By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 11:00pm
John Calipari is arguably the top recruiter in college basketball, but his emphasis on signing high-character athletes at Kentucky year in and year out is just as impressive. If there are major red flags with a prospect’s character or personality, the Wildcat head coach will cut off contact immediately and let another coach deal with the baggage, no matter how talented they may be.
This afternoon, Coach Cal proved yet again he signed a class of stellar recruits both on and off the floor.
I’ve been coaching at a Special Olympics basketball camp this week, where athletes have been working each day to prepare for a final championship game held this afternoon. To start the day, we warmed up and began our morning drill session, the same schedule we had gone through all week long. Nothing different.
And in walked Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus with his two prized signees, Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, to surprise the campers.
Almost immediately, they jumped in and asked what they could do to help. We introduced them to the campers, who then welcomed the Wildcats with hugs and high-fives. They followed it up with some individual attention in the drills, several fun games and activities, and some on-court help during a small walkthrough scrimmage to prepare for the big game scheduled after lunch.
During the exhibition game, they helped direct traffic on the court, assisted the campers with dribbling, passing, and shooting, and lifted their spirits on the sideline during timeouts. No matter the age of the camper or the challenges they faced, they did their best to make sure each individual had the time of their lives.
After the scrimmage, they took pictures, talked to campers, and shot around with them for as long as they wanted. They stayed for several hours, and probably would’ve stuck around longer if we asked them to.
“Our guys were super excited to come out and to be around the kids,” said UK assistant coach Joel Justus. “Immanuel and Keldon both jumped right at the opportunity to come out. They wanted to be involved and it was a lot of fun to watch them interact with the campers. We’re just so blessed here at Kentucky and they’re extremely blessed as individuals. It was a fun day all around.”
No television cameras or interviewers. No spotlight for attention. Just lending a hand to some awesome kids for the day.
Check out some of KSR’s highlights from the fun afternoon:
To put the icing on the cake, Kentucky legend Jack “Goose” Givens also came to help out this week, who gave the campers a motivational speech and worked with them on drills on Wednesday morning.
He talked about his time at Kentucky, playing in the NBA, and the keys to success in basketball.
Take a look:
This is a special, special program.
By Savannah Patton on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 10:30pm
The one and only Big Mick is a meaty masterpiece in its own right. Composed of two quarter-pound patties* of never-fresh, frozen, mostly beef raised close to the processing plant. Only McDowell’s has the frosted beef and processed cheese to give you a major reason for the afternoon trip to the secret bathroom only you and Debra know about on the 9th floor that is under construction.
You can be a part of McDowell’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day.
If you are interested in sponsoring KSR’s Top 10 Tweets, please contact us at Via Email.
#10 Preston Benedict
Ten straight years Coach Cal had a pick in the top 8. This year, Knox goes 9. Hot Seat? #BBN
— Preston Benedict (@pBenny7) June 22, 2018
#9 Michael Rhoades
— Michael Rhoades (@Rhoadesy14) June 22, 2018
#8 John Gossage
Knocked it out of the park today Coach! Great job!
— John Gossage (@gossagefarms) June 22, 2018
He did so well!
#7 Clay Brown
— Clay Brown (@Tigresauce) June 22, 2018
#6 Shaun Johnston
— Shaun Johnston (@sjohnston20) June 22, 2018
I am too!
#5 Terri Basham
Let’s help Coach get to his goal!!! #KSR
— Terri Basham (@curlyone62) June 22, 2018
The KSR fans always come through!
#4 Michael Spencer
Well one thing is for sure, you can't go wrong with sticking #KSR. THEY ARE A BLAST OF FUN
— Michael Spencer (@bigmike201423) June 22, 2018
We are a blast of fun!
#3 Eric Brown
— Eric Brown (@Ericbrown_Rap) June 22, 2018
In the history? That’s high praise.
#2 Lady Unicorn of PRP
— Lady Unicorny of PRP ?? (@Hpwatrous08) June 22, 2018
I can’t wait either!
— David (@dcharles25) June 22, 2018
Yeah they do!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 8:58pm
How about yet another Yahtzee to close out your Friday night?
2019 JUCO defensive end Taures Payne has committed to Kentucky!
— Ricooo™? ? (@_Tisdalekid_22) June 22, 2018
Justin Rowland of Rivals.com confirmed the news, who also added Payne will have two years of eligibility remaining by the time he gets on campus:
BREAKING: Cats Illustrated can confirm that JUCO defensive lineman Taures Payne has committed to Kentucky. Two years to play two. Visited today https://t.co/cNRff5kh18
— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) June 23, 2018
Payne, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, committed to Kentucky over Central Florida, Maryland, and Houston, among others. The Cats offered Payne back in April.
— Taures Payne (@4PFPAYNE) April 17, 2018
The newest Wildcat finished with 33 tackles, six tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks last season for the Rangers.
