Basketball Season Coverage
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 19th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
This afternoon, former Kentucky basketball players Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee will be playing in Lexington for the first time in two and three years, respectively.
The Basketball Tournament is underway at Frederick Douglass High School, where the Wildcat duo will suit up for the Bluegrass Boys with a $2 million cash prize on the line.
But for each of them, it’s not just about the money. It’s about competing against high-level professional talent in front of the Big Blue Nation again.
“It definitely is fun being back, I definitely miss playing at Kentucky,” Hawkins said in a media opportunity on Thursday. “As you guys know, I’ve been overseas playing. I get to play with one of my teammates, Marcus Lee, who is here right now. A lot of other Kentucky players. Hopefully we make a good run in this tournament together.”
“Oh man, it’s a great feeling,” Lee said about being back in Lexington. “There’s no better feeling than being back in Kentucky, at my alma mater, with fans that you love. There’s no better feeling. I’m so excited to be back here playing with Dom. I’m looking forward to a great time.”
But it won’t just be Hawkins and Lee representing the University of Kentucky. Former Wildcats Josh Harrellson, Kevin Galloway, and A.J. Stewart will also be suiting up for the Bluegrass Boys.
Leading the team? Kentucky legend Wayne Turner, who will serve as the team’s head coach during the tournament.
“I’ve never had a coach like him before, he’s so relaxed. I’m so used to Coach Cal and (Madison Central coach) Allen Feldhaus, always in my face and stuff. If I make a mistake, [Turner] is like “It’s good, it’s good. We’re going to get it together,” and stuff like that. With Coach Cal, I was on the bench. If he didn’t yell at me, he was putting me on the bench if I did something bad.”
For Hawkins, who grew up in Richmond, KY, it’ll also be a chance for him to play in front of his friends and family again.
“I know a lot of people that are going to be coming up to see me,” he said. “They’ve always supported me since I was in middle school. They figured out that I was going to be an excellent basketball player and that I’ve been a good kid at home, humble. I love their support, and if they haven’t heard it yet, I really hope they come out and support me.”
For the last two years, the former Kentucky guard has been playing professionally in Estonia and will decide in August where he will be headed next.
“[My time in Estonia] was good,” he said. “The winters are really tough for me, I didn’t have that much snow in Kentucky before. We get like six inches of snow almost every week or so. It was insane for me. The food, it was okay. I’m very picky when it comes to food. They had a few burger spots for me and stuff like that. But the people I met there were really good to me, I had fun, made a lot of new friends.”
As a player, Hawkins says his game has changed exponentially since he’s been at Kentucky.
“I’m much more aggressive now, have the ball in my hands a lot more than I ever have,” he said. “I’m way more comfortable being a point guard and controlling the team, making calls.”
Part of the reason he’s so excited to be back and playing in this tournament? The fact that he has Lee, among other athletic big men, to play with again.
“On my teams, I’ve never really had any athletic bigs overseas, so it’s exciting to get back to that with Marcus,” he said. “Throwing lobs, going off the pick-and-roll, knowing I’ll be open because of his dominant presence in the post.”
For Lee, he says he’s excited to not only play in front of Kentucky fans again, but win games in front of them again, as well.
“We’re bonding really well, really great guys,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun out here, especially with the fans. There’s no better fanbase in the world, so it’ll be really cool to watch. We’re going to win a whole bunch of games.”
And while it’s convenient that they’ll be in Lexington again, the former Kentucky forward knows the BBN would follow them wherever they went. After three years with the basketball program, he knows they’d travel across the country to see current or former Wildcats play.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re playing, people need to realize that we’re still BBN,” he said. “We could be in California and they’d find a way to pack it out in all blue. We’ve got an unfair advantage no matter where we go. We’re Bluegrass Boys, we’ve been here. We’re always here.”
Lee played during the 2017-18 season at California, but it’s been three seasons since we’ve seen him in Lexington.
For him, he’s excited to show Kentucky fans what he’s been working on.
“Yeah, this is a great time for us to come back, show what we’ve improved on, show the love that we have for Kentucky. Just for us to come back, give back, and show that we still love them. It means a lot to us, and I know it means a lot to you guys.”
Personally, the end goal for him is to get back to playing in the NBA.
“Most guys don’t know I had knee surgery in October, so I’ve been doing rehab since then,” Lee said. “Now I’m doing a whole bunch of workouts back at home, trying to get my body right. From now on, it’ll be all about working more and getting back to the NBA. The knee is doing pretty great, it’s working just fine now. Better than college, actually, which is surprising. I’m excited to use it again, it’s been a while since I’ve jumped like that.”
Hawkins, Lee, and the rest of his two-seed Bluegrass Boys will take on seven-seed D2 tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET at Frederick Douglass High School. If you can’t make it in person, you can also catch them live on ESPN3.
By Aaron Torres on ©July 19th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
If you’ve followed this site or listened to Kentucky Sports Radio this morning, you know that it’s a big basketball weekend in Lexington. That’s because the city has been tabbed as one of the eight host cities for “The TBT” a single elimination, five-on-five basketball tournament where the first prize winners get $2 million.
It really is a cool event, and the Lexington regional is loaded. “The Bluegrass Boys” feature a bunch of locally-known guys, as they’re coached by Wayne Turner, and feature names like Dominique Hawkins, Ramon Harris and others. “Loyalty is Love” is one of their opponents, with DeMarcus Cousins as their GM, and others – including Daniel Orton – on their roster.
