Why Tracy McGrady?
Because he’s back in the NBA. That’s why.
McGrady signed a contract with the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday that will have him wearing silver and black throughout the remainder of the season. McGrady had been playing in China and drinking Xuejin beer, but returns to the league for the first time since his stint with the Atlanta Hawks during the 2011-12 season. The former NBA superstar fills the open spot left by the release of Stephen Jackson last week, and he is eligible for the playoffs since he was not previously on an NBA roster.
McGrady played in seven All-Star games during the pinnacle of his career, prior to serious knee injuries at the age of 29. He also claims to be a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats and has said many times before that he would’ve played at UK if not for the millions of dollars in front of him right out of high school in the NBA. He attended Kentucky’s game against North Carolina in Rupp Arena in 2011, ya know, the one that ended with Anthony Davis’ game-winning block. For that, #BBN should be supportive of his return to the league.
Welcome back, T-Mac.
Wednesday marks the opening day of the spring signing period for incoming college basketball players. That means Kentucky should receive signed Letters of Intent from Dakari Johnson, Dominique Hawkins and Julius Randle very soon. Hawkins and Johnson could sign as early as Wednesday, but I assume Randle will wait until next week when he returns home to Texas from the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland. Once all three LOIs are in, Kentucky will officially have an unprecedented eight basketball signees from the 2013 recruiting class. That is insane. And exciting.
A potential ninth commitment is still out there and making headlines this week as his recruitment comes closer and closer to its conclusion. Andrew Wiggins, the best UK target since (Insert Your Favorite Basketball Player), set up three visits for next week, despite recent online reports that he’s done hearing from potential schools. He will meet with Roy Williams and North Carolina on Monday, Bill Self and his hair piece on Tuesday, and Leonard Hamilton and Florida State on Wednesday. Kentucky isn’t expected to schedule a trip, which shouldn’t concern you at all. Remember, John Calipari visited Wiggins on “Andrew Wiggins Day” in Huntington on March 28 to answer any final questions Wiggins may have. Cal knows Wiggins has all the information he needs and understands all that UK has to offer, so making a “final push” with the other three schools is unnecessary. Of course, you could read into this as UK is out of contention, but I believe Cal would be making that “final push” if that were the case. I think Kentucky is comfortable with its current position and will sit back and let the other three schools scramble to make a final impression, similar to what we saw from Mark Turgeon and Maryland with the Harrison twins — and we all know how that worked out. Just trust that Calipari is always making the right move and don’t lose sleep over the fact three of the four schools Wiggins is considering will be sitting down with him next week. Cal knows what he’s doing.
While Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins compete in the Nike Hoop Summit this weekend, two other future Wildcats will be gettin’ their all-star game on, too. Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins will compete in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic Friday night in Freedom Hall in Louisville. Hawkins was added to the roster last week after announcing his commitment to Kentucky. He and Willis are the first two Wildcats to participate in the Derby classic since Stacey Poole in 2010. Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com for those of you who would like to attend.
Archie Goodwin’s draft stock continues to slip as more and more player announce their intentions to enter the NBA draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Archie at No. 31 on his most recent board, down nine spots from the last update a few weeks ago. Ford recently said Archie was the one who needed to return to Kentucky the most, out of the four players considering leaving, due to his lack of strength in the lane and inconsistent jump shot. That echoes what Calipari told Archie in their discussions, but the league was too attractive to turn down, apparently. Only at Kentucky does a player leave for the NBA out of fear of riding the pine if he returned to school.
James Michael McAdoo will return to North Carolina for his junior season. So, there’s that. It’s just one more NBA prospect that’ll be on the court when Kentucky meets North Carolina in Chapel Hill in December. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is also expected to announce his return to college soon.
Neal Brown was a guest on Kentucky Sports Radio radio Tuesday morning and he had a number of interesting things to say about where Kentucky football stands after spring ball. First, Brown was very appreciative of the turnout at Saturday’s Blue/White game; he said it was a huge night and it shows how much Big Blue Nation wants college football to be successful at Kentucky. He called it a huge boost to recruiting, especially with so many top targets in town for the scrimmage, and the current players also fed off the fan base’s electricty. “Our kids see that the fan base really wants to get behind them,” he said. “Now it’s our job, it’s our players’ job, to give them a product they can be proud of.”
Brown also talked about the talent on the current roster and who stood out in spring practices. He said Jalen Whitlow is much improved, but warned fans to be careful judging the quarterbacks based on Saturday’s scrimmage. He also praised the play of Reese Phillips at quarterback in the spring game in front of a crowd four times larger than any he’s ever played in front of.
Kentucky is thin at wide receiver, according to Brown, but the group got a lot better over the 15 spring practices. He said the summer will be crucial for the receivers because they have to get better at catching the ball, running routes and being in synch with the quarterbacks. He called the receiving core the group that needs to improve the most on offensive. Help is on the way with Javess Blue, Ryan Timmons, Alex Montgomery, and Jeff Badet, but Brown said he has to mold the guys he has because “we’re not getting anyone else off the waiver wire.”
Brown said there was a big question mark at running back entering spring practice, but now he’s as confident with the backs as he is with any other position on that side of the ball. “Ray Sanders had a decent spring game but he’s really stood out over the 15 practices as being the top one and the most consistent,” Brown said of the probable starter. “Dy’Shawn Mobley has a large amount of talent, he just has to get a little more detail-oriented. Josh Clemons has really pushed here in the last week and it was exciting because a couple of the cuts he made on Saturday were off his bad knee, and that was crucial. And then Jonathan George is just a steady guy, you don’t always notice him, but he’s productive.”
Tuesday’s radio show will be tough to top but I think we’re set up to pull it off on Wednesday when Nerlens Noel makes an appearance on KSR. Nerlens will be on the radio show with Matt and Ryan to discuss all things Kentucky, his future in the NBA, and whatever else comes up throughout the interview. Nerlens is a great talker, which isn’t always the case with someone his age, so it should make for a great show. I just hope we can get the headphone on him.
We’d like to give a big congratulations to Mary Jo Perino on her last newscast with LEX 18 on Tuesday. MJP is moving on to a career away from TV and we wish her the best in the next chapter of her life. She’s a KSR favorite and we’ll make sure she always has a platform to talk UK sports whenever she gets the urge. I’m sure there will be a KSR-MJP project in the future.
On the baseball diamond, Kentucky failed to complete the season sweep of the Louisville Cardinals in a home game at Cliff Hagan Tuesday night. The 17th-ranked Wildcats fell to the 8th-ranked Cards 12-5 in a game that saw Mark Stoops throw a perfect strike for the ceremonial first pitch.
That’ll do it for tonight.