Am I the only one who is tired of hearing everyone refer to this guy as the “Honey Badger” instead of his real name, Tyrann Mathieu? I understand it’s a nickname, and even one that he fully embraces. At this point though, i think it’s a little played out. Considering the amount of issues Tyrann Mathieu is now facing, which seem to continue to pile on just when you think the worst has passed, I’m going to call him by his given name. Yesterday, Tyrann Mathieu was a young man who had journeyed down the wrong path, but appeared to be making the necessary steps to get back on track. Mathieu had re-enrolled in classes at LSU following his dismissal from the team for previous failed drug tests. Yesterday Mathieu was on track to re-join the LSU football team for the 2013 season–which considering what a tremendous talent he was on the defensive end– was very good for his future. Today, Tyrann Mathieu was arrested on drug-related offenses. Considering what Mathieu already had on the line, and a rare second chance looming, the misstep might be the final straw– at least when it comes to his collegiate career. Even worse, it might signify much bigger issues for the young man.
One of the other guilty parties in the arrest, which concluded with police finding a marijauna grinder, digital scale and 10 bags of high grade marijuana, was former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. I made the case earlier tonight on KSR for UK-related “30 for 30” film ideas. At this point, the former All-American cornerback, Tyrann Mathieu, is certainly making a case for the “what could have been” type of “30 for 30” documentary.
And now on to the news from the day…
— Is it just me or is life a little bit better when you wake up following a UK basketball game? I know it was just a scrimmage, but Kentucky basketball season has finally arrived. Much of the talk today across the state centered around first impressions based off of the scrimmage–which in and of itself, “first impressions based off of a scrimmage” are hardly fair. That didn’t stop anyone though from salivating about the high points, and trying not to read too much into the low points.
— Overreactions are easy to come by following Blue/White games. Last year, Terrence Jones scored what felt like a million points. And while we had a great season, the offensive explosion was a bit deceiving. A wise coach once told me, “you’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re also never as bad as you think you are. The truth is somewhere in the middle.” I think those words perfectly sum up this Kentucky basketball team at the moment. The national media has Kentucky pegged as a top 3 team in the country, a national title contender before stepping foot on the court. That’s probably not where this team is right now. But John Calipari would have you believing that this team was still working on tying their shoes. He’s underselling his young team, and rightfully so… because they are that young and that inexperienced. The truth is, this team is probably not as lost as he made them sound at times during his post-game comments.
— If I were to sum up all of the reactions from today for each player, it would go a little something like this:
Nerlens Noel: Has a long way to go offensively, but showed signs as to why he feels confident he can break Anthony Davis’ single-season block record at Kentucky.
Jon Hood: His performance gave people a reason to talk about him breaking into the rotation for this Kentucky team. Up until last night, Hood had been almost an afterthought in the rotation discussions.
Jarrod Polson: Handsome. Looks the part of a player who has been in Calipari’s system for multiple years now. Once again left fans with the age old question, “will Jarrod Polson get some minutes this season?” I think people have stopped yelling “shoooooooooot” now.
Tod Lanter: Shoooooooooooot.
Archie Goodwin: Although Calipari made it known that he wasn’t pleased with at least one big decision Goodwin made (forgoing a player ahead of him on a fast break to finish for himself), Goodwin seemed to take the criticism in stride and agreed with his coach’s evaluation. If Goodwin wasn’t in the conversation to lead this team in scoring heading into last night, he is now.
Twany Beckham: Get well soon! Seriously though, the young man appeared to be hobbled by an apparent back injury. Hopefully Beckham can get back to 100% soon.
Ryan Harrow: Harrow seems primed to fill the shoes of both Marquis Teague and Brandon Knight early in the season. And by that I mean, he will take his knocks for his point guard play early. His potential showed in the final 10 minutes when he began to show glimpses into his abilities. If Calipari does what he does best, like he has for the past 3 years at Kentucky, Harrow will transform into a more than formidable point guard by the time the SEC tournament rolls around.
Willie Cauley-Stein: If anyone was curious as to whether or not Calipari was blowing smoke about how good WCS is, and how pleasantly surprised he was by him, I think Cauley-Stein erased any lingering doubt last night. Cauley-Stein seemed to impress the masses more than his big man teammate, Nerlens Noel. Cauley-Stein started the night on the “reserves” squad, and many were ready to slide him over to the “starters” side by halftime. How great will it be to see these 2 out on the court together though?
Alex Poythress: “Courage doesn’t always roar.” Poythress himself pumped this motto for himself over the summer. He was quiet for large spells last night, but when he decided to turn it on– he really turned it on. Poythress doesn’t seem to understand just how good he is yet. It will be scary when he does.
Kyle Wiltjer: He can easily blow up for 20 points a night on any given night. Unfortunately, it seems like whoever he is guarding on defense could put up the same numbers. Calipari mentioned in his post-game comments that Wiltjer has to find ways to bring other aspects of the game to the court, to add more value than simply shooting to this team. My favorite suggestion though (based on his “old school”/silky smooth moves) came from the KSR Live Blog. Someone suggested that the band play “YMCA” every time Wiltjer hit a basket. Wiltjer’s game in unconventional, but it works. And it was working nicely in stretches on the offensive end last night.
