***Before he took the solemn vows of initiation at The Brown Tweed Society, Evan Hilbert and I enjoyed some good times at WildcatBlitz.com and here at Kentucky Sports Radio. I liked the way he laughed, his firm embrace and, mostly, his preview of the starting lineups of opposing basketball teams. So, just like the bat signal, I’ll be posting these each game, hoping that it brings Evan home. Actually, scratch that. This is the third year I’ve been doing this without so much as a telegram. Evan, you’re dead to me.
They say that you can always go home. For most, it’s a comforting quote that conjures up thoughts of savory fresh meals, a hug from mom and, sometimes, the delicate embrace of that girl from high school you’d never tell your friends about. But, when you’re bringing a team that went 4-23 last season and lost its top-five scorers into one of the most historic basketball arenas on the planet, your homecoming might have all the compassion and softness of the one Tiger Woods was surprised with last November. That’s exactly the situation that former Cat Dale Brown (Class of ’04) finds himself in as he gets set to lead his Dillard Bleu Devils into Rupp Arena tonight against a UK team that had its toughness questioned and challenged throughout this week’s practices.
After a fairly strong showing offensively against Pikeville, Kentucky spent the week focusing on where they appeared deficient – rebounding and toughness. With uncertainty still surrounding the eligibility of Enes Kanter (unless you know that super secret booster of all boosters), Coach Cal has made it clear that he expects a total team effort on the glass and that starts with his biggest guys, Terrence Jones, Eloy Vargas and Josh Harrellson, all of whom sometimes drift to the perimeter. Against a Dillard team that plays an undersized lineup that is comparable to UK’s in terms of size, the temptation will be there to rely on athleticism and ignore fundamentals on the glass. For their own sake, they must ignore those urges. It’s clear what Coach Cal is looking for tonight from his team. Tonight, Kentucky’s going to be grading themselves on toughness and physicality. That’s not a good thing for Dillard.
All in all, this has all the feel of a classic buzzsaw game and chances are, it’s not going to be pretty for the former Cat and his guys. The unfriendly reception at Rupp, as well as the cheerleader tryouts that are open to the public for only $2 at Dillard, are going to have him wishing he was back in New Orleans by the first television timeout. Sorry, Coach, but you can expect this game to be slightly similar a very famous one you experienced in your first year at UK. Your team is getting stomped on. But, you kind of deserve it for roughing up my little buddy at The Seaton Center all the time back in the day. Look how small he is.
Now, meet the guys who are heading home with sprinkles all over their faces…
#10 Kenyon Harper, 6-2, G, Senior
2010-11 stats: 2.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1-3 from the field, 0-1 from three
Harper enters the season for the Bleu Devils as one of two players with significant experience (if you call 14 games and 1.5 ppg as significant) from last season, though you wouldn’t know it by his meager stat line from the season opener against Loyola. Coach Dale Brown said following the opening exhibition that he expects his point guard, who lives life in a Lil’ Wayne Halloween costume, to feel a little more relaxed on Friday following the release of Weezy. It seems that Harper concurs. His MySpace mood is “breezy”. As a junior last year, Harper shot 31% from the field, 13% from downtown and 40% from the line and is still on scholarship. Yes, we’re that different, us and Dillard.
#12 Jermille Fluker, 6-2, G, Freshman
2010-11 stats: 9.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 4-11 from field, 1-3 from three
Jermille Fluker is the crowned jewel of the Dillard University recruiting class after averaging 25 points as a high school senior, which was good for the highest average on the talent-rich Mississippi Gulf Coast. In the season opener, he looked very un-freshman-like in playing the second-most minutes on the team and having the second-best assist to turnover ratio. But, he did shoot only 4-11 in posting his nine points in a losing effort. Expect him to have the green light again. And, if his media guide is any indication, expect that he’s going to be damn happy to be here.
