK Baseball keeps rising

Shoutout to this lovely couple for repping the Cats all the way in Machu Picchu. What a gorgeous picture, and, I imagine, one heck of a hike. After three straight days of rain down here in Nashville, I’ve pretty much forgotten what it’s like to go outside.

Yet, the sun’s making its triumphant return today, which makes Monday slightly less annoying. Let’s roll through today’s agenda, shall we?

1. Hamidou Diallo will test the NBA Draft waters

Just when I thought Sunday couldn’t get any slower, news broke around 7 p.m. that freshman Hamidou Diallo will declare for the NBA Draft but NOT sign with an agent so he can get feedback and “keep all doors open.” The news may come as a shock to some since Diallo only enrolled in January, but keep in mind that since the rules changed last year, it makes sense for him to go through the evaluation process and receive feedback because there’s no risk. He and Bam will have until May 24 to decide whether or not to stay in the draft or come back. Diallo explained his decision in this statement from UK:

“Playing in the NBA has always been the ultimate goal for me,” Diallo said. “It’s part of what makes Kentucky so special is that it prepares you for the next level better than anywhere else. When I decided to enroll in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on school. At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process and go through that so I could get a proper evaluation.

“That plan hasn’t changed and that’s why I am declaring for the NBA Draft. I do not plan on hiring an agent at this time. I want to see where my game is and explore my options. I just want to keep all doors open, and I want to thank Coach Cal, the coaching staff and my teammates for allowing me to pursue my dreams. My game has grown so much in the four months I’ve been at UK.

“I don’t know what the next few weeks are going to have in store for me, but I do know I’m going to work as hard as I ever have and keep an open mind. At the end of the day, this is a learning process for me and I appreciate the Big Blue Nation for being both understanding and supportive of my decision. I can’t thank you enough for making me a part of the family from day one.”

If you’re still bothered by the timing, remember that midnight last night was the deadline to put your name in the draft.

2. Calipari “fully supports” Diallo’s decision

What would you expect from the coach who wanted his entire team to declare for the draft last year once the rules changed to make the process more flexible? Here’s Cal’s statement in full:

“With the information that will be available to Hami and the feedback he will receive by going through this process, I fully support his decision,” head coach John Calipari said. “It’s in Hami’s best interests to evaluate if now is his time or if he would be better served returning to school. Whatever Hami ultimately chooses to do, you’re talking about an athletic guard with great ball skills, an unbelievable finisher and a terrific defender. He’s gotten so much better in his four months with us and he’s only going to continue to get better.”

Another round of “will he stay or will he go” may frustrate fans, but honestly, if you’re an elite college player, you’d be stupid not to take advantage of the chance to get feedback from the next level to make an informed decision. If Diallo does decide to stay in the draft, does it hurt Kentucky next year? Roster-wise, yes. From everything we’ve heard, he’s an elite player with tremendous upside and could be one of the cornerstones of next year’s squad. But, by now, you should know that Calipari will never hold a kid back, and if you don’t understand the reasons why, I suggest you go watch his “30 for 30” again, particularly the part about Dajuan Wagner.

3. What about Bam?

It’s been 19 days since Bam Adebayo declared for the draft and still no word on whether or not he plans to sign with an agent or return to school for his sophomore year. There were rumblings last week that Bam may be leaning towards staying for another year, and this past weekend, he went home to North Carolina to visit with his family, during which there were probably some talks about his future.

With one month until the withdrawal deadline, Bam and Diallo will get to go through workouts with teams leading up to the all-important NBA Draft Combine May 9-14 in Chicago. I wouldn’t expect any decisions before then.

4. Jemarl Baker is on campus

Lost in the shuffle of Diallo’s decision was new UK commit Jemarl Baker’s arrival on campus. Baker committed to UK a few weeks back, and, according to Ben Roberts, is only now taking his official visit. Welcome to campus, Jemarl. Enjoy yourself.

5. John Calipari sent out one of the swaggiest pictures ever

It was only a matter of time before Calipari found a way to mention the Air Jordan 8 “Calipari pack” Drake made in his honor, and sure enough, it came on the first weekend of the live recruiting period. In a tweet only Calipari could pull off, he posed with both pairs of shoes and asked fans which he should wear to the adidas Uprising in Dallas. As you would expect, that tweet got a lot of attention from its target audience online, with all of the UK 2017 commits and several of Cal’s current and former players sharing it as proof that their coach is a boss. Or, as many of them put it, the greatest of all time.

If you’re curious, he went with the white version:

@CourtsideFilms

@CourtsideFilms

Nice choice.