The games began at 3pm ET at Frederick Douglass High School and will go all night, and as a lead-up to them former Wildcat Mark Krebs, joined KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to preview the event.
Krebs also discussed his time playing for the Wildcats with Aaron, most notably his final year in 2010 when the Wildcats made the Elite Eight. That was of course John Calipari’s first team in Lexington, one which featured a slew of guys who are still currently in the NBA, including Cousins, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller.
So yeah, that was a loaded team, and if you think the guys on that team still don’t think about “what could have been,” think again.
That team knows it was the best team in college basketball. And should have won the title.
— Bluegrass Boys (@BluegrassBoys19) July 19, 2019
“We were no doubt the best team left in the tournament that year,” Krebs told Torres. “I go back and talk to Darius, John and those guys and that’s the first thing they say ‘Man, I wish we could go back and win it. It would be awesome.’”
Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t in the cards for that Wildcats team, as a cold shooting night against West Virginia cost them a year’s worth of work. That is the nature of a one and done tournament of course, where the best team doesn’t always win. That’s not just the case for the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats, but so many teams throughout college basketball history.
Which leads to the question: How many titles would Kentucky have right now if it wasn’t a one and done event? The answer: Almost certainly a lot more.
“It just goes to show you that when it’s one game, winner go home [it’s different],” Krebs said. “I think if it were a seven-game series we would have won it, and Kentucky wins it a lot. But when it comes down to one game, you just never know.”
Still, when reflecting back on his time at Kentucky, Krebs had nothing but great things to say. He is the rare player (maybe the only one actually) whose time in Lexington actually spanned three different coaching staffs, as his first year in 2006-2007 was Tubby Smith’s final season at the school, before he played two years under Billy Gillispie and then a final season under Calipari.
And as fun as his four years were in Lexington, he can’t believe it’s been 10 more since he last played in 2010.
“I just feel like it goes by so fast,” he said. “When I go back to watch practice or see Coach Cal, when I get back there, it’s almost like no time has passed. But when you actually look at the teams that have come through, the amount of pros that have come through, and all that has happened in 10 years, it’s mind-boggling.”
To listen to Krebs’ full interview on KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, click here.
And if you’re interested in attending the TBT, action tips off at 3pm local time at Frederick Douglass High School, with the Bluegrass Boys playing at 9pm ET.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©July 19th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Former Kentucky center Daniel Orton isn’t often credited with the success that has been crafted since John Calipari took over as the head coach of the Wildcats back in 2009, but he was a vital component in building the legacy that we see 10 years later.
Orton is back in Lexington this weekend, participating in The Basketball Tournament (located in the gymnasium of Frederick Douglass High School) on team Loyalty is Love, managed by former Wildcat teammate DeMarcus Cousins.
Orton doesn’t make his return with a massive NBA contract or significant interest from the Association, and he’s typically referenced after players such as John Wall, Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, and Darius Miller when we think about the 2010 Kentucky team. With that being said, he still understands the important role he played in building the program to where it is today.
“Talking to past teammates, you know we talk about everything: ‘We really started this’. We know this is long before us, Kentucky basketball was here before us, it’s gonna be here after us,” Orton told reporters following a morning practice at Frederick Douglass High School. “But, I feel like the Cal-era has been a changing point in the school’s history. It was pretty amazing to feel that.”
Plenty has changed since Orton’s year in the Bluegrass State. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when asked about the differences from his time on campus compared to now. He said he is “envious” of all these extra amenities, but is happy the new guys get to experience something that he was a part of building.
The 6-foot-10 big man averaged only 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in under 14 minutes per game during his lone season at Kentucky, but that didn’t prevent him from being selected in the first round by the Orlando Magic with the 29th overall pick. His selection capped what would turn out to be the only NBA draft in history to have five players from the same college selected in the first round.
Even if Orton’s production on the court during his freshman season was minimal, it was him being drafted despite all that, which might go down as one of Calipari’s most impressive feats. You can’t talk about the 2010 Kentucky team without mentioning Orton. And if you do, you’re doing history a disservice. He was the fifth five-star recruit from that class, the fifth first-round pick. He was a Billy Gillispie recruit that decided to stick around.
Knee injuries early in Orton’s career ravaged what could have been a long run in the professionals, but he’s back looking to showcase what he’s made of on national television.
When Cousins initially asked Orton if he wanted to play on his team, Orton jokingly responded by saying “You don’t have to ask. Just let me know I’m on the team.”
The Basketball Tournament will be broadcasted on ESPN3 throughout Friday, ESPN2 on Saturday, and ending with the final game on Sunday airing on ESPN. You can watch Orton and Loyalty is Love Friday night on ESPN3 at 5:00 p.m.
By Nick Roush on ©July 19th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
What if DeMarcus Cousins returned to Kentucky for the 2010-11 season? It almost happened.
Before his team takes the court this weekend at The Basketball Tournament, Boogie reunited with the Matt Jones, Drew Franklin and Ryan Lemond at Frederick Douglass High School. Cousins admitted that John Calipari had to talk him into entering the NBA Draft.
“When I came in, you know I was a good player. But all the hype was with John (Wall), which was well deserved. Me coming from where I’m from, it wasn’t really a reality for me, like, I got a chance to go to the NBA? It was big enough me just making it to college.
