If you ever want to see people my age get into a ridiculous debate, ask them this simple question: NSYNC or Backstreet?
I was always a Backstreet gal, thanks not only to my unabashed love for “I Want It That Way,” but also because two of the band members were from Kentucky (always been reason enough for me to like someone). Brian Litrell and his cousin Kevin Richardson grew up in the Bluegrass, and naturally, are pretty big Kentucky fans. Kevin, who played football at Estill County before fine tuning those boy band moves, tweets about the Cats all the time, and also attended bowl games back when we went to bowl games, including a memorable Music City Bowl trip a few years ago.
Since the band’s heyday back in the early 2000’s, Richardson has dabbled in acting, modeling, and even started a solo career. He’s married with a child, and recently rejoined the Backstreet Boys after a six-year absence. The band is currently working on their eighth (!) album. Raise your hand if that makes you feel old.
Happy 41st birthday, Kevin. Just for you, these news and views will be larrrrrger than life.
Tuesday was a huge day on the recruiting front, with several bits of news coming out about the top recruits on the Cats’ radar. Between the Harrison Twins’ upcoming announcement. Andrew Wiggins coming to Big Blue Madness, and Julius Randle’s decision to drop Duke and UNC from his list, you almost feel like the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together for what could be another monster class (especially if Wiggins reclassifies). Let’s break it down.
— Let’s start with the Harrison Twins. With the big announcement scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday on ESPNU, the rumor mill has gone into overdrive, with snippets coming out to support both Maryland and the Cats. First was the news that Maryland will conduct an in-home visit at the Harrison’s on Wednesday, which we interpreted as a last ditch effort by Mark Turgeon and his staff to sway the twins’ decision. Next came USA Today’s Eric Prisbell’s tweets about a conversation he had with the twins’ father, Aaron Harrison, Sr., which played up the family’s close ties with Turgeon and Under Armour officials, whom he told Prisbell were the only people allowed to contact his sons. Just as we were all getting worked up over how creepy it was that a father would rather his sons talk to a shoe rep than their potential future coaches, Harrison Sr. refuted the remarks, telling Next Cats’ Ben Roberts that both Turgeon and Calipari have his sons’ numbers. Also, Cal visited the family twice during the contact period, once more than originally thought.
So after all of that, where do the Cats stand? All signs seem to indicate that the twins want to attend Kentucky, but their father’s remarks and ties to Maryland (close relationship with Turgeon, the family’s AAU connections to Under Armour, family in the Maryland area) cast the inevitable last minute cloud of doubt. Harrison Sr. made it clear that his sons have made this decision on their own and he won’t influence it either way. Let’s hope it stays that way over the next two days. #twinning
— If all of that wasn’t exciting enough, we also got word that 2013/2014 wunderkind Andrew Wiggins will attend Big Blue Madness. Rob Fulford, his high school coach, said Wiggins told the Kentucky staff he would attend the event three weeks ago, which has to give you a good feeling about that Cats’ chances at landing the top player in the nation.
As of now, here’s a list of recruits who will attend Big Blue Madness:
2013: Harrison Twins (if they choose KY), Marcus Lee, Derek Willis (committed)
2014: Andrew Wiggins, Cliff Alexander, JaQuan Lyle
Get your chants ready.
— Julius Randle got in on the recruiting fun on Tuesday by cutting Duke and UNC from his list, leaving the Cats, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This signals a huge swing in Kentucky’s direction, as many saw Duke as Randle’s leader until recently. Interestingly, Randle’s mom says it wasn’t Roy Williams’ box of thirty rings that left an impression; it was his advice “to be upfront with the schools” that he’s not considering as strongly “so they can move on.” Thanks for the advice, Roy!
After rereading the USA Today piece about Randle’s in-home visits and all the good reviews coming out of his visit to Lexington for the alumni game, you have to feel the Cats are the definite front-runnier.
THIS YEAR’S SQUAD
— With the season only a week and a half away, the preseason polls are pouring in, with most putting the Cats in the top 3-5 range. Jay Bilas puts the Cats at #3, behind Louisville and Indiana, while Mike DeCourcey of The Sporting News puts them at #4 behind Indiana, Louisville and Ohio State (huh?).
— Along with the polls came the previews. ESPN had a gaggle of posts on Tuesday previewing this year’s team, all of which came down to the same thesis: this team is young and may or may not be able to win the title. If that sounds vague to you, you’re not alone. Like all of Cal’s team at this point, this squad is mostly a mystery due to its youth and inexperience. But, like previous Cal teams, you can expect a strong defense and a return to basics early on in order to prepare for games against Maryland and Duke. Most importantly, Cal wants fans to stop comparing this year’s team to last year’s, in terms of expectations and talent. Nerlens Noel is NOT Anthony Davis, nor are Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin the second coming of MKG. Got it?
— On Tuesday night, a lot of you probably watched “Broke,” the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about pro athletes who have squandered their money over the years. I’m still waiting to catch the replay, but if the response on Twitter is any indication, it was outstanding. One of the athletes featured was Antoine Walker, who the documentary said earned $110 million over his 13-year NBA career. In 2010, Walker filed for bankruptcy in Miami with assets of $4.3 million and debts of $12.7 million. If that’s not a walking ad for financial responsibility, I don’t know what is. Thankfully, it appears everyone in the Wildcat Lodge was watching:
That 30 for 30 should open all athletes eyes to schemes that family, dirty business people, and women can pull of (mostly women don’t geek)
— Archie Goodwin (@A1Laflare10) October 3, 2012
“You could either live like a king for a year or live like a prince forever” #Broke
— Alex Poythress (@AlexTheGreat22) October 3, 2012
This ESPN 30 for 30 is REAL life.
— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) October 3, 2012
Just put it this way an individual wouldn’t let a random person control a $100 dollars now so why do it when you make 10 times that???
— Julius Mays (@JMays34) October 3, 2012
— Maxwell Smith underwent surgery on his torn ligament and tweeted that everything went smoothly. If it’s determined that Smith will be out for the season, he will be eligible for a medical redshirt since he has only played in 30% of UK’s games this season (the NCAA rounds up from 3.6 games to 4 games in cases like these).
— Who will take his place against Mississippi State? Jalen Whitlow will most likely get the starting nod, but coaches have said fellow freshman Patrick Towles will see his fair share of playing time. Both took first-team snaps at practice on Tuesday, and although the thought of sending a true freshman out against an SEC defense is daunting, Randy Sanders called it an “exciting” challenge. Exciting…inevitable…po-tay-toe po-tah-toe.
— But how will they fare? “I think we set a record for knucklehead calls today.” Is that this week’s “he didn’t look God-awful?”
— Yes, it was a typo after all. Vegas got their act together and named the Cats a 10-point underdog to Mississippi State.
— Finally, I’m covering the Women’s Basketball Clinic Wednesday night at the Craft Center. If you’re there, be sure to come by and say hello. Also, be smart and wear comfy shoes. I still feel bad for the girl who had to do drills in stilettos last year.