6. Here’s who Calipari and staff watched this weekend

As mentioned, it was the first weekend of the live period, and Calipari and staff crisscrossed the country to check in on their 2018 prospects. Here’s a rundown of who they saw where. Recruits with an offer from the Cats have an asterisk, those that don’t don’t.

Nike EYBL, Virginia (Calipari)

  • SF Cameron Reddish*
  • SF Louis King
  • PF Marvin Bagley*
  • PG Javonte Smart

adidas Uprising, Dallas (Kenny Payne and Cal)

  • PF Zion Williamson*
  • SG Romeo Langford*
  • PG Immanuel Quickley*
  • PG Quentin Grimes*
  • C David McCormack
  • 2019 prospects Charles Bassey, Christian Brown, Ashton Hagans, and Josh Nickelberry

Under Armour, New York (Tony Barbee)

  • C Moses Brown
  • PF Naz Reid
  • 2019 prospects Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis

Calipari and staff will be on the road against next weekend watching recruits at Nike and Under Armour events in Indianapolis and the adidas circuit in Atlanta. As for what’s going on with Kentucky’s remaining targets for next season (Mohamed Bamba, Kevin Knox, Cam Johnson, and Mark Smith), no new developments over the weekend.

7.  The CATSPYs are tonight

You know it’s a busy day when we’re just getting to the fact that the CATSPYs, UK Athletics’ annual banquet, are tonight at Memorial Coliseum. The 15th annual awards show starts at 7 p.m. and will be open to the public this year, with tickets available for $5 online. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Benny Snell are all up for Male Rookie of the Year, while Dominique Hawkins seems to be a shoo-in for the Supporting Role Award.

If you can’t make it to the show, you can watch a live stream on UKAthletics.com, or, of course, check this website for complete coverage.

8. UK Baseball wrapped up a big week with a win over LSU

What a week for UK Baseball. The #10 Bat Cats beat #8 LSU 10-2 yesterday to win the series, and earlier in the week, knocked off #2 Louisville. The Cats are now 28-13, 12-6 SEC, and have won six of the last eight games. They currently hold a two-game lead over Florida in the SEC East with 12 conference games left. Next up: Xavier at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Wednesday at 7 p.m., followed by a three-game series with South Carolina this weekend.

9. PJ Washington won MVP honors at the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic

Just when you thought the high school All-Star circuit was over, here came Friday night’s inaugural Allen Iverson Roundball Classic. PJ Washington took home MVP honors, scoring a game-high 37 points for Team Honor, which defeated Team Loyalty 198-152 (yes, that is a real score). Shai Alexander followed up his Derby Festival MVP performance with 21 points while Quade Green had 32. That makes 90 points combined for the future Cats in the All-Star Game, a pretty nice little weekend for the 2017 class.

10. Ever had a moment like Patrick Patterson did yesterday?

Man, I hate when that happens.

Radio in an hour…


Hamidou Diallo will test the NBA Draft waters, not sign with an agent

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

So much for a slow Sunday, right? Hamidou Diallo and UK announced that he has declared for the NBA Draft, but will NOT sign with an agent. In a statement, Diallo — who enrolled in January — says he wants to get a proper evaluation of his game and “keep all doors open.”

“Playing in the NBA has always been the ultimate goal for me,” Diallo said. “It’s part of what makes Kentucky so special is that it prepares you for the next level better than anywhere else. When I decided to enroll in school in January, my plan was to come to Kentucky to work on my game and to focus on school. At the end of the season, I knew I wanted to see where I was in the draft process and go through that so I could get a proper evaluation.

“That plan hasn’t changed and that’s why I am declaring for the NBA Draft. I do not plan on hiring an agent at this time. I want to see where my game is and explore my options. I just want to keep all doors open, and I want to thank Coach Cal, the coaching staff and my teammates for allowing me to pursue my dreams. My game has grown so much in the four months I’ve been at UK.

“I don’t know what the next few weeks are going to have in store for me, but I do know I’m going to work as hard as I ever have and keep an open mind. At the end of the day, this is a learning process for me and I appreciate the Big Blue Nation for being both understanding and supportive of my decision. I can’t thank you enough for making me a part of the family from day one.”

John Calipari said he full supports Diallo’s decision.

“With the information that will be available to Hami and the feedback he will receive by going through this process, I fully support his decision,” head coach John Calipari said. “It’s in Hami’s best interests to evaluate if now is his time or if he would be better served returning to school. Whatever Hami ultimately chooses to do, you’re talking about an athletic guard with great ball skills, an unbelievable finisher and a terrific defender. He’s gotten so much better in his four months with us and he’s only going to continue to get better.”

