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What I Am Hearing: Sunday Edition

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Sunday night is my writing night. If you read KSR consistently, you know that since I have given up the daily work on the site, I have stayed involved by writing the Sunday Night Post for the past few years. This has changed recently into the Monday Morning Wakeup Post (still often written at night), but it has caused me to miss the interaction of writing my random thoughts at a time when the internet is slightly less packed with people and interesting discussion can follow. With that in mind, I decided to throw in some things I have been hearing from around the world of UK Basketball and Football this weekend as a way to reconnect with my former Sunday night writing self.

When I do these Summer radio tours, the good part is I get to see the fans and the state as a whole, while keeping the show filled with energy during an otherwise slow time. The bad part is that I am never home and I often feel disconnected from my regular world. Thus I spent some time this weekend during a rare couple of days at home to catch up on the UK world and here is what I am hearing about the summer

BASKETBALL

— This is of course the time of year when the players are doing their initial workouts and pickup games and coaches see what they have with the new guys and who has come back improved. All of the buzz in Lexington, like the buzz around the state, is about Jamal Murray and just how good he can be. While he still hasn’t been to Lexington thanks to his Team Canada work, everyone is watching him play and there is a growing consensus that the best perimeter recruit in America is headed this way. The question is whether he will make the Team Canada group for Olympic qualifying, which could keep him from Lexington until mid-September. If so, that would put him behind the rest of the team in development, but the experience of playing with GAM can still only help.

— When I ask people what the big stories are from the summer, a few things get repeated. One that is consistent is that this is Tyler Ulis’s team. He is the unquestioned leader on the court and off in both play and organization. He has developed a good relationship with the two younger guards (Briscoe and Matthews) and along with Devin Booker, they have spent a great deal of time with each other. One source told me, “Tyler is exactly what you would think he would be…and that is really good.”

— The surprise of the summer has been Mychal Mulder, who virtually everyone believes is better than they thought he would be. He was brought in to shoot, but his athleticism has been a pleasant surprise. During pickup games, he has had a couple of instances of apparently eye-popping athleticism and his game is much more well-rounded than we believed. I am told that the idea of him starting (potentially with Ulis and Murray as well) is being floated about, an idea that would have been insane to many just a few weeks back.

Skal Labissiere is everything as advertised. Because pickup games are not great showcases for big men, his offensive skills are still up in the air a bit, but his ability to dominate on defense and make unbelievably athletic plays are unquestioned. Most everyone believes he will be helped when he gets to work more with Calipari and Kenny Payne but as one source told me, “he has all the talent to be the top pick in the Draft and contend for SEC Player of the Year.” I will take it.

— There has been some pleasant surprise at the progress of Derek Willis coming into the summmer, not so much on the court as in his work ethic. Talent has never been an issue for Derek, who can look as good in individual practices as anyone on the team. But what has been lacking for his time at Kentucky, especially in the last year, was the showcase of a desire to work to be great. Apparently those around the program have seen more of that from Derek this summer that at any time during his tenure in Lexington. As one person told me, “it is all up to Derek. He has the tools to be an important part of this team and can do some things that we don’t have anyone else that can do. Now he is actually working hard as well, so that is really exciting.”

— Finally the rehab for Alex Poythress is still going and remains on target. There is cautious optimism that he can be close to 100% when the season starts, as he is hitting all the rehab goals up until this point. With Alex, everyone knows what he can do but the question will be how he rebounds from this injury mentally and what he believes he can accomplish this next season. The good news from my end? Every time I hear someone who knows talk about the team, it is done with the expectation that Poythress plays a crucial role. That makes me feel confident that he is headed to a place where he can be fully healthy and ready to have his best season in a UK uniform.

FOOTBALL

— With football, one overall feeling lingers over everything…this staff is insanely optimistic about this next season. Everyone believes that the team is much improved and is close to getting where they need to be to really compete. Depth is much stronger and you can see a swagger with everyone as they believe that this season they won’t be competing with one hand tied behind their back.

— I am sure lip service will be paid to a Quarterback competition, but the sense I get is that Patrick Towles is the guy. His Spring was great but I am told he continues to impress in the summer and everyone is all-in with him as the leader of the team. Tim Couch was telling me this weekend that he thinks Patrick is ready to make the leap this year and as one source told me, “people nationally fell asleep on Patrick because of the way the season ended…I bet they jump right back on board after the first few games.” You can’t win without a Quarterback and I get the sense that those around UK Football believe they have theirs.

— I asked what position would see the most improvement to a number of folks over the last few days and all said the same thing, the Wide Receivers. One coach told me that the team has 7-9 guys that can really play and that there will “be some really good players who don’t get in because of the depth we have.” The question is only if any guys can step up to the next level and take off. People seem to feel really good about Garrett Johnson and Jeff Badet, but there are lots of players with a chance to make a move, and a name I continue to hear as improving and needing the football this season is Ryan Timmons.

