Cat Scratches will feature breaking news and announcements, in-depth features on players and coaches, live in-game updates of UK sports, e-mail questions from fans, practice reports from all the Wildcat teams and much, much more. Subscription via email is available; fans will need to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following in the body of the message: Subscribe catscratches first name last name. To e-mail questions, comments or suggestions, send to email@example.com.
New page for Cat Scratches
Posted Jan. 28, 4:58 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
As promised, the new page is up and ready to go. That means the RSS feed is now available, but we will also continue to continue to use the listserv for those that prefer that.
If you are reading this though, that means you're at the old address now. The link on the main page will take you to new page, but if you bookmarked us, you'll need to bookmark the new address below. Thanks for being patient with us and we hope you enjoy the new page.
UK tops SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll
Posted Jan. 28, 2:12 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The Southeastern Conference announced its 2008-09 Fall Academic Honor Roll on Wednesday, and the University of Kentucky was on top of the list.
A total of 532 student athletes were named to the honor roll, with UK featuring a conference-best 60 student-athletes. The University of South Carolina finished second with 59 honorees and the University of Florida was next with 53 student-athletes.
The 2008-09 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll is based on grades from the 2008 Spring, Summer and Fall terms.
UK featured student-athletes from the football, volleyball, and men's and women's soccer teams.
Mitchell on UK Hoops' upcoming game with Florida
Posted Jan. 28, 1:44 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
In light of the inclement weather outside, UK Athletics had to cancel its news conference with UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell this afternoon. We had the chance to catch up with Mitchell over the phone to talk about the Wildcats' upcoming game against No. 12/16 Florida. Here's what he had to say:
In general, just talk about your upcoming game with Florida, a team that is tied for its best 20-game start in program history.
"It's a team that's having an outstanding season. They have a very impressive record. "They're one of the best teams I've seen play this year. They play really well together. It seems like everyone knows their role and they do a great job great of executing their offensive and defensive systems. They're a very good team and we'll have our hands full tomorrow night."
Can you talk a little bit about the play of Florida's senior leaders Marshae Dotson and Sha Brooks. It seems like they've really picked up their scoring since entering conference play.
"They're just veteran players, seniors that are leading their team. More times than not you see teams in our league, in the SEC, that have strong senior players generally have very good teams. Brooks is doing a great job for them on the perimeter and Dotson is doing a great job inside. When you have that kind of combination working together - they're both playing at a high level - it makes them a dangerous team."
Florida guard Steffi Sorensen is making 3-pointers at a 43.5 percent clip. How do you go about defending her?
"She's just so impressive, not only just as a shooter, but she can do it all. She's a very good passer, a very good rebounder and she's just sort of an all-purpose type player and has a very, very sound game all the way around. You obviously can't leave her open from the 3-point line because she's probably the most deadly shooter in the league, statistically. She's a very impressive player and I think is one of the big reasons they're having such a good year."
Florida doesn't start anybody over six feet and the Gators' tallest player is 6-foot-4. How are they getting it done without much size?
"They're very good passers of the basketball and so they exploit you. They can handle the ball, they can break you down and then what I've been so impressed with them is they rarely make mistakes on where to go with the basketball. I just think it's a combination of one, Marshae Dotson plays a lot taller than her height. She's a very strong post player so I think maybe her lack of height is a bit deceptive because she's been a productive post player in this league now for four years. And I think when you have these kids that can pass the ball so well and find their teammates, I think that's probably making up for any lack of height they have."
Do you have to take a different approach defensively when you go against a smaller team like Florida?
"One thing for us that is pretty good is that our center, Eleia Roddy, is pretty athletic for a center. She's able to guard smaller players, she's able to play some perimeter defense and so we won't have to change a tremendous amount. We'll definitely have to play very well and we'll to defend in a very tough manner. Our team is what we are right now and Eleia is one of our best players and she'll have to be on the floor a lot."
Sticking with Roddy's play down low, how pivotal is Roddy and Victoria Dunlap's play in the paint for this team down the stretch?
"They're extremely pivotal. Eleia is playing at a very high level. We need Victoria to give us some more on the offensive end. She's been a tough rebounder but we need her production to increase on the offensive end for us to really be a factor in the SEC. That's one thing that I was disappointed in last Sunday was her lack of production on the offensive end. She needs to do a little bit better because both of those players, Eleia and Victoria, can be top level players in our league."
You all have struggled shooting from behind the arc of late. After last game you said you weren't sure what the reason behind that was but that you were going to take a look at it this week and find out the answer. What did you come up with?
"I was really pleased with our shot selection from the 3-point line. We had one forced three out of 15. It just was a very frustrating day for us because you go back and look at and make sure that you're taking good shots or hurried shots or rushed shots or are they shots that we're just jacking up at the end of the shot clock, and that wasn't the case. Our offense produced some very good looks as far as from the 3-point line. We know we have kids that can shoot the ball well. We know we're a good 3-point shooting team and we'll just have to continue to run our offense. When the 3-point shot presents itself and we're open we'll have to take it and just start knocking those down."
In your three SEC losses, you've lost by a combined 15 points to which you have kind of attributed to not making enough "winning plays." Do those winning plays come down to effort or execution?
"It's a combination of being mentally focused and being physically tough enough to make the play. You have to have both of those working at the same time and that's just what we're lacking right now. We've definitely made some physically tough plays throughout the game. There's definitely some focus throughout the game, but when it comes to crunch time or when it comes to plays of the game that really make a difference, we just haven't been making enough of those - I'm not saying we're not making any of those, I'm just saying we're not making enough of them to win. Our team is not the most talented team in the league but we certainly don't have the worst talent in the league. When you're that kind of team you have to make those critical plays."
A couple of weeks ago you said junior guard Amani Franklin was battling with some soreness in her knee. After playing 37 minutes on Sunday, is it safe to say the knee is starting to feel better?
"She seems to be in good shape physically. I think the procedure draining her knee definitely helped her. She played much better from a physical standpoint this past Sunday than she had the previous Sunday."
Men's basketball travel update
Posted Jan. 28, 11:52 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Inclement weather forced the men's basketball team to stay in Oxford, Miss., last night instead of returning to Lexington, as was originally planned.
The team is currently busing to Tupelo, Miss., to fly back to Lexington today.
Snow, freezing rain and sleet has ravaged most of the South over the last two days, and Oxford was no exception. The city received freezing rain yesterday, and because Blue Grass Airport in Lexington was closed due to the weather, the team was forced to stay the night.
UPDATE: The Wildcats arrived safely in Lexington at approximately 1:08 p.m. ET.
Lipsitz hires two assistant coaches with UK ties
Posted Jan. 28, 11:39 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
UK women's soccer Coach Jon Lipsitz has officially rounded out his staff for the upcoming 2009 season with the hiring of two assistant coaches. Lipsitz announced on Wednesday that Willie Gage and Michelle Rayner will join the staff.
"I've hired two people who could be head coaches here on their own merit," Lipsitz said. "They are quality coaches who care deeply about the program."
Gage comes to UK after a spending a season as an assistant coach with Lipsitz at Charlotte. Prior to that, he coached with Lipsitz for the majority of 15 years with the Ohio Premier Girls Soccer Club, where he spent the first 12 years as the assistant director of coaching before being promoted to director of coaching.
Gage's sister, Annie, was an All-Southeastern Conference performer for UK in 1999 and 2001.
"The first step for me was getting a chance to work with Jon again, just because of our past; he's not only been a good friend, but a good mentor," Gage said. "To have an opportunity to not only be involved with the university my sister and sister-in-law and previous players I've coached have been a part of, but to get back to the Midwest and closer to family, it's just a great opportunity."
Rayner returns to Lexington after serving as head coach at High Point for the last four seasons. While there, she led the Panthers to a 33-38-12 record, including a 19-13-11 mark in her last two seasons. She also guided High Point to the Big South Tournament Championship and the school's second NCAA Tournament appearance.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because it is. Rayner served as an assistant coach at UK from 2001-04. During her time in Lexington, she coached five Wildcats to seven All-SEC honors.
"Coming back to UK with the staff we have is tremendous and the decision was not a hard one to make," Rayner said. "Having lived in Lexington and worked at UK before, you grow to love it. ... We'll do what's required to get the job done and get the program moving in the direction it should be, and that includes winning championships."
The hiring of Gage and Rayner completes Lipsitz's staff for the upcoming season.
"They were my first choices; I'm fortunate they both said yes," Lipsitz said. "Hopefully they can help me to move this program to winning championships."
Live blog: quick thoughts
Posted Jan. 27, 11:15 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Jodie Meeks was due for an off night. It just happens, even to the nation's best players. But this loss doesn't fall on Meeks' shoulders (the guy did score 21 points after all).
Some of you are probably going to disagree with this, but let's take into the account that Ole Miss just took it to the Cats. The Rebels have been ravaged by injuries, but they just played an all-around better game.
After the Cats held Alabama to just 29.3 percent shooting Saturday, Ole Miss shot 43.8 percent from the floor Tuesday night. Couple that with UK's 38.6 percent shooting, its lowest total since the Miami (Fla.) game, and it's going to be tough to win on the road.
I have to hand it to UK Coach Billy Gillispie - he was dead on with his pre-game comments about Ole Miss on Tuesday. The Rebels were tough in every sense of the word.
David Huertas, who sat out most of the first half with two fouls, knocked down clutch shot after clutch shot in the second half, Terrico White looked like the most athletic guy on the court and Malcolm White proved to be a scrappy forward underneath.
So UK loses. What's next? Just as soon as the Cats crack the Associated Press Top 25, do they drop next week? Does it matter?
Maybe the loss is a good thing. On Tuesday, Gillispie downplayed his team getting overconfident or overlooking an opponent, but a loss might pay dividends down the stretch. Gillispie likes to learn from winning, but every once in a while a loss can push the issues a team needs to work on just a little bit faster.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Just food for thought for those of you still following. What's your reaction from the loss tonight? E-mail me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. If the feedback is strong, I'll post some of the e-mails on the blog tomorrow.
Thanks for following tonight and please, please avoid the nasty weather outside at all costs.
Live blog: Ole Miss hands UK its first conference loss
Posted Jan. 27, 9:15 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
UK (16-5, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) wasn't going to go undefeated in conference play - that much we knew. So tonight's 85-80 loss at Ole Miss, while surprising, shouldn't be shocking. UK Coach Billy Gillispie warned everybody before the game not to underestimate the toughness of a Rebels team that is playing without three of its major players.
Guard David Huertas proved just how tough he was, scoring 19 second-half points to bury the Cats. Malcolm White and Terrico White combined for 41 points and Ole Miss shot 43.8 percent from the floor.
Meanwhile, UK's Jodie Meeks finally had an off night. The junior scored 21 points, but it came on just 4-of-15 shooting. Junior Patrick Patterson led UK with a game-high 24 points and freshman Darius Miller scored 12, but only four of Miller's points came after halftime. UK shot just 38.6 percent from the floor, its lowest since shooting 35.7 percent against Miami (Fla.).
I'll some post-game thoughts here in a little bit.
Live blog: UK-Ole Miss - second half
3:56 - Now it's danger time. UK trails by nine thanks to Huertas' 13-second half points. It's not often that you say this, but he's actually getting the better of Meeks. At 6-foot-5, he's got a slight height advantage over Meeks and is getting shots off with Meeks all over him. Do you still go to Meeks down the stretch even though he's struggled shooting or do you throw it down low for Patterson?
7:37 - Not quite danger time yet, but UK better get it together quick. Ole Miss' ability to hit the outside shot - the Rebels have hit six 3-pointers in the second half - is killing the Cats on the inside too. On back-to-back possessions, the Cats were so worried about the perimeter shooters that Malcolm White was able to slide in the land unnoticed and grab a pair of offensive boards. Ole Miss is on top 66-57.
10:49 - Meeks first basket come with 11:45 to go in the first half on a 3-pointer from the corner. He followed it the next possession with a jumper, cutting the eight-point deficit to three in a matter of seconds. After missing his first nine shots, he's now 9-of-11. Ole Miss forward DeAundre Cranston is on the bench with four fouls. Terrico White leads both teams with 17 points. Ole Miss leads 58-55.
16:51 - I could be eating those words from halftime if this keeps up. Cats are down 47-41 after a Huertas layup. As the announcers just noted, UK seems to be out its rhythm, mostly because Meeks isn't hitting his shots. Where does UK go without him? Patterson is one answer. Who is the second?
17:33 - Huertas, who sat out most of the first half with two fouls, hits his first field goal of the game with a 3-pointer to start the second half. Meeks is still without a field goal. It was the first time this season he was held without a basket from the field. Who would have thought two of the SEC's top-three leading scorers would be held without a field goal in the first half? This could be a great learning game for Meeks. For the first time in a while, it looks like he's forcing his shots a bit. Could pay dividends for later on in the season. Ole Miss up 42-41.
Live blog: UK leads 39-37 at the half
UK reels off a little 8-2 run to end the half, all eight of which came from the Cats' bench, to lead 39-37. Some might be disappointed with only a two-point lead, but I'm starting to believe these gritty halves are more indicative of the mark of a good team.
Maybe the Cats should be ahead of an injury ravaged team more, but remember this is another game on the road. It says something about a team when its not playing its best ball, yet it leads the game. Playing close games will come back to bite you if you do it too much, but I think there are more positives to draw out of the half then negatives.
One of those positives has been the return of Patterson. After a rough outing at Alabama, the sophomore forward has come back with 12 points before halftime, the eighth time he's hit double figures in the first half this year.
Darius Miller is looking more and more like the guy Gillispie recruited. Kentucky's 2008 Mr. Basketball is playing more confident and aggressive, which has led to eight first-half points. It's the first time in his UK career he's hit multiple treys.
Because of his play, UK's bench leads its opponent in scoring (13-3) for the first time since the Central Michigan game.
A couple of concerning numbers: Meeks only has six points - zero field goals - and the Cats are being outrebounded 24-16. More to come in the second half.
Live blog: UK-Ole Miss - first half
4:47 - UK takes the lead 29-28 on an 11-2 run. Meeks is still without a field goal but he's getting to the line in the last few minutes. The Cats are going to have to make some halftime adjustments on the glass. Ole Miss has eight offensive boards.
7:40 - Meeks' first points come at the 9:54 mark, the longest he's been held without a point since the Central Michigan game. He hasn't hit a field goal yet and UK has gone more than four minutes without one. The Whites (Malcolm and Terrico) have combined for 15 points early on. Ole Miss is outrebounding UK 16-8 and leads 26-18.
10:07 - Issel comments on air: "He understands the history and tradition of UK basketball."
"I told him that it was great and I was more thrilled and he agreed that finally getting a win at Tennessee was more important. That's what makes him a great kid is he cares most about winning."
11:13 - Should see Terrico White's dunk on Sportcenter's Top 10 tonight. That was nasty. After a rough game against Alabama, Patterson has seven early points for the Wildcats. ESPN's sideline report said Patterson's finger is "not getting better they are telling me." Maybe that's the case but he's not showing it. Meeks so far is scoreless. Ole Miss is smothering him on defense and knocking down everything on offense. The Rebels have knocked down three treys and lead 20-16. ESPN is about have Dan Issel on the air via phone. Keep an ear out for that.
15:55 Have to feel good for Ramon Harris coming out strong. He's quickly putting to rest any doubts about his health with the game's first three points. Maybe it's the new jersey, although he did miss two free throws. Michael Porter broke a 7-0 Ole Miss run with a 3-pointer, but the Rebels look sharp early on. You wouldn't know they're playing without three of their best players. Ole Miss leads 10-9 with 15:55 to go. ... Big news early on though, Huertas, Ole Miss' leading scorer already has two fouls. Let's see how long he sits out.
Live blog: starting lineups
Posted Jan. 27, 6:34 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
5 Ramon Harris
13 Michael Porter
21 Perry Stevenson
23 Jodie Meeks
54 Patrick Patterson
21 Malcolm White
24 Terrico White
32 Zach Graham
33 David Huertas
52 DeAundre Cranston
Posted Jan. 27, 5:34 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Greetings, from ... well ... the comfort of my couch. Nevertheless, I'll be blogging the game again tonight as UK (16-4, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) looks for its sixth consecutive victory this season in the SEC.
We have a couple of guys down in Oxford, Miss., so I'll be in constant communication with them throughout the night to bring you the latest updates throughout the game, including the UK starting lineup.
The big thing on everybody's mind tonight is the health and status of junior guard/forward Ramon Harris, who collapsed outside the locker room during halftime of the Alabama game on Saturday. Going back to the collision Harris had with junior guard Michael Porter on Dec. 3, it's the second major scare Harris has had in less than two months, so we'll keep an eye on how he holds up throughout the game.
