Earlier this week when Julius Mays’ was battling an eye injury, I couldn’t help but think of the scene from Rocky in which Rocky begs Mickey to cut his swollen eye open during his match with Apollo Creed. The scene has haunted me ever since, but it’s one of Mickey’s many awesome scenes in the Rocky series. Burgess Meredith brought the character of Mickey to life, along with several other memorable roles over the years, including Jack Lemmon’s father in Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, and the Penguin in the 1960’s “Batman” television series.
Meredith passed in 1997 at the age of 89, but I’d like to celebrate his birthday posthumously with my favorite Mickey line: “You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!” Sounds like something Cal would say, doesn’t it?
With that in mind, let’s roll along to tonight’s news and views:
— Once again, Cal has secured the #1 recruiting class in the nation, and he’s not even done yet. On Thursday afternoon, the University announced that it has received all five letters of intent from the 2013 early signing period commitments, which means Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and James Young are officially Kentucky Wildcats. In case you missed it in Drew’s post earlier, here are his comments on each new Cat:
Aaron Harrison: “Aaron is more of a scoring guard who can make shots and make plays at the rim. He can also play some point in a pinch. Like his brother, Andrew, he has the ability to physically dominate the opponent.”
Andrew Harrison: “Andrew comes in ready to play physically at the point-guard position. He’s a driver, slasher and playmaker with great size. He and his brother Aaron have the ability to be great on-ball defenders.”
James Young: “James is a long, athletic and skilled wing. He’s a lefty who can shoot it and get in transition. You can throw it ahead to him and he can make basketball plays. He rebounds the ball for his position as well anyone in the class.”
Marcus Lee: “Marcus Lee is a long, agile, quick-bounce, quick-twitch, 6-9 forward. He gets to the basket, he’s a terrific shot-blocker and he can rebound above the rim. Marcus has unlimited upside because he’s going to get stronger and he’s going to improve his skill around the basket. His speed, quickness, jumping ability and length set him apart.”
Derek Willis: “Derek is a very skilled, 6-9 big man who is learning to play through bumps, which is going to elevate his game. He’s a long-armed basketball player who can get his hands on balls and really pass. Like Marcus, he has a tremendous upside because he’s going to get stronger and be able to play more physical and really use his size and his shot-making ability to spread the court for us.”
— Aaron Harrison is excited:
S/O the best fans in the world #BBN
— Aaron Harrison (@AaronICE2) November 15, 2012
— Because “great” is never good enough for Cal, he told reporters he plan on adding one or two more recruits to the 2013 class, which will make it even more epic. Here’s the latest on how the Cats are doing with the remaining 2013 targets:
Julius Randle: Considering Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Florida and Oklahoma
After hearing that Randle wouldn’t play with the Harrison Twins earlier this week, on Wednesday, USA Today’s Jason Jordan reported that Cal spoke with Randle on the first day of the early signing period. In fact, Randle said in his latest blog entry that he talks to Cal and his staff more than anyone and considers Coach O and Kenny Payne as “his boys.” Randle’s recruitment has always been hard to read, with Randle even taking to Twitter at times to dispel rumors. He will visit NC State on January 26 to watch them take on UNC.
Andrew Wiggins: Considering Kentucky, Florida State, North Carolina, Ohio State Kansas and Syracuse
As we’ve mentioned several times on the site, Wiggins and his Huntington Prep team will play Christian Faith Academy (North Carolina) in Scott County this upcoming Sunday at 4 p.m., which will give fans an opportunity to be impressed and make an impression on the highly touted recruit. Wiggins’ coach Rob Fulford told the Kentucky Kernel that they’re expecting a big crowd of blue at the event: “I expect we would have a pretty good sized crowd, really for Andrew, but for the overall level of talent the team has. (This game) helps the Kentucky fans get a little closer look at Andrew, and helps him get a closer look at them.” Get your chants ready!
Aaron Gordon: Considering Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Kansas and Kentucky
Gordon visited Kentucky over the weekend and from all reports, had a great time. His father said “We could see ourselves at Kentucky,” but that he will still wait until the Spring to sign. The star power of UK’s 2013 class doesn’t intimidate Gordon, whose father says he is comfortable blending into any situation and will find a way to get minutes. Aaron plans to trim his list soon.
— It’s never too early to look ahead, especially when it involves one of the best young players in the country. Yesterday, we told you that 2015 phenom Karl Towns would announce his college decision on December 4th. It’s looking more likely than ever that Towns will pick the Cats. In an interview with the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts, 247 recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said that all signs point to Towns coming to Lexington to play for his former DR National Team coaches John Calipari and Orlando Antigua:
“Everything points in that direction – as far as making the decision early and spending the summer playing with Coach Calipari,” Meyer said. “I would be extremely, extremely surprised if it’s not Kentucky.”