Watch his highlights from last season:
Welcome home, Taures!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 7:42pm
Earlier today, former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel announced on Twitter he was “Coming to SAC!” with an image of him in front of a Sacramento Kings backdrop.
— UPM?N™ (@WenyenGabriel) June 22, 2018
Most assumed it meant he would play with the Kings for summer league, but no one knew for certain or the extent of the signing.
Now, Sacramento reporter Sean Cunningham is reporting Gabriel has officially joined the summer league roster, but whether he will stay with the team or not afterward has yet to be determined.
Kentucky's Wenyen Gabriel will be part of the Sacramento Kings summer league roster, according to sources. Beyond that remains to be seen.
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) June 22, 2018
Gabriel worked out for the Kings back on May 21.
We saw Derek Willis do the same with the Detroit Pistons last offseason, and he eventually played with the team’s G-League affiliate throughout the entire year. Today it was announced he has joined the New Orleans Pelicans for the Summer League.
Now, Gabriel will have to carve out his role in the summer league and hopefully earn a spot at training camp.
Best of luck, Wenyen.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 7:00pm
We all know Terry “Touchdown” Wilson has some wheels, but we haven’t seen it in action much yet in his time at Kentucky. He had a few impressive runs in the Spring Game, but with the quarterback no-contact rule, it was just a small taste of what we might be seeing this season if he earns the starting job.
This afternoon, Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson released a video that should get fans excited. Really excited.
Wilson raced another Wildcat on the track at Nutter Field House and absolutely destroyed him.
— 4/7 (@Lonnie30johnson) June 22, 2018
Benny Snell’s reaction says it all. This kid is going to be special with the ball in his hands.
As for the other Wildcats, they’re all putting in ridiculous work this summer to prepare for the upcoming season. The official Kentucky football account sent out the following video this afternoon:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 22, 2018
And the work is clearly showing:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) June 22, 2018
Is it football season yet?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 6:30pm
Congratulations. You made it halfway through Matt’s vacation, which means we’ve got another great week of guest hosts coming your way, starting with the venerable Jay Bilas on Monday:
June 25: Jay Bilas
June 26: Pardon My Take
June 27: Jared Lorenzen
June 28: Kyle Tucker
June 29: Aaron Torres
If you missed today’s show featuring Nick Mingione, do yourself a favor and go back and listen on podcast. Per usual, the UK Baseball coach’s enthusiasm was infectious, even during the sometimes brutal Gong Game. What’s that? You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 6:03pm
How about a Yahtzee to start the weekend? 2019 three-star cornerback Jay Ward just committed to Kentucky.
— JAY WARD (@JWARD_4) June 22, 2018
The 6’2″ 180 lbs. Moultrie, Georgia native held offers from Iowa State, Marshall, Southern Miss, UCF, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, and several others. He received an offer from Kentucky back on January 23, and visited unofficially on February 24.
Ward is Kentucky’s ninth commitment in the 2019 class, joining safety Moses Douglass, outside linebacker Kadarius McDaniel, dual quarterback Nik Scalzo, athlete Marquez Bembry, outside linebacker Tra Wilkins, cornerback Jalen Geiger, offensive tackle Jake Pope, and offensive guard Eli Cox.
Watch him work:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 5:30pm
Tyrese Maxey’s impressive performance this spring did not go unnoticed. ESPN’s new 2019 recruiting rankings are out and the future Kentucky guard jumped seven spots to No. 7, while fellow Kentucky commit D.J. Jeffries slipped from No. 17 to No. 19.
|2||Vernon Carey Jr.||C||Uncommitted|
Maxey sprained his ankle last week during the FIBA Americas U18 Championships, but played through the pain in the final game to help Team USA win the gold medal. Everyone who’s watched Maxey can’t stop raving about him, including our own TJ Walker, so let’s enjoy some highlights, shall we?
If you’re more in the mood to read, here’s TJ’s interview with him from last week:
By Nick Roush on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 4:45pm
Three former University of Kentucky Wildcats will be inducted into the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tonight Wesley Woodyard, Guy Morriss and Tommy Bell will be honored at the Lexington Opera House.
Woodyard will be inducted into the Hall of Fame while he’s still playing. Entering his fifth season with the Tennessee Titans and his tenth year overall, last year he was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Also a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, Woodyard helped the Cats win a pair of Music City Bowls under Rich Brooks and has been named a team captain at every level of football.
Morriss is most well-known for turning a two-win team into a seven-game winner with Jared Lorenzen back in 2002, but the former UK head coach is being honored tomorrow for his accolades in the NFL. A 15-year veteran, he played on the offensive line in New England and started at center in Super XV for the Eagles. Morris briefly returned to the local high school ranks but had to put down the whistle as to battle Alzheimer’s.
Tommy Bell has an undergraduate and law degree from UK. He participated in UK radio broadcasts, served on the athletics board and Board of Trustees. Tomorrow night’s recognition is for his 15 years as an NFL referee. A two-time Super Bowl participant, Bell is the only person to ever officiate a Super Bowl and an NCAA Final Four.