“They were like, you got a chance to play in the NBA. I’m like, the real NBA? I don’t know if I’m ready for that Cal. But you know Cal, being the guy he is, as supportive as he is, he pushed me to make the right decision and I’m thankful for that. I love him for that. It turned out pretty decent.”
Even though he left after only one season, Cousins often returns to Lexington. If he can’t be on campus, he’s always willing to help those who are following in his footsteps.
“I take pride in being the team that brought everything back to life. We take pride in that. I feel like we started a tradition and we want to continue to make it go. That’s why we care as much about every group that comes through. Whenever we get a chance we reach out, we’re supportive, we share advice, whatever we can do to help. I think Cal has done a great job to continue to help the program. It doesn’t matter if you came out in 2010 or the 2021 class, we’re all family, we’re all supportive and we all want what’s best for each other.”
Kyle Macy sounds off on John Calipari, says he ‘doesn’t know’ if he feels welcome at Kentucky anymore
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 18th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
During his time in Lexington, Kentucky basketball legend Kyle Macy was a three-time All-American, three-time All-SEC First Team member, was named 1980 SEC Player of the Year, and biggest of all, helped Kentucky win the 1978 national championship. Over the course of three seasons, Macy scored 1,411 career points, good for No. 21 on the all-time list, and totaled 470 assists.
Now, Macy doesn’t know if he feels welcome around the program anymore.
“I’m not as involved with the program as I used to be,” he said in a radio interview on the Query & Schultz show on Fox Sports 1260 this afternoon. “There were times I could go to practice whenever I wanted and feel welcome, but I don’t know if that’s the case now. I don’t really have any desire to go there and go to practice.”
Part of the reason? A few philosophical differences he has with Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
For starters, he thinks neutral court basketball games are “ridiculous” and thinks the Kentucky vs. Indiana series needs to continue as a traditional home-and-home.
“I don’t know all the details, but I know Calipari wasn’t too happy about having to go up there after they lost up there the year they probably could have gone undefeated. It’s probably a little bit of both sides,” he said. “You’ve got to give and take a little bit. I know at one point IU didn’t want to play in Louisville because they felt that was like a home game for Kentucky, and Kentucky didn’t want to go into Bloomington. Nowadays, everyone wants to play these neutral court games, which is ridiculous. If you’re a season ticket holder, give them value to the home schedule, play a home-and-home. You may take a loss, but it’s going to make you a better team and get you ready for the tournament. I’m a little old school that way, I guess.”
The biggest gripe he has, however, is Calipari’s mindset when it comes to putting guys in the NBA and that draft day is the “greatest day in Kentucky basketball history.”
“If you’re going to a university, ideally, it’s for an education,” he said. “And I guarantee you there’s not a professor on any college campus that’s making anywhere near what the college basketball coach is making. And the mindset here in Kentucky, John Calipari will tell you that the greatest day in Kentucky basketball history for him is on draft day when all of his players are making millions of dollars and changing the lives of their families. To me, the greatest day of the year in your school’s history is winning a national championship for your athletic program.”
In his mind, Kentucky shouldn’t be a “training ground for the pros.” The focus should be on getting an education and winning titles.
“I’d say we don’t agree with those issues in particular, and he’ll argue with you till his death that [draft day] is the greatest day,” Macy said. “When he first got here, he made the comment that the greatest moment in Kentucky basketball history was draft day because they’re changing the lives of young men. And it is nice that they are able to do that, but it’s not like it should be a training ground for the pros. Granted, you go to college to get a better paying job, and that’s what’s happening with these kids.”
To close the interview, the Kentucky basketball legend added that he is older now and that times have changed from when he was in school.
And overall, he’s still extremely grateful for the opportunity he had to play at UK and the time he had in Lexington.
“Again, times change. I’m old,” he said. “I’m blessed with the time I had at the school, I’m more than happy about it. I’m not bitter about anything by any means. I feel thankful for the opportunities I had and the way things worked out for me.”
You can find the entire interview below:
In addition to his workouts with his teammates on campus, Ashton Hagans spent some time in the studio earlier this summer.
Kentucky’s sophomore point guard is featured on “Champion” by Lil Quent, a rapper out of Atlanta. The song includes the line, “I’m ballin’ on the court just like I’m Ashton,” and Hagans makes a surprise auto-tuned appearance at the end of the song.
Have a listen below (lyrics aren’t the cleanest):
“I’m the point point guard, for Kentucky, Ash Boogie, I’m coming back for Year 2 it’s a movie, yeah you know we goin’ crazy, we goin’ crazy…”
By Aaron Torres on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Over the past couple weeks, John Calipari’s social media accounts have been ablaze with all of the typical, mid-summer Calipari content. You know what I’m talking about. Calipari is always putting out all sorts of good stuff – updates on old friends (no one catches up with more middle and high school friends than Calipari does), old players he’s run into on the recruiting trail, things like that.
But quite a bit of Calipari’s content lately has also been about what next year’s team could look like. And once again Calipari is throwing out one of his favorite words – “position-less” – to describe next year’s roster.
Yet while too many coaches throw around the phrase “position-less” haphazardly nowadays (heck, Calipari may have done it once or twice himself in the past) I think it accurately describes what the 2019-2020 Kentucky basketball roster will look like. I also think that the Wildcats positionless-ness (pretty sure I just made up that word) should actually be a strength heading into next season.