So far, six underclassmen have declared for the draft. Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaac Humphries have declared for the draft and either signed with an agent already or plan to. Bam Adebayo declared for the draft but will not hire an agent at this time, opening up the possibility of a return. Diallo and Bam have until May 24th to decide whether or not they’ll return to school.

Honestly, this is not surprising. It would be silly for Diallo not to go get feedback now that the process allows players to at no risk. In a loaded draft, I have a feeling he’ll be told to come back, work on his game some more, and prepare to be drafted very high in the 2018 draft.


A Case for Bam Adebayo to Return to Kentucky

UF-8981

During NBA early entry decision season, more and more elite posts have enlisted to be considered by NBA teams.  As Zach Collins of Gonzaga and Jarrett Allen decided to test the draft waters, I wondered how much it could deter Bam Adebayo from leaving Lexington after just one year.

For optimistic UK fans, I hate say they aren’t hurting Bam’s chances.

After combing through mock drafts from the three most reliable draft gurus, Adebayo’s stock is better than it appears.

  • Draft Express: Second Round, No. 31
  • ESPN’s Chad Ford: First Round, No. 20
  • NBA Draft Net: First Round, No. 19
  • CBS: First Round, No. 30
  • Sports Illustrated: First Round, No. 27

After falling out of the first round in many mock drafts halfway through the season, Bam’s late-season resurgence reinforced the preseason beliefs of scouts.  Knocked for his size at about 6’8,” he proved that he can be an elite rebounder with a few reliable post moves.

Even though his stock is still relatively high — flirting with lottery at best, bottom of the first round at worst — there are two reasons Adebayo could opt to turn down millions of dollars to stay in Lexington for another year.

Depth in the 2018 Draft Class

The 2017 draft class is praised for being deep, primarily at the point guard position.  There could be as many as four point guards taken in the top five picks.

In the paint, Adebayo has plenty of competition.  In Chad Ford’s Top 100, there are eight post prospects ranked higher than Adebayo.  The status of some is questionable, like Duke’s Harry Giles, but either way there are at least ten first round forwards, but that could reach as high as 15.  In 2018, the depth at forward is not as strong.  In Draft Express’ way-too-early 2018 mock draft, there are just nine forwards in the first round.  Only three players — Mo Bamba, DeAndre Ayton and Robert Williams — are lottery locks.

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Dakari Johnson

Kentucky’s 2015 centers each present case studies that apply to Adebayo.  After their sophomore seasons, Cauley-Stein and Johnson were considered to be late-first round, early-second round picks, about the same position Adebayo is in right now.

Cauley-Stein stayed for another year, went to a Final Four and vaulted into the Top 10.  Selected No. 6 overall, Cauley-Stein’s three-year guaranteed rookie deal is worth $10.6 million.  He’ll make an additional $4.7 million if the Kings pick up his year four option after the 2017 season.

Johnson left Lexington for the NBA after his sophomore season and fell into the second round, selected No. 48 overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Johnson did not sign a rookie deal with OKC.  Johnson’s game has progressed during his two years in the D-League, but he’s only made $51,000, and that’s if he’s considered an “A Player.”  D-League salaries are below $20,000 a year if you are not considered a top-tier player.

In the 2016 NBA Draft, the year after Dakari was drafted, only three college basketball forward/centers were selected in the lottery.

Cauley-Stein and Johnson are the ceiling and the floor for Adebayo.  If his stock remains static around No. 20, he could earn guaranteed money around $3 million in his first two years.  If he falls into the second round and isn’t signed, his D-League contract will be worth about as much as a statewide autograph tour.


Adebayo’s decision is his to make.  More likely than not, he’ll receive positive feedback at the NBA Combine in mid-May and make a couple million bucks.  I, and you, can not blame him for making that career decision.  However, the Kentucky centers that came before him provide plenty of evidence to stay for another year to create substantially more in long-term potential earnings.


Romeo Langford Discusses In-Home Visit with John Calipari

Williamson (left) vs. Langford.

Zion Williamson (left) vs. Romeo Langford.

After Romeo Langford dropped 28 points to lock in a a win over Zion Williamson (who scored 26 points), the top-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2018 from New Albany, Indiana discussed his Kentucky in-home visit with Rivals’ Eric Bossi.  It sounds like Calipari’s Monday-night trip went well.