After sitting out practice on Sunday, Harris did practice with the team Monday afternoon. UK Coach Billy Gillispie said Harris looked "alright" at practice but said he wouldn't put Harris out on the court if he wasn't absolutely sure he was healthy enough to go.
"I think that you always have to be concerned because this isn't the first time that he has been carried off the court of locker room or whatever the situation," Gillispie said. "Obviously, they are two separate incidents but it is a major concern. It always is a major concern when one of your players has to be taken from the court other than on their own feet."
Harris underwent extensive testing Monday, but Gillispie said he didn't know nor want to speculate why Harris fainted. He did say, however, that he placed full trust in the UK medical staff's decision to clear Harris to play.
"You have to trust the experts, and I am not an expert so I have to trust them," Gillispie said. "They have been comprehensive in their testing and everyone is taking it very seriously. I am not a doctor so I have to trust them."
Forgive Ole Miss if they don't feel sorry for the Cats - they've been completely decimated by injuries. Three major players - Chris Warren, Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice - have all been lost for the season with injuries.
Somehow the Rebels have held it together, going 10-9 and 1-4 in conference play, with their lone win coming in an upset over Arkansas. Gillispie said the Rebels have kept from imploding on sheer toughness.
The mental and physical toughness Gillispie alluded to has come largely from junior guard David Huertas. In the absence of Warren, Huertas has emerged as one of the conference's premier players, averaging 19.5 points per game, third-best in the conference.
Still, even at home, it's hard to overlook the injuries that have ravaged the Rebels and the task they face going against one of the nation's hottest teams.
Coming into the week, UK boasted the top scoring duo in the nation in Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, and junior forward Perry Stevenson has slowly emerged as a third scoring option with back-to-back double-doubles.
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy, who is in his third year at the helm, would be wise to pressure the Wildcats' ball handlers, who have struggled mightily in gritty wins over Auburn and Alabama.
UK has turned the ball over 45 times in the last two games, prompting Gillispie to believe it won't last much longer if the Cats can't hang on to the ball.
"We won't continue winning much longer if we continue to turn the ball over like we have," Gillispie said. "We were lucky to get a win on Saturday and they had some turnovers and missed some shots. ... (The wins) won't continue if we don't get better offensively. It will be short-lived."
We'll have more just as soon as the starting lineups come in. Stay tuned.
Posted Jan. 27, 4:18 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Ramon Harris has decided it's time for a change.
Starting tonight, the junior guard/forward has decided to turn in his old jersey number for a new look. Harris, who used to wear jersey No. 22 for the Wildcats, will now don No. 5 for UK.
"I just thought it was time for a change," Harris said Tuesday afternoon in Oxford, Miss.
Harris said he chose No. 5 to honor his five brothers and sisters: Alecia, Keith, Corey, Devin and SheAyre.
He becomes the 13th Wildcat to wear No. 5 for the Blue and White, joining such Wildcats as Travis Ford, Wayne Turner and Josh Carrier.
Harris will wear No. 5 starting tonight.
Posted Jan. 27, 2:57 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Here's part two of the interview with former UK and current St. Louis wide receiver Keenan Burton:
Was there a moment when you felt like you had "arrived" in the NFL?
"Preseason when I scored my first touchdown in the NFL is when I kind of arrived and doing very well and handling the adversity of being in the NFL. I actually started against Kansas City the last preseason game so that was definitely when I felt like I had arrived. When you're a rookie, you're going to have your ups and your downs. Nobody really had a perfect rookie season. You've got guys like Donnie and (Denver wide receiver) Eddie (Royal) and (Philadelphia wide receiver) DeSean (Jackson), who played very well and are good players, but then you have to look at guys who are rookies just like I was and struggled just like I did. Sometimes it takes a little longer for guys to get adjusted as far as being a rookie, playing special teams and handling what I had to handle, and being a fourth-rounder, because most fourth-rounders don't play. To play as much as I played was definitely a blessing."
Who was the first person that called you after you scored that touchdown in preseason?
"It was one of my frat brothers."
What did he say to you?
"He told me I should have done something different for my end zone dance."
Do have something different planned for next time now?
"(Laughs) No, I've been there before. I might throw my fraternity sign up but as far as celebrating, I'm not too much of a celebrator. I've scored a lot of touchdowns in college and I scored two this year - one in the preseason and one in the regular season - so the newness is gone now. I expect myself to do it now."
What did you think of UK's season this past year?
"I was proud of them. I wish we definitely could have done a little better. They struggled a little bit towards the end of the season. Sometimes being young, you don't handle adversity very well and we have a team full of younger guys. You're trying to find your identity and you need some people to lead. When guys don't step up and lead, it's kind of hard for the coaches to put you in the right position. They can only do so much; it's up to the older guys to step in there and lead."
Seeing them win a third straight bowl game, what does it mean to you to know that you were part of the turnaround?
"It means a lot to me because I told them I don't want it to drop at all. I want them to keep going and going and going and eventually get into a national championship."
What are your offseason plans?
"I'm working out here at home in Louisville and I'll be back and forth through Lexington to work a little bit with the guys, but my thing right now is to let my body heal up from a long, brutal season and just get back to the basics. I won't really run right now; I'll catch some passes, lift a lot weights, get a lot stronger than I was last year and just get ready to be the guy that I know I can be next year."
What'd you think of the year Wesley Woodyard had after going undrafted and then putting together a 50-plus tackle season?
"All I know is you throw a helmet, some shoulder pads and some cleats out there and he's going to be the first one to pick them up and knock somebody out. That's Wes. I know he's going to do well in the NFL."
What did you think of the decisions of Micah Johnson, Trevard Lindley and Jeremy Jarmon to come back to school for another season?
"I think that if that's the decisions they made, they made the right ones. I don't really disagree with that. I went through that same situation myself trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to come back and it's tough."
What are your goals both individually and as a team for next season?
"Team first because the team is always first. We definitely want to get to the playoffs. Individual wise, I want to go over a 1,000 yards. That's always goal for me to do that in the NFL and also score 10-plus touchdowns. First I have to get healthy, secondly I have to make my mark in my practice and then carry it over to the game."
What would you tell to a recruit who was considering UK?
"I would tell them don't be afraid to win and don't be afraid to put the blue and white on. I think that when you put on that it means more than it used to around Lexington. The guys that were before us understood how to win. When I had gotten here we didn't understand that, but now we understand how to win and what it takes. I would tell them it's an experience in itself, you can't get a better experience playing at a different school and the SEC is by far the best conference so why not play for a great university and a great conference."
Posted Jan. 26, 1:52 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I wanted to update you all on the status of the new page and the RSS feed. It is coming - I promise! It is taking a little longer than expected because our web coordinator is out of the office this week and I can't launch the new page myself.
Please bear with us for a few more days with the current page. I realize it's getting way too long to scroll down to other posts and you all have been waiting for the RSS feed, but it will be corrected. Once the new page is up, you'll have a much cleaner page to navigate through with pictures, videos, a weekly poll question and of course, the RSS feed.
Thanks for your cooperation. Part two of the Keenan Burton interview will be up shortly and I'll be blogging the UK-Ole Miss game tonight at 7.
Posted Jan. 27, 11:48 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Continuing our coverage of the 2008 UK senior class in the NFL, today we've got St. Louis wide receiver Keenan Burton.
Burton, one of the key components in UK's back-to-back Music City Bowl wins in 2007 and 2008, was drafted with the 29th pick in the fourth round (128th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.
His first season in the NFL was injury-riddled, but it didn't define his rookie year. Arthroscopic knee surgery sidelined Burton for a portion of the early season, but he emerged as one of the young bright spots on a struggling Rams team.
The rookie caught his first pass in week seven of the NFL season and went on to catch 13 passes for 172 yards, including his first NFL touchdown in week 17 against San Francisco.
Burton had his fair share of injuries during his time at UK, but it certainly didn't stop him from becoming one of the all-time greats at UK. The Louisville, Ky., native has his name written all over the UK receiving record books, where he ranks second in receiving yards (2,376), second in touchdown catches (25), fourth in receptions (189) and fourth in all-purpose yards (4,206).
Again, I'm sure you all want to hear less of me and more of him, but one quick reminder: We'll have part two with Burton later this afternoon and we still hope to have Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson later on in the week (although we've had no luck so far). Here's part one with Burton:
Now that you've had a couple of weeks to look back on your first season, in general how was the experience?
"The experience was definitely a blessing. The first season definitely was a struggle just because of how everything turned out. It's a gift and a curse. You're in a good situation that you get to play in the NFL and you try to do as much as you possibly can, but at the end of the season you lose a coach and you got to struggle again just to make the team. It's a blessing, but at the same time it's very difficult too."
During your career at UK you had your battle with injuries but still managed to put together one of the greatest careers as a wide receiver in program history. With everything you went through, how rewarding was it to get picked in the fourth round of the NFL Draft?
"You have to count everything as a blessing no matter what, even if you didn't get drafted. It was good to be in a position that I was in regardless of the injuries that I sustained in college. There were a lot of scouts out there that knew I was a second- or third-round pick but they were scared to pull the trigger on me because of the injury history. I was happy, but at the same time I knew I had a lot to prove because I felt like I hurt myself by getting drafted and maybe coming back my senior year, which I don't regret."
What was the draft-day experience like for you?
"I was just with my family relaxing. I was with them talking with them. I didn't really have any emotions. If I was going to get drafted I was going to get drafted, if I wasn't I wasn't. God always has his way."
What was it like playing on the same field with guys that you used to look up to as heroes?
"It's different but it's business. When you're playing against those guys, you don't look up to them anymore. You put yourself on the same level as them and you try to outwork them, beat them and outplay them."
Who were your heroes growing up?
"I played with one of them - Torry Holt. He's somebody that I definitely idolized when I was smaller, somebody that I wanted to be like and I definitely want to continue to grow to be like him. To be able to see (New England wide receiver) Randy Moss in person, to see (Dallas wide receiver) Terrell Owens in person, those guys every week is great; it's a great feeling. You look up to everybody but you respect their game and you respect them because you stand on their shoulders. Without them it wouldn't be possible. I was coached by Henry Ellard, probably one of the best receivers to ever play the game, so I was definitely blessed."
What kind of a relationship did you have with Torry Holt?
"I just texted Torry the other day and just talked to him about how everything was going with the coaches and stuff like that. The entire relationship that we have is that he is more like a mentor to me and (St. Louis wide receiver) Donnie (Avery). He definitely took us under his wing and tried to show us the ropes about how to eat, about how to take care of our bodies and what not to do - just how to get through the mental aspects of it of not being frustrated. I've never seen him frustrated one time when we played - never seen that. It was just him being around and him offering a hand to us was great for us."
What's the biggest different between the pros and college football?
"Playing in the SEC definitely got me prepared. Like I tell everybody now, it's not the speed of the game; it's just technique. It's technique and just understanding where you have to be and how you get there. I always thought that I could play in the NFL because I always thought that I could but it was just the fact of knowing what to do, when to do it, how to run the routes, how to do what the coach wants me to do the right way. The learning curve was different."
Stay tuned for part two ...
Posted Jan. 26, 6:05 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
You have to love the guys over at ESPN's Page 2 who amusingly (and truthfully) say that during Super Bowl week "more gets written about less than at any other time of the NFL season." I'm sure you've already seen your fair share of Super Bowl XLIII stories, but we figured we'd be depriving you all of any UK information if we didn't post a few things here and there.
As promised last week, we'll have an interview with Keenan Burton up on the blog sometime tomorrow. In light of the NFL season ending, we thought you all would like to hear from UK's 2008 senior class and how a few of the players fared in their first season in the pros. We had Wesley Woodyard last week and we hope to have Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Steve Johnson later this week.
But for today's tidbit, we've got every Wildcat who has ever played in a Super Bowl. There are no former Wildcats headed to Tampa Bay, Fla., this year, but 24 Wildcats have played for teams that advanced to the Super Bowl a total of 33 times. Carwell Gardner leads the list with four appearances with Buffalo and Larry Seiple played in three Super Bowls with Miami. The list is below:
Posted Jan. 26, 4:25 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I know you guys can't get enough of men's basketball, but everybody needs to take note of what the swimming and diving team did this weekend. Two Wildcats (Casey Miller and Megan Pulskamp) broke school records while eight athletes achieved NCAA time standards. Nineteen swimmers in all broke into UK's all-time top-10 charts and 29 clinched career-best marks.
The championship season is quickly approaching for the Wildcats so the performances couldn't have come at a better time. Check out what everybody did here.
Posted Jan. 26, 2:32 p.m. ET - Brent Ingram, UK Media Relations
Eric is in the office next door interviewing Keenan Burton for a feature story, so I will post the latest. UK checks in at No. 24 in the latest AP Poll, released minutes ago.
AP Top 25
Others Receiving Votes
Update: Again, thanks to Brent for covering for me. Apparently it's just not my day. But on to more important things: The Wildcats are finally ranked. It's the first time they've been in the AP poll since the 2007-08 preseason poll and the first time they've been in the regular season poll since week 14 of the 2006-07 season.
Elated? Is it a big deal? Let's hear some feedback. E-mail me at email@example.com.
Also, Joe Lunardi currently projects UK as a four seed in his latest Bracketology. He has the Wildcats playing in the South Region against TCU, who he projects as the Mountain West conference winner.
Posted Jan. 26, 1:49 p.m. ET - Brent Ingram, UK Media Relations
Subbing in for Eric, who has gone to pry his car away from the towing company. ESPN/USA Today released its weekly top 25, listed below. The world's best blogger (not me) will have some more updates in a bit.
ESPN/USA Today Poll
Others Receiving Votes
Update: Props to Brent for filling in for me while I got my car back (long story). Anyway, I'm sure many of you are outraged by the Wildcats' absence from the first poll. I do want to bring up a point, though. The Wildcats were ranked 34th in last week's ESPN/USA Today poll. To jump into the polls this week, they would have had to leapfrog nine teams.
Arguing resumes is one thing (UK does have a 16-4 record, including a perfect mark in conference play), but from a numbers standpoint, it was going to be tough for the Wildcats to jump that many teams, especially since Baylor was the only team to drop from the poll this week.
Now the Associated Press poll could be a different story considering UK sat 28th last week in that poll. We'll have an update as soon as it comes out.
Posted Jan. 26, 12:24 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Junior guard/forward Ramon Harris has been cleared for practice and the Ole Miss game after undergoing extensive testing Monday morning. Harris collapsed outside the locker room during halftime of the Alabama game on Saturday.
Also, here's what UK Coach Billy Gillispie had to say on the Southeastern Conference teleconference this morning:
On Tuesday's game versus Ole Miss ...
"We're looking forward to going over there. We had a real good game with them last year and they almost came back and beat us in Rupp Arena - they missed a three to beat us. We know it's going to be a very difficult contest. One of the things about (Ole Miss Coach) Andy (Kennedy) is he's done a fantastic job. They've had a lot of injuries this year, but you wouldn't know it by watching their team play. They play as hard as anyone in the league - anyone anywhere. They just never give themselves any excuse. They just give a supreme effort and supreme results and just a great attitude the way they go about things. They've got a really nice team and it's going to be a difficult game for us."
On if the new 3-point line has affected the way UK plays defense ...
"It hasn't affected us the way we play defense. I've seen a difference in the numbers a little bit. I'm talking mostly about in conference and I could be wrong - it's not a scientific approach that I've taken with it. I don't think there are as many teams shooting it well but it could be personnel, it could be a number of things. As far as playing defense, no we haven't taken a different approach with it."
On how his players adjusted to the new line before the season ...
"I think they moved a foot back. I don't think it's affected offensively. If our numbers are different it would be because on personnel as well.
On the different emotions the team went through on Saturday ...
"Anytime you see one of your guys go down by fainting it's a very serious matter. I thought the people down at Alabama did an unbelievable job of getting him a great amount of care in a very timely fashion and I'm very appreciative of that. He was able to get great care at the hospital. We all know that basketball is extremely important to all of us or we wouldn't be involved in it. It's extremely important to a lot of people across the world, but it's not nearly as important as the people involved, so sometimes you have to take a step back and understand that some of those events, as scary as they may be, maybe sometimes help you get a better perspective on what's really important."
On approaching the Ole Miss defense and whether Jodie Meeks can have another big night if they play zone ...
