Former UK center Daniel Orton has been the punching bag for criticism recently for various decisions and comments in the last couple of months, ranging from his decision to leave school early to finishing out his academic obligations at UK.
On Wednesday night, Orton went to Twitter to clear the air in a long series of tweets. Below is the entire series put together. I think the statement pretty much speaks for itself.
From talking with Orton before the draft, I can personally tell you the guy was pretty down from all criticism. Despite a strong mentality, the negativity had begun to take its toll. The courage by Orton to address all the issues -- whether he deserved the criticism or not -- speaks pretty big volumes about his true character.
Good for Orton. Now let's hope everyone can ease up, get off his back and wish him the best of luck with the Orlando Magic.
"Okay there are some things that I've been needing to address, but I was trying to focus my attention elsewhere. As far as the classes I want to apologize for not doing what I said I would. I messed up bigtime and hope I can be somewhat forgiven. I messed up on a few due dates on my online class and I just lost focus in school. I apologize. Then the thing about the Kansas comment. I was more so set up on that question; we all know the media and how they like to get people but i was asked was there any other school that I would have gone to. At first I said no because I loved UK and I loved my experience and my teammates there. Then he proceeded to say I know Kansas was recruiting you hard, you never had any thoughts of maybe you should have gone there? Of course I thought that at times I won't lie about that I'm sure at least two players on every college team this year question their decision but in the end I am happy that I went to UK. As far as leavin early. I can't really justify myself there. So sorry UK fans love yall and yall are the best Ima miss it!"
From everyone at the UK Athletics department, our condolences go out to former UK guard Mark Krebs and his family who are dealing with a heavy loss today. Terri Krebs, the mother of Mark Krebs, died Wednesday after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 49.
Mrs. Krebs first battled breast cancer nine years ago. Last summer, doctors informed her that the cancer had spread to her bones, lungs and liver.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and his family as he fights through this difficult time. As employees at UK, it is part of our job to promote the well-being of our student-athletes. Having said that, you can't help but root a little bit harder for a kid like Mark Krebs. He is a class act in every sense of the word, and it breaks all of our hearts at UK to hear that he and his family have to go through a tragic time like this.
"I know I speak for all of the Big Blue Nation when I express my deepest sympathies to Mark Krebs, his family and their friends as they mourn the loss of Mark's mom, Terri," men's basketball head coach John Calipari said in a statement. "One of the special parts of our first year in Kentucky was being able to coach Mark and get to know him and his family. I just finished writing the foreword to Mark's upcoming book and my words were largely inspired by Terri's memorable participation in Senior Day ceremonies. Rest in peace Terri and know that all of the Big Blue Nation is here for your family."
- Athlon Sports, which produces one of the most popular preseason publication for the football and basketball seasons, has already released its rankings of all 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The UK football team checked in at No. 51 (no matter what the program does the year before, doesn't it always seem like they end up in the 50-range?) above such Southeastern Conference teams as Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Here is what the publication has to say about the Cats:
"Joker Phillips inherits a Kentucky program that has been to four straight bowl games, but also is 12-20 against SEC teams in that stretch, including 0-12 against Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. The schedule is forgiving enough that the Wildcats can make a fifth straight bowl game, but the defense isn't strong enough for Phillips to give Cats fans the breakout season they crave."
- The Los Angeles Clippers introduced first-round picks Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe a couple of days ago and posted quotes from the former UK guard. Fans can check out the full transcript at clippers.com. A couple of interesting quotes from Bledsoe are below:
Advice from players from their schools ... "I talk to Tony Delk a lot. I talk to him every day. He just tells me to come in and work harder than everyone else on the court and that will help me a lot."
Awareness of Baron Davis ... "I like Baron's toughness. He goes out every night and just plays. It doesn't matter who he goes up against. He still goes out and performs every game. I'm looking forward to playing with him and learning from him."
- Evening update: Former UK guard and top overall NBA Draft pick John Wall has decided to go with jersey No. 2 for his rookie season with the Washington Wizards. Wall announced the decision on Twitter on Wednesday night. Wall wore No. 11 at UK but the number was not available with Washington. No. 11 is retired in Washington in honor of Elvin Hayes. Wall talked with CSNWashington about the number selection in the video below:
Lyons said the biggest thing he's learned from the whole experience is to be humble.
"What it really did was humble me," Lyons said, according to DenverBroncos.com. "It really showed me how fortunate everybody in this locker room is (to play football for a living). That's something I think that made me a better player and a better person for it."
As was the case when he played for UK, Lyons is trying to stand out with his work ethic.
"I'm not the strongest, fastest guy on the field,"Lyons said in the story. "What I pride myself on is always being on the field and always doing the right things."
The Gamecocks won the series 2-0 in the final CWS at historic Rosenblatt Stadium.
Obviously this is a UK blog and South Carolina and Kentucky don't always mix, but there's something to be said about SEC baseball and its power in the college baseball landscape. It's the league's eighth championship since 1990, more than any conference in the country.
The SEC has had a team in the national championship in four of the last six years, including three of the last four. Georgia lost to Fresno State in 2008 before LSU defeated Texas in the thrilling 2009 series.
Not that it matters at this point, but one has to wonder if anyone on the NCAA selection committee now regrets not putting Kentucky in the tournament. Obviously UK had some glaring holes in its resume for the team not to get in, but when you consider the proven strength of the conference and just how close the Wildcats were to making it, you have to wonder whether or not they should have been included in the 64-team tournament.
After all, this is the team that took two of three from this year's national champions less than two months ago.
The transition was seamless and the move has been consensually hailed as the right one.
When Joker Phillips took the whistle from former coach and program-changer Rich Brooks in January, he had formulated a perfect plan in how to carry the program forward and onto the next step. The two-year waiting period behind Brooks was the perfect time to watch from a distance and figure out how to run a program, not only between the yardage markers but off the field as well.
That valuable knowledge that Phillips gained as the coach-in-waiting has been pretty apparent in his first six months on the job. Phillips has been steadily building a brand and name that will carry the past into the future.
In making more than 50 public appearances since his official promotion, whether it's at other UK sporting events, the creation of a captains breakfast or the four-city GAM3DAY READY tour that Phillips and his staff have been promoting over the last week, it's been a team-wide mission to stress to fans, current players and recruits that the program is moving only forward with Phillips at the helm.
"There is a lot of people that still don't know that Joker Phillips is the head coach," Phillips said in Louisville on Tuesday, the final stop of the tour. "We're trying to get that message out there."
Phillips agreed that it's even more important to get exposure and put a face with a name in the transition season of his first year on the job.
However, Phillips made sure to point that this last week's tour is more than just the UK program. It is also about giving back to the community and using the state-wide interest of football to bring youth together.
UK donated a $15,000 grant to each one of the four communities, which can be used at the discretion of each town's respective community board for football equipment, new park facilities, etc. Each participating youth also received a free GAME3DAY READY gear pack that included a shirt, water bottle and other UK items.
"The concept is just to try to bring some awareness to the kids, to get outside to the parks, to eat right, stay healthy and make sure they're doing the things in the classroom that they need to do," Phillips said. "It's part of what we call 'Operation Win,' which is the classroom, the community and also winning in any athletic events they might play in."
Set up in the middle of a park on the outskirts of a low-income, urban community, Phillips preached to the kids the importance of school. With football drills, giant inflatable games and music as the backdrop, a reporter asked Phillips why UK chose Shawnee Park as its Louisville location, to which Phillips responded why not.
"This is where most of the kids that I've recruited from Louisville come from," Phillips said. "I've definitely been here. ... We've been to Hyden, we've been to Central City, Danville, (and) we'll continue to try to get throughout the state in the upcoming years."
Phillips displayed the same jovial attitude with the kids during skill-based activities that he has spread across the state throughout his first few months. During one such drill, Phillips lent his belt to a youth that had on shorts too big for his frame.
"Fun, a lot of fun," Phillips said of his experience with the GAM3DAY READY tour. "Just seeing how appreciative that the people are of the different cities that we have been in and how warm they've been to us and to the UK family."
Phillips' concerted effort to branch the Kentucky brand across the far corners of the state has taken on a very similar feel to men's basketball head coach John Calipari's first few months on the job a year ago.
After Calipari had toured the state, shook hands with Kentucky's citizens and spread his message to the Commonwealth, he expressed his enjoyment with the state's passion and support. However, it was right around the end of Calipari's summer tour that he also mentioned he was ready to get to his team and get down to work.
Phillips no doubt has an eye for the season opener at Louisville on Sept. 4, calling it a huge game for the momentum of the rest of the season, but unlike his basketball colleague, he said he is looking forward to a little vacation time before taking on his first full season as head coach.
"We've still got a lot of work to do and I want to recharge my batteries," Phillips said. "I'll recharge my battery, but when August the 5th (the first day of fall camp) hits, we'll be ready to go."
The first-year coach isn't running on empty, though. In fact, despite a much more demanding schedule, the transition has been smooth sailing for Phillips.
"I wouldn't say it's been hectic," Phillips said. "I know (rest) is what I have to do. I wouldn't say I'm a big rester anyway, but everybody says you need to rest. This has not been taxing on me. This is what I do. I go."
EARLY RECRUITING RETURNS POSITIVE: If there was one glaring concern with the transition across the fan base, it was over what would happen with recruiting. With the man that turned the program headed for retirement, would the newfound interest in the Kentucky program among prospective student-athletes disappear?
Not so far.
According to Phillips, UK has already secured 14 commitments (Phillips cannot talk specific names until the recruit has signed a national letter of intent), far more than last year at this time.
"It's going well," Phillips said of the early returns on the recruiting trial. "We've been really aggressive, which has given us 14 commitments at this time. We'll continue to be aggressive, but now we've got to be more aggressive in some need-place areas: offensive line, defensive line and the linebacker positions."
Phillips earned a reputation as a nationally respected recruiter years ago, but there are almost always de-commitments during times of transition. That has fueled a minority of speculation about the talent crop of players committed for the upcoming years.
"The quality - we're not going to take bad players," Phillips said. "I can tell you that now. You might make a mistake, but knowing that a guy is a bad player, we're not going to do that. Last year at this time, how many commitments did we have? Two. OK. The word was 'Oh, dang, we can't win. What's wrong with our recruiting? They're getting players. Nobody wants to come here.' This year we've got 14 and everybody talks about the quality. It's one of those catch-22 type situations."
Contrarily to some pessimistic message board banter, the quality that is starting to add up might be the best the program has seen in some time.
"I think we've done a good job of developing players," Phillips said. "We looked at how many (former players) would be in NFL camps and we had 19 kids in NFL camps in the last seven years. I think most of them were the last three years, dating back to Wesley Woodyard and Dicky Lyons and those guys. I think we're doing a good job of not only identifying kids but developing kids."
Phillips also attributes the recent boost in recruiting to the ability to identify players early in the process.
"We're not afraid to be the first offer," Phillips said.
The key now is keeping those commitments even when other high-major programs start to "nibble."
LOCKE EXPECTED TO BE BACK: Despite a cracking the ulna bone in his left forearm during a moped accident in early June, senior tailback Derrick Locke is progressing on schedule and is expected to be back well before the beginning of fall camp.