“It went really well (with Kentucky),” said Langford. “Coach (John) Calipari and assistant coach (Kenny) Payne came down to my house and they were just talking about how they would help me out in the long run.

“The first thing I look at when it comes to the schools is the education aspect. Then I look at if I can trust them and if my family can trust them and how they will treat me.”

Langford and Williamson are both far from making a decision about their future.  Pursued by every team in the country, they can play their hand as they please.  Maybe they might pick the same school?  Zion said after the game they’re “good friends,” so it’s more than wishful thinking.

If you need more highlights from their duel, have at it.

Langford vs. Williamson wasn’t the only elite matchup at the opening night of the adidas circuit.  Two of the class’ best point guards, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, went head-to-head.  I don’t believe anybody has been recruited by Calipari longer in the 2018 than Quickley, while Grimes received an offer from Calipari at the end of March.

The lengthy Quickley got the best of Grimes last night, posting 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in a 15-point victory.  Grimes never could find a rhythm, finishing with just 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Those numbers sound bad, but it looks MUCH worse when you see Quickley drain threes right in Grimes’ face.

John Calipari spent opening night at the Nike EYBL in Virginia where he saw Cameron Reddish, the No. 2 small forward in the 2018 class, lead Team Final to a victory behind an exceptional performance: 24-points, 7-rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists.  Here’s a sample of what Calipari saw:

Reddish wasn’t the most impressive player at the EYBL.  The nation’s consensus No. 1 player, center Marvin Bagley, scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.  The 7-footer does not play like a traditional 7-footer.

Meanwhile at the Under Armour event in New York,  UK targets were busy making highlights.  Kentucky assistants saw the dynamic 2019 wings Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis before checking out 2018 forwards Naz Reid and Moses Brown.  Reid’s lob is impressive…

…but Brown’s poster is pure brutality.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day as UK coaches scour all three events.


How the Rookies Fared in the Spring Game

How the Rookies Fared in the Spring Game

BW-5559

Before the absurdity surrounding bowl rings took over the Twittersphere, most media outlets have dissected the spring game from every angle imaginable. I stated that the youngsters, or first-year contributors, were the storyline of the scrimmage on our Depth Chart Podcast. Let’s take a deeper look at Mark Stoops’ newcomers.

 

Early Enrollees

Linebacker Jamin Davis, WR Clevan Thomas, CB Cedrick Dort Jr., QB Danny Clark

— WR Clevan Thomas proved to be an efficient target over the middle. The rookie caught 3 passes for 28 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had an opportunity for another TD catch but was unable to hold on to the football in the end zone following contact. Thomas could find his way onto the fall depth chart at the slot receiver position this fall.

— LB Jamin Davis was moved into a starting role on the White team due to Jordan Jones’ spring game suspension. He made the most of the opportunity by leading all tacklers with 8 including a tackle for loss. Fellow linebacker Eli Brown showed growth at the same position. Davis is in need of weight and strength gains. But, he displayed an innate nose for the football and could play this fall if called upon. Jamin Davis is the future of Mark Stoops’ defense.

— CB Cedrick Dort Jr. took on a block from pulling guard Logan Stenberg. 6’6 320-pounds vs. 5’11 170. You do the math and guess the outcome. Dort shook off the results from the collision and broke up a pass on the next play. He wasn’t as heralded as other defensive backs in the 17 class. Pay little mind to those recruiting cycle prognostications. Most likely a redshirt season awaits, but his spring performance catapults him in the conversation to play as a true freshman.

 

— QB Danny Clark’s maiden voyage into college football started off with a bang. That bang was the noise that resonated from the true freshman’s cannon for an arm. Arm strength will never be a liability for Clark as he nearly decapitated Kayaune Ross on a short hitch route. He’ll learn touch and other nuances of the position. 2017 will likely be a redshirt season in which he can study under Stephen Johnson, Gunner Hoak, and Drew Barker. The kid has swagger for sure.


The Redshirts

BW-8364

Defense – DT Ja’Quize Cross, DT Kordell Looney, Nickel/Safety Tobias Gilliam, DE/LB Jaylin Bannerman, DE/LB Jamar “Boogie” Watson, CB Kei Beckham, CB Zy’Aire Hughes, MLB Roland Walder, FS Davonte Robinson 

Offense – QB Gunnar Hoak, C Drake Jackson, G Luke Fortner, TE Justin Rigg, RB AJ Rose, G Tate Leavitt

— We have to start this category with the spring game’s most valuable player, Jamar “Boogie” Watson. A week prior to the spring game the media witnessed his emergence in an open practice as he more than capably filled the starting DE/OLB role vacated by Denzil Ware. Watson was all over the field and was the defense’s leading havoc stat producer. What the BBN saw last Friday was merely more of the same. Watson will be called upon to become a designated pass rusher. The former 2-star from DC’s future is limitless.

