I’ll admit it–I don’t like baseball. Well, let me clarify. Unless I’m sitting in a baseball stadium with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other on a sunny day, I don’t like baseball. So, while the rest of the world waxed poetic about the smell of grass and mitt leather on Opening Day Monday, I scrolled on with my life. Yet, even this baseball unenthusiast can stand up and applaud former Kentucky outfielder Collin Cowgill, who hit a grand slam for the Mets Monday afternoon.
This was Cowgill’s debut as a Met; he was traded there this past winter after stints with the Diamondbacks and Athletics. He earned the starting center fielder spot by putting in an impressive spring run, batting .303 with five home runs, ten RBI, four stolen bases and a .969 OPS. The Henry Clay alum’s grand slam was the first for the Mets on Opening Days in 18 years, and came in the 7th inning to help the Mets to a 11-2 win over the Padres.
Afterwards, Mets Manager Terry Collins said of Cowgill, “I’m not sure I’ve been around a guy who competes like this guy does.” Fellow Mets newcomer John Buck called Cowgill a “little spark plug” and said he plays “like his hair’s on fire. That’s what we need.”
I think everyone agrees that the Mets need a little more Cowgill.
The biggest news of the day had to be word from UK that Willie Cauley-Stein would return for his sophomore year, while Archie Goodwin will go enter the draft. Let’s break it down.
I’ll be honest, when I woke up on Monday morning, I expected an April Fools Day tweet from Willie. After trolling the fan base for two weeks about whether or not he would return for his sophomore year, Willie confirmed that he will come back to school through a statement via UK on Monday. Even though Willie was projected by many to go as high as the end of the lottery, he will return to UK to work on polishing his raw potential. Now, next year’s team will have one more of the valuable veterans required for Cal’s Championship blend. Between Alex, Archie and Willie, Willie may have the most to gain from coming back. Not only would he have less competition for his starting position (Dakari Johnson is great, but also very raw), but with an off-season of weight training and another year of hard work, he could be one of, if not the, top big man in the draft. In addition, this team may need Willie the most; down the stretch, Willie was one of the few players to show some leadership, and after the unfortunate end to the season, seemed to have a fire in his belly for revenge. Welcome back, Willie.
Archie going pro
What a difference a few weeks make. After admitting he’s not ready for the NBA and pledging to return to school, Archie pulled a 180 on Monday and will enter the NBA Draft. He hasn’t signed with an agent–yet–but his comments about achieving his dream of playing in the league and the finality with which he spoke of his time in Kentucky leave little hope for return. Although Cal seemed disappointed with his decision, he said he supports Archie and believes he has the “drive and desire to be great.” Let’s face it: aside from Nerlens, none of these guys are ready to go pro, but because of a historically weak draft, they’re in an unique situation, Archie and Alex especially. They can either return to school and fight for playing time in hopes of improving their game or capitalize on an inflated draft pick and work their way up from the D-League. The former will take AT LEAST one year, probably two due to next year’s absurd amount of talent. The latter gets you a pay check right away. It’s not the most heartwarming of decisions, but it’s pragmatic, and you can’t blame him for it.
Alex and Nerlens: TBD
We didn’t hear the decisions of UK’s other two freshmen, but for entirely different reasons. Alex Poythress is still gathering information and weighing his options on whether or not go pro. DraftExpress.com currently projects him to go 16th in the draft, purely based on potential. A veteran NBA scout told Adam Zagoria that basketball-wise, Poythress needs to return for another year: “To me, he didn’t have it figured out. He’s tremendous physically, he doesn’t know what to do with what he has. He has a body like an NBA All-Star.” The difference between Archie and Alex’s situations is that Archie has the drive and mindset to make himself relevant in the league; Alex currently does not. Alex’s problems on the court are all mental and coming back to school would give him the time and the tools to figure them out. It will just take him a few more years than he’d like.