"Locke will be fine," Phillips said. "Two years ago when he was rehabbing the knee, I would go by the training room and we had Eastern Kentucky about the fifth or sixth game. I would tell him just relax and make sure you get back for the Eastern Kentucky game. He would always throw a comment, 'I'm going to be ready for the first game.' "
While Phillips didn't offer an exact timetable for Locke's return, his only concern with UK's leading tailback was the ability to keep him healthy throughout the season.
"We've just got to get Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb to the game," Phillips said. "Those two guys know what to do. They will be two of our most well-conditioned players. We'll get them reps, but we've also got to get them to the game also."
Now that the NBA Draft is officially in the books, it's time for the former Kentucky basketball players and current NBA rookies to look ahead to their first action as professional athletes.
For two of them, however, the first action of their careers will present a familiar face in a very peculiar position.
The NBA announced its NBA Summer League schedule prior to the draft and former UK guards John Wall (No. 1 overall pick to the Washington Wizards) and Eric Bledsoe (No. 18 overall pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder; traded to the Los Angeles Clippers) will play each other immediately in the NBA Summer League.
The July 12 matchup in Las Vegas will pit last year's UK guard duo against each other in a much-anticipated exhibition game. It will be just the second game of Wall's professional career while marking the NBA debut of Bledsoe.
That's quite a showdown for two former teammates that called themselves "brothers" during the UK season.
Wall and Bledsoe signed with Kentucky within weeks of each last year. Upon the signing of Wall, many wondered how two of the nation's top point guards could co-exist in the same offense.
Instead of clashing, the two flourished together. In coming together as teammates and as friends, the two not only played together but started together. Wall, as many predicted, won All-America honors en route to being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. Bledsoe took no backseat, averaging 11.3 points while hitting a team-best 38.3 percent of his 3-point shots in his freshman campaign.
But now, despite their stellar freshman seasons together, the dynamic duo will put on alternate uniforms and go head-to-head in the summer league. Some people in and around college basketball and even in the NBA have said that Bledsoe is every bit as good as Wall and would have made a much bigger splash nationally had he not been overshadowed by Wall's presence at Kentucky.
On July 12, when the two battle each other for early supremacy in the NBA, we might find out if that's true.
In addition the initial Wall-Bledsoe matchup, you can find out the full NBA Summer League schedule and where all of this year's UK draftees will start their professional careers at NBA.com. DeMarcus Cousins (fifth pick overall) and the Sacramento Kings will begin play July 12 against the Detroit Pistons while Patrick Patterson (14th overall) and the Houston Rockets debut July 9.
The Southeastern Conference held its yearly summer teleconference with the 12 men's basketball coaches Monday morning to give an update on where the teams are midway through the offseason. As usual, UK head coach John Calipari joined the call to provide us with an update on the Kentucky men's basketball team.
Question: Can you talk about how you see Lamb fitting in and what you see his biggest strength is? Calipari: "I'll be honest with you, what I visualize is he's a one, two or three, and he's really a one or a two. I think he'll be the second point guard. I believe we may play him like we played John (Wall) and Eric (Bledsoe). The greatest thing about the dribble-drive is the positions don't matter. The four perimeter positions are all the same. It doesn't matter if you're on the right side, the left side or behind the ball. They're all the same positions. I'll tell you who else is a pretty good playmaker is Darius. So if you have those three on the floor at one time, you've got three playmaking guards. We have another guard-forward in Terrence Jones, who is a playmaking guard. The dribble-drive, that's what makes this offense go, that and the ability to shoot. Brandon came in the other night and I guess they were playing pickup, and he says, 'I don't see shooting as being a problem this year.' I said, 'Well, I hope you're right, kid.' I think we'll have those guys that can break people down and make those plays."
Question: What role do you visualize Josh having and will he have a legitimate chance to be an impact player? Calipari: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. We lost three frontline guys who were really good players. We're bringing in a couple of frontline guys in Eloy and Enes. We can play Darius at some four and maybe slide some Terrence at some four, although I don't think that's his best position. So you're talking that we're not that deep in the frontcourt. There will be times where we may be playing four guards and a big. We can do that with this team because our guards are big. When you're talking your guards are 6-7 and 6-5 and 6-6, that's big. You can get away with it. I think we're going to play a little bit more like we did my last couple of years at Memphis where it was a little more dribble-drive, maybe pressing more. But until I get the team together, that's just conjecture because I really don't know."
Question: Of all the things your that team did a year ago with a lot of freshmen, were you maybe most proud of that you led the SEC in field-goal defense? Calipari: "I think we were probably right there in rebound margin. I think we were right there in blocked shots. I think our 3-point field-goal percentage was awful the first three weeks of the season. It became one of our strengths at the end of the year. I'm proud of what they did defensively. You bring up a great point: Can we get this team that's going to be just as young to defend like last year's team? We had some big bulls with Eric and John could defend. DeAndre was a key to that. DeAndre could be that stopper, that guy that could go in and do those kinds of things. It was amazing the things that happened with that young team last year. I'm trying to drive them and have them believe they're as good as anybody, but I shook my head at times. I would go into the office and say, 'Could you believe these guys are playing this way?' I can remember going up to Knoxville, playing awful and having a chance to win the game. How in the world? When you get down in Knoxville like that, you get down by 30. I've been there where we've done that. This team just fought and had a chance to win the game, which was incredible. Mississippi State in the championship of the of the SEC (Tournament). How do you do that? We had a unique group. I'm proud of them and really excited to get started with this group. Thursday was kind of my last day with last year's group, at that point. The enjoyment of last year ended on Thursday night. It was ecstasy for me. Here's how loyal those four were. Patrick graduates in three years and three of the others finished academically so we have no APR issues. We easily could have. Four of our players graduated from last year and got degrees. There are issues that we could have dealt with, but because we had good guys that were loyal, we're not going to deal with."
The Southeastern Conference held its yearly summer teleconference with the 12 men's basketball coaches Monday morning to give an update on where the teams are midway through the offseason. As usual, UK head coach John Calipari joined the call to provide us with an update on the Kentucky men's basketball team.
John Calipari: "I've had two really, really powerful days in this past week and I just want to address both of them quickly. One, I went to Haiti. The program and the people of Kentucky raised $1.5 million through the "Hoops for Haiti" telethon. I wanted to go down and really see what kind of impact it had. I can tell you that any money was given to save lives, it is really a sad state of affairs even six months later. The money is truly saving people but it's not doing anything for the infrastructure. There's no lights, there's no garbage pickup, there's no sanitation, there are a million people living in tents, food in ration. It's a total mess. I hope people haven't taken their eye off the ball. It's not going to be cured just by the people in Haiti. I think people are going to have to step up. Ellen and I are trying to figure out in our own little way what we can do. We went to an orphanage. It was a powerful day for me.
"And then Thursday, draft day. Just being able to -- and I can't explain the emotions -- of being able to be with five families and five players who have realized their dreams, and we were connected to that. We helped created hope for their families. Obviously they did it, but we were a part of it. The call with Eric Bledsoe -- he's screaming, I'm screaming, (his) mom is screaming. It was just incredible. I made a statement - and I'll make it again -- that it was the biggest day in Kentucky basketball history. I wasn't talking to the past. I was talking to the future. Chris Douglas-Roberts, one of my former greats at Memphis, was at my house last night for two hours and we talked. He said, 'What a great statement to make for those kids.' It was a two-hour infomercial for our league, the University of Kentucky, and it will speak volumes for five years, maybe longer. That's what I meant by that (statement). We're a players-first program. Players will win us national titles. We've got to figure out as a staff with the rules they are - 40 years ago it was different. They all stayed four years. It's not that way anymore. With the rules the way they are, which I don't agree with, kids should be able to go directly to the league and then stay two or three years. Those are not the rules we're playing by. How are we going to deal with those last three games and then the next two with a young team like we had last year because it looks as though we'll always have a young team.
"The returning team I'm excited about. We've got nine of them on campus right now. They're training with our weight strength (program), they're playing pickup (games). They're great kids. Brandon (Knight) comes in with almost a year of academic credits under his belt before he goes to one (college) class. You've got Doron Lamb and Stacey Poole -- great kids -- that are just going to add up that depth and strength to our guard play. Terrence Jones is just going to be one of those unique players along with Eloy (Vargas) and Enes (Kanter), who gives us size. And then there are the players coming back. Right now everybody is talking about Darius (Miller) that it's ridiculous. See, Darius could put himself in a position at the end of next year that he's making a decision, and maybe DeAndre (Liggins) the same deal. They're all doing well. The biggest surprise right now has been Josh Harrellson. He went to China and they were stunned how good he was. Right now, with the weight strength, are people are saying he's on a mission. All of a sudden you have a 6-10 guy, and you say, 'Well, he didn't play last year.' He played behind two first-round draft picks. No kidding. So we're looking at this saying it's going to be good. We are going to Canada and finalizing those things in August to try to figure out this team and who's who and who's what. I'm excited about the future. I'm excited about the future of our league. I think we've got three teams in our top 10. It's all good stuff, but I'm excited about it."
Question: In having a group like you did last year and having so many freshmen, did you learn anything as a coach that you could apply with this group since you have so many new guys? Calipari: "The biggest thing is they've got to be good people who respect each other and want each other to do well. You cannot come to Kentucky if you want to be the only guy who can play. Go somewhere else. You cannot come here because there are going to seven or eight other guys on a mission the same as you and you've got to be for each other. If one guy is having great success for two or three weeks, you've got to be happy. If he slips, you've got to be there to try to pick him up, to tell him he's going to be OK. Those are some of the things you have to have. The lesson at the end of the day is, you can win a lot of games, you can win leagues and do all that, but those last three games with a young team, the anxiety of never being in the Final Four, the anxiety of not knowing how it plays out, the anxiety of our case of going 0-for-20 and never being in that position because they didn't play enough seasons. If they had been with me three seasons, there would have been a game or two that we started 0-for-20 and figured out how to win, but we were too young. We started breaking down defensively. But my point is, with a young team, what do we have to do to give ourselves the best chance to win? The players are going to win us national titles. That's why you've got to keep looking after players. The '96 team had 11 NBA Draft picks on it. If we're about these kids, we're about them getting better, and then figuring out with a really, really young team, how do we finish it off, because we did everything else. Only one Kentucky team won more games than last year's team and that was 1948. So we did everything short of those last couple games. This is a one-and-done tournament so one game can shut you down. But believe me, we're looking at this saying if these rules don't change, we're going to have a young team just about every year we coach."
Question: There was great value in what Patrick (Patterson) did for you. How much do you need a Darius and DeAndre, who have been around, to step up in leadership roles. Calipari: "It's not just leadership roles. It's service leadership. Sometimes leaders think you get the towel for me, it's my turn, go get my water, understand this is my team (so) don't try to do too much because this is my team, my turn. We don't need that here and you can't have it here. What you're doing is you're challenging them to get better because they're in turn going to challenge you to get better, which means you're going to have the opportunities to realize your dreams. If we really do well together, even if I score less and play less minutes, it's going to be better for me and I'm going to get a chance to realize my dreams. I understand parents want their kids to play 40 minutes and score 30 points and truly be the only one to score any points, but you can't be that way here. If you're having that on the outside, you just can't listen to that. You have to be strong enough to withstand all the chatter. You've got to have a leadership by service leadership, that you're there for all these kids. I believe we have that. Darius, last year was the first time he had every played for me and the first time he had every played that way. It was the first time he's played (a lot). Now, all of a sudden he's put in his second year with me in a position that yeah, it's on you a little bit. I think he's going to respond."
Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari spoke to the media during one of UK's satellite camp visits to Christian Academy of Louisville in the Derby City about Thursday night's NBA Draft, next year's roster situation and the status of guard Darnell Dodson.
If you don't want to watch the video, check out the written highlights below:
- Instead of talking about how proud it made him to have five players selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, Calipari began with the media Friday by talking about what the draft meant to not only the five young men but their families as well. "How about what it meant for those five families?" Calipari said. "Think about that. You're helping young people realize dreams. ... Five families now are in a position that, for the first time, in their lives - it's all of them, it's not just that young person - they're all having that opportunity."
- Calipari was particularly worried about guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Daniel Orton. He thought Bledsoe could have been drafted as high as No. 14 to the Houston Rockets - who ended up picking up teammate Patrick Patterson - but started to worry he could tumble after the Rockets passed. Eventually the Oklahoma City picked Bledsoe with the 18th pick before trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers. Calipari said there were a lot of rumors out there about Orton that concerned him as to where he would end up.
- There has been a lot made about Calipari's reiteration that Thursday night's draft was the biggest moment in Kentucky basketball history. The second-year UK coach didn't back down from that statement Friday in Louisville but explained what he meant by it. "I've said this before: We're a players-first program," Calipari said. "I say this is the biggest moment in Kentucky basketball history, being that one, we've never had a No. 1 pick, two, no one has ever had five players drafted, and three, this team did a lot of stuff during the year, but that moment for those families, they all did their work, they finished - there is a lot of stuff involved in it. I'm not saying winning a national championship is not important. It is. But if you told me you win a national title, a guy gets hurt and no one gets drafted or you go for 0-for-20 against West Virginia and five guys get drafted, you tell me what you want. I know that makes (some people) mad that I would even say that, but I'll be honest with you, if we're about these kids, this was a big day - a big day."
- The next step, Calipari said, is having the No. 1 draft pick and have six-first round draft picks. It doesn't seem so impossible after the 2010 draft.
- Probably the biggest news to come out of Friday's availability was the update on guard Darnell Dodson. Calipari said the team currently has 10 scholarship players and that Dodson is not considered one of them, but he made sure to mention that it did not mean Dodson would not be playing with UK next season. "The bottom line is he has work to do," Calipari said of Dodson, who is on campus and in summer school. "He would be the 11th guy and right now we have 10 that have that opportunity to play. He's got work to do. What we do from there we'll have to see."
- Calipari was asked about rumors of acquiring another transfer. While he did not deny the possibility of a transfer and said that players have contacted the program about transferring, he said nothing appears imminent. Even if the team holds at 10 players and no one else is added to the roster, Calipari feels good about where his team is at. "You lose five first-rounders, we feel as good as you can feel," Calipari said.
- With the current roster UK has, Calipari said you can expect a slightly different style than the one Kentucky played this season, much more similar to his teams at Memphis. Next year's team is much more guard and wing oriented than the 2009-10 team. Because of that, Calipari said they will be more wide open, may press more, play more dribble-drive and quite possibly do more pick-and-rolls. The trip to Canada, he said, will be a great time to figure out point guard Brandon Knight and what type of system he can run, because Knight is different than John Wall the same way Wall was different than Tyreke Evans and Evans was different than Derrick Rose.
- Calipari was asked what he's telling recruits after five of his players were drafted in the first round. Calipari said he can't text the recruits back but said that he was receiving text messages from a bunch of kids saying that they were watching him at the draft. The one mistake he doesn't want kids believing is that five players are going to be drafted every year and that it's that easy. He said he tells them every year that the hardest place you can play at is Kentucky.
- Eight players are currently on campus and the ninth is expected in Sunday. Most, if not all, are expected to be in summer school for six weeks or eight weeks. Most of them will play pickup games over the summer, which Calipari hates because it's not how they will play during the season. He said he would prefer they don't play pickup games more than three days a week. The rest of the time he wants them in the gym working on their shot and in the weight room.
- Calipari believes Sacramento Kings head Paul Westphal, a former college coach, will be a great fit for DeMarcus Cousins. "All this kid needs to know is you care about him, that he's not just an asset, that you truly want him to do well, and that you teach him and he respects you as a coach and you can't be afraid to say no," Calipari said. "Paul understands it. Paul will do it in a way that won't make it personal. That whole organization, they're telling me that they're having bonfires for this kid. They're going nuts. They all wanted him." Calipari admitted that he has a ways to go with his maturity but added that he is as bright and as witty of a kid, especially for a 19-year-old, that he has ever met.
- And finally, Calipari raved about Bledsoe going to the Los Angeles Clippers, an organization he thinks Bledsoe could take off with. "You're all going to watch and say, 'Did we miss something here? How did we not see (this coming?)' " Calipari said. "He's absolutely got that will to win and that toughness."
- As for the camp itself, the kids continue to pour in for the satellite camps, which are taking place across the state of Kentucky. Friday's, at Christian Academy of Louisville, drew 106 campers, the most they've had yet. Camp organizers had to cap it at 106 in fear that they wouldn't have enough space for more. Before the camp began, Calipari and his assistant coaching staff signed autographs for about a half an hour.
Men's basketball head coach John Calipari joined the Dan Patrick Show on Friday morning to discuss Kentucky's historic NBA Draft. Calipari sticks by his statement that it is the greatest night in Kentucky basketball history to which Patrick strongly disagrees.
Former UK freshman sensation point guard and Kentucky's first No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, John Wall, has been nominated for two ESPY awards, ESPN's annual awards show that highlights the best players, moments and teams from the athletics year.
Wall, who went to the Washington Wizards on Thursday night in the 2010 NBA Draft with the top overall pick, secured two nominations for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best College Male Athlete.
In the Best Breakthrough Athlete category, Wall will have his work cut out for him. The reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and first-team Associated Press All-American is pitted against Baylor star center Brittney Griner, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Washington Nationals pitcher and 2009 No. 1 MLB Draft choice Stephen Strasburg.
Blake Geoffrion from the Wisconsin hockey team, running back and Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram of the Alabama football team, and Evan Turner from Ohio State basketball are Wall's competition for Best College Athlete.
The complete list of nominees can be seen by clicking the nomination list. Fans will determine the winners in 37 categories by voting online. Voting is now open and runs through July 10. The winners will be announced July 14 at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
All the video one needs to recap and relive Thursday's historic 2010 NBA Draft, one in which Kentucky saw its first No. 1 overall pick (John Wall to the Washington Wizards) and a record five players go in the first round.
The Southeastern Conference will be hosting a live blog Thursday night for the 2010 NBA Draft, one that will be loaded full of historic possibilities for the Wildcats. UK will be seeking to become the first school to have five players taken in the first round, and, believe it or not, have a player (John Wall) taken No. 1 overall for the first time in school annals.
The SEC has invited me to join their live chat tonight to blog all the action. Fans are encouraged to join in with questions and comments. The NBA Draft is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. The SEC is scheduled to start the live blog just a few minutes before that.
David Scott over at CoachCal.com has a great post on head coach John Calipari's trip to Haiti on Wedneday. Calipari traveld to the poverty-stricken country that was struck by a horrendous earthquake months ago to help aid the country's people in the long road to recovery.
Calipari, along with Urban Fitness' Royce Pulliam, UK Director of Basketball Operations Martin Newton and a group from the Samaritan's Feet organization, cleaned the feet of orphans at the New Life Orphanage in Sarthe, Haiti.
Here a couple of select quotes from Calipari's experience:
"I would say that the ultimate level of service leadership would be washing someone's feet," said Calipari Wednesday night, just moments after returning from the Red Cross-facilitated trip to the earthquake ravaged region. "That's what I did and I'm telling you, it was a very powerful experience."
There were a lot of kids there and you have to figure most of them lost their parents in the quake - they perished, " Coach Cal said. "It's heartbreaking stuff. But it's amazing how upbeat and brave all the people are. They're living in tents - a million people in tents - with no electricity and it's the rainy season so there are mudslides. It's just incredible."
"These people are resilient," he said. "They have a pride, but they're up against it now, there's no question. Our driver said they're a bit stressed about the situation, but they have a smile on their face. They are well-kept and they have hope."
Calipari also has some thoughts on Thursday's NBA Draft in the post, including why he thinks this could be the biggest night in Kentucky basketball history. No joke. Read it all here.
As promised from earlier, here are a collection of stories from around the nation regarding the NBA Draft and the Kentucky players in it:
- DeMarcus Cousins, who has been the most talked about player of the 2010 NBA Draft not named John Wall, tells Brett Dawson of The Courier-Journal that he thinks his stock may be slumping. In the story, Cousins is quoted as saying that he won't ever forget if a team passes on him.
- To that effect, Mike DeCourcy from The Sporting News also writes that teams that pass on Cousins will regret it. DeCourcy poses the question as to why teams should draft Cousins. "Why?" he writes. "Because Cousins has greatness in him. It may be hidden by a few extra pounds, but it's in there."
- The Yahoo! Sports story also reports that fellow UK forward Daniel Orton's stock might be falling so fast that he could fall out of the first round all together. Would hate to see that happen to the young man, but some doubts about how he handled the pre-draft process have made for a perfect storm, according to the report, for him to fall.
It's been quite a day in sports today with the thrilling Team USA victory at the World Cup and the unbelievable fifth-set tiebreaker between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, which is currently tied at 59-59 heading into the third day(!!!!) of the match.
Having said that, the biggest news around these parts remains the 2010 NBA Draft, which could be a historic one for the Kentucky athletics program as five former Wildcats hold on to hopes of being drafted in the first round.
Media Day at Madison Square Garden in New York City is currently going on with national scribes from around the nation and globe. Unfortunately I'm stuck here in Lexington and will be unable to produce any original content, but I'll be sure to look out for the best stories from the draft over the 24 hours and post a couple of links posts leading up to Thursday's 7 p.m. draft.
In the meantime, check out a very cool video produced by the NBA.com featuring what should be Thursday's top overall choice, John Wall.
Nobody knows what next season will hold for head coach Gary Henderson and his team in 2011, but one thing is for certain this point with the latest blow to the team: the Kentucky baseball team is going to lock a heck of a lot different - for better or worse.
MLB.com announced Tuesday that junior outfielder/first baseman Lance Ray had officially signed a major-league deal with the Minnesota Twins, effectively ending his collegiate career at UK. Ray, an eighth-round selection by the Twins, was by far UK's best hitter down the stretch.
Ray finished the season with a team-high batting average of .356 in addition to 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 34 RBI and a team-high slugging percentage of .720 in just 41 games and 29 starts. After getting off to a slow start to begin his UK career - Ray transferred to Kentucky as a junior after two years at Western Nevada College - the sweet-swinging Ray knocked the cover off the ball, going 36-for-85 during the second half of the season with 30 RBI and seven home runs, including a three-run walk-off home run against defending national champion LSU to vault UK back into postseason consideration.