Four current Wildcats — Benny Snell, C.J. Conrad, Josh Allen and Darius West — will also be honored during the ceremony as members of the All-Commonwealth Team. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ceremony are still available at http://kyprofootballhof.org/.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 4:03pm
Jarred Vanderbilt arrived in Denver…on a scooter. After being drafted 41st by the Magic and traded to the Nuggets, Vanderbilt showed up to today’s introductory press conference riding a scooter and wearing a boot, confirming the buzz we’ve heard about his injury leading up to the draft:
Jarred Vanderbilt has some nice wheels pic.twitter.com/B0xS3P82A7
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) June 22, 2018
Here he is with fellow Nuggets rookies Michael Porter Jr. and
Feathers Thomas Welsh:
— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) June 22, 2018
I say the name “Feathers” the same way Jerry Seinfeld says “Newman,” but look at what a good teammate he is by bringing Jarred’s scooter around the table for him:
Thomas Welsh is already showcasing the skills of a good teammate, providing Jarred Vanderbilt with his scooter pic.twitter.com/aloncsrXyj
— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip17) June 22, 2018
Unfortunately, no one seemed to ask about Jarred’s timeline to return from that injury, but I think it’s safe to say he won’t participate in the summer league, which tips off in a few weeks.
Get well soon, Vando, and good luck.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 22nd, 2018 @ 3:08pm
By the time the ninth pick rolled around, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the New York Knicks were going to draft Kevin Knox. In Knox’s introductory press conference today, Knicks president Steve Mills confirmed that Knox’s competitiveness in workouts sealed the deal to bring him to New York.
“We wanted Kevin at the ninth pick,” Mills said. “We spent a lot of time with him, we spoke with the coaches down at Kentucky and watched him throughout the course of his career. We knew there was something special, not just about his basketball abilities — the length, the athleticism, his ability to play the game the way Coach [David] Fizdale wants to coach and the way the current NBA is going — but there’s also a competitiveness inside this kid that doesn’t show up all the time in his demeanor. We sat and talked to him and listened to how he interacted with five other players through dinner and different conversations and there’s a competitive sense that we knew was the right fit here in New York. That’s how we decided he was the right guy to go with.”
Unlike most top prospects, Knox was fine doing group workouts, which allowed the Knicks to put him head-to-head vs. Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, whom New York was also considering. According to those inside the workout facility, Knox “kicked [Bridges] around” in the workout, quelling any concerns the Knicks had about his toughness.
“I think it helped me out a lot,” Knox said. “You see a lot of top guys in the top ten, lottery do solo workouts, but I decided I wanted to do group workouts. I wanted to compete. I wanted to go at people. I wanted to show what I’ve really been working on…I think that helped my stock.”
“While we don’t place a tremendous amount of our decision making on what happens in a workout, we do look at it from a competitive standpoint,” Mills said. “The fact that he chose to come and do a 3-on-3, a six-person workout said something about what he was willing to do in terms of competing and being a competitor. I give him credit and that’s something that stood out to us.”
That competitive fire was on display even today. When asked if he wants to start this season, Knox started his answer before the reporter even finished the question.
“Yes. That should be a goal for every rookie, but it’s not going to be easy. I’m going to work my way all the way up. There’s nothing guaranteed in this league. There’s going to be guys fighting every day to get the same spot I’m going for. I know it’s not going to be easy and I’m going to have to work really hard every day in practice. I’m going to compete for that starting role.”
In a quote that will surely find its way to a wall at the Joe Craft Center soon, Mills said that Knox’s experience at Kentucky uniquely prepared him for the pressure he’ll face as a member of the New York Knicks.
“That actually is going to be up to Kevin,” Mills said of the learning curve Knox will face in his rookie season. “What the learning curve is and how long the adjustment takes, but what I will say is that while all college basketball programs prepare guys to play in the NBA, the pressure and the limelight and the spotlight you’re under when make the decision to play at Kentucky does prepare you in a different way to play in a place like New York. I think some of the things that are tougher for rookies to adjust to are some things he’s already been through.”
As for those boos from Knicks fans last night? Knox reiterated that they didn’t get to him.
“It was cool. I’m not going to be upset. I’m not going to cry about it. The only thing that was going through my head was I was drafted by the New York Knicks and how happy I am for myself and my family. I wasn’t really paying attention to the boos or anything like that. It’s fun to see all that. Like I said, it motivates me. Adds fuel to the fire.”
In fact, he joked about it with Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, was also booed when the Knicks drafted him in 2015.
“Actually, we did talk about it. He asked me how the fans reacted and I told him I got the same amount of boos he got. It was fun, he just laughed and said it’s all motivation, just fuel to the fire. And he said, ‘Good work. Sooner or later they’ll be cheering for you.'”
New York newspaper editors certainly are: