Jay-Z at a Jerome Williams look-a-like contest.
Good morning, sweet KSR readers, and welcome to North Carolina Eve. It’s a day of celebration around the KSR Compound as we prepare for this weekend by celebrating the 40th birthday of Jay-Z. The one they call a lot of names (some of them to his face) was conceived by Gloria Carter and Agnes Reeves, who made love under a sycamore tree, and would sky-rocket to fame in the late 90s with the release of Reasonable Doubt (1996), In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997), Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life (1998) and Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter (1999). He solidified his status as a rap icon in the early 2000s with a pair of Blueprint records before fading to the black of retirement (or so we thought) with what might be my favorite album of all-time, The Black Album in 2003. But, his pseudo-retirement did not mean he was going away and the Jigga Man went from driving some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen and dropping some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard into the role of businessman extraordinaire. His business ventures include Rocawear clothing, the 40/40 club and a stake in the New Jersey Nets. He’s served as president of Def Jam and as a co-brand director of Bud Select. He’s also mulled a stake in English soccer club Arsenal F.C. and is a partner in a prominent real estate development company in New York, meaning his resume is as diverse as a Scott Rigot’s dream recruiting class. And, of course, he’s managed to put a ring on Beyonce and release three more records, the latest (Blueprint 3) ranking as an instant classic. Plus, if we play the Kevin Bacon game, we can link Jay to LeBron and LeBron to Cal, which means he’s now an official member of the Big Blue Nation. So, there’s our gift to you on your 40th, Mr. dash Z. I can’t think of anything better.
Now, onto some UK notes…
– I’m sure you don’t have to be reminded what large game the Cats have tomorrow with North Carolina, but in case you haven’t quite grasped the magnitude of the talent that will be on display at Rupp, Alan Cutler tweeted Thursday night that 20 NBA Scouts will be in attendance to watch that Cats and Tar Heels. The game will feature at least four guys you could almost guarantee as first round picks next year, with the most notable being John Wall and UNC’s Ed Davis, and six first rounders over the next two. Everyone knows what Wall brings to the table, so you figure the eyes will be on the frontcourt battles between Patterson, Cousins and Orton and Carolina’s Ed Davis and John Henson. Lots of talent on display.
– Speaking of John Wall, in case you missed it earlier, ESPN named UK’s point guard to their NEXT list for this year, ranking him third behind Kevin Durant and Chris Johnson. Keep in mind that he’s played six collegiate games to this point and then think about where he could potentially be by the end of the season. I tried to convey this earlier and did a very poor job, but I think players come along very rarely that combine skill with a personality so likable that no matter what team they play for, you find yourself rooting for them. John Wall is that player. If I’m a Louisville or Tennessee fan, I’m still watching UK and rooting for Wall. He just has that star quality to him. I can’t think of anyone like him – a player I would root for no matter where he played – off the top of my head over the past few years of college basketball. Maybe you can.
– I hate to say it, but one of the Tar Heels really made me smile today. I had high hopes of making fun of him for being old at some point this week since his first game against UK featured Brandon Stockton, Sheray Thomas and two KSR staffers (Woo and Bobby Perry), but when Marcus Ginyard tweeted “Big Ten can have this challenge. Duke loses, we all win.”, it went straight to my heart. Great line, young man.
– We talked about it a bit the other day, but Thursday Sports Illustrated wrote about the Cats closing in on win #2,000. They’ve increased their lead over UNC this season and it’s pretty much a guarantee this point. SI talks to Coach Cal who, as always, downplays it and talks about improving his team.
– The game of the night in college basketball was the Washington – Texas Tech matchup that went to overtime. If you are a Cats fan, you heard a very familiar name. Brad Reece, who, depending on who you talk to, either did or did not commit to UK as a JuCo, went for 17 points and 5 rebounds off the bench for the Red Raiders. He did play 27 minutes, though, so let’s not anoint him as a beast. Yet.
– A very cool note from UK’s Senior Night on Saturday got lost in the weeds a bit, but Eric Lindsey at Cat Scratches wrote about it on Thursday. The family of Chris Mosby, a UK football commit who died in a car accident prior to arriving on campus, was honored on Senior Night and his brother wrote a very nice letter to the athletic department. Kentucky’s basketball program did the same thing to honor the late John Stewart and it’s the type of gesture that reminds us all how special it is to be a part of this Kentucky family. As an alum, you’re always proud to hear about these things.
– Every year at the SEC Championship Game, an SEC legend from each school is honored by the conference at halftime. This year, Dr. Jim Kovach, UK’s all-time leading tackler will be honored. Kovach’s bio reads like a movie script as he’s gone from three-time All-SEC linebacker and NFL player to a running the Buck Institute, only independent research institute focused on age-related illnesses. Obviously, he earned a medical degree, which I’m sure looks nice to his law degree. Matt Jones, step your game up.
– Speaking of the SEC Championship, I came across another ESPN Tim Tebow fluff-fest that had some interesting words from UK coach Rich Brooks. Ivan Maisel wrote that Brooks said Tebow has not looked the same since his Taylor Wyndham hit and that he seems to rush things when he’s passing. He also called Florida’s pass blocking “one of the worst”. Let’s hope we continue to hear this type of analysis from Coach Brooks in interviews and not from a broadcasting booth next season. One more year!
– Another big hitter from UK’s defense got some front-page NFL love tonight as the Denver Broncos featured a story about Wesley Woodyard and his brother on the front page of the team’s website. It talks about the close bond Woodyard has with his brother, who is now in Iraq, and how it helped him grow as player and a person while at UK. A very cool story about someone we’re all happy to see doing well.
– Finally, the good folks at the University of Kentucky would like you be reminded that Friday is the last day that your advanced bowl ticket applications can be submitted. Of course, you won’t technically know which bowl game their in until Sunday, but if you’re a real fan with an unlimited budget and uncapped vacation time, it doesn’t matter.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for another big day around here as we get you all geared up for tomorrow’s game with Roy Williams and his crappy tie. Drew will drop the hammer on the Charlotte Observer and its readers with his “They Are Who We Thought They Were” and we’ll give you all the UK news in a ridiculous manner. In the meantime, enjoy an homage to Roy’s ties from the former home of our friend Bomani Jones. After all, that’s what Jay-Z would want. See you in a few…