Last week, the 2012-13 budget for the University of Kentucky was approved by the Board of Trustees. The $2.6 billion budget is a reflection of difficult times in higher education, featuring necessary strategic cuts.
The athletics department will navigate many of those same challenges, and its budget for the 2013 fiscal year was also approved last week. A review of the budget and UK Athletics' financial records shows that UK Athletics is a crucial contributor to not only life at the university, but also its financial health.
For the sake of transparency, the following is a breakdown of the budget for FY2013 and an overall look at the finances of UK Athletics during Mitch Barnhart's tenure as Athletics Director. FY2013 budget and student fees
Due to escalating costs of tuition, salaries and travel, UK Athletics' projected budget for FY2013 is $91.9 million, representing an increase from last year. However, by maximizing available revenue streams, UK Athletics was able to balance its budget, and in spite of fielding a 22-sport program - the broadest in the Southeastern Conference - UK Athletics' budget ranks only in the middle with respect to its conference counterparts.
UK Athletics plays a vital role in cultivating the brand of the university as the whole, but its budget comprises just 3.5 percent of the university's overall budget. More importantly, UK Athletics balances its budget with the help of no state or university funds, making it one of the few self-supporting departments in the nation.
UK Athletics also provides students a low-cost outlet for entertainment and school spirit. UK students pay an annual athletics fee of $38, which accounts for just 0.89 percent of the department's projected revenue for FY2013. Throughout Barnhart's tenure, UK Athletics has remained committed to keeping its student fee low while many other schools have relied more and more on students to fund operations.
In looking at student fees across the SEC for 2011, UK Athletics compares very favorably. Of its 10 conference peers in USA Today's college athletics finances database (Vanderbilt is private, so the school does not disclose this information), all but three schools receive more money in student fees than UK. While UK Athletics raised $819,124 in student fees in 2011, seven SEC departments received $1 million or more, including Auburn, which received $4.3 million.
Three SEC athletic departments - Arkansas, Alabama and LSU - received no money in student fees, but two were subsidized by the school. In 2011, Arkansas received $1.85 million in university funds and Alabama received $5.25 million. Combining student fees and school funds in 2011, only LSU received less than UK in 2011.
With respect to fellow in-state institutions, UK also stacks up well, including with the University of Louisville, the only other department from a BCS conference in the state. For example, UK's annual student athletics fee of $38 is 62 percent lower than U of L's $100 fee. U of L also received $39,318,575 directly from the university from 2006-11, according to USA Today. UK has not received a penny over that time. Contributions to university
Each of the past few years, UK Athletics has donated $1.7 million annually to help fund scholarships and was proud to announce it would extend that contribution beginning in 2012-13. Although the increase does not represent a recurring commitment, UK Athletics will donate $3 million directly to the university in FY2013, which will play a part in funding the Singletary Scholarship program, UK's most prestigious academic award.
Barnhart enacted the increase to help the university at a time of budgetary woes, but it is hardly the first demonstration of the department's commitment to its partnership with the school. Through 2011-12, UK Athletics has donated $23,836,194.90 to the university in scholarships and royalties during his 10-year tenure. That number will go up with the more than 75 percent increase in the amount of scholarship funding in FY2013.
UK Athletics' annual donation to the school does not come close to encompassing the department's wide-ranging contributions. Since Barnhart's arrival in 2002, the department has contributed more than $100 million to the university.
Approximately a quarter of UK Athletics' FY2013 budget - more than $25 million - will be spent back on campus. The department pays the full rate to the university for 340 scholarships - which equates to $11.7 million - and a $1.8 million University Assessment Fee. Additionally, UK Athletics is responsible for improvements, utilities, maintenance, parking and upgrades to all its facilities.
**Note: Expenses for scholarships in FY2013 have not yet been finalized and could increase slightly from the dollar amounts projected above.**
Royalties also play a role in UK Athletics' contributions as the university has received $11.7 million dating back to 2002. The athletics department and university shared 50-50 in merchandising royalties, which totaled $4.5 million in 2011-12. UK Athletics is responsible for all costs associated with managing the licensing program and 90 percent of merchandise sold is athletic-related. Keeping UK Athletics' facilities competitive
The greatest challenge UK Athletics currently faces is the task of providing student-athletes and coaches with state-of-the-art facilities. The department is responsible for pursuing all facility upgrades and new construction on its own, without being granted bonding authority. Barnhart has equated this exercise to buying a house without being able to take on a mortgage.
In spite of incurring virtually no debt in doing so, UK Athletics will open new softball and outdoor track and field facilities in 2012-13. National champion men's basketball will have a new locker room in Rupp Arena, while the headquarters of UK football - the Nutter Training Facility - underwent a massive facelift this summer and debuted new scoreboards and ribbon boards last fall.
With those financial circumstances, UK Athletics has taken on a flexible approach, and is continually exploring ways to upgrade its facilities, particularly its football and baseball stadiums.
Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were selected first and second in the 2012 NBA Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
After some nice research by media relations student assistant Alex Combs, it's clear that Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA Draft is historic in more than just basketball.
By now, you know such a thing has never happened in NBA history, but it turns out it's rare in all four major American sports. In fact, only three times has the same college had players selected No. 1 and No. 2 in the same draft.
It's never happened in the NBA, MLB and NHL, and hasn't happened in the NFL since 2000, when Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington were taken first and second overall out of Penn State. It also happened in 1984 (Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler from Nebraska) and 1967 (Bubba Smith and Clint Jones from Michigan State).
Taking things a step further, it's only the fifth time two teammates have been selected at the top of a draft. In the NHL, where players are drafted from amateur club teams more often than colleges, teammates from Canadian club teams were taken first in second in 1969 (Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif from the Montreal Junior Canadiens) and 1963 (Garry Monahan and Pete Mahovlich from the St. Michael's Juveniles).
I bet you didn't expect to read about Canadian junior hockey today, did you?
When John Calipari arrived in Lexington three years ago, it was clear he was building something different at the University of Kentucky, something college basketball hadn't seen before.
His first team felt like an experiment, and a successful one at that. Though UK fell in the Elite Eight in 2010, five players would go on to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Coach Cal would famously declare it the greatest night in the history of the sport's greatest program.
Much of the next season was spent waiting on the arrival of a player who was on campus all along, but never allowed to put on a uniform. Not long after the fact that he wouldn't play sunk in, everyone realized UK had a pretty good team anyway. The Wildcats would make a surprise Final Four run and four more players were drafted.
This past year, it all came together. UK assembled not only the most talented group of players in the nation, but the best team. The result was a national title. The result was a record six players picked in the 2012 NBA Draft. After three years of Calipari preaching, there's no mistaking just how much the two go hand in hand.
Back in April, it was Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller leading UK to its eighth championship. Three months later, they were realizing life-long dreams in the NBA Draft, at once writing the next chapters of their lives and potentially laying the foundation for No. 9 or maybe even No. 10 back in the Bluegrass.
Minutes before Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist would hear their names back-to-back as the top overall picks in the draft, ESPN cameras and microphones caught Coach Cal in a candid moment with his two departed stars. He was reminding them of conversations he'd had with both during the recruiting process, the same conversations he continues to have with every potential future player of his.
"What I tell these guys in the homes is, 'You're going to be in that green room. You're going to hug your mom and you're going to hug your dad and then you're hugging me. And then I'll spin you around so the camera can see you,' " Calipari said in a draft night interview with Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "That's like a running joke."
Coach Cal may call it a joke, but it's really anything but.
Imagine yourself as a high school basketball phenom. Programs around the nation are constantly calling and sending text messages, now limitlessly. You know all about Kentucky and Coach Cal. You know about the title. You know about the Final Fours. You know about the unprecedented 15 draft picks in three years.
If you're 16 years old and John Calipari starts talking about the green room at the NBA Draft, does that not grab your full and undivided attention?
In three seasons at UK, Coach Cal has had 13 players start at least 28 games. Each and every one of the 13 has been selected in the NBA Draft. Plus, Daniel Orton and Enes Kanter were each first round picks without starting once, and Kanter without even playing a game.
Calipari's reputation as a salesman precedes him. Perhaps his greatest masterstroke is putting Kentucky into a position such that it almost completely sells itself.
"I don't know what else we can do for recruiting," Calipari said.
Thursday night marks a very important, life-altering event for six young men. As was the case in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 NBA Draft will determine the beginning of a possible six former Kentucky basketball players' professional careers. And it could be potentially historic for the program.
In 2010, Kentucky sent five NBA first-round selections to the league. They have a chance to tie or break that record Thursday night and become the first school ever to have six players drafted in the first two rounds.
Since John Calipari set foot in Lexington, he's devoted his occupation to helping young men realize their dreams and play basketball at the highest level. In his first two seasons, Calipari has helped nine of his players reach their ultimate goal of playing in the NBA, including every starter to play under him at UK.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague are all likely and projected to join the ranks of those nine previous players to reach the pros under Calipari's tutelage. Seven of those players were drafted in the first round. Only one player, John Wall in 2010, was selected as the No. 1 pick of the draft. It is all-but guaranteed that Davis will join him as the first pick of Thursday night's draft. Davis would also become the third No. 1 overall pick to play for John Calipari in the last five years, which is tops in the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist could go as high as No. 2, right behind Davis, but it is likely to see him going somewhere in the top 10. If he becomes a top-five pick, he and Davis will become the just the fourth duo to be drafted in the top 10 and second to be drafted in the top 5 (John Wall - 1st and Demarcus Cousins - 5th).
Regardless of destination for these six players, they will proudly serve as representatives and ambassadors of and to the University of Kentucky. Though their jerseys will no longer read "KENTUCKY" across their chest, the notoriety and familiarity these six players gained in the basketball fan base will keep the Kentucky name a prominent one in the NBA for years to come. If all six players are drafted and make the roster, 2012-13 NBA rosters will boast 21 former Wildcats, topping Duke for most in the league.
Anthony Davis selected No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets
Consensus national player of the year Anthony Davis became just the second Kentucky basketball player to be chosen as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night. With the New Orleans Hornets' selection of Davis as the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Davis joins John Wall (2010) as the only two Kentucky basketball players to be selected with the first pick of the NBA Draft. He is also the Hornet's second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history (Larry Johnson in '91).
Kareem Abdul Jabar is the only other player to win AP National Player of the Year, a National Championship, and become the No. 1 overall pick.
Davis is the 101st University of Kentucky basketball player to be drafted in the NBA and is the 10th John Calipari-coached player at the University of Kentucky to be drafted. He becomes the fifth Kentucky player to be drafted by the Hornets franchise, joining Rex Chapman, Tony Delk, Jamaal Malgoire and Josh Harrellson.
On the same day that he was named SEC Male Athlete of the Year, Davis will join a Hornets team going through a deep transition phase. Between new ownership and player movement, Davis will instantly become the face of the franchise in a devoted, passionate sports city that is New Orleans. His new home will be the same city in which Davis was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, leading Kentucky to their eighth National Championship.
With the departure of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers last season, and a recent trade that sent Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to Washington, Davis will become the cornerstone in the Hornets' rebuilding efforts. The Hornets also held the 10th pick in the first round as well as the 46th pick in the draft. With the 10th pick, the Hornets grabbed Duke guard Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.
Davis hopes to just be able to come in and work hard to give his team the best chance to win right away even with a young team around him.
"Well I just want to come in and do the best I can," said Davis on the NBA Draft stage at the Prudential Center. "I know Coach (Monty) Williams is a great coach, and he has the best intentions for me. So when I go down there, I'm just going to do whatever he wants me to do and try to be a team leader."
Comparisons of Davis are numerous and wide-ranging, but the consensus is that Davis is far and away the surest thing in this year's draft. With some additional strength and weight on his wiry frame, as well as some fine-tuning to his jump shot, Davis will likely be making waves in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Though he was a shot blocking phenom at the college level, Davis knows it's going to be difficult and take some adjusting to be a great shot blocker in the NBA.
"It's going to be very difficult," said Davis. "Guys are very crafty and use a lot of ball fakes. They're professionals and they do this for a living. So I just have to try to get used to what guys' tendencies are and just try to block them then."
Kidd-Gilchrist follows Davis, Charlotte takes Kidd Gilchrist at No. 2
With the Charlotte Bobcats calling Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's name with No. 2 overall pick, Kidd-Gilchrist joins Davis to become just the second duo of Kentucky teammates to be selected in the first five picks of the NBA Draft. They also become the first pair of teammates to be taken in the first two picks of the draft in NBA history, marking yet another historic night for the University of Kentucky at the NBA Draft.
An emotional Kidd-Gilchrist struggled to put into words what it meant to be the second pick in the draft, saying that it meant "A lot" to be picked where he was and to play for Jordan.
A very proud Cindy Richardson, Kidd-Gilchrist's mother, said she's always told her son to just be himself.
"(I told him) Always to be comfortable in his own skin," said Richardson. "Accept who he is, in his strengths and his weaknesses, and it keep it moving."
The Somerdale, N.J. native averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds in his freshman campaign at Kentucky while starting 39 of 40 games. Kidd-Gilchrist was named the Eastern Region Most Outstanding Player in the 2012 NCAA Tournament after posting 19 points against Baylor in the Elite Eight.
Kidd-Gilchrist was considered one of the highest-working players available in this year's draft and is highly touted for his ability to finish at the rim. For Kentucky last season, he was a high-energy, high-motor guy that was considered the leader of the 2012 National Championship team, extremely high praise and a difficult task for a freshman. His defense was perhaps his most heralded and important skill for Kentucky last season, as he often drew the responsibility of guarding the opposition's best player, regardless of position.
The Charlotte Bobcats and owner Michael Jordan will look to Kidd-Gilchrist to be a more polished version of what he was in college. He needs to work on his jump shot and ball handling, but his ability to get second chance points and finish in transition will make him a valuable asset for the Bobcats. His defense will easily translate to the NBA, as he shut down some of the best talent in college basketball last year. While there are many players who can score in the NBA, there are few who are as talented on both ends of the floor as Kidd-Gilchrist.
