Sports are supposed to be an escape from real life. Whether you’re going for a run after a hard day or distracting yourself with a game, for the most part, reality is checked at the door. Sports capture our childlike innocence and through them, we can better ourselves, grow, and form friendships we might not otherwise. So, when sports collide with the harshest of realities, it is a cruel, cruel, thing.
By now, you’ve all read or heard about what happened on Monday at the Boston Marathon. This is a sports blog, so we won’t dwell on the matter since we know you come here to get away from it all, but as human beings, we can’t just ignore it. According to many reports, the explosions near the finish line in Boston killed three and injured over 140. The videos and photos coming out of Boston are so surreal and devastating they seem straight out of Hollywood, and what was meant to be the pinnacle of so many athlete’s personal achievements became a nightmare.
In a true testament to the human spirit, some of the marathon runners continued past the finish line to run to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood after the bombings. In the words of good ole Mister Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Thoughts and prayers to all those affected.
Now, on with the show…
— On Monday, Nerlens Noel announced he would forgo his sophomore season and enter the NBA Draft. Nerlens, projected by many to be the number one pick in the draft, is the last of UK’s potential pro prospects to announce his intentions. Why the delay? Nerlens and his family wanted to see how his rehab progressed before making the decision. Because of his love for the program and the fans, you could tell the decision wasn’t easy for Nerlens, even though most would consider it a no-brainer. Throughout his short time at UK, Nerlens has made it clear that he loves being part of the UK family, and in his statement and tweets today, pledged to be a Wildcat for life:
“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA. I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I’ll always be a Wildcat!”
After he tore his ACL back in February, Nerlens’ draft stock slipped slightly, with most predicting he’d still go in the top five. As the season went along, no one else made a case to be the number one pick, and Nerlens remained the only player in the draft capable of being a game changer on the next level thanks to his defensive impact. All of that paired with a successful surgery and good rehab reports make Nerlens the top prospect to most scouts and experts.
In many ways, the Calipari Era has put fans’ relationships with players into warp speed: we learn about recruits earlier, learn to love (or hate) them faster via social media and increased exposure, and then have to say goodbye to them more suddenly. The latter never gets easier, especially with a player like Nerlens. Whichever teams ends up with him is truly lucky.
— We’ll find out what team that may be on May 21 during the NBA Draft Lottery. If Nerlens is selected first, he will be the third UK player in four years to go first in the NBA Draft, after Anthony Davis and John Wall. Right now, it appears Charlotte will get the first pick again, which means Nerlens could be on the same team as MKG. (At that rate, he might as well just keep that UK logo shaved into his hair.) Add into that reports that Noel may be Jay-Z’s first client in his new sports management agency and it’s not a bad time to be the flat-topped feller.
— Another week, another All-Star game, right? On Saturday, four of UK’s commitments will play in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon. The Harrison Twins and Julius Randle will represent Team USA, while Karl Towns (and Andrew Wiggins) will play for the World Team. It’s crazy that these all-star games have become so routine by now, but it’s yet another chance for UK’s future players to bond and gel before next season. 2014 manchild Karl Towns is already turning heads, measuring 7′ with a 7’3.5″ wingspan, and making 17 of 24 threes from behind the NBA three-point line. Even better? He’s Andrew Wiggins’ roommate all week.
— Congrats to A’dia Mathies for being selected 10th in the WNBA Draft by the LA Sparks. A’dia is the highest draft pick in UK Hoops history and the second first-round pick in three years. The Sparks share the Staples Center with the Lakers and the Clippers, so at least she’ll have some BBN fam in LA with Jodie Meeks and Eric Bledsoe, not to mention some a fellow SEC alum in former Tennessee standout Candace Parker, aka the first woman to ever dunk a ball in college. She still terrifies me.
Matthew Mitchell was, of course, thrilled:
“All of us are thrilled for A’dia. She did so much for the Kentucky program while she as here and we had no doubt she was one of the top players in the country. Being chosen as a first-round pick just shows what she did for us and how hard she has worked to get here. I think the Los Angeles Sparks made a great pick.”
Now if they can only get her named spelled right on the draft board:
— The good vibes from the Spring Game carried over on Monday, with the national media picking up on UK’s record attendance. The game seemed primed to bring in some commitments, with both Mike Edwards and Mikel Horton expected to announce their decisions this week. On Monday, Edwards tweeted that his high school coach did not want him to announce his decision so soon and disagreed with his choice (likely UK). Edwards later tweeted that he will announce before his season starts, but his buddy Mikel Horton is still on track to announce his decision on Saturday at the Rivals Camp Series, according to Rivals Justin Rowland. The four-star Horton is the 22nd best running back in the 2014 class, according to Rivals.
— This week kicks off Cardinal Hill’s 42nd Annual Telethon Celebration. Several locally owned restaurants in Lexington are hosting a “Cardinal Hill Day” in which they will donate a portion of their proceeds to the Hospital. Here’s a list of participating restaurants and days: Tuesday, April 16 – Tropical Smoothie; Wednesday, April 17 – The Local Taco; Thursday, April 18 – Winchell’s; Friday, April 19 – Billy’s BBQ & The Ketch. The telethon will take place Sunday, April 21st from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on WKYT-TV 27 and WYMT-TV 57. Former UK football and basketball greats will be manning the phone lines from 4-5 p.m., so be sure to call in and and give your gift to those who need it most.
That’s all for now. Matt and Ryan will be LIVE from Commonwealth Stadium in the morning to talk about the ticket office’s season ticket tours and talk to special guests Neal Brown and Julius Mays. That sounds like can’t miss radio to me. See you soon.