It’s funny really, because when I interact with Kentucky fans (be it on social media, or when they e-mail into my podcast) it seems as though every UK fan’s biggest fear is that next year’s team simply isn’t big enough. That a roster with only Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina isn’t enough, and that they’re one big man short. That they “need” N’Faly Dante to reclassify and become a member of the 2020 Kentucky Wildcats.
A couple thoughts on that. One, based on everything I’ve heard, I’m not sure that Dante will be able to reclassify in time to get to campus for next season. After all, making up a year of high school is harder than most folks realize – especially when the player involved (Dante) doesn’t speak English as his first language. Not to mention that after having KSR’s Jack Pilgrim on my podcast this week, Jack seems convinced that even if Dante were to reclassify, Kentucky might not be his first choice in colleges.
(To listen to all of Jack’s comments on Kentucky recruiting, click here and download Monday’s show).
Therefore, while any school would be willing to take a kid as talented as Dante, I’m not sure that Kentucky will get him for next season. More importantly, I’m not sure Kentucky necessarily “needs” him either.
My mentor and friend, Coach Hall, likes our new team. He loves that we made a bunch of jump shots. He said this could be our best shooting team. Said we made our first nine shots when we scrimmaged. pic.twitter.com/VF7z0CZ67r
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) July 15, 2019
It sounds preposterous, but just hear me out on this. Because in looking at Kentucky’s personnel for next season, they really do have the guys to play small ball and position-less. As a matter of fact, playing small ball and position-less might put their best players in the best position to succeed. Which might, in the process, help the Wildcats reach their potential as a team next season.
At guard, it’s hard not to love the blend of talent and experience that Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey provide. I’ve already written at length about Hagans this summer, where I explained why I truly believe he will evolve into an All-SEC type point guard. I also think that folks are completely sleeping on Immanuel Quickley and his ability to potentially serve as “instant offense” for this team. Quickley showed flashes last season and should be even better in 2019-2020 whether he comes off the bench or is in the starting lineup. As for Tyrese Maxey, well, his talent speaks for itself. He’s a McDonald’s All-American and was a guy that coaches told me was the best shooter all week at the Nike Hoops Summit back in April. This guy is just a straight up baller. There’s a reason that he’s projected by virtually everyone as Kentucky’s best long-term NBA prospect.
Then there’s the wing and in the front-court, which is where things get really interesting for the Wildcats. We all know that Johnny Juzang will get buckets from deep, but it’s at the forward spots where Kentucky can really create mismatches and give opposing teams headaches. Kahlil Whitney (and to a smaller degree Keion Brooks) can play as a “traditional” three-man when Calipari wants to go big, with Montgomery at the four and Nick Richards at the five. Or, Whitney can play a new-age “small ball” four with Montgomery sliding over to the five.
Can you imagine, the speed, versatility and athleticism that a Hagans-Maxey-Juzang-Whitney-Montgomery lineup would have, and the mismatches it would create? Same if you sub Quickley in at one of the guard spots. Or Brooks or Nate Sestina at the four spot.
Remember, the Golden State Warriors just made three straight NBA Finals with what they called their “death lineup” of four perimeter players (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant) on the floor, with Draymond Green serving as the team’s “big.” While I’d never, ever compare the talent of college kids to the best team in the NBA over the last few years, Kentucky’s own version of the “death lineup” could give opponents all sorts of fits. Put simply, no matter what you think of this collection of players, it promises to be one of Calipari’s most versatile rosters yet.
So no, don’t believe the narrative that Kentucky is “a big man” short, or that they “need” N’Faly Dante.
Dante would certainly be nice.
But this roster has the talent and versatility to not only win games – but give opponents nightmares in the process.
By Drew Franklin on ©July 17th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
We don’t often encourage you to do things on the internet outside of Kentucky-Sports-Radio-dot-com, but today I will direct you toward a great piece in The Athletic from UK beat writer Kyle Tucker.
Kyle was out in Las Vegas for the NBA summer league and he produced a great story about the brotherhood among Coach Cal’s former players in the league. It is called “Former Kentucky players find common bond at NBA Summer League” and it begins with a story of Hamidou Diallo and Wenyen Gabriel eating at Benihana, during an earthquake, when they randomly ran into Bam Adebayo.
“For a 10-day window every summer it seems as if you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a Wildcat,” Tucker wrote, which isn’t too far from reality.
Jared Vanderbilt told him, “Even the guys who didn’t play together, didn’t play the same years, it’s a true brotherhood, a true bond.”
Willie Cauley-Stein and his potty mouth said, “That Kentucky shit is no joke, and the cool thing is being with the Warriors is like the closest thing to Kentucky in the league.”
If you get a chance, head over there and read the entire story if you’re subscriber. Great stuff.
[The Athletic: “Former Kentucky players find common bond at NBA Summer League”]
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Andy Katz of NCAA.com believes Kentucky sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans will be one of the top players in all of college basketball next season.
In his recent list of the top 25 players in all of college basketball, Hagans came in at No. 23 overall and No. 10 among all guards.
23. Ashton Hagans, So., G, Kentucky: The Wildcats have the experience at the most important position to make a Final Four run.
The Wildcats have a rare returning point guard and that’s why Kentucky is one of the teams projected to go on a Final Four run. Hagans emerged as the leader midway through the season and embraced the role. His numbers in all areas should increase, and as long as turnovers don’t as well, Kentucky will have the lead guard it needs to shepherd in another elite recruiting class.