For a team that needs just about everything on their roster after one of the worst seasons in NBA history, Kidd-Gilchrist is a good player to have on the roster. His relentless work ethic and never-say-die attitude will be the right attitude for a young, rebuilding franchise such as Charlotte.
Jones is third Wildcat drafted, goes No. 18 to the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets finally called Terrence Jones' name with the No. 18 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Jones, who returned to Kentucky after his freshman year with a chance to improve his draft stock now finds himself in a good situation with a competitive team that hauled in three first round picks Thursday night.
Jones was considered one of the best players in all of college basketball at the beginning of his freshman season. He was the leading scorer for Calipari's second team at UK for a good portion of the season before he wore down towards the end of the season and his draft stock decreased.
After speaking with Calipari and NBA talent evaluators, they decided that Jones should come back for his sophomore season to try and win an NCAA Championship and improve his draft position. He accomplished his goal last season with a very successful sophomore year averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Jones improved in almost every aspect of his game from his freshman to sophomore seasons and will continue to blossom in the NBA.
While some say it was a mistake for Jones to stay at school one more year, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas believes it was the right choice.
"He's got a lot of talent," said Bilas. "People talk about, 'Well, if he had come out last year, he'd be a higher pick.' I don't know that that's necessarily true. Terrence Jones, by coming back to school and playing another year at Kentucky, I think became a much better player to put himself in a position to have some greater success in the NBA."
Many NBA evaluators have brought up Jones' attitude as a question mark, but his selflessness down the stretch during their championship run is something that can't be overlooked. He has become a more complete, team oriented player in his two years at Kentucky, becoming a better leader while working with younger players. It's very possible that the Rockets got a steal with Jones as he will be a great asset for Houston in the future.
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale says he loves Jones toughness and winning pedigree.
"Jones is just a rugged guy, I really like him," said McHale. "Another guy who just is a rebounder, runner, played at a high level at Kentucky. Just a guy who is just going to bring a toughness to our team."
Jones joins former Wildcat Patrick Patterson in Houston, who will be entering his third year in the NBA. He, Jeremy Lamb and Royce White, will form a nice young core group to join forces with Patterson, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons and the rest of a talented Rockets team. Houston was on the cusp of a playoff spot, finishing just two games out of the final slot with a 34-32 record last season.
Bulls select Teague at No. 28 to give Kentucky four first rounders
Marquis Teague became the third consecutive point guard to play under John Calipari - and fifth dating back to his time at Memphis - at Kentucky to be drafted in the first round when he was selected No. 28 by the Chicago Bulls. He also became the fourth Kentucky player to be drafted from the 2012 national championship team Thursday night, tied with North Carolina for the most players selected in the first round.
Teague, as Calipari often says about his point guards, was a different type of player than his predecessors John Wall and Brandon Knight. Those two players were the superstars of their respective teams, where Teague was not expected to shine in the spotlight considering all the talented that surrounded him in the 2011-12 season. But Teague was just as crucial to this team, though he struggled at the beginning of the season, and came on strong late to help lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship, something Wall and Knight were never able to accomplish at Kentucky.
As Teague improved over the course of the season, he became a better distributor and scorer, as well a better overall point guard. He put his teammates in good situations to score and was a "pitbull" on the defensive end. Teague has some of the best speed in the draft and will become one of the fastest players in the NBA when it comes to getting to the basket.
"Marquis Teague has excellent speed and quickness," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "He's very good in transition. He excels in the open floor; he can really run. He's a good penetrator that can go either way off the dribble. He does a very good job of finishing at the rim, especially in transition."
Teague will join forces with former Calipari point guard Derrick Rose, who played under Calipari at Memphis. Though Rose was the No. 1 overall pick by Chicago, they share similar backgrounds, which should translate into a smooth relationship. With Rose, the Bulls are considered a strong contender in the East to try and unseat the Miami Heat as NBA Champions. Teague will get the opportunity to be Rose's understudy and earn valuable minutes as Rose continues to try and rehabilitate his knee.
Though Teague made a strong push towards the end of the season, there are still several areas for improvement under the coaching of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I think he needs to learn a little bit more how to stop short and throw up a floater in the lane," said Bilas. "And I think he needs to work on his shot. He did a better job off of pick and rolls later in the season, worked much harder on that."
The Bucks take a Lamb as Doron goes No. 42 to Milwaukee
Doron Lamb became the fifth Wildcat selected in the NBA Draft and the first in the second round after he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 42 overall pick. Lamb was the best shooter on both teams in his two seasons at Kentucky and was considered one of the best shooters in the entire 2012 draft class.
Lamb was a tweener in this draft, where many projections had him slotted at different spots. Some had him as a late first rounder, while others saw him as an early second round pick. Lamb slid a little bit further down than he surely would have liked, but he is a versatile guard who has great range, knocks down short-range jumpers, and can finish around the rim. He also filled in well at point guard in Marquis Teague's stead. He hit big shot after big shot all season for Kentucky and will see his range and big-play ability continue in the NBA. There's always room on NBA rosters for players who can knock down jump shots.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas calls Lamb a "sniper" with perfect form that does not take bad shots.
"He's an excellent shooter," said Bilas. "He's got a quick and smooth release. Really perfect form, and he's got deep range. What I like about him is he's so efficient. He doesn't take bad shots."
Bilas said he believes Lamb can play some point guard, noting that he backed up Teague this season, and that his versatility as a guard will help him stick in the league.
On a team that boasts one of the best young talents in the NBA in guard Brandon Jennings, Lamb will be joining a Milwaukee team looking for some firepower and scoring. He joins North Carolina's John Henson, who was their first round pick. They also recently acquired Samuel Dalembert from the Houston Rockets for some help on the interior. Milwaukee just missed the playoffs last season, finishing with a 31-35 record, which was four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Miller becomes 106th Kentucky player drafted in program history
Darius Miller became the sixth and final Wildcats drafted Thursday night from Kentucky's 2012 national championship team. Miller becomes just the second Kentucky high school graduate to be drafted out of UK since Scott Padgett (1999).
After waiting nearly four hours, Miller finally heard his name called when the New Orleans Hornets selected their second Wildcat of the night. Miller will join his Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis in New Orleans next season as they hope to rebuild that team in the same city in which they helped restore order in college basketball with Kentucky's eighth title.
Miller came off the bench almost exclusively in his senior season after starting for a majority of his career, but he served as a sixth starter, receiving plenty of playing time and using his experience to help lead a youthful bunch to new heights in program history. His role in the NBA will likely mirror the type of role he will play as a pro.
"He played in a role similar to really what he'll see in the NBA," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "He's got range to 22-23 feet. He drives and plays out. He can pull up off the dribble and hit his shot. He does is with good body balance. He's a good mature player that's going to come in and help you win."
And win is all he's done at Kentucky since his sophomore year. He's played in more games than any player ever to wear the Blue and White, passing Wayne Turner this season.
With Miller's selection, Kentucky broke a record for the most draft picks from one school over a three-year period with 15 draft picks. He is the 106th Wildcat to be drafted into the NBA, and it continues a streak that has seen every player to start full-time under John Calipari at Kentucky has been selected in the NBA Draft.
Thursday is a big night for six former Wildcats and the Kentucky basketball program as a whole, so it's time to break out the UK Athletics live blog for the first time since the 2011-12 season came to an end.
Beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, UK Athletics and CoachCal.com will host a special interactive live blog for the NBA Draft. The live blog will feature news as it happens, analysis from Guy Ramsey and Eric Lindsey and questions from fans. Depending on the schedules of John Calipari and the six Wildcats, we hope to bring you exclusive comments from Coach Cal and his players.
The draft itself begins at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and Anthony Davis is as close to a lock as possible to be taken by the New Orleans Hornets with the No. 1 overall pick. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will follow closely behind before Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller look to give UK a record six first-round draft picks.
There will be plenty of information floating around on Thursday night, so Kentucky fans can use our live blog as NBA Draft headquarters. Remember, the action starts at 7 p.m., but you can set a reminder to join in the application below.
This week, the SEC Digital Network has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX with "40/40," a celebration of women's athletics in the Southeastern Conference designed to bring awareness to Title IX.
Already, a pair of former University of Kentucky greats have been profiled. First was gymnast Jenny Hansen, the NCAA's first-even three-time All-Around national champion. The piece by Tim Letcher tells of Hansen's journey from her home in Wisconsin to champion to her ongoing comeback. Here's an excerpt about her surprise NCAA title as a freshman:
Despite the fact that she was recruited by powerhouse programs like Alabama, Florida and LSU, Hansen was not expected to be a major factor as a freshman. However, she quickly established herself as one of the top gymnasts in the country, competing in the always-tough SEC.
"I did really well my first year, it was really fun," Hansen says. "It was like a progression. I was learning new skills, I had new friends. I was continually having fun, therefore I continually won."
In fact, Hansen made it all the way to the NCAA meet in Corvallis, Ore. as a freshman. Once she got there, she faced some stiff competition.
"It was so unreal to me, because of the people I was competing against," Hansen says. "There was Dee Dee Foster (from Alabama, the 1990 NCAA All-Around champion), Hope Spivey (1991 NCAA All-Around champion from Georgia), Dana Dobrasky (another Alabama All-American), all of these girls were so big in college gymnastics at the time, and I was competing against them."
Not only did Hansen compete against them, she beat them all, claiming the 1993 NCAA All-Around championship as a freshman.
McGovern starred as a runner at UK a few years before Hansen arrived, and her journey to Lexington was quite unique. A native of Ireland, she transferred to Kentucky after the women's cross country program at Austin Peay was disbanded. Mark Maloney has the story:
McGovern had a few partial scholarship offers to transfer, but an Austin Peay teammate suggested she check out Kentucky. The Wildcats had a very good and young group of female distance runners.
She spoke with UK assistant coach Gene Weis, but didn't get a scholarship offer until she was home in Ireland.
For a second time, in 1988, she committed to a college that she had never visited: Kentucky.
McGovern -- now Dr. Valerie McGovern Young and living in Novato, Calif., a bit north of San Francisco -- would go on to become one of UK's and the Southeastern Conference's distance-running legends.
Right off the bat, she helped the Wildcats win the 1988 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
She would win three NCAA individual titles at 5,000 meters, earning All-America honors eight times in cross country and track. She won eight SEC titles and still holds five school records.
For recently retired UK head coach Don Weber, McGovern remains one of his all-time favorites.
When her head coach at UK, Don Weber, retired earlier this month, he couldn't help but mention two of the stars on the 1988 national championship team.
"You've got people like Lisa Breiding and Valerie McGovern, who were the sweetest, nicest people you'd ever run across," he said. "I remember, it kind of bothered me in athletics, and I don't see it as much anymore, but all the chest-thumping, macho stuff. Being a great competitor is much more about brain power than it is brawn.
"And seeing some of the sweetest, nicest young women being the most competitive, daring -- it was inspiring to watch. ... That's the best thing about coaching."
Anthony Davis was named the SEC Male Athlete of the Year on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Even on the morning before he'll be officially tabbed as No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Anthony Davis won't stop winning awards for his incredible freshman season at Kentucky.
After being nominated for a trio of ESPY awards on Wednesday, Davis was named the 2011-2012 Roy F. Kramer Southeastern Conference Male Athlete of the Year on Thursday morning. The league's 12 athletic directors voted for the award and Alabama golfer Brook Pancake was the Female Athlete of the Year.
"Anthony and Brooke are true examples of outstanding student-athletes," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in a release. "They have competed at the highest level of collegiate athletics and through their hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence have been successful in their endeavors. They are outstanding representatives of their universities and this conference. The SEC is proud to honor them for their accomplishments and wish them the best in their future endeavors."
The award adds to Davis' extensive collection from his lone college season. Even before receiving the conference's top overall honor, the consensus national player of the year was the SEC's Player of the Year (Coaches/AP), SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches) and SEC Freshman/Newcomer of the Year (Coaches/AP).
"When you consider how competitive the Southeastern Conference as a whole has been in all sports, it's a complete honor to be named SEC Male Athlete of the Year," Davis said. "The SEC has produced a lot of great student-athletes, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of such an elite class."
For both the male and female award, each of the SEC's 12 schools submit one nominee. Davis was chosen from a group that included Trent Richardson, Alabama (football); Morris Claiborne, LSU (football); Alex Yarbrough, Ole Miss (baseball); Chris Stratton, Mississippi State (baseball); Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (football) and John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (basketball). A'dia Mathies (women's basketball) was UK's nominee for Female Athlete of the Year.
"We are extremely excited that a University of Kentucky Wildcat has been named SEC Male Athlete of the Year," Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "Anthony had an incredible year and is very deserving. He led our program both on the floor and off the floor. He exemplified the competitive spirit indicative of this award. This is only the sixth time a Kentucky Wildcat has won this award and we are very happy for Anthony and his family."
Davis is the sixfth Wildcat overall to win the award since its inception in 1976 and the first since Tim Couch (football) in 1999.The other four winners are Jenny Hansen (1994 - gymnastics), Jamal Mashburn (1993 - men's basketball), Kyle Macy (1979 - men's basketball) and Jack Givens (1978 - men's basketball).
"I'm so proud of Anthony," Calipari said. "To become the Male Athlete of the Year in the greatest conference in the country is truly a remarkable achievement. Anthony did it by becoming the ultimate team player. He deferred to his teammates, put the team before himself and dedicated himself to becoming the best player in the country. I couldn't be happier for Anthony, and I'm looking forward to watching him achieve even greater things at the NBA level."
Over the last few weeks, John Calipari has taken advantage of the two hours of summer practice time allotted to him and his new team. The newest batch of Kentucky Wildcats have gone through five practices after back-to-back sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Eric Lindsey of CoachCal.com was present for both.
