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UK takes over draft night, again

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Karl-Anthony Towns poses with fellow draft picks before going No. 1 in Thursday's NBA Draft. (Barry Williams, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns poses with fellow draft picks before going No. 1 in Thursday's NBA Draft. (Barry Williams, UK Athletics)
The NBA Draft is known for its twists and turns.

There are more mock drafts than can be counted beforehand, mock drafts that are immediately busted by surprise picks and trades.

Really, there's only one given on draft night these days, other than unpredictability.


At Thursday night's NBA Draft, UK once again took center stage. Six Wildcats heard their names called, tying a common draft-era record most recently achieved by Kentucky in 2012. UK has now had 25 draft picks in the last six years.

"Six guys get drafted and tie a record, four lottery picks and another No. 1 pick -- it's been another unbelievable night," Calipari said. "I'm proud of the guys. Our job as coaches is to help these kids realize their dreams. I'm so happy that a lot of lives were changed tonight."

As expected, Karl-Anthony Towns was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 overall pick. Towns is the third UK player taken with the top pick in John Calipari's six seasons and Coach Cal's fourth top pick overall, joining Anthony Davis (2012), John Wall (2010) and Derrick Rose (2008). Both are also common draft-era records.

"This is awesome, to have this moment be cherished where I'm from," said Towns, who took the stage not far from his home in Piscataway, N.J. "It's been a long road to get to this spot today, but with a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of hours in the gym, a great support system that I've been fortunate and blessed to have, this moment has finally arrived."

Many experts forecasted Towns' teammate, Willie Cauley-Stein, would have to wait a while longer for his own moment. Mock drafts pegged the 7-footer's stock as slipping entering draft night, but Cauley-Stein paid the talk little mind.

"I wasn't nervous at all," Cauley-Stein said. "I'm a strong believer in whatever happens, happens. I was just riding the wave. Wherever I got picked up, that's the place I was supposed to be at."

He was rewarded for his approach.

Cauley-Stein was the second Wildcat off the board, heading to Sacramento to join fellow former UK big man DeMarcus Cousins as the No. 6 pick.

"To learn under Boogie and being in an organization that's up and coming, a lot of young guys, it's just cool," Cauley-Stein said.

Trey Lyles will join Cauley-Stein in heading west, becoming the No. 12 overall pick when he was chosen by the Utah Jazz. The 6-foot-10 forward, termed by Coach Cal as UK's "X-factor" throughout a 38-1 season, believes he will surprise his new fans with a diverse game of which he only showed glimpses in a single season at Kentucky when he reaches the next level.

"My playmaking ability offensively," Lyles said. "I didn't need to do a lot of it at (Kentucky) because we had it at other positions, but now I'm on another level and I'll be able to do more."

Devin Booker, on other hand, won't sneak up on anyone with his offensive ability. The shooting guard was taken just a pick after his UK classmate by the Phoenix Suns on the strength of his pure shooting stroke, but he looks forward to showing off a multi-faceted game.

"At Kentucky, we had a really talented team," Booker said. "I fit in really well with the team and found my niche. I'll have to create more for myself. I think I'm surprising people with my athleticism. Just stay tuned."

Though he's leaving his 2014-15 teammates, his new running mates have a distinct Kentucky feel of their own. The Suns' backcourt features former Wildcats Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin.

"I'm loving it," Booker said. "Big Blue Nation everywhere. I wouldn't want it any other way."

After Booker's selection -- which gave UK a record-tying four lottery picks -- there would be a bit of a wait. When it was over, it looked like another Kentucky guard was headed to the desert. The Suns took Andrew Harrison with the No. 44 pick, but news quickly leaked that he would head to Memphis in exchange for Jon Leuer.

Four picks later, UK tied that 2012 record when Dakari Johnson was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That left only Aaron Harrison as undrafted among the seven Wildcats eligible, but Coach Cal is confident the clutch shooting guard will get his chance and capitalize.

"I'm disappointed that Aaron didn't get drafted, but he will be fine," Calipari said. "I will tell you that he will be on a summer league team and fighting for a position on an NBA team. My guess is he will be on an opening-season roster even though he wasn't drafted."

Calipari, there in Brooklyn to support his former pupils, watched as Kentucky made history once again. Though the competitive portion of UK's 2014-15 season ended in a fourth Final Four trip in five years less than three months ago, Thursday marked its true conclusion.

