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Some thoughts on a windy day here in Lexington:
— Lot of stuff going on but probably the most important right now are the decisions that will make up the 2018 UK Basketball Roster. Hamidou Diallo has been invited to the NBA Combine and from what I am hearing, will be making the trip. It is an interesting scenario for Hamidou, who wants to get the best information possible and try out the process, but also doesn’t want to ruin a potential first impression in front of the NBA folks. The NBA Combine gives two types of invitations, those that are invited and can choose not to participate in the 5 on 5 (these are the top players) and those that are invited on the condition that they play 5 on 5. Monk, Fox and Bam got the former invite and Briscoe received one of the latter. From what I am told, Diallo initially got an invite that would require him to play 5 on 5, but this was changed soon after to the invite where he is not required to play. For Diallo, this is an ideal scenario as there is a good argument that his first public game in over a year shouldn’t be in such an environment. Diallo could still choose to play, but my guess is that he will not. I continue to hear that Hamidou only wants to go to the Draft if he knows he will go in the First Round (I know this is contrary to some other reports, but just passing on what I am hearing) and that he is more likely than not to return. However, if he gets good reviews and feels like a late first round team is guaranteed to pick him, he could leave. Bottom line…I think the “scuttlebutt” on Diallo will have a strong impact on what his final decision will be.
— The decisions of Knox, Bamba and Johnson will likely decide just how good Kentucky will be and on all three, UK is in a holding pattern. Mohammad Bamba is down to Kentucky and Texas according to most of the folks I talk to and depending on who you ask, you get different views. The folks who follow Duke have all been putting out that Texas is the leader, but I think that is more about Duke coaches projecting their hopes, rather than an accurate statement about reality. UK has led for Bamba for a long time and I can’t imagine what would have changed that fact but I do believe no one is certain what he will do, including the folks in Lexington. It is truly up in the air. As for Kevin Knox, he is scheduled to decide this week and once again, it is a mystery. Most believe that Duke is the leader, but I haven’t gotten a sense that anyone knows that with certainty. My best sources tell me they believe the kid’s favorite school is Kentucky but the parents lean Duke (specifically his dad). If that is true, it is a repeat of the Bolden situation and we know how that ended. Finally, Cameron Johnson visited Arizona and will still visit Ohio State. I am hearing it is either UK or Arizona in the end and the Cats are in a good spot. UK has made Johnson a priority (likely because they don’t feel confident on Knox), and want to take him no matter what the other recruits choose to do. He said initially he would take all his visits and the plan hasn’t changed. His decision could come any time after his last visit and I like UK’s position as of this moment. Bottom line on all these guys…between Diallo, Bamba, Johnson and Knox, I think UK needs at least two of those guys to be on the roster next year. A week ago I thought that was all but certain…I still believe it is likely, but I am not quite as confident as I was a week ago.
— The Kroger deal at Commonwealth is one that has been in the works for the past few months and was finally made reality mid-week last week. Kroger has been negotiating with JMI and was very close to reaching a deal two weeks ago (when the initial reports came out), but only after a change last week was it finalized. The money for the deal all goes to JMI, who paid the University of Kentucky money three years ago for the right to sell the name. It was part of the overall media rights package JMI bought and the assumption has been that it is a major money loser for JMI. This deal, which was for far less than what the naming rights were initially shopped for three years ago, represents a step for JMI to recuperate some of their initial investment in the deal. Kroger Field isn’t ideal to many but it honestly doesn’t bother me, in large part because the initial name was a placeholder anyway. While the announcement was today, the decision to allow this to happen occurred three years ago at a time that everyone realized investment in the Football program was needed. Kroger Field doesn’t roll off the young, but my guess is that we will eventually get used to it.
— Finally, a big shout out to my alma mater Transylvania University for the way the community came together following the machete attack on campus last week. From the President to the campus police to the women who worked in the coffee shop, the way the community handled the situation and the aftermath was great. I was proud hearing of their actions and have to give a shoutout to the entire Pioneer community for making what could have been a tragic situation, something that can be positive going forward.