The scorching end to the season was enough to plant dreams of a spectacular senior season for UK baseball enthusiasts. At the same time, Ray was so good down the stretch that MLB teams took notice of him and made a wise choice to select him early in the draft.
It was a catch-22 that ended up hurting the Cats for next season.
With Ray gone, UK will be in major search of an offensive identity. The Cats will have to replace their top five hitters from the 2010 season. The leading returners will be outfielder Chad Wright (.316, 37 RBI and 36 runs) and first baseman/pitcher Braden Kapteyn (.294, six home runs and 28 RBI). Kentucky is also awaiting to hear word on shortstop Taylor Black (.270, 11 home runs and 37 RBI), who is still deciding on whether or not to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Those are certainly three players that you can build an offense around, but with a pitching-heavy signing class on its way in, a number of unproven reserves from this season will have to step up and play huge roles next year.
It has been shaping up to be a huge night for the University of Kentucky for some time and on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York we will find out how big. Five Wildcats, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson, have thrown their names into the proverbial hat as early entrants and all five have a chance to make history for themselves. Depending on what happens Thursday, they could make or add to the long, storied history of the University of Kentucky in the NBA Draft. Here is a by-the-numbers look at the past and present of Wildcats in the draft.
The University of Kentucky has seen 93 players taken in the NBA Draft since its inception in 1947. Only UCLA (106) and North Carolina (99) have seen more players drafted in that span. During the inaugural draft, the Washington Capitols chose Jack Tingle, making him the first UK player to ever be drafted. The first UK player selected in the first round was Pat Riley by the San Diego Rockets with the seventh pick in the 1967 draft. Jodie Meeks was the last UK player to be drafted. He was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 11th pick of the second round during last year's draft.
UK players have been selected 20 times in the first round of the NBA Draft. Eleven of these first round selections have come since the 1993 draft, the first full year UK was not on probation and the NBA Draft was in its current format. That number puts UK in a tie for fifth with Arizona, trailing Kansas (13), Connecticut (14), Duke (16) and North Carolina (16), but ahead of intrastate rival Louisville (seven) and conference rivals Tennessee (two) and Florida (eight).
No more than one Wildcat has been called in the last 12 NBA drafts, the longest period in UK history. The last time was the "Air Pair" made up of Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer, in the 1997 NBA Draft. They were the No. 6 and No. 13 picks respectively. It has been 10 drafts since Jamaal Magloire was taken with the No. 29 pick, the last time a UK post player was selected in the draft.
Most draft projections have five Wildcats going in the first round. If those projections were to hold true, it would be the most first-round selections from one school in NBA Draft history. Three schools have had four players go in the first round: Duke in 1999, North Carolina in 2005 and Connecticut in 2006. Three of the UK players, Wall, Cousins and Patterson, are predicted to be chosen in the NBA Lottery, the first 14 picks of the 30 overall, with a possibility of a fourth player joining them. The 2009 NBA Draft saw four freshmen taken overall in the first round, a number that alone could be matched by UK freshmen this year.
No UK player has ever been selected No. 1 overall. John Wall, the widely speculated number one pick, should change that. A Wildcat has been chosen second (Sam Bowie), third (Rick Robey), fourth (Jamal Mashburn), fifth (Kenny Walker), sixth (Melvin Turpin, Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer), seventh (Pat Riley) and eighth (Rex Chapman).
We don't like to brag on ourselves at UK, but I'll go ahead and do it for my colleagues anyway.
A huge congratulation is in store for the hard-working people in our media relations and publications departments for once again raking in the awards in the annual College Sports Information Directors of America Publications Contests.
UK won seven awards overall, including first place in the following categories: Women's Basketball Media Guides, Best Cross Country Cover, Best Women's Golf Cover, Special Event Programs, Best Swimming Cover, Best Track and Field Cover, and Spring Posters. Kentucky also placed seventh in the Volleyball Media Guide Category.
A number of people were involved in each publication, but congratulations to the entire department for all of the honors. Individuals were the backbone of the publications, but the awards are a direct reflection of the collective effort of the entire staff in our media relations and publications departments.
View the CoSIDA website to see a complete list of the 2010 award winners.
While awards certainly aren't the goal of the media guides and publications the staffers at UK produce, it is a great honor for them to receive recognition for their tireless effort and work. Congratulations to everyone involved in the effort.
We're just two days away from what should be a historic NBA Draft for the Kentucky men's basketball team. To keep you up-to-date with the latest draft news, here are a couple of links from around Big Blue Nation:
- As a former NBA coach and a current college one with plenty of his players about to be drafted, UK head coach John Calipari breaks down Thursday's 2010 NBA Draft in a video segment with Fox Sports South. Unfortunately I can't embed the video on here, but follow this link to watch the clip.
- The biggest buzz of the last few days in the NBA Draft has been DeMarcus Cousins. Viewed as possibly the second-most talented player in the draft, mock drafts have been reluctant to put Cousins any higher than No. 4 because of concerns about his attitude, maturity and weight. With all that in mind, Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story writes that teams will be taking a huge risk -- if they don't draft Cousins. Story takes an objective look at why most of the concerns about Cousins have already been answered.
- DraftExpress.com is reporting that Patterson is the 14th invitee to the Green Room in Madison Square Garden for Thursday night's draft. Patterson will join UK teammates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in New York City.
OK, so maybe that headline is a bit misleading, but Wall is darn close if you watch the above video from ESPN's "Sports Science."
Host John Brenkus and ESPN's research team analyzed Wall's speed and vision with some tests, presenting viewers with some ultra-slow, highly empirical video of why Wall can make such an immediate impact in the NBA.
After a series of cone tests, Brenkus' team concludes taht Wall reacts and changes direction in 253 milliseconds, which is faster than a Cheetah makes a single stride at top speed.
Golda Johansson Borst, the newest head coach at the University of Kentucky, took the reins of the women's golf program three weeks ago as the eighth coach in school history and fourth coach in varsity annals.
Johansson Borst joined UK after serving as an assistant coach at LSU since August 2007. During her stay in Baton Rouge, La., LSU advanced to the NCAA regionals in each of her three seasons, highlighted by a 12th-place finish at the 2009 NCAA Championship.
A four-year letterwinner for the women's golf team, Johansson Borst graduated from Tennessee in 2006 with a degree in communication studies. At Tennessee, Johansson Borst served as team captain in 2005 and finished with a 76.19 stroke average. Additionally, Johansson Borst earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2006 and was named a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member. Johansson Borst's top collegiate finishes came when she placed second in both the 2005 Bryan Park National Collegiate and 2006 Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational.
Johansson Borst and the Lady Volunteers advanced to the NCAA Women's Golf Championship during the 2004-06 seasons.
A native of Karlshamn, Sweden, Johansson Borst competed for the Swedish National Golf Team from 1999-2003. With Johansson Borst, the team claimed medalist honors at the Girls Team European Championship in 2000, second at the Lady's Team European Championship in 2001 and third in the Lady's Team European Championship in 2002.
Cat Scratches sat down with UK's newest coach on Monday to discuss her first few weeks on the job, what she brings to Kentucky and what lies ahead in the next few months of her transition.
- Patrick Patterson, who I profiled Sunday in a pre-draft piece, talked with the media after his workout with the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. Video (as if you couldn't see) is above.
- Men's basketball head coach John Calipari announced the dates for UK's Pro Camp this summer. The camp will take place July 29-31 is open for kids ages 7 to 18. Kids between the ages of 7-11 will go from 9 a.m. to noon each day and ages 12-18 will go from 1 to 4 p.m. all three days. The cost for the camp is $199 and several pros are expected to be in attendance. I've been told the three pros that will be in attendanec (unfortunately I can't give who they are away), but believe me, you'll want to be there. Also, we now have photo galleries from the first six satellite camps on ukathletics.com.
- A lot of chatter going on right now about where DeMarcus Cousins will go in Thursday night's NBA Draft. One day after video aired in which Cousins told ESPN's Andy Katz that he was the best player in the draft, his stock is apparently rising. After ESPN's Chad Ford said Derrick Favors has been "getting his butt kicked" by Cousins in the latest pre-draft workouts, there are rumors circulating that Cousins could go as high as No. 3 to the New Jersey Nets. Then there is a report from Brett Dawson of The Courier-Journal in which ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said he wouldn't take a chance on Cousins as a top pick if he was a general manager. Whatever the final case may be, it's become a compelling storyline as we lead up to draft night. Stay tuned over the next few days for additional draft coverage.
The NBA Draft - and the NBA for that matter - has traded in the immediate need to improve for the prospect of potential greatness.
The draft itself is a one-night blockbuster, hyped up like its brother, the NFL Draft, to produce amateurs into marketable superstars. Forget the fact that most of this year's entrants have never played professionally. It's about flash, money and the prospect of tomorrow.
In that sense, Patrick Patterson is a rare breed. While his counterparts enter Thursday night's draft with youth, potential and all-world ability, Patterson enters with experience, intelligence and the readiness to contribute right away.
Apparently that only gets you so far these days.
"I've seen the drafts where they draft a bunch of sophomores and freshmen before they draft juniors and seniors," Patterson said. "In the few mock drafts I've seen, they have myself and other veterans of college basketball late and all the freshmen and younger people earlier just because of potential. They say they have more room to go and that they haven't hit their full potential yet. We've played so much at the college level and we've improved that they don't feel like we can go any farther."
Don't feel too sorry for Patterson - he's still a heavy favorite to go in the first 14 picks of the draft.
But while his younger competition garners all the attention with magazine covers and endorsement deals, Patterson quietly but eagerly is waiting by to find out where he'll be playing out his lifelong and professional dream.
"Myself, Damion James, Craig Brackins, Cole Aldrich, we've been in college basketball for a long time," Patterson said. "We're veterans and we're experienced. We've proven ourselves from playing many games in college basketball."
After three seasons at Kentucky, years in which Patterson helped guide the program out of unforeseen mediocrity and back to national prominence, he's seen and done it all.
Where other draft hopefuls bring in one, sometimes two years of college experience, Patterson brings in three years of professionalism. Although his numbers dipped in 2009-10 (14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds) as he moved over for the country's most talented crop of youth, he developed a perimeter game, an outside jump shot and the ability to put the ball on the floor, in addition to his already rock-solid inside game.
Patterson doesn't mind the magazine covers and the attention the other draft hopefuls and even some of his former Kentucky teammates are getting - after all, Patterson has gotten plenty himself with a diary on Sports Illustrated and his own domain name on the World Wide Web - but he is confident that he possesses traits that NBA teams should consider when choosing their future in Madison Square Garden.
He's experienced, he's mature and he's well-rounded. Patterson is quite arguably the most NBA-ready player in the 2010 draft.
For those reasons maybe more than any other, some team is going to take the most calculated chance of the draft and pick Patterson before the first half of the first round is over.
