Hello, KSR readers, my name is Drew Franklin and I am filling in for Matt Jones this evening as he makes the long drive from Glasgow, where he played golf all weekend, to Cincinnati. Tomorrow he and I will begin our second stint with Tennis Channel at the Western & Southern Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event in “The City of Chili With Cinnamon In It.” You can check out some of our Sunday afternoon work at TheOuterCourts.com. Shameless plug!
Located just across the street from Kings Island in Mason, Ohio — okay, I guess it’s not actually in Cincinnati — the Western & Southern Open is the oldest U.S. tennis tournament played in its original city and the biggest summer tennis event in America; only the U.S. Open draws a bigger crowd in the states. Formerly known as the Cincinnati Masters, the tournament teamed up with the United States Tennis Association five years ago and is now one of nine elite Masters 1000 events on the ATP tour and one of the “Premier 5” WTA tournaments. For you non-tennis folk, that means it’s really big on both the men’s and women’s tours.
This year’s tournament features all of the sport’s biggest stars and is headlined by top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Djokovic has been the tournament’s runner-up four of the last five years, and this year he is poised for another finals run after lucking out and missing Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer on his side of the draw. For you non-tennis folk, it’s similar to the draw Duke gets every year in the NCAA tournament. Smooth sailing to the semis, barring any Lehighs.
Now before you go on a tirade about guest radio hosts this week, don’t worry, Matt will be doing radio from Clear Channel’s studio in Cincinnati before we start watching those foreign people slap the ball back and forth each day. There may be one day where he hands the reins to someone else so we can do the pregame TV show on Tennis Channel, which will be an adventure by the way, but other than that, things will be the same on the radio end. We hope to get Roger Federer on the air again, too. “Go Cats.”
But before we direct our attention to tennis for a week, we have tonight’s News and Views…
The biggest news of the weekend is the return of Breaking Bad Sunday night. Walter White and Jesse are back for eight more episodes this fall before the series concludes on September 29. “All bad things must come to an end,” the show’s promo says. That’s all we’re saying tonight. No spoilers here.
All signs point to James Blackmon Jr. wearing a Kentucky uniform next season. The four-star shooting guard decommitted from Indiana late last week and picked up an offer from UK almost immediately after reopening his recruitment. Now there’s online scuttlebutt that he knows he wants to play in Lexington and that it will eventually come to fruition. Blackmon Jr., the son of former UK guard James Blackmon Sr., is very good friends with Trey Lyles, who is also rumored to be heavily favoring the Cats. If Blackmon pulls the trigger and signs with Kentucky, you can expect Lyles, the nation’s fifth-ranked player, to do the same.
Monday is a big day for Kentucky football as Nate Willis is expected to learn his academic status. If he’s eligible, Willis will join his new teammates in Lexington this week and will likely be UK’s top cornerback by the opening game on August 31. If he’s ineligible, I’m going to bang my head against the wall until I pass out and then pray to the secondary gods for help whenever I wake up. Words can’t express how important he is to this year’s team.
UK super-recruit Matt Elam announced he plans to take an official visit to Kentucky with Drew Barker and Denzel Ware this fall. 247 Sports’ No. 10 overall player in the 2014 class seems to love the idea of playing with Barker and Ware at UK, but Nick Saban isn’t going to give up on him easily. Kentucky is in a great position, especially now that Barker will be accompanying him on his visit, but Bama is, well, Bama.
I’m not one to check out another man’s physique, but Julius Randle, damn.
He must work out.
I attended UK’s Fan Day on Friday and I can assure you the hype surrounding Jalen Whitlow is real. Whitlow threw a deep ball that hit his receiver in stride and made three or four of us on the sideline all turn and look at each other like, ‘WOW.’ Whitlow made several other picture perfect throws throughout the night and if he proves he can do it consistently, I just don’t see any way Max Smith or Patrick Towles can win the spot ahead of him. Whitlow is already an attractive option with his athleticism, so if he’s making the throws, he’s the guy.
Friday’s practice was the first disappointing practice of the fall, according to Stoops, but the team rebounded with a good practice on Saturday. Jason Hatcher, Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons and Alex Montgomery are four guys he mentioned as standing out. Javess Blue is also showing potential at receiver and they believe he’ll move toward the front of the pack once he gets in better shape. Remember, he was late to campus and missed summer workouts.
The team returns to the practice field tomorrow after a day of rest on Sunday.
Look for Marcus McWilson to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage this fall. The staff likes him at the nickel position because of his size and speed. “It could be viewed as a linebacker in some regards versus certain sets,” Stoops said of the move. “At nickel he is a good versatile guy, but he is thick and has some good weight to him. Just trying to find the best position for him to put him in a position to be successful and really help us.”
Back to basketball recruiting, N.D. Kendrick, a national basketball scout in Evansville, Indiana, predicts Kentucky will land Emmanuel Mudiay, Rashad Vaughn, Trey Lyles and James Blackmon. He foresees Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor going to Duke, Cliff Alexander to Kansas, and Devin Booker to Michigan.
Archie Goodwin was named MVP of the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. Shabazz Muhammad was not. Minnesota Timberwolves president Flip Saunders is already threatening to send him to Iowa if he doesn’t straighten up.
The CW in Lexington aired Kentucky’s 2007 overtime win over LSU on Sunday night. Steve Moss pointed out that 16 guys on Kentucky’s roster that season were on an NFL roster at some point. Best UK team ever?
That’ll do it for tonight. I’ll leave you with Joe Schroer’s “I Bleed Big Blue” because I’m not tired of it yet.