Physically speaking, Poythress and Goodwin are more than ready to perform at the college level. I don't know that I would call Goodwin ripped - he definitely needs to put on weight - but he is super athletic and extremely fast. Poythress, on the other hand, is a man child. A beast. A physical specimen. He's already a strong guy and you can tell he has the frame to put on even more muscle. He already looks like the most athletic player on UK's team and he's going to be a major matchup problem for opposing teams. If Calipari uses him on the wing, he is going to absolutely overpower people. If he plays down low, he'll blow past defenders.
On Willie Cauley-Stein:
Surely you've heard Coach Cal call Cauley-Stein underrated. Watch him for 10 minutes and you'll understand why. He may be the least heralded of UK's four-man freshman class, but the guy is really talented. Not only is he tall, he's long (there's a difference). He has a great vertical jump so lob dunks will still be a big part of the offense, but he's also extremely fast. During sprints on Wednesday, Calipari noticed that Cauley-Stein gallops like a gazelle. "This becomes a problem," Calipari said. "Willie just showed me he's fast. If Willie's not finishing first or second (in our sprints), we've got a problem. You're making (Kyle) run faster than he ever has. That's good. We're helping each other." Calipari said speed could be one of the strengths of this team.
On the practice as a whole:
At the end of practice, Calipari briefly huddled up his team and informed them he would be gone for the next week as he coaches the Dominican Republic at the 2012 FIBA Olympic World Qualifying Tournament. Calipari said he will either give them the week off or have them work out with assistant coach John Robic. Overall, though, Calipari loves what he sees so far, especially for a team that is still without a very big piece in Noel. "Today we went in and advanced. It was sloppy, but we got what we needed to get in." He ended with "way to get better, guys." At this very early point in the season, that's what it's all about.
There's plenty more good stuff in the practice report, so make sure you check it out. I hope to have the chance to attend a practice a couple times before the fall semester starts, so keep an eye out for some similar reports from me. Link: Practice Report: Starting all over again
Thursday night will mark the third consecutive NBA Draft that will see John Calipari coached Kentucky players realize their dreams. The NBA Draft has become a huge night for the University of Kentucky, as Kentucky players have made quite an impression over the last few years at the event.
Being drafted serves as a right of passage, the final step, and holds a graduation-like feel. When Calipari talks about making Kentucky a player's first program, this night is what he's referring to: preparing his players at the highest level to play amongst the best basketball players in the world in the NBA.
Where they will end up is anyone's guess. Except for Anthony Davis. He's a lock with the number one pick to New Orleans. But the projections for the rest of them are all over the map, and it will be interesting and exciting to see where these former Wildcats will take their game to help represent the Blue and White.
With the draft generating the most headlines this week, we're going to do Web Wednesday a little differently this time around. Here we go.
The soft-spoken Davis is typically bland in what he says, but he created a stir when he called out Kobe Bryant shortly before the combine during a radio interview. Asked on The Dan Patrick Show whom he was anxious to face, Davis chose Bryant.
"He's a monster," Davis said. "I just want to go out there and play my hardest. There's a lot of guys that can't stop Kobe, so if I stop him, I could be one of the guys that say, 'I shut Kobe down.' "
If he deals with his stammer the way he and his hyper-protective family have confronted and conquered everything else -- his premature birth, his father's murder, a surrogate father's death on the day he signed with Kentucky, the daily 154-mile commute throughout high school -- Kidd-Gilchrist figures to overcome it soon enough.
"I'm not worried about [the stammer] anymore," he said. "I'm happy with everything."
Perhaps the NBA should, at least for this year, rebrand the noteworthy "green" room, where Thursday night's top draft prospects and their families gather while awaiting word about their professional destinations.
It could quite easily be the "blue" room in 2012, with five players from the University of Kentucky's national championship team in the running to be lottery selections.
Michael Kidd-GIlchrist awaits his fate Thursday's NBA draft.
While there's little doubt that power forward Anthony Davis will be the first Wildcat selected, the second, third or fourth overall pick will be Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Opinions vary on what type of player Jones will be in the NBA, but there is little doubt he is a first-round lock. Some mock drafts have him going as high as seventh, to the Golden State Warriors, while others have Jones slipping all the way to the late teens. But after wildly successful high school and college careers, Jones is eager to start the next chapter of his life -- wherever that may be.
"I'm going to be blessed and happy to play for whatever team that drafts me," Jones said, when asked if he hoped to play for the hometown Trail Blazers. "It doesn't matter to me where I go; playing in the NBA is a dream come true."
Two days before Terrence Jones expects to hear his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft, he was helping put a giant smile on the face of a friend in Lexington.
With the aid of the former Kentucky forward, William Bolden -- a 22-year-old UK basketball superfan who has developed a bit of a YouTube following with Wildcats-oriented videos posted under his nickname "Stone Cold Willow" -- got extensive dental work at no cost to him.
Another NBA draft, another Indianapolis-area player likely to be selected in the first round.
If Pike High School graduate Marquis Teague is taken among the top 30 picks of the draft Thursday night -- he's projected to go somewhere between No. 16 to Houston and No. 30 to Golden State in most mock drafts -- it would mark the seventh consecutive year a player from the area has been ?selected in the first round.
Brian and his wife Nicole are understandably very proud of their son, who they have followed closely in Lexington and on the road throughout his career.
"Well, things have settled down some for now, but June 28 (NBA Draft night) can't get here fast enough for us. We're anxious and nervous about where Darius is going to go but the main thing is we want him to go to a team where he can play and get an opportunity," Brian said. "Nothing will surprise him, he's already won three AAU titles, a gold medal, a state championship and a national championship."
A total of 34 former Kentucky baseball stars are currently playing minor league or major league baseball during the 2012 season. Here is a resource that allows tracking each players stat pages throughout the season and their careers.
Untitled Document After UK's record 45-win season, the Wildcats dispersed for various summer league's throughout the country. UK players join LSU as the nation's leader with eight players in the presitigous Cape Cod League, with centerfielder Austin Cousino also playing on the USA Collegiate National Team. Bookmark this page to keep up with all the stats from UK baseball.
For the second time since he won a national championship with Kentucky, Anthony Davis appeared on late night television, this time with Jimmy Fallon on NBC. Like his first appearance, it was entertaining, but for very different reasons. Take a look at the segment:
It may have been a while since he last played a game, but Davis still knows how to block a shot.
WEST LIBERTY, Ky. -- As soon as Joker Phillips learned of the tornadoes that ravaged West Liberty, Ky., in March, he wanted to help. Like the rest of the Commonwealth, his condolences were with the residents of the Eastern Kentucky town, but he wanted to find a more tangible way to show his support.
It didn't take long for him to figure something out.
Each year, Phillips and the UK Athletics marketing staff make a few stops around the Bluegrass on the Gameday Ready Tour. After going to Phillips' native Franklin, Ky., on Sunday, Philips and company packed up the buses and headed east.
"This is our third year doing the tour and with the devastation that happened this spring, this is a definite spot that we wanted to hit to kind of ease the pain so to speak," Phillips said.
Phillips quickly got a glimpse into the tragedy with which West Liberty is trying to cope. After a scenic drive past Cave Run Lake, evidence of the storms that cut across the city was plainly clear. Trees were uprooted on a hill that overlooked the city and the path continued through razed buildings still unoccupied.
"You just can't imagine going through something like that," Phillips said. "Four months removed, seeing some things not come close to being put together, I think that's the thing that touched me."
After a couple right turns, Phillips' bus arrived at Old Mill Park, the site of Monday's event. Damage from the tornadoes was never far from view, but Phillips perspective changed as he began interacting with the 200 or so people that came out to take part.
"Coming though the town, you kind of felt the pain at first," Phillips said. "And then once you turn the corner, I saw how many people came out to this thing, you did feel the warmth, you feel the support and hopefully they feel the support from us."
After meeting a few people and shaking hands with an old friend or two, Phillips took the microphone to get the festivities started. With inflatable games and athletic events for children eighth grade or younger, it was a day of fun, but he began things with a serious, though encouraging message.
"Things like this will bring the community together in a positive way," Phillips told the crowd, "so let's use it that way."
After Phillips spoke about the goal of the tour - encouraging education and physical fitness - children split into age groups and rotated around a set of activities. Meanwhile, Phillips made the rounds, interacting with as many people as possible. His hope is that his visit can leave the same kind of mark on them as a similar one made on him as a youngster.
"There was a group of NFL players that came through my town when I was a little kid - Virgil Livers and Doug Plank," Phillips said. "I just knew the impression that it made on me. Hopefully we can make the same kind of impression on the kids we visit."
Phillips certainly made an impression on a young boy named Jackson Elam. Elam met Phillips early in the event and the two took to each other immediately. Elam was Phillips' sidekick throughout, even holding a microphone for Phillips during an interview with a local television station and helping hand out signed pictures to fans afterward. The only time Elam disappeared from Phillips' side was to run and grab his older brother to excitedly introduce him to Phillips.
Perhaps Elam will get a chance to see his new friend again later this year, as Phillips announced all children in attendance would receive two tickets to UK's game against Western Kentucky on Sept. 15.
Phillips doesn't often take breaks from a schedule full of practices, recruiting, meetings and preparation, but this event is important to him.
"It's just a sign of our appreciation," Phillips said. "This is my vacation time and I want to take time to show my appreciation to these people, especially to these small communities that, a lot of times, don't get to see us up close."
Before he does take advantage of the chance to take a short vacation, Phillips will be at the Gameday Ready Tour at Bob Amos Park in Pikeville, Ky., at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26 before one last stop at Shawnee Park in Louisville at 1 p.m. on July 15.
John Calipari joined the SEC coaches teleconference on Monday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky men's basketball Coach John Calipari took to the SEC men's basketball summer teleconference with his usual exuberance and candor on the latest topics in the sport. Calipari seems to, once again, be very happy with the incoming crop of freshman that will be joining a rather depleted team, but one full of guys that he is also satisfied with. Summer workouts and the new members of the conference were also hot topics throughout the teleconference, and Calipari had some interesting comments on those as well.
Here are the most important items to take away from the teleconference to feed your summer basketball fix...
New additions strengthen SEC basketball
While athletic programs continue to adjust to the new landscape of college athletics, especially with regards to the sport of football, the SEC will welcome Missouri and Texas A&M this season. Though football is the main reason for the recent shuffling and movement, all sports competing in the Southeastern Conference are affected.
Calipari sees the growth as a positive for the conference, but especially for men's basketball two NCAA Tournament-caliber teams and five new coaches are being welcomed to the league. But the changes have far reaching effects past just adding a couple more teams to the schedule.
"They're two programs, both in football and basketball, and their other sports, that are going to have a huge impact on what happens," said Calipari. "Now all of a sudden, the strength of our league schedule goes up. It affects how we schedule non-conference. We're talking two tournament teams in men's basketball. You know, you don't want to put your team in jeopardy just over scheduling."
This could potentially, and likely will, change the way that non-conference games will be scheduled in the future. Calipari won't shy away from tough opponents, but he will likely make sure that whatever changes are made are advantageous to Kentucky. In his eyes, a stronger conference will be a definite benefit for his team.
"You want the league to be as strong as ever," said Calipari. "I mean last year's league was really strong and prepared us to do what we did to win the national title. No question about it. Now they can say, 'Well, you won them all so it couldn't have been a good league.' No. We were just really good. You think about our league and the teams we had, now add Texas A&M and Missouri, think about what happens now."
The additions will make the conference more competitive, but it will also likely mean that more teams from the SEC make the NCAA Tournament. Calipari sees seven to eight teams per year reaching the field of 68, and "maybe more in some years."
But perhaps in the bigger picture, the SEC fingerprint has reached further west and given Kentucky and other schools access to those markets in terms of recruiting. In talent-rich areas like Missouri and Texas, the opportunity to play for Kentucky and also come home to play in front of a home crowd could be a huge card to play for Calipari in the future.
In fact, Calipari ended the discussion on SEC expansion by saying that he would welcome two more teams if the opportunity presented itself.
Starting all over (again)
Calipari has done it again, bringing in arguably the top recruiting class in the nation again with freshmen Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein joining the likes of transfers Ryan Harrow (North Carolina State) and Julius Mays (Wright State). Having to reload year after year is no easy task, but Calipari has made it look like a walk in the park, and this year is no different. Starting over with a "new team" is challenge that Calipari gladly accepts because he's no stranger to the concept.
"For me to start all over every year, I'm going to be honest, is exciting," said Calipari.
This will be the fourth season in a row since arriving to Kentucky that he will have to help create a new identity to a Wildcat basketball team. Even though he's repeatedly called to do away with the one-and-done rule, as long as it is in place, he will continue to do the best he can.
Spending some extra quality time
Thanks to a rule that allows basketball teams to spend some time in the gym while taking summer classes on campus, Calipari and his staff (and all schools across the country) are able to start installing their offense and defense as well as develop skills with their players.
The new NCAA provision passed in January allows coaches eight hours a week for eight weeks. Two hours of that time can be spent in the gym doing any type of basketball activity, whether that be full-out scrimmages or individual time with the players working on their skill sets. The other six hours are designated for weight lifting and conditioning.
For programs like Kentucky where the most talented players in the country come to play, they also come and go quite frequently. So with fresh new faces joining the team every year expected to be key contributors from the onset of the season, this extra quality time with the coaches may be even more beneficial for Kentucky as they get early access to their incoming players.
Calipari already likes what he sees in these workouts, despite another youth movement.
"You won't believe this, but we're going to be really young," said Calipari. "Probably end up starting at least three freshmen again, that would be the fourth straight year, and what we've been able to do for the first time is work out with our team, and I can tell you that I like my team."
As mentioned earlier, Calipari has gone out and brought in some of the top talent around the country to wear the blue and white in their collegiate careers. Though Calipari usually has a pretty good idea of the talent he is bringing in from year to year, even he has been surprised by the talent level so far in those summer workouts.
Noel, the consensus number one player in the 2012 recruiting class, along with Goodwin and Poythress have received much of the hype from the media outlets before even setting foot on campus. And rightfully so. They have had tremendous high school careers and made strong showings on the AAU circuit.