"They're a great defense whatever defense they choose to play. We've seen quite a bit of stuff and we'll see quite a bit more. Five games into the (conference) schedule, Jodi e has played really well. He's the only guy that really has proven himself from beyond the arc for us so we know that we're going to see a lot of different things. We're not executing offensively the way we need to become the kind of team that I think we can become. We're going to have to get that fixed. I don't think we scored a basket the last five minutes on Saturday. We made some free throws, but we have to be much better no matter if it's zone, man-to-man, combination defenses or any of those others."
On the type of defense Meeks is seeing and his ability not to force anything and deploy the offense ...
"He's done a fantastic job of doing that, especially when we've had trouble scoring. We've had some periods where we just didn't score very well. He doesn't force too many shots. I tell all our guys if you play as hard as you possibly can on defense and you rebound, there aren't too many shots that you can take that are going to be bad unless it's a time, score and momentum situation. He's done a fantastic job regarding that. We have to perform better as a unit. We have to execute better and we have to not turn the ball over. As far as the things we've seen, the most common thing we've seen is we've seen a ton of man-to-man defense, just total deny, very physical, not let Jodie catch the basketball. Again, just talking about his effort, he's working extremely hard to get open and we have to do a better job of helping him though."
Posted Jan. 26, 10:58 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Not quite as busy of a weekend as last, but there was still plenty going in UK Athletics over the weekend. You can find full recaps on the homepage, but as usual, I thought I'd give you quick recaps of each team.
Posted Jan. 26, 1:40 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It's early Monday morning, but it's never too early to look at the UK men's basketball team's chances at making the polls this week. The Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today polls will be released sometime Monday afternoon. Do the Wildcats finally get in?
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports seems to think so. Parrish ranked UK No. 22 in his latest Top 25 (and one) poll. Parrish says the Wildcats are "playing like the best team in the league." This comes just days after ESPN.com tabbed UK 23rd in its power rankings.
So UK has to get in at this point, right?
The Wildcats are 16-4 and are the only team in the Southeastern Conference without a loss, but they failed to crack the polls last week. UK checked in at No. 28 in the AP and No. 34 in the ESPN/USA Today polls last week.
We'll have the rankings as soon as they're released on Monday. Stay tuned.
Posted Jan. 25, 7:05 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
There's no rest for the weary, especially for the UK basketball team.
UK's game against Ole Miss on Tuesday night will be the Wildcats' fourth game in the last 10 days, meaning the Wildcats can ill-afford to take a day off from practice. Just a day after defeating Alabama 61-51 in Tuscaloosa Ala., the team was already back to work Sunday afternoon at the Joe Craft Center in preparation for the Rebels.
"There's a ton of energy being expended traveling to games, traveling from games," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. "It's very difficult. It's taxing on the body."
Gillispie usually gives his players the day off after games, but the current four-game stretch - three of which have come on the road - had the Wildcats back at practice Sunday for an hour-and-40-minute session.
"You can't afford (to take off) if you go Saturday-Tuesday or Sunday-Wednesday and that's the way it's been the last couple of weeks," Gillispie said. "We haven't had a day off since three days before the Georgia game and that catches up with you."
But that hasn't stopped the Wildcats from preparing for the Ole Miss game. Gillispie is particularly concerned about the Rebels' perimeter shooting, but he focused on UK's turnover problems in practice on Sunday.
The Wildcats have turned the ball over 45 times in their last two games.
"We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball," Gillispie said. "We always go over our scouting report on how we're going to try to guard them and the things we're going to try and do. But most importantly, we've got to protect the basketball. You're not going to go on the road and win anymore by having 23 turnovers and shooting 38 percent. It's just not going to happen."
As expected, junior guard/forward Ramon Harris did not practice Sunday. Harris collapsed outside the locker room during halftime of the UK-Alabama game Saturday. He returned to Lexington with the team Saturday evening and has had no further complications.
Harris is listed as day-to-day. His status will be updated on Monday after a re-evaluation.
Posted Jan. 25, 12:56 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Junior guard/forward Ramon Harris had no further complications after returning to Lexington on the team charter and meeting with the UK medical staff Saturday evening. Harris will not participate in this afternoon's practice and will undergo testing on Monday before determining his playing status for Tuesday's game at Ole Miss.
Posted Jan. 24, 7:23 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Junior Ramon Harris was released from the DCH Medical Center this evening and is returning to Lexington on the team charter.
Harris underwent tests at the DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa Ala., after collapsing outside the locker room at halftime during the UK-Alabama game this afternoon. All vital signs were good when he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Posted Jan. 24, 6:08 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Update on Ramon Harris - Junior Ramon Harris is currently undergoing tests at the DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa Ala. All vital signs are good and Harris is feeling better after vomiting. Harris collapsed outside the locker room at halftime during the UK-Alabama game this afternoon. He was taken by ambulance to the DCH Medical Center.
Like I noted before, I'm not in Tuscaloosa so I can't tell you at the moment what Billy Gillispie's thoughts were following the game, but here's what I took out of it:
What can we say that we haven't already said about Jodie Meeks? The guy is will powering UK to victory every time out. This afternoon he finished with 27 points (16 in the second half when the Cats were trailing) and a season-high nine rebounds to lead UK to a 61-51 win.
Keep in mind that he did all that as Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried threw everything at him defensively. If he wasn't one of the top two or three candidates for National Player of the Year, he is now.
What impressed me the most though was the resolve of UK's role players. For the second game in row, they were all but shutout in the first half. Entering halftime, 11 of UK's 19 points came from Meeks.
But a couple of guys came up huge in the second half. With Patrick Patterson in and out of foul trouble and Michael Porter struggling at the point, newcomers Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins put up huge minutes down the stretch.
Liggins finished with 11 points and three assists, including a huge 3-pointer midway through the second half to give UK a 40-39 lead. Harrellson didn't record a single point, but his 12 minutes of play were crucial considering the foul trouble of Patterson and the second-half absence of Ramon Harris.
And what do we make of Perry Stevenson's performance? The 6-foot-9 forward isn't getting the credit he deserves of late, but he notched his second straight double-double Saturday afternoon. His 16 points were the most since scoring 20 in UK's season opener.
It wasn't pretty by any means - UK turned the ball over 23 times - but it was another gritty win. When you're trudging your way through conference play, getting the W is all that matters, and the Wildcats have five of those in five tries.
Final - UK improves to 5-0 in the SEC with a 61-51 win today at Alabama. Meeks led the way with 27 points and Perry Stevenson notched his second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Since I'm not in Tuscaloosa, I won't be able to provide you with any coverage from the post-game news conference, but I will have some post-game thoughts and a wrap-up here in a little bit.
2:15 - UK leads 55-48 with just over two to go. Meeks has once again been the story, but you have to tip your hat to Stevenson. He doesn't get the credit that he deserves, yet he has 13 points and 12 rebounds today.
5:02 - Meeks missed multiple free throws for the first time since going 11-for-13 against Kansas State (11/28/08). Still, Meeks came up with a huge steal a minute ago that led to a Patterson basket. UK is up 49-45.
7:27 - Teams trading baskets and leads. This is an extremely interseting stetch. Patterson is on the bench with four fouls and Gillispie is electing to go with Liggins at the point for the time being. He's came up huge with eight points, including a huge 3-pointer just a moment ago. Meeks has 25 points. UK up 43-42 with 7:27 to go. When do you put Patterson back in?
12:10 - Meeks with a nice move for a layup and the foul, but he missed a rare free throw. Just a few seconds earlier Meeks stole a pass and threw home a dunk for UK's first lead of the game. Harrellson and Liggins have given some key minutes in the second half to get UK back in the game. Key stat of the game so far: Patterson only has two points and four rebounds. He had 21 points and 18 rebounds last time out. ... Meeks scored 20 points for the seventh straight game. The last time a Wildcat scored 20 in seven straight games was Kevin Grevey in the 1974-75 season. Tied 35-35.
13:38 - Here's the official word: Ramon Harris collapsed at halftime and was taken by ambulance to the DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
18:48 - Waiting on word to hear what the official status of Ramon Harris is. Raycom reported that Harris might have collapsed at halftime. Gillispie didn't come out after halftime but just took a seat on the UK bench. I'll have more just as soon as I hear from my guys in Tuscaloosa.
UK has to consider itself lucky to be down only six on the road. The Wildcats are shooting only 30 percent from the floor, have turned it over nine times and Meeks has 11 of UK's 19 points.
That's really been the story of the first half. Alabama has gotten production from its entire lineup; UK has not. Meeks is five of 10 from the field so far, but the rest of the team is three of 16. Keep in mind, Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried is throwing the house at Meeks defensively, so UK has to find a way to get the rest of the team going.
The one positive you can take out of the first half is that with a guy like Meeks on your team, you're never out of the ballgame. UK played one of its worst halves offensively - it's the Wildcats lowest first-half total since the West Virginia game - yet Meeks is keeping UK in the game. He has the unique ability to carry a team on his back, but he's having to work extremely hard for every point this afternoon.
Also, let's credit UK for hanging in defensively. While the Wildcats have struggled on offense, they have held the Tide to just 29 percent shooting from the field.
Senior guard Alonzo Gee leads Alabama with eight points and five rebounds. The rebound battle is dead even at 21 apiece and each team has five blocks.
We'll have more as soon as the second half gets underway.
3:51 - The Wildcats are holding serve in the rebound department after falling behind early on. Tied 18 apiece and Stevenson and Meeks have six each.
4: 44 - Meeks checked right back in. Smart move by Gillispie to take him out right before the media timeout to give him a few extra minutes rest wihtout losing any on the court. Alabama is on top by one.
7:44 - UK has to find some other options besides Meeks. He's 4-of-6 from the field; everybody else is 1-for-9. Patterson only has two points. Meeks just went out at the 8:08 mark. Let's see what the Wildcats can do without him. Alabam leads 14-13.
11:09 - UK just took the lead on a Jodie Meeks' 3-pointer. Meeks has nine of UK's 12 points, but the Wildcats were fortunate that Alabama didn't grab a larger lead after the hot start. UK leads 12-11. Meeks has now hit a 3-pointer in all 20 games this season.
15:44 - The Wildcats are shaky early on. Michael Porter missed a point-blank layup after a great steal and
Alabama is clicking offensively so far. The Tide has hit four of its first seven shots, including a couple of rim-rattling dunks from Senario Hillman and Justin Knox.
Posted Jan. 24, 2:38 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
13 Michael Porter
21 Perry Stevenson
22 Ramon Harris
23 Jodie Meeks
54 Patrick Patterson
Posted Jan. 24, 1:34 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
First of all, yes, we are indeed live blogging today's UK game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Although Cat Scratches didn't make the trip to Tuscaloosa, we will be following along on Raycom along with updates from the media relations staff that made the trip to Alabama.
Now, for the game itself. The storyline heading into this one is the absence of Alabama guard Ronald Steele, who just this week decided to forgo the rest of his senior year. Initial reports indicated Steele was ending his injury-marred career at Alabama because of his recent bout with Plantar Fasciitis, but it appears that might not be the case.
Steele, a former Associated Press Preseason All-American, told The Tuscaloosa News in a prepared statement that his bouts with injuries are "definitely not the reason I am leaving the team."
Steele did not give a particular reason why he was leaving the team, only saying, "I just felt that were decisions that I didn't feel we were in my best interests. I'll leave it at that."
So with Steele a forgone conclusion, that has to be great news for UK, right? Well, let's not jump to too many conclusions. The loss of Alabama's former star, the first two-time Alabama prep Mr. Basketball, certainly hurts the Crimson Tide, but it could be used as an advantage.
If you remember back to last year when UK lost Patrick Patterson for the season, it basically re-energized the team. The loss of Patterson definitely didn't make the team any better, but the team rallied around each other and played some of its best ball down the stretch.
The Tide is 1-2 without Steele this season, but Gillispie is wary of what could come from the injury.
"No one wants to lose a main guy and nobody wants to lose a guy as good as Ronald Steele ... but it can affect you," Gillispie said. "You never know what different things can trigger eagerness to play and tweak the mindset chemistry wise. ... We have a great deal of respect for them when Steele is playing but we really respect their other guys too."
And those other guys have been picking up their play without Steele. When Steele went down with his latest injury, guard Mikhail Torrance was averaging just 5.6 points per game. Since then he's reeled of scoring games of 20, 24 and 24.
Plus the Tide still have the veteran Alonzo Gee (14.3 point per game) and a rising star in Senario Hillman (13.6 points per game), giving UK a very guard-oriented matchup once again.
The smaller look gave UK fits on Wednesday against Auburn when the Wildcats turned it over 22 times. They can ill afford to do that again today on the road.
We're about an hour and a half until tip-off. We'll have plenty more once the game gets underway, and don't forget to check back for the official starting lineup here in a little bit.
Posted Jan. 23, 4:12 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The women's softball team finished its second week of practice on Friday afternoon with a two-hour workout at the UK Softball Complex. After a brutal stretch of cold weather, the Wildcats practiced outdoors for the first time on Thursday and Friday.
"That was huge because you could just see there was a different excitement about the team," UK Coach Rachel Lawson said. "They were talking, they were lively and they were diving around. It was fun because you could really tell that they enjoyed playing softball.
"There's just something about being outside and getting it done," she said. "They were really happy about that and you could really see it in their overall performance. They were very sharp and crisp and doing things the right way."
Lawson said she has been particularly pleased with the continued solid practice of the pitchers. The Wildcats had their first two scrimmages on Sunday and Monday, and Lawson said the hurlers did a really good job of attacking the hitters.
During the first week of practice, Lawson said the pitchers focused solely on executing their pitches. Now that they've had two weeks of live hitting and a couple of scrimmages, Lawson said they've combined their execution with making sure they put the ball where the hitters can't hit it.
"They did a better job of communicating with me," Lawson said. "I'm the one who calls the pitches. (The first week) I would call things and they would just throw it and have absolutely no idea what they were doing. They knew the pitches were going to be balls, but I knew that certain hitters were going to fish for that pitch. The communication has definitely gotten a lot better this week and I think that's going to be a secret to some of our success this year."
The freshmen have continued to improve and develop in the first two weeks, but Lawson said newcomer Kristen O'Haver has made some huge leaps as a Wildcat, particularly gaining confidence at the plate.
Veterans Molly Johnson and Meagan Aull continue to shine as leaders on the team, and sophomore Samantha DeMartine has really grown into her role as a catcher.
"She's a completely different ball player right now," Lawson said.
The Wildcats have picked up the tempo in practice over the last week, but Lawson said they still have plenty of strides to make before the season opener on Feb. 13. UK has a scrimmage on Sunday and will continue practicing all next week.
Posted Jan. 23, 4:01 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It's Friday, so that generally means news conferences at the office. The majority of the quotes will eventually be up on the homepage, but here are a few highlights:
Posted Jan. 23, 2:00 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey and Marcus Shanks, UK Media Relations
Here's part two of the Wesley Woodyard interview. I'll spare you all my writing this time and let you get straight to what Woodyard said. Scroll down to part one if you'd like to see a quick recap of Woodyard's first year in the NFL.
Was there a certain moment where you knew you had arrived in the NFL?
"I always wanted to play football my entire life. The first time it really clicked in my head that I really belonged in the NFL was that first day after the final cut when I walked into the locker room and they had moved all the rookies from their area in the locker room and moved me over to the linebackers' area of the locker room. I remember going in there and just standing there in front of my locker for like 30 minutes. I was in awe and couldn't believe that moment had finally arrived for me."
Who was the first person you called?
"The first person I called was my mom. I just yelled that your baby boy had arrived. She cried because it was such an exciting moment and as soon as I got off the phone with her I called my brother. That whole day I was calling all my family and friends. The best thing was just the tears and emotion from my mom. Her emotion came right through the cell phone."
What was it like playing against guys you used to suit with for UK?
"I got a chance to play against Stevie (Johnson). The night before that game I was thinking that I was about to play against one of my brothers at Kentucky so I have to get my mind right and be ready to hit him. It was amazing and he had a great game when he scored the game-winning touchdown against us. He has the one-up on me and he is still bragging about it. He actually sent me a text the other day that said, 'I played y'all and I scored against y'all.' There was a lot of trash talking between me and him during the game but it was out of good fun. He is a competitor and I am a competitor. There was one time he almost had to block me on a kickoff so that was fun. We couldn't actually believe we were getting a chance to play against each other."
What was your favorite moment this season?
"I was starter on the special teams at the beginning and I was taken off the special teams so I went and asked my coach why I wasn't playing on special teams anymore. He told me I was a starter on defense and that I was needed on defense. He told me when they needed a gun in there then they would call on me for special teams and when we were playing the Falcons he called me to go in there and I went in on the kickoff and made a tackle inside the 20. It meant a lot to me that my coaches believed in me as a rookie. I would say it was my favorite tackle of the year because it showed that my teammates and coaches believed in me."
