Thursday is an unofficial holiday in the state of Kentucky. It’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Day. I will not refer to it as anything else.
MKG, as we know him best, turns 20 years old on Thursday, making all of us feel really old and unsuccessful in whatever it is we’re doing with our lives. I’ll be honest with you: I ask God three to four times a week why he made me who I am and not Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I want to be MKG. You want to be MKG. We all want to be MKG. But there can be only one. We should just be thankful that he chose to attend the University of Kentucky for a year to play basketball, where he won the hearts of everyone — and UK’s eighth national championship.
So join me in wishing Mike a Happy 20th (double-checked it, he’s really turning 20) Birthday and a Happy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Day in the bluegrass.
I dream I move, I dream I groove. Like Mike. If I could be like Mike….
Well, football fans, we’ve heard from Mark Stoops and the staff for the last time before the Florida game. Stoops spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s practice, his final media opportunity of the week, and he was pleased with what he saw from his players.
Headlining the report is Max Smith, who looked good at quarterback for the second straight day. “He seems to be fine.” Stoops said. “We put a pitch count on him again but seems to be no effects.”
Neal Brown had more to say about his quarterback. He said Smith was almost perfect in Tuesday’s practice and he has fully recovered from the shoulder injury. “I think the week down did him well,” he added. “No signs of the injury to me.”
Smith will still split time with Whitlow under center, though. It’ll take more than a perfect practice to change that.
Demarco Robinson was back returning punts and kicks in practice this week but the staff isn’t sure if he’ll fill that role against Florida. Stoops reminded everyone how thin Kentucky is at returner and said they’ll continue to evaluate tomorrow and make a decision on the starter closer to game time. Robinson still isn’t at 100%, but Neal Brown believes he’ll be close by Saturday.
If Robinson can’t go, look for Jeff Badet to get more looks at that position. “I like him, he’s made some big plays,” Brown said. “But Demarco gives us more depth. And he does have some experience, and he did play well in that Western game.”
The offensive line will be tested Saturday against Florida, the first SEC opponent of the season, and the group will find a lot out about themselves in the game. However, the Florida defensive line took a huge hit Wednesday when Dominique Easley suffered a season-ending ACL injury in practice. Easley is a projected top 10 pick in the NFL draft and the star of Florida’s front four. The group will undoubtedly miss him, but just how much so remains to be seen. Regardless, the loss of Easley helps UK’s otherwise slim chances, although you never want to see an opponent go down.
Easley’s injury is the sixth season-ending injury for Florida this year: QB Jeff Diskel, broken leg; LB Matt Rolin, ACL; WR Andre Debose, ACL; OL Chaz Green, labrum; CB Nick Washington, shoulder; and DL Dominique Easley, ACL.
When Kentucky and Florida kick it off Saturday, it will be the 64th meeting between the two teams. Florida leads the series 46-17, including the last 26 meetings, as you well know. The Gators have won 32 of the last 33, which doesn’t sound any better. So, point being, beat Florida. Please.
One more friendly reminder: Florida held Kentucky scoreless a year ago in Gainesville, winning the game 38-0. In fact, Kentucky averages only 7.2 points per game in its last five meetings against the Gators.
2012: Florida 38, Kentucky 0
2011: Florida 48, Kentucky 10
2010: Florida 48, Kentucky 14
2009: Florida 41, Kentucky 7
2008: Florida 63, Kentucky 5
Switching over to basketball, it was announced Wednesday that tickets for the Champions Classic will go on sale October 1. The November 12 double-header in Chicago features three preseason top five teams and the three top freshmen in all of college basketball. Kentucky and Michigan State will tip it off first in the battle of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams, followed by the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker showdown in Duke’s game against Kansas. What a great night of basketball in the Windy City. Be there.
Before basketball practice begins for the year on Friday, John Calipari has a couple stops to make out west. On Wednesday, he was in Oakland to see 2015 power forward Ivan Rabb, their first face-to-face meeting. Rabb comes from the Oakland Soldiers AAU program that help put Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson on the scene and he’s currently the No. 3 player in the 2015 Rivals150. There’s still a long way to go with Rabb, but this one is sure to be another Lexington/West Coast battle for his services. Oh boy.
Calipari also stopped by Los Angeles to see another class of 2015 star, second-ranked point guard Tyler Dorsey. Dorsey tweeted this blurry photo after the visit:
The No. 7 prospect in the 2015 ESPN60 already has offers from Arizona, Duke, Florida, Louisville, Kansas, UCLA and several others. An offer from Kentucky should come soon.
Cal will stick around Los Angeles and meet with Stanley Johnson tomorrow. It’ll be their second meeting in the last three weeks, since the fall recruiting period got underway on September 9.
Our friend Jason Jordan from USA Today has a good story on Stanley Johnson and a unique tactic he uses during visits to catch coaches off guard. Johnson waits until the coach is good and comfortable, then he asks if they think he will be one-and-done.
“They never see it coming at the time that I ask it,” Johnson told Jordan. “That’s when the visit or meeting actually starts. It catches them off guard because, of course, that’s a goal for most players; if you’re ‘one-and-done’ good then you’re really on your way. I want to get better and there are things that I need to improve to be a pro, whether it’s one or four years, so how are you gonna get me to that ultimate level in seven months? What’s your plan?”
Johnson said all coaches have answered it well after the initial shock. I bet I can guess which coach handled it the best.
If you missed Dick Vitale on Kentucky Sports Radio radio Wednesday morning, I encourage you to go back and listen to his interview in the second hour. He, like everyone else who has seen them, believes Kentucky is the best team in college basketball and will be a force to be reckoned with. Have a listen at TalkRadio1080.com.
See you back here in the morning, friends.