"I feel like I can come in and start right off the bat," Patterson said. "I feel like I can come in right away and make any impact that the coaching staff needs me to do. I definitely feel like I'm NBA ready because I have an NBA-ready body, I'm emotionally stable and ready, and also I'm a team player on and off the court. I feel like I can come in and do my part. Teams will have no worries with me off the court."
The three-year starter at UK said he is well aware of the youth movement that has taken over recent drafts. As misconceived as it might be, there is a developing notion by some people around the draft that younger is better. They believe that if a player was so good, he wouldn't have waited so many years to make the jump.
"We know that we don't get the potential talk like some of the other freshmen do, but we're just all about going out and proving why we belong here," said Patterson, who added that getting his degree was one of the biggest reasons he stuck around for a third year.
While the stock of the "potentials" fluctuates with every new mock draft, Patterson appears to be one of the few constants. Teams know what they're going to get with Patterson.
"Basically just because I'm being myself," Patterson said while noting the growing importance of today's pre-draft interviews with the NBA general managers and coaches. "I impress the teams with my character, my maturity level and my ability to talk - and talk with confidence - in the meetings."
Patterson credited his parents for instilling discipline and confidence in him at an early age ("They taught me how to be responsible and how to be a man growing up," Patterson said of his parents), but don't overlook the influence Kentucky had on the 6-foot-9 forward from Huntington, W.Va.
Playing for the NCAA's winningest team, the country's most prestigious program and the game's most passionate fans has instilled an intangibility of professionalism that few other players in the draft possess.
"We're constantly in the spotlight (at Kentucky), constantly doing media, with the fans and the expectations," Patterson said. "I think what we're doing now as far as the interviews, communicating with the coaching staffs, the GMs, performing on the court and just understanding the pressure on the next level, it's almost equal to what Kentucky is.
"I think that puts us ahead and definitely prepares us for what it's going to be like at the next level."
The next level begins Thursday with the much-anticipated draft. Patterson figures to go in the lottery, and one team in particular that has fallen in favor of Patterson, according to reports, is the Indiana Pacers.
Patterson, who has primarily worked out in Indiana over the last month, believes he would be a good fit on a blue-collar team like Indiana.
"They want some more toughness on the team," Patterson said. "They already have a good team. I could come in at the four position and just be that tough guy that they need, and also scoring on the post, taking it on the perimeter, knocking down jump shots.
"I'm already well acquainted with the city. Just because of the type of person I am, I feel like I fit in with the organization because of my maturity level, me being emotionally ready being ready to come in and make an impact on and off the court, and just the effort I put in every day."
The hard work, the effort and the maturity are sure things at this point with Patterson. The only unexpected Thursday out of the most NBA-ready player in the draft might be the reaction from a guy that has patiently waited so long for this moment.
"It's just a surreal thing," Patterson said. "This is something I've always wanted, something I've dreamed for and something my family has always wanted for me. Now that it's a few days away, it's just pretty much a butterfly feeling (in my stomach) now. Now that it's here, it's something I can't wait for."
A wonderful story on John Wall and his father in today's Washington Post says it all about the love and connection between a father and son. One of the best stories you will read all year. Check it out here.
And in case you missed it this morning, the Outside the Lines special with DeMarcus Cousins is below. At the end of the segment, Cousins tells ESPN reporter Andy Katz that he is the best player in the draft.
- The second annual UK Hoops 5K run/walk took place Saturday morning at Memorial Coliseum. Despite rainy conditions, the event was once again a success as more than 300 runners braved the conditions to support the team, according to head coach Matthew Mitchell's twitter account. The overall winner of the 5K was Anthony Eaton from Lexington, who finished with an overall time of 18:57.49. The top female finisher was Tiffany Toler from Winchester at 22:36.40. Mitchell, who just weeks earlier boasted that he could capture the title this year, finished with a time from 25:09.88, an improvement from last year's run. UK football coach Joker Phillips (pictured above) served as the honorary starter.
- Former Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson, who I'm hoping to catch on the phone today for an interview, is writing a diary on SportsIllustrated.com on his experience with the NBA Draft. In it, Patterson, talks about wrestling with the decision to leave UK, why he came back last year, who he's currently working out with and more. It looks like Patterson is really enjoying himself. An excerpt from his time at UK is below.
"Once I decided to go pro, the last few days in Lexington were tough for me. Walking around campus, all the students and fans would ask me "Are you sure you want to leave?" It was surreal. One day I was getting into my car and I turned around and these two girls were standing right behind me. They were wearing homemade T-shirts; one of them said: "Our PP is bigger than yours." I thought it was funny so I agreed to take a picture with them. Next thing I know, a whole mob of people swarmed around me, all wearing shirts with my name on the front. They started chanting my name, taking pictures, it was wild. There was even a baby with a mini-version of one of the T-shirts. I'm just going to miss being loved by all the fans. Then again, I won't miss the 8 a.m. classes and long hours in study hall.
Last year I thought about the NBA, but I decided to come back because I just didn't feel like I was ready. Jodie Meeks was my roommate and he really tried to get me to go. Right around that time the NBA playoffs were going on, and I watched the Boston-Chicago series that went seven games. That's when I thought, "I'm not ready." I had hardly played on the perimeter and knew I needed to get better. That and knowing John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins were coming in to UK helped me make up my mind to come back."
- Speaking of Patterson, the future NBA ballplayer now has his own official website. You can check it out at patrickpatterson.com.
- News came out Friday that UK baseball underclassmen Chris Bisson (junior second baseman) and Matt Little (junior reliever) have signed MLB contracts. Bisson, a fourth-round pick, signed with the San Diego Padres, and Little, a 31st-round pick, signed with the Detroit Tigers. First and foremost, congratulations to both guys for getting the opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dreams. As far as UK is concerned, though, both signings obviously hurt the team. In losing Bisson, Kentucky loses its best overall hitter over the last two years. The departure of Little means head coach Gary Henderson will have another hole in the bullpen to plug. With the signing of Bisson, the graduation and signings of seniors Gunner Glad and Marcus Nidiffer, UK is now without its right side of its infield, its starting catcher and potentially its starting shortstop in Taylor Black, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 28th round but has yet to sign a contract. Departures to the MLB are expected and are a sign of a good ballclub, but year three is going to be a big year for Henderson and Co. A lot could ride on what Lance Ray does. Ray was UK's best hitter down the stretch but was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the eighth round. It remains to be seen what Ray will decide to do.
How much of an impact will it have for the team that you have people coming back who know the system?
"Big difference. Because they are not going to have the anxiety that the Freshman have and they will have an idea of how to do this and have a confidence level the Freshman dont have. Last year we had a whole new team. Not only did the Freshmen not know how we did things, the other guys didnt either. Last year, we shot a good percentage from the floor, had a good assist to turnover ratio and our defense was one of the best in the country and that happened with all new players. So what I am hoping is that we learn some new things with these guys but then take all those good qualities from last year and carry them over."
According to DraftExpress.com, the NBA has sent out its nine green room invitations for the 2010 NBA Draft and Kentucky's John Wall (duh!) and DeMarcus Cousins were among the invitees.
Along with Wall and Cousins, the NBA invited Evan Turner (Ohio State), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), Wesley Johnson (Syracuse), Greg Monroe (Georgetown), Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Cole Aldrich (Kansas) and Epke Udoh (Baylor), according to DraftExpress.com.
Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton and even Eric Bledsoe are among a group of hopefuls hoping to get the remaining five or six invites. Count Patterson as a likely choice.
As DraftExpress.com wisely notes, if you're among one of the top 15 or so invited to the New York City, your chances of going in the lottery are very good.
Former UK forward DeMarcus Cousins will be featured on an Outside the Lines special with ESPN reporter Andy Katz this weekend. I'm told that Katz spent three days with Cousins during some of his pre-draft workouts and even sparred with Cousins -- boxing is apparently part of one Cousins' training workouts -- at one point. No telling if ESPN will actually air that footage.
OTL is scheduled to air Sunday at 9 a.m. Check out the preview above.
Also, be sure to check in for some exclusive features on some of the NBA hopefuls next week. I'm scheduled to interview several of them this weekend and should be able to crank out a couple of the stories early next week.
Rajon Rondo vaulted himself into one of the elite point guards in the NBA with a breakthrough NBA Playoffs, but the former Kentucky point guard's bid for a second NBA championship in three years fell short Thursday night with an 83-79 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in game seven of the NBA Finals.
While leading the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals, Rondo averaged 15.8 points points, 9.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds. In his final game of the season, Rondo scored 14 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds, including a late offensive board and desperation 3-point late in the game to keep the Celtics in it.
The 6-foot-1 gangly guard from Louisville, Ky., posted two triple-doubles during the Celtics' run and would have very likely been a top candidate to win the Most Valuable Player award had Boston closed out the series. If that would have happened, Rondo would have become the first time in Kentucky history that a former player had been named the NBA Finals MVP.
That honorable distinction will obviously have to wait for at least another year, but there's no questioning the legitimacy of Rondo's rise. He's here to stay as one of the NBA's best.
More candid video of some of UK's former stars and soon-to-be NBA players. This time it's John Wall, who is expected to hear his name called first on June 24 in the 2010 NBA Draft. Plus, Brian Jackson of CSNWashington.com has a story on Wall staying humble and hungry. Check out that written piece here.
And finally, for those fully immersed in twitter, wanted to let you all know that @2BKnightOrNot2B is not the twitter account of UK signee Brandon Knight.
Here is what Low had to say about Cobb making the cut:
"Line him up anywhere, and the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Cobb is going to make plays. He's still coming into his own as a receiver after playing quarterback in high school, yet is still a big part of Kentucky's Wildcat package when he lines up at quarterback in the shotgun. Cobb is especially crafty in the red zone. He also returns kickoffs and punts and was the only player in the SEC last season who had more than 300 yards rushing, receiving, returning kickoffs and returning punts. A first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press last season, Cobb averaged 139.4 all-purpose yards per game and rolled up a career-high 237 all-purpose yards against Mississippi State. One of his challenges is to become a more complete receiver this coming season. He's already plenty dynamic after the catch and is one of those guys who just naturally makes defenders miss. One of the things that should help Cobb in 2010 is having a more seasoned Chris Matthews on the other side at receiver. Teams won't be able to load up as much on Cobb. But he's so versatile that the Wildcats can move him around to just about anywhere to create mismatches. Even though he's not a speed burner, there are few players in the league who are any better with the ball in their hands."
Great to see Cobb make the list, but I also think it's troubling news for any other Wildcat hoping to make the list. If Cobb, who I believe is the most valuable player on next year's team, is the first UK player to make the list, who else is going to check in above him? Derrick Locke? Maybe.
Of the 12 coaches currently employed in the Southeastern Conference, Calipari owns the third-highest Academic Progress Rate in the latest figures released by the NCAA. The figures are based on where each of the current SEC coaches were employed in the 2008-09 academic year, the final year of the most recent four-year span the APR measures.
Calipari's score of 974 ranks third behind Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings (980) and Anthony Grant (975). Calipari's score is taken from his tenure in Memphis.
The NCAA target score for each sport is 925. For the sixth straight year, all 22 of UK's sports teams surpassed the NCAA target score and 13 of the 22 squads exceeded or tied the national average for public universities.
Below is a list of the top six scores by coaches in the latest APR numbers:
980 Kevin Stalling, Vanderbilt 975 Anthony Grant, Alabama* 974 John Calipari, Kentucky* 956 Billy Donovan, Florida 938 Mark Fox, Georgia* 935 Bruce Pearl, Tennessee
*Score accumulated while coaching at another school during 2008-09 season.
- And if you haven't seen the delicious menu that will be served at the upcoming dinner that was auctioned off as a part of the Hoops for Haiti fundraiser with Ashley Judd and Calipari, check it out here. If someone could please find a way to snag me a to-go box, I'd much appreciate it.
"Lindley has displayed that same kind of recovery speed at cornerback and was able to consistently make plays on passes as a result. Don't be surprised if he's in the mix to start at right cornerback by September. He'll have to pass Ellis Hobbs and Joselio Hanson on the depth chart. But Hobbs, regardless of what the Eagles say, still has to prove he's not damaged goods after that serious neck injury that landed him on injured reserve last season and basically kept him out of all team drills this spring. And Hanson, though way more savvy at this point, doesn't possess as much natural ability."
- Cliff Brunt from the Associated Press has a great story on Patrick Patterson as he tries to impress the Indiana Pacers, who have the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. Brunt points to Patterson's academic success as a reason to believe in Patterson's work ethic.
"Any NBA team with questions about Patrick Patterson's work ethic should check his academic record. While he was a basketball star at Kentucky, Patterson was completing class work at an accelerated pace. Most players who leave school early put graduation on hold, but Patterson took just three years to get his degree in communication and leadership development."
- Perennial All-Star and a likely future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd spoke highly of former UK guard John Wall on a teleconference Monday. Jerry Tipton from the Lexington Herald-Leader has the scoop.
"He's a talent," Kidd said of Wall. "A lot of these guys can play above the rim now. He has the athletic ability. He can set up open guys. He can score. So I think the future is very bright. ... He will shine at the next level as long as he keeps working hard."
- Despite a valiant comeback in the ninth inning, the Alabama baseball team fell short of a College World Series bid with Monday's loss to Clemson. That finalizes this year's CWS, which will start Saturday, with eight teams bidding for the national championship. The Southeastern Conference has two teams, Florida and South Carolina, representing the league.
In the end, little changed. After two weeks of panic across the world of college sports, it appears the landscape of collegiate athletics will stay intact.
With a last-minute ditch effort by the Big 12 and a gutsy move by Texas, the major powers of the Big 12 will not accept bids to other conferences and move forward with a 10-team Big 12. (Now the question is, what do we call the 10-team Big 12 and the 12-team Big Ten? Seriously, it's a legitimate, albeit minor, question that nobody has addressed.)
Nebraska will still join the Big Ten and Colorado and presumably one other school from a mid-major conference will join the Pacific-10. The Big Ten and Pac-10 will likely create a conference championship game, and the Big 12, because NCAA rules do not allow for 10-team leagues to have conference championships, will lose its final game.
Oh, and the Bowl Championship Series which I know so many of you love so dearly will not be affected.
How about the conference Kentucky sits in? How will the final moves of the Big 12 schools affect UK and the Southeastern Conference? In the end, little changed for UK as well.
After a minor love affair with Texas A&M, the league will stay put with its current 12-team, championship-game format. Kentucky will still play in the toughest league in America and serve the benefit from it, both financially and in terms of exposure. You can almost certainly guess that the league will continue to produce the same national championship contenders that it has over the last decade.
Is this the final word that we'll hear of expansion? My gut tells me no, but for the time being, college sports as we know it has returned to normalcy. The SEC is still the SEC.
The Nets own the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft and reportedly have their eyes on a big man to fill a need in the low post. Favors has been projected as the player most likely to be taken by the Nets in most mock drafts, but a one-on-one battle is clearly an opportunity for Cousins to jump up draft boards. It's a win-win situation.
Let's briefly review the latest rumblings on a rainy Monday morning in Lexington:
- Less than two weeks to go until the 2010 NBA Draft, which will be held June 24 in Madison Square Garden in New York City. DraftExpress.com released its latest mock draft and has all five draft-eligible Wildcats going in the first round. The website has John Wall going No. 1 to the Washington Wizards, DeMarcus Cousins to the Golden State Warriors at No. 6, Patrick Patterson to the New Orleans Hornets at No. 11, Daniel Orton to the Boston Celtics at No. 19 and Eric Bledsoe to the Vancouver Grizzlies at No. 25.
- Although Kentucky is not in the NCAA Baseball Tournament, there has been some great action nationwide on the diamond. Six teams have punched their tickets to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series with two more left to be determined. The Southeastern Conference already has two teams, Florida and South Carolina, in the final eight, with the possibility of one more. Alabama will take on Clemson on Monday at 1 p.m. for the chance to be the only team this year with three teams in the CWS. Tune in to ESPN2 today at 1 p.m. to catch the Alabama-Clemson game.
- Ho-hum. Just another night for Rajon Rondo on Sunday. The former Kentucky guard had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Boston Celtics to a 3-2 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Paul Pierce led the way with 27 points, but it was once again Rondo who provided the key plays down the stretch to win the game. It's truly been a joy to watch this kid mature over the last few years. The Boston Globe has a story tody on the Celtics' love of Rondo's Rise. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers thinks this is only the beginning of Rondo's rise. "I still think we forget how young he is," Rivers said in the story. "He still has some growing to do, and I think he's actually doing it during the playoffs, and it's good."
- I've done my best to stay out of the conference realignment mess because of Kentucky's affiliation with the SEC, but it'd be my guess that we'll see the largest dominoes fall this week one way or another. There are reports that suggest Texas is considering staying in the Big 12, in essence keeping the conference intact. Then there are the latest reports that rehashes last week's news that several Big 12 schools are planning a move to the Pacific-10. But the biggest news as it pertains to the SEC right now is the very realistic possibility that Texas A&M is considering a move to the SEC. How that will affect the league structure for the future I don't know, but what happens the rest of this week could very well change the structure of college sports as we know it. Stay tuned.
- Reminder that the second annual UK Hoops 5K Run/Walk is Saturday at 8:30 a.m. The race, which will begin at Memorial Coliseum, will feature interaction with the women's basketball players and coaches, entertainment, food, and activities. Fans can still register.
I'm a little late on this, but it's never too late to congratulate a national champion.
Senior track star Rondel Sorrillo capped off a brilliant track and field career at Kentucky on Saturday by capturing the national championship in the 200-meter dash at Saturday's NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
It is the school's first national championship in the 200m and the second-fastest time of Sorrillo's career.
"It really hasn't hit me that I am the 200m champ," Sorrillo said. "The cold weather played a major part in the race, I believe this race could have been a lot faster if the conditions had been favorable. I am just glad to get the victory."
Sorrillo stands second all-time at Kentucky with eight All-America honors and has reached that mark in two years, faster than anyone in UK history. The senior stands just behind Olympian Tim Harden who captured 10 in four years from 1993 to 1996. Sorrillo is also the first Southeastern Conference athlete to win the 200m dash since Wallace Spearmon of Arkansas in 2005.
"Rondel bounced back pretty well from what happened in the 4x1 and didn't let it affect his 200," UK assistant coach of sprints Erin Tucker said. "He didn't have the greatest start of the 200 but into the turn he didn't feel like anyone was running with him. Rondel transitioned really well in and out of the curve and with 80 meters left the race was pretty much over. We wanted to improve on last year and the only way to do that was win, after a second-place finish last year and that's what happened."
Not much going on in the way of news, but here are a couple of things worth checking out:
- In light of last week's saddening news that future Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. has retired, SportsIllustrated.com is chronicling the top retirements of 2010. Why is this relevant for a UK blog? Well, beloved UK football coach Rich Brooks, who, as Sports Illustrated terms it, got Kentucky's football program back on the road toward respectability, made the list. I don't know if the list is in order of importance, but for a Kentucky football coach's retirement to even be big news speaks volumes of how far the program has come under the tutelage of Brooks. Check out the feature here.
- In addition to a great news release by Evan Crane, check out this story by Jody Demling of the Courier-Journal on a great story on a pair of UK golfers at the Kentucky State Amateur Championship. Jordan Blann, a senior on the 2009-10 Kentucky golf team, edged out his brother, who is also a UK golfer, on the first playoff hole of the Championship. "You want to beat him, but you don't," Jordan said of beating his brother, according to the Courier-Journal story. "I don't know. You just don't ever expect something like that."
Just wanted to clear up something about the announcement of the GAM3DAY READY Tour, a Joker Phillips-led, four-city tour across Kentucky for youth to participate in various football skills and related drills.
The tour's name, which has a "3" in the middle instead of an "E," is meant to signify that some of the promotional aspects (billboards, signs, etc.) will be in three-dimensional form.
We've had some questions -- mainly from Louisville fans -- asking whether or not it had anything to do UK beating archrival U of L three years in a row. In short, the answer is no.
Garrett Wittels of Florida International has become a household name for college baseball enthusiasts because of a recent 56-game hitting streak, but a Kentucky softball signee posted a similar mark this year that nearly matched Wittels' streak.
In fact, in a sport that is dominated by pitching, the streak might be more impressive than Wittels' ongoing 56-gamer.
Kentucky signee and London, Ky., product Emily Gaines hit safely in 52 straight games this past season for South Laurel High School, according to a story by Dave Krider of MaxPreps.com. The streak, which easily broke the Kentucky high school state record of 43 straight games, is the second-longest in high school history.
Not just in Kentucky - in the all-time national record books.
The national record is 73 by Kayla Braud of Marist (Eugene, Ore.), who currently plays for Alabama and was named a first-team All-American this season. Will Gaines be destined for similar greatness when she arrives in Lexington next season?
"Now that her incredible season has come to an end, I am confident that Emily will take everything that she has learned and accomplished during her high school career and make the needed adjustments to the college game that will propel her to the same level of success while competing in the Southeastern Conference," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said.
Gaines' streak ended during an 8-2 playoff victory over Knox Central when she drew three walks and popped out to the second baseman in four trips to the plate. As the streak grew, teams repeatedly pitched around Gaines and sometimes gave her only one or two opportunities to extend her hit streak.
"It was kind of sad," Gaines said of the streak's end, according to the MaxPreps.com story. "But knowin that we were still going to the (region) championship game made it a little easier."
The 5-foot-10 high school star is projected to play infield or outfield at UK and make an immediate impact. She led the Cardinals to a 34-7 record this spring after five seasons at South Laurel. She owns six state records, which includes single-season marks for most hits (83), doubles (27) and home runs in five consecutive games, as well as career records for most doubles (104), hits (349) and, of course, longest hitting streak (52 games), according to MaxPreps.com.
"She's going to rank as the best player our school has ever had," South Laurel head coach Kaye Smith said, according to MaxPreps.com. "I hope young kids learned a lot just from watching her. She is a great role model. She loves the sport and her future is very bright."
In addition to her six state records, Gaines also ranks No. 4 in Kentucky with a .525 batting average, 200 RBI, 24 homes runs and 241.