Did you keep up with UK this season?
"Oh yeah, I talked to the guys every week and watched as many games as possible. I got the chance to watch the Louisville game from the Broncos clubhouse. I kept up with the guys every week."
How special was it watching UK win a third straight bowl knowing that you were one of the guys that helped turn the program around?
"It means a lot to our program. When I first got to Kentucky we couldn't win and now we have three bowl victories. We are at the point in our program that every time we step onto the field it is a mentality that we can win and we have to win. We have to continue to build off of that success."
What are your plans for the offseason?
"I'll be in Lexington training with Keenan Burton. He pushes me and I push him. I will just be training and buckling down to get ready for next year."
Talk about your relationship with former Coach Mike Shanahan.
"He was a great coach and really loved the players. He treated everyone equally and gave everyone a chance. He allowed guys to go out there and really try to prove themselves. It means a lot that he gives everyone a chance from the undrafted to the free-agents."
What did you think of the decisions of Jeremy Jarmon, Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley to come back to college?
"It means a lot to me that younger guys are even having the chance to maybe leave college early. That shows how much our program has grown. I have to take my hat off to those guys that they chose to come back to Kentucky to help keep building the program. It shows a lot of character, heart and desire that they wanted to come back."
What would you say to a recruit considering UK?
"I tell a young player who was thinking about coming to UK that the sky is the limit and never let someone tell you what you can't do. Make sure you have a winning attitude about everything you are doing. Make sure you love the game of football but always keep family first and pray. If you do that then no one can stop you."
Posted Jan. 23, 11:07 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
There is a must read on Yahoo! Sports on Jodie Meeks. There have been some great stories on Meeks following his record-setting performance at Tennessee, but this in-depth feature by Jason King might be the best one yet. Check it out here when you get a chance.
Posted Jan. 23, 9:24 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey and Marcus Shanks, UK Media Relations
With Super Boxl XLIII only a week away, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the key players from last year's senior class and how they fared in their first year in the NFL.
Today we've managed to catch up with former UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard for a few questions. We'll have part one this morning and part two this afternoon, followed by an interview with Keenan Burton or Steve Johnson (maybe both) sometime next week. We'll also look back on how the 2008 UK Draft class did as a whole next week.
While leading UK in tackles in 2006 and 2007, Woodyard led the UK defense to back-to-back bowl wins in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, transforming a stagnant UK football team into an annual winner.
Yet despite the heart, will and dedication Woodyard showcased on the gridiron, NFL scouts questioned whether he could make it in the NFL. Listed at a generous 230 pounds, NFL scouts said he was too small to play linebacker with the big boys.
So Woodyard fell. Come draft day last spring, team after team looked at Woodyard and passed until he eventually fell through the draft all together. By the time the 2008 NFL Draft was over, the 2007 Southeastern Conference-leading tackler was without a home.
Fortunately for the Denver Broncos, Woodyard ended up signing in Denver as an undrafted free agent in a move that would pay huge dividends. When the Broncos lost linebackers D.J. Williams, Boss Bailey and Nate Webster to injuries, they had a huge void to fill in the heart of the defense.
Woodyard more than stepped up. In the midst of a playoff race, Woodyard totaled 43 tackles in a five-week span, including back-to-back 10-tackle performances against the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. In the game against the Jets, Woodyard forced a fumble against the legendary Brett Favre.
With Woodyard's help, the Broncos were on the verge of a playoff berth before ultimately stumbling down the stretch. Still, Woodyard proved to be one of the feel-good stories of the year in the NFL.The undrafted linebacker finished the season with 55 tackles.
Without further ado, he's part one with Woodyard:
In general, just talk about your first season in the NFL.
"I really enjoyed playing my first year in the NFL. I started off as a guy who went in for someone who was injured and ended up being a starter. I had fun and it was always my dream to play in the NFL and I think I did a lot of good things this year. Even though the end of the year didn't go the way we wanted it to I still think I had a pretty good first year."
Scouts said you were too small to make it in the NFL. Why do you think you went undrafted?
"It was very justifying. I came into college and high school as a small guy but I play really big on the field. My size always fed my fire and got me to get out there and compete as hard as I can on the field. I think not getting drafted happened for a reason and made me appreciate where I am now more and it made me work a lot harder to stay where I am. I'm kind of glad I didn't get drafted because it gave me the chance to prove myself and earn respect."
What would you say to the naysayers now?
"At the time of the draft I can remember teams that called me a lot and when a chance to go out there and play against them I remembered that they passed on me. It was fuel for the fire and I just tried to prove them wrong. When it came time to play them and I stepped onto the field, I just tried to kill the guy on the other side of the line from me."
What was it like playing with and against some of your childhood heroes?
"It is a feeling you really can't explain. When I first got here I looked across the locker room and we had Johnny Lynch and Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly. They are three huge names you hear about in football when I was coming up. It is amazing to just get to be around those guys and learn from them, but it is an experience you just cannot explain. Hopefully one day I'll be in that same situation that guys coming in will look up to and I can pass it on just like they are passing it on to me."
Talk about your first game and what that was like for you.
"That first game I played in I tackled Jamal Lewis and he was a guy I grew up watching when he played college ball at Tennessee. He is also from Georgia and I'm from Georgia so I remember a lot about him. The first time I got to tackle him I thought `Wow, I'm really out here in the big leagues.' It is great to get a chance to come out here and play against these guys I have always looked up to and to tackle Lewis really meant a lot to me."
What's the difference between college ball and pro ball?
"In my opinion, I got the chance to play against the best guys in college football when I played in the SEC. The biggest difference is the speed of the game. In the pros you have the smartest and the fastest guys from all the colleges but I don't think it was too much of a difference after I got used to the speed and the offensive linemen."
Stay tuned for part two ...
Posted Jan. 22, 6:16 p.m. - Eric Lindsey UK Media Relations
After playing one of the more physical games of the year, the UK Wildcats went through what UK Coach Billy Gillispie said was one of the lightest practices the Wildcats have had all year on Thursday.
UK focused mainly on walk-throughs for about an hour and 15 minutes Thursday afternoon in preparation for the Alabama game on Saturday.
"We got a lot of stuff done today; most of it was cerebral," Gillispie said. "We walked through (Alabama's) offenses and defenses and talked about things that we're going to try and be attacking."
Although the practice was intended to be light today, Gillispie had a tough time keeping the tempo down.
"These guys only know one speed," Gillispie said. "Even when I told them they were going to walk through something, they don't really walk through. They've got a great habit and that's what attaining a great practice habit is - you only know one speed. You know what's been most successful for you and these guys all want to win. They only know one way to do it. I have to slow them down quite a bit."
Because the practice was more mental than physical today, Gillispie said there weren't any standout performances.
The light day did give Patrick Patterson a chance to heal his injured finger. Gillispie said the swelling in his finger is still bothering him a little bit.
"Hopefully a day like today will help," Gillispie said.
Note: Be sure to tune in tomorrow. We were able to catch up with former UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard about his first year in the NFL. Check back for the post tomorrow morning.
Posted Jan. 22, 5:39 p.m. - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
That story on NCAA.com that I was talking about is up on site now. Please check it out when you get a chance. The story discusses the splash Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are making this season and how their performances compare to even the all-time greats at a tradition-rich basketball program at UK.
The biggest thing I took out of the story was how much respect and understanding Meeks and Patterson have the program they play in and for the guys that played before them. Here are a couple of quotes I liked in particular.
"(Gillispie) talks about it a lot - pretty much every game and every practice," said Patterson of the rich history of Kentucky basketball. "He always talks about the great players before us that put on a Kentucky jersey and all the great tradition they had. He tells us that whenever we play to play with pride like they did and represent Kentucky the way it has been represented for these past years."
"Kentucky basketball is real big," Meeks said. "It's on the same level as Yankee baseball or Boston Celtics basketball, so it's very good for us to get this recognition, but we're not the kind of guys that beg for attention."
Posted Jan. 22, 5:20 p.m. - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
LEXINGTON, Ky. - While the University of Kentucky football team was busy defeating East Carolina for its third straight bowl win, another UK football team was in New Orleans trying to bring a national title back to Lexington.
UK's intramural championship team competed in the 30th Annual Slingbox American College Intramural Sports Flag Football National Championships on Dec. 28-31. While there were more than 1,500 students from approximately 100 teams, UK's team was one of only 12 teams to earn an all-expense paid trip to New Orleans.
Kentucky was represented by team See Ya, a group of nine students that won the intramural championship at UK and regional tournament in Bowling Green, Ky. That gave the UK team a chance to compete for a national championship.
"We didn't have expectations," said junior Chase King, the team's captain and quarterback. "We knew we had a chance to win at Kentucky, but we had no idea about the regional tournament. We went in there not expecting anything. We had no clue how good the competition would be there and we just rolled there. To win it was awesome. We were just glad to be going to New Orleans."
Team See Ya continued to roll at nationals. Representing Kentucky in the men's collegiate division, the team won their division and earned a first-round bye in bracket play. The Wildcats were one of 15 remaining teams competing for the ultimate prize.
But after making it to nationals unscathed, team See Ya was finally bounced from the tournament in the quarterfinals, losing on a last-minute play to eventual-champion North Florida.
"We were right there," King said. "We could have very easily won it all."
In addition to King, the roster included Dane Lantry, Paul Laible, A.J. Schreiver, Chris Farrell, Justin Hinerman, Roman Whelan, Tyler Trammel and Patrick Hayden. Some of the players had played high school football before, but they never thought they would be competing for a national title, King said. The key was speed.
"We were just small and fast, and that's what the key was," King said. "We didn't need any height. We just ran real short routes, and defensively we were fast and flew all over the place and forced turnovers."
King said the team had a great experience while in New Orleans. The trip was completely paid for and one of the team's players, junior Dane Lantry, was named a second-team All-American for his play on defense.
The students even made an appearance on ESPN during the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. While the Wildcats were busy defeating East Carolina in Memphis, Tenn., the broadcast aired highlights from an exhibition game between the two schools' flag football teams. Team See Ya represented UK in winning fashion, defeating East Carolina's team 15-0.
Not bad for a team that didn't even know if it could even win the UK championship. Now that they have tasted success, King said they hope to make a repeat trip to New Orleans next year and win it all.
"We were disappointed that we lost in the Elite Eight to that team, but to find out that they won, we knew we could have easily been there," King said. "When we got our team together this year, we weren't expecting anything like this. Now that we've seen what it's like, we definitely want to go back there for sure."
See Ya Roster
Posted Jan. 22, 2:30 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Wednesday night's game against Auburn did little to squash the concerns about UK finding a third scoring option (other than Perry Stevenson), but maybe it won't matter.
UK's dynamic duo of Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson is officially the most prolific scoring tandem in the nation after combining for 52 points Wednesday night against Auburn. Meeks and Patterson are averaging a combined 44.3 points per game, just a shade better than Chicago State' David Holston and John Cantrell (44.0 points per game).
Meeks scored a game-high 31 points against the Tigers and Patterson put together his most complete game of the year with 21 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
If the two keep it up, is UK really that desperate for a third option? Fans are concerned that they're going to have an off-night - which in all likelihood will happen - but they continue to will the Wildcats to victory.
Plus, let's keep in mind that Stevenson did notch a double-double last night. At times he's inconsistent, but why isn't he considered a third option? Let me know what you think. The scoring list is below, and NCAA.com is supposed to have a story about it later on.
Posted Jan. 22, 1:30 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
First of all, thanks to everybody for tuning in for the live blog tonight. We still have a few kinks to work out, but I hope everybody enjoyed following along tonight. Before I call it a night, I thought I'd finish up with a couple of final thoughts.
A lot of the post-game talk was about UK's defensive effort tonight, particularly in the second half. There's no doubt that was a big story behind UK's win tonight, but I think the biggest thing to take out of tonight was the play of sophomore Patrick Patterson.
Playing with an injured finger, the guy was absolutely phenomenal tonight. He scored 21 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, warranting both Auburn player Rasheem Barrett and UK Coach Billy Gillispie to call him a beast.
"That's the best I've seen him play all year," Gillispie said.
Patterson said after the game that the swelling in his finger caused him to push some shots towards the basket instead of shooting it, but it obviously wasn't enough to slow him down.
If he and Jodie Meeks can continue to play like they have of late, UK is going to be tough to knock from the top of the Southeastern Conference.
The one glaring weakness on the night was UK's turnover problem. The Wildcats had been handling the ball better of late, but 22 turnovers has to raise some eyebrows if you're Gillispie.
Some of it obviously had to do with a stout Auburn defense - they came into tonight averaging an SEC-best 10.5 steals a game - but a lot of it was just carelessness with the ball.
Nonetheless, it's another win for the Wildcats. They all aren't going to be as impressive as last week's wins, but it's gritty victories like tonight's game that separate the contenders from the SEC champions.
Final - UK hangs on 73-64. Meeks led the way with a game-high 31 points, but Patrick Patterson was the story behind this one. The sophomore scored 21 points and grabbed a career-high 18 boards. That's all I have for now but I'll a game story on the homepage later.
1:21 - UK leads 64-57 with 1:21 to go. Perry Stevenson has joined Patterson with a double-double. Patterson is two shy of 20 rebounds.
5:57 - Meeks just threw down a huge dunk on a runout. Porter, who has struggled all night long, hit Meeks witht he pass for a runaway dunk. The slam gave UK a 58-51 lead and rejunvenated the Rupp Arena crowd. Auburn's Barrett, who has 14 points, just left court with what appears to be a bloody chin.
8:23 - Patterson gets a huge bucket and the foul for a 53-51 lead. The turnovers though are ridiculous. The Cats have turned it over 20 times and Auburn has started to take advantage. Meeks just got fouled as is going to the line for three free ones. The way Auburn's defenders are trailing, he could do that two or three more times if he wanted to.
11:59 - UK led by as many as nine but turnovers and DeWayne Reed's 3-point shooting has cut the UK lead to 46-44. The Cats better start guarding the 3-ball.
13:37 - Patterson has already tied a career high with 16 rebounds to go along with 16 points. The Tigers have nobody that can match up with him in the paint.
14:48 - Wayne Turner is in the house. He was tonight's "Y."
15:18 - Barrett's steal and layup snaps a 10-0 UK run that started in the first half. UK leads 44-38.
19:00 - Leave it to Meeks to get the Cats out of a rut. He's come out blazing to start the second half, knocking down back-to-back treys. The pair gives UK a 40-33 lead, its biggest of the game. It's his eighth game of four or more 3-pointers.
Ramon Harris laid in a last-second shot to give UK a one-point lead going into the half. Credit Patterson with a great feed after a big block on the defensive end.
However, the Cats are fortunate to be leading this one because they have been extremely sloppy. UK has 13 turnovers already, but Auburn has only scored seven off the Cats' miscues.
UK has dominated the boards so far thanks to Patrick Patterson. UK has a 23-13 advantage in rebounds with 12 of them coming from Patterson. He leads UK in scoring as well with 12.
Rasheem Barrett hasn't shut down Meeks - he has 11 points - but Barrett does have 12 points, five above his average.
We'll have more just as soon as the second half gets underway.
2:27 - Patterson has already recorded a double-double, his SEC-leading 10th of the season. It also moves him to 20th on the all-time UK double-double list. Cats trail 31-28.
4:43 - Darius Miller only has three points but you have to be impressed with how he is playing. He looks much more aggressive early on and just drew a foul taking it to the basket. UK leads 28-26.
8:19 - Rasheem Barrett, who proclaimed he was going to hold Meeks to two points, has 10 early points. Meeks? Following another 3, he has nine points, although Barrett isn't guarding him. Auburn leads 23-22.
11:46 - More on the size advantage: UK is dominating the boards so far. The Cats have a 12-4 advantage but are only up 16-15. By the way, I just missed from getting nailed in the head by a flying burrito. It missed me by a foot. Luckily, my face remains clean and the blog continues. ... UK has seven turnovers already.
13:42 - The Cats had a decisive advantage in size entering tonight's game and they're exploiting it, but they're not taking advantage. Patterson, although he has six points and six boards, has missed a couple of bunnies early on.
16:11 - Meeks knocked down another 3-pointer to extend his streak of multiple 3-pointers to 13. The Wildcats were off and running early but Auburn has hit just about everything to start off. Patterson has five rebounds already. Tied 12-12.
