Good morning, KSR! You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little excited this morning. This day packs a lot of joy for your third-favorite blogger as we not only close the books on the longest month of my blogging life, but also get set for a basketball game that marks the triumphant return of a forgotten Cat of yesteryear. When someone finally writes the epic tale of Billy Gillispie’s years at UK, it will be filled with secondary characters and names that make you scratch your head. While many of Clyde’s scrappy Cats have faded to black, Ole Miss brings Donald Williams back into the fold this evening in Oxford. Williams, who famously played for a high school whose mascot was the Kittens, has improved on his zero appearances in one season as a Cat and posted 12 points this season for the Rebels. More importantly, in being a 22-year old sophomore, he also is making guys like my friend Ray feel better about dragging their academic feet. So, tonight, make sure you take some time to salute Donald Williams and don’t feel bad when he’s on the receiving end of a beating. He’s used to it. He played for Gillispie.
Now onto some other UK notes…
– As is rarely the case around these parts, the biggest news from a Monday came from the football program as word broke that Ryan Mossakowski is handing in his blue and white fatigues and moving on from “Operation: Win”. Given Mossakowski’s lofty ranking and the way getting a top quarterback out of Texas was celebrated, his decision to leave left many, including myself, disappointed. The truth is, though, his transfer can only be ruled a disappointment if Morgan Newton is truly unable to be the starting quarterback. And despite the staff’s insistence that the position would be open for competition, there was no real indication that Mossakowski was the guy to lead the team or that he would even get that chance. No matter how strong the belief from the fans that he could throw the ball over them mountains (myself included) or how impressed we were with all of the quarterbacking intangibles (leadership, command of the huddle) he seemed to bring to the table on paper (seriously, I love him), the guys evaluating the situation on a daily basis never deemed him ready to take snaps. When Morgan Newton was piecing together an awful Compass Bowl performance, Mossakowski never even got his arm warm. That says a lot about where they thought he was in his development. The staff made their bed with Morgan Newton and now they’re going to be forced to snuggle up in it, whether he’s ready to play at a high level or not. If he breaks out and plays like many expect he’s capable of, this becomes a forgettable footnote in the history of “Operation: Win”. If not, it’s going to be a fall full of BTI’s “Mossakowski Watch”. Best case scenario: both guys thrive in leading their teams next year. Signed, Captain Obvious.
– For his part, Joker Phillips released a statement through UK’s media relations department. It simply read, “We want to thank Ryan for contributions to the program and we wish him the best.” That’s only slightly less personal than the statement Matt released when Maggard stopped writing for KSR.
– On a final Mossakowski note, think about this: In the recruiting classes between 2007 and 2009, UK landed five four-star recruits, based on Rivals’ rankings. They were DJ Stafford, Aaron Boyd, Mossakowski, DeQuin Evans and Chris Matthews. Does that say more about Rivals’ rankings or UK’s staff? Given the staff’s success in developing two and three stars, I’m leaning toward evaluations. Of course, the coaches evaluated them too, I guess. It’s like the chicken and egg debate, but with more disappointment.
– The news for the basketball future was a little more cheery Monday as five-star shooting guard Ricardo Ledo backed off his verbal to Providence just a month after pledging his verbal. The 6’5 Ledo, rated as the #7 player in the country by Rivals, picked the Friars just days before he was scheduled to visit both UK and U of L and take in the New Year’s Eve beat-down by the Cats. Now, it appears that the two in-state programs will duke it out for his services as expected, with UConn believed to be a player as well. The Cards have five-star point guard Rodney Purvis, who has a “brotherly” relationship with Ledo working in their favor. The Cats have everything else.
– With the Cats set to take on a severely over-matched Ole Miss team in Oxford Tuesday night, in Oxford, the majority of Coach Cal’s media time was spent talking about what he expects from his own team in order to improve in the long run. Calipari spoke quite a bit about getting more from his veteran players as the trio has flipped a bit lately with Darius Miller coming on strong and Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins encountering some struggles. Calipari acknowledged that Darius Miller might be playing too many minutes and that could be contributing to him finding patches of ineffectiveness and you have to wonder how that plays out on the roster as a whole. The team only goes six-deep right now, but when you consider that those six players are three freshmen and three guys playing more than they have at any point in their career (Miller only slightly more), you have to wonder if fatigue is playing into it a bit for everyone. You hear a lot from people far smarter than me that these kids are conditioned for years to play heavy loads of minutes, but it doesn’t seem far-fetched to think that the lack of depth is having at least a little bit of an effect on the trio of veterans. Of course, Coach Cal disagrees with that. He might know a little better.
– Another repeated topic of discussion was his team’s execution, to which Cal offered some surprising praise after being critical last week. Cal told the media Monday that this team executes better than last year’s squad. They just don’t have the same players, which is the difference. However, he tempered that praise a bit by noting that they have not been able to put an entire 40 minutes together yet and if they figure it out, they’re going to be a nightmare for any team in the tournament. Again, you have to wonder if the difference in being able to put together that full 40 minutes is another player being able to contribute some positive minutes and keep legs fresh for the main rotation guys. Again, Calipari believes they are fine with six. And he’s a smart dude.
– In case you haven’t heard, Ole Miss will host a “Red Out” for their game against Kentucky. Unlike the other “white out” or “black out” games the Cats have faced on the road, Ole Miss will not hand out t-shirts or ask their fans to wear special attire. They’re just being asked to face away from the court.
– After a two-day period of The Good Doctor’s “Larry Brown Gate” saga, Monday’s media session brought a humorous exchange between Coach Cal and Joe B. Hall. As Cal met with the media, Coach Hall entered and was told by Cal to make sure he didnt’ coach any of the kids, to which Hall responded, “I know. Tipton is here.” Gentleman John Clay has video of the interaction on his blog.
– After a rush of new Twitter followers following the revelation of KSR reader/listener Dustin that he was telling people he committed to UK, 2013 big man Tyrek Coger clarified on Twitter and said that he was just pulling our big blue leg. Coger had this to say: “Tyrek Coger is not committed. It was a joke…sorry UK fans” before again asking for forgiveness and asking for you to remain true to your follow. I know what you’re thinking. Third person? Who does he think he is? God’s Gift?
– Sure, the Cards might have lost, but it was an especially tough night to be Peyton Siva. Louisville’s flavor of the month scored only five points (all in the second half) and committed eight – yes eight – turnovers in the Cards’ loss to Georgetown. Even worse, rumors began circulating that his father could be the offspring of Handsome Jimmy and the cook from 50 First Dates.
– Keeping with the spirit of our founder, my wife made me watch The Bachelor tonight. It was my first time watching the super goober sort through floozies (no disrespect) and I could only come away with one thought. That guy has more Kige Ramsey mannerisms about him than I think Kige does. I think we should push for him to be the next Bachelor.
– On a final note, there might be no greater trend in college athletics over the past few seasons than the giant heads on a stick that continue to pop up at arenas and stadiums. It also got me thinking of a huge opportunity for the game against Tennessee February 8. We need to find a way to fill the student section with giant cutouts of Bruce Pearl on a cell phone with some sort of message like “Wanna chat?” or something better. Probably something better. If you’re a company that would like to work with us on that (translation: pay for it and do the work), let me know. It must be done.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout the day as we get you all set for Ole Miss and we pour out a little bit more for Donald Williams and Ryan Mossakowski. As usual, Matt and Zach get it going on Talk Radio 1080 at 10am. In the meantime, make sure you listen to the podcast from Saturday night if you haven’t done so already.
See you in a few…