Buenos dias, mi KSR familia, and bienvenidos to your Tuesday News and Views. This edition is taking on a bit of a multicutural feel as we get our day started by celebrating the Canadian loins that birthed UK’s newest recruit, Kyle Wiltjer. Before he was just “Kyle’s dad”, Greg Wiltjer was the blonde big man and leading rebounder for Team Canada at the 1984 Olympics, where he paired with legendary NBA big man Bill Wennington to take the fighting Maple Leaves to a fourth-place finish. Prior to his battles in Los Angeles with Patrick Ewing and a likely buzzed Sam Perkins, Wiltjer received an unauthorized athletic bag (seriously) from Washington during his recruitment and ended up on an Oregon State team that made it to the Elite Eight behind A.C. Green, who, ironically, led a team called the “Beavers” in scoring. After falling to Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas, Wiltjer transferred to the University of Victoria and inspired Dom Papa to enter the world of broadcasting. After college, the elder Wiltjer enjoyed a lengthy pro career overseas that saw him win multiple championships, but he remains an answer to a great trivia question. Who else did the Bulls draft in 1984? Greg Wiltjer, in the second round (some guy named Ben Coleman too). I look forward to that changing to “Who is Kyle Wiltjer’s dad”, but for now, that will do.
Now, onto some UK news…
– The biggest news in the UK world on Monday was the official release of the UK football depth chart for Saturday’s Governor’s Cup game. There was some expected news on the list, like Ronnie Sneed winning the middle linebacker job, and there were mild surprises, like Billie Joe Murphy beating out Brad Durham at right tackle. The most surprising note, though, was the emergence of unkown Luke McDermott at starting defensive tackle. The story of the walk-on, whom the players call “Freaky Luke” (hopefully for what he does on the field), is a pretty amazing one. He’s gained 30 pounds since arriving on campus and now weighs 265, which still makes him extremely light for his position. But, as undersized walk-ons tend to be, he was praised for his effort and for his high football IQ, which were the two most prominent reasons for his starting job. His reward is starting in his hometown in what is likely UK’s most pivotal game of the year. Whether or not he keeps the job remains to be seen, especially with the positive reports of Donte Rumph already losing 10 pounds and looking better by the day. But, on Monday – and on Saturday too – Luke McDermott is the feel-good story of the season. Let’s hope he crushes Victor Anderson.
– In his meeting with the media, Joker Phillips also gave some insight into how the dynamic between himself and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will play out. Phillips said that Sanders will be in the booth calling the offensive plays. As one of the many who has been frustrated with the play calling of Phillips at times the past couple of seasons, this is definitely a positive sign. But, I think this goes beyond just the actual plays being called. One of the biggest reasons that I believe Joker Phillips is going to be a very successful head coach is because I think the position plays to his strengths. In the positions that he’s been successful in the past, most notably as a recruiting coordinator, he’s been able to be more of an organizer and a manager, coordinating the objectives and plans and allowing those there to support him to maximize their abilities. It seemed like calling the plays was a little outside of his comfort zone. But, strategically putting key assistants in place (as he did this off-season) and developing a scheme and mentality (i.e. Operation Win) is what he does best. By trusting a guy like Sanders, who is more than qualified himself, to make those decisions – within his overall scheme, of course – Joker is again empowering himself and his assistants to be successful. That’s what makes a great leader and I have the utmost faith that a great leader is exactly what Kentucky has in Phillips.
– A funny note from Monday, according to Chris Fisher, came when Charlie Strong was asked if this Louisville team reminded him of any teams that he coached previously. He said that they reminded him of the 1999 South Carolina team where he was the defensive coordinator. That team finished 0-11. Ouch.
– In case you missed it earlier, Eloy Vargas is in Lexington. He’s going to stick around and play basketball this season too, which is nice.
– Also, keeping with the Cal Prophecy that he will some day be governor, Richie Farmer announced he would run for Lieutenant Governor. Seeing as how I am not a voter in the fine Commonwealth of Kentucky, this has little impact on me. However, it gave us some great comments like “Put Richie in….the Governor’s Mansion” and that’s something I can definitely get behind.
– For those of you looking for a good Tuesday morning debate, how about this. Kyle Wiltjer’s commitment to UK was a sudden and abnormal is it could possibly be. No visit. Barely knows Cal. Strange all around. But, no accusations of improper dealings or whispers of cheating or anything. Not even on message boards, which seem to be the breeding ground for those things. Why do you think that is? Is it because he’s white and the son of an affluent former pro basketball player? I don’t know, but I think it’s an interesting topic. My assumption would be it has more to do with the affluent part than the race part. But, as you’ve told me before, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Feel free to share your thoughts below. I look forward to several “I have black friends, so I’m not racist, but…” and “Why isn’t there a White Entertainment Television?” comments.
– What we do know is that Wiltjer’s commitment officially shut the door on any possibility of Quincy Miller coming to Lexington. Miller’s prospects seemed to be diminishing greatly over the past few weeks, so the ending of his recruitment isn’t any huge surprise. However, as Matt noted earlier, the picture of him in his UK shirt doing the John Wall dance is sure to become a fan favorite if he commits to Louisville as expected. I’m rooting for a giant sign with an Old English “L”, reading “Leftovers”. Make it happen.
– On a housekeeping note, Thursday will be Louisville Hate Day. There will be all the pure, unadulterated hate that you’ve come to expect from such days and everyone on the site will make an appearance. Plus, you’ve got the added bonus of a possible big-name guest stopping by for his thoughts. But, if you listened to the podcasts, you already know that.
– The big basketball news of the day was the steady stream of photos coming out of the Craft Center (see below). The best, though, came from Jon Hood’s Twitter account and featured his new haircut. Yep, he’s sporting a Mophawk this year, courtesy of Josh Harrellson.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout the day for all kinds of UK goodness and make sure you check out Kentucky Sports Radio on 1080 AM at 10 am. Matt and Big EZ will be joined by Lukasz Obrzut, who is stopping by to celebrate Poland’s Day of Solidarity and Freedom by making fun of Louisville. It’s going to be a good day. See you in a few…