Good morning my KSR brothers and sisters and welcome to your Wednesday News and Views on this Cinco de Mayo. It was a bit of loco day on Tuesday, but we’re hoping to get things back on track on this fine Wednesday and will do so by saluting former Cincinnati star DerMarr Johnson. Johnson, a 6’9″ shooting guard for Bob Huggins in his only year of college, was a favorite of a young Thomas Beisner, who himself was a lanky beanpole who liked to shoot the three. Johnson was tabbed as the National Player of the Year as a high school senior and brought his sweet stroke to Conference USA during the famous Kenyon Martin injury season. After a standout freshman year, which included hitting around 350 threes in one game against Louisville at Freedom Hall, he entered the draft and was selected sixth overall by the Hawks, where he did not live up to the hype I lumped upon him in the halls of South Oldham High School. Sadly, Johnson’s would eventually break his neck in a horrific car accident and sit out an entire season, making him lose that always attractive “potential” in the eyes of NBA GMs. His career wasn’t much after that, highlighted by starting 40 games for the Nuggets in 2004-05, but he remained a Beisner favorite on NBA Live thanks to his perseverance, braids and budding rap career. The last I heard from Johnson, he was in China playing for Joe Crawford’s Jiangsu Dragons, but he’s not listed on the roster, so we’ll assume he’s about to drop the greatest rap album ever. And, when he does, I’ll download it to my iTunes and listen to it before I head to the rec center and camp out behind the three-point line despite being the biggest guy on the court.
Now onto some UK news…
– The hot story of Tuesday was the report from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski that indicated that John Calipari had interest in the open Chicago Bulls coaching position. Cal has been rumored as a candidate by the Chicago media the past few days, though most labeled it as a “pipe dream”, and Coach Cal even denied any interest to Andy Katz earlier on Tuesday. However, Wojo, arguably the best NBA writer in the land, found enough sources to at least indicate that Kentucky’s head coach would at least listen to the Bulls’ best pitch. The attractiveness is there, considering the Derrick Rose factor and the cap room that could lure LeBron James, but there is virtually no shot of Calipari leaving Kentucky for any job after one year – no matter how much he’d love to “bounce back”.
– Despite the vast unlikeliness of Calipari leaving for the Windy City, the Yahoo story did open a new can of worms not yet seen when he wrote that Cal “hasn’t connected” with the UK administration in his first year on the job. Matt spoke to the validity of that statement in the post below, which essentially seems to be a non-issue. It sounds as if that while they might not have “connected”, it’s nothing out of the ordinary and shouldn’t be misconstrued as dissention or workplace tension. In two days, this will be a non-issue, as it should be.
– Despite all of this madness (or maybe because of it), Mitch Barnhart released a statement late Tuesday saying that “initial discussions” have taken place on a new contract for Calipari, which was reported by Brett Dawson last week. UK’s athletic director said that he was extrememly proud of what UK accomplished in the first year of the new regime and that, along with his excitement for what is building in the future, sparked the discussions. If a new deal is necessary to fight off NBA teams who are pursuing Kentucky’s head coach in what will likely be the most intriguing set of off-season jobs in the last 10-15 years thanks to free agency and the John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins factor, it seems like a good move. If it’s just a pat on the back for a good season, it’s going to be tough to justify nationally the reason for increasing the salary of the nation’s highest-paid coach after not making the Final Four or winning a national championship. If the new contract means more money for Calipari, expect a flood of national critique. And, in my opinion, it would be completely justified.
– To all the UK basketball players, don’t worry about the 2.0 GPA for the fall semester. I had a worse GPA my first semester at UK and look at me now. I’m sitting alone on my couch, writing about sports for free in the hopes that people I’ve never met will love me. The future is bright, baby!
– In today’s episode of America’s most-watched recruiting soap opera, OregonLive.com reports that Terrence Jones nearly picked up the UK hat at his press conference, again proving the complete uncertainty he entered his announcement with. The same article says that his high school coach believes Washington is still his leader and Scout.com super basketball brain Evan Daniels told a Washington radio station that, if you held a gun to his head, he’d say Jones becomes a Huskie, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he picked UK. Obviously, Daniels hadn’t watched Justified yet, or else he’d know that if he was held hostage, the situation could be resolved with fried chicken and bourbon.
– If you’re a fan of the glorified junior college down I-64, news broke on Tuesday that Rick Pitino was offering a scholarship to Kentucky Mr. Basketball Elisha Justice, who had previously agreed to walk-on. UK flirted with Justice briefly last month after the Great Roster Exodus of 2010, but the point guard said he would honor his Filthy Card commitment. Justice said that Louisville was where he wanted to be all along, whether a scholarship was involved or not, and that he was excited to be a part of a recruiting class that is rated with fewer stars than The Love Guru.
– A likely factor in the offer to Justice was the announcement that Lousville big man Samardo Samuels has decided to remain as an undrafted free agent. Samuels will sign with an agent who likely has fluency in other languages and will serve as another tool in luring elite big men away from the Cards during recruiting. That is, of course, unless you’re a top-5 player looking to remain fat, watch your skills diminish and never get a sniff of the NBA. And, if that’s you, I believe my company will hire you right out of high school. It’s the only place where the weight comes faster and the dreams vanish quicker.
– It was another Tuesday, which meant another episode of Justified. As mentioned before, the series took a break from Kentucky stereotypes for a week and stayed true to the age-old “end a hostage situation by giving captor fried chicken and bourbon” trick.
– On an non-UK note, sad news in the world of baseball as legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away at the age of 92. I’ve never been a Tigers fan and my familiarity with Harwell’s work is limited, but I saw a documentary on him a few months ago which showed him to be a fascinating and entertaining character who loved baseball like he gave birth to it. Like the other great announcers of his era, Harwell had a voice and delivery that was made for the great game and makes baseball junkies like myself feel like they’re 10 years-old all over again, watching black and white videos of all the greats who retired long before they ever picked up a glove. For a number of reasons that I don’t have nearly enough space to touch on here, baseball has lost its touch with my generation and, with the passing of another great broadcaster from baseball’s greatest era, it seems to further remove itself from the majestic sport so many of us viewed it as when we were kids.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout the day as we wait for Terrence Jones news, listen to national outlets report that Kentucky is making a desperate attempt to retain Cal, delve into Matt Jones’ latest athletic endeavor and maybe even lay down on the floor with Vinny Tatum for a Cinco de Mayo siesta. It’s going to be a fun day. See you in a few…