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July 2010 Archives

Mayor proclaims Sept. 3 Blue/White Day

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proclamation.jpgIn concordance with College Colors Day, which will take place Sept. 3 nationwide, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry proclaimed the day before the Louisville game Blue/White Day. Newberry made the announcement at Friday's annual Kickoff Luncheon.

On Sept. 3, the Friday of the annual Governor's Cup clash between UK and Louisville, Newberry is asking all Lexington residents to where blue or white in support of the University of Kentucky and its football team.

The proclamation comes two months after Gov. Steve Beshear announced the nationwide proclamation within the Commonwealth of Kentucky (proclamation from Beshear pictured to the right).

College Colors Day, which coincides with both students going back to school and the kickoff of intercollegiate athletics, seeks to celebrate the traditions and spirit that make the college experience great by encouraging student, alumni and fans to wear the apparel of their favorite college.

Businesses are encouraged to participate. You can register your organization and find out more at www.collegecolorsday.com.

Kapteyn.jpgThe Cape is one of those pipeline dreams for an aspiring professional baseball player that begins on the Babe Ruth fields as little kids and blossoms into the vision of college players across the country.

First it's getting a scholarship offer, landing with a college, the MLB Draft and eventually the leap from the minor leagues to the big leagues. In between there, though, is the goal of making the Cape Cod Baseball League, undoubtedly the best collegiate summer league in the country.

Every year, the top college players in the nation compete for a chance to make a team in the Cape. For those players hoping to make the jump from college ball to the pros, a successful summer at the CCBL can be the difference between an MLB Draft selection and a fizzled dream.

The league has been such a successful launching pad that players this year turned down playing for Team USA for the opportunity to compete in the Cape. Heck, there is even a semi-entertaining movie called "Summer Catch" that features the league's mystique.

"Obviously it is the best league in the country," UK outfielder Chad Wright said.

Wright would know. As one of two UK baseball players to play in the Cape Code Baseball League All-Star Game Wednesday in Fenway Park in Boston, Wright has immediately been placed on the radar of MLB scouts across the country. Consider UK pitcher Braden Kapteyn, UK's other Cape Cod all-star representative, in that same category.

"It was awesome," Kapteyn said of the opportunity to pitch in Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox and one of the most tradition-rich stadiums left in all of baseball. "To get an experience like that is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. To have the honor to be chosen to pitch there means a lot to me. It was really a great overall experience."

Kapteyn and Wright earned all-star bids to the Cape after sensational summers to date. Kaptyen, despite taking the loss in the all-star game, is 2-1 in the summer season with a 0.76 ERA. The junior right-hander surrendered a run in the all-star game Wednesday but has given up just two runs in his 13 regular-season league appearances.

Meanwhile, Wright ranks seventh in the CCBL in average (.294) and 10th in hits (32) for division-leading Cotuit in a pitching-rich league. Wright hit leadoff for the Western Division All-Stars and went 1-for-3.

"You have to come every day with your A game (in the Cape) or else the pitching will get the best of you," Wright said. "Every day you are seeing an SEC Friday-night guy, so it is more or less getting you more ready for the college season and for the SEC weekends."

Playing in Fenway and earning an all-star selection was special for both Wright and Kapteyn, but more than anything, that's what playing in the CCBL is all about - improving oneself for the upcoming season and the future.

MLB legends like Jeff Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas and Chase Utley found stardom in the Cape and went on to sensational professional careers. Recent Cape Cod all-stars from UK, Antone DeJesus (St. Louis Cardinals) and Collin Cowgill (Arizona Diamondbacks), had success in the league and are currently in major-league systems.

Current Kentucky players Kapteyn and Wright are hoping for similar returns.

"Hopefully for next year the knowledge and experience that I have gained throughout the summer from the coaches up here, I can bring it back and help our team with some of the things we have struggled with in the past," Wright said. "I know there are some more things we want to improve on, like base running, so we have been focusing on that this summer. Coach (Brian) Green and I have already talked about stuff like that. I am really excited to get back and improve our team."

Wright and Kapteyn, a two-way player, actually faced each other Wednesday in Fenway as pitcher (Kapteyn) and batter (Wright). Their respective teams had played each other a couple of times already but without Kapteyn on the mound.

Once the opportunity finally arose in the all-star game, Wright was licking his chops for the chance to get a hit off his hard-throwing teammate.

"When I got in the box, I was kind of laughing in a way because I've been wanting to face him all summer," Wright said. "For some reason, every time we play them they haven't pitched him against us, so just getting to face him and see how his stuff has improved was really cool. It would've been better if I had gotten a hit off him and been fun to take back to school, so I guess he won this battle."

Kapteyn indeed did. After struggling with control - he hit the leadoff batter and added a couple of wild pitches before facing Wright - Kapteyn forced Wright to ground out to the second baseman.

"It is always a great experience when you get to face off with another teammate," Kapteyn said. "Chad is having a really great summer. He is proving himself as one of the top players in college baseball. To be selected to the all-star game as a position player in the Cape is a huge accomplishment and it shows how good and how much he has improved as a player overall."

But Kapteyn could be the biggest story to come from the CCBL. After serving as a dynamic two-way star for Kentucky the past two years (.306 career average to go along with 41 pitching appearances), Kapteyn said he wants to focus more on his role on the bump.

UK will certainly be in need of his bat as the program bids farewell to several offensive catalysts from this past season, but the Cats are also in dire need of a shutdown closer.

Kapteyn has displayed the ability to be that player in his first two seasons, showcasing a fastball in the mid-to-low 90s to go along with a nasty slider, but now, more than ever, he sounds ready to embrace the role.

"I still want to hit and I think I can still be an asset to the team at the plate but I really want to focus on pitching a lot more then I have in the past," Kapteyn said. "I have noticed that in the last three weeks here, when I have really focused on improving on the mound, I have gotten so much better with my control. I really think that if I can continue to improve and focus on improving on the mound I could be a huge asset to the bullpen at Kentucky."

If Kapteyn indeed becomes a shutdown closer for the Cats next spring and finds his calling card as a reliever in the big leagues, it wouldn't be the first time something big began in the Cape.

Video: Wall loves D.C., but nothing compares to UK

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Former UK men's basketball point guard and current Washington Wizard John Wall was in Lexington on Friday for the first day of John Calipari's three-day ProCamp. Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson will attend the camp on Saturday.

Wall spoke with the media during the camp. Below are a couple of video segments from it:

Approximately 30 Kentucky football players (list below video) volunteered at the Christian Appalachian Project warehouse on Thursday to help victims of the Pike County (Ky.) flood. Running back Moncell Allen and wide receiver Randall Cobb talked about the experience.

Special thanks to Susan Lax for shooting the video and to Evan Crane for editing it.


Players that volunteered:
Brian Adams
Moncell Allen
Jordan Aumiller
Mikie Benton
Aaron Boyd
Tyler Brause
Nik Brazley
Randall Burden
Randall Cobb
Alvin Davis
E.J. Fields
Qua Huzzie
Tristian Johnson
Anthony Kendrick
La'Rod King
Jake Lewellen
Ricky Lumpkin
Chris Matthews
Shane McCord
Malcolm McDuffen
Kevin Mitchell
Anthony Mosley
Morgan Newton
Ryan Phillippi
Donald Russell
Miles Simpson
Sam Simpson
Danny Trevathan
Ryan Tydlacka
Ryan Wallace

Video: Cousins still can't get enough of Kentucky

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Former UK men's basketball forward and current Sacramento King DeMarcus Cousins was in Lexington on Thursday for the first day of John Calipari's three-day ProCamp. John Wall will attend the camp Friday, followed by Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson on Saturday.

Cousins spoke with the media during the camp. Below are a couple of video segments from it:

New Image.JPGThe two head coaches never imagined it would happen like this. And surely most people in Kentucky, at least in the not-too-distant past, could have pictured Wednesday's Governor's  Cup Luncheon with two first-year African-American coaches standing at the podium about to embark on a historic and heated rivalry against each other - as friends.

"This is not how we dreamed it. It's not," UK head coach Joker Phillips said at Wednesday's annual luncheon, held this year at Lake Forest Country Club in Louisville. "We used to talk about that when Charlie got a job, I'd go with him. We talked about that before we even worked together."

But there they were - Phillips as former coach Rich Brooks' successor and Louisville head coach Charlie Strong as Steve Kragthorpe's replacement - unofficially opening the Kentucky football season with the annual rivalry get-together.

Forget the obvious that these two, along with Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart, are shattering racial barriers by becoming one of only two states (New Mexico being the other) with minority head coaches at every one of the state's Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Who would have ever thought two colleagues, two friends, who had a mutual agreement at South Carolina to join one another's staff once they landed head coaching gigs, would be starting their head coaching careers against one another as bitter rivals.

You can't make that stuff up.

"I never would have dreamed it would happen this way where we would not only both be head coaches at the same time but head coaches 80 miles away," Phillips said.

Strong admitted that it's going to be bizarre trying to get his first win over the very same guy he would have immediately snatched up for his staff had things not worked out the way they did.

"It's very weird because we coached together at South Carolina and actually we lived with a house in between one another," Strong said. "We had a great relationship that we built over the years, a very special relationship. It is going to be pretty strange.

"He's standing over on the sidelines at his alma mater and I'm standing on the other sideline at the University of Louisville. That first game, you're going to walk out there to the middle of the field to shake hands and then it's going to be time to play, but it is going to be a little different."

Both coaches have managed the learning curve very well in their first months on the job as the programs embark on new eras. With new faces come new identities, and it's been an important process for both coaches to resell the programs to their fans.

Phillips admitted that much when he talked about selling not only the UK football brand this offseason but the Joker Phillips brand as well.

Meanwhile, Strong said he's been surprised by how much the rivalry pits the opposing head coaches against one another. Using a speaking engagement like the Governor's Cup Luncheon as an example, Strong said it can make for a funny friendship.

"For Joker and I, what's amazing is they play one another against each other. Well Joker's going to do it (so) Charlie's going to do it.' We've heard that so much. 'You can't come? Well I'll get Joker (then),' " Strong said. "You get it played so much, so you say, 'OK, we talk a lot, so for you to say that, I already know, so you don't need to make statement to me because we talk about it.' "

Both coaches could agree on one thing: One of the biggest adjustments has been the move to the big office.

"Some of the biggest adjustments going from the assistant's chair to the head coach's chair are making all the tough, hardcore decisions," Phillips said. "I used to sit in on the meetings and I had opinions, I had ideas, but they didn't really mean much at times. You could throw them out there and if they stuck they stuck. If they didn't, they would slide off the wall and you would go on back to business. Now you've got to make those hardcore decisions and then be held responsible for those decisions."

As for the rivalry, both coaches say they understand the importance of it. Phillips has lived through it as a coach, and Strong said he's been able to understand both Kentucky and the rivalry from a distance as a former defensive coordinator for one of UK's league foes, Florida.
"Anytime you have two in-state programs going at it, it's really critical," Strong said.

The next time the two unlikely head coaches will see each other will be Sept. 4 at the newly renovated Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. History and the fruition of two men's dreams .

"It's a huge game," Phillips said. "People ask me, 'Is this a big game?' 'Yes, it's a big game.' It's a huge game for both involved. The reason why it's huge is because it's an in-state rivalry. It's huge because you have two first-year head coaches that desperately need to get off on a good foot. It's also a huge rivalry because the winner of this game, if you look at the history of it, usually comes out of this thing with momentum."

Rumph ruled eligible:  After a two-year wait, defensive end Donte Rumph - who initially signed with Kentucky in 2008 - has academically qualified for the 2010 season and will report to camp next week.

"Donte Rumph is definitely a qualifier," Phillips said at Wednesday's luncheon. "He will be with us come next Friday."

Rumph, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound native of St. Matthews, S.C., has spent the last two seasons at Fork Union Military Academy trying to qualify for freshman eligibility.

"He's been buried in his academics the last three years," Phillips said.

Phillips received word of the news that Rumph had qualified late Tuesday night and put a call in to Rumph's father, Otis.

"It gives me cold chills that a guy has been persistent in trying to get here," Phillips said. "Listening to his dad go into tears - that means a lot to me, giving a guy like him an opportunity."

Rumph will be a welcome addition to a defensive line in need of some help. The graduation of Corey Peters and the uncertainty of Mister Cobble (he and defensive back Mychal Bailey are still "day-to-day" with their eligibility issues) means the line doesn't have a whole lot of depth.
Phillips is hoping Rumph can come in and contribute right away and doesn't think it's unrealistic to expect him to get some playing time this year after a two-year football hiatus.

"If we don't play him now, he'll be 40 years old before he finishes," Phillips said.

Phillips was of course joking, but not when it came to how much work Rumph needs to do on the football field.

"I expect Rumph to be out of shape badly," Phillips said. "We've got to try to get him in shape as quickly as possible because we need him."

Ex-Cat Rondo a finalist for Team USA

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Former Kentucky basketball guard Rajon Rondo is one step closer to earning one of the highest honors in professional basketball -- being named to Team USA.

Rondo is one of 15 finalists to make the 12-man roster for the 2010 USA World Championship Team, which must submit its final roster by Aug. 26, according to an ESPN report, after a four-day minicamp in Las Vegas.

The Boston Celtic and former UK point guard eluded Wednesday's cuts and is now one of six guards left on the roster. Conventional wisdom suggests that number will be cut down to five for the final cuts.

If Rondo can make the team, it will be the first Kentucky player to make Team USA since Tayshaun Prince and the gold-medal winning 2008 Olympics "Redeem Team."

Governor's Cup Luncheon live blog

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Football notebook: Two unlikely candidates open up new era of Governor's Cup rivalry; Rumph eligible

A Hoover-less SEC Baseball Tournament?

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Some alarming news for you college baseball enthusiasts out there:

Jon Solomon from The Birmingham News is reporting that five cities are expected to compete against Hoover, Ala., later this week in the first open-bid process for the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament. Memphis, Tenn., Duluth, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla., Jackson, Miss., and Montgomery, Ala., are all expected to place bids for 2012 and beyond, in competition with the longtime host site, Hoover.

One year remains on the SEC contract with Hoover's 22-year-old Regions Park, which has been the tournament host since 1998, Solomon reports.

The average fan might toss aside this story and sarcastically say, "Big deal," but the truth of the matter is that Hoover holds a soft spot in the heart of SEC fans, players and coaches.

Since landing in Hoover in 1998, the tournament has become an annual end-of-the-year celebration. The town, the ballpark and the tournament format have been wholeheartedly embraced by Hoover.

The tournament has been so successful in Hoover that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has compared the buildup of the tournament to the anticipation of reaching the College World Series in Omaha.

If Hoover and a league tournament compare to Omaha, the CWS and one of the richest traditions in college sports, then many believe there is no reason to change it.

According to The Birmingham News story, several SEC coaches have said they want to remain in Hoover, including Ole Miss' Mike Bianco, whose program would benefit by having more fans in nearby Memphis.

Read the full details of the report at The Birmingham News.

And the award for best performance goes to ...

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Padraic Major-20100721633.jpgJoker Phillips, according to BleacherReport.com.

The website ranked the best performances, from best to worst, at Southeastern Conference Media Days, tabbing the first-year UK head coach with the best showing. Phillips checked in ahead of Georgia's Mark Richt at No. 2, Houston Nutt at No. 3 and even ahead of Vanderbilt interim coach Robbie Caldwell, who, by all accounts, killed it Thursday at the annual media spectacle (most would tell you that Caldwell's No. 6 ranking is way, way too low).

Make of SEC Media Days what you will, but it is extremely important from a publicity and exposure standpoint to make a good impression in front of such a large media contingent, especially when its your first one in your head coaching career. 

In that respect, Phillips needed to make a good impression, and, accorinding to BleacherReport.com, he came away a huge winner.

Here is what the website had to say about his performance:

"Maybe it's because Joker is one of the newest SEC coaches. He still hasn't coached his first down in a game for the Wildcats. So, maybe he hasn't had a chance to get jaded yet.

Or maybe he's just a great personality with a great vision for a program that has experienced some success recently, but is nowhere close to the top teams in the conference.

Either way, Joker Phillips was extremely impressive on the first day of SEC Media Days. He talked of his "Operation Win" plan with the fervor and passion of a pastor beckoning his parishioners to spread the good news.

Not that it means Kentucky will become a perennial top 15 power under his leadership, but the 14 recruits already committed, compared to two at this time last year, is a very nice start."  

Barnhart to climb Mt. Rainier for charity

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rainier-1.jpgAthletics Director Mitch Barnhart has had to overcome several mountain-like obstacles during his tenure at Kentucky. This week, he will literally climb one for charity.

To raise money for the Lighthouse Ministries, which is in the process of fundraising for its new building that will allow it to expand its ministry and community outreach, Barnhart will climb Mt. Rainier in Washington later this week.

At 14,411 feet tall, Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range.

Barnhart will begin training for the climb in Washington on Tuesday and is expected to begin the intimidating trek up the stratovolcano on either Thursday or Friday. The Kentucky AD tweeted Monday morning that he was concerned about his ailing knee holding up under the conditions.

A website has been set up to document Barnhart's journey up Mt. Rainier. You can learn more about Barnhart's climb by going to www.mitchclimbs.com. Barnhart is hoping to receive donations for the Lighthouse Ministries based on his success. To make a donation, fans can visit here.

Video comes from the Courier-Journal. Make sure to check out the print story from Rick Bozich.

Also, if you're looking for some content to read, check out Chris Low's position rankings at ESPN.com. The Southeastern Conference blogger is currently ranking each team by positions in the SEC. So far, Kentucky has not received a lot of love:

- Defensive line
- Offensive line
- Receivers
- Running backs
- Quarterbacks

Is this finally the year?

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If the hacks' predictions come true, this will finally be the year Kentucky football ends Tennessee's 25-year reign.

The media contingent at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Ala., unveilved their preseason football all-conference selections and order of finish for the 2010-11 season on Friday, which you can find a full details of on our home page.

The biggest news from a UK standpoint  was the predicted order of finish in the SEC East. While the Cats couldn't escape what seems like an annual rite of low expectations from everyone outside of Lexington, they have at least gained a little more respect than in year's past.

UK was picked to finish fourth this season above Vanderbilt and -- gasp! -- Tennessee. For those of you that don't follow UK football too closely, that's significant for a couple of reasons.

According to Brett Dawson from the Courier-Journal, it is the first time UK has been picked ahead of Tennessee in the preseason media ballot since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992.

Now, if UK can stick true to those predictions and actually finish ahead of the Volunteers, surely that would mean the Cats would have a pretty good chance of toppling Rocky Top, right? If so, it would be the first time the Kentucky football has defeated Tennessee since 1984.

For those of you keeping score at home, UT has a 25-game winning streak over UK, the longest active winning streak of one opponent over another in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Is this the year the streak finally comes to a close? The media, at least on paper, believe so.

Phillips' transcript from SEC Media Days

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Padraic Major-20100721695.jpgThe following is a transcript from head coach Joker Phillips' 20-minute news conference with the print media at UK's Southeastern Conference Media Days session. Fans can view the full transcript by following this link to SECsports.com.

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue with the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, Joker Phillips. If you could give us some comments on the upcoming season, then we'll take questions.

COACH PHILLIPS: How you guys doing? I had a bad dream last night. A dream? I call it a nightmare, but you guys might call it a dream. I dreamed that a fly flew in my mouth and Dicky Lyons was giving me mouth-to-mouth. He's still haunting me.

A lot has happened in the last six months. It's definitely been a whirlwind. But I'm truly living the dream. Not only am I a letterman, alumnus, a Kentuckian, for me to be able to lead the program I truly love, I'm living the dream, and carrying it out.

There's been some huge differences. One of the biggest differences has been that I'm now making the hardcore decisions. When I say, "hardcore decisions," before I had a lot of opinions, a lot of ideas. I used to sit in the staff room and give them. A lot of them didn't matter. Now I'm having to be responsible for those hardcore decisions.

For example, it's been making decisions in regards to this coaching staff that we put together. Had to make some hardcore decisions in that area.

What I was looking for in hiring a coach is, number one, can he recruit. If you look at our staff now, we have seven coaches that have been ex-recruiting coordinators sometime in their career. Does that mean that he is a great recruiter? Now, it makes him an organized recruiter, a recruiter who can sell our plan. So we feel fortunate to be able to hire the guys we hired because of their recruiting abilities.

The second thing I was looking for is, can he teach the fundamentals that we need to teach to win in this league. Can he teach our schemes that we have at Kentucky.

The third thing is, can he connect with the players we have at Kentucky. The third thing was, does he have "juice," meaning energy; does he have enthusiasm; does he have the passion for the job we have here at Kentucky. So many times I've been around coaches that don't have that at the school they're at. I want guys with passion, energy, and enthusiasm for the job we have here at Kentucky.

With that said, I was able to hire six coaches, five with SEC experience totaling 35 years or more. We hired guys that not only can recruit, can teach, have the juice and the energy and enthusiasm, but they understand this job in this grueling league that you have, to go through year in and year out.

When I took over, I introduced to our players what I call Operation Win. What does that mean to our program? It means we want to win in the classroom. Winning in the classroom by getting the best possible grade we can get. When we are winning in the classroom. Our GPA went up four-tenths of a point. We had 40 kids over 3.0, we had three that had over 4.0, so we're winning in the classroom.

Has everybody bought in? No. But the ones that haven't bought in, they will either be no longer with us or they'll be the best conditioned player on our football team. We need those guys to buy in.

The second thing that Operation Win means is we want to win in the community, by doing community service, getting into the group homes. We want to mold our young men into being productive citizens so someday they might have a positive contribution to society. If that is happening, the one thing you'll see is 'Blue Nation' will embrace what's happening in our place. That's what we want. We want the 'Big Blue Nation' to embrace what's happening in Kentucky. And they will only embrace if they feel good about what's happening at Kentucky. So we want to win in the community.

Padraic Major-20100721668.jpgThe third thing is we want to win on the field. We make no bones about it. We want to win on the field, winning on the field by getting into the film room and understanding everything we can about our opponents, getting in the weight room and out-working our opponents, and then taking everything to the practice field and perfecting the skills that we have.

Operation Win is in full effect. There's no question about that. Our coaches did a great job of selling the 2010 class, and we finished recruiting strong. Our coaches also did a great job of selling our present players, which was important. We had a really good off-season winter conditioning. We had a real positive spring. A lot of big competitions at different positions. It's in full effect.

Our 2011 recruiting is at an all-time high. Last year at this time we had two commits. This year we have 14. For us to continue to grow this program, the thing that we have to do is we have to continue bringing in talented players, and we're doing that.

I'm getting great reports from our summer workouts. The attitude is unbelievable. Our kids are working hard. We are excited about what we think can happen in 2010.

With that, I'll answer any questions.

Q. How do you envision Randall Cobb's role evolving this year? Do you see doing different things with him?

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely Randall Cobb will be the source guy in the league, no question about that. He's got to get the ball in a number of different areas, whether it be special teams, punt returner, kick returner, whether he's lined up at quarterback, receiver. He's one of the most dynamic players in this league. He's excited because he just got named the all-purpose, first-team all-purpose. And it's by the coaches, which makes him feel good about that accomplishment.

He's now trying to convince me that he can play DB. We're not ready to do that yet. But he's a guy that has to touch the ball, and has to touch the ball in numerous positions.

We don't want an always, where Randall Cobb is always lined up on the same formation on all same side. I think it makes it easier for teams to defend him and harder for us to get the football to him.

Q. Coach Brooks made a lot of inroads into the state of South Carolina for recruiting purposes. You have South Carolina guys on the roster. Is that something you'll keep trying to do as you continue the program?

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. When I coached at the University of South Carolina in 2002, I was the lead recruiter there. We'll continue that. I have a lot of contacts. I think we signed five or six players this past year. When you sign five or six, the thing you have to do is go back immediately. We cannot stop going into South Carolina 'cause we have kids on our roster which makes it easier to attract more guys from South Carolina on our roster. We'll continue that as one of our primary areas that we'll recruit.

Q. How do you see offense in college football and at Kentucky evolving? There's so much proliferation of the spread offense now. Do you see that continuing to explode or do you see maybe a shift towards something else?

COACH PHILLIPS: I see it continuing. I really do. What you're seeing in the high school ranks, you're seeing more athletic quarterbacks. You're not seeing a lot of the pro-style quarterbacks. High school programs are using the spread, and therefore the type of quarterbacks that are out there that are pro-style, which is what -- we are not a two-back pro-style offense. We are more of a one-back spread pro-style offense. There's not a lot of those type of quarterbacks.

We've been able to attract those types of quarterbacks because of the style we play. We're not a big zone-read team, which you need more of an athletic quarterback. We're more of a hard play-action, let the runningback be the guy that gets you the yardage on the ground.

View the full transcript

In this behind-the-scenes video, UK head coach Joker Phillips talks with ESPN College GameDay about awarding Cats' Paws stickers after games and why he does it. The video also takes you inside the filming of ESPN College GameDay's set, from which they'll use several clips during their weekly show.

SEC Media Days links

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Padraic Major-20100721633.jpg- The biggest news of the day from Wednesday's media extravaganza was Derrick Locke's endorsement of senior Mike Hartline as UK's starting quarterback, as reported by Chip Cosby of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Brett Dawson from the Courier-Journal. As reported Wednesday on our live blog, head coach Joker Phillips is not ready to name a starter quite yet but did admit that Hartline was the leader coming out of spring practice.

- Darrell Bird from The Cats' Pause writes that defensive lineman DeQuin Evans was surprised by the invite to Southeastern Conference Media Days.

- Larry Vaught from the Danville Advocate-Messenger says that Phillips knew quickly that Randall Cobb was unique on and off the field.

- Brandon Shields from the Jackson Sun on the Wildcats using Tee Martin's name, tech skills in recruiting.

- Along those lines, Austin Ward from the Knoxville News-Sentinel says that Cobb is glad Martin is at Kentucky.

- Andy Bitter from Macon.com writes that Phillips is keeping Kentucky on its toes.

- Matt May from The Cats' Pause believes the quarterback battle is still UK's most pressing concern.

- Also, some additional photos from Wednesday from an actual photographer: Photo Gallery

SEC Media Days in pictures (part 2)

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SEC Media Days in pictures (part 1)

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Live blog from SEC Football Media Days

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Southeastern Conference Football Media Days kicks off Wednesday in Hoover, Ala. The UK football team, which will be represented by first-year head coach Joker Phillips, wide receiver Randall Cobb, running back Derrick Locke and defensive end DeQuin Evans, will be a part of the first day of the three-day event.

I've been giving the opportunity to fly with the team down to Birmingham to provide you with some action from the media spectacle. I will have some video interviews, tweets (@UKAthleticsNews) and posts from the all-day event, starting about mid-afternoon.

The first thing planned on the docket will be a live blog of Phillips' news conference. Phillips and UK's portion of the media event is scheduled to start at 4:20 p.m. ET, at which point we will start the live blog as well.

Also, the SEC is planning on live streaming all three days from Birmingham on its website, starting at 2 p.m. ET. This link will take you to the video player as well as a live blog from the SEC.

Check back in Wednesday at 4 p.m. for the live blog.

Update: Just as a heads up, we're scheduled to depart Lexington at approximately 1:50 p.m. ET with Phillips and the three players. I'll have some tweets before and after we land, so stay tuned.

2010 UK football media guide

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2010-FBMG-Covers (2).jpgThe release of the 2010 UK football media guide (pictured above) and the start of Southeastern Conference Media Days on Wednesday marks the unofficial start of the 2010 football season.

The 208-page media guide (back cover on the left, front cover on the right) is now available for order. Fans can order the media guide, which is available in perfect bound, by downloading the order form and mailing it to the UK media relations office (address is provided on the media guide form).

Each media guide costs $20, which includes a $5 shipping and handling fee. Fans may also choose to order the media guide over the phone by calling the UK media relations office at (859) 257-3838. Fans may pick up the media guide in person for $15.

UK just received its first shipment of media guides so only a limited number are available. However, several more shipments are expected in over the next few weeks.

FB 09_10 UK_ULM 103.jpgOn Wednesday, DeQuin Evans will hop on a private jet in a business suit and fly with head coach Joker Phillips, Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke for Southeastern Conference Football  Media Days.

When Evans arrives, he will be engrossed by the largest media contingent he has ever seen. Flashbulbs from photographers will pop. Recorders will constantly roll. Reporters will try to pry Evans' thoughts, feelings and emotions.

For some it will be a hindrance.

In today's world of athletes, modern media and need-to-know-now society, the relationship between player, media and fan can be like walking a tightrope. With everything a student-athlete has to balance - from class to 6 a.m. position meetings, practice, tutors and more - it's understandable for some to look at a simple media opportunity or interview as nothing but an annoyance.

But when it comes to Evans and where he's been, what he had and where he wants to go, an event like Wednesday's is an opportunity. When other athletes ask, "Do I really have to do this?" Evans says, "What do I need to do to be able to do this?"

"It's truly a blessing," Evans said. "It's a great feeling knowing the coaches and the players are counting on me to tell them about the program. The fans, more than anything, to let them know what's going on, how hard we're working and everything we're putting in to win games and climb the Southeastern Conference ladder."

Evans is grateful and appreciative for days like Wednesday. Sure, SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., is a three-day spectacle, a hyped-up, all-you-can-eat buffet for the league and national scribes. Is it really that big of a deal for a player to block out his day for a couple of hours of interviews? Probably not.

But the notion that a player desires to be at a place that most hesitate to be because of what it represents, or that a 23-year-old want to give back to the community because he wants them to experience the joys he's had, pinpoints the character and honor beneath Evans' brown mane and 6-foot-3 frame.

"I feel honored to be in this kind of position, to be in a leadership role," Evans said. "It's a beautiful thing."

From a rundown neighborhood to bagging groceries, junior-college ball and now playing the SEC - the transformation of Evans has been a beautiful thing.

Surely you've heard a similar story before. Tough upbringing. No father in the picture. Not a lot of chance to escape a dire situation.

Evans appeared to be destined for failure.

Growing up in a rough neighborhood in Compton, Calif., Evans didn't have a lot of choices. The ones he did have, he readily admits he made the wrong ones.

"Everything that people see on TV that happens in Compton or thinks happens in the projects there, it probably does happen," Evans told the Danville Advocate Messenger. "I've got friends in wheelchairs now and friends who've been shot. ... You can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get shot."

Evans wasn't immersed in football when he was growing up, but he was in love with it. At about 7 or 8 years old, Evans began playing flag football. The biggest kid on the field and with a fondness for trying to tackle instead of grabbing the flag, people in the league didn't believe Evans' age and requested his mother, Penina Maefau, to bring a birth certificate.

As Evans grew up, he began to follow San Diego Charger great Junior Seau, but his favor for the sport faded when his inspiration, his grandfather, Tavita Maefau, passed away when he was 12 years old. Evans said his grandfather pushed him when he was a kid and served as one of his main motivators to go to practice.

Had his grandfather not died, Evans said he probably would have played in high school. Instead, Evans fell through the cracks and drifted by without ever giving much thought to playing football again.

Instead of the game, Evans had to help his mother keep the family afloat. With his grandfather and grandmother gone, it was up to Evans' mother to raise him and his three sisters.

"That's hard for a woman, to raise a man on top of having other siblings," Evans said. "It was hard for her. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I would never in a million years blame it on her because she was a single parent."

Evans credited his mother for getting him through a rough childhood and for today's success.

"I have a great mother," Evans said. "She taught me to be grateful for everything. I didn't have much growing up, so every little thing I did get, I took good care of it. I cherished it. When I got a new pair of shoes, I'd wash them when I got home from school, put them up and put on my old shoes to play. That came from not having too much and not having too much follows over to being grateful for the little things I did have, because I wouldn't be able to replace the good things I had if I lost them or something did happen to them.

"That follows over to being grateful for what I have today, as far as my own house, my own room to live in and getting paid to go to school to do what I love - just being able to play football in front of thousands and thousands of fans. I never thought I'd be doing this in a million years."

For the majority of Evans' youth, though, it looked like he never would.

Evans barely played football in high school and graduated without so much as a whiff of a scholarship offer. In his very brief stint with the Cabrillo High School team, he was just another guy on a subpar high school football team.

His love for the game still rooted in the back of his brain, but there were still much more important things to take care of, like his mother, his sisters, his family and the finances.

To keep the family going, Evans took a year off and worked at Albertsons bagging groceries. He made next to nothing at a less-than-glamorous job, but it was his time there that started to fuel the fire to Evans' current success.

"Something that got me here was being more hungry than everybody," Evans said. "When I wasn't playing football, I was helping my mother out. Anyway I could get some money to keep food on the table, that's what I was doing. That's what kept me from football. That's what took me so long to get into football, that and the type of people I hung around with. They weren't doing that with their life. They weren't playing football. I didn't have anyone pushing me to play football.  I didn't have anyone telling me not to play football at the same time."

Finally, someone came along to tell him he belonged on the gridiron. Hershel Dennis, a former Southern California running back and Evans' cousin, told Evans to come stay with him at USC to get him back on his feet, out of trouble and introduce him to college life.

While he was on campus, Evans was continually approached by Dennis' friends, both football (LenDale White, Dominique Byrd) and non-football friends, that asked Evans if he played football. He told them no, but it was there Evans started to believe he should give it a shot.

Evans worked out with Dennis for about six months until he got a call out of the blue from a buddy at Los Angeles Harbor College that said he should try out for the team.

FB 09_10 UK_TN WEB 27.jpgEvans decided to move back with his mother because it was closer to the junior college. With the help of his uncle and Pell grants, Evans was able to continue to help his family while pursuing a dream to play football.

There was one stipulation by the Harbor College coach, however: Evans had to work hard and get in shape, something he had never really experienced as a football outsider.

Fortunately for Evans, the way he explains it, he just happened to be out with his mother when he turned the corner and saw a gigantic hill just outside of Los Angeles. The locals called it Signal Hill. In recent years, Evans had started to fall in love with watching old football footage on ESPN Classic and saw NFL legend Walter Payton run hills to get fit.

That was all the motivation Evans needed to make the roster.

For three months, Monday through Friday, Evans ran the hill as hard as he could, lifted weights in his backyard, and did pushups and sit-ups in the hot California sun. His legs were numb, he frequently threw up on the side of the road and he lost weight, slimming down from 270-plus pounds to about 235 for the beginning of his junior-college career.

"It took me like 15 minutes after I was done working out just to be able to walk," Evans said. "That's how bad I wanted football. That's how bad I wanted just to be able to put on some football gear."

By the time team workouts came around, Evans was in the best shape of his life.

"I was killing them," Evans said.

He was a novice when it came to the actual technique of being a defensive end, but the coaching staff at Harbor worked with Evans because they saw he had the work ethic, desire and talent to be a big-time star.

"They said, 'Dang, Evans, you got a motor on you.' I didn't know what they were talking about. What's a motor?" Evans said. "They were just like, 'You never take a play off, you're always going. Sometimes we feel like we've got to slow you down in practice. It's a good thing. It's a great thing. If you keep this up, we're going to get you a Division I scholarship. You're a great football player.' They would always tell me stuff like that but I didn't believe them."

It didn't take long for Evans to understand his potential. In his first full season of organized football, Evans led his team in sacks and tackles for loss en route to being named all-conference.

Scouts and school representatives flocked to Harbor College to see the promising young defensive end play. Evans received about a dozen letters from Division I schools that were showing interest in him. Evans remembers going home to his mother and laughing with her while she cooked dinner about their change in fortune.

For the first time in Evans' life, he had a bona fide future. For the first time in his life, he was genuinely happy.

"That was huge for me," Evans said. "That gave me the confidence that nothing could stop me, that I could reach my dreams if I wanted to. My mother was in the stands with my jersey on screaming at the top of her lungs. I felt like I was playing for her and my family. That's what helped me out a lot. I played with so much emotion that it showed through my game."

Evans continued to progress in his second season at Harbor College and finished with 63 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and one fumble recovery in his 15-game junior-college career. By the end of his tenure at Harbor College, Evans was ranked the nation's No. 15 junior-college prospect by Rivals.com.

But California to Kentucky? Yet another unlikelihood in Evans' journey.

"I was going to go to Oregon," Evans said. "I liked Louisville because I liked the D-line coach. I thought he was a real good coach. But more than anything, my mom liked the coaching staff at Kentucky. ... A lot of it was my mom and what she thought. She always tells me, 'Whenever you don't listen to me, you know something bad happens. I know what I'm talking about.' It's been the truth. I listened to her and it's probably been the smartest decision in my life."

Despite some pretty steep odds, Evans blossomed in his first season at UK. In addition to the adjustments to the speed of the game, the overloaded playbooks and playing in front of 70,000-plus fans on a weekly basis, Evans had to help anchor a line that was void of its best lineman, current NFL player Jeremy Jarmon.

Evans finished the year with a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks while garnering fourth-team All-SEC honors. But more importantly, and maybe a bit surprisingly given the circumstances, Evans grew to be a leader on the defense, and now one of the faces of the team.

Just this summer, Evans displayed the type of character new head coach Joker Phillips hopes will spread over the entire team under Operation Win. While most student-athletes were out enjoying the summer weather, Evans strolled in the Joe Craft Center looking for opportunities.

Not for himself. He was looking for opportunities for others.

Evans hunted down UK football sports information director Tony Neely and didn't just ask for community service opportunities - he practically begged for them.

"One person can change somebody's life," Evans said. "It is crazy and it's the truth.' I think that when people are in a position like mine, it is a great way to give back to a young kid or a little girl that may be lost at the time. They may need just a little guidance on what they want to do in life. Whether it is playing football or braiding hair."

Evans' willingness to give back stems from the chances people gave him in his life - his mother, his grandfather, his cousin at USC, his uncle, the coaches at Harbor College and the UK coaching staff.

"I do it because I want a kid to feel as good as I feel right now," Evans said. "I want to help a kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood and without a father. I feel like if I can put myself in any type of way to help somebody out who has been through something similar to what I have gone through, then I think they will listen to me because I have been in their shoes. They are going to feel that because it is real and that I have been in their shoes. I have probably done everything that they have done two times and worse. Everyone can turn their life around and turn a negative into a positive, and I feel that I am living proof."

Tuesday was all the more evidence. Evans, a senior, was named preseason second-team All SEC by the league's coaches, and he will carry the banner for UK football Wednesday at SEC Media Days as one of three player representatives.

"A lot of guys get to a place where they are good and get comfortable to that level," Evans said. "That is when their game just stops. I don't want that. I want to be great. God gave me the talent to be great and if he didn't then I wouldn't be here right now. I don't want to go back where I came from."

The road from Compton, to bagging groceries at grocery store, to Kentucky and now a team leader has been a dream come true for Evans, one he's not willing to settle for. Evans believes this year could be a major stepping stone for not only himself but the program as well. The now-257-pound lineman even has dreams of playing in the NFL now.

"Some people in the NFL say that they are living their dream but I feel that I am living my dream right now," Evans said. "If my career doesn't go anywhere else in football, which I am hoping and praying that it does because I love playing the game, I would be happy with my life."

Even if it's only SEC Media Days, Evans will be living the life of a college superstar on Wednesday. He's never been more grateful for the opportunity.

Notes and links: SEC Media Days approaching

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgThe summer doldrums continue (they're almost over, folks), but I am working on a larger football story that I will post in a couple of days. In the meantime, check out a few notes from around Big Blue Nation:

- Football Southeastern Conference Media Days kicks off in just two days from Hoover, Ala. I'll be there Wednesday for all the Kentucky-related action and will have some posts and news from the annual event, but make sure you tune into the SEC's live stream Wednesday through Friday while you're at work, home, etc. The SEC, partnered with XOS Digital, will have live streaming and a live blog of the event from start to finish. In addition to live interviews with every athlete and coach, the stream will also feature highlights, quick facts and football previews. Check out the SEC Media Days home page at SECsports.com for the live stream.

- ESPN.com has posted its annual Blue Ribbon Yearbook preview of each and every team in college football. You will have to be an ESPN Insider to check out what Kentucky has to say about Kentucky, but a pair of Wildcats did make the ESPN All-SEC team. A bit surprisingly, senior tailback Derrick Locke joined Heisman Trophy winner mark Ingram as a running back on the All-SEC team while junior wide receiver made the team as a punt returner. Both will be available Wednesday at SEC Media Days.

- For those of you that have kids signed up in the John Calipari "ProCamp," which will take place July 29-31, UK has announced the three pros that will be in attendance. Sacramento King DeMarcus Cousins will be featured on July 29, followed by top overall pick and current Washington Wizard John Wall on July 30, and Los Angeles Clippers' guard Eric Bledsoe on July 31. For more information on the camp, check out UK's camp page.

Summer League wrap-up

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The story heading out of the 2010 NBA Draft was the Kentucky Wildcats. Heading out of the 2010 NBA Summer League, not much has changed.

As predicted, John Wall shined and DeMarcus Cousins opened eyes. Eric Bledsoe proved he was more than just Wall's backup, and Patrick Patterson displayed the same type of veteran leadership and consistency that won over the hearts of UK fans.

Yes, pressure mounted as the 2010 UK draft class entered its first professional action, but by in large the former Wildcats lived up to the hype.

Wall led the league in scoring (23.5) and assists (7.8) en route to being named the 2010 Summer League Most Outstanding Player. The top overall pick of the draft still has to work through some turnover issues, but he clearly met and possibly exceeded expectations in Las Vegas.

Also, Cousins was named the NBA T-Mobile Rookie of the Month for July after leading the league with 9.8 rebounds in addition to a 14.5 scoring average. The Sacramento Kings big man struggled with his shooting touch and fouls in the final few games, but he proved he has talent worthy of a top-five pick and left the summer session as one of the favorites to win NBA Rookie of the Year this upcoming season. 

The Daily Dime at ESPN.com has a great review of all the NBA Summer League action. Check below for a full stats breakdown of all seven former Wildcats (2009 draftee Jodie Meeks and 2008 draftee Joe Crawford included) that were in NBA action this past month.

Player

Games

MPG

PPG

FG pct.

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

John Wall

4

32.3

23.5

0.377

4.0

7.8

2.5

0.5

5.3

DeMarcus Cousins

6

29.7

14.5

0.333

9.8

1.8

1.5

1.2

4.8

Patrick Patterson

5

28.2

9.2

0.444

7.2

1.0

0.4

0.8

1.2

Eric Bledsoe

5

34.4

10.0

0.386

4.2

3.6

1.6

0.2

6.2

Daniel Orton

5

17.2

3.2

0.148

1.8

0.6

0.2

1.4

2.4

*Jodie Meeks

5

27.6

14.6

0.375

3.0

2.2

1.2

0.0

1.4

# Joe Crawford

4

25.8

17.8

0.429

1.3

0.5

0.8

0.0

1.5

*Drafted in 2009
#Drafted in 2008

More of the same for UK players in the NBA

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Just a quick update on the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, which is entering its final two days of action.

Top overall pick and former UK guard John Wall had his best game yet as a Washington Wizards, scoring a game-high 31 points on 10-of-23 shooting. In four games as a Wizard, Wall is averaging 23.5 points, 7.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds. Video highlights from Friday night are below.

Meanwhile, former teammate DeMarcus Cousins continues to stuff the stats sheet. Despite a tough shooting night, Cousins finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Sacramento Kings center is averaging 17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds with one game remaining.

Former UK track star regains Olympic medal

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Passion Richardson is an Olympic medalist all over again.

As a member of the United States 4x100 bronze medal squad at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Richardson has tasted glory, had it stripped away and now has it restored once again.

Richardson, as a teammate in 2000 of sprinter Marion Jones, who had her 2000 Olympic medals stripped by the International Olympic Committee for admitting to doping in Sydney, also lost her bronze medal in the 4x100 relay for being on the same team as Jones.

But on Friday, following an appeals process by the majority of the members on the relay team, the Court of Arbitration for Sport restored the team's medals, including the former UK star.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said that rules in place in 2000 did not allow entire teams to be disqualified because of doping by one athlete, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Richardson, who ran track at UK from 1994-97, was a four-time All-American during her time at UK. She set the school record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.31, a record that still stands today.

Padgett hired as an assistant at Manhattan

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Former Kentucky basketball star and assistant strength coach Scott Padgett has accepted an assistant coaching job at Manhattan for the 2010-11 campaign. Padgett, who joined the UK men's basketball staff last year, will join Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen's staff.

"We would like to welcome Scott and his family to the Manhattan College basketball program," Rohrssen said in a news release. "Scott has played for some of the best coaches in our profession: Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, Rick Pitino, Jeff Van Gundy. We feel his experience will help with the development of our post and front court players."

When Padgett joined John Calipari last year, he did so with the intent of one day becoming an assistant head coach and with hopes of becoming a future head coach. Padgett expressed that interest to Calipari and he gave the former UK All-American the launching pad to get that career started with last year's staff job.

"My job as a head coach is to help my assistants get head coaching jobs and to help our entry-level position guys become full-time assistants," Calipari said in a statement. "When we were able to hire Scott and Tony Delk it was a win-win for our program and for two of our most respected former players. They both wanted to get a start in the coaching profession and we were thrilled to be able to offer them that opportunity."

It didn't take long for Padgett to get that promotion, as he will get the chance next year as an assistant at Manhattan.

"I have always wanted to be a head coach in college, so this is a great first step for me to coach basketball in New York City and learn every aspect of running a program from recruiting, to coaching in practice and the day-to-day operations," Padgett said in a news release. "I am very excited to start the next chapter of my basketball career."

Mullens_Rob 07_08 2x3.jpgMitch Barnhart celebrated an anniversary Thursday. On the eight-year mark of his hiring on July 15, 2002, Barnhart did something few people do on anniversaries.

Instead of receiving, he let go. In a way, he gave a gift to Oregon, bidding farewell with one of the fastest rising superstars in athletics administration.

On Thursday, deputy director of athletics at Kentucky Rob Mulllens left his eight-year stay in Lexington to fulfill a lifelong dream as an athletics director. Mullens accepted the vacant job at Oregon to become the athletics director at the Pacific-10 power.

"This is where you want to be when you work in our business and this is a tremendous opportunity," Mullens said at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Eugene, Ore. "Our family has invested in this lifestyle and our career and we have been very patient trying to find a place with the values and the systems that match our values and systems."

It was fitting in a way that Mullens' departure comes on the anniversary of Barnhart's arrival. As the symbol for change in 2002, when the department had just been hit with severe NCAA penalties for football violations, Barnhart stabilized the program.

One of those stabilizations was the hiring of Mullens. After graduating cum laude from West Virginia in 1991 with a degree in business administration, Mullens acquired his master's in 1993 and quickly moved his way up the athletics administration ladder.

Stops at West Virginia, Kentucky and Miami (Fla.) eventually landed Mullens the No. 2 post in the athletics administration at Maryland, where he was integral member of the management team that created and implemented a strategic vision that elevated Maryland Athletics to national prominence.

That eventually brought Mullens to Kentucky in 2002 where he served as executive associate director of athletics from 2002 to 2006 and deputy director of athletics from 2006-10. During his time at Kentucky, Mullens had a large hand in a highly successful era of Kentucky athletics, assisting Barnhart with the direction of the department and serving as chief operating officer.

As one can tell from that résumé, Mullens really owes no one for his success. He's been a superstar from day one and grew his wings all by himself.

But it can't go without noting that future athletics directors have earned their right to fly under Barnhart.

The hiring of Mullens marks the fifth former administrator under Barnhart to be named as an athletics director at a Bowl Championship Series school. Scott Stricklin, a former associate athletics director at Kentucky, was named athletics director at Mississippi State in May, replacing former UK assistant athletics director Greg Byrne, who is now the athletics director at Arizona. Oregon State athletics director Bob De Carolis worked for Barnhart at OSU from 1999-2002, when Barnhart served as athletics director for the Beavers. Current Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton worked under Barnhart at UT, while Barnhart was functioning as senior associate AD with the Volunteers.

"This also is a great compliment to Mitch Barnhart's leadership," said UK President Dr. Lee T. Todd, Jr. "Rob is now the third individual that has worked under Mitch at UK that has been hired as an athletic director at a BCS university.

As talented as those guys are, that's a track record for proven success, folks.

"I am ecstatic for Rob and his entire family," Barnhart said. "Rob has meant a remarkable amount to the University of Kentucky over the last eight years and the entire UK family is elated for him to have this opportunity. He is a tremendous visionary, a tireless worker and a true superstar in collegiate athletics. The University of Oregon made an exceptional hire in Rob Mullens and we wish him and his family nothing but the best as they embark on this new and exciting time."

With smiles abound and an Oregon pin fastened to his suit where a UK logo used to stick, Mullens credited his childhood at a university community as a big reason to being the first to graduate college and the backbone behind his rise to today's success.

"It really all started back in Morgantown, West Virginia with some people ... that hold a special place in my heart because they changed my life," Mullens said.

But he also pointed to his time at Kentucky as a big reason to landing the job at Oregon, thanking Barnhart and former UK football coach Rich Brooks in particular for helping him grow.

"Tremendous influence," Mullens said of Barnhart and Brooks. "Both of those people have played a key role in my life. Mitch brought me to the University of Kentucky. He's been a wonderful mentor and even greater friend. That's one of the tough parts about this. I had such a wonderful experience due in large part to Mitch and the opportunities that he provided me at the University of Kentucky."

It seems odd that two states that are separated by 2,000-plus miles and more than half the country are so connected.

Current UK baseball coach Gary Henderson grew up in Eugene, Ore., and coached at Oregon State. Mullens said Henderson often talked to him about his affinity and love for the state of Oregon. While Barnhart was never part of the Oregon administration, he previously served as the athletics director at Oregon State.

And then there is Brooks. Similar to the transformation Brooks built at Kentucky this decade, he did the same on the West Coast for the Ducks, taking the football program to a Rose Bowl bid in 1994. Mullens said Brooks played a huge part in his ascension to the AD job at Oregon.

"The list of first-evers under Rich Brooks in Kentucky football are incredible," Mullens said. "Through that, there were so many life lessons. I grew close with him. He played a key role in my interest in the University of Oregon. ... He was a tremendous asset to me in life at Kentucky and specifically in this role. Both (Brooks and Barnhart) have been key mentors for me and I appreciate everything they've done. I don't know how I can ever repay them but I'll sure try."

Mullens might be a Duck now, but for the people that worked with him on a daily basis at Kentucky, he will forever be remembered as a Wildcat.  I am sure he will always remember his time in Lexington fondly as well (which was pretty apparent when Mullens slipped up in Thursday's news conference and started to call the University of Oregon the University of Kentucky).

Congratulations to Rob Mullens. Thursday might have marked the eight-year anniversary of Barnhart's hiring, but if you know of or worked with Mullens, you know Thursday was a day for everyone to celebrate.

- OK, I don't like to say I told you so ... but I told you so. Well, at least the doubters. If there are any remaining skeptics of DeMarcus Cousins, they are growing thin. On Wednesday night, Cousins had a monster of a game for the undefeated Sacramento Kings in the NBA Summer League. The ex-UK big man scored a team-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, five assists and only the game-winning shot with 2.9 seconds left in the game. Cousins, who is ranked No. 1 the NBA.com Rookie Ladder, is averaging a double-double (18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds) for the 3-0 Kings. Again, I'm not sure why everybody is surprised. This is the same guy that dominated the college basketball interior last season, and, as Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes, DeMarcus Cousins is showing the Kings he means business. Does he ever. Check out video highlights and a postgame interview with Cousins below:

 

- Congrats to John Wall for winning an ESPY on Wednesday night for the Best Male Collegiate Athlete at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Wall, who has been busy tearing up the NBA Summer League along with Cousins, beat out Wisconsin standout Blake Geoffrion, Alabama tailback Mark Ingram, Ohio State guard Evan Turner and Florida International infielder Garrett Wittels.

- UK men's basketball signee Brandon Knight was at the 2010 ESPY Awards on Wednesday night to accept the prestigious award as Gatorade's Male High School Athlete of the Year. Point guard University continues. Not much else I need to say about that.

- Exactly eight years ago today, on July 15, 2002, Mitch Barnhart was hired as UK's athletics director. Say what you want about Barnhart, but there is no doubt he has helped transcend success across the entire athletics department. Kentucky, under Barnhart's reign, is no longer just a basketball school.

Video: Nord introduced as new assistant coach

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Newly hired assistant football coach Greg Nord, who will take over as the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach, was introducted to the media Wednesday at the Nutter Training Facility.

Check out a four-part video series with Nord as he steps into his first week on the job:

Wall looks to capture two ESPYs Wednesday night

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for THE_ESPYS_Sq_BW_Pos.jpgJust wanted to quickly remind everyone to tune into ESPN on Wednesday at 9 p.m. for the annual ESPY Awards. Former UK basketball star John Wall is nominated for two awards for his performances at UK.

Wall is nominated for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best College Male Athlete.

We don't have word yet on whether Wall will be in attendance, but my guess is he will be there since the Washington Wizards do not play on Wednesday in the NBA Summer League.

Report: Patterson signs with Rockets

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MBSK 09_10 UK_FLA Web 17.jpgReports out of Houston indicate that former Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson has signed an NBA contract with the Houston Rockets, who selected Patterson with the 14th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Patterson's agent, Odell McCants, told FOX 26 Sports in Houston that Patterson will sign a standard two-year deal with two one-year team options.

"It feels great and I'm happy for Patrick," McCants said, according to the FOX 26 story. "The Rockets are a great organization and I know they have big plans for him."

Patterson scored 18 points in his Rockets' Summer League debut Friday night.

"Patrick's dream is to play in the NBA," McCants said. "So this is a dream come true for Patrick when he signs the contract (Tuesday night) making it official that he is in the NBA and with the Rockets."

With Eric Bledsoe's announced deal with the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, all five UK players drafted in the NBA have now signed NBA contracts.

Football notes and links

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Nord.jpg- It's hard to believe but we're barely more than a week away from Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. With the annual event scheduled for next week (July 21-23), the SEC announced Tuesday who each team will bring to the event. Schools will now bring three players instead the previous two. Representing Kentucky on July 21 will be do-everything Randall Cobb, tailback Derrick Locke and defensive end DeQuin Evans. I'm planning on heading down to the event this year for coverage, so stay tuned next week. The full list of participants is below:

Alabama:  RB Mark Ingram  / LB Dont'a Hightower / QB Greg McElroy
Arkansas:  QB Ryan Mallett / TE D.J. Williams / DE Jake Bequette
Auburn:  OT Lee Ziemba / LB Josh Bynes / DB Aairon Savage
Florida:  C Mike Pouncey / DE Justin Trattou / SAF Ahmad Black
Georgia:  WR A.J. Green / P Drew Butler / FB Shaun Chapas
Kentucky:  WR-QB-PR-KOR Randall Cobb / DE DeQuin Evans / TB-KOR Derrick Locke
LSU: QB Jordan Jefferson / LB  Kelvin Sheppard / CB Patrick Peterson
Ole Miss: DT Jerrell Powe / DE Kentrell Lockett / OT Bradley Sowell
Mississippi State: DB Charles Mitchell / QB Chris Relf / OL Quentin Saulsberry
South Carolina:  FB Patrick DiMarco / LB Shaq Wilson / DE Cliff Matthews
Tennessee:  TE Luke Stocker / DE Chris Walker / LB Nick Reveiz
Vanderbilt:  LB Chris Marve / RB-RS Warren Norman / LB John Stokes

- Another nugget from Chris Low of ESPN.com. In light of the MLB All-Star game scheduled to take place Tuesday night, Low has created a mythical All-Star team in the SEC. Low breaks the teams into two divisions, east and west, and comes up with who he believes are the best players at each position. Four Kentucky players made the list, including offensive lineman Stuart Hines, linebacker Danny Trevathan, defensive end DeQuin Evans and punt returner Randall Cobb.

- And of course, the big news, which was just announced moments ago, is that Greg Nord (pictured above) has officially been announced as UK's special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. Nord replaces longtime coach Steve Ortmayer. Nord, a UK alumnus, rejoins UK after previous stints at East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Illinois. He was also a former UK player and assistant coach under coaches Jerry Claiborne and Fran Curci. Check out the home page for the full release. Also, Nord will be available to the media Wednesday afternoon so check back in the evening for a video interview.
 

Kentucky fans already know Big Blue Madness is one of the grandest, most unique spectacles in all of sports. The fact that 20,000-plus will show up for a practice says all you need to know about the passion for the event.

Writer Robert Tuchman recognizes Big Blue Madness in the in a recent book he published titled, "The 100 Sporting Events you Must See Live." The annual kickoff to the Kentucky men's and women's basketball season was one of 10 that made its way into USA Today.

Here is what Tuchman had to say about Big Blue Madness:

College basketball practice can't start until a designated day in mid-October, so players once took the court at midnight. Now, because of NCAA regulations, the action starts about 9 p.m. In Lexington, the event attracts more than 20,000 fans. "Kentucky does it better than any other school," Tuchman says. The Wildcats invite back former players for a huge pep rally and dunking contest. "It's something kids camp out for. If you do it as an adult, it will be one of those throwback nights to college." This year, it's on Oct. 15. 800-928-2287


ESPN's key stretch for Kentucky football

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Blogger Chris Low, who writes for the Southeastern Conference blog on ESPN.com, is currently cycling through the key stretches for all 12 teams in the SEC. On Tuesday he touched on Kentucky's stretch.

Here is what Low had to say about UK's most crucial stetch, a three-game SEC homestand against Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia.

Analysis:
Kentucky's nonconference schedule is one of the easiest in the league, which makes those three straight home games against conference foes in October all the more critical. The Wildcats won at both Auburn and Georgia last season. It was their first win at Auburn in nearly half a century and their first win at Georgia in 32 years, so you know both of those teams will be seeing blue when they come to Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky has struggled mightily against South Carolina, losing 10 straight to the Gamecocks. Finally breaking through against Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks could be the difference in finishing with a .500 or better record in the SEC and finishing below .500 in the league for the 10th time in the last 11 years.

Prediction: Even with all three games at home, a 3-0 record is probably too much to ask. A 2-1 record would lock in a fifth straight bowl appearance, while a 1-2 record would make it an uphill climb. Going winless would likely keep the Wildcats home for the postseason. Protecting their home turf is a theme you'll hear often out of the Wildcats this season. They lost close games at home to Mississippi State and Tennessee late in the season a year ago that cost them a more attractive bowl game.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nba1.jpgOddly enough, all the hype that surrounded Kentucky's historic NBA Draft could have turned disastrous in a hurry.

On the heels of an earlier-than-expected loss in the NCAA Tournament, critics would have been quick to pile on Kentucky, head coach John Calipari and UK's NBA quintet had they sputtered in the NBA Summer League.

After all, Calipari did make the controversial - albeit misinterpreted - statement that this year's draft could be the most important day in Kentucky basketball history.

It's early, but with the exception of Daniel Orton's rough start, getting acclimated to the NBA has not been a problem for Kentucky's draftees. It's become clear after the first weekend of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas that UK's 2010 draft class was well worth the hype.

The class may have even been sold short.

Monday night was just another example. Despite slipping to No. 5 in the draft, the much-debated DeMarcus Cousins went out and did what he does best - prove the doubters wrong. Despite concerns about his attitude, character, leadership, blah, blah, blah, Cousins did what he did at Kentucky and dominated the post.

The Sacramento Kings center continued his college penchant for double-doubles and translated it over to the pro game. Cousins finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Kings' 97-68 rout of the Detroit Pistons.

And then there was the head-to-head matchup of No. 1 overall pick John Wall and his so-called "backup" (Eric Bledsoe) while he was at UK. On Monday night, in front of a packed house in Las Vegas, the self-described brothers guarded each other for a good portion of the night, with Wall's Wizards getting the 89-64 victory over Bledsoe's Clippers.

Wall posted a double-double in his second career game, scoring 18 points while dishing out 10 assists. Bledsoe, for the most part, matched Wall drive for drive, scoring 17 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists

The duo's one downfall in college - turnovers - continued to be a problem Monday, as Bledsoe turned it over 10 times and Wall turned it over eight times.

Nonetheless, it's been a positive start for the ex-Kentucky stars in the NBA. If the 2010 draft was indeed the most important day for UK basketball moving forward, the summer league is certainly helping the argument.

Been away from the computer most of the day because of a prior work commitment, so let's quickly catch up today's biggest news (outside of the unveiling of the new NCAA Tournament bracket, which I posted a little bit earlier).

- The final two of UK's NBA draftees will make their debut in the NBA Summer League on Monday night in Las Vegas. DeMarcus Cousins is set to tip off shortly at 6 p.m. as the Sacramento Kings take on the Detroit Pistons at 6 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers will make his debut against a former face in John Wall and the Washington Wizards at 10 p.m. There's a very good chance the two former teammates will guard each other at some point during the game. Should be fun to watch for those of you that have access to the game.

- UK men's basketball signee Terrence Jones topped the Press Telegram's 31st Best in the West high school basketball team. Why do we care about a paper out west? Well, let me give you a few good reasons to care. Previous top vote getters for the annual team include future Hall of Famers Jason Kidd and Paul Piece, in addition to Richard Jefferson and Kevin Love. Not a bad group to be associated with at all. Will the power forward, ranked No. 13 overall by Rivals, live up to their billing? We'll begin to find out this fall.

- Former UK guard Rajon Rondo has just about officially joined the elite company in the NBA with the report that he has verbally agreed to join Team USA. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo confirmed the commitment to Chris Tomasson of AOL Fanhouse.

- NBA TV continues to produce some very cool videos of some of UK's former men's basketball stars. The latest is a four-minute behind-the-scenes look with Wall:

- And finally, for a little football action, check out four videos on UK football from Dan Rieefer from WTVQ. Yes, the videos are from last week, but they're definitely worth checking out as Randall Cobb talks about Operation Win, Joker Phillips and much more in an exclusive one-on-one interview with the junior wide receiver. Links: Part one, part two, part three and part four.

NCAA announces new 68-team bracket

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for NCAAenhancedlogo.jpgFollowing the NCAA's recent decision to add three teams to the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament, the NCAA announced Monday how the bracket would look.

The full release from the NCAA is below in its entirety, but here are the basic facts that you need to know:

- The tournament is expanding by three teams, from 65 to 68.

- The championship will now begin with four first-round games, called the "First Four," which will be broadcast nationally on Turner's truTV as part of the new NCAA-Turner/CBS broadcast agreement.

- Two of the first-round games will feature teams playing for two of the No. 16 seeds.

- The other two first-round games will feature the last four of the 37 at-large teams selected to the tournament. It will mark the first time in tournament history that the last at-large team will be revealed.

- The four opening round games will now mark the first round of the championship (i.e., the first game(s) will no longer be called the play-in game). Once the field is whittled down to its traditional 64-team format, it will mark the second round, followed by the 32-team third round. The first three rounds will take play during the first week of play.

- The two at-large pairings will both occupy the seed line where they would normally be placed in the bracket. The pairings could occupy different lines in the bracket. For example, one game may be played between two No. 10 seeds, while the other could feature a pair of No. 12 seeds. Winners of those games would advance to play their natural opponent on a 64-team bracket; the No. 10 seed would play a seventh-seeded team and a 12th-seeded team would meet a No. 5 seed.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Division I Men's Basketball Committee today announced plans for the 2011 NCAA "First Four" to showcase the expanded field for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.

The 2011 championship will tip off with four first-round games, all broadcast nationally in primetime on Turner Broadcasting's truTV. The four games will highlight the start of the Road to Houston as part of NCAA's new 14-year partnership with Turner Broadcasting and CBS Sports.

The expansion to eight teams will constitute the first round of the championship, with the second and third rounds played to round out of the first week of play. Two of the first-round games will feature the last four at-large teams selected to the championship field, while the other games will match teams ranked 65 through 68 on the overall seed list. The winners of the four games will advance to the second round.

In April, the committee was charged by the Division I Board of Directors to determine the new 68-team format for the championship. Since that time, the committee actively solicited input from the NCAA membership. During its annual meeting, the committee reviewed and analyzed options, considering the benefits of each.

When the Mountain West Conference was created in 1999, NCAA membership chose to add a 65th team to the tournament, creating a single opening-round game starting in 2001. Going to 68 teams in 2011 allows for all four regions of the championship to be balanced in size, with 31 conference automatic qualifiers and 37 at-large selections - four more than the traditional 64-team configuration.

"With the new bracket essentially featuring four additional at-large teams, the committee determined it was appropriate to have the teams play in the first round," said Dan Guerrero, the director of athletics at UCLA and chair of the committee for the 2009-10 academic year. "We believe this format provides an extraordinary opportunity for the championship's first-round games to be quality match-ups as March Madness begins."

The two at-large pairings will both occupy the seed line where they would normally be placed in the bracket. The pairings could occupy different lines in the bracket. For example, one game may be played between two No. 10 seeds, while the other could feature a pair of No. 12 seeds. Winners of those games would advance to play their natural opponent on a 64-team bracket; the No. 10 seed would play a seventh-seeded team and a 12th-seeded team would meet a No. 5 seed. In accordance with the bracketing procedures, teams will continue to be assigned to closest available geographic location while avoiding regular-season rematches and conference opponents. This marks the first time in tournament history that the last four at-large teams will be publicly revealed.

The winners of the two first-round games involving teams seeded 65 through 68 will advance to second-round play against number one-seeded teams.

The 2010 Selection, Seeding and Bracketing Principles and Procedures are available at
www.ncaa.com/finalfour. The 2011 Principles and Procedures will be available in August.
The schedule and location of the 2011 First Four games will be announced in the coming weeks. "We will examine all options moving forward, and that includes playing the first-round games at one site on one date, at multiple sites on multiple dates, or any combination therein," Guerrero said.

"With all 67 games being broadcast nationally live across the Turner and CBS networks and a variety of other platforms, this is an exciting time for the growth of the championship," said Guerrero. "From the First Four to the Final Four, the tournament has a history of successful expansion and format evolution, and we‟re excited about what will be the latest transformation of one of the world's great sporting events."

All 68 teams earn full units from the NCAA Basketball distribution fund based upon participation and wins leading to the Final Four. For more details on the NCAA‟s Revenue Distribution Plan, go to
www.ncaa.org.

Second- and third-round sites for the 2011 championship will be played Thursday-Sunday, March 17-20 in Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Tampa, Tucson, Tulsa and Washington D.C. Regionals will take place March 24-27 in Anaheim, Newark, New Orleans and San Antonio, while the 73rd Final Four will be held in Houston April 2 and 4. Host cities for the second and third rounds and regionals have been determined for the 2012 and '13 championships, while Final Four cities have been selected through 2016.

In 1980, the NCAA expanded the field from 40 to 48, with an equal split of automatic and at-large bids. One year later, it became NCAA policy that no more than 50 percent of tournament berths be filled by automatic qualifiers.

In 1983, the number of conferences eligible for automatic entry passed the 50-percent mark, so the conference champions of the eight lowest-rated conferences had to play in opening-round games that determined the No. 12 seeds in the 48-team field. The next year, the championship featured five opening-round games, with one winner slotting in at a No. 11 seed and the other four occupying the No. 12 seeds. The championship field expanded to 64 in 1985, eliminating the need for opening round games until the 65th team was added in 2001.
A pair of former Wildcats made their much-anticipated NBA Summer League debuts over the weekend to reportedly packed crowds in Las Vegas.

Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson shined in his first NBA performance Friday night in the Rockets' win over the Phoenix Suns. Patterson scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and even knocked down both of his 3-points attempts. Patterson was slowed in his other two games this weekend with six and two points, respectively, but all in all Patterson received positive reviews in his opening weekend. Video highlights and an interview with Patterson are below, plus a review of Patterson's first game from ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz.

Of course, just about everyone in Las Vegas this weekend was there to see the debut of No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Despite injuring his groin in his first practice with the Washington Wizards, Wall took the floor Sunday night to rave reviews.

Although at times he was a little sloppy and committed eight turnovers (his one downfall during his time at UK), he finished with a team-high 24 points and eight assists. I obviously wasn't on hand in Vegas to watch the game and did not have access to the television feed, but by all accounts that I have read, Wall started slow and finished extremely strong, displaying the playmaking characteristics that warranted the No. 1 overall selection in the draft.

Washington handed Golden State an 84-79 loss.

Check out a few additional links and videos below from this weekend's NBA Summer League action. You can continue to follow all games and live stats at NBA Summer League central.

(One quick programming note: Although I just returned from a short weekend trip, I'll likely be away from the blog Monday as other work priorities will take up most of my day.)

- This shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you followed DeMarcus Cousins closely this year, but it turns out those much-talked about character issues with him were a tad overblown. OK, way overblown. A story in the Sacramento Bee features Cousins' leadership skills and the impact he's already having on the Sacramento Kings.


- We all know Daniel Orton did not have a great debut for the Orlando Magic in the Orlando Summer League. As much as we've talked about the summer league on here (hey, it's summer -- not much is going on), the positive thing for Orton is that last week was just that -- it was the summer league. Orton played in five games and averaged 3.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and shot just 14.8 percent from the floor, but it's a small sample and just the start of his career. He can easily bounce back. Orton talked with NBA.com about moving forward.

Off for the weekend

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Headed to Gatlinburg, Tenn., this weekend for a small weekend trip. Don't know if I will have Internet access or not while I'm down there.

In the case that I don't have access to the World Wide Web and am able to update from Tennessee, make sure you stay in tune with the NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, which starts Friday at the COX Pavilion. Former UK forward Patrick Patterson, now with the Houston Rockets, is the only former Wildcat in action Friday.

You can watch all the NBA Summer League games online by ordering here for $14.95, or you can simply keep up-to-date with all the statistics here.

Condolences to the Turpin family

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Extremely saddening news Thursday evening out of Lexington as reports have been confirmed that Kentucky men's basketball great Melvin Turpin has been found dead in his home. Coroner Gary Ginn told the Courier-Journal that Turpin, 49, had committed suicide.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Melvin Turpin," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "Our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends as they mourn their loss. The University of Kentucky and the Big Blue Nation will forever remember Melvin and all his contributions to our basketball program."

