Flash back to June of 2003, and Dontrelle Willis is dominating Major League Baseball in his first season in the big leagues. Heading into the All-Star Break, Willis is 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA and had quickly become one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball. A big reason for Willis’ success was his unorthodox windup where he kicked his leg up almost all the way over his head while twisting violently away from the batter, which as you can imagine, caused hitters some problems. He also was quite the hitter for a pitcher, for example he helped crush my Chicago Cubs’ dreams of a pennant by going 3-3 with an RBI triple in the 2003 NLCS. But like a lot of instant phenoms, the hype faded, and time eventually caught up with him. After going 22-10 in his 3rd year in the big leagues, Willis has fallen off the proverbial career cliff, posting just a 24-32 career record since then and bouncing around from the Tigers, to the Diamondbacks, to the Phillies, to the Reds, to the Giants, and finally 8 days ago, landing back at the team who originally drafted him, signing a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. The violent windup has been replaced by a less pronounced, smoother one and the intimidating heat has been replaced by a less vicious fastball, but nonetheless, his dramatic rise to big league stardom was incredible at the time, and his post-fall-from-grace longevity has actually been something to admire. Here’s to you Dontrelle Willis, on your 31st birthday. Hopefully you can regain that old form and help my Cubs out a little this season. This is our year. Ha…
You guys remember UK’s game against Vanderbilt on Thursday night? Yeah, I don’t either. Luckily for us, the ‘Cats have a quick turnaround, playing tomorrow at home against Texas A&M in another contest that the odds makers expect UK to come out victorious in. Calipari was extremely critical of his team’s 2nd half performance against Vandy, especially calling out Kyle Wiltjer for his lack of defense and for the excessive amount of cement that seemed to be engulfing the inside of Kyle’s sneakers. Cal’s comments were a direct shot to Wiltjer and provided him with an ultimatum. Figure out how to play defense, or become comfortable on the bench. Cal also pointed out that Texas A&M is a post-up team, which means Kyle will have his chance to redeem himself sooner rather than later. Not to beat a dead horse, but it was worth noting that while Wiltjer wasn’t on the court yesterday, the Commodores shot 27% from the field, but while Kyle WAS on the court, Vandy’s shooting percentage was at 44% (h/t Kyle Tucker). That can’t happen if Kentucky expects to make a 3rd straight trip to the Final Four.
While most didn’t expect a 2-point win for Kentucky last night over Vanderbilt, Texas A&M shouldn’t provide too tough a challenge for the Wildcats to overcome just about 36 hours after the hard-fought road win. A&M enters the game tomorrow with a matching 1-0 SEC record after defeating Arkansas 69-51 at home in their SEC debut. The Aggies are 11-3 overall (1-0 on the road and 1-2 at neutral sites). Their results so far this season haven’t been very impressive. The Aggies dropped a game in a big way to St. Louis 70-49. They also lost to Oklahoma 64-54 in another non-conference match-up. The least sterling result so far this season though would have to be a home loss to Southern, 53-51. For what it’s worth, the Aggies were picked to finish 9th in the SEC pre-season media poll. None of the A&M players were selected to the pre-season first or second team.
On the bright side, the Kentucky Football team is currently in the middle of their biggest recruiting weekend maybe ever, as a multitude of top prospects are in town this weekend to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Blue Nation. For the complete list of all prospects visiting, check out Rashawn’s Recruiting Preview post from earlier. In the big name news, 4* WR Rashaad Samples from Skyline HS in Texas has been feeling the love from the BBN since before he arrived on campus, and him and 4* QB recruit Asiantii Woulard seem to be getting along just fine:
– Asiantii Woulard (@Asiantii_2) January 11, 2013
Come on down. Both of you, please.
In more good football news, 3* OL/DT Lovell Peterson liked what he saw from Mark Stoops’ program on his visit a few weeks back and committed to the Wildcats earlier today. Peterson is a 2-way player who will probably project as an offensive lineman in college. He was ranked by Rivals as the 6th best Center in America and will come in and provide immediate depth to an interior line who is losing 2 NFL-caliber players this offseason in Matt Smith and Larry Warford.
If you were on the edge of your seats waiting for the final piece of UK’s football coaching staff to be filled, then wait no longer. Coach Stoops filled his vacant WR Coach position by bringing in Tommy Mainord from Texas Tech to coach the passcatchers. Mainord is familiar with Neal Brown’s offense as he has spent the last 3 years at Texas Tech under the same position. Kentucky also has hired Eric Korem as the “Football Performance Coordinator” which sounds like a really fancy way to say “Strength Coach”. Korem served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Florida State and also was a speed and nutrition specialist, whatever that means.
2013 5* basketball recruit Aaron Gordon had a lot of great things to say about the Wildcats earlier today as he approaches his decision where he will play college ball. Rush The Court got Gordon to speak on the 3 schools he’s considering (UK, Arizona, and Washington) and raved about the Kentucky program overall:
“Let’s start with Kentucky,” Gordon said. “Kentucky is a winning organization. (John) Calipari’s a very winning coach. It’s just a basketball program. The Wildcat Lodge is right across the street from the gym. You can get in 24 hours a day. … It’s almost like business. If you really want to play basketball, that’s the place to go.
So, reading between the lines there, according to Aaron Gordon, if he really wants to play basketball, which most who have seen him dunk with absolute ease believe to be the case, then Kentucky is the place to be. Sounds like a “Come on down, Aaron” to me.
Just so you understand my dedication to all things Kentucky Sports, just know that this post was typed entirely from a booth at McDonald’s. Thank god for free Wi-Fi.