 

— QB Gunnar Hoak put on a show: 16-24, 174 yards, 2 TDs. His spring game a year ago provided a glimpse, last Friday solidified impressions of the offense’s future. Just when that future begins is the question. Hoak could step in and play immediately. He does not possess Clark’s arm strength but relies more on anticipation and timing to complete passes. Gunner Hoak will be a starting quarterback for the University of Kentucky.

— TE Justin Rigg is Vince Marrow’s guy. More athletic than originally projected, the redshirt freshman caught 2 passes for 21 yards. Rigg is a solid third TE for Eddie Gran.

— RB AJ Rose is fast. GPS tracker measured a spring practice run at 21 mph which is faster than any RB from 2016. Rose showed enough to excite even though his spring game was cut short due to a neck injury. I’d imagine a Wildcat package will be installed to fit the high school quarterback’s skill.

 

— Guard Luke Fortner and center Drake Jackson were critical pieces on the White team’s offensive line. Both will be a part of a two-deep OL in 2017. OL coach John Schlarman indicated that guard Tate Leavitt showed strides in spring practice. He will need to continue that momentum into the offseason to move into a highly competitive rotation.

   

— Defensive backs Tobias Gilliam, Davonte Robinson, Zy’Aire Hughes, and Kei Beckham will provide depth and push starters in fall camp. Safeties Gilliam and Robinson fill a position of need following the departure of Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain. Beckham intercepted a Stephen Johnson pass in the scrimmage and joins a talented group of cornerbacks. Zy’Aire Hughes was moved from receiver to cornerback. That transition payed dividends in the form of a forced fumble. Hughes is an upper-level athlete and too talented to keep off the field in some capacity.

— Another position of need is defensive tackle. Kordell Looney’s 4 tackle, 1 QB sack, 1 QB hurry, and 2 tackles for loss performance was an indication of what’s to come. The best defensive lineman in the game was Adrian Middleton. Second best was his backup Kordell Looney.

— Linebacker Roland Walder quietly registered 4 tackles. OLB Jaylin Bannerman joins Boogie Watson at DE/OLB.


What does all this mean?

Not a great deal in all actuality because the spring game was well, just a scrimmage. Both true and redshirt freshman currently on the roster have a long way to go. But last Friday provided an obvious sign that young talent is present on Kentucky’s roster; significant contributions will be made from some that are listed above. However, the future is now for the Wildcats. A critical offseason preparing for an urgent season starts now.


Kentucky lands commitment from 3-star Florida athlete Shocky Jacques-Louis

@ShockyMVP

@ShockyMVP

You’re looking at Shocky Jacques-Louis, a three-star 2018 athlete from Dunbar High School in Fort Meyers, Florida, and according to Patrick Loney on Twitter, he just committed to Kentucky.

The 6’2″ 165 lbs. Jacques-Louis has a three-star ranking from Rivals and Scout, and is ranked the 48th best athlete in the 2018 class by Scout. He had offers from Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina, and several other major programs, but apparently, Eddie Gran’s offer was too enticing to pass on.

What a name. Let’s watch him work:

UPDATE: Here’s the official announcement from Mr. Jacques-Louis himself…

Welcome aboard.


Friday’s Top 10: Preds complete the sweep, UK Baseball starts a doubleheader, the Unicorn Frappuccino looks disgusting

Photo via Yahoo Sports

Photo via Yahoo Sports

It’s a happy Friday at the KSR South Compound because last night, the Nashville Predators completed their improbable sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. As they did the entire series, the Preds dominated, winning 4-1 to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they’ll face either St. Louis or Minnesota (probably St. Louis). Shoutout to goalkeeper Pekka Rinne, who has been phenomenal in the postseason, stopping 123 of 126 Chicago shots over four games. Unbelievable.

I wasn’t there, but the scene outside Bridgestone Arena after the win was crazy, with fans flipping over the Blackhawks “smash car” in celebration:

And that was only round one.  Phew. Let’s go over today’s agenda, shall we?

1. Kevin Knox will announce his decision in May

If you were hoping for an April announcement from Kevin Knox, well, sorry. Rob Jones spoke with Knox’s father, who said his son will announce his decision sometime between May 1-7. Which means it will certainly come while everyone’s busy celebrating Oaks or Derby.