Poythress and Goodwin will be major contributors on offense. While they play different positions from each other, both possess the ability to play multiple positions and bring diversity on the offensive end.
"They've both looked really good," said Calipari of Goodwin and Poythress. "Archie's a slasher/scorer. He can play one or two, both. He can play both positions, which is going to be vital because when we're not playing ten guys, we're playing seven or eight, we need guys to play multiple positions. And Alex is a beast. I mean Alex and Willie (Cauley-Stein), I don't think they still understand how good they both can be. He's 6-(foot)-7, long arms, and he plays bigger. He's going to be another wing that runs and can make plays, and can score the ball."
But the man who has been opening the most eyes is the aforementioned Cauley-Stein. Many have considered him to be a project that would need several years in the program to develop. However, in the short time he has been on campus, he has displayed great athleticism for a seven-footer.
"And then we have Willie," said Calipari, "And I'm just blown away by him because I watched him, but he's gained... he weighed 215 pounds on his official visit. He's 230 pounds now, and he's loving it. He's one of those guys that just blossoms and blossoms."
So where many expected Cauley-Stein to spell Noel this season, it's very possible that they could use a "twin tower" set and have the biggest front line in basketball and the largest since DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton occasionally saw time together in Calipari's first season at the helm.
"But I do know that we can really play two big kids at the one time," said Calipari. "The seven-footer and the 6-11", we can do that if we choose to. We may not start that way, but we can go into a rotation and really have two huge guys on the floor."
Offensive tackle Trevino Woods, student assistant Glenn Holt, defensive tackle Tristian Johnson and wide receivers Aaron Boyd and E.J. Fields participated in a study abroad program this summer in the Czech Republic. (photo courtesy of E.J. Fields)
This story is an update of a story originally published on Thursday, June 21.
Leadership is a desirable attribute, but a tough one to define. There are several different ways to lead, and perhaps the most difficult part of being a leader is figuring out the best way to do so. But true leaders ultimately do find a way.
Some people are natural leaders. They were born with a special ability to charm or rally people behind them, no matter what they do. Others, well, they have to work at it. But there's no real secret to becoming a leader. There is no magic wand to wave. In fact, it comes differently to each individual. Sometimes, in the least expected ways.
For four University of Kentucky football players, their newfound leadership experiences came far, far away from Commonwealth Stadium. In fact, they became leaders in a land where football means soccer, and few people even know or care what the American variety is.
"It was a breath of fresh air," said sophomore defensive lineman Tristian Johnson. "To actually be away from the game of football and not be an SEC football player, a Kentucky football player or a college football player. Just a regular guy. American football is not even treated that much holy. It's all about fotbal, and that's soccer. To be around guys that treated just like you were a regular person was just a great relief."
Aaron Boyd, E.J. Fields, Trevino Woods, and Johnson (along with former Kentucky football player and current student assistant Glenn Holt) all had the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad for more than two weeks in Central Europe this summer, and what they got out of it was much more valuable than a typical trip to Prague.
The course, which combined the four football players and Holt with nine other UK students, was designed to enhance students' emotional and cultural intelligence, improve their understanding of the costs of leadership and develop leadership skills to work with people from diverse backgrounds. "Leadership Lessons from Prague" was developed by Dr. Tricia Dyk, a professor in the Department of Community and Leadership Development, as a UK faculty-led Education Abroad course.
"We could have stayed at home and learned about change leadership, cultural differences and history," said Dr. Dyk, who spent months designing and recruiting students for the course that was being offered for the first time. "Instead, our students had the opportunity to meet world leaders, interact with international students and learn from the places they'd only read about or seen in movies. It was exciting to watch them absorb the lessons from historical Prague, develop their cultural intelligence and grow as leaders."
While each player felt he gained something different, they came home with a better sense of what it takes to be leaders - both on and off the football field - and having learned valuable lessons to be carried throughout the rest of their lives.
The experience began with a slight shift for the four Wildcats accustomed to being identified as football players before anything else. They were visitors; aliens in a strange land. They were on equal footing with their fellow students, all in similar fish-out-of-water situations. They had made it to Prague, Czech Republic, a place that maybe only one of them had even had designs on potentially visiting before the opportunity to take this trip presented itself.
Boyd, however, was the one player who had hoped for a long time that he would have the opportunity to travel the world.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," said Boyd. "Especially with my major, International Studies, and my concentration is European studies. I've always wanted to travel one day when football's over, and just travel the world and things like that."
This was an opportunity for these players to see things differently. To get out of their comfort zone, live in a foreign place, and come back with new ideas, concepts, and feelings about their own lives and the lives of others all over the world.
This trip made a long-lasting impact on these young men.
"There's different cultures, different traditions everywhere," said Boyd. "Their country went through a lot, the country itself went through a lot going through communism. There's just different ways they go about things. They're really to themselves, they aren't really social like we are. Just different things. You kind of grab hold to it once you see it. You get the vibes from people, they look at you a certain way. It's all about conforming to a new culture and learning how to use your survival skills to survive in a different country."
As they explored Prague, the players began to recognize some landmarks they had seen in movies and television, but they also were consumed by the culture and history surrounding them. The historical perspective they gained may have been the most jarring of anything they experienced during their 15-day cultural immersion.
Fields was taken aback when their tour took them to the Terezin, the site of a concentration camp in the Czech Republic that he had never known existed.
"Going to Terezin was a real eye opener, especially after we had been to a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Prague," said Fields. "They had all the names of all the Jews that were murdered up on the wall. It almost brought me to tears. It was a different feeling. Learning about the Holocaust is one thing, but actually being in that situation where it happened right there was just a completely different feeling."
Fields, who hails from Frankfort, Ky., had never done much traveling even inside the United States, really seemed to enjoy the culture, even if it was much different than the one he was used to. He said he felt like he was back in the Middle Ages with castles surrounding him and horses running around. Then he was instantly reminded that Prague has a very modern side when he was constantly dodging cars as he crossed the roads.
One thing Johnson regrets, however, is not immersing himself even more into that culture to enhance his experience. Even though he was in a different country, and completely different culture, he found himself speaking way more English than he thought he should have.
As they made a visit to Olomouc, the sixth-largest city in eastern Czech Republic, they met Czech students learning English at Palacky University, and they exchanged similarities and differences between their native languages. Still, Johnson wishes he had learned more from those students about their language.
"That's one thing I regret most about that trip is I didn't take time to learn Czech," said Johnson. "I had a little cheat sheet, but it was a little, simple cheat sheet like 'hello', 'how are you doing?', 'thank you.' And I only remember one thing, dekuji, and that's Czech for 'thank you.' And I always find myself apologizing because I made them speak English in their own country, instead of just trying to adapt to their culture by making my experience better and just learning their language. So that's one thing I do regret."
But language was only the most obvious barrier the students faced when they arrived. One of the first activities the class focused on was a scavenger hunt designed to quickly familiarize them with navigating Prague's tram and metro system. Dr. Dyk divided the students into small groups, and it was up to them to communicate with Czechs as they performed information-gathering tasks at the dozen places they needed to find.
The assignment required strategy, teamwork, and most importantly leadership. It was clearly a successful exercise that required this newly formed group of people to get to know each other as well as join forces to attack a common goal.
With brand new acquaintances, people with different ideas, and a language barrier, among several other variables, the group activities were no simple tasks.
"I learned a good bit from it. Especially patience," said Woods. "Because there were two days when I was designated to be a leader. The first day it went kind of smooth because it was earlier and everyone was still getting to know each other. So it was pretty easy. But by the second week, we were more together, but people had their own ideas and thought they knew what they were doing, and we'd get to the train station, and people had different opinions. So it was frustrating, and it teaches you to have patience and to listen."
There may have been disagreements in how to attack some of the assignments from the course, but the spirit of teamwork engendered by those challenges quickly turned the 14 students into a group that functioned as one.
"It was because of the nature of the tasks that were designed for each one of them, in turn, to step up as a leader of the group and work together and it was in everyone's common interest to succeed that they got to know each other," Dr. Dyk said. "They hung out together in the evenings. They sat around and talked. It was a very cohesive group of people."
Split up into three groups, students took turns serving as team leaders. Serving in that capacity, each of the students got firsthand insight into what leadership is all about. Woods, who is heading into his senior season, figures the qualities he practiced will translate in his final season at Kentucky and later into whatever professional career path he chooses.
"Eventually I hope to be somewhere up in a company," said Woods. "I want to eventually make more money and move up in the ranks. You have to learn how to work with people, and learn how to still learn if you're climbing. Leaders learn also, even if you are under them."
And with regards to the upcoming season, Woods has found a new outlook that he would not have previously held before taking this trip.
"On the football field, for example, I'm a senior," said Woods. "And if a freshman comes in and there is a skill or a certain thing about a play that I don't understand, maybe he understands it. Or maybe a sophomore, or somebody else. Somebody that's lower ranked. If they understand it and I don't, me being a senior would say, 'I don't have to listen to you. I'm older, I've been here longer. There's no way you know.' But just having that patience and being able to listen can go a long way."
While Woods approach was to always listen to others, Fields learned to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others, while appreciating what people bring to the table to reach their goals.
"You can definitely apply them to the football field and in life, because like I said before, everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses. Everybody has something that there not as good at as somebody else. And if you're in the leadership role, you need to make sure you get to know everybody following you so that everybody can build off their strengths and weaknesses and work towards that common goal."
As these players look back at this once in a lifetime experience, they realize how special it was to share these experiences with one another. With all of the things they share on the football field, this is a special moment in their lives that they will remember forever.
"My teammates can find the most things in common with me because we wake up together at six o'clock in the morning, we come back again at three o'clock in the afternoon when it's the hottest part of the day," said Johnson. "So these are the guys that do the same things that I do. To see guys on this team that are just like me, and they see that I could do something outside of the country."
The trip was not just about these four players. And they know that. They recognize that it is their responsibility to share their experiences with their teammates to help make this a better team. With their great privilege, they now get those put the many things they've learned into practice.
While the trip is over, these brand new leaders are just starting on their path to become better teammates, students and citizens, sharing their knowledge and skills to all that they may come in contact with along the way.
"Be open to more things," said Boyd. "Never judge a book by its cover. Never be shy too speak up, or make new friends, or just try new things. Everybody's trying to live life to its fullest, I believe. I'm just trying to bring that here, tell the guys there's more to life than just football."
As it happens every year around this time, the finances of UK Athletics have been the subject of public discussion this week with the approval of a new annual budget. Unsurprisingly, debate has arisen, with some saying the athletic department spends too much and should support the University more than it already does. Other still believe the budget isn't high enough.
After a good deal of analysis, this was my conclusion on UK: It is a model athletic program in terms of its financial structure and practice. It does not take a dime of university money. Its student fee is modest and hasn't increased in a decade. It gives money back to university efforts -- including money that is not on the books (it splits merchandise revenue 50-50 with the school, even though estimates are that 90 percent of that revenue is athletics-generated, and uses $500,000 of its athletics media commercial time to promote university, rather than athletic, initiatives). The UK athletic department is not carrying a high debt load. It is truly self-supporting, and has become so without becoming overly commercialized or corporate in nature. It funds a broad-based athletic program that sponsors the most sports of any school in the Southeastern Conference.
This has not always been the case at UK. Much of what now is in place is the product of Barnhart and the administration he has built. Talk to him about UK athletic finances and you're going to hear the word "stewardship" a great deal. He's serious about it.
Against the landscape of College Sports Inc., with universities subsidizing their athletic departments or finding any number of ways behind the scenes to funnel money their way, UK has, in this area, what I would think most universities should aspire to.
Crawford goes on to address multiple viewpoints on the topic, but his thesis is that UK is doing the best it can given the challenging climate it has to deal with.
Alex Meyer threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a UK game this season. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
This time a year ago, Alex Meyer had just wrapped up a strong junior season at Kentucky and was in negotiations with the Washington Nationals, the team that picked him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
Now, UK's highest draft pick since 1996 is in the middle of his first full season as a professional. Even though he missed out on the Wildcats' memorable season, he's on the way to make some memories of his own. The 6-foot-9 right hander has been chosen to represent the United States in the 2012 MLB Futures Game, an event that features some of the best up-and-coming players in the minor leagues.
Meyer is qualified based on 14 solid starts with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. He boasts a 6-3 record with an ERA of 3.33. He has 77 strikeouts in 70.1 innings, allowing 28 walks and 56 hits in the process.
His time with the Suns is his first action as a professional, as contract discussions ended up lasting until close to last season's deadline. His performance in 2012 is a continuation of his 2011 season as a Wildcat, when he was a second-team All-SEC selection with seven wins, a 2.94 ERA and 110 strikeouts. He finished his UK career No. 8 in school history in strikeouts.
You can watch Meyer in the Futures game - which will be played in Kansas City over All-Star Weekend - on July 8 at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 and MLB.TV.
John Calipari is juggling a busy schedule between coaching the Dominican Republic National Team, getting to know a new bunch of Wildcats in limited practice time, working camps and recruiting, so he hasn't had an official media opportunity in a while. However, he's still finding ways to keep the Big Blue Nation updated.
Kentucky coach John Calipari took a brief break from coaching the Dominican National team to come home to Lexington and work out with his newcomers under the new NCAA rule allowing summer workouts if players are in school. It might as well be spring training for Calipari. He's giddy about what is ahead despite returning only one player who contributed significant minutes in Kyle Wiltjer. The latest player to raise Calipari's expectations is the least heralded of the four freshmen -- 6-10 center Willie Cauley. "He's so skilled, real skilled,'' Calipari said Wednesday night. "I was stunned how good he was.'' Calipari is already considering playing Cauley, as well has heralded 6-10 recruit Nerlens Noel together on a frontline with 6-7 Alex Poythress rotating in, as well. "Noel is so good he could guard a three man, too,'' Calipari said. Kentucky has had four workouts so far with the team.