Even more, there’s a strong possibility Towns will reclassify to 2014. He’s a straight-A student and has already been taking college level courses at St. Joseph’s. Jerry Smith, the school’s athletic director, all but spilled the beans that Towns would be a Cat:
“He’s a good kid. You’re going to really enjoy him,” Smith said. “He’s really personable and he’s going to light up the whole dorm. Cal’s going to have his hands full with this kid.“
Come on down, Karl.
— The ladies also made it official on Thursday, pulling in the 5th best recruiting class in the country. It’s the fourth consecutive season Matthew Mitchell and his group have signed a top-15 class, and it’s the highest ranked class since 2009. Linnae Harper of Chicago, the 5th best prospect in the country, is the star of the class, followed by Makayla Epps (daughter of Anthony Epps) and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers of Marion County. Read more about them here.
— In case you forgot (or your mind is in news overload like mine), the Cats’ home opener against Lafayette is Friday night. Cal met with the media to discuss the game and other topics. First off, your Boone’s Butcher Shop Injury Report:
While Cal said that Ryan Harrow is doing better, he’s still not 100% and will not play until he is. Cal said they didn’t learn anything from the blood tests, and that Harrow’s health comes first. When asked if it was more of a mental issue than physical, Cal said he didn’t think so, and that’s everyone’s just focused on getting Harrow’s energy back up.
— Cal said that the team was “disappointed” about the Duke loss, but is not taking solace in comments like “It’s okay, we’re gonna be great in March.” Why? Because he knows his team could have won, but fell apart in the end. Ultimately, Cal conceded that the team learned a lot in the loss, especially about his team’s identity: “We’re having to go back and really narrow what we’re doing, understand what we are: a post-up team, a pick-and-roll team, create some shots for Kyle, must get out in transition and get easy baskets.”
— They should get plenty of practice Friday night against Lafayette, whom Cal called the best medicine the team could take right now. He expects Lafayette to run a lot of stuff the Cats need to see, such as zone, good three-point shooting and double-teaming in the post. He’s also looking for more intensity from his squad, who he says has gotten too used to just jogging the court:
“My teams in the past, you know how good we’ve been from defense to offense. It’s like: boom, phew! Well now it’s like: boom, (slow jog motion).”
I need a gif of that.
— On Thursday, Joker met with the media to discuss the upcoming game against Samford, but not surprisingly, most of the questions ended up being about the current coaching search. Joker said that he hopes Kentucky’s next coach gets five to seven years before he’s judged for the job he’s done in order to get his own recruits, which didn’t happen for him because of his position as head-coach-in-waiting. He was also vehement that he will help the next coach in any way he can, another classy gesture in what must be a difficult time for the longtime Wildcat.
— Despite Joker’s long career at Kentucky as player, assistant and head coach, he says that he won’t linger at Commonwealth Stadium after Saturday’s game; he’s got all the memories he needs. “Name me somebody that’s had as many memories as me here at Kentucky? Name me someone. I feel like I’ve done all I can do here. Appreciate the opportunity. Again, (I’m) grateful for it, but it’s time to move on.” #PackCommonwealth
— In that spirit, let’s look at the current list of names flying around the coaching search rumor mill. Rick Bozich reiterated what we’ve been hearing around the program lately: Kentucky’s not interested in Bobby Petrino. Bozich cited sources within the program, who also told him who the Cats are interested in: Sonny Dykes, Kliff Kingsbury, Tommy Tuberville, Mike Bellotti, Butch Jones, Brent Pease and David Cutcliffe. In fact, footballscoop.com reports that according to a source close to the program, Mitch Barnhart has “considerable interest” in Butch Jones.
Another hot new name on the radar is Gary Anderson, the head coach at Utah State. Anderson has led the Aggies to an 8-2 record this season after going 7-6 in 2011. Not snazzy enough for you? John Pennington, aka “Mr. SEC,” addressed the rumors that UK was going after an NFL coach, and–without sources, mind you–says the chances the Cats land Bill Cowher or Rex Ryan are pretty low. But, there’s still a chance, at least when it comes to Ryan:
Ryan’s first coaching job was as a grad assistant at Eastern Kentucky. And while he’s been in the NFL since 1999, he did coach in the college ranks from 1987 through 1993 and again in 1998 and ’99. Would he talk to Kentucky? Perhaps. As bad as things are going in New York right now, it’s quite possible that he’ll be jettisoned at year’s end should things not turn around.
On a scale of 1-10, we’d give Ryan to Kentucky about a one.
— Also on tap for Friday night is the Women’s Soccer Team’s second round match against No. 5/6 UCLA in San Diego. The ladies beat UT-Martin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last week and are looking to earn their first Sweet Sixteen bid in the program’s history. Get it, girls.
On a personal note, I want to thank everyone for their kind words and congratulations tonight. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing for KSR for two years now and involved with it for over four. I am thrilled to join KSR full-time, and I promise to give it my all. Your overwhelming support has left me a bit speechless, but I do encourage everyone to never stop chasing your dreams. Sometimes, with a lot of hard work and Rick Pitino jokes, they do come true.
Okay, enough cheese. See you in the morning.