Turpin, an All-American center, played at UK from 1981-84. The 6-foot-11 legend ranks 16th in UK history with 1,509 career points and averaged 15.2 points per game as a senior.

He was named a Helms Foundation All-American in 1983 and garnered All-America honors from the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the U.S. Writers Basketball Association, United Press International and The Basketball Times in 1984. Turpin was also a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in his final season at UK in 1984.

Turpin's career shooting percentage of 59.1 percent is third best in UK history.

He went on to play five seasons in the NBA after being drafted by the Washington Bullets with the sixth overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Turpin was later traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and went on to play for the Utah Jazz and Bullets. The four-year Wildcat averaged 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 361 career games in the NBA.

"I want to express my deepest sympathy to all of Melvin Turpin's family and friends," UK men's basketball head coach John Calipari released in a statement. "I also pray for their strength during this time of grief."

From everyone in the UK Athletics family, our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Turpin's family and friends.

NBA links and notes

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Not much in the way of news today. Just a couple of quick men's basketball hits for you this morning:

- Former UK men's basketball forward DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to terms on a contract with the Sacramento Kings, according to reports. Cousins, who was drafted by the Kings with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, can earn about $7 million in his first two years of the deal. The Kings have separate team options for the third and fourth seasons. Cousins is the second of the five 2010 Kentucky draftees to ink a deal with their respective team.

- I posted the individual schedules of former Kentucky men's basketball players in this year's NBA Summer League, but I wanted to quickly give a special shout out to a pair of ex-Cats who are off to hot starts in the Orlando league. Joe Crawford, who scored 29 points for the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in a loss to the New Jersey Nets, is averaging 19.5 points and shooting 65.0 percent from the floor in his first two games. Meanwhile, Jodie Meeks continues to do what he does best, and that's score for the Philadelphia 76ers. Meeks has been consistent in his three games with the 76ers, scoring 18, 18 and 16 points. That brings his Summer League average to a 17.3 clip.

- After decades of going without a top overall pick in the NBA Draft, could Kentucky's first two top draft picks conceivably come in back-to-back years? According to a blog post by ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, that's a realistic possibility. Gottlieb, lists UK signee Enes Kanter as his top prospect for 2010. Here's is what Gottlieb had to say (you must be an ESPN Insider to read the full story):

"A tough big man who seems to rise to the challenge of elite competition, Kanter should not be a Turkish ball of hype like Deniz Kilicli was last year for West Virginia. ... He's legit."

Links: Sporting News ranks UK football No. 58

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It was just over a week ago that I said it seemed like UK football, no matter how good the team truly ends up being, always seems to be ranked in the 50s for preseason football rankings. Count the Sporting News as yet another example.

The website is in the process of counting down its top 100 teams in college football for the upcoming 2010 season. Sporting News ranked the Wildcats No. 58 with a projected record of 5-7 overall, 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference. That is obviously not what Joker Phillips is looking for in his year as head coach.

Check out the full preseason breakdown of the Wildcats at the Sporting News. For a preview of why Sporting News could be right or wrong, check out the excerpt below:

Why we know we're right: Despite all that Rich Brooks accomplished at UK--and there was plenty considering what he took over and how he finished--the Wildcats still face an uphill battle in the SEC under new coach Joker Phillips. There's talent at the skill positions, but the offensive line is completely rebuilt and doesn't look like a group that can control the line of scrimmage. For UK to reach another bowl game, wide receiver Randall Cobb and tailback Derrick Locke--two of the SEC's more exciting players--need room to work. The line will struggle to open holes for Locke, and the quarterbacks will struggle to get the ball to Cobb.

Why we might be wrong: QB Morgan Newton has a ton of raw ability, and has the size and enough experience to take a significant step in growth. But he still hasn't won the starting job--he's still battling Mike Hartline and Ryan Mossakowski--and still lacks the confidence of an SEC quarterback. Only Florida and Georgia have better skill players in the SEC East. If the line can find a way to protect Newton, the Wildcats have more than enough to extend the school record bowl streak to five years. 

- Also, check out a great Q and A with former UK football defensive tackle Corey Peters by the Gainesville (Ga.) Times. Peters talks about his time at UK and the noticeable attitude change the program underwent during his time in Lexington. Below is an excerpt from one of the best people I've ever had the chance of interviewing:

Q: What was it like being a part of Kentucky's teams that went to four straight bowl games?

A: The amazing thing about going to Kentucky was that I could see the change in attitude from the time I got there coming off a 2-10 campaign and coming off of probation, but seeing the fans come out more and more and really starting to support us. We beat Georgia my freshman year.

We beat LSU when they were No. 1 my sophomore year. We just built on that and the fans continued to support us. Kentucky is at the point where we're trying to get up in those 10-win seasons, and if we don't then it's a disappointment.

Prime recruiting period for UK basketball

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This week unofficially marks the start of arguably the most important time in college basketball recruiting. High school kids and prospects across the nation will take to the basketball courts this month in a grueling month of elite basketball camps and AAU circuits.

During the next month, coaches will flood college basketball gyms across America to get a peek at the nation's best talent. It's an important time to evaluate, foster relationships and connections with the next generation of talent, and for the lucky few, it's a time to secure verbal commitments.

This month is just as important for high school kids as some try to add a star or two to their name and move up the major recruiting rankings. It's a pressure-packed environment filled with huge expectations and often times unfair results. Every single move and step they take will be watched, recorded and scrutinized by hundreds of college coaches, but right now it's the nature of college basketball.

In the past, head coach John Calipari has been outspoken in his disapproval with summer recruiting. He has publicly said he would prefer to do what college football coaches do and shut down the recruiting for a month. He would rather be on campus helping the kids he already has adjust to their new school, as well as give the current high school kids somewhat of a break from the year-round schedule they have to face.

But for now, that's not how things are done meaning Calipari has no choice but to be on the road doing what he does best. Calipari and his staff are currently in Germany recruiting but are expected to return to the U.S. for the majority of the summer circuit.

Because this is part of UK's official website, we can't go into any great detail about the camps and tournaments because some of the kids could be prospective student-athletes. However, I wanted to at least give a rundown of some of the higher profile events going on.

Nike Lebron Skills Academy 

Akron, Ohio

July 5-8

adidas Invitational 

Indianapolis

July 6-8

NY2LA Sports Next Level Invitation

Mequon, Wisc.

July 6-9

Great American Shootout 

Duncanville, Texas

July 8-11

Nike EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam 

Augusta, S.C.

July 12-15

NY2LA Sports Summer Jam

Mequon, Wisc.

July 12-15

Team Breakdown Hoopfest

Miami

July 13-15

Hoop Group Jam Fest West Virginia

Morgantown, W.Va.

July 14-16

adidas Super 64

Las Vegas

July 22-26

Las Vegas Fab 48

Las Vegas

July 22-25

Las Vegas Live

Las Vegas

July 22-36

Double Pump Best of the Summer

Anaheim, Calif.

July 27-30

Nike Global Challenge

Portland, Ore.

Aug. 5-7

UK rookies' Summer League schedule

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Not a ton going on in the sports world as we enter the heart of summer, but there is reason to stay in tune with UK sports if you're searching for something to watching.

Seven former UK men's basketball players are currently hooping it up in the NBA Summer League, which includes Jodie Meeks, Joe Crawford, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.

I know I linked to the NBA Summer League schedule about a week ago, but I thought it might be a little more user friendly for you if I posted each individual player's schedule.

Fans hoping to watch NBA Summer League action, which kicked off Monday in Orlando, can order a Summer League pass at the NBA's Summer League website. The complete package will be $14.95 for access to all 78 games on a live basis, as well as on a video-on-demand basis for up to one week following the conclusion of the league's final game. A late season package will also be available for $9.95 beginning July 15.

Games will also be televised on NBA TV. All times are Eastern.

And if you're not looking to spend money, you can follow statistics of each player and team at the NBA Summer League website.

Thumbnail image for Clippers.gifEric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers)
- July 12 (vs. Wizards and John Wall)
- July 14 (vs. Bulls)
- July 15 (vs. Blazers)
- July 18 (vs. Spurs)
- July 19 (vs. NBDL Select)

  Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kings.gifDeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
- July 12 (vs. Pistons)
- July 13 (vs. Lakers)
- July 14 (vs. Timberwolves)
- July 16 (vs. Raptors)
- July 17 (vs. Bulls)
- July 18 (vs. Mavericks)

Joe Crawford (Orlando Magic)Magic.gif
- July 5 (10 points on 3-of-7 shooting in loss to Pacers)
- July 6 (Did not play in loss to Jazz)
- July 7 (vs. Nets)
- July 8 (vs. Thunder)
- July 9 (vs. Bobcats)

Jodie Meeks (Philadelphia 76ers)76ers.gif
- July 5 (18 points, five rebounds in win over Nets)
- July 6 (18 points on 6-of-11 shooting in win over Celtics)
- July 7 (vs. Thunder)
- July 8 (vs. Bobcats)
- July 9 (vs. Jazz)

Daniel Orton (Orlando Magic)
- July 5 (Three points, three rebounds in loss to PacersThumbnail image for Magic.gif
- July 6 (Two points, two rebounds in loss to Jazz)
- July 7 (vs. Nets)
- July 8 (vs. Thunder)
- July 9 (vs. Bobcats)

Rockets.gifPatrick Patterson (Houston Rockets)
- July 9 (vs. Suns) 
- July 10 (vs. Mavericks)
- July 11 (vs. Blazers)
- July 13 (vs. Raptors)
- July 14 (vs. Nuggets)

John Wall (Washington Wizards)
- July 11 (vs. Warriors) Wizards.gif
- July 12 (vs. Clippers and Eric Bledsoe)
- July 15 (vs. Mavericks)
- July 16 (vs. Hornets)
- July 17 (vs. Knicks)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for wbsk uk_mich st dunlap 1.jpgThere was a time Victoria Dunlap couldn't even make the All-Southeastern Conference first team, when people feared Dunlap's potential and not her production.

But that was so one year ago.

Now, as Dunlap works into her final offseason as a Kentucky Wildcat, she has grander goals ahead than just all-conference honors. After winning the Southeastern Conference Player of Year in 2010 as the best player in the league, Dunlap says she wants to become the nation's top player and a top-five pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft.

She's even entertained thoughts of becoming the top overall pick in next year's draft.

"It is definitely a goal for me," Dunlap said. "I just want to make it."

If Dunlap can get anywhere close to duplicating last year's magical Elite Eight run, the WNBA won't be in question. The only part left uncertain will be her drafting order.

The dream of playing in the pros, one that didn't materialize until Dunlap's sophomore year in college, didn't start to become a realistic possibility until last year. Largely off the radar at the beginning of the season, Dunlap was the only player in the SEC to rank among the league's top three in scoring and rebounding. By season's end, she became Kentucky's second State Farm All-American in program history (Valerie Still was UK's first).

Although Kentucky was ousted from the NCAA Tournament a win short of the Final Four, Dunlap and head coach Matthew Mitchell headed to San Antonio anyway to watch the Final Four. It was there Mitchell learned that WNBA coaches had "a lot of interest in her" in drafting her services in 2011.

One coach in particular told Mitchell that she had the potential to be one of the top five picks in the draft.

"I think the reason people believe that and the reason I believe that is because she has so much talent and she's so explosive and so athletic," Mitchell said.

Mitchell relayed the information to Dunlap, transforming her dream into a very realistic possibility.

"I said to myself, 'OK, people can see my potential and I see it in myself, so I am going to just go out there and work hard and show people that I am even better than I was last year because I don't think I have applied my full potential,' " Dunlap said.

Dunlap realizes she still has a long way to go. Despite averaging 18.1 points, 8.4 rebounds rebounds and an SEC-best 3.1 steals per game last year for the 28-8 Wildcats, the 6-foot-1 senior-to-be said she has only begun to scratch the surface of her true potential.

Now that she's tasted success and received a glimpse of her future capabilities, she entered this offseason with an even hungrier mentality than the one that transformed her game the year before.

