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Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee excited to play together in Lexington again

Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee excited to play together in Lexington again

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.


Mark Krebs Says There’s “No Doubt” Kentucky Had the Best Team in 2010

Photo via UK Athletics

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.

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.


Versatility Will Be Kentucky’s Strength in 2019-2020

Versatility Will Be Kentucky’s Strength in 2019-2020

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.

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.


Link of the Day: Kyle Tucker’s story on UK’s Brotherhood at NBA Summer League

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”]


The first set of NBA 2K20 ratings have been released

The first set of NBA 2K20 ratings have been released

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.


Tyler Herro Isn’t the Only Wildcat Having a Good Summer League

@Spurs

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.

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%.

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.


Former Cats to host youth camps

Former Cats to host youth camps

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.

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.

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.


Kentucky superfan Drake wears a Memphis shirt to the dentist

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.

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.

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.