"We want to win, but not at the expense of these kids," Calipari said. "I want them to benefit more than the program. That's what I want this to be. When the seasons over, you want to say, 'They got more out of this than we did, I did, or the program did.' If anyone wants to question me with results, please say it publicly. Final Fours, wins, and all of this stuff that we do, but it's not about that. It's about these kids."

The whole process begins again soon.

Draft night social media round-up

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It's NBA Draft night, which means it's one of the busiest days of the year for Kentucky basketball. Add in the fact that seven Wildcats could hear their names called and it's almost impossible to keep up. That's why we're compiling the best tweets and more from throughout the night right here.

Wrapping it up

Johnson picked by Thunder, UK ties record

Andrew Harrison selected in the second round

Booker makes it four lottery picks

Lyles picked by the Utah Jazz

Willie joins Boogie in Sacramento

Towns goes No. 1


@ukcoachcalipari and @karlito_towns Selfie game too strong!

A photo posted by Karl Towns (@karltowns) on

The draft is tonight

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7 p.m. ET, ESPN. We'll have coverage all night.

Video: 80 days to UK football

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Several members of the Kentucky football team used a class project to turn the tables on fellow students and professors. Melvin Lewis, Jabari Johnson, D.J. Warren and Bud Dupree put together the Gridiron Challenge as a senior project to show professors and fellow students the demands of being a student-athlete. The UK College of Agriculture. Food and Environment put together a video about the project, which can be seen below.

Kendra Harrison (Chet White, UK Athletics) Kendra Harrison (Chet White, UK Athletics)

Update - June 14, 2015: Harrison won the NCAA 100m hurdles and claimed Silver in the 400m hurdles on Saturday.

Kendra Harrison isn't just a world-class hurdler. She's a "hurdles nerd."

Those are the words of her coach, Edrick Floreal, who uses the term affectionately.

After all, he coached her to the NCAA 60-meter hurdles Championship indoors in March, the 100m hurdles title this weekend and the two now have their sights trained on historic goals in the coming weeks and months.

For his part, Floreal is a world-class hurdles coach. He guided Amaechi Morton to the 2012 NCAA 400m hurdles Title, he recruited and worked with Kori Carter --!the 2013 NCAA Champion and now one of the world's top 400m hurdlers -- and he once coached LaVonna Martin: the 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist. Now his wife.

Said accomplishments barely scratch the surface of Floreal's achievements. And while his credentials when it comes to coaching hurdles are tough to match, Harrison could become his greatest pupil yet.

She added some evidence to support the argument this past weekend as she led UK to a school-record NCAA Runner-up team finish on Saturday. Harrison won the short hurdles -- completing an undefeated NCAA season indoors and out in short hurdles race -- and claimed the Silver Medal in the 400m hurdles with a historically fast time.

Floreal describes her as a nerd for the hurdles because her hunger to better understand her craft is unmatched in his experience.

"Keni (Harrison's nickname) is sort of a 'nerd' in the hurdles," Floreal  said. "Most athletes just want to hurdle and get it over with, but she's interested in the science of it. Learning and asking a lot of questions.

"Sometimes as a coach you find athletes who are like-minded. Keni wants to get into the science of hurdling. She's constantly asking me to teach her not just how to hurdle, but how to maneuver the hurdles. How to deal with all the variables that come up in an already complicated endeavor.

"I get a lot of texts late at night from her asking about things like the position of her trail leg. That's not the typical behavior of a 18-to-22-year-old, even among athletes, but it speaks to Keni's commitment to her craft."

The duo has been working together for two seasons, after Harrison spent the first two years of her college career at Clemson. There, she trained with reigning 100-meter hurdles World Champion and collegiate-record holder Brianna Rollins.

Harrison was plenty decorated as a Tiger, but she's reached stratospheric heights since becoming a Wildcat.

"Coach Flo and I just have a special connection," Harrison said. "We have a similar demeanor. He's a quiet man and I'm sort of the same. We view the sport through a similar lens.

"He knows what I'm thinking and we work well together. We spend a lot of time watching film and talking about hurdling as well as actual training on the track."