As for Nerlens, it is very easy to get lost in daydreams about why he hasn’t announced his decision yet. His NBA stock has rocketed him back up to the projected number one pick, which is pretty hard to pass on. Why is it taking Noel so long to announce what is at this point a foregone conclusion? His rehab status. UK and Cal have said all along that Nerlens will decide whether or not he’s going pro based on how his rehab goes. Since he only had his surgery a few weeks ago, he and his family are probably taking their time in evaluating his progression and making the decision.
To say Andrew Wiggins drew the most attention at the McDonald’s All-American practice today would be an understatement. After a particularly chatty Sunday in which he used the word “we” in reference to UK more times than a needy girl after a third date, Wiggins clammed up on Monday, not giving any hints about his decision or timetable. Regardless, the aftershocks of him saying “we’d be the best college team ever” have many claiming the tide has turned in Kentucky’s favor. Even Evan Daniels says that he’s starting to like the Cats’ position with Wiggins. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to find out anytime soon. On Sunday, Wiggins told the Chicago Tribune that he’ll decide in “mid-May.”
UK commitments sound off about next season
While the media hounded Andrew Wiggins, UK’s current commitments had some great soundbites about next season. Let’s go through them all (quotes via Ben Roberts):
On going 40-0: “Why not?”
On what he told Andrew Wiggins about coming to UK: “I’ll pass him the ball out here and be like ‘This is what you’ll get next year.'”
What practices will be like next season at UK: “Competition. I think everybody who comes to Kentucky knows they’ll have to go there and compete and that’s what was the most appealing to me. I knew everyday in practice I would have to get better. I just want to get better before I get to the next level. I want to make sure I’m prepared. Those practices will probably be like NBA practices.”
On Willie Cauley-Stein staying: “I’m happy about that – Willie staying. Next year, we’ll have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. I think it’ll be tough to match up with us.”
On UK winning it all in 2014: “I think that’s what we’re all thinking right now. One of my goals is to go flat-out undefeated.”
James Young: “The more great players, the easier it is to win. I want to bring energy”
On practicing with Andrew Wiggins: “Me and Julius, we’re on the team with him and it seems like he enjoys playing with us. Every time someone asks him it’s, ‘I don’t know.’ But I have a good feeling he might end up playing at UK.”
On what would happen at UK if Wiggins commits: “I mean, how is anybody going to stop that?”
On Willie Cauley-Stein staying: “He’ll push me during practice. I think we complement each other well. He’s an athletic big. I’m not as athletic. …He would help me out a lot, because he’s so athletic. If my man beats me, he’s right there to block shots.”
On playing time: “I’m all about winning. Playing time is not a concern.”
His Final Four pick? “I hope Michigan wins, because I hate Louisville.”
On Willie Cauley-Stein staying: “That’s great. That’s good news. Willie is a great athlete. He just has to get a little but more focus, so I’m going to try to do that.”
On Kentucky fans: “Best fans in the world. They’re crazier than I expected. I didn’t know people liked basketball that much.”
Aaron Gordon decides
Aaron Gordon, one of Kentucky’s final targets in the 2013 class, will announce his college decision Tuesday at 12:35 p.m. ET. Gordon is down to Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Kentucky, and most think he will stay on the West Coast. He told reporters on Monday that he’s known his decision for four to five weeks and has already informed the school’s coach. Gordon spoke glowingly about Kentucky on Monday and apparently his decision “shocked” his parents, but don’t read too much into that. Either way, Gordon said that Kentucky’s practices next season would “be like a McDonald’s All-American practice, except more structure.” Just get excited about that.
UK Hoops goes out with a whimper
One of the best seasons in UK Hoops history went out with a whimper on Monday night, with the girls falling to UConn 83-53. The game was a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight, which the Huskies won by 15. Wilder has a full recap below, but simply put, Matthew Mitchell’s squad never looked in sync. Doomed either by superior talent or some deja vu demons, the girls never found a rhythm and lacked the toughness that was their trademark all season. Regardless, they’ve had a brilliant season and shouldn’t hang their heads. Matthew Mitchell has put this group on the map, and with one of the best classes in the program’s history coming in next season, there’s no reason they can’t finally grasp that brass ring.
That’s all for now. See you soon.