2. Meanwhile, I’m going to try not to read too much into this tweet from Jarred Vanderbilt

I mean, that could be about anything, right? He could be talking about losing a game of NBA2K, not his foot injury, of which we still haven’t heard the severity despite it being almost an entire week.

…Right?

3. ICYMI, Calipari says he’s “not done quite yet” with the 2017 class

Calipari’s been a busy man this week and yesterday, took to Twitter to tell fans he’s “not done quite yet” with his 2017 class:

“Been a great last few days meeting with potential future Cats and learning about their dreams and aspirations, talking about what UK is and isn’t,” Calipari wrote. “For those asking about our current signing class, we announce the entire group together when we are finished with the class. Not done quite yet!”

Sounds like a confident man to me.

4. Louisville met with the NCAA Infractions committee

Yesterday, UofL met with the NCAA Infractions Committee for over ten hours to discuss the ongoing investigation into the sex scandal, during which they were able to appeal the charges against them. We won’t know the verdict for another six to eight weeks, which makes June quite an exciting month in the Bluegrass.

5. Because of a schedule change, UK Baseball will play a doubleheader with #8 LSU today

Bad weather is expected in Lexington tomorrow, so UK had to change the schedule for their series with #8 LSU. Starting at 2 p.m., the Bat Cats will take on the Tigers in a double header. The third game will take place Sunday. If you’d like that laid out in an even simpler format, here you go:

  • Game 1: Friday, 2 p.m.
  • Game 2: Friday, one hour after end of game 1 (about 6:30 p.m.)
  • Game 2: Sunday, 1 p.m.

If you had tickets to Saturday’s game, don’t worry, you can use them today. Or watch on SEC Network+ on your computer. Or listen on ukathletics.com, 630 WLAP, or iHeart Radio.

6. Last night in the NBA Playoffs…

…Patrick Patterson’s Raptors lost to the Bucks, while Andrew Harrison’s Grizzlies beat the Spurs. Meanwhile, LeBron James messed around and got a triple double to lead the Cavs over the Pacers. This dunk was impressive:

King things 👑 #SCtop10

A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on

He’s pretty good at this basketball thing.

7. Tonight’s games

  • 7:00 PM: Celtics (James Young) at Bulls (Rajon Rondo), ESPN
  • 9:30 PM: Rockets at Thunder (Enes Kanter), ESPN
  • 10:00 PM: Clippers at Jazz (Trey Lyles), ESPN2

8. The 2017 NFL Schedule was released

Last night, schedules were released for the 2017 NFL season. You can see them all here, but I’ll do you a solid and copy and paste the Bengals’ slate:

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Sep. 10    Baltimore Ravens    1:00 PM
  • Sep. 14    Houston Texans (Thu)    8:25 PM
  • Sep. 24    at Green Bay Packers    4:25 PM
  • Oct. 1    at Cleveland Browns    1:00 PM
  • Oct. 8    Buffalo Bills    1:00 PM
  • Oct. 15    BYE
  • Oct. 22    at Pittsburgh Steelers    1:00 PM
  • Oct. 29    Indianapolis Colts    1:00 PM
  • Nov. 5    at Jacksonville Jaguars    1:00 PM
  • Nov. 12    at Tennessee Titans    1:00 PM
  • Nov. 19    at Denver Broncos    4:25 PM
  • Nov. 26    Cleveland Browns    1:00 PM
  • Dec. 4    Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon)    8:30 PM
  • Dec. 10    Chicago Bears    1:00 PM
  • Dec. 17    at Minnesota Vikings    1:00 PM
  • Dec. 24    Detroit Lions    1:00 PM
  • Dec. 31    at Baltimore Ravens    1:00 PM

And the Titans’:

Tennessee Titans

  • Sep. 10    Oakland Raiders    12:00 PM
  • Sep. 17    at Jacksonville Jaguars    12:00 PM
  • Sep. 24    Seattle Seahawks    3:05 PM
  • Oct. 1    at Houston Texans    12:00 PM
  • Oct. 8    at Miami Dolphins    12:00 PM
  • Oct. 16    Indianapolis Colts (Mon)    7:30 PM
  • Oct. 22    at Cleveland Browns    12:00 PM
  • Oct. 29    BYE
  • Nov. 5    Baltimore Ravens    12:00 PM
  • Nov. 12    Cincinnati Bengals    12:00 PM
  • Nov. 16    at Pittsburgh Steelers (Thu)    7:25 PM
  • Nov. 26    at Indianapolis Colts    12:00 PM
  • Dec. 3    Houston Texans    12:00 PM
  • Dec. 10    at Arizona Cardinals    3:05 PM
  • Dec. 17    at San Francisco 49ers    3:25 PM
  • Dec. 24    Los Angeles Rams    12:00 PM
  • Dec. 31    Jacksonville Jaguars    12:00 PM

Is it September yet?