Julius Mays: He’s the old man on the team, and he looked the part. Mays seemed to be confident with the ball in his hand and did not shy away from taking (and making) shots. Early on in the game, when many of the younger guys seemed out of sorts– Mays was a calming influence and his team took the early lead under his cool/calm/collected play. I think Mays might quickly become a fan favorite.
John Robic: Absolutely LOVED the Brad Pitt Halloween costume. Very, very clever.
— Moving on to the other big news of the day, Andrew Wiggins’ father said that Andrew will be reclassifying to the class of 2013. Wiggins immediately moved into the #1 slot for the 2013 class after spending the last few years at the #1 spot in the 2014 class. The move means that if Wiggins, who recently asked other schools to join in his recruitment process, picks Kentucky they will have what nearly everyone is already calling the “best class ever.”
— Wiggins’ father had the following to say to USA Today about his son’s decision:
“It’s time for him to show that he is the best in college right now. I think he is ready for the next step. Academically-wise he is doing great. Maturity-wise he is doing great. He has a lot of talent. He is ready for the next step, and everybody knows it is time. It’s Andrew’s time. Next year is coming soon, and he is ready.”
— The SEC held it’s annual basketball media day event today, and there was no shortage of interesting sound bites. The main take away from the day: Billy Donovan is 50 shades of bitter. Donovan doesn’t like the Kentucky All-Access series and instead of just canceling it on his DVR, he complained about it at media day. “If you’re using it as a recruiting tool, I don’t think that is right.” I’m not sure why someone didn’t remind him of a different kind of tool he used in recruiting: Richard Pitino.
— I suppose if Donovan and any other coaches want to raise a stink about the All-Access show being beneficiary to Cal’s recruiting strategy, Calipari will just have to rely on his fallback recruiting tools: putting players in the NBA draft and winning national titles. Yeah, that’ll slow him down.
— For Calipari’s part, he’s far from unaware about the reaction the All-Access thing has elicited from other coaches and media members. “Everybody’s going to be mad, I know. Did I do it just because of that to aggravate people? Might have.”
— Billy Donovan also gave a strong statement in support of Tennessee being the toughest team in the SEC at this point. “The team that stands out to me more than anybody, having it all right now, is Tennessee. They’re the best team right now, in my opinion.” The Vols were picked to finish 4th by the rest of the SEC coaches, though they return 4 starters from a team that finished strong last year.
— In case the basketball hysteria had pushed football to the back of your mind, don’t forget that Kentucky has a game on the road this weekend against Missouri. Missouri has struggled in its SEC debut this season, but will look to right the ship for Homecoming against Kentucky. Missouri was one of the first schools to begin the idea of “Homecoming,” so the sense of pride and motivation to win in what promises to be a tough road environment, makes the challenge in front of Kentucky a bit tougher. Missouri is without the services of their starting quarterback though. So there’s always that. Oh wait, we’ve been without our starting quarterback almost all season. Such is life.
— Injury report: The entire secondary will travel to Missouri, but the decisions will all be made at game time. OG Zach West practiced some today, but Joker seemed iffy on whether or not he would play on Saturday.
— Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will enter the game with a similar rotation plan to the one they had against Mississippi State. At this point, it looks as if both young quarterbacks will take snaps for the Cats on Saturday.
— Changing gears, we all know that Eric Bledsoe had a monster night in the NBA last night– flirting with a triple-double (why does it always feel right to use “flirting with a triple-double” when someone comes close?). Don’t sleep on Darius Miller though. Miller is already impressing in New Orleans, making a case for a spot in the starting line-up. Yes, Darius Miller– second round draft pick, making a case for himself in the starting line-up. One Hornets writer gave this glowing review of Miller’s play:
“Darius Miller is an NBA player and deserves major minutes on this team right away. There are 30-45 minutes available in Monty’s rotation … it is painfully clear that Darius Miller gives the Hornets the best chance to win.”
— One last Eric Bledsoe note. John Calipari tweeted that he talked to Bledsoe following his 22 point, 11 assist and 9 steal performance. “I also talked to Eric Bledsoe and asked him why he didn’t get that last steal for the triple double. He said, ‘you know I was trying.’ Love my guys.”
— In non-related UK college basketball news, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad found out that he will have to miss 2-4 weeks for a shoulder injury.
— Congratulations to the UK women’s soccer team for their 3-0 senior night win against Vanderbilt tonight. The team extends their current win streak to 5, with the SEC tournament just around the corner.
— And last but not least, UK set a new school record for graduation rates. UK student-athletes have either tied or broken the record in each of the 8 years the GSR (Graduation Success Rate) has existed. An impressive 79% of student-athletes graduated. “I’m proud to see another graduation record set by our student-athletes,” Mitch Barnhart said glowingly. “Most young people will not have the opportunity to play professionally* and graduation is an important component to their future success.”
*Unless they play for John Calipari.