As a freshman, the Wildcat point guard was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year alongside LSU’s Tremont Waters, also picking up SEC All-Defensive Team honors in the process. Finishing as a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist and two-time SEC Freshman of the Week winner, Hagans averaged 7.7 points, 4.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in 28.5 minutes per game in his first year in Lexington.
Starting 30 of 37 games for the Wildcats, including the final 29, Hagans tied Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the third-most steals by a freshman in school history, dished out the fifth-most assists by a freshman in school history, and recorded 10 games with three or more steals.
Check out the entire list here:
- Cassius Winston, Sr., G, Michigan State
- Markus Howard, Sr., G, Marquette
- Myles Powell, Sr., G, Seton Hall
- James Wiseman, Fr., C, Memphis
- Cole Anthony, Fr., G, North Carolina
- Jordan Nwora, Jr., F, Louisville
- Kerry Blackshear Jr., Sr., Florida
- Tre Jones, So., G, Duke
- Anthony Cowan Jr., Sr., Maryland
- Lamar Stevens, Sr., F, Penn State
- Anthony Edwards, Fr., G, Georgia
- Devon Dotson, So., G, Kansas
- Jarron Cumberland, Sr., G, Cincinnati
- Udoka Azubuike, Sr., C, Kansas
- Kaleb Wesson, Jr., C, Ohio State
- Sam Merrill, Sr., G, Utah State
- Tristan Clark, Jr., F, Baylor
- Jalen Smith, So., F, Maryland
- Trevion Williams, So., F, Purdue
- Xavier Tillman, Jr., F, Michigan State
- Killian Tillie, Sr., F, Gonzaga
- Ayo Dosunmu, So., G, Illinois
- Ashton Hagans, So., G, Kentucky
- Andrew Nembhard, So., G, Florida
- Isaiah Stewart, Fr., C, Washington
While other players might put up bigger numbers next year, I have a hard time believing there will be 22 players better than Hagans by the time the 2019-20 season comes to a close.
There’s a new favorite to win the 2020 national championship and it’s not Kentucky. According to BetOnline, Michigan State now has the best odds to win the title at 7/1, followed by Kentucky (8/1), Duke (9/1), and Kansas and Memphis (10/1).
Kentucky’s odds are down slightly from the end of May, perhaps due to Kerry Blackshear choosing the Florida, which sent the Gators’ stock soaring. Also on the rise: Kansas, Memphis, Louisville, and Maryland. Check out all of the movement below:
|Xavier||Off the Board||Off the Board||66/1|
|Arkansas||Off the Board||150/1||150/1|
Would you take Kentucky at 8/1 right now?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 16th, 2019 @ 10:45am
As the popular NBA 2K20 video game nears its release on September 6, the company is slowly trickling out the ratings for some of the top players in the league.
Among them? Two former Kentucky Wildcats, cover athlete Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Davis, the newest Los Angeles Laker, was given an overall rating of 94, good for the No. 7 player in the entire NBA.
I’d put him at 96 or 95, but I suppose that will work.
As for Towns, he was seemingly disrespected a bit, given an 89 overall rating, good for No. 15 in the NBA. Guys like Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook, Nikola Jokic, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid were all ranked higher than the former Wildcat.
Still impressive, but a statline of 24.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game in 2018-19 is certainly worth a 91 or 90, no?
Here is the entire top-20, with Davis’ newest teammate, LeBron James, coming in at No. 1 overall with a 97 overall rating. Kawhi Leonard, Giannas Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and James Harden rounded out the top-five.
1. LeBron James: 97 OVR
2. Kawhi Leonard: 97 OVR
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 96 OVR
4. Kevin Durant: 96 OVR
5. James Harden: 96 OVR
6. Steph Curry: 95 OVR
7. Anthony Davis: 94 OVR
8. Paul George: 93 OVR
9. Damian Lillard: 92 OVR
10. Joel Embiid: 91 OVR
11. Kyrie Irving: 91 OVR
12. Nikola Jokic: 90 OVR
13. Russell Westbrook: 90 OVR
14. Klay Thompson: 89 OVR
15. Karl-Anthony Towns: 89 OVR
16. Jimmy Butler: 88 OVR
17. Kemba Walker: 88 OVR
18. Donovan Mitchell: 88 OVR
19. Rudy Gobert: 88 OVR
20. Blake Griffin: 88 OVR
When the next set of ratings are released, Devin Booker will likely be next in line. In fact, the fact that the game thinks Donovan Mitchell is better than the Phoenix Suns star is baffling to me.
Then, we should get guys like Jamal Murray, Julius Randle, De’Aaron Fox, Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins, among others.
For now, though, Kentucky having two of the top-15 players in the NBA isn’t a bad start.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Yesterday, John Calipari took to Twitter to tell Kentucky fans how much he likes his team. Today, he is on Twitter yet again to tell us how much Joe B. Hall likes his team.
“My mentor and friend, Coach Hall, likes our new team,” Cal tweeted, sharing the picture above. “He loves that we made a bunch of jump shots. He said this could be our best shooting team. Said we made our first nine shots when we scrimmaged.”
I guess we can keep “best shooting team” on our Bingo cards this season. Cal also posted this picture of a new addition to his office: a portrait of his son Brad, who transferred to Detroit Mercy.
