Stevie – or Steve as he is called nowadays – Johnson will always be one of my favorite Cats from one of the most exciting eras of Kentucky football that I have been around. I want to wish a happy birthday 25th birthday to Steve Johnson, the man that ushered in seasons of success for the Kentucky football program. While the program finally started putting it all together the year before, it wasn’t until Stevie zipped down the sideline to catch an Andre Woodson pass to beat Louisville that Kentucky became a name that meant more than two and three win seasons. After sealing the victory against Louisville, it was Stevie once again who caught the final scoring play in triple overtime to upset number 1 LSU later in the season. While Johnson may not have been the prolific receiver that Keenan Burton was, it was Johnson time and time again that was looked to to come up with the big play. He has made himself a reliable player in the NFL too for the Buffalo Bills (and a number of fantasy football teams.) Plus, he gave us this. How can you not love that?
On to a little news and views for ya:
— The Kentucky portion of SEC media days was yesterday and as expected, not a whole lot of news came out of it. Joker emphasized Kentucky’s task of climbing the ladder of the SEC or ‘Rising’ up the ranks, if you will. He talked about how excited he was for the addition of Rick Minter and how the defense will have to keep Kentucky in the SEC Title race much more this year than last. He emphasized getting “over the wall,” but doing it with the “right attitude, with the right maturity, and with the right focus.” Danny Trevathan said going against Florida’s Jeffery Demps (who still may not return to football this year,) is like “chasing a rat.” Morgan Newton poked fun at his team mated – and probably himself – when he offered the suggestion “Don’t tweet as much. That twitter will get you.” Advice I have certainly taken to heart. More or less, it was what you expect from a media day performance. Get to know the faces of next season a little better before the headsets and helmets are put on, and get excited for the upcoming season.
— Meanwhile, a football conference whose off season isn’t going so smoothly is the Big 12. We talked a little the past few days about what has been going down, but there have been a few new developments. Recently Texas A&M made a big stink about the Longhorn Channel planning to show Texas recruits high school football games. A completely legitimate beef with that arrangement, because if you are a high school player and you are being televised solely because Texas is recruiting you – there’s a good chance you’re going to feel more favorable towards the longhorns than you would the aggies, for instance. Well the Big 12 commissioner came out and knocked the idea of high school games down, forbidding ESPN from branding them with the longhorn logo. The commissioner has considered this a stop-gap measure until he can come to a full ruling on the matter, but it isn’t stopping the chatter from A&M fans (as well as other fans) about dissolving the conference. Which brings us to…
— What the addition of teams to the SEC might mean for Kentucky. It’s still fairly premature to be talking which teams would be added, but the general consensus is that A&M is looking to get into the SEC. A number of people have suggested that Oklahoma would follow them, potentially being joined by two other teams to make the SEC a 16 team conference. Adding Oklahoma seems to be a bit of a stretch geographically for the SEC, but those teams have both been tied to the SEC a number of times, so it’s worth discussing. That scenario could go one of two ways, in my opinion. If A&M landed in the SEC East, the East would be adding another team that is mid level, not too dominant to write down as a preseason loss, and could help Kentucky bridge into the Texas hotbed for high school football recruits. All in all a plus for Kentucky. If Oklahoma is added to the East, it likely removes one of the games UK plays against the West and adds a very tough game to the schedule every year. Not so much a plus. Personally I would rather see A&M to the west and a school like Clemson to the East, but unfortunately I am not Mike Slive, so we will have to wait and see.
— To the basketball side of things, Calipari continued his quest to confuse by citing an old parable on Coach Cal dot com. The parable goes by many names, but the one Cal cited (and the one I am familiar with,) is the turtle and the scorpion. In a nutshell – the scorpion asks the hesitant turtle to carry him across a river. The scorpion promises the turtle he won’t sting him, and after the turtle thinks about it a minute – noting that if the scorpion did sting him they would both drown, so surely that was some sort of security – the turtle agrees. The scorpion does as scorpions do and stings him. They both drown. The moral is that in the end, a persons (or creatures) nature wins out even over logic. There’s a number of things that Calipari could be referencing here, and most of them are not matters I am privy to. So let’s assume it was a message from Calipari to Drew Franklin telling him not to trust Canadians, because in the end Canadians are just Americans that weren’t smart enough to move south, smell oddly of maple syrup and hockey, and get their jollies by keeping KSR writers out of certain parts of it.
— In basketball players news, I think there is one player that has been vastly overlooked by most fans as a potentially huge contributing factor to next seasons team. A few weeks ago I wrote about the lack of attention paid to Terrence Jones, but Darius Miller has had even less fan service this summer. When most people talk about Kentucky they mention that they are talented – but young. What they fail to mention is that Kentucky very likely will have a senior starting that has started and contributed in every season as a wildcat (Miller started two his freshmen year.) He hasn’t always been the most consistent, but we have watched that consistency grow, ultimately averaging 11 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. Miller also had a stretch of 8 games in a row breaking double digits at the end of the season, just as Kentucky was peaking into form. I think it’s premature to write Miller down for those numbers again – we can’t be sure how the point distribution will play out – but he will provide valuable senior leadership to a young group of freshmen. When we look back on next season, it might just be Darius Miller who defines it.
— In players from our past news, both Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson and Scottie Hopson are packing their bags and heading to overseas. Stephenson, who you may remember from a brief flirtation with Kentucky, currently has a contract with the Indiana Pacers but never shook off his immaturity issues and has yet to become the factor he thinks he is in the NBA. Scottie is a bit more of a disappointing story. Even though he chose to go to Tennessee, Hopson was still a Kentucky kid and you’d like to see him do well once he shakes all that orange off. Unfortunately he was the victim of a blow hard coach, and used the opportunity (and weak NBA draft) to bolt. It’s a shame because Scottie could have had a great senior season as the go to guy at Tennessee, perhaps working his way into the 2012 draft. But for now he will have to pack up his orange and get things started in Europe – where the flat top is still in it’s first go around.
That’s all we wrote for today. Stick around as BTI will surely be around shortly to tell you which player that averaged 12.6 points his sophomore year was the best, and why your opinion on the topic is wrong.
And just because it’s Stevie’s birthday… Get loose.