19:01 - And the streak continues. Meeks knocks down a 3-pointer to open the game. He hasn't missed since Feb. 12 last season.
**Quick note before we get started: South Carolina just edged Florida 70-69 on a last-second layup from Zam Fredrick. Huge news for the Wildcats. With Florida's loss, UK is now playing for sole position of first place in the SEC East.
By the way, kudos to Fredrick who missed the free throw to tie it just seconds earlier.
Posted Jan. 21, 8:36 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Posted Jan. 21, 5:47 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
In the realm of things, UK's absence from the top 25 polls this week mean very little if anything at all.
That's why when UK Coach Billy Gillispie was asked what he thought about not getting into the top 25, he channeled the late Paul Brown.
"When you're winning say nothing and when you're losing say even less," Gillispie said.
Much like the legendary Brown, Gillispie's team is winning. The Wildcats have won nine of their last 10 games, including last week's marquee win at Tennessee and a blowout at Georgia, so Gillispie and his players are choosing to let their play do the talking.
"Rankings don't really mean anything other than it helps you get into the (NCAA) Tournament and thinks like that," junior Ramon Harris said. "I believe that our time will come if we keep doing what we are doing. We will let the rankings handle themselves."
The pollsters won't have much of a choice if UK (14-4, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) wins its two games this week, the first of which comes against the Auburn Tigers (11-6, 1-2 SEC) tonight at 9 in Rupp Arena. They also won't have much of a choice if Jodie Meeks does anything like he did a week ago at Tennessee.
Playing in his first home game since the record-setting 54-point performance, Meeks will be the center of attention for the Tiger defense, so much so that Auburn guard Rasheem Barrett proclaimed in the Huntsville Times that he was going to hold Meeks to two points.
As unlikely as that is (Barrett might not even guard Meeks), it might not even be the key to tonight's matchup. It isn't quite a battle of David versus Goliath, but there's a notable size difference in the guard-play of both teams.
UK, with the likes of Darius Miller (6-foot-7), DeAndre Liggins (6-6), Kevin Galloway (6-7) and Michael Porter (6-3), has a decisive size advantage over Auburn's quartet of guards. The Tigers start four guards, and their lone starting forward, senior Korvotney Barber (6-7), is the only starter taller than 6-5.
"It's nice when a guy does beat you into the lane and pulls up and you got Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Kevin Galloway and some of those taller guys that can block a shot when they contest it at shot level," Gillispie said. "I think that's really helpful because we're not extremely quick, but I don't think we've given up a ton of quickness to substitute it with a little size."
But UK will have to be cautious of the ball-hawking smaller guards. While their speed isn't a huge difference, they do average an SEC-best 10.5 steals per game. The Wildcats have improved drastically in the turnover department, but they're still susceptible to the occasional 20-plus turnover game.
Porter has been the engine behind UK's turnover turnaround. The junior from Modesto, Calif., has recorded 34 assists to just 14 turnovers in the last nine games, plus Gillispie said UK's supporting guard cast of Liggins, Miller and Galloway has started to pick up its play over the last week.
If the Wildcats can hang onto the ball, their final worry will be Barber. Junior guard DeWayne Reed leads the scoring effort for the Tigers, but Barber is the most complete player on Jeff Lebo's squad. Barber averages a solid 12.9 points per game to go along with 8.7 rebounds.
"He gets things done with quickness instead of brute strength, although he is very strong," Gillispie said. "Those are always the hardest guys to guard. And if he misses or goes for a rebound, he jumps three times before anyone else can jump once."
Patterson, who has been dealing with a hand injury, will get the nod against Barber. Gillispie said Patterson's hand has been bothering him a little bit, but he doesn't suspect it will have much of an effect on his play tonight.
But I want to know what you all think. What are the key factors for UK tonight? Who wins and why? What does Gillispie and UK need to look out for against Auburn? Does two wins this week finally get the Wildcats back into the top 25? E-mail me your thoughts and I'll try to get a couple of your opinions up on the blog before tip-off.
That's it for now. Be sure to join us later tonight for the live blog and don't miss the official starting lineup before the game.
Posted Jan. 21, 2:44 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Brent Ingram, UK's baseball contact and assistant director at UK Athletics passed this along to me. It's a podcast excerpt of UK freshman pitcher Alex Meyer, who comes to UK as the most heralded recruit in the program's history. I encourage you to see what he says and watch the podcast when it's available. This kid could become one of the all-time greats by the time his career is done:
Just a few short months after being introduced as the new Kentucky baseball head coach, Gary Henderson brought in the best incoming class in the history of the program, ranked No. 4 nationally by Baseball America. Among the cornerstones of the 2009 incoming class included Aflac All-Americans Alex Meyer and Andy Burns, in addition to fellow high school All-Americans Braden Kapteyn, Cory Farris and Michael Williams.
Meyer, a 6-foot-8, 205 pound right-handed pitcher has been regarded as one of the top freshmen in college baseball and was mentioned by Baseball America as the top recruit in the rugged Southeastern Conference. Ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best high school player in the nation before his senior season, Meyer was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the June 2008 MLB Draft and turned down significant professional overtures in order to become a student-athlete at Kentucky.
Doing his first interview since arriving on campus in August, Meyer sat down for a podcast on Wednesday morning with Eric SanInocencio , who runs the incredibly popular baseball website, BBD Live (Baseball Digest Daily), a weekly podcast covering all things baseball. In the past SanInocencio has had such notable baseball guests as Buster Olney, Aaron Crow, Ken Rosenthal and Chad Durbin.
For this specific show, SanInocencio interviews Meyer, San Diego State pitcher Steven Strasburg - considered the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft - and Baseball America college guru Aaron Fitt as part of an extensive college baseball season preview. The show will air from 12-1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 24 at www.blogtalkradio.com/baseballdigestdaily.
Below is an excerpt from SanInocencio's entertaining interview with Meyer.
Eric SanInocencio: What made you want to come to Kentucky?
EI: Your entire senior year of high school you were viewed as a top overall selection. How much attention did you pay to the MLB Draft?
EI: What is your arsenal on the mound? What type of pitches do you throw?
EI: Is there anything specific that your coaches are trying to work on with you, your command or anything mechanical since you've gotten to campus?
EI: What's your goal for the upcoming year? Is it a number of starts or anything specific?
EI: You are entering the premier baseball conference in the country. Is there any team you look forward to playing the most once the conference slate begins?
Posted Jan. 21, 1:07 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I wanted to remind everyone that we will be live blogging tonight from Rupp Arena as the Kentucky Wildcats get set to go to battle with the Auburn Tigers. For those of you who have been following the blog on Gametracker, don't worry, it will be a very similar format (Gametracker will still provide live in-game notes).
For those of you who are new to the live blog, we'll have live updates throughout the game. We'll have in-game analysis, up-to-date statistics, trends, as well as streaks and milestones that are on the line. We'll also have a preview story up at least a couple of hours before tip-off and a link to the recap following the game.
Oh, and before I forget, we'll have the starting lineup FIRST. Let me repeat, UK Coach Billy Gillispie has agreed to give Cat Scratches the official starting lineup first, before it's even posted on the Rupp Arena scoreboard. For those of you dying to find out who Gillispie is going to start night in and night out, click over to Cat Scratches before the game.
The game preview will be up later this afternoon. I hope you get a chance to check out the live blog tonight.
Posted Jan. 21, 11:47 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The season isn't over with for Shane Eliason. In fact, it's just getting started as far as he's concerned.
The UK swimming team still has a meet at Cincinnati next week before preparing for a month of training and championships at the Southeastern Conference Championships and the NCAA Championships.
But whether Eliason and the eight other senior swimmers want to admit it, Saturday will mark the beginning of the end in their careers at UK. For the seniors, it will be the last time they will compete in the water at the Lancaster Aquatic Center as Wildcats.
For Eliason, it will start the final chapter of what has already been a storied career at UK.
"It's bittersweet," Eliason said. "It means that the championship season is coming with SECs and NCAAs, but it also means that my college career is coming to an end. I really enjoyed it at UK, but I'm ready to take the next step as well."
Eliason has dominated the water as a Wildcat. The two-time All-American has swum his way into the record books at UK over the past several seasons. He currently sits second in the 200-backstroke, third in the 100-backstroke and sixth in the 200-individual medley on the all-time UK swimming record lists, and his 200-medley relay team from 2007 holds the school record.
Plus, he's been one of the main stalwarts in the Wildcats' recent success at the NCAAs. Just last year, Eliason helped UK place 13th in the 800-freestyle relay and 14th in the 400-medley relay securing a top-20 finish for the Blue and White for the first time in two seasons.
The two-time captain has continued that success into this season, including taking a huge part in UK's win over Missouri two weeks ago. Trailing in the final events of the meet, Eliason knew he had to win the last individual event in the 200-IM and follow it up with a victory in the final relay of the meet.
To get the job done, the team's leader took the pressure on his back and carried his team to victory.
"I'm a senior; I'm a captain," Eliason said. "You have to do it."
It wasn't the first time he had carried the Wildcats to victory in the pool, but it was the first time he had celebrated after a win, Eliason said.
"I've never felt more emotion than in that meet," he said. "It really got our season rolling. We had been down and we had a tough dual-meet schedule so in the pre-meet meeting we just said we don't want to lose again."
Eliason hopes the momentum keeps rolling into Senior Day on Saturday and on into March for the NCAA Championship. He said his goal is to get invited in the NCAAs in a couple of relays, the 100-butterfly (a personal favorite), and the 100- and 200-backstroke.
After that, Eliason said his swimming career will likely be over. He'll graduate in the spring with a degree in mathematical economics and he already has a job lined up in Little Rock, Ark., where he'll be working as an analyst for Windstream Communications.
But first things first, and that's a bittersweet meet on Saturday against in-state rival Louisville. Eliason and the other eight seniors know Saturday will be a special last meet for them, but it won't be nearly as special if they lose to their in-state rival, a team they haven't lost to since they've been at UK.
Eliason and the seniors would like nothing better than to go out on top.
"You don't want to be that first team to lose to them," Eliason said. "Being a senior, you want to go out on top and lead them the right way."
Posted Jan. 20, 7:25 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Rivals.com has picked the UK baseball to finish in fourth place in the Southeastern Conference East Division in its preseason preview. The Web site picked Georgia to finish first, followed by Florida, Vanderbilt, UK, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Senior pitcher Chris Rusin, who finished 2008 with a 6-3 record and a 3.33 ERA, made the preseason All-Conference team as one of the starters.
UK begins its season on Feb. 20 against Troy in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Posted Jan. 20, 4:50 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Couple of quick notes before I head down to the men's basketball news conference:
Paul Miller Ford has designed an exclusive truck to honor UK football Coach Rich Brooks. Paul Miller Ford is releasing the exclusive 2009 Rich Brooks Edition F-150 Crew Cab Truck, which will available for purchase on Jan 23. The date (1/23) will pay tribute to UK's first, second and third bowl wins under Brooks. For more details, head to the homepage.
The women's cheerleading team now has a wallpaper available to celebrate its unprecedented 17th national championship. Click here to check it out.
I'll probably have to hold out on some putting up a small excerpt of what Gillispie has to say this evening (we have a meeting afterwards) but there will be some quotes available on the homepage, and I will have a short preview before the game tomorrow.
Posted Jan. 20, 4:10 p.m. ET - Marcus Shanks, UK Media Relations
With the mainline news encompassed with the history-making news of President Barack Obama's inauguration, ESPN.com's Pat Forde released his staff picks for the new hardwood cabinet recognizing Jodie Meeks as the Secretary of Energy and UK's own Ashley Judd as the Secretary of Hotness. The far reaches of the Wildcat nation now extend to the fictional appointments of the hardwood administration.
Also, Meeks has risen to the top of the power rankings in the Rivals.com shooting guard power rankings.
Slow day news-wise, but Eric is working on a question-and-answer with swimmer Shane Eliason. We'll have that up by tomorrow morning.
Posted Jan. 20, 1:25 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It's been more than a month since the UK volleyball season ended, but junior setter Sarah Rumely continues to rake in the awards for her stellar play this past season.
Rumely, who was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was named a second-team Under Armour/Volleyball Magazine All-American.
The junior from New Palestine, Ind., who was also awarded All-America honorable mention honors by the American Volleyball Coaches Association a month ago, is just the third players in school history to chart over 4,000 assists and is among the leaders on the career service aces list with 139. During 2008, Rumely notched 12 matches with 40 or more assists and recorded nine double-double efforts. She set a career high with more than 100 blocks while posting her third straight season of 1,000 or more assists.
Posted Jan. 20, 11:21 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I thought I'd point you all to Mark Schlabach's column on ESPN.com regarding the trend of naming coaches-in-waiting. UK Coach Rich Brooks is the lead of the column and Schlabach goes on to talk about Brooks making sure his former (Oregon) and current (UK) programs had/have the stability of a new coach upon his departure.
Posted Jan. 19, 10:05 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Fresh off their 68-45 win over Georgia Sunday afternoon, the Kentucky Wildcats were back to practice Monday afternoon.
The Wildcats practiced for two hours at the Joe Craft Center where they worked on defending the ball screen as well as their transition defense in preparation for Wednesday night's game against Southeastern Conference foe Auburn.
"You have to work on doing a great job with the ball screen because (Auburn) does a fantastic job with it," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said after practice. "You have to really be ready to get back in transition defense and you have to do a fantastic job with helping each other out because they spread the floor out so well."
Gillispie said although practice wasn't particularly long today, he was extremely pleased with the effort his team put together, particularly in terms of picking up the tempo as the Wildcats enter the meat of their SEC schedule.
"I was a little concerned going to Georgia because I thought we practiced OK but not great," Gillispie said. "I think this team is really ready to take off. It's going to be very difficult because games get harder and harder as you go along in conference play. We're improving every single day. We're improving because we're working hard, got the right attitudes and we're getting more guys playing well."
The second-year head coach said sophomore Josh Harrellson, freshman DeAndre Liggins and junior Michael Porter had solid practices Monday afternoon.
Sophomore Patrick Patterson had to sit out some of the early part of practice on Monday after having some problems with his finger, but he did return to practice.
A couple of other quick notes to wrap up the day:
Junior Jodie Meeks picked up a couple more Player of the Week honors. In addition to being named Player of the Week by the SEC and by Andy Katz of ESPN, Meeks was also tabbed by Dick Vitale of ESPN and Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com. Digger Phelps named Meeks his Highlighter of the Week. Incidentally, Phelps had a pink highlighter instead of a blue one.
And the final note on the day, for those of you wondering how Gillispie has fared early in his career in SEC, here's an interesting note: Gillispie has the best record at 15-4 (.789 winning percentage) in SEC games compared to the rest of the SEC coaches in their first 19 games at their schools. Louisiana State's Trent Johnson and South Carolina's Darrin Horn are in their first season in the SEC.
Posted Jan. 19, 5:20 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It would be unrealistic to consider anything less than a national championship as a disappointment. Really, who can possibly expect to beat everybody every single year? It's not possible.
Unless you're a UK cheerleader.
"Some people might say second is not a bad place. For us it is," UK cheerleading Coach Jomo Thompson said. "We strive for excellence and we strive for the best. That's always our goal. We come here to win. We make our routine hard enough and difficult and creative enough that if we hit our routine, we feel like we'll win every time, and that's usually how it goes."
Much to their head coach's pleasure, the UK cheerleaders did it again. For the 17th time in program history, the most in Division IA, the UK cheerleading team won the national title. The Wildcats placed first at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championships for the second consecutive season at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla.
The Wildcats won with a score of 473.5, beating out Alabama (459) and Central Florida (454).
But that much you already know. What you don't know is how the Wildcats manage to do the unthinkable every single year. How does a program win 17 titles in a 25-year span with a different squad each season?
Thompson said it's predicated on the team's mission to be better than the all-time greats; to take set the bar at even higher levels - standards the rest of the nation can't seem to reach.
"Beat the tradition, not the competition," Thompson said. "What we try to do is beat the routine from last year or the routines from previous years."
But this year was special for Thompson and his squad. The Wildcats featured only two seniors and one graduate student, but they were going against some of the toughest competition they had faced in years. Thompson said the top-four squads, UK included, all nailed their routines, so to win by 14.5 points was an amazing feat within itself.
And then when you factor in that Thompson said this might be UK's best squad ever, it becomes pretty clear that this one was special. Thompson, who cheered at UK from 1997 to 1999, said their routine in 1997 was flawless, but this year's actually topped that.
"I'm so happy for the kids because that's what we try to do - we try to beat the great routines that Kentucky has set before," he said. "In 1997 it was one of them and 2009 is another one."
