The weekend of the British Open is always one of my favorites because it allows the rare moment for those of us on the East Coast when we can watch important sporting events as we are waking up. This year’s excitement was a bit dampened for most of the morning as it looked like not only could Tiger not win, but Adam Scott and his ridiculous putter were certain to run away with it. But then the golf Gods hit and we ended up with another choker to join the list of Ed Sneed, Jan Van de Velde, Scott Hoch and (my favorite golfer of all time) Greg Norman. Four bogies in four holes gave the tournament to Ernie Els and produced the compelling/horrifying sight of watching an athlete melt before our very eyes. I was happy to see one of the more likable players in golf, Ernie Els, win. Not only is he older, but I have always found his game and demeanor refreshing. In some ways his entire swing is almost like a philosophy on life…you dont have to swing hard to hit it far. By all indications, he is one of the nicer people on tour and he has dealt with a number of personal issues involving his son over the past year. Watching him win the Claret Jug and strike victory for people without hideously long putters was a good way to start the morning and helped propel me to my day…of watching celebrity golf, Big Brother and the infuriating “Newsroom.” I didn’t say the motivation from early sporting events would necessarily be put to good use.
To the news:
— Most everything that mattered this weekend in UK sports occurred in the realm of basketball recruiting. The Peach Jam became the go to spot in the college basketball world, with every coach that was anyone making the trip to North Augusta, South Carolina to see the best and the brightest. John Calipari and his staff made the trip and Calipari ended up flying back and forth between the Peach Jam and an AAU event in Milwaukee numerous times. While there, they saw a number of UK targets and we got some notion of how the 2013 class is developing. A quick update on all the targets that UK has outstanding offers to at this point:
Harrison Twins: The only part of the 2013 recruiting class with no presence at the Peach Jam, these two guards are still thought to be the cornerstone of the UK class. I spoke with a number of people about the Harrison Twins this week and every single one predicted they would end up at Kentucky. However one very good source did say, “you have to remember that there is a strong home push there to remain in that home area and go to Maryland. For that reason, I wouldn’t say it is a done deal.” (The twins father is from Baltimore). Still, with everyone saying UK is the leader, you have to feel good about Calipari’s position.
James Young: I watched Young play four games over my time at the Peach Jam and he seemed to improve upon each viewing. After his first game scoring only seven points, I found myself wondering about the hype. But then over the rest of the tournament, you saw what Young brings to the table. He is not a dynamic athlete that pops off the court, but he is a steady player, with great skill and tremendous offensive ability. He scored a quiet 24 one game, 31 the next and his team won every time we saw him play. As one person told me, “he is a system guy…think about what Doron Lamb did for UK and Young can do that and more.” I would take that easily.
Julius Randle: The big man was impressive all weekend as he looked the most physically imposing of all the players at the Peach Jam. In my mind, I thought he was a long shot for the Cats, but the biggest news to me of the weekend is how strong Kentucky is on him. One source told me, “Kentucky is right there for Julius. And all the stuff about he and the Harrison Twins not getting along is made up. This guy wants to win and UK has a very good shot.” If Kentucky gets him, watch out.
Jabari Parker: Parker did not play at the Peach Jam due to injury, but I was told the opposite of Randle concerning his status with UK. A couple of different close sources said UK’s position was “third at best” with Parker and they did not see it happening. “I think there are a number of factors that keep Jabari from Kentucky. I never count out Calipari, but I would be surprised.”
Andrew Wiggins: The revelation of the Peach Jam for me. I knew he was good, but I didn’t realize just how good he is. Everyone I spoke with believes he will end up at Kentucky and the only real competition is Florida State, where both of his parents went to school. Leonard Hamilton was at every game and stalking his every move, but Calipari was a continued presence as well. The biggest question is whether he reclassifies from 2014 to 2013. Most everyone I spoke with thinks he eventually will. He will make that decision by mid-August.
Aaron Gordon: A week ago, the West Coast star said it was Washington and Arizona at the top of the list. This weekend he added Kentucky and said he was definitely going to take a visit. I personally think that stems from an increased presence from Kentucky, possibly because of worsening feelings about their status with Parker. Gordon’s team won the Peach Jam and he apparently spoke with Kyle Witljer, who recently played for the same AAU team. I was very impressed with Gordon’s skills and I watched him dominate one game while being hobbled with a rib injury. Calipari saw him five times over the weekend. I think one can say UK is very serious with him.
This group, along with Derek Willis, basically represents the focus of the UK 2013 class at this point. Kentucky has some secondary options, but if you look at the group above, it would represent the dream scenario for Kentucky. There is no way to predict how it will all shake out and we are a long way from knowing the final verdict..but if Calipari can somehow pull off the Harrison Twins-Young-Wiggins-and one of Randle/Parker/Gordon, to go along with Derrick Willis…it will be the best class in college basketball history.
— On the football side, the biggest news of the weekend was the decision to offer 3 and 4 game mini-season ticket packages this year. One can assume that this decision was based at least in part on lower season ticket sales. Mitch Barnhart confirmed that season ticket sales were down but “not horrible.” I have heard a few complaints from season ticket holders upset that the option wasn’t presented to them earlier, but in general those that already renewed are the die-hard who do so no matter what. The issue of fan support and the football program’s future was a big part of the FOOTBALL ROUNDTABLE that Ryan Lemond moderated on KSR on Friday morning. It included former Cats Anthony White and Ellery Moore, along with former UVA player Stan Norfleet. I listened on Saturday night and thought it was VERY informative, so if you missed it, I suggest listening at the link below:
Speaking of the radio show, our KSR RADIO TOUR begins next week, as we visit all of our affiliates. The current schedule is below and I hope you will try and come and see us at one of the stops:
Tues, July 31: Glasgow Glasgow Country Club
Wed Aug 1: Morgantown Farm Boy Restaurant
Thur Aug 2: Bowling Green Old Stone Golf Course
Fri Aug 3: UK MEDIA DAY
Mon Aug 6: Columbia Burger King
Tues Aug 7: Morganfield Verlie’s Restaurant
Wed Aug 8: Madisonville Hudson Toyota Chrysler
Thur Aug 9: Monticello Boat Dock Diner
Fri Aug 10: Jamestown Jamestown TV Station
Mon Aug 13: Paintsville TBA
Tues Aug 14:Somerset Gatti’s Pizza
Wed Aug 15: Lexington TBA
Thur Aug 16:Middlesboro Cracker Barrel
Tomorrow, we will be live at the Northern Kentucky UK Alumni Association Golf Tournament doing the radio show, so make sure and tune in at 10 am as we tell tales about the Peach Jam, the players and the off the court stories (which involve coaches and media members and are the real highlight of the trip). And until then, say hello to another UL fan favorite: