(Clay Jackson Photo)
Good morning sweet KSR readers and welcome to your Wednesday News and Views. It’s finals week at the University of Kentucky, which means that students struggle to make their grade and bloggers struggle to find something to write about. You won’t find a lot of action around the basketball and football teams this week as they fulfill the first part of their student-athlete responsibility. But, luckily for us, this Wednesday also brings us the 26th birthday of former Cat Kelenna Azubuike. I always found Kelenna to be an interesting figure not only because of the intriguing promise he brought to the hardwood, but also because he was also such a good guy. He entered UK with a resume boasting of 40 points per game in high school, jaw-dropping athleticism and an NBA-ready body as the main piece of a recruiting class that included Antwain Barbour, Brandon Stockton, Bernard Cote and Ravi Moss. He played in 97 games in three years at UK and, despite leading the team in scoring as a junior with 14.8 points per game and playing on three very successful Tubby Smith teams, was never really seen as living up to his potential. For some, his UK legacy centers around the “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” quote issued by Smith, which remains one of the great lines in UK basketball history. To the surprise of most, Azubuike opted for the NBA after his junior year and went undrafted before leading the NBDL in scoring and using it as a springboard to a nice role as a member of the high-scoring Golden State Warriors. Now, three and a half years removed from the Cats, Kelenna sports a $3 million a year contract, a 14 ppg average and, unfortunately, a torn patella tendon that will have him out the rest of the season. And, with last summer’s appearance at an African Summit last year thanks to a personal invitation from Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete, it’s safe to say Kelenna has done quite well for himself since his time in Lexington (which included assisting in giving me a mohawk). So, Kelenna, happy birthday. May you have a speedy recovery and another big contract or two in your future.
Now, onto a few notes (with a very heavy ESPN feel)….
– After a stellar day of football posts from Rob Gidel, one of the things he alluded to ended up coming true. Four-star wide receiver DyJuan Lewis will visit the Cats on January 8, according to Rivals’ Pat Tholey. Lewis, who gave Cincinnati and Brian Kelly a verbal in November, visited UK for the Florida game previously and was a high school teammate of UK running back Dakotah Tyler. Lewis is the #19 wideout in the nation and would be an absolutely huge get for the Cats. He had UK in his final three with Purdue and Cincy before committing and will visit the Boilermakers January 15 and Bearcats January 22.
– Outside of the bowl game with Clemson, the focus for the UK football seniors now turns toward the NFL Draft. Trevard Lindley is the only Cat on ESPN’s Big Board, ranking as the 82nd-best prospect. The Worldwide Leader places Micah Johnson as the #8 inside linebacker, John Conner as the #8 fullback, Derrick Locke as the #20 running back, Corey Peters the #30 defensive tackle, Zipp Duncan as the #41 offensive guard and T.C. Drake as the #41 tight end. I think Conner and Peters certainly have an argument to be ranked much higher. And where is Mr. Football Sam Maxwell?
– Speaking of a bowl game, the Music City Bowl swag package was announced Tuesday evening. The Kentucky footballers will receive an RCA HD camcorder, Fossil Watch, Majestic fleece pullover, New Era hat and a Ogio Metro laptop pack. This is likely a disappointment to Clemson players who are used to receiving much more.
– Keeping with our ESPN theme, the salaries of all SEC offensive and defensive coordinators were posted today online and, somewhat surprisngly, showed an impressive financial commitment from the Cats to their (sometimes maligned) coordinators. Joker Phillips is the sixth-highest paid offensive coordinator at just over $323k per year and Steve Brown is 9th with a little over $325k per season.
– A big congratulations is in order for Fort Campbell’s quarterback, Antonio Andrews, who was named Mr. Football. Andrews is not ranked by Rivals and has recived some light interest from UK, but will probably end up at a smaller D-1 school. One notable name he beat out is Simon Kenton’s Miles Simpson, a UK target whose future plans remain mysterious at this point.
– Of course, college basketball talk continues to surround John Wall. Dick Vitale talked about Wall to Mike and Mike Tuesday morning and, not surprisingly, showed much affection. On a sidenote, Vitale’s twitter account is truly awful. Today’s update? Rick Barnes has a good team at Texas! Great insight.
– Vitale wasn’t the only ESPNer showing love to Wall on Tuesday as First Take debated “Just how good is John Wall?”. After an initial assessment of Wall being the best point guard since Magic Johnson, Schtick Bayless stepped in and said that Wall is more of a shooting guard, comparing him to Allen Iverson. Not a bad person to be compared to, but I seriously doubt if those two guys have play the same game.
– Not surprisingly, ESPN’s Bracketology placed UK as a #1 seed in the East, playing the winner of the Patriot League. The bracket had West Virginia as the #2 and Michigan State as the #3, but the intrigue was in the second round matchup. The Cats would either face fellow freshman phenom Derrick Favors and Georgia Tech or…drumroll please…the Memphis Tigers. Obviously, this means nothing. But, it’s cool still, right?
– Not all UK basketball projections were quite as rosey as The Bo writes that the Pomeroy Rankings aren’t too high on the Cats. Ken Pomeroy has UK ranked at #41 and projects them to lose six SEC games. This season. It’s even uglier for the Filthy Cards, though, who Pomeroy predicts to finish 14-17 and gives them a 14% chance of beating the Cats this year. That seems optimistic.
Well, that’s it for now. It’s painfully slow out there right now. But, stay tuned throughout the day as we look to get things back on track and look back at this decade that’s about to end and look forward to Saturday’s game with Austin Peay. It’s going to be a good day. See you in a few…