Although she likely won't pitch for the Cats, she was the Cardinals' No. 1 pitcher the last couple of years. This spring she posted a 19-2 record with a 0.68 earned average. If Lawson needs to call upon her to relieve pitching stars Chanda Bell or Rachel Riley in the circle next year, Gaines owns a 66-9 career record in high school with 454 strikeouts and a 1.04 ERA.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Emily's senior season as a softball fan," Lawson said. "It is every athlete's dream to be able to compete at the level that Emily has enjoyed during 2010. I can confidently say that all of her successes have come to her because she is an incredibly hard worker, she is intelligent and she is one of the most humble individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting."
It looks like the money train has finally rolled in for John Wall with the report that the former Kentucky Wildcat has reached a lucrative endorsement agreement worth $25 million over five years. Yahoo! Sports is reporting the deal.
The deal is the most notable investment Reebok has made since longtime NBA veteran Allen Iverson. Reebok is hoping Wall can replace Iverson as the brand's superstar.
Nike and Under Armour made pushes to sign Wall but couldn't outbid Reebok in what is the biggest rookie deal in recent years.
Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, last year's No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, was reported to have signed a deal with Nike worth $400,000 annually. Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings had a more lucrative deal with Under Armour that he signed out of high school, worth approximately $2 million over four years.
Josh Harrellson has been in and out of the Kentucky basketball lineup more often than bellbottom jeans have resurfaced.
Upon his arrival in 2008 as a junior-college transfer, Harrellson was expected to contribute as a key reserve and did so in Billy Gillispie's final season. As a junior last year, he was pushed out of the primary rotation and relegated to the bench in favor of highly touted freshmen.
Then, when those same freshmen bolted for the NBA this season after a magical one-year run, Harrellson was thought to be one of the only sure things to shore up a barren frontline. And now UK head coach John Calipari has hauled in yet another spectacular recruiting class, nabbing big men Enes Kanter (Rivals.com No. 3 overall recruit), Terrence Jones (Rivals.com No. 13 recruit) and former Florida forward Eloy Vargas.
Has Harrellson consequently been pushed back out of the rotation?
"(John Calipari) could start five freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and a senior - he could start anybody," Harrellson said. "Whoever earns the right to start is going to start. He's a fair coach. If you earn the right to start, he'll start you. He's not going to start anybody that doesn't deserve to start."
With that mentality in mind, Harrellson and teammate Jon Hood traveled with Sports Reach to China in May for a 17-day trip to play basketball. As a part of the Christian outreach program, one of the main goals was to travel across the country to gain a new cultural appreciation for China and its people.
But make no mistake about it, the trip was also to hone their basketball skills.
During the China voyage, Harrellson and Hood, along with a handful of other collegiate players that included Louisville's Peyton Siva and Tennessee's Skylar McBee, played nine games against local clubs, which included the Bayi Basketball Club, traditionally one of the top teams in China, and a Russian all-star team.
The Sports Reach team posted a 6-3 record thanks in large part to Harrellson's play. Exhibiting perhaps the best basketball of his career, Harrellson averaged a team-high 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds for the American-based team. The senior-to-be shot 58.7 percent (54-of-92) from the floor against some of China's best players.
"It boosted my confidence," Harrellson said. "I've been playing against Daniel (Orton), Pat(rick) (Patterson) and DeMarcus (Cousins) all year long, so I just tried to carry that over there. I think it will boost my confidence for next season."
It would be a common misconception to assume that Harrellson was going against much smaller, less-skilled players in a still developing basketball country. Not so, said Sports Reach director Robby Speer and Harrellson.
What some of the players lacked in athleticism they made up for in size. Speer called some of the opposing players "giants," and Harrellson said the average height of some of the teams was 6-foot-8. The 6-9 Harrellson played - and produced - against players 7-foot or taller and even scored 11 points against a 7-4 Russian.
"Really all I did was rebound," Harrellson said. "Just offensive rebound, just put it back in. If that's all I need to do here (to play) then I'll be happy just doing that.
Regardless of the opposing competition, UK teammate Hood, who averaged 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists despite poor shooting performances, saw a more polished Harrellson in China.
"I wouldn't say it was confidence," Hood said. "I've seen Josh play in practice and he played well in practice last year, but like everyone said, it's behind a bunch of studs that are all going to the NBA. Josh is a great player and he showed it over in China."
The success overseas - in sometimes adverse conditions with the foreign food, mobs of fans, lack of sleep, travel and different facilities - has helped reestablish a belief in Harrellson that he can in fact contribute to next year's team as he enters his final season at Kentucky.
"It really reassures me to know that I can produce and I am a good player," Harrellson said. "That's why I'm here. Just going over there and playing against those experienced guys. Playing behind DeMarcus and them, I was fine with that. We won 35 games. That's a great season. But going over there and playing against those guys and then coming back here knowing I actually have a chance to play, I'm just going to keep pushing myself as hard as I can."
Whether it will be enough to crack what should be another talented rotation remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that, with a steady summer so far, Harrellson has at least earned himself the chance to throw his name back in the mix.
Before I dive into a small story on Josh Harrellson's success in China, let's run through a few notes on the day:
- In a rare occurrence for the NBA Draft, NBA teams might be favoring experience over potential when it comes to a pair of Kentucky men's basketball players. Forward Patrick Patterson has been rising on most draft boards lately while center Daniel Orton appears to be falling. NBADraft.net has Patterson going as high as No. 6 to the Golden State Warriors, and both NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com have Orton out of the lottery. It's surprising, in a way, when you consider how often teams overanalyze potential vs. actual numbers. I think some of them are realizing it is hard to look past Patterson's sustained success against Orton's limited numbers. We'll find out the final results on June 24 in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
- Men's basketball head coach John Calipari raved on his website Wednesday at coachcal.com that Darius Miller was in the best shape of his life while also addressing Darnell Dodson's status for next year. "What I love is that everyone is taking their studies seriously and they are also working on the things we discussed they need to do to get better," Calipari said on his website. "DeAndre (Liggins) is really putting in the hours in the gym, from what I'm told. Darnell (Dodson) finished the year up strong academically but still has a ways to go and will be on campus this summer to take some classes. He still has some work to do before he will be able to be on the court with us."
- For the second straight season, the UK men's basketball team has found itself in the DirecTV SEC/Big East Invitational. Kentucky will take on Notre Dame on Dec. 8 in Freedom Hall in Louisville on ESPN, preceded by Arkansas-Seton Hall at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. On Dec. 11, Rutgers will take on Auburn on ESPN2, followed by Pittsburgh-Tennessee. Both game times are to be announced. UK defeated Connecticut last year in Madison Square Garden in the SEC/Big East Invitational.
- The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate report Wednesday, and, for the sixth straight year, all 22 of UK's sports teams surpassed the NCAA target score. Thirteen of the 22 squads exceeded or tied the national average for public universities in their sports. The men's cross country led the way with a perfect 1,000 points, followed by gymnastics (995), women's soccer (983), softball (979), baseball (979) and women's outdoor track (977). The NCAA target score for each sport is 925. Despite the full attention UK has received recently for its academics, UK has never had a single team penalized for its APR score. For comparison, 137 teams at 80 different colleges and universities were penalized this year and have received an immediate or historical sanction, which is actually the lowest number in the APR's six years.
- Another current baseball player was taken off the draft board Wednesday in the third and final day of the 50-round MLB draft. Junior reliever Matt Little was taken in the 31st round (943rd overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. With Little's selection, six UK baseball players and three UK signees have been drafted.
Forward Josh Harrellson and guard Jon Hood, along with other collegiate players, recently traveled to China with Sports Reach for a two-week trip of China to play basketball and gain a new cultural appreciation for China and its people.
Playing against teams like the Bayi Basketball Club, traditionally one of the top teams in China, and a Russian all-star team, the Sports Reach team posted a 6-3 record.
Harrellson led the Sports Reach team for much of the trip, averaging 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The senior-to-be shot 58.7 percent (54-of-92) from the field. Hood struggled a bit from the field but averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
The duo returned from China last week and sat down with reporters Wednesday to talk about their experience. Check out the video below and check in later on the blog for another story.
OK, I get it. It's the summer, there is plenty to do outside and by and large it's the offseason. Almost. Before you officially check out for the summer, I wanted to shed some light on a team that deserves your attention before the athletics season officially comes to a close.
Who, you might ask - the track and field team. Beginning Wednesday in Eugene, Ore., and lasting until Sunday, 11 athletes will represent UK in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, joining 150 other athletes from the Southeastern Conference in annually the nation's top college track meet of the year.
In a sport with so many individual athletes, the storylines can sometimes be numerous and hard to keep up with. To give you more knowledge into the sport and the significance of this weekend, I thought I'd run through the top five storylines heading into the week.
1.) The World's other Fastest Man - Surely you know who Usain Bolt is. Long known as the World's Fastest Man, the three-time Olympic gold medalist holds the world record in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Here's the catch: UK's features an athlete that has actually beaten him. In fact, it came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics just a few days prior to Bolt's breaking of a world record that some thought might never be broken.
That man is junior sprinter Rondel Sorrillo, who will head west to compete in the 100m and 200m dashes as well serve as one of the legs in the 4x100m relay team. Sorrillo, owner of the school records in the both the 100m (10.05 seconds) and 200m dashes (20.29), posted the world's 12th-fastest time in the 200m dash this year.
Head coach Don Weber thinks Sorrillo has a legitimate chance to capture the national title in one or both of his individual events.
"I don't want to minimize the possibilities or overstate the possibilities, but he is one of the very best in the country," Weber said. "The thing that Rondel has going for him is he is an extremely good competitor. It seems like the bigger the stakes, the higher level of competition, the better he is. You get into a meet like this, not only do you need to be talented and gifted, but your competitiveness and ability to rise to the occasion is huge."
People are quick to point out that Bolt wasn't running full speed in that heat in Beijing and they're right, but that's not the point. Beating the World's Fastest Man in direct competition is a confidence booster that few athletes can possess. The self-esteem could be the difference between the hundredths of a second that Weber so often stresses can separate first place from sixth.
"Rondel has a great head on him when it comes to competing in athletics," Weber said. "His experience at the Olympics - that's obviously the highest level of competition in the world - that allows him to keep the NCAA Championships in a lot better perspective compared to some kids who come to the NCAA Championships. That is their Olympics. His experience, his exposure to other great athletes certainly plays a big part in helping him do what he's capable of doing in big competitions."
2.) Muffet's been there, done that - If Sorrillo is favorite No. 1 to win an individual title, consider senior thrower Ashley Muffet favorite No. 1A.
There's something to be said about talent - which Muffet has -but Weber believes experience can pay huge dividends. As the only current Cat to participate in every NCAA Championship in their respective careers (in either the shot put or the discus), Muffet brings the irreplaceable quality of having been there before.
"She's had huge success and she's had extremely disappointing failures, just personally and competitively," Weber said. "I think both of those have kind of helped her put this in better perspective where ultimately it is just another track meet."
Muffet made the NCAA Championships with a throw of 54.55 meters (178 feet, 11 inches) in the women's discus, but it's what she's done in the past that has Weber so confident. She's struggled with consistency this season, and yet still placed second at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships in the shot put as well earned last year's Southeastern Conference Co-Field Athlete of the Year.
