Former Kentucky Wildcat Ron Mercer celebrates his 36th birthday today. Mercer was a key member of the 1996 national championship winning/denim jersey wearing Kentucky men’s basketball team. For most children growing up in the 1990s like myself, Mercer’s most important and prominent role was as a forward for the Blue and White. For me though, his most important role was in the VHS movie “Back on Tops Cats” that I watched every single day when I came home from school for at least 2-3 years of my childhood. Following the 1996 national championship run, the sequel to the “Top Cats” VHS was released. And just like my Mom always went and bought national championship t-shirts at the gas station promptly the day after each title Kentucky has won in my lifetime, she faithfully purchased the VHS for me.
“Back on Top Cats” chronicled the entire NCAA tournament run, which included a final 4 win over a then-John Calipari coached UMASS team. I don’t remember many specifics from that UMASS team other than Marcus Camby, but I do remember a few pesky guards: The Padilla brothers, and a guy by the name of “Travieso.”
Mercer not only celebrated a decorated career at Kentucky, including All-American honors and SEC Player of the Year honors, but he also had a career in the NBA which lasted until 2005. Mercer was originally drafted by Rick Pitino in 1997 with the 6th overall pick. Happy birthday, Ron Mercer. Thank you for helping me avoid watching Sally Jesse Raphael with my sister after school.
And now on to the news and views from a slow day in the Kentucky sporting world…
—- If you came here tonight hoping to find breaking news or big news from the day… quite simply, you might find yourself disappointed. Following the Andrew Wiggins announcement and John Calipari’s press conference and KSR radio appearance, “school” has essentially been let out for the summer. The time between now and the NBA Draft will likely be rather slow… but we will do our best to help you through the emptiness. —- We learned today that Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel might not be the only two Wildcats from this year’s team to play in the NBA. Julius Mays, who admitted at the end of the season that he would like to continue pursuing the option to play basketball, has been working out with NBA teams. The Milwaukee Bucks, LA Lakers and the Toronto Raptors are all giving Uncle Julius a look before the draft. Mays doesn’t necessarily expect to hear his name called on draft night, but he feels confident that he can find a spot for himself as a shooter and role player off the bench as a free agent. Best of luck to Julius Mays. —- Meanwhile, Archie Goodwin is currently participating in the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. In news that likely hasn’t surprised many Kentucky fans, Goodwin has struggled a bit in his workouts. Goodwin is primarily considered to be a shooting guard, yet he does not have the outside shooting stroke that the NBA often croons over from that position. Goodwin played some at the point for Kentucky, but that doesn’t appear to be his natural position (or at least not yet). If Goodwin sparks a team’s interest in the first round, it will likely be based on raw potential, not his current skill set. —- John Calipari has made the rounds in the past few days to talk mainly about next year’s team, his Vespa and his two-man book club with Willie Cauley-Stein. One point Cal brought up was that Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein were both realistic about their status and readiness for the NBA, prompting them to both come back for another season. Only time will tell on whether or not Goodwin would have been better off making the same decision. His lack of a clear cut shooting guard or point guard skill-set certainly begs the question. —- In a small football nugget, Athlon Magazine’s pre-season college football rankings were just released. Kentucky checks in at #65 with the daunting task of facing perhaps the toughest schedule in the country. Western Kentucky, a team Mark Stoops believes would beat the Cats if they played today, checked in at #91. Kentucky will have the chance to score a huge upset early in the season when they play 10th ranked Louisville. —- More help looks to be on the way though in the next few years for the Kentucky football team. On the heels of Drew Barker’s commitment last week, Kentucky looks to be in great shape with at least 3 players who plan to announce their college decisions soon. Darius West, Braxton “Honey Nut” Berrios and Derek Kief all have Kentucky squarely in the picture for their recruitment. West and Berrios both intend to likely announce by the end of the month, and Kentucky is in a strong position with both players. #StoopsAndBarkerEffect
A quick glance at the 3 players to keep an eye on:
1) Derek Chief
6’5, 200 lbs.
Choosing between: Kentucky, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Northwestern
2) Braxton Berrios
5’9, 180 lbs.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Offers from Virginia Tech, West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, etc.
3) Darius West
5’11, 196 lbs.
Will choose between Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Wisconsin on May 30th
—- A huge congratulations to the Kentucky women’s softball team for their opening round win in the NCAA Regionals tonight. The Cats faced off against Marshall in a game that took extra innings to decide. Kentucky finally pulled out the victory in the bottom of the 8th with a walk-off single by Nikki Sagermann to close the deal. The Cats won 2-1 and will now face Virginia Tech in the winners bracket at 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Kentucky is hosting the event, so make an afternoon of it at the brand new facility if the weather holds up. Go Cats. —- If you are still following Grant Traylor (the media member from the Wiggins announcement), tonight was probably a fairly productive evening for him on your Twitter Timeline. Traylor is the beat writer for the Marshall women’s softball team. I unfollowed him at 8 p.m., a few hours before the game was over. It must have been love, but it’s over now. —- On the other side of the scoreboard, the Kentucky men’s baseball team dropped a crucial game to Missouri 4-3 tonight. The Cats were in desperate need of a sweep over a beatable Missouri team in order to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Kentucky’s lone chance to keep the dream alive now appears to be an SEC tournament championship. Anything less and the Cats will likely be on the outside looking in.
UK player Jake Taylor probably put it best when he said, “Well I guess there’s only one thing left to do. Win the whole ******* thing.”
—- This season has been rather disappointing for the baseball team. On April 2nd, the Cats’ record stood at 22-6. In just over a month’s time, Kentucky has gone 7-18 (s/o to David Mulloy for the stat and for his superb UK windbreaker).
And last but not least… stay tuned for stories from Matt, Drew, Ryan and some of the other KSR crew members as they travel to Waddy tomorrow night to camp with the werewolf. Good luck and fill up on gas while you’re there. Best deal in town.