This weekend, Rex Chapman will be one of six UK greats inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, along with Tubby Smith. “King Rex” is one of the program’s most accomplished players, accumulating 1,073 career points in just two years in Lexington. Rex was born in Bowling Green and played high school ball in Owensboro before committing to Kentucky over several schools, including Louisville, a team which he grew up cheering for. During his speech for his Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame induction, Rex said that made his infamous dunk over Kenny Payne in the 1986 UK/Louisville game particularly emotional:
“I grew up a Louisville fan,” he said. “Coach (Denny) Crum really recruited me hard. I knew what the rivalry meant. I was happy that we won, but at the same time I was a little emotional for Coach Crum and those guys. It was so unexpected. We weren’t a really good team that year. They were coming off winning a title.”
Rex played for four teams over his twelve-year NBA career, most notably the Phoenix Suns. He went on to serve as a scout and Director of Basketball Operations with the Suns, and later the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Denver Nuggets. Oddly enough, it was Rex’s foray into Twitter that really reconnected him with the Big Blue Nation. Rex took Twitter by storm, posting hilarious pictures and videos from his time at UK and in the NBA and expressing his opinion on just about anything to his followers. King Rex became a fan favorite once again, and even served as a guest coach during the Big Blue All-Stars vs. Villains exhibition game opposite Christian Laettner. Rex’s views on college basketball have been so popular that he landed a gig as an analyst during the 2013 NCAA Tournament for CBS.
Want more? You’re in luck. Rex Chapman and Josh Hopkins will join Matt and Drew on the radio show Friday morning to talk about the Cats and whatever else their hearts desire. Hopkins will introduce Chapman, one of his Big Blue heroes, at the Hall of Fame Dinner Friday night, so I’m sure there will be plenty of adorable fanboying.
Before all of that, we have some news and views to go over.
Can the Cats upset Florida?
That’s the big question everyone is asking. Duncan Cavanah gave you a detailed rundown of Kentucky’s chances for an upset on Saturday, and a few national media members are picking the Cats to win, including Dick Vitale and Mike Bianchi. Here are my six cents:
Three reasons to believe:
1) Florida is wounded: You’ve heard it several times by now, but six of Florida’s starters will be out of the game on Saturday, including QB Jeff Driskel and star DT Diminique Easley. DB Brian Poole will also sit out the first half for targeting and a helmet-to-helmet hit during last week’s game against Tennessee. Injuries are a terrible thing, and Florida’s back-ups are almost as talented as the starters, but every little bit will help for the Cats.
2) Their offense looks bad; UK’s offense looks good: With Jeff Driskel out, Stoops isn’t expecting Florida’s offense to change much, but backup Tyler Murphy showed on Saturday against Tennessee that he’s capable of running the ball. However, it’s his first collegiate start on the road in what will hopefully be a rowdy Commonwealth Stadium. Florida’s offense has been terrible this season, and ranks last in the SEC in scoring. On the other side of the ball, Stoops and Neal Brown say the offense has had its best set of practices yet this week, and Maxwell Smith is showing no signs of injury. Although they haven’t named a starter, it’s likely that Smith will get the nod, especially because of Jalen Whitlow’s early game nerves. UK’s young wide receivers and running backs have looked excellent so far, and according to the depth chart and Stoops’ comments this week, will get even more rein to run.
3) It’s time: 26 years is a long time. Kentucky has always had some kind of mental block towards Florida, built over years of heartbreak and Steve Spurrier beatings. However, it’s a new era, and as we’ve seen in Za’Darius Smith’s trash talk earlier this week, these Cats aren’t scared. It’s a night game, which means fans will have all day to marinate in the parking lot. Kentucky looked good against Louisville, and fans are more than ready for an upset, and Mark Stoops for a signature win.
Three reasons to beware:
1) Florida’s defense is really, really good: Even without Dominique Easley, they’re good. The Florida defense ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense (14.7), total defense (212.3), rushing defense (55.3) and pass defense (157.0). Overall, the Gators rank second in the nation in total defense and sit in the top 20 nationally in nearly every defensive category. Gulp.
2) The talent level is much higher: As Duncan pointed out earlier, Florida has more four-star recruits in their second string than KUK has on the entire roster. Wow.
3) It’s Florida: While Florida may be down, they’ve still managed to beat the Cats 26 years in a row. The future is bright for the Cats, but will that excitement be enough to take down the Gators?
I say yes. Cats 31-24.
Basketball practice starts in full
Friday is also a big day for basketball, as the team can finally begin practicing 20 hours a week. The NCAA kindly moved up the date on which teams could start practicing full time, an uncommonly courteous move for them considering UK’s wealth of young talent. So far, so great when it comes to the Cats, who have received glowing reports from “sources” around the program and the media that’s been fortunate enough to see them in action. We’ll finally be able to tell you what Ryan Lemond learned during the preseason interviews on Tuesday, but until then, here’s some fun trivia about UK’s new players, courtesy of UK:
EJ Floreal: His favorite basketball player is John Wall.
Aaron Harrison: If he could have one talent, he would be able to grant everyone’s wishes
Andrew Harrison: Something people don’t know about him is that he used to rollerblade every day
Dominique Hawkins: Dominique’s favorite show is “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Dakari Johnson: He lists ping pong as a skill off the court and his greatest fear is sharks
Marcus Lee: Chose his number because he likes double numbers and if he could have any talent, he’d like to fly
Julius Randle: His greatest fear is not reaching his full potential (of course it is)
Derek Willis: His most prized possession is his phone
James Young: He chose his jersey number for his favorite player, Tracy McGrady; His most prized possession is his Bible.
That’ll do for now. See you in the morning.