With @bradcalipari playing at Detroit Mercy the next two seasons, I had to make sure I could still see him a couple times a day. This picture was done by Ellen’s brother, Dennis Higgins. pic.twitter.com/pvIGUf3dW4
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) July 15, 2019
That is a truly impressive drawing, but you know Brad’s sisters are going to have something to say about it when they get online tonight.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©July 15th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Last week, UK introduced us to Tyrese Maxey in their annual “Meet the Wildcats” series. Today, it’s Kahlil Whitney’s turn in front of the camera.
In a video from KyWildcatsTV, the small forward from Chicago talks about watching Kentucky games with his father and grandfather as a kid, which he says made his college decision “easy” when the Cats came calling.
“Kentucky was always my dream school since I was a little kid, probably six or seven years old. I used to watch a lot of Kentucky Basketball with my dad, my grandfather. Just growing up watching those guys, just knowing in my mind I wanted to come here. So, when they extended the offer, it was easy for me to make my decision.”
.@KahlilWhitney is just different. Meet the ?, a fierce competitor who has wanted to be on this stage at Kentucky since he was just a boy watching hoops with his dad. #MeetTheWildcats | #DreamBIG pic.twitter.com/eXQE1DocLv
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) July 15, 2019
If you recall, Whitney wrote an essay in middle school about wanting to play for Kentucky. We’ve heard that story a few times now, but it never gets old. As John Calipari tweeted, he seems like a great example of a player who embraces the challenge of playing in Lexington.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) July 15, 2019
In what was without question the biggest move in the NBA this summer, the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George all in one night. The deal only happened, however, partly because of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George. Now with OKC also trading Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul earlier last week, what will SGA’s sophomore season be like in OKC?
Well, this question has to be dealt with in two ways. The first of which is an OKC team with Chris Paul, and the second scenario is a Thunder team without him. Paul’s agent has been very vocal that the star does not want to play in OKC this season. It remains to be seen if another team would be willing to take on Paul’s outrageous contract, but for the sake of this post, let’s play both scenarios out. (It should be noted that Steven Adams is also not a lock to stay in OKC, but for conciseness, this article is sticking to CP3.)
Scenario With Chris Paul
If Paul stays in OKC then their starting lineup would look something like this:
PG – Chris Paul
SG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SF – Andre Roberson
PF – Danilo Gallinari
C – Steven Adams
That’s….actually not a bad starting five at all! However, is it good enough to make the playoffs in the loaded West? Probably not, but the Thunder would have a chance. In this scenario, I think the Thunder’s leading scorer might be Gallinari considering he averaged 20 points per game lost year for a playoff team. He would average around that many points again in 2019. Paul would be in the 15-18 point per game range, Roberson would be in single digits as always, and Adams would be in the 13-15 range.
This lineup makes a nice spot for SGA to improve upon his stats from last season which were 11 ppg, 3 rbg, and 3 apg. With his and Paul’s passing ability this would be a free-flowing offense in which both of their assist numbers should improve. With the big scoring gap left behind by George and Westbrook, I see around 4-6 points worth of wiggle room. Add in a marginal increase in rebounds thanks to more playing time, and I can see a very easy path to Gilgeous-Alexander averaging around 15 ppg, 5 aspg, and 4 rbg in this lineup. While I personally don’t see this OKC team making the playoffs, I think it would be a great year in SGA’s maturation playing alongside a great point guard in Chris Paul.
? 6' 6" guard
? Born in Canada
? Drafted 11th overall in 2018 (Univ of Kentucky)
? 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
? Started 72 of 83 games in rookie season
? 2018-19: 10.8 ppg / 48% fg / 37% 3p pic.twitter.com/dUQuF7d3Ut
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 10, 2019
Scenario Without Chris Paul
This is where things get wild. First off, it would totally matter what the Thunder are getting back for Paul. Would it be Goran Dragic from Miami or Andrew Wiggins from Minnesota? Who can really say? But if OKC doesn’t get back any players who can score the ball at a high rate, then I see a path where Gilgeous-Alexander’s stats will take a significant leap, thus making him the Thunder’s second-leading scorer behind Gallinari.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 10, 2019
In fact, I would not be surprised at all if his scoring average rises all the way up to around 18 ppg simply because someone has to score the basketball in OKC, and it might as well be SGA. If this path does happen, then Gilgeous-Alexander would be in the running for Most Improved Player. However, I could see his efficiency taking a hit in this scenario. I’m not quite sure if he is ready to be scoring the ball that much, and he should not be the second option for any team at this point in his career. Again, it really depends what OKC would be getting back for Paul. Wiggins actually makes sense considering that the contracts would work, and he would probably be the Thunder’s new leading scorer while being very inefficient. If the Thunder want to be bad, then adding Wiggins is a good way to get bad.
Overall, it should be obvious that no matter which scenario happens, SGA is probably in for a nice sophomore season which will see a boost to his stats across the board. It doesn’t matter if the Thunder misses the playoffs. They have officially committed to a long-term rebuilding phase and they have tied the organization to a very good young player in doing so. While this will be a long process, there is a scenario wherein 4-5 years Gilgeous-Alexander is leading a very young team deep into the playoffs.
By John Reecer on ©July 14th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Tyler Herro has taken the NBA Summer League by storm as he is averaging almost 20 points per game. While Herro deserves all of the spotlight, he isn’t the only former Wildcat enjoying a good Summer league.