And although the expectation is to win every year, that doesn't mean the championship means anything less. Thompson said hearing Kentucky and national champions every year never gets old.
"It's still exciting," Thompson said. "Even though we expect to win, we work so hard. Two and a half months go into preparing for this and we get that one opportunity to shine, that one chance at the competition - two minutes and 30 seconds. All that work comes down to that performance. Even though you've worked hard, something unexpected can go wrong."
It rarely does for UK.
The resume UK boasts almost seems made up. The Wildcats first title came in 1985 and they won eight straight from 1995 to 2002. They're the only team to win back-to-back championships and the only squad to win three, four, five, six, seven and eight national championships in a row.
So what's the secret? Is it unparalleled hard work, an unbelievable knack for recruiting the best kids or the nation's best routines? Thompson said it's a combination of all three.
"It's kind of like a recipe," Thompson said. "We get great kids, very talented kids. We get kids who are the very best from wherever they come from. When you have that talent and you combine it with hard work, combine it with the tradition of Kentucky cheerleading and they know what is expected of them - you put that all together and we're able to come up with something that's worthy of a national championship."
The next step for UK is No. 18, Thompson said. For now, the Wildcats will finally get a chance to celebrate. UK got to spend Monday at Disney World to enjoy the rides, but they'll arrive in Lexington early tomorrow afternoon with another trophy in hand.
They plan to do the same next year and the year after that. With Thompson at the helm, they plan to do it every year. After all, first place is all they've ever known.
Posted Jan. 19, 3:38 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
We received some great feedback regarding the release of the top-25 polls. I was a little surprised to see that most of you didn't expect UK to crack the polls this week. Overall though, great feedback. Here's a couple of the responses I got. I'd like to do this on a regular basis so keep sending those e-mails in.
"Did I hope that UK would get ranked this week? Heck yeah! Did I think they would? Not really. They are playing really well right now and I love watching them, however it was going to have to be a tremendous jump to leapfrog all of the other teams that are also playing well. Sure, I'm disappointed, but I see it like this: national championships are won on the court, not in the polls. As long as the Cats do what they need to do, everything else will fall into place. GO CATS!!!!!!"
- Jeremy Dickerson
"The fact you are asking this question shows the improvement UK basketball has made in the past few years. Deep down, with our recent teams, most UK fans know we didn't even belong in the conversation. As long as we keep improving, everything will take care of itself. The only poll that matters is the final poll in April. This is the best stretch of basketball I can remember in the past four or five years. Keeping the Cats out of the top 25 may also give this team an edge for the remainder of the year. Playing the "nobody believes in us" card could be very valuable coming down the stretch."
- M.F. Mayes
Posted Jan. 19, 1:50 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The UK men's basketball team got a little more respect in the Associated Press Poll, but still not enough to crack the top 25. The Wildcats received 105 total votes, good enough for 28th overall.
The poll did feature a Southeastern Conference team in Florida (No. 24), who stands at 16-2 overall, 3-0 in the SEC.
I'd like to hear what you all think. Are you angry/disappointed/outraged UK didn't get in? Does it really matter at this point in the season? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on what kind of feedback we get, we might post a few of e-mail comments on the blog.
Posted Jan. 19, 12:47 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The first poll has come in and the Wildcats are still on the outside looking in. Despite a 14-4 record, a perfect streak in the Southeastern Conference and a marquee win at Tennessee, UK didn't crack the ESPN/USA Today Poll.
The Wildcats did receive votes, however. They tallied 12 votes in all but came in at 34th overall.
Some of the teams ranked ahead of UK are Baylor (No. 23), Illinois (No. 24) and Memphis (No. 25). The Wildcats still have to leapfrog California, Florida, Gonzaga, Utah State, Ohio State, Brigham Young, Dayton and Missouri before cracking the top 25.
Also, for the second consecutive week, an SEC team failed to make the top 25.
Do the Wildcats make it in the Associated Press Poll? We'll see.
Posted Jan. 19, 12:28 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Junior Jodie Meeks has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday.
Meeks earned the honors after breaking Dan Issel's single-game scoring record by scoring 54 points Tuesday night in a win at Tennessee. Meeks, a guard from Norcross, Ga., followed his record-setting performance with another 22 points Sunday afternoon at Georgia, helping the Wildcats improve to 3-0 in the conference.
I'll let you know if anymore honors come in. Also, we're keeping an eye out for the new polls. It'll be interesting to see if UK lands in the top 25.
Posted Jan. 19, 12:20 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
On the matchup with Auburn on Wednesday ...
"We're looking forward to the matchup. I know that they come in on as an emotional high as you can possibly get. It's a very, very, very good team, very athletic team and very capable team. The games they've lost this year have been all close games and they played a very difficult schedule. We know we're going to have to play our best to play with them."
On the injuries to Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson last year and how different it is having them back at the level they're playing at ...
"It's awfully good to have them back. It's awfully good to always have all your players physically capable. Those guys, as good as Patrick was last year, he's better this year, and Jodie we've been able to see the real guy all year long. Everyone really refers and talks about the 54-point game he had, and they should because it was such an amazing accomplishment, but he's been rock solid every single game of the year. He's been fantastic and just continues to get better. And Pat's the same kind of guy, no matter if he gets a bunch of touches or if we do a good job of getting him the ball or we don't, he is always going to do his job and he's going to occupy defenders and he's going to make more than one guy guard him. He's going to rebound, he's going to defend. He's just a tremendous basketball player as well."
On the play of Michael Porter and what he's done better and what he can continue to do better ...
"Mike's been great for us. He continues to get better and better and better. He's running our team, he's being a great leader on and off the court and he's giving guys a great deal of confidence when he's out there. He knows where everybody is supposed to be all the time. He's just playing really well. He's playing really smart basketball, he's playing very tough and very, very determined basketball. He gives us a chance to be in games and have a chance for success. As far as improvement, I think he's going to really get on a hot streak and start shooting the basketball well and think it's going in every time he shoots it now. He's a good defender. I think he's going to get better and better and better as we go along. He's gained a ton of confidence over the course of the season and I look for that to continue escalating."
On whether or not he could see Meeks' level of play coming earlier in the year ...
"I thought he would have a great year because of the way he did come back. He was finally physically able, 100 percent. Back in the summer, we can't watch them, but I could just tell he had a different look about him. When we started working out in the fall, I said this guy is going to have a great year. To be honest, I don't think anyone could expect a guy that had averaged the amount of points (that he had last year), to do what he's done for us. It's all because of his energy level. He has a great disposition about him every single time you see him. He's got a smile on his face, he's very thoughtful of others. He has so many great things going for him and when he plays on the court, I don't know if I've ever seen anybody use more energy offensively, defensively and running and it's for 40 minutes a lot of times. He gives unbelievable effort. He's just been scoring the basketball like crazy. We thought that he needed to have a good year and we expected to him to have a good year, but to this point, we probably didn't expect this much."
On what it was like Tuesday night to watch Meeks' performance ...
"It was great because our team won. That's another thing about Jodie is he's all about the team. I think all his comments afterward were very indicative of that. It was great to watch it. I've never seen a guy have a performance like that. You see guys get hot and make three or four and a row and you say, `Wow, he's on a roll tonight,' and then the next thing you know they miss five or six, and that's very common. That's more likely to happen than a guy to continue on like he did. It was just an amazing night and we were lucky to be on the same team he was."
Posted Jan. 19, 10:31 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
It was a busy weekend in UK Athletics. All the news is on the homepage, but I thought I'd give you a quick hit of what each team did this weekend.
Posted Jan. 18, 9:50 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
They've done it again.
For the 17th time in program history, the UK cheerleading team has won the national title. The Wildcats placed first at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championships for the second consecutive season at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla.
The Wildcats won with a score of 473.5, beating out Alabama (459) and Central Florida (454).
"This one was special for us because this year there were seven really good teams here," UK cheerleading Coach Jomo Thompson said. "We had a great routine, but Alabama and UCF drilled their routines as well, so for us to win by 14.5 really is something special."
Alabama was coached by former UK assistant coach David McDowell, who was a UK cheerleader from 2001 to 2003 before taking over as an assistant from 2004 to 2006.
Also, the UK dance team placed seventh at the Universal Dance Association National Championships. The dance team, which has competed in the United Spirit Association College Nationals the past few years, has gathered six top-four finishes since 2003. In 2005, the squad won the national championship in the jazz category.
UK dance team Coach Cathy Coyle said the UDA National Championships is the most prestigious national competition in the country. Coyle said the team's goal was to finish in the top 10.
Posted Jan. 18, 7:55 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
No surprise here - UK junior guard Jodie Meeks is already raking in the honors for Player of the Week.
The first to come in is from Andy Katz of ESPN. Katz, who writes ESPN's Weekly Watch, said "the race for player of the week was over Tuesday night - no one was going to top Jodie Meeks' monster performance."
Meeks' record-setting 54-point performance will likely garner several several more Player of the Week nominations as the week pours on. I'll let you know as the honors start to roll in.
Posted Jan. 18, 3:59 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Where's the men's basketball coverage? I'm sure that's the question that crossed several of your minds this afternoon after UK dismantled Gerogia 68-45, and for good reason.
For the time being, we will not be doing a live blog for the road games. That could very well change in the future as this blog progresses over the next few weeks, but for now it will strictly be for home games.
As far as the game itself, there's a couple of things I want bring up for you all to think about. The Wildcats have now won three straight and nine of their last 10, which leads me to this question: Have you seen UK play better than this in the last four or five years? Granted the Wildcats (14-4, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) aren't even in the top 25 yet, but they have a marquee win at Tennessee and their only loss came at the hands of a last-second shot at Louisville, who is arguably the hottest team in the nation right now.
Maybe it's a stretch to say it's the best UK has played in the past few years. I don't know, but I'd love to hear what you all have say.
Also, as far as the top 25 is concerned, it'll be interesting to see if the Wildcats can crack into the polls this week for the first time this season. UK didn't receive a single vote in either poll last week so it might be a bit of stretch to see if the Wildcats can leapfrog a handful of teams. Regardless, I'll have an update at the beginning of week as soon as each poll is released.
In cased you missed the note on television, Jodie Meeks' streak of 36 consecutive free throws finally came to a halt in the first half. The streak is the 13th longest in Southeastern Conference history and the third longest in UK history.
Couple of things to look out for tonight and tomorrow. I'm covering the UK women's basketball game today against Mississippi State at Memorial Coliseum so I'll have a quick recap up as soon as the game is over with as well as a final game story later on. Also, the UK cheerleaders and dance team are competing in nationals this weekend so I'm hoping to have an update on how they fared later on tonight or early tomorrow. And finally, I'll have a short recap of how the rest of UK's athletic teams fared tomorrow morning.
Until then, stay tuned to Cat Scratches and Ukathletics.com for the latest news and updates.
Posted Jan. 16, 7:39 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
We had a slew of news conferences this evening so I figured I would give you all a couple of highlights from what was said.
Rich Brooks, football head coach:
Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball head coach:
Billy Gillispie, men's basketball head coach:
Posted Jan. 16, 4:35 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
You wouldn't know it by the temperatures outside - it's brutally cold in case you didn't notice - but the UK softball team has begun practicing for the 2009 season. Fortunately for UK Coach Rachel Lawson and her team, the Wildcats have been indoors at Nutter Field House since Monday.
The Wildcats finished Friday's practice with live pitching and hitting, but Lawson said they've been working on everything from defensive drills to footwork to batting practice.
"Everybody came back focused and they're ready to win games," Lawson said. "The first measure of that is almost everybody came back in great shape and everybody came back healthy. ... I would feel comfortable playing a game right now. Some of our kids just need to learn our team concept a little better, but they're working hard and they're focused. We've had a very productive week of practice."
Lawson has been particularly pleased with the play of the pitching staff and freshmen. Lawson said the pitchers are blowing pitches by hitters thus far in practice, and the 10 newcomers are transitioning to college ball extremely well.
"You wouldn't really know the difference right now between our sophomores and one of our freshmen," Lawson said.
Lawson said the returning veterans have also had a great first week of practice. Sophomore center fielder Meagan Aull has done a better job of knowing her pitch and attacking it, Lawson said, and junior shortstop Molly Johnson has come back stronger and faster than ever.
"Everybody has picked up where they left off last year and are probably a step or two better than they were last year," Lawson said.
The team will continue individual and team workouts next week inside Nutter Field House. Lawson said the practices will become more intense and tougher mentally as the season approaches.
"We have to step up our game," Lawson said. "Our expectation is high but it's got to continue to climb higher and higher. Everything they learn this week they better remember because it's going to get more challenging."
Posted Jan. 16, 4:35 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Carly Ormerod played 22 minutes in UK's win Thursday night at Alabama. In those 22 minutes, Ormerod grabbed a rebound, didn't score a point and wasn't a huge factor in the Wildcats' win. But they were 22 important minutes.
See, Ormerod has been fortunate if she can even stand on her left foot 22 minutes without having to sit down. The pain in her foot has become so unbearable over the past year that it derailed her junior season and part of her senior season.
"It's been really frustrating," Ormerod said. "Obviously basketball is my passion, my one true love. I've been playing it since I was 4 or 5 years old, but this is the first time I've ever been seriously hurt. Both mentally and physically I've had to endure a lot. There's nothing worse than sitting on the bench and watching your team and knowing that you should be out there and you should be contributing, but you can't."
Ormerod has been on and off the court for the past year dealing with sesamoiditis and turf toe in her left foot. The injury, which Ormerod described as having a pin or needle in your shoe, forced Ormerod to miss 16 games last season and another seven this year.
"When you get out on the court and you're cutting, it's just sharp pain to the point where you just want to lay down, you don't want to be on your foot," Ormerod said. "I've gotten cortisone injections and that's helped me get through it, but it wears off with time."
Cortisone shots are really all the relief Ormerod has to counter the injury. There is no special procedure or treatment for the injury other than rest and ice. Ormerod wore a boot last year and was on crutches for a short period of time, but neither got her back on the court.
The good news is the injury is getting better. After logging only a minute against Tennessee on Jan. 8, Ormerod has played significant minutes in the past two games.
"It feels great right now and we're just hoping this last (cortisone) injection helps me last through the season," said Ormerod, who has had four injections over the last year.
But the bad news is the injury is chronic, meaning it could re-appear at anytime during the season.
"We think we've got it beat and then it re-appears a couple months down the road," Ormerod said.
Ormerod's health could be a huge factor in how far the Wildcats go this season. UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said there's no question UK is a better team when Ormerod is on the hardwood.
That much was evident in the game against Arkansas. In her longest outing since the Xavier game on Dec. 3, Ormerod provided a lift off the bench with nine points and three assists, including a key offensive rebound at the end of the game.
"She played well and is playing the way that we need her to play," Mitchell said. "She had a huge offensive rebound and was fouled at the end of the Arkansas game, and I don't think that freshmen or sophomores make that play. That was a senior and an experienced-type play and the kind that you need to win in this league. ... She means so much from those standpoints doing the little things."
And the little things are what UK needs from Ormerod. On a team with just three seniors, the Louisville, Ky., native provides leadership and experience, even when she's not on the court.
"I'm almost a coach in a way," Ormerod said. "I really try to give advice, especially to the guards because I've played in this league a long time and I know what's going on. I always try to keep them positive and encouraged."
But make no mistake, Ormerod would much rather be on the court, because when she is, she's one of the best. As a sophomore, Ormerod averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. Those numbers dipped last year when Ormerod started battling the injury, but Ormerod's teammates, Mitchell and the fans know what she is capable of doing.
More importantly, they remember the effort and battles Ormerod has had to go through just to be able to get back on the court. That's why the fans greeted her with huge ovations - some standing ovations - every time she entered and left the game at home on Sunday.
"It felt amazing," Ormerod said. "Basketball is so much fun and I was reminded of that on Sunday. ... I'm blessed to have fans and people in my life that care so much. That means more to me than anything."
Ormerod realizes the rest of her senior season won't be easy. There are going to be setbacks and games like Thursday night where she struggles to shake off the rust. But the number of minutes she plays or the number of points she scores doesn't matter to her. All that matters is wearing the Kentucky uniform and competing for a Southeastern Conference title.
"The thing about her is she loves to wear the Kentucky uniform," Mitchell said. "That is what we need in this program - that sprit and enthusiasm our players need to have and understand - that this is a special opportunity to play here at Kentucky. She gets that and that is why I love coaching her and glad she is playing right now."