9. The Unicorn Frappuccino looks absolutely disgusting

In case you somehow missed it this week, everyone’s talking about Starbucks’ new “Unicorn Frappuccino,” which, as the title implies, looks like a unicorn crapped into a cup. Seriously, this thing looks gross, which, of course, means everyone wants to try it:

Blegh. I’ll stick to tea and cappuccino as God intended, thanks.

10. KSR is at Red State BBQ in Lexington

Come on out to 4020 Georgetown Road to enjoy the show, register for some prizes, and eat some delicious BBQ.


Pros and Cons: Making Bamba’s Decision For Him

Pros and Cons: Making Bamba’s Decision For Him

mohamed-bamba

Time is winding down on the recruitment of Mohamed Bamba, the No. 2 high school senior in America. Bamba has made no plans to make and announce his decision in the near future, but as May draws closer, Bamba’s decision does too.

Once the seven-footer’s college destination is announced, it will be one of four schools: Duke, Kentucky, Michigan or Texas. All good schools, all with their own pros and cons. Let’s break those pros and cons down tonight and decide which is the better option for Bamba. (We’ll be unbiased here.)

 


Pros:

1. Academics. Of the four schools Bamba is considering, a diploma from Duke will look best on the mantle. Education is important to Bamba and Duke would challenge him in that area, if not for the fact he will likely be there for only one year.

2. Coach K. Best college basketball coach ever? He’s in the conversation.

3. Elite program and title contender. Per usual, Duke will be one of the top teams in the preseason rankings and conversations. That will continue ad nauseam throughout the season up until somewhere around the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Cons:

1. Wendell Carter and Marques Bolden. Duke’s frontcourt is pretty much set already with incoming freshman Wendell Carter and returning sophomore Marques Bolden inside. Bamba would obviously challenge those two for a spot, but somebody ain’t going to be happy in the end.

2. Having to play with Grayson Allen. Earlier this week Grayson Allen announced his return to Duke. And who would voluntarily share a locker room and play basketball with that guy? He’s a crazy person.

3. Google ‘Jahlil Okafor’. With all due respect to Coach K’s greatness, he doesn’t have the track record of other coaches (*cough* Calipari *cough*) when it comes to star one-and-done big men.


Pros:

1. Academics. Like Duke, Michigan provides a great education. It’s considered one of the best public schools in America, while bringing the big-time university atmosphere, unlike Duke.

2. Football tickets? Game’s at the Big House look fun. I hear Michigan has a pretty nice campus too.

3. I got nothing. Literally can’t think of a third pro.

Cons

1. Big Ten. Why would anyone want to play in the Big Ten? I’m falling asleep just thinking about it.

2. John Beilein’s never had a young star. In his 10 years at Michigan, John Beilein has never had a five-star prospect. Can he coach one up? Can he get one ready for the NBA? I wouldn’t want to be the first to find out.

3. It’s not Duke, Kentucky or Texas. Sorry, Michigan fans. Good luck against Ohio State in football next year. Harbaugh should have you in the playoff.


Pros:

1. Living in Austin, Texas. Austin is awesome.

2. Chance to put Texas basketball on the map. One of the top two or three athletics schools in the country is lacking in basketball. Bamba could bring the program to the top and put an end to Kansas’s Big 12 dominance.

3. The spot’s wide open. Texas lost its star big man, Jarrett Allen, to the NBA. Bamba would walk into his position with nobody challenging him for one minute of action. It’d be his show, although with little help.

Cons:

1. Farthest from home. Bamba is originally from Harlem and he played his high school basketball in Philadelphia. Of the four schools he is considering, Texas is the farthest by about a million miles.

2. Shaka Smart. He’s not at VCU and it’s not 2011. Smart is still milking all he can get out of that one magical run six years ago.

3. Nobody cares. Unless Bamba is playing defensive end or tight end, nobody at Texas is going to care that he is on campus. I don’t think anyone on campus today knows Kevin Durant played there, nor could they find the basketball arena on a map.


Pros:

1. Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo. Bamba has been open about his close friendships with Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo, the projected starting backcourt at Kentucky next season. Green has been the lead recruiter for Bamba, while Diallo has been in his ear about what it’s like to be a Wildcat. Together, the three are best buds.