That's all encouraging stuff, particularly for the front court. With Cauley-Stein emerging as a potential sleeper along with stud freshmen Noel and Poythress and returner Wiltjer, UK's forwards could be a strength of the team. By the way, only at Kentucky can a four-star prospect ranked in the top 40 in his class be considered a "sleeper."
Cal's comments to Katz follow a series of tweets from last weekend about early team workouts that we have not yet mentioned about here on the blog:
While @UKCoachO is coaching @WeAreTeamDR in Puerto Rico, I stayed in Lexington to have 2 practices with my UK team both Sat & Sun.
In recent years, the NCAA has emphasized the importance of the Academic Progress Rate, imposing tougher goals and enforcing stricter penalties on programs that fail to meet them. The 22 teams from the University of Kentucky Athletics Department have responded.
Once again, UK's programs exceeded the four-year NCAA cut score of 900 (which will escalate to 930 over the next few years), ensuring that each remains eligible for postseason play. UK teams combined for an average four-year APR of 975.3, more than two points better than the NCAA average of 973. To take it a step further, 15 of UK's 22 teams exceeded the national average in their respective sports.
"With the increase of the cut score, achieving the APR has become even more challenging," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a release. "Our coaches and support personnel have done well in adjusting to the requirements and I'm proud of our student-athletes for their work in posting strong scores."
Leading the way was men's golf, which earned a perfect APR of 1000. Following behind closely were women's cross country (994), men's cross country (993), women's golf (993) and women's tennis (992). Also exceeding the national average for their sports were men's basketball (963), football (951), baseball (975), women's basketball (970), softball (984), men's tennis (987), women's indoor track (984), women's outdoor track (986), volleyball (990) and rifle (982).
Not only did UK teams compare favorably to their counterparts at other institutions, but they also showed improvement. Sixteen of UK's 22 teams had better four-year scores than in 2004-05, including baseball, which is up 77 points over that time frame.
The men's basketball team, fresh off a national championship, also continued to show significant progress. Its score of 963 is 41 points better than 2004-05 and stands to improve even more. In each of John Calipari's two seasons as head coach, UK's single-season APR has been 979, including in 2010-11, the last year included. The 2011-12 academic year will be reflected in the APR release next summer, which bodes well given that the combined team grade-point average for the spring semester was 3.12.
See below for four-year APR information by sport and a comparison to UK's 2004-05 totals and national averages:
The UK strength and conditioning coach says it's not her mission to make athletes miserable. She wants to make them tougher and stronger, more confident.
"I always tell the basketball players, 'You guys hate me now, but you're going to love me in March,'" Simmons says.
By the time basketball season rolls around and the season starts in November, Simmons is sure of one thing. "They will have the confidence that they can run anyone in the country down and wear them out."
Davis doesn't sound worried about pressure. He's dealt with plenty of it at Kentucky, a team that has one of the most rabid fan bases in college basketball. There, Davis played under a high-profile coach in John Calipari, and for a team that was expected to win it all the whole season and actually fulfilled that promise.
"Playing at Kentucky (under) Coach Cal and being the No. 1 team, the pressure came then, and we kind of felt it when I was playing there," Davis said. "So I think it kind of helped me a lot."
After the meeting, athletics director Mitch Barnhart spoke with the media and explained the ticket hike. He also addressed a few questions you fans might be having, like: 1) How do you justify charging more for men's tickets when that program makes a ton of money while giving a raise to the women's coach (a sport that loses money already)? 2) How exactly are football ticket sales going? 3) Why take Indiana off the home schedule the same year you hike ticket prices?
It's a great opportunity for the former McDonald's All-American, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said.
"It is an honor for any player to get to play at this level with a chance to compete in the Olympics," Mitchell said. "All of us at UK will be cheering for Jen as she tries to help the Puerto Rican national team earn a spot."
O'Neill would be the first women's basketball player in program history to compete in the Olympics.
Once Tyler, who will be a junior this fall, completes his summer course he'll be able to play this fall. He sat out the 2011 season for personal reasons.
After missing the first two games of the 2010 season because of a sprained ankle, Tyler played in the last 11 games in 2010 and made one start. He registered 13 tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and forced a fumble. He also contributed on special teams.
The actual value of the UK-U of L football series has become a topic of debate among UK fans again; it seems as though it always is during the months leading up to a game that has Louisville favored.
U of L has everything to gain and nothing to lose, the reasoning goes. It's the Cards' annual chance to upend a team from the mighty Southeastern Conference. What does Kentucky gain by beating a team from an inferior conference?
Of course, ask yourself this: Have you ever heard a UK football fan make that argument in the giddy moments following a victory over the Cardinals - especially after a game Kentucky wasn't supposed to win?
That's when he drew upon his college education and his communications major, and began doing radio call-in shows. He moved back to Kentucky, and a friend told him about the need to promote literacy among Kentucky's children. Especially thanks to the computer era, it's hard to get children to pick up and read a physical book, Walker said. So Walker spied a prime chance to combine his studies, basketball experience, interest in reading and his role-model status.
He now helps release annual UK basketball yearbooks, which document the team's work that year and helps place copies of the books in public high-school libraries.
"Everybody loves UK basketball, especially with boys in school," he said. "So it's one way that we can get them to physical pick up a book to read."
Riley and Daly were rivals as coaches, eventually became close friends and now they're linked once again. The National Basketball Coaches Association selected Riley as this year's recipient of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, which commemorates the former Detroit coach's life in basketball and his "standard of integrity, competitive excellence and tireless promotion" of the game.
Riley is the fifth person to receive the award, joining Tommy Heinsohn in 2009, Jack Ramsay and Tex Winter in 2010 and Lenny Wilkens in 2011.
"This is not an award," Riley said. "This is something somebody bestows on you. I'm very honored that the coaches association would do this."
The camp will continue through Wednesday, June 20. Meeks also plans to hold another camp in July. At that time, he'll be a free agent.
"I talked to our GM (Philadelphia) and Doug Collins and they said they definitely want me back," Meeks said.
The decision will be Meeks'. He will be an unrestricted free agent starting July 1. He said money will be factor in his decision, but just as important is finding a team where he can establish himself.
On Tuesday, Anthony Davis made a return trip to New Orleans, the place where he led Kentucky to a national title and the place he'll almost certainly be playing his professional basketball.
The Hornets brought the national player of the year to the Big Easy for a visit that seemed more like orientation than the customary evaluation prospective draft picks are subjected to. He met members of the coaching staff and front office he was not yet familiar with, toured the facilities and didn't even conduct a workout. The Hornets can't yet say they're drafting Davis, but it's no stretch to say that's exactly what they'll do.
Look no further than this video of Davis' time with the local media from the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Davis is decked out in Hornets' gear and saying all the right things, but that is a young man that knows he is touring a place he'll soon call home, even saying he has no visits scheduled with other teams. The Hornets, though, seemed to try to make up for the lack future visits by breaking out all the stops for Davis. The Times-Picayune has the story on the Hornets "rolling out the red carpet."
Davis was treated like visiting royalty during his 36-hour visit.
The Hornets put him up in the plush Harrah's Casino Hotel. He ate dinner Monday night with Coach Monty Willliams at the exclusive chef's table at Emeril's, the same table Saints' executives shared with Reggie Bush after the 2006 NFL draft.
After a tour of the Hornets' training facility and some press obligations at the Alario Center, Davis had lunch with Benson and Saints' executives at the Saints' headquarters in Metairie, toured the facility with General Manager Mickey Loomis, spoke to a youth camp on the indoor practice field and left with a bag of souvenir Saints hats in his preternaturally large-sized mitts.
A tour of the city with Demps preceded dinner with members of the Hornets' basketball operations staff. He ended the night by watching Game 4 of the NBA Finals with Mark Ingram and some Saints teammates.
In just eight days, Davis will be officially tabbed as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, but he won't be subjected to nearly the same amount of suspense as his five UK teammates also hoping to hear their names called as early in the night as possible.
UK Athletics will contribute $3 million to funding academic scholarships in 2012-13. (UK Athletics)
During Mitch Barnhart's time as Athletics Director at the University of Kentucky, UK Athletics has remained one of a handful of self-supporting athletic departments in the nation. At the same time, the decade under Barnhart's leadership has seen unprecedented successes, culminating in a 2011-12 season that ranks among the best in program history.
Through those years, UK Athletics also solidified an already strong relationship with the university and former President Lee Todd, demonstrating its commitment by contributing millions in scholarships and royalties. When Dr. Eli Capilouto was tabbed the school's next president in May 2011, both he and Barnhart dedicated themselves to continuing to forge that partnership.
At a meeting of the University Athletics Committee of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, the health of the relationship was clear. On Tuesday morning, Capilouto accepted the recommendation that UK Athletics increase its contribution to funding academic scholarships to $3 million annually.
"We are proud to be able to make this substantial increase in the amount of dollars contributed for the benefit of the academic side of the university, most especially in helping students with greater scholarship opportunities," Barnhart said. "While this increase is not a recurring commitment, our goal is to continue to support the university's academic mission as long as our budget will sustain it."
The $3 million contribution is up more than 75 percent from the $1.7 million UK Athletics has been contributing the past several years. The contribution will play an important role in funding the Singletary Scholarship program - UK's most prestigious award - which will include a record 51 freshmen in 2012-13, up from 34 just last year.
"The athletic department, through their generosity, is covering with this single contribution the entire cost for the next four years of these 17 additional Singletary Scholars," Capilouto said. "This is important and I am grateful."
This increased contribution is just the latest example of an athletics department enriching life at the university with more than just on-field success. Through 2011-12, UK Athletics has donated $21,083,420 to the university in scholarships and royalties during Barnhart's 10-year tenure. Going beyond that, UK Athletics has contributed over $100 million in scholarships, indirect royalties and expenses.
"We are fortunate to have an athletics program that is self-sustaining - one of the few in the country - and that makes a concerted effort to contribute to the academic life of the institution," Capilouto said. "Thanks to that financial strength and commitment, we are able to help many additional students make their UK education more affordable."
Even with these contributions and a 22-sport program - broadest in the Southeastern Conference - UK Athletics' budget of $91.9 million for the 2013 fiscal year remains in the middle of the pack among conference mates.
Not only that, these challenging economic times for the university and Kentucky state government as a whole have dictated that UK Athletics pursue new facilities and facility upgrades without significant bonding authority. The new outdoor track and revamped UK Softball Complex that will open next season have been and will be paid for without incurring debt.
"All of our facility projects are basically done out of our cash flow," Barnhart said. "Whatever we get in cash flow, we're pouring back into either the general maintenance of our facilities or the growth of our facilities."
Along with covering the escalating expenses associated with athletic scholarships, salaries and travel, facility development is where the projected $3.5 million generated by the men's basketball K Fund and ticket increases approved at Tuesday's meeting will go.
Both Capilouto and Barnhart were sure to emphasize the importance of the experience every student-athlete has while at UK. Football and men's basketball may be the financial engines that drive the train that is UK Athletics, but the impact on the lives of thousands of young people that those other 20 sports have had should not be lost.
"I think we've all had children that played sports that might not have been football or basketball, but we wanted them to have an opportunity to play," Barnhart said. "That's what college is about: providing opportunity. And that's not new to college athletics. Football and basketball, the other sports have always lived on the backs of those two sports."
UK Athletics may be in the middle of the offseason, but that doesn't mean its athletes aren't working hard to prepare themselves for next year. If anything, Wildcats from the women's basketball, softball, women's tennis, women's soccer, volleyball and gymnastics teams are working harder than they do during the season.
Kentucky strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Tracey-Simmons is putting athletes through each of those teams through an intense set of summer workouts. The workouts are designed to build strength, endurance and confidence for the upcoming season, but they also have effect of unifying teammates and creating bonds across sports. Jen Smith from the Lexington Herald-Leader has the story:
The UK strength and conditioning coach says it's not her mission to make athletes miserable. She wants to make them tougher and stronger, more confident.
"I always tell the basketball players, 'You guys hate me now, but you're going to love me in March,'" Simmons says.
By the time basketball season rolls around and the season starts in November, Simmons is sure of one thing. "They will have the confidence that they can run anyone in the country down and wear them out."
There's a competitive portion to the summer workouts. At the end of it, each sport's coach is provided with a chart of how each player finished, not only individually, but also against players from the other participating sports.
"It's a big competition at the end of the summer to see whose team performed the best," says Bria Goss, a sophomore guard on the basketball team. "Also, individually you're competing against other sports. We all push each other and get better."
Gene McCaskill, who received his undergraduate degree this spring, poses with head football athletic trainer Jim Madaleno. (UK Athletics)
By Evan Crane, UK Athletics
Each spring around the middle of June, members of the UK sports information staff gather up the early graduates on the UK football team for a photo to recognize their accomplishments. This year three players - Collins Ukwu, Gene McCaskill and Cartier Rice - accomplished the impressive feat of graduating early. On Thursday, the players put on their best shirts and ties, covered by caps and gowns and went outside of the newly renovated Nutter Training Center for a quick photo.
After the brief photo shoot was finished, McCaskill decided there was one more photo he wanted to take. The senior wide receiver asked head football athletic trainer Jim Madaleno and senior athletic trainer Gabe Amponsah to join in a photo with him. When the two looked a bit surprised.
"I wouldn't have accomplished this without you two," McCaskill said.
McCaskill was right.
After a strong freshman season in which he played in 12 games with four starts and a solid sophomore season during which he caught 17 passes for 163 yards, McCaskill was looking to be the playmaker he knew he could be entering the 2010 season. But early in fall camp, the veteran receiver suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ending his 2010 season.
Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Later that year, McCaskill was forced to have arthroscopic surgery on the same knee before another partial tear of his meniscus sidelined him yet again. And in August of last year, McCaskill told Jen Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader that he even pondered giving up football.
But after countless hours of rehab with Madaleno and Amponsah, somehow McCaskill fought though. And although a simple gesture of a photo is something most people brush off every day, there is no doubt this photo meant much more to McCaskill.