A multi-time All-American at Clemson, since arriving in Lexington before the 2013-14 season she's won an NCAA title, five Southeastern Conference Championships and become the third-fastest hurdler in NCAA history in both the 60-meter hurdles and 100-meter hurdles.

Floreal and Harrison worked on a change in attitude at the start of this season, which along with her unique family background was expertly chronicled by the Herald-Leader's Mark Story earlier this spring.

But a similarly important, albeit unexpected, milestone in Harrison's development was a preseason injury last winter. She did not compete in 2015 until the SEC Championships, where she opened with the collegiate-leading time en route to repeating as the Conference 60-meter hurdles champion.

"She couldn't train for almost two months while her hamstring healed and she improved her flexibility," Floreal said. "We decided 'if you can't run over hurdles, you're going to watch a ton of film so you can understand the event better.'

 "When she did come back it was like a light had gone off. She had to break down everything she knew to uncover a level she never thought she could reach."

The results indicate that the break from training was important. Her immersion in studying hurdling -- while not actually practicing -- allowed her to exploit what Floreal might lovingly call her "nerd tendencies."

But the way Harrison has hurdled in 2015, she might better be referred to as amazing or something similar.

Harrison is the world's second-fastest woman (the top-ranked amateur) in the 100-meter hurdles this season, ahead of decorated professionals like her former training partner Rollins. Those two will likely compete against one another -- and a loaded field of world-class American hurdlers -- for a place on the World Championships team later in June, but for now Harrison in focused on an attempt at NCAA history.

But off a second straight NCAA Silver in the 400m hurdles, Harrison isn't lacking for motivation as she now sets her sights on the United States Championships and World Championships Trials later this month.

With a new NCAA Championships schedule aimed at enhancing excitement for the television audience, Harrison proved she's a gamer. With just 35 minutes to rest between her win in the 100-meter hurdles and the start of the 400-meter hurdles, she ran a PR in the long hurdles -- considered by many to be track and field's most excruciating event.

Only Virginia Tech's Queen Harrison has won the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles at the same NCAA Championships (2010).

"I don't think people realize how tough that is," Floreal said. "In the history of track one woman has one woman has won both and she had four days to do it. Kendra came within a couple tenths of a second of winning both with 35 minutes rest."

Harrison has indicated she will pick one event to run at the USA Championships, although she's open to running both in the future.

"When I'm fresh who knows what will happen?," she said. "Going into USAs I'm going to pick one event so my focus is going to be sharp."

Video: UK football's 2015 freshmen move in

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Video: Coach Cal's summer press conference

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For the first time this summer, Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops talked about Kentucky's upcoming season. The head coach touched on a number of topics Wednesday at the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon, which was held at Frankfort Country Club in Frankfort.

Stoops, who was joined at the luncheon by honorees from both U of L and UK as well as Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, answered questions from reporters as part of the luncheon. In his 10-minute appearance at the podium, the head coach answered the obvious question that the staff is still evaluating the starting quarterback position daily, but believes returning starter Patrick Towles does have a "leg up."

"We're constantly evaluating that. We went back and watched a lot of tape, a lot of cut-ups, and trying to be very critical. Yeah, I'd say Patrick probably has the leg up," Stoops said. "He did some good things in the spring, but Drew (Barker) is young and playing better and better every time he steps on the field. He's still going to have an opportunity throughout the summer and throughout camp to win that job, but Patrick's probably got a leg up at this point."

Stoops said quarterback Reese Phillips is still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he sustained this offseason, but is expected to return mid-August.

The head coach said the staff gave the players some time off after finals to go home and decompress before returning this week for workouts. However, Stoops said several players decided to stay and start workouts early, something he was happy to see.

"I feel like our guys clearly understand what's expected of them," Stoops said. "Are we as disciplined as we need to be all the time? Probably not. And that's the next phase. I feel like they have the experience now at certain positions. We have a good blend of even some younger guys that have some experience but some great talent. And some older guys that played some football, been in our system now going into their third year, and that's certainly going to help. So I'm pleased with them. It's never going to be perfect, but we need to be more consistent and more disciplined in all the things we're doing."

While Stoops was in Frankfort previewing the upcoming season, the players - which Stoops said have nearly all returned to campus for workouts - were busy trying on different uniform combinations during photo day. A video of photo day, is a blog post below.

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