Good morning, BBN! Happy weekend to you all.
Yesterday was a busy day in the world of UK Athletics and sports as a whole, so let’s catch you up on a few of the biggest news tidbits from yesterday, along with some of what’s going on today.
Kentucky football receives a commitment
The UK football program added another prospect to its 2021 recruiting class Friday, as junior college linebacker Joko Willis announced his commitment to Kentucky. The three-star prospect chose the Wildcats over offers from Mississippi State, Arkansas and Kansas State, among others.
Originally from UK’s former recruiting pipeline in Lagrange, GA, Willis has spent the 2019 season at Independence Community College in Kansas, a school that gained notoriety on Netflix’s Last Chance U. Recruited by Jon Sumrall, Willis’ future position coach, earlier this week he explained to KSR how he competes against SEC schools on the recruiting trail in the Deep South.
After the commitment, Justin Rowland of Cats Illustrated took to Twitter to say Willis may be the “most important commitment for Kentucky so far in the 2021 class.”
“From what I’ve heard, he may very well be the most athletically gifted player that Kentucky would have defensively when he enrolls,” Rowland said. “Or right up there near the top of that list. He’s really athletic.”
Willis fills a hole at a position of need at inside linebacker, especially following Devon Williams’ previous flip to Minnesota.
The NBA has set a target return date
We now know when the NBA is tentatively planning to return this summer.
In a vote of the league’s board of governor’s set for next Thursday, the owners are expected to approve a restart to the season in Orlando, Florida, with July 31 being a target date for return.
Shams Charania was the first to break the news.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 29, 2020
Both Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there is growing support for a plan to bring 22 teams to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a format that would likely include regular-season and play-in games to compete for playoff berths in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
A 22-team plan would include all teams currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference, with New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Washington fitting under those guidelines.
Regardless of how many teams or the final format, the expectation is that regular season games will be played as a tuneup prior to the postseason.
Calipari, Stoops speak on protests
Both John Calipari and Mark Stoops took to Twitter on Friday to address the events that have transpired nationally in recent days.
After the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Stoops said he is “deeply hurt” by the injustices we see in the United States and urged people to come together.
“As so many of us have seen and felt, I deeply hurt for the injustice we have in our country,” Stoops said in a statement. “We must find a way to treat each other the way we want to be treated, with unity and respect. As a nation, we must overcome it. And we must begin now.”
Calipari released a similar statement, adding that he was “sick” and talked with his team about the events in an effort to establish an open dialogue about these issues.
“Like many of you, I’ve been watching what’s been going on the last couple of days and have had some time to think about it and pray about it. All I can tell you is I’m sick,” Calipari said. “Whether you’re talking George Floyd or a number of other incidents that have happened in our country and in our backyard, I’m sick because I cannot believe one human being could treat another human being the way we’ve seen with some of these injustices.
“I don’t have all the answers. I wish I had some way to bring everyone together. But I do have one thought: It is wrong, it is unacceptable, and I am horrified by what I have seen. This cannot continue. I addressed it with our team this evening. I want to keep that conversation private, but what I will say is we need to have an open dialogue and conversation about these issues. The only way we can move forward as a nation is to be open and honest with ourselves.”
UFC Fight Night
The UFC will return to Las Vegas on Saturday with a headlining event between former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns.
Woodley was originally booked to fight Leon Edwards on March 14 in London, but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tonight’s event will take place starting tonight at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+ with six preliminary fights. Then at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, the main card will feature five separate fights, including the highly anticipated matchup between Woodley and Burns.
Here are all of the updated odds for tonight’s fights:
- Tyron Woodley (-180) vs. Gilbert Burns (+155)
- Augusto Sakai (-110) vs. Blagoy Ivanov (-110)
- Mackenzie Dern (-410) vs. Hannah Cifers (+320)
- Roosevelt Roberts (-310) vs. Brok Weaver (+250)
- Katlyn Chookagian (+115) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (-135)
- Billy Quarantillo (-135) vs. Spike Carlyle (+115)
- Jamahal Hill (-125) vs. Klidson Abreu (+105)
- Tim Elliott (-175) vs. Brandon Royval (+150)
- Louis Smoka (+210) vs. Casey Kenney (-260)
- Chris Gutierrez (-110) vs. Vince Morales (-110)
- Daniel Rodriguez (-330) vs. Gabriel Green (+260)