#25 Terry Church, 6-5, G, Sophomore
2010-11 stats: 29.0 ppg, 5.0 4pg, 3.0 spg, 10-18 from field, 3-8 from three
Perhaps there is no more visible difference between the two programs taking the floor tonight than what it means to be the leading scorer. At Kentucky, your jersey is everywhere, you’re in magazines and you get creepy 45-year old men sending you messages to every social media account – fake or real – bearing your name. At Dillard, you don’t even get your picture on the official site. So, sadly, I don’t think this is what Terry Church looks like. But, it won’t be hard to locate Church, who posted 29 points in the team’s season opener. The transfer from Holmes Community College is the shooting shoulder that Dale Brown leans on and picked up his points efficiently from the field (10-18), the three-point line (3-8) and the charity stripe (6-7). After a thorough analysis, he has the symptoms, but not a full-blown case of Corey Allmond-itis. More like a little Corey Allmond bug that wouldn’t require any antibiotics.
#1 Myron McGowan, 6-6, G, Junior
2010-11 stats: 12.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 spg, 2.0 bpg, 3-7 from the field, 2-3 from three
McGowan is the other player, along with Harper, who played a significant role on last year’s team and is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 6 points per game last season. Along with fellow starter Rashad Johns and bench player Zach Harmon, he’s also one of only three players on the roster not shorter than at least one person on the KSR staff. He love the three point shot and the little crumbs he finds stuck in the hair on the bottom of his chin.
#23 Rashad Johns, 6-8, F, Sophomore
2010-11 stats: 2.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0-2 from the field
Though his name might spark images of our dear and departed friend, Chris Johns, it is actually believed that Rashad was born from an experiment that accidentally mixed the DNA of Tayshaun Prince and Perry Stevenson. Outside of Drew and Eugene Levy, there might not be a more similar resemblence. He’s the tallest guy on the team and has the most turnovers and one of the worst rebounds-per-minute ratios on the team. He shall be called Captain Sprinkle Face for the duration of the game. I’m also pretty sure that Rashad Johns starred in The Office, Parks and Recreation and that Foo Fighters video. I didn’t fact check it, though.
– Lawrence Etah (G): Junior point guard who will enter the game after Harper gets in foul trouble or gets torched, whatever comes first.
– Lance Bell (G): Last season, he shot 87 shots. 67 were threes. Against Loyola, he shot four of his six shots from downtown. Scouting reports don’t get much easier than that.
– Lance Theard (G): Played 15 minutes against Loyola without registering a single stat. I have a feeling he knows how tonight is going to go…
– Cameron Hill (F): An “impact” transfer from Stillman College who played six minutes in the opener. I have a feeling he’s only on scholarship because there’s no way a guy named “Cameron Hill” doesn’t wear a Bleu Devils jersey.
– Chukwanonso Okpalaeze (F): Knack for fouling and aggressiveness on the boards might be a pain in UK’s rear. Name is going to absolutely torture Buzz Baker. “Chuk-wa-non-so…(clap), (clap), (clap), (clap), (clap)!”
Notes: Dillard is undefeated all-time against UK, having never played the Cats…The Bleu Devils media guide says that Coach Brown is available anytime via cell, which is listed…You should call him during the game. I bet he’s lying….UK is 49-10 all-time against former Cats, with C.M. Newton holding all 10 wins…Dillard has given out honorary degrees to George Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Spike Lee, Lou Rawls and Bill Cosby…UK has given them to Tubby Smith, Desmond Tutu and LBJ…advantage Dillard?…The Bleu Devils count Garret Morris as an alum and UK has Daniel Solzman….advantage UK?…Dillard’s motto is “Ex Fide, Fortis”, which I believe means “Oh no, we’re f–ked”…It appears that Brown’s team has something similar to the CatWalk, but includes a little person with a camera…If you look up the history of the Bleu Devil on Dillard’s site, it directs you to GoDuke.com. I’m assuming Dale Brown does not know this…You should call him and let him know…There is a poll on Dillard’s athletic site asking for your thoughts on the new format…Options include “It’s FIRE!”…In fairness to them, it is fire…The game will be shown on Fox Sports/BBSN…Seriously, don’t call Dale Brown…Please don’t…