Former teammate Keldon Johnson is also enjoying a very positive Summer League for the Spurs. His averages won’t particularly blow anyone away (10 ppg, 4 rbg in 25 minutes per game), but he has made a good first impression thus far. It’s hard to average more points per game than that when teammate Lonnie Walker IV is literally leading the Summer League in points. However, Johnson’s performance against the Charlotte Hornets is what really caught everyone’s attention.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) July 7, 2019
Asked Spurs Summer League coach Becky Hammon what she’s learned about 29th pick Keldon Johnson. She says his competitive fire is eye-opening. Wants to win every drill.
“He could be the steal of the draft.”
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) July 7, 2019
Keldon Johnson with some outstanding defensive work. Totally shuts down Dwayne Bacon pic.twitter.com/KNnMbEbzi0
— Gabe (@AllDaySportTalk) July 7, 2019
It seems apparent that he has already found his role on the team as a competitive defender who can also slash his way to the rim. It’s certainly not a one-to-one comparison, but I can see Johnson carving out a role in the league similar to how Tayshaun Prince did. Both are good defenders who can hit 3’s and slash to the rim. I think that might be Johnson’s ceiling, but its great to see him with such a good organization.
Not to be outdone, however, is Jarred Vanderbilt. Through four games, Vanderbilt is averaging a double-double (11.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg) in just 26 minutes per game. He is actually tied for the lead in rebounds in the entire Summer League. We always knew that he was a ferocious rebounder and athlete. The big question with Vanderbilt has always been his health. It finally appears that he is back to being 100%.
Jarred Vanderbilt also played well getting a double-double (12/12)
– Best Rebounder on the court
– Forced chaos in half court defense
– Ran well in transition
– Moved well without the ball
– Had great spacing on both ends
– Scored off the dribble really easily pic.twitter.com/XODBASv2Ri
— Alpha (@TweetsFromAlpha) July 10, 2019
20 pts (8-15 FG) (4-5 FT)
31 minutes pic.twitter.com/vnwYnpPucR
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) July 11, 2019
Denver may have a huge steal on their hands. The Nuggets are considered to be on of the four best teams in the west in 2019 so who really knows just how much playing time Vanderbilt will earn. However, if he can stay healthy and keep playing that hard, he will be a rotational player for one of the best teams in the league in just his second season. We didn’t get to see a lot of him at Kentucky, but Vanderbilt already has a great future ahead of him.
By John Reecer on ©July 14th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Throughout this entire summer, 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante has been considering reclassification into the 2019 class. He is currently considering Kentucky as a possible destination regardless if he reclassifies or not.
So this leads us to the million dollar question: How bad does Kentucky need N’Faly Dante for the 2019-2020 season? Would it possibly be better if Dante waits until next season to commit to the Wildcats? Kentucky is going to be a top-five team in the preseason poll, so I believe this is a very serious question to answer.
First, just how good is Dante? 247Sports has Dante ranked as the 12th best player in the 2020 class and the third-best center. However, it seems like he is a bit better than that ranking. As our own Jack Pilgrim reported, Dante received the MVP of the Peach Jam Classic today as he scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
MoKan Elite defeats Team WhyNot to win the 2019 Nike EYBL Peach Jam. Kentucky target N’faly Dante finishes with 22 points and 18 rebounds en route to MVP honors. Jalen Green finishes with 27 points. UK had three coaches in attendance.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) July 14, 2019
N’Faly Dante goes and gets it. pic.twitter.com/1zlWfuZQaT
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) July 14, 2019
Dante projects as a powerful big man who can be both a good lob-catcher and a dependable rim-protector. I won’t pretend to say that I’ve researched the 2020 class that much yet, but I can’t imagine there being anyone else like Dante in it. It’s very rare to see such a strong center have such a long wingspan, but Dante has it.
Seeing him dominate the Peach Jam as he did helps to reaffirm that he can play college basketball this fall. However, it isn’t just the fact that he played well, it’s the fact that Dante has a body that can withstand the wear and tear of a full college basketball season. He already has the size if he chooses to reclassify so the move would work for him.
Now that we have established that Dante is both very good and ready to play right now, how bad do the Wildcats need his services? The answer is short and sweet. Kentucky badly needs Dante.
Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with how good Nick Richards, E.J. Montgomery, or Nate Sestina are. What’s really important here is that only one of those three players is an actual center (Richards). Yes, Montgomery is very long, but he fits best as a stretch-four that causes huge mismatch problems. Sestina, on the other hand, is your typical power forward. Neither are both tall and strong enough to be a traditional, dominant center that can protect the rim.
That leaves the Wildcats with just one true center in Richards. Even if Coach John Calipari wants to play a lot of small-ball lineups, that still isn’t enough depth at that position. Adding Dante gives the frontcourt more depth and flexibility. Having two traditional centers that could play at any time with any other four players would be dangerously good.
Of course, this isn’t even taking into account how good Dante actually is. Rolling out a starting lineup that includes Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, and Dante has the potential to be the most dominant defensive lineup in college basketball.
Yes, Kentucky would still be a good team without him. But would it be a “great” team? It’s hard to say that they would be with the frontcourt depth being so light, but it’s possible. Dante could easily not reclassify and commit to the Wildcats as a member of the 2020 class. However, I think the time is now. Dante is ready and his addition would make Kentucky one of the best teams in college basketball.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he did not commit and reclassify, but it would certainly be the start of something special if he did.
Former Wildcats Tyler Ulis and Bam Adebayo are both investing in the next generation of hoopers by hosting youth camps this summer.