— I asked one source with knowledge of the program to predict at the end of the season, which 10 guys would we look back on as having had the best years. He told me (in no order):

Patrick Towles
Boom Williams
Garrett Johnson
Jordan Swindle
Jon Toth
Ryan Flannigan
Josh Forrest
Melvin Lewis
AJ Stamps
Austin McGinnis

Solid lineup…also watch out for George Asafo-Adjei who may be the player most ready to make a massive leap this season.

I will have more on football in the coming days….

Article written by Matt Jones

15 Comments for What I Am Hearing: Sunday Edition



  1. walter
    9:37 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

    40-0!



    • L1C7
      10:44 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

      L1C7andcounting

  2. I hope Timmons has a huge year. He’s a Kentucky kid and it seems he was the first big commit Stoops got and it helped get this train rolling. I hope to hear a lot of “Touchdown from Towles to Timmons!”

    Of course, if he has a huge year that should mean we go bowling, so go Timmons!



  3. Angelo
    10:40 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

    Interesting about Mulder. Good to know Skal is for real. What about Marcus Lee? We will need a power forward. Willis is not ready for prime time, and never will be. Alex is coming off an ACL. It is now or never for him. If he is still rehabbing it does not look good.



    • Ha!
      10:52 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

      Angelo is THE definition of a Chicken Little….



  4. Blue_denim
    11:08 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

    I tore my ACL and meniscus on a breakaway playing basketball last spring. I did about 4months of rehab before deciding to stop paying for it and just progress on my own. While I never had the athleticism Poythress possessed I will say that I am back in a position where I can play semi close to how I was before… and that’s without a 1st class rehab center:therapist/dietician. If he is progressing as he should and working like a guy who want to play and then go to the NBA he should be more than capable this season. The problem I think is that he has always been kind of mental and (at least for me) that is by far and away the largest hurdle. It can get pretty depressing having to re-learn how to walk, run and jump and be patient with the slow progress. Anyway, he’s surrounded by people cheering him on and helping and that’s a huge benefit. I’m sure he’ll be fine and he may even play smarter because he has learned he’s not invincible. -my 2 cents



  5. Mike
    11:33 pm July 26, 2015 Permalink

    Nice list but no DBs – that concerns me. aside from DBs, I’d like to see names like Hatcher, McWilson, and Timmons.



  6. SoTiredOfBuyingIn...
    2:19 am July 27, 2015 Permalink

    …like oh so many fellow Cats Fans. And yet here I am ready to do so one more time. I’m optimistic because the staff is feeling giddy. My hope rests in the fact that Mark Stoops knows what a legitimately competitive football team looks like. He’s certainly been around as well as coached them. The truth is even if it doesn’t come to fruition this season I’ll be hopeful next year. As much as it hurts year after year to have those hopes dashed what is a Kentucky football fan without hope? Not a fan, just one more pissy member of the Fellowship of the Miserable. And I refuse to be one of those.



  7. msnthrop
    2:42 am July 27, 2015 Permalink

    How would Murray be allowed to not attend classes which start August 26th? Who starts at PG, Ullis or Murray? Since the draft buzz is about Murray it would have to be him right…can the unquestioned leader of a team come off the bench?



  8. UKALLDAY
    8:25 am July 27, 2015 Permalink

    Can we put the breaks on this Jamal Murray love fest. I mean those guys who he played against are NOT NBA players, did you guys see the Brazil game? I mean the kid is good, but the best perimeter player in the land? I dunno, keep in mind, Newman was Cal’s first choice. Let’s let him get to campus and see how he fairs. On the road against LSU is completely different than the Pan Am games in your home town. What about Briscoe? How is he looking out there?



    • whodat
      8:42 am July 27, 2015 Permalink

      no Briscoe commentary had me scratching my head as well… coupled with the Mulder may start comment had me wondering if there hope there is something to read there between the lines.



    • @BallBlog_Chad
      9:06 am July 27, 2015 Permalink

      I don’t if it’s as much of a love fest as it is the only basketball we’ve been able to see in what feels like forever. To play as well as he did playing 5 days in a row is impressive … and yeah, there were some NBA players out there. They were far from All-Stars, but they were ball players with much more experience. I think Briscoe will be alright because if he’s not bringing it, Cal will put Mulder/Matthews/Hawkins in there and sit his but down.



  9. Nathan
    9:36 pm July 28, 2015 Permalink

    The passage in Mark that is used to defend snake handling is widely considered, by even conservative evangelical scholars, to be unoriginal to that book. It is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Most modern bibles have the section in brackets with a footnote explaining that. Sorry for randomly commenting that here, but I live in Birmingham and listen to the podcast later in the day so can’t call in live and don’t have a Twitter. – Nathan (UK Class of 2012, born in Bowling Green, raised in Sturgis, Hopkinsville, Owensboro, Dry Ridge, Harrodsburg, Uniontown, and Quality)