Over the eight plus years we have been doing KSR, I have “honored” a lot of people/thing at the top of night posts. From politicians to athletes to celebrities to movies to songs, this opening paragraphs has taken on the life of whatever was in the news/my mind that day and has always been a great chance to write about something other than just Kentucky sports. But few people or subjects that have ever graced this paragraph have ever been more important to me than tonight’s. Chris Tomlin was one of the founding voices of KSR and continues to be (in my mind) the funniest person I know. For the entirety of this site’s existence, Tomlin has written with his unique and unmatched style posts that are some of the best this blog has ever seen. He has the trait that all writers aspire to, you know it is his work from moment one and the thoughts/humor that lies within cannot be replicated by anyone else. He was honored today with an article in his hometown paper that focused on his work with the magazine “National Geographic for Kids”, a magazine that has given us some great KSR Radio fun over the years (on the infamous “KSR Uncensored Podcast” we learned a great deal about Tomlin and his “Animal Friends”). I was very happy to see Tomlin’s National Geographic work recognized (and posing with many children in the picture…better him than me) but also wanted to make sure his tremendous contributions here are equally praised. Along with Rob Gidel, Hubby, John Wilkinson, Mosley and The Turkey Hunter he helped launch this site long ago and I will forever be indebted to him. But more important than all of this to me is that Tomlin has been one of my closest friends since we met each other at Transylvania many years ago. His friendship has helped me through many trying times and there are few people walking who have made me laugh and smile more than he. Tomlin is now KSR’s Funkhouser editor, a father of two cute kids and still consistently brings outstanding weekly posts (and corresponding anger in the comment section from those who don’t understand/appreciate him) that are some of my favorite this site produces. Thanks to Tomlin for all of his great work and for being not only a core part of the KSR family but also a great friend.
With that past-due praise out of the way, a look at the two most important storylines of the weekend:
THE TWINS ARE BACK…COLLEGE BASKETBALL WATCH OUT
Where were you when you found out the Twins were returning? I was finishing the last minute of my radio show on Friday, trying to figure out a snappy closing on such an exciting day, while getting ready for what was sure to be a news-packed afternoon. I received a text that said “Good news comes at 1 pm” and I knew we were headed for a weekend of celebration. Their return of course forced the haters out of their collective closets, making sure to note that now Calipari has somehow “failed” in not getting them to the pros or that all of these players will never be able to come together cohesively without major problems. But my answer to them is a resounding, “so what?” We have learned over the past few months what we have known from the moment John Calipari arrived in Lexington. The Calipari era will be known for three things, winning, changing the way modern college basketball is played/recruited and haters. We can’t escape them so we just deal (and in most cases) laugh at their attempts to take down the current college basketball king.
For next season however, the Twins return to Lexington means one thing…we are going to be very good. That sentence is hard for many to utter because we are understandably gun shy after the experience of this regular season. Because we were all so certain this group of Freshmen would run roughshod over college basketball, how can we be sure that now an unbelievable array of talent like the 2014-2015 team will do it instead? The answer of course is that we can’t but that doesn’t mean that the smart money is still not on a rollicking year of the highest level of play. Last year was, despite its amazing ending, a team of unknowns that didn’t hit their stride until the very end. This team is not unknown. We know that next year’s group has:
9 McDonald’s All Americans
5 major contributors from a National Championship Runner-up
4 of the 29 highest ranked Freshmen in America
5 future NBA draft picks at either the 4 or 5 position
4 guards who all likely have a NBA future
Throw in Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis (whose dad dismissed transfer rumors this weekend) and this could be the deepest team in Kentucky history. Don’t scoff at that comment…it is probably true. Not even the 1996 team had this many good players this deep on the roster. Of course there are potential weaknesses…there isn’t really a true “3” on the team, defense on the perimeter can still be a concern and there isn’t a transcendent go-to star, a la Wall/Cousins/Davis/Randle. But we can’t have everything can we? What we do have is an assemblage of talent that should make us all giddy for Big Blue Madness (can you imagine Calipari’s Vince McMahon-like speech that night?) and a summer of excitement unlike any in a long time.
College basketball at Kentucky under Calipari has been one thing above all else…fun. And with the Harrison Twins returning we are assured of this…another fun 12 month ride starting now that will ensure Big Blue Nation’s passion cup overfloweth.
Kevin from “The Office” got married this weekend to the woman above. There is hope for everyone (assuming of course you are on a hit television show)
SPRING GAME BRINGS OPTIMISM
Last year’s Spring Game was one of the more exciting UK football moments that we have had in five years. Now to be fair, that is like saying that Victor Oladipo is one of the more talented players of the Tom Crean era at Indiana…it means very little. But there was excitement in the air at the 2013 Spring Game in a way that we simply had not seen in years past. The product on the field however was a different story and was a sobering reality. This staff has been very careful to not say anything bad about the team it inherited publicly and has instead focused on noting that they needed to improve as a staff and a unit in order to make the play on the field better. But anyone who watched the passing struggles and the inept defense last April, knew that it would be a long year…2-10 was a sobering reality that if we are all honest with ourselves, we could have predicted at the end of that great April night.
But Saturday’s 2014 version of the Spring Game was a different story altogether. The signs of an improving Kentucky football program were everywhere to view in Commonwealth Stadium this weekend. Most obvious was the huge improvement on the offensive side, as Kentucky looked much closer to an efficient “Air Raid” attack that at any other point of the Stoops era. All three quarterbacks, Towles, Phillips and Barker, looked better than any quarterback did last year and each gave positive signs that can give fans hope. Patrick Towles looks to be the favorite for the position, and he led a number of solid drives, even though many of his minutes were with the second team. Barker showcased some great throws and Phillips was a part of possibly the best overall drive of the day. The Running Backs were VERY impressive, with Jo Jo Kemp, Braylon Heard, Josh Clemons and Mikel Horton showcasing the potential to be a fearsome foursome come next fall. Add in more protection from the offensive line and the makings are there for an offense that is much more like what fans have been hoping to see.
The defense had some bright spots as well…the secondary is clearly much improved and a number of guys made big plays on otherwise good throws. The defensive line got run on quite a bit, but most were second string players and the Zadarius/Bud Dupree combination is still tremendous. There is concern at the Linebacker position and that will probably remain all year…in my mind, it is this team’s biggest worry. But the defense fought hard and at the end of the game, Mark Stoops said he was proud of all the players for improving exponentially during the Spring. There is still a long way to go, but for any person that made the trip to both Spring Games over the last two years, the marked improvement is clear.
It is of course Derby week, which means fun times around KSR as we play the “Ryan Lemond Derby” and offer our listeners some good deals courtesy of TwinSpires.com. To get you in the spirit, I will once again link the best column ever written about all things Derby, Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. Read it and get yourself in the mood.
We will be back with radio in the morning to celebrate the Twins and more. If you missed our special show last Friday afternoon (which got all the way to #1 nationally on iHeart Radio) you can listen to it here. See you then…