Gene McCaskill with senior athletic trainer Gabe Amponsah. (UK Athletics)
UK will open fall camp later this summer at the newly-renovated Nutter Training Facility. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The Nutter Training Facility is the hub of Kentucky football. It houses coaching offices, meeting rooms and the team's main locker room. Almost year-round, the building is somewhat of a second home to players and coaches, save for a short window of time right after the end of the spring semester.
During those two weeks, the Wildcats get a brief break from organized team activities and most head home for a little rest and relaxation. This May, Nutter was abuzz with activity during that fortnight as a major project to upgrade the building was undertaken, all without the players discovering a thing about it.
Keeping a secret from an entire football team is no small feat, particularly one this big, but the UK staff and administration managed to pull it off. When players reported to campus, they stepped into a building that had undergone a major facelift.
Center Matt Smith was among a small group to get a sneak preview. He was returning from a service trip to Ethiopia and the first thing he saw upon arriving back in Lexington - other than the airport and the inside of a car - was a new-look Nutter.
"Right when I got back from Africa, I got picked up at the airport and brought straight back (to Nutter)," Smith said. "Me, Mikie (Benton) and Larry (Warford) were probably the first three to see it of the players. It just blew us away. I was in here left and right taking pictures of everything and going home and showing my family."
The changes are mainly cosmetic, but that doesn't mean they're not meaningful. Walls that were once grey are now vibrant blue, white and silver, emblazoned with "Operation: Win" slogans, words from the UK fight song or images of current and past players.
For fans, the first thought that comes to mind upon learning of any such renovation is, "How will it help recruiting?" This project is the eighth major facility upgrade in as many years, and there's no question they have paid off on the trail.
"They're making those updates every year and it's really helping with recruiting," Smith said. "We've got a lot of good young guys that have come here that say that they love the way everything's laid out."
Smith and fellow senior La'Rod King, who together served as guides for a media tour of Nutter were sure to talk about what a difference this round of upgrades will make with future players, but they were just as adamant about what it means to current Wildcats.
"They really spruced it up," Smith said. "They spent a lot of money and a lot of time doing this. It's really awesome that the coaches are doing this for us...It shows a huge commitment."
Smith and King were visibly energized by the sharp new digs, especially King, who was almost bouncing off the walls. Whether they were pointing to a wall that shows all UK's players in the NFL or a graphic laying out the Kentucky's bowl history, the two seniors harped on the responsibility they feel to live up to the dedication their school demonstrated to them. That's an attitude that has permeated UK's group of veterans.
"We've really talked to the seniors about stepping things up," Smith said. "We don't want another season like last year. We felt we got too comfortable and we got to be on our toes and keep everybody going as hard as they can."
King has already come to the sobering realization that this year is his final chance to suit up as a Wildcat, but that realization is also driving him.
"It's exciting and it's depressing at the same time," King said. "This is my last go-round, but at the same time, I'm going to go out with a bang."
Fall camp doesn't begin for over a month, but the team is already working with strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver intensively. Oliver's NFL background showed results over the past two years, but this summer, he is implementing a refined plan complete with more position-specific drills and workouts.
"You don't see linemen running 60 yards down the field, so it doesn't make sense for us to go and do 100-yard sprints, 60-yard sprints when we could be working on our footwork and explosion off the ball," Smith said. "We really switched things up this year and we're hoping it will help on the field."
The first chance the Cats will have to show off their improvement will come against Louisville in a season-opening game that is already surrounded by plenty of hype almost three months before kickoff. Smith, a Louisville native, knows all about the Governor's Cup and is already itching to play the Cardinals for the final time. He was relatively low-key throughout the tour, but he got excited in describing a wall dedicated to UK's in-state rival.
In answering questions after the tour, he was sure to clarify that the focus is on the season as a whole, but it's no coincidence he knows exactly how many days there are before Sept. 2.
"We have 78 days to prepare for them and to prepare for the rest of our season," Smith said. "We're taking things on ourselves. We're working on what we're going to do and when we get close to that game, we'll start working on them."
Anthony Davis is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on June 28. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Anthony Davis was a big deal at Kentucky. He accomplished pretty much everything he could in a record-setting freshman season, from player of the year awards to a national championship, but there's another level of attention that comes with being selected first overall in the NBA Draft.
Davis isn't the official top pick yet, but the attention that accompanies it is starting to come his way. Take this article by Bethlehem Shoals in ESPN The Magazine for example. The comparisons between Davis and all-time great Bill Russell are tackled in depth, as is the topic of exactly what kind of impact Davis could have. The piece is complete with quotes from Larry Brown ("When he enters the draft, the team that gets him is gonna win over 50 games."), Pervis Ellison ("That young man is going to be a special player.") and even a complimentary Bob Knight ("He's a young Bill Russell.").
ANTHONY DAVIS DIDN'T EVEN NEED to block a shot to seal Kentucky's victory against Kansas. He just had to imply it. With under a minute left, the Jayhawks had the ball. They had reduced Kentucky's once-commanding 18-point lead to six. Kansas guard Elijah Johnson received the ball in space out on the left wing off an interior screen with an opportunity to create against the rotating Kentucky defense. Davis' legs are so long that he typically covers ground effortlessly, almost laconically. But in that moment, sensing the urgency, he surged toward Johnson and leaped at full extension. It was a pre-emptive strike, shot blocking as playmaking, and the effect was mesmerizing -- as if someone had hurled an extension ladder at Johnson.
Johnson, having already opted for what he thought was a wide-open jumper, was hardly expecting company. Davis soared above him like the sword of Damocles. Johnson flinched in midair like a man who suddenly wanted to be somewhere else -- anywhere else. While in midair, he tried to bounce the ball to reset his dribble. The referee called a travel.
Game over. NCAA tournament over.
Moments like these have helped to turn the scouting report on Davis into a combination of slack-jawed awe and contemporary hoops realpolitik. The creativity, the timing, the strategic sense of how and when to strike, all are light-years ahead of the standard help-side shot swatter. Or, considering the many comparisons to Bill Russell, perhaps they're 50 years behind. But what to make of those comparisons to Russell -- the equivalent of wallpapering Davis' face on Mount Rushmore? Are we not engaging in basketball heresy?
The story does more than blow smoke though. It takes a critical look at just what kind of difference Davis will make at the next level, suggesting he may be a "one-trick pony" for whom shot-blocking is his only elite skill. I understand the point being made, but I think Davis proved down the stretch of last season that he's much more than a defensive terror. As the year progressed, he showed (and was allowed to show) more and more of his offensive game and I don't believe he's as much of a "blank slate" as the piece suggests.
Regardless, it's an interesting and detailed read, so check it out.
It is the nature of the world today that we are constantly moving onto what comes next. Before we can even close the book on a day of work, school or our personal lives, thoughts immediately turn to tomorrow. For those in the athletic realm, concern over the next season or recruiting class begins as soon as the final buzzer sounds on the year's last game.
At the University of Kentucky Athletics Department, our players, coaches and staff are already setting goals and preparing for what we believe will be a great 2012-13, and that's healthy. However, as we enter a couple of short summer months, I want to encourage us all to pause for a moment and reflect on what has been accomplished over the past year.
Of course, the indelible moment from 2011-12 is the national championship John Calipari and our men's basketball team brought home. From the moment I arrived in Lexington 10 years ago, I have wondered what it would be like to be a part of winning this school's eighth title. After experiencing this remarkable season and the celebration that followed it in New Orleans and back in the Bluegrass, I can attest that it exceeded my expectations, but not because of how it made me feel, at least not directly. Seeing the hard work and sacrifice of a supremely talented group of young people rewarded with the sport's ultimate prize is such a powerful lesson for all of us. Then, witnessing the joy it brought to the entire Big Blue Nation made it all that much more special. I hope you will look back on those moments as a reminder of the reasons why we came to love sports in the first place.
Thankfully, we had plenty of such reminders this past season. When I set forth the 15x15x15 plan almost four years ago, I viewed its goals as ambitious, yet achievable, but I'm not sure even I could have envisioned winning four conference championships and a national crown this year.
Our women's basketball program has made incredible strides in recent seasons, but none more significant than this year's Southeastern Conference title. From Duke to Louisville to Tennessee, there were so many incredible victories, especially in Memorial Coliseum, where you, the fans, have helped to create one of the best environments in the country. Matthew Mitchell's new contract hopefully will be the start of turning him into a UK institution like Harry Mullins and Dennis Emery. Mullins and the rifle team, on the heels of a national title, continued to spoil us this year with yet another conference championship and a second-place national finish, while Emery led men's tennis to a perfect record in the nation's toughest league.
In my decade at UK, I cannot remember having a group of coaches like the one we have now. Calipari, Emery, Mitchell and Gary Henderson all won well-earned SEC Coach of the Year honors in their respective sports, but there are outstanding coaching staffs all over our campus. From Craig Skinner and Rachel Lawson making volleyball and softball annual contenders, to Jon Lipsitz rebuilding women's soccer into an NCAA Tournament team, to Tim Garrison's excellent first year leading our gymnastics program, we are fortunate to have strong leadership throughout our 22 sports.
Serving as an example for what we want our coaches to be is Don Weber. For the past 28 years, Don has led our track and field and cross country programs with character and dedication and I felt a mixture of sadness and gratitude as I talked with him about his decision to retire. Don has been a vital part of making the job he left such an attractive one, but more importantly, he has done so much to enrich the lives of the young people he worked with. We thank him and wish him and his family the best.
The kind of leadership that Weber embodied is so important because, as a department, we measure ourselves first and foremost by the way our student-athletes develop as both competitors and people. On the field, the honors that stars like Anthony Davis, A'dia Mathies, Luis Orta, Greg Ferrucci, Stephanie Klefot, Austin Cousino and so many others have raked in tell me all I need to know about our Wildcats as competitors. Our student-athletes are making memories that will last a lifetime, and none more than Matt Roark. Could you have imagined a wide receiver battling his way back from the bench to a starting role, then ending the Tennessee streak playing quarterback and being carried off the field by fans in the final game of his college career?
Ultimately, our responsibility is to prepare student-athletes for life after college and I am proud of how many Wildcats will have the opportunity to pursue professional careers. Roark will be one of eight Wildcats to enter NFL training camp this summer, while a record nine baseball players were selected in the MLB Draft. Later this month, a record six basketball players are expected to go in the NBA Draft.
Eric Quigley is another student-athlete who is pursuing a professional career. Even if I didn't know the SEC Player of the Year and national runner-up has the talent to do big things on the tennis tour, I would be excited to see what the future holds for one of most impressive young people I have ever had the privilege to watch for four years. He is the most decorated player in the history of our program, but it's his sportsmanship, leadership and service that make him so unique.
The thing is, though, that Eric isn't nearly as unique on our campus as he would be at many other places. During one of the best overall seasons in the history of UK Athletics, our student-athletes logged over 4,000 hours of community service, nearly half a year's worth. They did it while remaining committed in the classroom and achieving a grade-point average of just below 3.0 for both the fall and spring semesters.
It goes without saying that we will never be satisfied with our work, because the moment we do will be the moment our competition surpasses us. I hope fans continue to demand greatness in all that this program does, because that's a major reason for our success, a major reason why we are UK.
What I am asking you to do is to be thankful for what we have and for who we are. As we gear up for another season, I ask you to continue to take pride in calling yourself a Wildcat.
I've been fortunate to be up close for arguably the best season in the history of this athletic department and there are so many memories that will last a long, long time. Men's basketball's national championship and the unbelievable season that proceeded it sticks out, but 2011-12 was a seemingly endless parade of incredible performances and unforgettable finishes, so much so that I couldn't possibly pick just one.
However, that's exactly what I'm asking you to do.
We want to know your favorite moment from this year in UK Athletics and we want to hear some details. Were you at the event in person? Were you watching on television? Who was with you? How did you react?
Tweet your responses with the hashtag #myUKmoment and we will retweet some of the best from @UKAthleticsNews over the next day or so. You can also post your response as a comment on this post.
The national title will of course be a popular choice, but we want some diversity too. Baseball, volleyball, football, women's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball and all of our 22 sports, we want to hear them all.
Don't limit yourself to games either. If you met a UK student-athlete or coach or head coach this year or took part in a "C-A-T-S, CATS! CATS! CATS!" chant in a random foreign country, we'd love to hear it too. We want to know what made you most proud to be a Wildcat this year.
Oh yeah, and if it's too hard to narrow it down, feel free to tweet more than one.
At the time, Kentucky was lurking at No. 8, with two top-40 prospects (Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley) in the fold. UCLA was at No. 10, as Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams were the only ones committed to the Bruins.
Barring another program picking up two five-star players, Arizona looked destined for the No. 1 spot.
Unfortunately for Miller and the Wildcats, that's exactly what happened - with both Kentucky and UCLA.
Perhaps he is not quite a legend in his sport yet, but he is a deity in the state he currently calls home. If John Calipari asked for a flash mob to assemble at Rupp Arena at noon on Friday, businesses and schools would have to shut down. If he said he liked purple tulips, they'd arrive at his doorstep by the truckload.
That's why Mitch Barnhart -- or whoever is the Kentucky athletic director when Calipari calls it quits -- has the toughest job in college basketball.
And even though he wasn't quite ready to buy a home in the Big Easy, there's a good chance he'll be the one heading to the podium when commissioner David Stern announces the first pick of the draft.
With his athleticism and game-changing defense, Davis helped Kentucky win a national championship in his lone college season. Now he's poised to join Bulls star Derrick Rose as the second Chicago product in five years to be taken with the No. 1 pick.
It's likely that by June 28, the night of the draft, Jones will have fulfilled both missions. He already helped hang UK's eighth national championship banner in April and, based on the latest projections, Jones will be an NBA lottery pick -- a distinction bestowed on the first 14 selections -- in a little more than two weeks.
"Oh, yeah," Calipari said. "We had a good idea where he would have gone last year, and he's in a better position. He knew he wasn't ready to go, so he helped himself. He came back and now he's mature. He helped himself, no question."