Adebayo’s camp is on July 20 at the Riviera Preparatory in Miami, Florida. The Miami Heat big man made the announcement this morning on Twitter.
— 13am Adebayo? (@Bam1of1) July 14, 2019
It will have two sessions, one for 3rd-6th graders and one for 7-12th graders. Tickets cost $100, but if you’re in the area and want some hands-on instruction from a rising NBA star, it just might be worth it. You can register here.
This will be Ulis’ second annual youth skills camp, both of which have been made possible through the Tyler Ulis Foundation, which “strives to educate and encourage youth through camps and mentoring programs in order to cultivate the next generation of leaders.”
Ulis announced the camp, which takes place on August 10 at Lima Senior High School in Lima, Ohio, on his Instagram page.
View this post on Instagram
Excited to announce the second annual Tyler Ulis Basketball Camp! Open to boys and girls from ages 5-18 split up into 2 sessions! I will be interactive the entire camp and look forward to heavily participating in session 2! Can’t wait to see you guys there!! ??? #1ENT #TheTylerUlisFoundation LINK IN BIO!!!
A post shared by Tyler Ulis (@tulis3) on
Like Bam, Ulis broke the camp into two sessions divided by age groups. Kids ages 5-18 will have the chance to receive tips and direction from one of the smoothest ball handlers to come through Kentucky.
Ulis’ camp costs $75, and registration can be found here.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©July 14th, 2019 @ 11:30am
Kentucky’s roster for the 2019-20 season still isn’t official with the potential reclassification of N’Faly Dante, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a sneak peek into where the Wildcats currently stand amongst media members.
Following the commitment Florida received from Kerry Blackshear Jr., there has been a shakeup in the projected top 5 for next season.
ESPN‘s Jeff Borzello now has the Cats coming into next season ranked No. 3, behind No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Kansas. The return of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike pushed the Jayhawks to the No. 2 spot, overtaking Kentucky and pushing them down to third.
The Spartans remain as the top-ranked team, bringing back the majority of last season’s roster. The Gators, meanwhile, jumped from No. 18 to No. 4 with the addition of Blackshear, followed by Lousiville staying stagnant at No. 5 and Duke slipping two spots to No. 6.
LSU is the only other SEC team to crack the preseason top-25, coming in at No. 24 despite losing Tremont Waters and Naz Reid to the NBA.
Let’s go ahead and throw in Dante so we can update those national title odds.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©July 13th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Kentucky superfan Drake turned to the dark side during a recent trip to the dentist.
According to a Drake fan page on Twitter, Drizzy Source, the four-time Grammy Award winner was seen sporting a Memphis Tigers t-shirt out in public.
Drake at the dentist today in Toronto. pic.twitter.com/BOdlK5rj6c
— Drizzy Source (@DrizzySource) July 12, 2019
Not long after, John Calipari’s newest rival on the recruiting trail, Penny Hardaway, found the picture and made sure to post it on his Twitter feed.
— Penny Hardaway (@Iam1Cent) July 13, 2019
Drake has been involved with Kentucky basketball since 2010, coming to Lexington for various events such as the UK Alumni Game and Big Blue Madness on two separate occasions, along with attending NCAA Tournament games.
At one point, he was tucked in DeMarcus Cousins’ arm with pure bliss:
He even gave a motivational speech to the team following their Final Four victory over Wisconsin in 2014:
Above all else, he made a Rick Pitino joke in a recent song, writing: “Louisville hush money for my young gunners. Rick Pitino, I take them to strip clubs and casinos.”
Now, he’s sporting the wrong team.
You’re better than this, Drake.
By Nick Roush on ©July 13th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Reid Travis is happy to have spent a season playing for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky. He’s not very happy with how things looked one his way out the door.
In the lead up to the NBA Draft in May, Jerry Tipton spoke with Travis’ father, Nate, about his son’s time at Kentucky. Nate Travis was concerned about his son’s draft status after spending a season with Calipari.
“We felt if he played at Kentucky, he’d have some certainty coming off the season,” he told Tipton. “As a father, I’m a little concerned with that. I thought he’d have a little more of an understanding of when he’d fall in the draft.”
Critics immediately used those comments to throw fuel on their anti-Calipari fire. Even though Reid and his father publicly refuted any negative opinions of Calipari, that statement stuck. In a conversation with Kyle Tucker at the Las Vegas Summer League, Travis’ said his only regret from his time at UK is how it ended.
“I was a little disappointed by the way it got portrayed, because I talked to my dad and knew what he was trying to get across and I don’t think it came out the way he wanted it to,” Travis said. “He echoes the same sentiments I do about Cal and KP: I wouldn’t be the player I am without them.
“I talked to Cal the next day and he was like, ‘I know where your heart is.’ And I think it’s narrow-minded to look at it as just an NBA decision and judge based on whether I got drafted. Everyone has different paths to the league, and in no way can I blame Kentucky, but as far as life experience, it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. That year at Kentucky is near and dear to my heart, one of the most rewarding years I’ve ever had playing basketball. I will never regret that.”
In five games at the Summer League, Travis averaged 4.2 points (50% FG) and 4 rebounds per game for the Atlanta Hawks. Travis wasn’t the only former Wildcat Tucker talked to in Vegas. Read his lengthy piece in The Athletic for more from Jarred Vanderbilt, Aaron Harrison, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel.