UK lost one of its legends early this morning as Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones passed away at the age of 88. The Harlan County native’s life reads like a storybook example of what makes Kentucky sports great. He grew up in deep Eastern Kentucky, where he was a baseball, basketball and football star at a time that the best athletes played all three. He went to the state Basketball Tournament four times, helping Harlan win the title in 1944. While at UK, he had a legendary career like none other, playing football and basketball at a high level, earning All American honors in the process. He was part of one of the greatest teams in UK Basketball history, the “Fabulous Five” of 1948 that not only won the NCAA title, but were then made part of the US Olympic Team that won the Gold Medal in 1948. His athletic exploits are legendary and he was called by John Calipari today, “perhaps the greatest athlete in UK history.” He was also one of our last remaining links to the golden years of UK Athletics, as he played for both Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant in Lexington. I met Wah Wah on a couple of occasions later in life, and he couldn’t have been more gracious, telling me stories about games he played against Middlesboro during his high school years. He was also part of one of the more special events I have ever attended at Rupp, when he and Anthony Davis were honored with their gold medals in 2012, a symbol of the great living tradition of Kentucky basketball. Wah Wah Jones in the epitome of the Big Blue Nation tradition and KSR’s prayers and thoughts go out to his family and friends.
With that, a few notes from the weekend:
— The basketball team begins practice for the Bahamas in full force on Monday, getting 10 days of practices in which to get ready for the trip to the island. The excitement around the basketball facility is palpable, as everyone realizes just what a special season this can be. The plan in the Bahamas, at least for the first couple of games, is likely to be to play two separate five man teams an equal amount of the game. That may change for the latter games, but this will give all ten of the main players a chance to get full work and showcase themselves. That means big things for Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee, who will likely get extended periods on the court and be able to get into their groove and contribute. The playing time may switch afterwards as they try different rotations but this “two team” concept should be very entertaining to watch for the early games. All of the games will be at 1 pm, the first three on ESPNU, the second three on the new SEC Network and all of them on radio. We will be doing KSR LIVE from the Bahamas, Ryan will host an extra 30 minutes of the show and then there will be a half hour IMG show leading into the game….all of which means if you are at work, you can listen to UK basketball on the radio from 10 am to 3:30 pm for an entire week in August. That’s pretty cool.
— Julius Randle was in town this weekend…and everyone sent us pictures. Here were my three favorites, the first because of what is happening in the background, the second because it was very cool to get Couch and Julius together in a pic and the third because it made me laugh:
— In the basketball recruiting world, we learned again that Jaylen Brown is really damn good. He played on ESPNU on Sunday and I was once again amazed at his talent. He is so graceful on the court, can get to the rim against anyone and is literally perfect for the Calipari system. Everyone continues to seem negative about Kentucky’s chances but I still don’t buy it. UCLA, Kansas and his home state Georgia schools will be tough, but I know he is target #1 for Calipari and until I hear something different, I still think UK has a very good shot. Either the way, the kid can ball and watching him is a pleasure.
We also have confirmation that Stephen Zimmerman is coming to Big Blue Madness…great get by Kentucky to have him in the building on what will be a huge recruiting weekend.
— The “Coaches for the Kids” event was this weekend and while it was “off the record” (meaning we can’t tell any juicy gossip), one thing was clear (and repeatable)…this football staff is amped up for the season. Every conversation with these guys from Mark Stoops to the Graduate Assistants reveals the same thing…they believe the team is going to be much better and they can’t wait to show it. Last year was a humbling season for everyone involved and while the learning curve was going to always be steep, it ended up being much steeper than people thought. But there are now athletes in the program of another level, and it is about time to see some positive steps. We keep hearing great things about two guys…Patrick Towles and Ryan Timmons…two Kentucky kids who will play a huge role in this offense and the season. I can’t wait to see them get started. The team officially reports next Sunday, with practice beginning Monday. Get ready…
The Women’s clinic was this weekend…our own Brennan English was there and has a great report below…the star was of course Zadarius, who is here with KSR Radio Super Fan Marsha Poe
— Finally, a short note on football recruiting. Yes, Kentucky lost out on George Brown and CJ Conrad (who is committed to UK) went to the Ohio State Friday Night Lights event (but didn’t yet get an offer). But I am hearing some rumblings of good news coming very shortly that could have us all very happy before we depart for the Bahamas. “Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty Mama…Key Largo, Montego, Baby Why Don’t We Go Yahtzee?” (Reading that back, that is really awful…but its been a long weekend and I am going with it either way).
The West side of the state treated us great with massive crowds and unbelievable energy. We only have five stops left on the tour….DANVILLE, NORTHERN KY, MAYSVILLE, LEXINGTON and LOUISVILLE. Mark Stoops and Slice Rohrrsen will join us at the Lexington stop and Neal Brown is going to be on with us during the Danville stop (his home town). Northern Kentucky should be great at Dickmann’s and Louisville is where someone wins a trip to the Bahamas. Should be a great week.
We are now just a little over a month away from this time of year