Posted Jan. 16, 11:38 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
In case you haven't already seen it, there is a great highlight video of Jodie Meeks' record-setting 54-point performance on the Web site. You can access the video by clicking on the video tab on the UKathletics.com homepage ... or use the link above.
Posted Jan. 16, 10:14 a.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
There are several big events on tap this weekend for UK Athletics. The first, which is already underway, is the Southeastern Conference Coaches' Indoor Championships.
The tournament, which takes place Friday through Sunday at the Boone Tennis Center and the Lexington Tennis Club, will host some of the SEC's best talent this weekend. Players from eight SEC schools will be represented in the tournament, including Michael Venus of Louisiana State , who is ranked No. 2 in the nation.
"The SEC Indoors in one of the best and oldest tennis tournaments in the South," UK Coach Dennis Emery said. "It's a great kick-off to the spring season. It is another chance to get our young players more experience and a chance of more match wins before the dual-match regular season."
UK will be without Bruno Agostinelli, ranked fourth in the nation, as a precautionary measure for a right groin strain, but there's still plenty of reason to come out to this weekend's tournament.
In all, nine players from the nation's top-100 singles players will be on hand for this weekend's tournament, including UK freshman sensation Eric Quigley, who is seeded fifth in the tournament and ranked 37th in the nation.
If Quigley's name sounds familiar, it's because he won four straight Kentucky singles titles while he was at South Oldham High School just outside of Louisville , Ky. From personal experience, the guy is worth watching. By the time he leaves UK , he could be one of the all-time greats.
The tournament consists of a 64-player singles draw and a 32-team doubles bracket with first match consolation tourneys for each discipline. It should be an exciting day of tennis, and it's a great opportunity for UK to host some of the nation's best players.
"I think it is always good to bring the best players in the nation on to your campus and expose your players to that level of talent in a more comfortable atmosphere," Emery said.
If you make it out, be aware of the site changes. The tournament begins Friday at 9 a.m. with first-round doubles at the Boone Tennis Center , but it will move to the Lexington Tennis Club at 1 p.m. for the first round of singles action. It will return to the Boone Center at 5 p.m. for second-round doubles.
And if tennis isn't your cup of tea, there's also a huge track meet going on this weekend at Nutter Field House. UK will host the Kentucky Invitational on Friday and Saturday in what track and field Coach Don Weber says could be the most competitive home indoor meet in the history of the UK program.
Several hundred athletes will be competing in the meet, which will likely be the largest meet UK has ever hosted.
Some of the nation's top stars will be on display on Friday and Saturday, but it's also a huge weekend for the UK team. The men open the indoor season ranked 11th and the women rank 22nd.
The meet begins at 5 p.m. on Friday and will resume at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The good news is, given the brutal temperatures outside, both events are indoors. If you're able to brave the nasty weather for a few minutes, the tennis tournament and the track meet are the places to be. Just make sure you bring a coat.
Posted Jan. 15, 10:40 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Couple of quick notes to wrap up the night:
In case you missed it on the homepage, UK football coaches Joker Phillips and Randy Sanders have received upgrades in their working titles.
UK Coach Rich Brooks said Phillips, UK's offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting, has been named head coach of the offense while Sanders will now have the title of offensive coordinator.
"We want to continue to recognize Joker for what he has accomplished here and reward Randy for his job well done during his three years on the staff," Brooks said.
Also, the women's basketball team picked up another huge win Thursday night, this time coming on the road. The Wildcats upended Alabama 67-57 thanks to a balanced scoring effort.
Four of UK's starters - Eleia Roddy, Victoria Dunlap, Carly Morrow and Amber Smith - scored in double figures for the Wildcats, and a pair of them had career nights.
Roddy scored a career-high 19 points and pulled down 10 boards, and Morrow continued her deadly shooting from the outside and finished with a career-high 19 points.
UK has now won seven of its last games and will return home Sunday for a matchup with Mississippi State. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.
It's late, so that's it for the day. I'll have more in the morning on the tennis tournament and track meet going on this weekend in Lexington.
Posted Jan. 15, 4:11 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Jeremy Jarmon had a decision to make that he had dreamed of since the day he put on the Blue and White. Sure, Jarmon is a basketball fan at heart, but the NFL was - and still is - the next step for the junior defensive end.
But the decision that most would love to have - choosing to stick around to play one more year of college ball versus going to the NFL - isn't as clear-cut and glorious as some might imagine.
Think about it: What would you do? Do you take the chance of entering the NFL Draft and run the risk of slipping to the later rounds? Or do you come back to college for one more year and hope you don't get injured?
There isn't a right answer. Your friends might advise you to make a certain decision; your coach and family might tell you another. It's that kind of pressure that players like Jarmon, cornerback Trevard Lindley and linebacker Micah Johnson had to deal with over the last several weeks before deciding to return to UK.
"Don't get me wrong, it was very exciting just to be able to sit with Coach (Rich) Brooks and my high school coach, Tim Haney, and my parents about the possibility of leaving early to pursue an NFL career," Jarmon said. "But on the other hand, it got a little tiring keeping up with a lot of things going on - who was leaving who was coming back - and just the thought process of, if I was to leave this year, how do I even go about trying to find an agent at this point."
Making the choice is by no means a burden. Jarmon, Johnson and Lindley would be the first one to tell you it's an opportunity of a lifetime. Jarmon said he received text messages, e-mails and Facebook messages every day encouraging him to do one thing or another - messages, Jarmon said, he appreciated.
But one thing we as fans and the media tend to forget is that these guys could be making a life-altering decision and they're all still in college.
"It's a bit frustrating to hear all the speculation and hear this agency or this news company reporting information off of nothing," Jarmon said. "It gets frustrating because people are making assumptions off of nothing."
Save the assumptions - Jarmon and the other Wildcats are coming back.
In Jarmon's case, it all came down to his family and coaches. His draft evaluations indicated he was a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice with the chance of moving up. After talking with Brooks, Haney and his parents, Jarmon decided he wanted to finish his education and get one more crack at the Southeastern Conference.
"They thought I had so much more upside and that there were so many things that I could do better, that I could perfect," Jarmon said. "Just sitting down and evaluating it, based on what they said, they were right. There are things that I can do better to improve my draft status."
Jarmon said he knew in the back of his mind that he wanted to stay in college one more year, but that didn't make it any easier. If Jarmon's evaluations would have indicated he was a second- or third-round pick, he might have darted for the next level.
"It would be hard to turn away from," Jarmon said.
Now that he's back, he's on a mission. Jarmon said he still has plenty of goals left to accomplish, among them, breaking the single-season and career sack records.
To take down the records and prepare for the NFL, Jarmon said he has to become a more consistent and dominant player. Jarmon's numbers dipped last season - his sack total dropped from nine in 2007 to 4.5 in 2008 - but he was double-teamed nearly every snap.
How Jarmon handles the extra attention this season could determine if he moves up in next year's draft. It could also determine how far UK goes in 2009.
The return of the defensive trio bolsters one the SEC's best defenses in 2008. With most of the unit intact for 2009, Jarmon, Lindley and Johnson want to finish their careers off as SEC champions.
"Our goal is to come back and be a better team, to go to a fourth consecutive bowl game," Jarmon said. "We want to get ourselves into the situation to compete for the SEC East and the SEC outright."
Posted Jan. 15, 1:28 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I've received a bunch of e-mails regarding an RSS feed. We will have one, but it likely won't be up until next week. Until then, for those of you who prefer getting e-mail, we're going to have a listserv for updates. By subscribing to the listserv, you'll be updated every time we make a post. The directions are below:
To subscribe, fans will need to send an e-mail to email@example.com with the following in the body of the message:
Subscribe catscratches first name last name
You will then receive a confirmation message to which you must reply ok.
Posted Jan. 15, 12:50 p.m. ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Here's what UK Coach Billy Gillispie had to say on this morning's SEC Coaches Teleconference:
On the upcoming game against Georgia ...
"We're excited to go play. It's a team that's getting better and better and better. They knocked us out of the tournament last year. Coach (Dennis Felton) always does a great job with the team. They're a very physical team, a very, very good rebounding team and it's a team that's going to be a very difficult matchup for us, especially the way we've been rebounding the ball."
On where Jodie Meeks' performance ranks in the realm of offensive performance Gillispie has seen ...
"I've never been involved in anything like it. I've never been involved with anything like the 46-point performance he had earlier in the year or the 39 or the 37 one Jodie had, but the other night was just unbelievable. The thing that everybody talks about is the 54 points. He did a great job defensively. He had eight defensive rebounds and four assists as well. He just did everything for our team. He was on fire. I think the most important thing when you look at the box score and you see 54 points, it was accomplishing that on 22 shots. You start doing the math and that doesn't happen very often. It was just a great individual performance that helped give us a chance to win."
On whether Tennessee struggling on defense had anything to do with Meeks' record-setting night ...
"I think that we did a few things that helped him get a couple of shots. Jodie is a very difficult player. Once he catches it, he drives the basketball so well and forces fouls and finishes so well that you don't want to get too close to him. But if you don't get too close to him he'll jump up because he's got a very quick release. I would like to say that we designed all those things, but there wasn't much designing going on. It was just a great individual performance."
On how Darius Miller has done recently and if making a few shots the other night gave him a psychological boost ...
"I don't think he's worried about a psychological boost of any kind. He's an inexperienced player. He's a freshman on a major college campus and it takes time for those guys to play like they did before. It takes time for adjustments. As far as (making shots) helping, I think Darius is confident. I don't think he has to see the ball go through the basket. He needs to play hard to get better. I thought he played very well. I think the best is yet to come of Darius Miller."
On how Patrick Patterson played against Tennessee ...
"I've never seen anything like what Jodie did the other night. I've never been a part of anything like that. But I think Patrick is an All-American player. Patrick fought two or three really good, really athletic, really big, strong guys that played hard in the paint for 40 minutes. You never saw any difference in his approach, you never saw any difference in his body language. You talk about a guy taking his hard hat to work and putting in a full day of work, that's what he did. Jodie had an unbelievable night, but I thought Patrick had a great night. The numbers wouldn't indicate it as far as scoring points, but as far as giving his team a chance to win, on that particular night, it should be inspirational. I talked to a lot pro guys yesterday and as much as they were talking about Jodie, as they should, they were talking about Patrick as well and that workman-like effort. Not too many players have the courage and unselfishness that he possesses as a human being to do that when you're not getting a whole lot of shots."
On if Patterson's hand is OK ...
"Yeah, they took an X-ray after the Vanderbilt game and they didn't find anything. I think they're going to continue to ice it and do a little rehab on it so I think he's going to be OK. I do think it's been bothering him just a little bit. He would never say anything, but I think it's bothering him a little bit."
First-month `frenzy': New soccer coach hits the ground running
Posted Jan. 15, 10:31 AM ET - Eric Lindsey , UK Media Relations
Believe it or not, but Dec. 16, the day UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart tabbed Jon Lipsitz to be the next women's soccer coach at UK, might have been the most calming day Lipsitz has had since he's been on the job.
Since his introduction on Dec. 18, Lipsitz has had little time to adjust to his new home in Lexington, much less his new office. Until last week, Lipsitz had been on the road recruiting in a frantic chase to catch up to the nation's best soccer programs.
"When I got hired, most of the top schools in the country had already secured their 2010 class," Lipsitz said. "There was not a class here. That was the first thing I had to do."
Lipsitz, who has quickly earned a reputation as a tireless recruiter and mastermind of turning programs around, has already caught up, recruiting around the country for the past few weeks.
But the rigor of the road was just the beginning for the second coach in the program's history. For the first time since taking the job, Lipsitz was back in Lexington last week preparing for a season that's still eight months away.
"It's half being a visionary and planning way ahead," Lipsitz said. "I catch myself already doing things and organizing things that I know we won't need until August, but I'm excited. I want to have this vision and push us to be ready for August now, when preseason starts.
"I'm spending a lot my time just putting out fires," he said. "Little things come up. I think I am both getting a huge amount done and nothing done at the same time is how it feels. It's been a frenzy. "
Truth be told, Lipsitz has been relentless in getting things done. Working 16- to 17-hour days, Lipsitz has already accomplished a laundry list of tasks.
He's working on rounding out his staff for 2009 and has been busy getting ready for offseason workouts that began Wednesday. The former Charlotte coach met with his players immediately after he was hired and made it clear that there are immediate changes in store.
"We are quickly and profoundly increasing the standards and demands that we have on them in terms of their conditioning and work in the weight room," Lipsitz said. "I think it will be extremely challenging, extremely difficult for them but extremely rewarding for those who choose to meet our demands and can meet our demands."
The tireless work ethic and standard was a big reason Barnhart chose Lipsitz for the job. In his four seasons at Charlotte , Lipsitz guided the 49ers to a 58-23-4 record, including three straight Atlantic 10 titles from 2006 to 2008. He increased their win total from 11 in 2005 to a school-record 18 in 2008. The record-breaking season culminated with an NCAA Tournament second-round appearance.
But it was time for Lipsitz to move on. When he heard the head coaching job at UK was vacant, a job he called his dream job, Lipsitz had to take it. Now, not even a month into the job, Lipsitz believes he can orchestrate a familiar turnaround here at UK .
The plan is already well in motion.
"One of the things that I want to make sure is that when people come to our games, they never criticize the work that my players put out on the field," Lipsitz said. "There are things that we can't control ... but they can control their own level of conditioning and their own strength, mentally and physically.
"Everything we do between now and the beginning of preseason will be to increase their mental and physical strength and conditioning," he said. "It will be profoundly different because we want people to go, win or lose, `Wow, that was a great effort.' "
Turnarounds and championships has been Lipsitz's calling card, and Barnhart pointed to Lipsitz as a person who can help UK achieve its 15 by 15 by 15 Plan, which calls for UK to win 15 conference or national championships and rank among the top-15 athletic departments by 2015.
To get there, Lipsitz has stressed a huge importance on defense. Although his team was fifth in the country last year in scoring with an average of three goals a game, defense wins championships, Lipsitz said.
"You have to defend," Lipsitz said. "Defense is about heart, it's about toughness, it's about desire and it shows the character of your team. We will defend first and we will learn to attack over time."
The most important thing Lipsitz has stressed since he's been on the job is family. For a man that epitomizes the word businessman - Lipsitz is known throughout the soccer ranks for wearing suits on the sidelines - family has always come first.
It means so much to Lipsitz that it's even affected his choice of a new home in Lexington . During his recent search, a realtor asked him what he was looking for in a house. Lipsitz's response? It had to have a backyard with a patio or deck that he can put a grill on so he can have the team over all the time. He said he wouldn't live anywhere without it.
And when the team unveils its new logo for the season, family will be the first of three words that define the program.
"I want to get know each of (my players) as a human being," Lipsitz said. "I don't think that you can effectively lead unless you know who you are leading. I can't inspire them because they're wearing this uniform. I have to inspire them because of who they are as people.
"I need to let them know me, too - why they should they trust me, why they should believe me," Lipsitz said. "I have to let them into my family and let them know who I am as a person and what my belief system is and that I will assist them and help them in any way possible if they're willing to bleed blue."
Only a month into the job, it appears Lipsitz already is.
Posted Jan. 14, 5:26 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Barring any breaking news, that's just about going to do it for us today. Thanks for keeping tabs with us throughout the day. It's been a wild 24 hours or so in UK Athletics.
Also, thanks for the e-mails. Keep sending them in. Depending on how many we receive, we might up the e-mail question and answer posts from once a week to a couple times a week.
As far as the RSS feed (I received several e-mails about it), we're working on getting that set up so you're updated every time we make a post. It should be up in the next few days, but bear with us.
Once last item before I check out: Ivan Maisel of ESPN highlights the best and worst of the bowl season. Ventrell Jenkins has made the list. Check it out here.
That's just about going to do it though. Check back tomorrow - we have several more items in store.
Posted Jan. 14, 4:44 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Continuing just an absolutely crazy day in UK Athletics, Billy Gillispie will make an appearance on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption Wednesday evening. The show, which airs Monday through Friday, starts at 5:30 p.m. ET.
PTI is hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. You can bet they'll have plenty of questions on Jodie Meeks' record-setting night.
Posted Jan. 14, 4:31 PM ET - Eric Lindsey and Marcus Shanks, UK Media Relations
Normally I'd turn out a story for you guys, but my guess is you all would much rather here from the man of the hour - or man of the week, I should say.
Now that you've had a little time to think about Tuesday night, have you been able to put it into perspective?
"I know it was a great thing that happened last night but it hasn't really sunk in what happened last night. It hasn't even been 24 hours so I am still in shock. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Dan Issell is great to me."
Have you talked to Issel yet, and if so, what did he say?
