Last week was filled with a lot of scrambling around these parts and as such, we didnt get to note the passing of a sports broadcasting legend in Detroit, Ernie Harwell. I admit that I have a soft spot for those that are old-timers with long associations with a particular team. Not every professional sports franchise or college program develops a kinship with a particular voice that becomes intertwined with its legacy, but when they do, I always find it fascinating. Baseball has many of these, with Harry Carey and the Cubs, Jack Buck and the Cardinals, Vin Scully and the Dodgers as some examples. Harwell and his connection to the Detroit Tigers fits right in that line. Harwell was the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 42 years and was as beloved a sports figure as any city has ever seen. He was replaced in the late 1990s by Bo Schembechler (former Michigan Coach who became Tigers President) because he was seen as too old, and the outcry was so loud that when Bo was given the boot, the new owner’s first act was to reinstate Harwell. He holds the distinction of being the only announcer ever traded for a player, when he was sent from the Brooklyn Dodgers (where he saw Jackie Robinson break into the league) to the Baltimore Orioles early in his career. He later settled in Detroit and became part of the fabric of the franchise. If you go the stadium there, a statute of Harwell stands out front, memorializing his place with the team. At Kentucky we had Cawood Ledford and in a slightly different manner, have Oscar Combs, both wonderful men from the mountains who are part of the fabric of Kentucky basketball. Sports lost another of those type of men last week and we thus salute Ernie Harwell.
To the news….
— The refrain coming from all of the Big Blue Nation this weekend continues to be, “who wants to be the Kentucky Power Forward?” If you remember back to the Tubby days, Power Forward was always a position that seemed to never be able to get filled and the list of Power Forwards lost during that era seemed to always grow. Patrick Patterson became a reprieve from the difficulties but now John Calipari, who may be the best recruiter college basketball has seen, is sharing the same problems. CJ Leslie picked the Wolfpack, Terrence Jones continues to seem to lean Huskie, Marcus Thornton said the UK spotlight wasnt for him and now UK is scrambling. Four names have been floated over the last few days, each with different degrees of excitement. Remi Dibo, a project that speaks France and spent his high school career in West Virginia, Royce White, a one time Top 25 recruit who went to Minnesota and got in trouble with the law before he could play and Kyle Cain, a one-time Rhode Island commitment who has seen his stock rise and thus his offers improve, are all possible targets. Dibo has a long way to go to be able to contribute, White seems to not be interested in returning to basketball and Cain has less of the upside of some of the other contenders. For me, Kadeem Jack is the guy. A top-level player who was considering prep school, he has risen up the rankings and now wants to head to college, with UNC and UK pursuing him. It is likely the case that Kentucky will take one (or possibly two) of the Dibo, Cain and Jack group and there are plusses to all of them. But if they can beat UNC out for his services (a benefit in and of itself), Jack is my guy I hope to see end up in Lexington. Tomorrow we will profile all three guys in more detail, and with Power Forward still a major position of need, at least one is very likely to be in Blue next year.
— There was a little shakeup this weekend as a minor tizzy between the local media and Calipari showed itself on Friday night. The quick background is that John Calipari through out the first pitch at a Kentucky baseball game and the local media got late word that he would be available for questions after. Apparently Calipari wasnt told this in advance and when the media approached for questions (Brett Dawson, Matt May and two tv guys), he said he wouldnt be able to answer. The media left frustrated and became moreso later that night, when Calipari talked to Andy Katz and gave him the news that Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton were staying in the NBA Draft. This led to some late night tweets from Dawson (who I like) and May, both of whom obviously showed their frustration at being unable to speak to Calipari and then passed over on the story. This was just the latest example of some stress in the local media-Calipari relationship, mostly stemming from Cal’s general trend to talk more to the national guys than the local for major news stories. One can see both sides of the issue, as the local guys cover the team on a daily basis and want the stories for their beat and Calipari likes the publicity and relationship with the national guys who dont question him on a daily basis. My belief, for what its worth (not a ton) is that the local guys pay for the “sins” of the potstirrers like Jerry Tipton (and the other guys from time to time) and their daily search for news, both positive and negative, leads Calipari to want to look elsewhere for coverage. UK has some (not all) media members who have a pro mentality in a college town…which is journalistically fine, but causes college coaches (who are heads of their own little fiefdoms) to balk. The incident Friday wasnt the first time we have seen this and it wont be the last.
— In case you missed it, Rajon Rondo had breakfast with no hog and messed around and got a triple double, absolutely crushing the Cavs with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a dominating performance on Sunday. While Rondo isnt always consistent, his improvement this year has been staggering and led me to today suggest that he may be the best NBA player from UK since Issel. In thinking about this, I came up with a top 5 list that is my ranking of the players during that period:
1. Rajon Rondo
2. Jamal Mashburn
3. Antoine Walker
4. Rex Chapman
5. Tayshaun Prince
People forget how good Mashburn and Walker were for short periods of time in the league, with Mashburn being an all-star level player for 3 or 4 years and a very solid player for 8. Antoine Walker was a superstar for a couple of years but never came through in big games and his wasting of talent drops him on my list. Rex Chapman was all over the place and had amazing games, but again, consistency was an issue. I will put Tayshaun at #5, and his intangibles are great, but still slightly behind the top four in overall ability. Sam Bowie, Kevin Grevey and Kenny Walker come in as Honorable Mentions on the list. I put Rondo here on a bit of a “if he continues at this pace” level. If he drops off the face of the earth, he will not be at the top as his achievements are still not ahead of the group below him for a career. But if we assume the same pace of success, I think Rondo is right where he belongs. I have never been a huge Rondo guy, but his work this year has been nothing short of amazing.
— Sam Maxwell was picked up by the New Orleans Saints today on a Free Agent deal for Training Camp this fall. We wish Sam well as he joins Trevard, Corey, John Conner, Micah, Justin Jeffries and Alfonso Smith in trying to make it to the league.
— Finally, we have begun the REGISTRATION PROCESS for making comments on the site. It starts with this post. If you havent registered, you can do so at the top left of the site and if you have lost your password, you can fix it there. For any questions, click on the “LOGIN HELP” link and it should be self-explanatory. We think we have fixed the glitches and you should be ready to go. For those of you who we have lost in the past due to the dwindling of the quality of the comment section, please come back. The better the quality of posters, the better the section will be as a whole for everyone. The comment numbers will surely go down, but our hope is that the quality will most certainly go up. As for the other goal of the weekend, we are having podcast problems however and trying to get those repaired. As soon as we do, we will have them ready.
More all day as we get ready for another great week around KSR land….