12-year-old Jerry Hale
Tonight, we honor a UK great and a piece of cake. No, not just Julius Randle and his mother’s beloved red velvet cake, which we’ll get to later, but former UK player Jerry Hale and a special piece of cake that to this day, remains uneaten. On March 7, 1966, a 12-year-old Hale and his father went to a UK game at Memorial Coliseum after Rupp’s Runts had just been voted the #1 team in the nation. There was a six-foot tall cake to celebrate the occasion, and everyone was invited to come take a piece. Jerry took his piece and went back in to the stands, where he wrapped it in a napkin and refused to eat it. Why? Jerry told his dad that he wasn’t going to eat the cake until “the day I sign a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Kentucky.”
Thanks to Jerry’s family for the pictures, and Denny Trease’s “Tales from the Kentucky Hardwood” for some of the background info.
Five years later, he was offered that scholarship, and when his family got the piece of cake from the freezer for him to eat, he still refused, saying that instead, he would save the piece until “my team wins another national championship for the University of Kentucky.” Hale was a member of Joe B. Hall’s infamous “Super Kittens” squad that went to the Final Four in Jerry’s senior year, but fell to UCLA in the Championship game. To this day, that piece of cake remains uneaten. You want proof? Check out the third picture on the right.
On Wednesday, Jerry Hale turned 60 years old. Happy birthday, Jerry. I hope you had some cake. Just not that cake. Because that would be gross.
How some red velvet cake?
On Wednesday at 1:17 p.m., the Big Blue Nation was finally able to move past Kentucky’s disappointing loss to Robert Morris in the NIT and look toward the future, which will now include the #1 power forward in the country, Julius Randle. Randle committed to Kentucky over Kansas, Texas and Florida, and despite some late reports, seems to have known where he was going for some time. Randle’s smile as he donned his well-worn UK cap not only signaled the end of an exhausting recruitment for him, but the end of a painful season for Kentucky fans. Is Randle the solution to all of Kentucky’s problems? Of course not, but he joins what is already the most talented incoming freshman class in the history of college basketball, even without Andrew Wiggins. Currently in Kentucky’s 2013 stable:
#1 Point Guard — Andrew Harrison
#1 Shooting Guard — Aaron Harrison
#1 Power Forward — Julius Randle
#1 Center — Dakari Johnson
#3 Small Forward — James Young
#9 Power Forward — Marcus Lee
#41 Power Forward — Derek Willis
Kentucky is the first school in history to have 6 McDonald’s All-Americans in one class. ESPN’s Chad ford said that if Andrew Wiggins joins the team, they will have the “greatest collection of college talent every assembled in the history of the game.” While many would argue they already have that without Wiggins, Ford went on to say that “it’s possible that UK could have seven first rounders in 2014. Eight if Wiggins joins.” Whoa.
But what about scholarships?
Everyone just needs to stop worrying about scholarships. Nerlens Noel is currently projected to go anywhere from second to fifth in the NBA Draft. If his recovery goes well and he is the ONLY player to leave for the NBA, here are the players whose scholarships are guaranteed for next season:
1. Kyle Wiltjer
2. Ryan Harrow
3. Archie Goodwin
4. Alex Poythres
5. Willie Cauley-Stein
6. Andrew Harrison
7. Aaron Harrison
8. Marcus Lee
9. Derek Willis
10. James Young
11. Dakari Johnson
12. Julius Randle
What about Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson?
Both Hood and Polson are on track to graduate in May, but still have eligibility remaining, so if they want to stay on the team, they’ll have to take graduate courses. Polson was a preferred walk-on to begin with, which means a scholarship was never a guarantee, and if the worst case scenario happened where there were no scholarships remaining, I don’t see Jon or Jarrod being upset with accepting a walk-on spot for what will likely be another championship run. That leaves room for Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, and/or Dominique Hawkins. At this point, I think Gordon will stay on the West Coast, but with Cal, you never know.
The addition of Julius Randle is exciting enough on its own, but when you consider that some of the current freshmen may return, it’s staggering. While Alex, Archie, Ryan and Willie’s desire to return is heartening, we have to take it with a grain of salt until each has had time to meet with Cal and their families to fully evaluate their futures. BUT, if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that it takes a certain recipe for Cal’s system to work. You have to have three things: 1) mature AND talented freshmen; 2) an elite point guard; and 3) veterans to provide leadership. This year, we pretty much failed on all three. We had talented but immature freshmen, a point guard who struggled with the spotlight, and only one veteran who stepped up in Julius Mays, when everyone expected it to be Kyle Witljer. Some players showed heart down the stretch–Archie, Willie, Jarrod, Jon, and Julius–but, it just wasn’t the right mix. Give those three freshmen another year to mature and fight for playing time, and I think they might surprise you. And if Nerlens comes back? Good grief. This year will be a faint and distant memory.
On Wednesday night, Pat Forde wrote a column in which he said that Kentucky is at its lowest point in 24 years, or since probation. I beg to differ. First of all, did Pat buy too many rounds at the bar for his friends and forget about Billy Gillispie? Tuesday night stung, but with Julius Randle’s commitment, it is merely a blip on the radar. While the rest of the world turns their attention to basketball on Thursday, don’t be bitter the Cats aren’t in. Be excited for next season and terrified for our future opponents. If today’s site numbers are any indication, you already are.
— Cal didn’t waste any time getting back to work on Wednesday, hitting the road with Orlando Antigua to watch 2014 point guard Tyus Jones. Cal tweeted along the way that after stopping by St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Mass, he was going to grab some red velvet cake. Boom.
— Let’s not forget the football Cats, who went through their second spring football practice on Wednesday. Stoops said the practice was better than Monday, with better execution and a faster tempo. Max Smith said that the biggest difference from last season was a higher pace of play during practice and he’s looking forward to knocking off the rust. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown singled out WR DeMarco Robinson for his performance in practice so far, calling his “one of the most seasoned guys we have” at the spot.
Former Cat and current Denver Bronco Jacob Tamme stopped by practice to see how things were going Wednesday afternoon and tweeted a picture from Nutter of the ESPN GameDay set from their appearance in Lexington with the caption “Great to stop by & see @UKCoachStoops + staff today. Need to get this back on campus.” From the video that KyWildcatsTV posted earlier, it appears that former UK coach Guy Morriss stopped by as well.
— UK’s PRO DAY is Thursday, which means that NFL scouts will come to the Nutter Field house to watch UK’s NFL prospects. Offensive linemen Larry Warford and Matt Smith are projected to be drafted, and Collins Ukwu, La’Rod King, Martavius Neloms, and others will be looking to impress. We’ll have coverage of it throughout the day.
That’s all for now. See you soon.