Thanks to her past successes and failures, Weber said Muffet, who ranks in the top three in school annals in the shot put (current record holder), discus throw and hammer throw, understands she has the ability to win gold in Eugene.
"When you step into the ring or you step onto the runway, what you need to be concerned about is your performance," Weber said. "If you're able to bring out your kind of performance your capable of, based on your past performances, you're going to be very competitive in this thing. I think she sometimes let that get away from her where she started to worry about how good the other people were."
3.) Deep team presents opportunities - Weber wouldn't go as far as to say this is one of his strongest teams in recent years, partly because the athletes lack experience outside of Sorrillo and Muffet, but taking 11 athletes to nationals is one of the deeper fields UK has had in the last decade.
Four of the last five years, Weber and his coaching staff have sent 11 or more athletes to the NCAA Championships, a success rate the program didn't experience in the early 2000s.
Weber credited the big numbers to his team performing under the pressure at the NCAA preliminaries a couple of weeks ago after an up-and-down season.
"Our people that qualified competed exceptionally well," Weber said. "Obviously they're talented. They've worked for years to develop their talent. In that very competitive situation they certainly rose to the occasion and competed very well."
4.) A long wait for the women - It's been a long time since a women's relay team of any kind has made the final meet of the season. Like 1996 long.
For the first time in nearly a decade and a half, Kentucky will send a women's relay team to nationals. Jenna Martin, Brittany Cabbler, Precious Nwokey and Jazmyn Shorter qualified for nationals in the 4x400 relay with a third-place finish at preliminaries.
The team's time of 3:35.14 set a new school record.
The men's 4x100 relay team of Sean Lange, Kwasi Obeng, Rondel Sorillo and Alex Williams qualified for the NCAA Championships as well with a fourth-place time of 39.63 at preliminaries.
5.) A pattern of success - This might be Colin Boevers' first time at the NCAA Championships, but it isn't exactly his first rodeo either.
As an understudy of the departed Rashaud Scott and Chase Madison, two of the most accomplished throwers in program history, Weber said Boevers, a junior, watched and learned all he needed to know for a significant splash at this year's nationals.
It showed when Boevers qualified for this week's competition with a fifth-place throw of 55.04m (180 feet, 7 inches) in the men's discus throw. His throw of 192 feet, 1 inch in San Diego earlier this year is tied for fifth all-time in program annals.
"He's seen those guys - two of the best guys in the country when they were competing - he's seen them in practice," Weber said. "He knows they're just regular guys competing. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, so in terms of his understanding of all the good throwers in the country, he's got a pretty good idea that they're just regular people; they put their pants on one leg at a time. I don't think he's in awe or intimidated of some of these people that have very good marks."
Boevers embodies Kentucky's entrants this season. Weber hinted that his team's confidence in its own ability will be the biggest factor in overcoming inexperience and a deep and talented field.
"You just don't give people any more credit than they deserve," Weber said. "You certainly respect what they've done, but you understand they're just like you."
For complete coverage of the track and field team from the NCAA Championships in Eugene, check the track and field home page. A complete list of Kentucky's participants can be found here.
Been bogged down with some other work and trying to churn out a track and field story as we speak, but in the meantime I thought I would run through a few short afternoon notes.
- The MLB Draft is still in its early rounds, but already three UK baseball players, one former star prospect and a signee have been drafted in the first eight rounds. Junior second baseman Chris Bisson was the first current player off the board as he was selected in the fourth round (124th overall) by the San Diego Padres. Junior left-handed pitcher Logan Darnell (sixth round, 195th overall to the Minnesota Twins) and junior outfielder Lance Ray (eighth round, 255th overall) followed. Interesting to note that one year after going in the first round of the draft, former UK pitcher James Paxton slipped to the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round with the 132nd overall pick. Kentucky signee and right-handed pitcher Blake Perry, a native of Danville, Ky., was selected in the sixth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The most compelling storyline, I believe, over the next few days and weeks will be what Ray decides to do. The junior-college transfer was the team's best hitter down the stretch and transformed from a bench player with pinch-hitting duty to a sudden can't-miss-prospect. Will he stay for one more year or will he go? Brent Ingram will have a full release with all the draftees at the conclusion of the three-day draft.
- Congratulations to two former UK football players, defensive tackle Corey Peters and fullback John Conner, for reportedly signing NFL contracts. According to nationalfootballpost.com, Peters, a third-round selection, and the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a four-year deal with a total maximum value of $3.295 million. Conner, a fifth-round selection, signed a four-year, $1.99 million deal with the New York Jets, according to The Star-Ledger. While getting drafted is huge for any young NFL hopeful, actually signing a contract with a team is half the battle. Signing early assures that the former Cats will be on the field for the all-important training camps in summer. Links will take you to the full details.
- We've heard the story of the Rich Brooks to Joker Phillips transition before, but I thought I'd put a link from another perspective as well. This one comes from David Jones of Florida Today. Jones talks about the continuity of the program with Phillips as well as the historical significance of the Southeastern Conference's second black head coach. "It is amazing and I'm also proud, being a Kentucky native, also," Phillips said in the story. "For the three major universities in the state of Kentucky to hire African-Americans and give all of us an opportunity at the same time is amazing."
As usual around this time of the year, a handful Kentucky baseball players and signees are expected to hear their names called over the next three days in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, including top-10 round hopefuls Chris Bisson and Logan Darnell.
The 50-round draft begins Monday night at 7 on the MLB Network and MLB.com. The first 50 picks, representing the first and supplemental compensation rounds, will take place Monday night, followed by rounds 2-30 on Tuesday and rounds 31-50 on Wednesday.
Bisson, a junior second baseman, will likely be taken off the board in the first five rounds. As Baseball America's top prospect - college or high school - in the state of Kentucky, Bisson is the best second-base prospect in the 2010 draft.
The Canadian native led UK in hitting (.360), at-bats (222), runs (49), hits (80), triples (three), RBI (52) and walks (20) as a sophomore in 2009. Bisson followed that up with a .329 average, 43 runs and 35 RBI this past season despite a nasty broken nose he suffered early in the season when he was hit in the face by a pitch.
Of Bisson, Baseball America wrote, "He'll be a legitimate base-stealing threat at the next level, too, with well-above-average speed and savvy on the bases. To be an effective leadoff man, he'll need a more consistent approach at the plate."
Darnell, a junior left-handed pitcher, is also projected go in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Kentucky's Friday starter went 5-3 this past season for the Cats with a 5.62 ERA in 14 games and 11 starts. Baseball America lists him as the third-best prospect in the state of Kentucky.
Chances are Darnell will resume his previous role as a reliever in the pros.
"The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder profiles better as a reliever because he has one plus pitch, and his arm action and the effort in his delivery are better suited for shorter stints," Jim Callis of Baseball America wrote. "As a reliever, Darnell works at 91-93 mph with is fastball. He'll flash a sharp slider intermittently, and his changeup is more effective."
Baseball America also lists Kentucky signees Corey Littrell (LHP from Trinity High School in Louisville), Lucas Witt (outfielder from Lexington Christian High School in Lexington) and Trevor Gott (right-handed pitcher from Tates Creek High School in Lexington) among its top 25 players in the state of Kentucky. All three are expected to hear their names called at some point over the next three days and will have to wrestle with the decision to come to UK or turn to the pros.
As for the remaining current crop of Kentucky ballplayers, several could land with an MLB organization. Seniors Keenan Wiley, Marcus Nidiffer and Gunner Glad along with juniors Taylor Black, Matt Little and Lance Ray are among the most likely remaining UK players to be selected in the draft.
Should the underclassmen get picked, they will have the option of returning to Kentucky. Former UK pitcher James Paxton, who left Kentucky because of his decision to not meet with the NCAA over a potential NCAA amateur issue, will likely be one of the first selections in the MLB Draft for the second year in a row. Paxton, who eventually signed with the Grand Prairie AirHogs, an independent minor-league baseball team in Texas, is listed as a first-round pick among most MLB mock drafts.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig is expected to call phenom catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper's name with the top overall pick in the draft, which, for the second straight year, will go to the Washington Nationals.
Brent Ingram, UK's baseball sports information director, will have MLB Draft updates on the home page as Kentucky players are selected.
It's time to get back in the saddle. After a week's vacation (a much-needed one at that), it's time to get this blog rebooted for the summer and the offseason.
While we certainly won't have as much content on here during the summer as we would during the year - only one team, track and field, remains in action - we'll do our best to keep some original content on here and keep you up-to-date throughout the summer.
Not a ton going on this week, but there is the MLB Draft over the next three days and the NCAA Track and Field Championships later on in the week, both of which I hope to touch on briefly on here at some point.
In the meantime, I'd like to quickly review some of the big news we missed on here last week while I was gone. Most of it you'll already know, but if you're like me and lived under a rock last week (or just unplugged all technology), this might be a good start in catching up.
- What I believe to be the biggest story of last week, although it's not UK related, was the passing of the greatest coach to ever coach any sport, John Wooden. The legendary UCLA coach, appropriately nicknamed the Wizard of Westwood, died at the age of 99, long remembered for being as great of a person as he was a coach. I know this is a UK blog and this university has featured some of the most dominating coaches in college basketball history in Adolph Rupp and Rick Pitino, but I think it would be an injustice - even on this site - not to acknowledge that Wooden was the greatest coach of all time. Over 27 years, Wooden won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor. Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. His final game was actually against UK, a 92-85 win over the Wildcats for Wooden's 10th national title.
- UK football received a bit of bad news last week when Derrick Locke broke his arm in a moped accident. Locke suffered a slight crack in the ulna bone in his left forearm. The good news for UK and Locke is the injury is not expected to be serious or affect Locke' senior season. Kentucky's No. 1 tailback will be in a splint for four weeks and then be re-evaluated. The injury does not require surgery. If all goes according to plan, Locke should be on the field in early August for fall practice.
- The latest - and second-to-last - Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings were released last week. Kentucky fell to No. 23 in the standings but still sits in relatively good position compared to previous years. Despite the drop, Kentucky is still on pace to break last year's 34th-place Directors' Cup finish of 607.80 points and ranks third among all Southeastern Conference schools. With a current total of 598.00 points, UK needs a mere 10 points to beat last year's mark. The latest sports to be included in the rankings were women's water polo, men's volleyball, women's golf, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's tennis. The lack of UK participation in some of those sports certainly hurt the department's rankings this time. The rankings, the final of which will be released July 1, rate the top athletics departments in the country. Kentucky will have to rank in the top 15 by the year 2015 to achieve the 15 by 15 by 15 Plan, a department-wide mandate to win at least 15 conference, tournament or national championships and rank among the NCAA's top 15 athletics programs by the 2015.
- Former Wildcat Rajon Rondo continues to stake his claim as the hottest point guard and quite possibly fastest-rising player in the NBA. Just last night, Rondo, a two-year Wildcat, notched his fifth playoff triple-double. Rondo scored 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the second game of the NBA Finals, providing the game's most important plays down the stretch to tie the NBA Finals at 1-1.