"He left me a message and I called him back today. He told me great job and that he would be keeping in contact with me and watching me. He told me he was proud that I broke the record and that it could not have happened to a better kid."
Can you describe the feeling of what it is like to hit that many baskets?
"In the first half I had four or five 3-pointers and it felt like every time I had an open look then the ball was going to go in. I guess I was in one of the zones and once I got in that zone, I couldn't get out."
Did you know how many points you had during the game?
"I saw that I had 40 points when I was taken out of the game during the second half. I asked everyone on the bench if I really had 40 points and everyone on the bench said yes and that is why everyone was going crazy. I just looked up at the board and I was like `Wow.' It was unbelievable. When I am in the game I don't really pay attention to points. I just want to help the team win. Coach Gillispie told me after the game that he was very proud of me and that he had never been a part of something like that."
What you did Tuesday night was obviously a huge achievement, but it appears winning comes first for you.
"If we would not have won and I had 54 points then it would have been a bad night. The record is great, but the main thing is winning. I would have fewer points and get the win then have a lot of points and lose. I just wanted to go in and win no matter what."
What was it like going back to class today?
"When I first walked in it looked like everyone's eyes got really big and they were like wow because they didn't know I was going to be in a class with them. A lot of people were telling me good game and to keep it up. I was more tired than anything because I didn't get much sleep after being so hyped up. I just think last night was a great game. I was about half asleep when I was walking to class so I didn't notice anything a lot different than normal. Everyone on campus notices us basketball players when we walk across campus because we are so tall. I got some looks but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."
How many texts and voicemails did you have on your phone?
"After the game last night I had 150 unread text messages and probably had about another 100 hundred today already. I also had about 50 voicemails last night and I had a bunch more today since I couldn't answer the phone in class. I'm working hard to get back to everyone who sent me a message. It has been mostly friends and family who sent me a bunch of messages. A lot of people have been asking me for tickets for the Georgia game but I don't think I will be able to get everyone in. Sunday will be a tough game because Georgia is a great team and they played Tennessee very close. We will not overlook anyone in our conference because we play in such a tough conference."
What happens next time you step out on the court?
"All I am thinking about is the next game. You have to be like that. If I go out and think I want to get 50 again then it will probably mess me up and I will start trying to do too much. First of all, I know from here on out teams will probably not let me catch the ball and I will have to be patient and take whatever the defense will give me."
What did Bruce Pearl say to you after the game last night?
"I didn't really get a chance to talk to him much because we were all celebrating. He told me great game and I that I played really well. Tennessee still has to come here and that will be a tough game also. We can't get to emotional because it was just one game."
What were the most points you ever scored before last night?
"In high school I scored 32 during my senior year in the state playoffs. In a recreational game I scored 40. I never scored 50 something in one game. I have in a couple games combined. I was just in a zone and my teammates kept looking for me. I would miss a shot and say my bad but my teammates told me to keep shooting. Without my teammates I would not have been able to get the shots I got. I credit them a lot."
Given last season's injuries, how rewarding is it to be playing at this type of level and to have a night like last night?
"It means a lot because last year I was so banged up. It was very frustrating but I just tried to stay strong. My mom and dad and my sisters kept talking to me every day and telling me to hang in there. Once I got surgery and once I got the rehab, I was just focused on winning and having a good season and working as hard as I could to prepare."
What did you do in the offseason to get to the point where you're at now?
"I think for the most part, I've been a scorer. My freshman year I was trying to figure my way out and didn't want to step on anybody's toes, as well as last year - along with being injured and banged up, I was still an underclassmen and didn't want to step on anybody's toes. After my sophomore season, after I got the surgery, I just worked hard on all the aspects of my game. I wanted to come in and prepare well."
Coach Billy Gillispie said he's never seen a guy that exerts as much energy as you. Talk about what your relationship is like with him.
"It's great. He's the kind of coach everybody would love to play for. He gives you a lot freedom on offense as long as you play as hard as you can on defense. As long as I play hard on defense every play, he doesn't mind a bad shot here or there because I'm expending so much energy on the defensive end and trying to help the team win."
Now that you all have opened Southeastern Conference-play with two wins, where do you see this team heading as the rest of the season progresses?
"Our expectations are too always prepare for every game like it's the national championship game. We want to win every game, like everybody else. It's kind of hard to say where we're going to be in late February and March, but I see this team - as we keep progressing and getting better - as something special."
How instrumental has Patrick Patterson been in your development and success this year?
"He's the main catalyst for this team. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't get as many open looks and the chances to create for myself. Everybody sags down on him because he's such a dominant threat in the paint for our big men. I credit him a lot and it's been fun playing with these past few years."
What your dad at the game last night and what did he say?
"He and my uncle were there. After the game I saw him and he was almost in tears he was so proud of me. I was glad he was there to be there for me."
What did your mom say to you?
" She was at home. She was going to come but my sisters had some games and it was a school night. She was emotional too. She just said great game and call her when I landed. I called her today and she was really happy for me."
When you put your parents in tears, what's that say about the performance you put on Tuesday night?
"It was special. Having two family members there was very special for me because it was such a historic night breaking the record and winning. Having family members there was great."
When are you going to relax and take a break from all the interviews and media coverage?
"We have today off. I was going to take today off and get some rest. I have a couple of bumps and bruises from the season so I'm going to rest those. I have to get ready for practice because this weekend is going to be tough on Sunday. Georgia is really good so it's going to be a tough game."
What's the day been like jumping from interview to interview?
"It's something you don't mind. It's a good problem to have and I'm happy to do it."
If you could pick one word to describe Tuesday's performance, what would it be?
"That's a tough one. Amazing, I guess, because it not only shocked people that were watching it, it shocked me too. Even though I had 26 in the first half, I didn't think I would be able to get 28 in the second half. For my teammates to look for me and the coaching staff to call the plays like they did, it was just incredible for me to be a part of it."
What goes through your head when you start hearing about your name being thrown in the National Player of the Year hunt?
"I don't really think about that kind of stuff. I'm just a guy that works hard. I like the attention of the media, but if I don't get it, it's fine. I'm fine flying under the radar. Every time I step in between those lines, I go as hard as I can."
Posted Jan. 14, 4:03 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Men's tennis player Bruno Agostinelli will not play in this weekend's SEC Coaches Indoor Championships hosted by UK. Agostinelli, ranked fourth in the nation, has a right groin strain and will be held out of the tournament as a precautionary measure, UK Coach Dennis Emery said.
Emery said Agostinelli will be ready for the dual-meet season on Jan. 24.
The tournament, which features players from seven Southeastern Conference teams, begins Friday and lasts until Monday. I'll have a short preview on the tournament tomorrow afternoon.
Posted Jan. 14, 3:00 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
They say the best things come in pairs. At UK, they come in threes.
After testing the NFL Draft waters, All-America cornerback Trevard Lindley announced Wednesday that he will stay at Kentucky for his senior season in 2009. Lindley was one of three UK players that explored the possibility of entering the NFL Draft, but all three are coming back.
"I sat down with my family and also talked to Coach (Rich) Brooks to discuss what I wanted to do," Lindley said. "I want to get bigger and stronger and continue to improve."
Lindley, a junior cornerback from Hiram, Ga., finished the 2008 season with a team-best 15 passes defended and 11 pass breakups, and tied for the team lead in interceptions with four. His 34 career pass breakups is a UK record
"I advised Trevard that he should strongly consider his option (of going to the NFL) because he was rated fairly high," Brooks said. "I'm excited, and a little surprised, about his decision to return."
His return, along with All-Southeastern Conference defensive end Jeremy Jarmon and All-SEC linebacker Micah Johnson, should bolster one of the SEC's best defenses in 2008. The Wildcats, who ranked 40th in the nation in total defense, helped guide UK to its third consecutive bowl victory in 2008, the first time in program history UK has won postseason games in three consecutive seasons.
"This enhances our chances of being a much better football team next year, when you have one of the top cornerbacks in the nation return," Brooks said. "With seniors like Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson and Jeremy Jarmon, our defense should be very strong going into the 2009 season."
NOTE: A new wallpaper acknowledging Jodie Meeks' historic night is now available.
Posted Jan. 14, 1:51 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Got some more notes for those of you still out there:
Jodie Meeks is on his way over here for an interview, so we'll have that up before the afternoon gets away from us. Plus, for those of you anxiously waiting out there, we'll have an announcement on Trevard Lindley's decision coming at 3 p.m. Stay tuned.
Posted Jan. 14, 12:39 PM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
So now that everybody has had a little time to take in Jodie Meeks' record-breaking performance Tuesday night, it's time to take a look at where Meeks stands compared to the rest of the nation's best players.
About midway through Tuesday's game, Jimmy Dykes suggested that Meeks' name be thrown into the mix for National Player of the Year. Quite a lofty assertion by a guy who knows what he's talking about, but when you look at the numbers and consider what he's done so far this season, the idea is far from far-fetched.
After pounding Rocky Top on Tuesday, Meeks is averaging a Southeastern Conference-best 25. 9 points per game, which is fourth-best in the nation. He's shooting the ball at nearly a 48 percent clip, including 44 percent from behind the arc, and he's missed just 10 of his 116 free throws this season. Throw in 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.5 steals a game and it becomes a pretty good case for the Player of the Year so far.
Not sold yet? Take a look at where Meeks stands compared to the nation's elite players:
So where does he stand among these players? Is he the best? Right in the middle? Does he even merit consideration in the top five? Let me know what you think by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
One thing to consider is that the National Player of the Year is NOT the most valuable player. It doesn't take into account who means more to their team or how a team would fair without that player. Otherwise, you would have a tough time arguing against Davidson's Stephen Curry.
Still, Meeks has been nearly as valuable. He's put his team on his back at times and has carried UK back from an early season loss to VMI to a 13-4 record. Dykes even said last night that he believes UK will enter the top 25 when the new polls are released early next week.
And if that still doesn't do it for you, consider this: Meeks is averaging the most points per game at UK since Dan Issel, the program's all-time scoring leader, averaged 33.9 points per game during the 1969-70 season.
I thought it was interesting last night when Pat Summitt, college basketball's all-time wins leader, came on the air and talked about Meeks being a "no-touch" guy. What she meant was he's the type of player you can't let even touch the ball because he has the ability to create his own shot at will. She talked about having to face guard a guy like Meeks and structuring the defense to prevent him from getting the ball.
What other player on that list would you have to do that for? Curry definitely gets the nod, but I'm not sure about the others, partly due to their position. You can't face guard Hansbrough because of the supporting cast he has around him. Double-team him and you take the risk of leaving a guy like Wayne Ellington or Ty Lawson open.
But what happens when teams do face guard Meeks? Then you leave the door open for Patrick Patterson to take over a game. Keep in mind the duo is averaging 44.3 points per game, the most since Issel (33.9) and Mike Pratt combined for 53.2 points per game in the 1969-70 season.
Whatever you think, it's clear last night was special. Whether it'll be enough to vault Meeks into the discussion for player of the year remains to be seen.
UPDATE: Change of plans again. ESPNU has gone back to its original broadcast time of 4:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Classic's broadcast of the game is still set for 6:30 p.m. ET. We'll let you know if there are anymore changes.
Posted Jan. 14, 11:14 AM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Few words will do Jodie Meeks justice after the performance he put on Tuesday night. Even in the shadows of UK legends, Meeks' performance Tuesday stood above the rest.
Meeks was epic in every sense of the word.
In one of the all-time greatest performances by a Kentucky Wildcat, Meeks scored a school-record 54 points to lead UK (13-4, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) over Tennessee 90-72 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. Meeks' 54 points broke Dan Issel's previous single-game scoring mark of 53 points set during the 1969-70 season.
"I have never seen anything like it," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. "Jodie Meeks had 46 against Appalachian State, and they are a nice team, but not near a team the quality of Tennessee, and on their home court. That was unbelievable. ... I have not seen anything like it."
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl did everything he could. He changed defenders, double-teamed him and even triple-teamed him. It didn't matter.
The Volunteers (10-5,1-1) rallied to within seven points midway with just under seven minutes to go, but Meeks scored the next nine points to lead UK to its second conference win of the year. Pearl, to his own admission, couldn't figure out how to stop Meeks.
"Meeks did anything he wanted to do," Pearl said. "We tried to guard him as a team, but we were not able to get anything done. We were frustrated at not being more aggressive against him."
When it was all said and done, Meeks rewrote the most storied record book in college basketball, breaking the all-time record for most points. In the process, Meeks set a new UK record for 3-pointers in a game, beating out the previous record of nine that he and Tony Delk shared.
"There have been so many great players - this is the greatest basketball tradition in the world at the collegiate level - and to be able to put your name up there with some those greats is quite an accomplishment. To be at the top of the list for the time being is something else because there have been a lot of great, great, great players. I hope they were all watching it tonight and enjoying, and I guarantee they were rooting him on."
Even Meeks couldn't help but enjoy his career night. With just under five minutes to go in the game, Meeks, mouthpiece and all, smiling ear to ear after knocking down an open 3 with just under five minutes to go.
At that point, he had already notched his personal best with 49 points, forcing the Tennessee fans from their seats and the former UK record holders from the books.
"To be in the same sentence with guys like Dan Issel and the other Kentucky legends means a lot," Meeks said. "It's mind-boggling."
After the game, Gillispie said he wasn't surprised. Gillispie said he never expected 54 out of Meeks but isn't surprised at the level he's playing.
"Every single day in practice he's played with as much energy as anyone I have ever seen offensively and defensively on a consistent basis day to day," Gillispie said. "His energy level never goes down. You don't know if the ball is always going to go in the basket and it's definitely not always going to go in for 54 a night, but you do know what you're going to get from him every single time."
That, as we all know now, is an epic effort.
But don't just take it from me. Here's what people in Lexington and around the nation are talking about after the record-setting performance:
Links will take to you to stories from John Clay at the Lexington Herald-Leader , Eric Crawford at the Courier-Journal , Pat Forde at ESPN , Jon Hale at the Kentucky Kernel , Gary Parrish at CBSsports and Bill Trocchi of Sports Illustrated .
And finally, here's some notes on exactly what Meeks accomplished Tuesday night. It's long:
We will have plenty more of Meeks' performance as the day rolls on, including an exclusive one-on-one interview with the star later on this afternoon. Until then, stay tuned and keep your browsers set to Cat Scratches and UKathletics.com.
Posted Jan. 14, 10:08 AM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Following his record-setting performance Tuesday night, UK guard Jodie Meeks will make an appearance on ESPN's First Take Wednesday morning. Meeks, who broke Dan Issel's 39-year single-game scoring mark Tuesday night with 54 points, is scheduled to appear on the show live at 10:25 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
The show, which airs daily Monday through Friday, runs from 10 a.m. to noon and is re-aired again at noon.
Also, in case you missed it on the homepage, ESPNU will re-air Tuesday night's record-breaking performance at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Posted Jan. 14, 10:00 AM ET - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Imagine a Web site where you could get an all-access view into the world of UK Athletics - a place where you get the latest news on your favorite Wildcats and a behind-the-scenes look into the realm of UK sports.
Starting today, that place is no longer a dream.
UKathletics.com is launching Cat Scratches, the official blog of UK Athletics. This 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week blog will provide you with the most up-to-date news surrounding the UK program and offer you the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on inside the UK athletic program.
With the launch of this blog, we hope to provide you with all the Wildcat information you have ever desired, all with the simple click of a mouse and without the cost of a single cent. You will receive premium information on a daily basis without the premium cost.
Want to know what Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks do before a big game, or what it was like for Jeremy Jarmon to test the NFL Draft waters? What about the new women's soccer coach, Jon Lipsitz? Who is he and what has he been up to during his first month on the job?
That is just a sample of the topics we will explore in the upcoming days and weeks of Cat Scratches. We will have in-depth features on your favorite coaches and players, breaking news and announcements, live in-game updates, e-mail questions from fans and even a practice report from the legendary Billy Gillispie practices.
You name it, we'll have it. Our goal is to provide the UK fans with an all-access look into UK Athletics. We hope to be your first stop for all the latest UK news, notes and features.
But to do that, we would like feedback from you. We would like to hear what you have to say, whether it is a comment on a story, a suggestion or a question at email@example.com .
Beginning today, the Wildcats are at your fingertips. We hope you enjoy the blog, and keep an eye for posts all day.
As you'd likely suspect, we'll be jam-packed today with coverage of Jodie Meeks given the historic performance he put on last night in Knoxville, Tenn. Until then, check back for your latest UK news and updates at Cat Scratches and UKathletics.com.