In a one-on-one interview with KyForward sports editor Jon Hale, Calipari took time from a satellite basketball camp at Campbell County Middle School to talk about his future at UK, his scheduling philosophy, the NBA draft, next year's team and a host of other topics.
After 34 years on the UK cross country track and field staff, the last 28 as head coach, Weber has retired.
"For pretty much a full year, unless I was really occupied with a task, I couldn't help this running through my head," Weber said. "And I didn't want even the possibility of 'I might not be here' to leak out, and the complications that would cause. So I pretty much kept it to myself."
Patrick isn't coming into Kentucky making any big boastful statements like I'm going to be the man from day one. But he does come in with a perfect attitude about what his ability brings to the table.
"Yes sir. Any, being the competitive person that I am, I'm not going into go into a situation and put 50% effort into it. My goal is to get the starting quarterback job. It's been that since I, a year ago since I committed. I'm going to go down there and whatever I possibly can so that on September 2nd, I'm the starting quarterback against Louisville."
Woods, the former UK point guard, has been Morehead State's coach almost a month. In that time, he's spoken to alumni groups in Maysville and Ashland. He participated in a fund-raiser Saturday, two days after giving the keynote speech to a Morehead Chamber of Commerce event.
Of the 25 or so interviews he's given, Woods talks of building on the success of his predecessor, Donnie Tyndall, who made Morehead State a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament.
DeMarcus Cousins believes he can do this. Actually, he believes he will do this: Dominate the competition during Team USA's training session early next month in Las Vegas. Impress coach Mike Krzyzewski. Defy the odds, overcome the skeptics, and convince USA Basketball czar Jerry Colangelo to slip him a plane ticket to the 2012 London Games.
Right-hander Alex Meyer served up his best performance as a professional with six innings of shutout baseball Tuesday night, allowing just two hits. Meyer struck out five Hickory Crawdads and walked just one in a 4-0 Hagerstown victory in a rain-shortened affair at Municipal Stadium.
Weber tells Maloney that he considered the possibility of stepping down throughout the season before informing Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart of his ultimate decision last month. In spite of some of the unknowns that come out of his retirement, Weber said he is "dead-certain that this is the right thing to do for Kentucky track."
That doesn't mean saying goodbye will be easy for Weber or the student-athletes with whom he worked so closely:
Josh Nadzam, who came to UK as a walk-on and developed into a Southeastern Conference point-scorer in the mile, dropped by Tuesday to see Weber in the field house.
"Thanking him for the opportunity that he gave me and just how great of a mentor he's been to me," Nadzam said. "Helping me develop as an athlete but, most importantly, as a man. Just helping with so many different facets in my life that expanded, way more than just track and field and running."
Weber said he is fearful of what September -- cross country season -- will feel like without coaching duties.
He said he'll miss "watching people really work at exploring their possibilities; getting better."
In the end, Weber is sure of the decision he made:
His vacancy should attract many job applicants.
In addition to an upgraded Shively Sports Center and a premier indoor facility in Nutter, a new outdoor track is near completion. Stands, lights, press box and storage facilities are in place, as is the asphalt oval. The major task left is to pour the Beynon synthetic surface, expected to take place in mid-July.
As much as he would like to have had the new outdoor facility at his service, he said this is the right time for a change.
"I kind of see this as just passing the baton. I've carried the baton for a long, long time here," he said. " ... There are some significant possibilities here. And it just seemed like, where I was and the stage of my career, where the university is and where the athletics department is in terms of all the resources we have for track, now was the time to do it."
Jon Hale from KyForward.com spent some time with John Calipari while he was on the road for one of his satellite camps. The interview is being released on a three-part series of videos, the first of which was posted on Wednesday morning.
Hale is the sports editor at KyForward.com and does an excellent job covering Kentucky athletics and more. Make sure to check it out if you don't already.
Last week, official measurements for the 60 prospects who attended the NBA Combine in Chicago were released, but we didn't yet know how the aspiring draftees stacked up athletically. That changed on Tuesday.
Though five of the attendees - including Anthony Davis - elected to sit running, jumping and lifting drills out, we still have the results of 55 players to peruse from Draft Express, including five former Kentucky Wildcats. There are some interesting and impressive numbers all over the place, but let's take a look at how the five UK guys measured up: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Vertical jump - 35.5 inches Vertical reach - 11 feet, 8 inches No-step vertical - 32 inches No-step vertical reach - 11 feet, 4.5 inches 3/4 court sprint - 3.16 seconds (3rd among all participants) Lane agility drill - 11.77 seconds Bench press reps (185 lbs.) - 6
A couple quick observations. First, Teague is clearly very athletic. His jumping numbers are off the charts and he's among the fastest and quickest of all the players in attendances. Also, Miller is - as most of us who watched him for four years know - sneakily athletic. His vertical was actually better than MKG's, though Kidd-Gilchrist was one of the fastest players, which is no surprise considering his prowess in the open floor.
On Tuesday, Don Weber announced his retirement after 28 years as head coach of UK track and field and cross country. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For 34 years, Don Weber has been an institution at the University of Kentucky. After running track and cross country at UK and gaining experience elsewhere, he returned to Lexington in 1978 as an assistant. Six years later, he became the head track and field and cross country coach.
On Tuesday, Weber announced his retirement. Over his 28-year tenure, Weber's athletes earned 10 individual NCAA championships, 225 All-America honors, 92 Southeastern Conference individual titles and one NCAA team championship in women's cross country.
"Thirty-four years, that's a long time, but looking back on it, it doesn't seem like a long time at all, something you love to do every day, so it was never a job," Weber said. "Coaching track at the University of Kentucky, there wasn't much longevity to it, prior to me. I didn't think too much about it (in 1978). I was pretty much in the present. I just wanted to coach here, I'd been given the opportunity and I was 100 percent content with that."
Weber spent his last 10 years under the leadership of Mitch Barnhart. The Athletics Director credited Weber for where the program is today and where it will go.
"Don Weber has served his University with nobility and great integrity," said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. "He has coached numerous All-Americans and national champions. He is a critical component, not only of the past, but also of the future of Kentucky track. He has been vital in the development of our facilities at the Nutter Field House, the Shively Sports Center and the new track which is nearing completion and will benefit our program for years to come. We thank him and wish the best for Don and his family in his retirement."
Weber plans to help the new UK coach transition into the job as well as open the new outdoor track.
"In my mind, I've equated this to passing the baton," Weber said. "I've run a lot of laps - 34 years - and now it's time to give it to a new person and let them run with it. However, it's with mixed emotions, with all these new facilities, the new Shively Sports Center, the new track. It's a very exciting time and I think a new coach can make hay out of that and enhance the program here pretty dramatically." Read the complete release on Weber's retirement here
If you're a Kentucky fan on Twitter, you've come across #WeAreUK.
The hashtag started organically among fans as a way to show pride in being a Wildcat and quickly spread from there. As this past athletic season wore on, student-athletes, athletics department staffers and even head coaches were using it frequently in their tweets.
Looking ahead to next year, it was already going to have a strong social media presence among those associated with UK. But now, #WeAreUK is going to be at the center of a grassroots campaign that will welcome the 2012 football season. The fans that got the hashtag started in the first place will play an instrumental role.
This week, UK Athletics unveiled a webpage that will serve as the online hub for #WeAreUK. Tweets and Instagram photos bearing the #WeAreUK hashtag will be pooled and many posted directly on www.ukathletics.com/weareuk for the world to see. Serving as the official ambassador will be Wildcat, UK's mascot. On Twitter, @The_Wildcat will notify fans their tweet is being used. The Hub will also allow fans to connect through Facebook, including each fan's profile picture in the UK fan mosaic. The mosaic will serve as the foundation for the 2012 schedule poster and other materials.
"I think the best thing is to start tweeting and keep tweeting because you never know," assistant athletics director of marketing and licensing Nathan Schwake said. "I think it's a pretty unique chance to get out there for an individual fan."
And it won't stop online.
Over the summer months, billboards featuring fans' tweets will begin popping up around Lexington and the Bluegrass - and a few already have. As the season approaches, expect the game day experience at Commonwealth Stadium to have a #WeAreUK flavor as well.
"I would just say keep your eyes open," Schwake said. "There's not a lot that we do that won't feature that."
Head coach Joker Phillips knows about the campaign and is excited about it, but with players just now arriving on campus for summer classes, they will be learning about #WeAreUK along with fans. Schwake has little doubt they will embrace it wholeheartedly.
"I think the players have used it on their own and hopefully, even if we didn't say anything to them, they would see this happening just like a regular person would," Schwake said. "We certainly want them to be a part of it and hopefully they'll have fun with it."
The beauty of #WeAreUK is the unknown. UK's marketing department has sketched out what the first weeks of it look like, but with a truly fan-driven campaign, what happens after is anybody's guess.
"When you're doing a campaign based on people's tweets, it's going to evolve," Schwake said. "I think sometimes we are going to be inspired to do something specific. I don't know where this is going to go. We're three months from our first game, so there's a lot that can happen."
Randall Cobb was a second-round pick in 2011 after a record-setting three-year UK career. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Randall Cobb didn't waste any time making a name for himself during his rookie year with the Green Bay Packers, scoring a pair of touchdowns in his professional debut. He would go on to catch 25 passes for 375 yards in his first season while also becoming one of the top return men in the NFL.
Gary Horton of ESPN.com sees even bigger things in store for the do-it-all former Wildcat.
Horton named his top 10 projected breakout performers in both conferences and Cobb is at the top of the list. The article can be read by ESPN Insiders only, but here is what he has to say about Cobb:
1. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers He was a dynamic return specialist as a rookie and showed a lot of explosiveness in the open field. He caught 25 passes in 2011, and his quickness and yards-after-catch ability are off the charts. But more importantly for a young player, he had few drops. With so many weapons in this spread passing game, it will be tough to give Cobb any more than single coverage from the opposition's third- or fourth-best corner.
UK's six eligible players will look to set a record by all being selected in the first round of the June 26 NBA Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
It seems like yesterday that Kentucky was cutting down the nets in the Big Easy, but the six Wildcats bound for the next level are just two-and-a-half weeks from learning where they will play next season.
Both rounds of the 2012 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 26 and Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are all expected to hear their names called. In fact, they are expected to hear their names called in that order.
With the NBA Combine now in the books and teams narrowing their lists, it's getting to be crunch time for all prospects. The best chances to impress will now come in interviews and individual workouts. With the draft so close at hand, let's take a look at the six and where they stand right now according to experts.
Not too much mystery here. Though the Hornets can't yet say it publicly, Davis is bound for the Big Easy. He did nothing to hurt himself with his measurements at last week's combine and maintains the strong grip on the top overall pick that he's had for quite a while now. Barring a shocking trade, Davis will head to New Orleans to form a new young core with Eric Gordon.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ESPN.com projection - No. 2 to Charlotte Bobcats Draft Express projection - No. 3 to Washington Wizards
This is where things begin to get interesting. Davis is perceived to be a notch above a second tier of prospects that includes MKG, Bradley Beal (Florida), Thomas Robinson (Kansas) and Andre Drummond (UConn). All four could go anywhere between second and seventh, with names like Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) and Jeremy Lamb (UConn) also creeping into the conversation.
Everything begins with the Bobcats. Will they elect to build around a big like Drummond or Robinson? Will they go with a sweet-shooting two guard in Beal? Is Kidd-Gilchrist's blend of athleticism, defense character and leadership the way to go? Could they trade down? Regardless, MKG can likely rest assured he'll fall no lower than fifth.
No. 3 to the Wizards is an interesting landing place. A personality like his could be just what the doctor ordered for a young team looking to transform its culture. Besides, can you imagine John Wall and MKG streaking down the floor on a fast break? At No. 4, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a young point guard in Kyrie Irving that Kidd-Gilchrist considers one of his close friends from his high school days. At No. 5, Kidd-Gilchrist would play with another former UK star in DeMarcus Cousins, as well as veteran Chuck Hayes. Terrence Jones ESPN.com projection - No. 7 to Golden State Warriors Draft Express projection - No. 14 to Houston Rockets
How's that for a difference of opinion? Jones has been somewhat of a riser of late and seems to have boosted his late-lottery stock. According to pretty much every expert, the Warriors have significant interest at seven and will bring Jones in for a workout this week with fellow likely lottery picks in Perry Jones III and Tyler Zeller. That workout report comes from Sam Amick of SI.com, who also says that the Kings are "intrigued" by Jones at No. 5.
Of course, trading down and then taking Jones is always a possibility, but it's good news he's getting that kind of interest regardless. Jones, for obvious reasons, is a fascinating prospect. Players with his size - 6-foot-9.5 and 252 pounds at the combine - don't normally possess the ability to play both forward positions.
As a side note unrelated to Jones, I find it absolutely amazing how many of the players in contention to be selected in the lottery and first round played against UK over the past two seasons. In ESPN.com's latest mock draft, eight of the 11 non-Wildcats projected in the lottery faced UK at least once in 2010-11 or 2011-12 (Beal, Barnes, Robinson, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb and Tyler Zeller). Moreover, six of those players faced UK multiple times. All told, those eight guys played UK 16 times over the last two seasons. Outside of the lottery, eight of the remaining 15 non-UK players in the first round also played UK at least once in the last two seasons (Terrence Ross, Arnett Moultrie, Kendall Marshall, Moe Harkless, Quincy Miller, Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Royce White).
So, not only has UK fielded an unprecedented level of talent during the John Calipari era, the Wildcats have faced the best players in the nation as well.
Marquis Teague ESPN.com projection - No. 20 to Denver Nuggets Draft Express projection - No. 25 to Memphis Grizzlies
When you get to the late first round in these mock draft, it probably makes as much sense to look at where the players are projected versus who is selecting them. Therefore, you can look at those projections and feel relatively confident that Teague will go somewhere between 17 and 25.
The young point guard, was a subject of much conversation during last week's combine broadcast. Chad Ford said on a few occasions he believed Teague could end up being the best point guard to come out of this draft and his fellow experts did not disagree. He made the case that he was being undervalued and I'd have to agree. The first impressions he made back in November and December are likely hurting him still, but Teague was a radically different player down the stretch as UK fans can attest.