2. No. 1 overall pick. John Calipari’s pretty good at producing those. He’s responsible for four of the last nine.

3. National Championship. Kentucky’s due for one.

Cons:

1. Having to sign all those autographs. And having an entire Nation adore him.

2. Being on TV every game. It must get exhausting playing in front of so many people every single game and building his own brand for the future.

3. Picking friends and family for green room table. The NBA draft won’t let its top player bring everyone to New York, so there’s the difficult decision of narrowing friends and family down to one table. Plus he’d have to buy a nice suit and pay all those taxes and all of the other struggles that come with being a superstar before the age of 20.


 

OBVIOUS PICK: KENTUCKY

(Unbiased opinion, of course.)


Kentucky’s Spring Practice was Uncharacteristically Quiet, and That’s a Good Thing

The 2017 edition of Kentucky spring football was unlike any I’ve covered in five years for Kentucky Sports Radio.  It was quiet, almost too quiet.

Spring practice has been quiet in the past, mostly due to apathy.  Since Mark Stoops arrived four years ago, spring football personified the season.  Optimism filled the air like pollen, creating unsubstantiated expectations that created plenty of noise, but would slowly turn into a nuisance.

In his first year, more than 50,000 fans showed Stoops they cared about the football program.  Just hearing Stoops’ rhetoric brought fans in droves.  They knew there wasn’t much to see, but it was enlightening to hear hope from the head football coach.

The following year, fans received their favorite spring football storyline: two Kentucky kids battling to be the starting quarterback.  A former Mr. Football spent a redshirt year learning from an Air Raid alum.  A four-star Elite 11 quarterback turned down Steve Spurrier to help bring in the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history.  Adding to the hype was a $110 million stadium renovation, announced just a few months earlier.  There was plenty of hope, even though it only produced three more wins.

The third year of spring ball for Mark Stoops was unlike any other spring in Kentucky.  A stadium under construction eliminated the game, yet fans prepared for a breakthrough.  It was the second year for a lot of things: the starting quarterback, the explosive freshmen playmakers and more star-studded recruits.

The season started with a Boom in a new stadium, but the Cats could not break through, or as Stoops would later describe it, “knock down doors.”  They were close many times, but fell flat when it mattered most to fans, at home, under the spotlight.

The close calls filled the spring air with tension last year.  More questions were being asked about Stoops’ ability to develop, the theme for every college coach during spring ball.  His greatest achievements at Kentucky were all in the realm of recruiting, and even that was under a microscope after a rash of decommitments leading into 2016’s spring practice.

The 2016 team contrasted heavily with the one we heard about in the spring.  They “knocked down doors.”  They won on the road.  They took the Governor’s Cup from a Heisman Trophy winner.  They went bowling.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Stoops’ success in his fourth season as head coach took away what normally defined spring practice: expectations.  There isn’t an ultimatum at Stoops’ feet.  There isn’t even a marquee position battle for people to point to.

On offense, a 1,000 yard-rusher and Freshman All-American gets to run behind one of the nation’s best offensive lines that lost just one player.  A quarterback that outplayed the Heisman Trophy winner got to spend six weeks creating better chemistry with wide receivers that have collectively played more snaps than any group in recent memory.  On the other side of the ball, the focus wasn’t on, “Who will make all the tackles?”  The storyline was, “Who will back up the best safety and linebacker in the SEC?”  The young secondary is no longer young.  The young pass rushers that surpassed Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are no longer young.  The defensive line that struggled a year ago has new, aggressive leadership.

All of it culminated Friday night by showcasing competitiveness at every position.  The stars — Johnson, Snell, Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware, Juice — did not need to play a ton of reps to prove their worth.  Instead, Stoops got to show off his young troops.  Early enrollees Jamin Davis and Clevan Thomas impressed.  Redshirts that spent the season on the scout team — Gunnar Hoak, Boogie Watson, A.J. Rose and Zy’Aire Hughes — provided even more optimism for the future.

Stoops spent his first four years finishing spring ball by discussing important position battles.  This year he simply sang the team’s praise for improving as a whole, the purpose of spring practice.

“I was very proud of our players,” Stoops said after the game.  “We talked last summer about their capacity to handle more. Well they took a lot of coaching for a long time.”

That quote bores the casual observer and does not create headlines for journalists.  It’s how programs quietly develop into major players in the college football landscape.  The quiet is exactly what Mark Stoops needed before a season that could take Kentucky football to new heights.