"It doesn't take just going to practice and just being there; it takes the extra work you have to put in," Dunlap said. "Working in the spring last year and then working to build myself up for this past year, it definitely helped me a lot and made my confidence even better. I think if somebody is willing to put in the work and see what it puts out, in the end you are able to be better than what you were expecting to be."

The Nashville, Tenn., native has the benefit of having seen the fruits of her labor. Mitchell often points to last year's preseason, the first healthy offseason of her UK tenure, as the turning point in her career.

"That's really where she made herself into the best player in the league," Mitchell said. "I give her all the credit for having the desire to want to be good and then actually going out and doing the work to be the best player in the conference and an All-American."

Dunlap started the 2009-10 year with three straight double-doubles and didn't fail to register a double-digit scoring effort until the Auburn game on Jan. 24. She was held in single digits just one other time the rest of the year.

Mitchell always believed Dunlap possessed the talent to become a significant contributor and she was the go-to player from the start of a spectacular 2009-10 season, but Dunlap had showed similar signs during a very good but very inconsistent sophomore season. It wasn't until a conference contest midway through last year that Dunlap had learned to play with the same fire and consistency on a nightly basis to become an elite-caliber player.

"I do remember one play that she made in the Arkansas game on the road," Mitchell said. "It was just a baseline move that she went up and scored. I thought she was going to drive to the goal and pass it out but she just kind of made that type of play that turns your head."

Moving forward, Dunlap still has room to improve.

"One thing I told Victoria is that she's not a guaranteed top-five pick right now," Mitchell said. "She really, really needs to go to work (to become a top pick)."

Dunlap doesn't have holes in her game, but she does have areas that she can fine tune.
If she can become a better ball handler and develop a more consistent outside shot, "she could become virtually unstoppable," Mitchell said.

Those additions, along with Dunlap's full complement of low-post moves and her tenacity on defense, would make her a very formidable wing in the WNBA, Mitchell said. It's those projections that lead many to believe that last year's project could become next year's prized professional selection.

But for now, Dunlap's attention has shifted to the 2011 season. Although the WNBA will remain on the back of her mind, building on the success of last year is the primary goal as Dunlap gears up for the upcoming season.

"We've still got to get in there and work hard," Dunlap said. "Just because of where we made it last year doesn't mean we can just settle for it."

Mitchell won't soon forget the Elite Eight team or Dunlap's sensational junior year because of how the team gelled and the first-time success they experienced together, but nobody is content on sitting on that success. Moving forward, Mitchell said the key for Dunlap and Kentucky will be remaining humble and hungry.

"We are the chased (now); we're not chasing anymore," Dunlap said. "We are being chased by other people, so we have to still put in the work and keep working harder so other people know it wasn't just one year that it happened, that it is going to continue to be the same this year and for years to come."

Tuesday morning links

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Hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend. We're back at it here at the media relations office in the Joe Craft Center. I will have a feature on Victoria Dunlap and the UK women's basketball team in a little bit. Until then, check out a couple of football- and basketball-related links from around the Big Blue Nation:

- If you haven't read it yet, check out the Courier-Journal's Saturday story on former UK wide receiver Keenan Burton and his camp in Louisville, Ky. Burton, along with former Kentucky linebacker and teammate Wesley Woodyard and ex-Louisville Cardinal running back Michael Bush, hosted the "Reaching for the Stars Youth Football Camp." The camp was completely free of charge and more than 100 more participants showed up than last year's inaugural event.

"I'm trying to teach life lessons, and the reality of my life is I'm not going to play football forever," Burton said. "I want them to know me as an ambassador, someone who wanted to give back, someone who just wanted to do right."

"I refuse to make these parents pay for anything," Burton said. "I feel like it's important for their kids to be able to come out here and do something constructive, do something to where they can reach and touch some of the players who have been here and done something."

- Jason Belzer from Fox Sports ranked a list of the top 25 high-major assistant coaches in college basketball. Kentucky's Orlando Antigua, although technically not the No. 1 assistant coach at UK, made the list at No. 16. Keep in mind, as Belzer wrote in his story, that seven of the coaches he listed in the 2009-10 rankings went on to take head coaching jobs after the 2009-10 season. Here is what Belzer had to say about Antigua:

"Antigua has followed Calipari to Kentucky after joining the most successful four-year run in basketball history at Memphis. He helped coach the Memphis Tigers to a spot in the 2009 NCAA Sweet 16. Prior to Memphis, Antigua worked at his Alma mater, Pittsburgh where he helped lead the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament in all five years on staff, including the 2004 and 2007 Sweet Sixteen."

And here is a quote from Antigua on being recognized:

"It's always good to get recognized for your hard work but this isn't about me," Antigua said. "It's about this great university  and about our entire staff working to help promote all that is great about Kentucky as a state, as a fan base and as a university."

Link: UK football featured on SI.com

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Untitled-1.jpgKentucky football doesn't always get a lot of love nationally, so, when it does, it's certainly worth noting here on the blog -- especially when it's on SportsIllustrated.com.

The website for the highly popular magazine features new head coach Joker Phillips and wide receiver Randall Cobb in a story titled "Power Couple." Although we all know that former coach Rich Brooks handed the whistle over to Phillips after seven successful years, writer Cory McCartney has a particularly interesting anecdote about he handed over the reins.

It's fitting, then, that the call that changed Phillips' life came during one of those walks. It was the day after Kentucky's Music City Bowl loss to Clemson. The Phillipses were returning home when Phillips noticed he had a voice mail waiting on his cell phone. The message was from Wildcats coach Rich Brooks, who simply said: "I'm handing the ball off to you, now run with it."

Read the full story at SportsIllustrated.com.

Happy Independence Day

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Two things quickly ...

One, our website is back up and running. Thanks for everybody's patience while CBS update the site. There are no visible changes to the site, but if you come across any problems or issues that CBS might have overlooked, please alert us by sending an e-mail to catscratches@email.uky.edu

Secondly, and much more importantly, Happy Fourth of July from everyone at UK Athletics. As addicting and as entertaining as the Internet can be, get off today and go spend some time with your family and friends.

Happy Independence Day, folks.

News release from the home page regarding UKathletics.com and the blog. We hope to have access to the site no later than Sunday.

The University of Kentucky Athletics Department official website, UKathletics.com, including UK Athletics' official blog Cat Scratches, will be undergoing maintenance and be unable to be updated for a brief amount of time starting Friday, July 2 at 3:01 a.m. ET and running through Sunday, July 4. Although the website will not be able to be updated, certain components will still be visible to all users.

UK Athletics encourages fans and frequent viewers of the website to go to Kentucky's official Facebook pages or to follow UK Athletics' official Twitter accounts for the most up-to-date information about UK Athletics during the maintenance days. Fans can also go to official Facebook and Twitter accounts for several sports and coaches for updated information. A full list of official Facebook and Twitter accounts are listed below.

Over the coming holiday weekend, UK Athletics' host site will be moving its core infrastructure to a data center that ranks as one of the most prominent technology facilities in the United States. As a result of this move, UKAthletics.com will see a significant expansion of its core infrastructure environment and network connectivity.

The move is expected to be completed within 24 to 36 hours, however, it may carry into Sunday. Throughout the move, UKathletics.com will remain visible to the world, but UK Athletics will be unable to post new content to the website during this move.

UK Athletics thanks you in advance for your understanding and patience and wishes everyone a fun and safe holiday weekend. Go Cats!

Official Twitter and Facebook accounts:

Main news Twitter account - @UKAthleticsNews
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart - @UKMitchBarnhart
Facebook Fan Page - http://www.facebook.com/UKKentuckyWildcats

Link to a full list of Twitter and Facebook accounts:
http://www.ukathletics.com/athletic-dept/social-networking.html

Thursday notes and links

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Thumbnail image for THE_ESPYS_Sq_BW_Pos.jpgBefore our website gets shut down for maintenance this weekend, let's quickly breeze through a couple of notes and links from around Big Blue Nation:

- I know I posted this last week but I wanted to remind everyone again to go to the ESPY Awards website at espn.com/espys to vote for John Wall. The former UK point guard and 2010 top overall draft pick was nominated in two categories, for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best College Male Athlete. Voting is now open and runs through July 10. The winners will be announced July 14 at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

- Daniel Orton (29th overall pick to the Orlando Magic) became the first of the five UK NBA draftees to sign a pro contract. The Orlando Magic reported the deal on their official website Thursday but did not release the terms of the contract. Orton will play for the Magic during the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League, which starts Monday at the RDV Sportsplex. 

- Andy Katz from ESPN.com takes a look at how college teams will replace their NBA lottery picks. Given what we saw last week, Kentucky is obviously No. 1 on Katz's list. See what Katz and head coach John Calipari have to say about replacing the big five from last year at ESPN.com.

Kentucky finishes 29th in Director's Cup

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_R6L2304.JPGIt isn't top 15 quite yet, but it is progress.

The latest and final Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings for the 2009-10 athletics season, which were developed as a joint effort between the National Association of College Director of Athletics and USA Today to rate the top athletic departments in the country, were released Thursday with Kentucky finishing in the top 30 for the first time in more than a decade.

UK's final standing of 29th place is the third-highest finish in school history and best since the 1997-98 athletics season, when the school was awarded the full allotment of points in men's basketball for winning the national championship. 

Coupled with Kentucky's four championships in the last two years (two rifle titles in 2009 and two men's basketball crowns in 2010), Kentucky is making progress in achieving 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 2015.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart enacted the plan in November 2008 in hopes of molding an athletics department that competed with integrity, won championships with class and succeeded in the classroom.

"We had set our sights on being top 15 in all sports by the year 2015," Barnhart said. "We still have not met our goals, but I am pleased with the progress. We had an outstanding fall and winter, which pleases me greatly in that it means our teams, specifically our coaches and athletes, have really done some special things. We must continue to improve in all phases if we hope to accomplish our goals."

While improvements are still to be made, the vision Barnhart set into motion when he was hired eight years ago is starting to come to fruition.

UK tallied 534.00 total points in the Directors' Cup race at the conclusion of the fall and winter sports, an all-time high for the program. The department scored 89.0 points in the fall before amassing 445.00 points in the winter, sixth highest among all schools in Division I.

The trend of improvement lies in the numbers. Since Barnhart's first full athletics season in 2002-03, Kentucky has improved nearly 30 spots. Over the last few years, the department has progressively climbed from 45th in 2006-07 to 36th in 2007-08 to 34th last year and finally to 29th this year. It is also the highest finish of the Barnhart era.

More indicative of Kentucky's improvement is its 703.25 total points in 2009-10 against increasingly improving athletic departments. Not only did this year's mark shatter last year's points total of 607.80, it easily bested the 1996-97 26th-place finish of 374.5 points, the school's best finish in the standings.      

Barnhart acknowledged that UK must continue to move its way up the standings if the department is to meet its lofty standards, but they are goals that Barnhart believes are capable of achieving.

 "That's the goal," Barnhart said. "As we talked about a year ago, it is important to finish the deal."

Tracking UK's national championships

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Much has been made of South Carolina's national championship in baseball, in large part because it was the school's first national title in any men's sport -- ever.

That had us here at UK thinking about how many total national championships Kentucky has and it apparently caught the attention of ESPN blogger Chris Low. The Southeastern Conference blogger beat us to the punch a little bit but nonetheless has a great breakdown of all the national championships in the SEC conference.

Kentucky ranks eighth all-time in the SEC with seven men's national championships. All seven titles are with men's basketball, although, according to research by Jeff Sagarin, who compiles the Sagarin Computer Ratings for USA Today, UK is the national champion for the 1950 season under that ranking system.

A bit surprisingly, Arkansas paces the SEC with 30 national championships. The Razorbacks have a rather large margin of separation as well, as the next-closest school is LSU with 20.

Check out the full breakdown on Low's blog.

Recent Comments

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