Doron Lamb ESPN.com projection - Second round (No mock draft, but ranked as No. 34 prospect) Draft Express projection - No. 33 to Cleveland Cavaliers
In somewhat of a reprisal of the 2011-12 season, Lamb is flying under the radar compared with his Kentucky teammates. The guard who led all players in scoring during the national championship game is trying to make a push to be selected in the first round with his shooting and ability to play both backcourt positions. Teams like the Memphis Grizzlies - where Lamb will work out this week - that are looking for outside shooting could give him long looks.
Darius Miller ESPN.com projection - Second round (No mock draft, but ranked as No. 46 prospect) Draft Express projection - No. 35 to Golden State Warriors
Miller will actually be competing with Lamb as both make their cases for the first round. According to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, Miller was impressive at the combine and boosted his stock. It's not as easy task for a college senior to find his way into the first round with the way NBA teams draft - only three of the 30 players in Draft Express' first round are seniors - but whichever team lands Miller will be grabbing a guy who knows how to play a role on a great team. Good teams drafting late in the first round like the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls will surely take notice of that.
Raymond Dykstra finished sixth in javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. (Josh McCoy, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, freshman track and field athlete Raymond Dykstra finished sixth overall in javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He was close to his personal-best distance with a throw 74.4m, best among any freshman at the event.
"I actually wasn't going to do track and field," Dykstra said Thursday at Drake Stadium. "I got cut from the varsity soccer team when I was in grade nine and I said I wasn't going to do athletics. As I was sitting in one of my classes one day, the track coach came up to me and said that she had heard that, in past years, I had been on the relay team and I had done fairly well. She said, 'Would you like to come out to my relay team?' I said, 'Sure.'"
Dykstra enjoyed his time with the relay team, but during practices, another event kept catching his eye. Finally he asked if he could just try the event himself.
"It was late in the season, but in a couple of practices, I saw one fellow throwing the javelin," Dykstra said. "I asked my coach if I could go try the javelin and she said 'Sure, you can go try.'"
As it turns out, the javelin was meant to be for Dykstra.
In the words of Kyle Tucker from the Louisville Courier-Journal, it's a Big Blue Reunion in Chicago this week.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are together again in the Windy City participating in the NBA Combine. On Thursday, players were evaluated by league brass ahead of the NBA Draft, which will take place later this month.
Tucker, along with a number of other local media types, was in attendance on Thursday as all six players were made available for interviews. There's a bunch of great coverage floating around, so here are a few links:
Not that you need any reminding, but Kentucky won the national championship just over three months ago. It may have been over 90 days since the Wildcat cut down the nets in New Orleans, La., but experts are not done dissecting just how special John Calipari's 2011-12 UK team was.
The lion's share of such attention has been focused on the combination of youth and sheer talent the Cats' possessed, but on Thursday, Luke Winn of SI.com looked elsewhere. He wanted to know whether this year's team was the most balanced title winner of its era.
The verdict? Yes indeed.
1. Kentucky 2011-12
Top Six in Rotation (Poss%): Marquis Teague (21.1), Anthony Davis (19.2), Doron Lamb (18.2), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (21.4), Terrence Jones (22.3), Darius Miller (18.7)
So there you have it: Kentucky '12 is the most balanced title team of the past 16 years -- and potentially much longer than that, if the data were available to prove it. To have top-two draft picks using just 19.2 and 21.4 percent of possessions is not in any way normal. This is what's more typical: The No. 1 pick in 2011, Kyrie Irving, used 27.2 percent of Duke's possessions, and the No. 2 pick Derrick Williams, used 28.7 percent of Arizona's. The No. 1 pick in 2010, Kentucky's John Wall, had a usage rage of 27.3, and the No. 2 pick, Ohio State's Evan Turner, used 34.3.
Taking things a step further, the second-place team happened to be UK's last national champion:
2. Kentucky 1997-98
Top Six in Rotation (Poss%): Wayne Turner (19.2), Scott Padgett (20.1), Jeff Sheppard (21.7), Allen Edwards (19.4), Nazr Mohammed (24.1), Heshimu Evans (20.5)
Tubby Smith's first Wildcats team was a classic, no-star crew, lacking a Lottery Pick or a first-team All-America rep. The only champs since to fit the same, unsung profile are 2009-10 Duke, whose best player, Jon Scheyer, was a second-team All-American and a second-round pick in the NBA draft.
The next step in six former Wildcats' journey to the NBA will be taken on Thursday and Friday, when the NBA holds its annual draft combine. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller will all participate in the event.
Players will be measured and tested in front of league brass. Additionally, they will go through drills with one another, though reports say that Davis and some other top prospects will skip out on any skills drills that involve running out shooting.
Regardless, there figures to be plenty of interesting stuff from the proceedings, so I'll do my best to keep you updated even though I did not make the trip to Chicago. Like you, I'll be watching when coverage begins at 10 a.m. on ESPNU and ESPN3. Also, a handful of our local Kentucky media have made the trip to my favorite city, so I'll provide links to much of what they write.
1. Kentucky: No school in the country has as loyal and passionate a fan base -- the Big Blue fans will camp out for practice. Kentucky's job pays as much if not more than any other job in the country. Local talent in the state isn't an issue since UK recruits nationally. There have been blips in recruiting, but that was on the coach, not on the school. If the right coach is in place, Kentucky can and should be in contention for any player it wants, regardless of locale. Rupp Arena could use some more frills (and will get plenty in the near future), but it has history and is as loud as any arena. The Joe Craft Center is a top-notch practice facility. And the Wildcats are coveted by tournaments and television executives looking for a ratings winner.
UK, which just wrapped up a record-setting, 45-win season, can expect to lose juniors Brian Adams and Luke Maile. Both were selected in the eighth round, high enough to all but guarantee both will sign with their teams.
Calipari mildly confesses he's happy he doesn't have to deal with being asked why he hasn't won a national title. Got one now, after this past season. And he could care less who wants to take a pot shot at how he won it -- with an influx of freshmen on a yearly basis who, thanks to the NCAA and NBA rules, must stay one year then can bolt for the pros.
"I've said the same thing over and over," he said. "It's not my rule and I don't like it at all. I even have solutions for it that I've put out publicly. But the national media want to play that negative card. They don't want to put out there what I'm saying."
After introducing his new fantasy camp for fans at a news conference Tuesday, Calipari opened it up for more general questions. It didn't take long for the topic of scheduling and the Hoosiers to come up. Calipari answered the initial IU question with a 585-word rant -- and he was hardly done after that.
"Schedule for America!" he said he hears from angry fans. "I'm not scheduling for America. I'm scheduling for us."
Opinions vary somewhat among the scouts interviewed this week. Davis' lack of experience doesn't give scouts much to evaluate. He played just one season at Kentucky and was a 6-1 shooting guard only four years ago.
But two longtime NBA scouts say Davis will develop into a perennial All-Star and could become a franchise player if he continues to develop. Both
say he's far more likely to boom than bust.
"I don't think (being an All-Star) is too much to anticipate or consider," the Eastern Conference scout said. "He has tremendous physical ability and such a great work ethic. He has a tremendous upside."
Pitcher Chanda Bell, from the University of Kentucky where she was the only pitcher in school history to strike out more than 200 in each of her four seasons, made her first appearance as a member of the Bandits after being the only pitcher chosen from 44 total recruits.
"Saturday, the recruits played against the Bloomington Lady Hearts (against SIU players Katie Bertelsen and Allie VadeBoncouer)," Bell said. "My coach had been contacted by the Bandits, and after I saw I hadn't got picked up in the draft and I wanted to continue playing I said, 'Heck, yes, I will tryout for the defending champs.'
Despite Rondo's befuddling performance, the Celtics managed to battle back to take the lead until the Heat responded with a 9-0 run to take a 78-72 advantage with 6:17 left.
It was then that Rondo decided to use his unusually large hands to place his imprint on the game. It began with hustle, when he didn't quit on the ball after Wade swatted Brandon Bass's dunk attempt, sending the crowd into the frenzy. Rondo ignored the potential momentum swing, leapt high and tapped the loose ball to Mickael Pietrus behind the 3-point line. Pietrus calmly converted to cut the deficit to 3.
There haven't been many Oklahomans play college baseball at Kentucky.
No, not before I got there, but then we had a couple. There was another kid from Tulsa the year after I left that was there for two years that I hosted on his recruiting trip (Tulsa Union's Gunner Glad) and then there was another kid from Owasso, Kevin Thulin, who went there. I split my time now between the Tulsa area and in Lexington, Ky.
Williams' troubles might give Woodyard the chance to have much more than a rotational role in Denver's 4-3 scheme next season, especially early on.
Woodyard, whose role has increased every year in Denver since the Broncos signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2008, parlayed his outstanding 2011 season into a two-year, $3.5 million contract over the winter.
Brian Adams was the first UK player selected in the 2012 MLB Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
On Monday and Tuesday, Major League Baseball held the first 15 rounds of its annual First-Year Player Draft. With the success of the Kentucky baseball team in 2012, it should come as no surprise that a few Wildcats have already been picked. Brian Adams was the first Cat off the board, going in the eighth round (255th overall) to the San Diego Padres. The junior outfielder oozes potential with his 6-foot-4 frame, power and speed. A testament to UK's outfield depth, Adams started just eight games in 2012 as he once again split time between football and baseball.
The draft will resume on Wednesday at noon ET with rounds 16-40. UK seniors Michael Williams, Thomas McCarthy and Alex Phillips will be hoping to be chosen, as well as junior Jerad Grundy. You can follow the draft here.
Grundy, if chosen, and fellow underclassmen Adams, Maile and Rogers will have decisions to make before the August 15, the deadline for clubs to negotiate with draft picks. Should any of those players not sign, they will have the option to return to UK next season. With the new "bonus pool" rules going into effect this year, teams have less money to spend on draft picks, which could make for a greater chance of senior-year returns.
Regardless of what happens, congratulations go to the players already and soon-to-be selected.
John Calipari's busy summer will including coaching the Dominican Republic National Team and attending the NBA Draft. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Basketball truly never stops for John Calipari. Whether it's the college season in the Bluegrass, preparing players for the NBA Draft or coaching the Dominican Republic National Team this summer, Calipari usually always has his hand in something. He would get too bored otherwise. He even said as much himself Tuesday afternoon.
That's the way Calipari has always been, however. Whether in his first two stops at Massachusetts or Memphis, or now in his fourth year at Kentucky, Coach Cal works tirelessly with those around him to set himself and his program apart from the rest. That is all-inclusive.
Tuesday was the first time since five of Kentucky's underclassmen players declared themselves eligible for this year's NBA Draft that Calipari had talked to the local. And he had plenty to talk about.
Calipari reiterates traditionally non-traditional stance for Kentucky basketball
Neutral sites, new non-conference opponents and triple-headers were the subjects of much of Calipari's message to the media and the fans. As the college athletics evolves, so must the programs in which they are composed of, and the head coach of Kentucky is way out in front of the curve.
"We're just trying to separate from the pack," said Calipari. "Whatever we do, (Executive Associate Athletics Director) DeWayne (Peevy) and I, we'll sit down and say, 'How do we just keep separating?' There are some things we're thinking about doing, if I said them to you right now, some of you would be very angry, because we're going to do some new things that are different that you're going to look at and say, 'When did you have the time to think this stuff up?' "
Being the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky is no easy task, but for Calipari, he continues to shine in the spotlight. That is what he has and will continue to try and accomplish for his basketball program. In order to do that and take this program to new heights, the things that he and his staff do are all for the betterment of the University, the athletic program, and his basketball team.
Kentucky basketball is the "gold standard" and it is clear that he would like to keep it that way, even if his actions and words do not always appeal to everyone. Even if long-standing rivalries have to end.
"Bobby Knight decided that he thought the series (between Kentucky and Indiana) should be neutral, and when it was neutral it was huge," said Calipari. "Battle of the flags, and all of those others things. And he was the first one that made it neutral."
"I liked the idea because we had to move someone (on our schedule) neutral. Someone was going to have to go neutral. And it was logical it was (Indiana). We couldn't really find a place in Kentucky, so to make it more beneficial to them, we told them we'll play two years in your state."
Of course, the two sides could not come to an agreement, and at the moment, there will be an Indiana vs. Kentucky series in men's basketball no more.
While rivalries are important, national championships are paramount. And that is why when Calipari makes the schedule each year, especially in looking forward to how the game is ever changing with non-conference match ups and tournament play in mind, he sets dates with a Kentucky-first mentality.
"I'm scheduling for us," said Calipari. "I like the fact that in 1948 Adolph Rupp played eight neutral games. I like the fact that Rick Pitino played five and six neutral games. And so did Tubby Smith. It prepares you for the NCAA Tournament. The one thing that's changed... we're one of a few that can go to football stadiums regular season."
Why would they do that?
"Because we can," said Calipari. "And no one else can."
He may be right. Maybe other programs can't do the things that Kentucky does. But it has always been that way. Kentucky continues to be different, and in that, they have always been traditionally non-traditional.
"I sat with Coach (Joe B.) Hall at dinner last night," said Calipari. "He said what Coach Rupp did was play eight neutral games around the country to make the program a national program, and from '48 on, that's what it's been. He did that. I looked at him and said, 'It was non-traditional, wasn't it?' Coach Hall said, 'Yes it was.' "
Six former Wildcats prepare for NBA Draft
As is customary for Kentucky basketball teams in the last three years, several players from last year's 2012 national championship team will be eligible in the 2012 NBA Draft this summer. Darius Miller, a senior, as well as underclassmen Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are all likely to hear their names called on June 28 by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Calipari feels very confident that all six players will become NBA players next fall, but where the chips will fall is anyone's guess. But even Calipari feels pretty confident that his National Player of the Year Anthony Davis has a pretty decent chance of being the first one called.
"I think it's pretty clear Anthony will be the one pick," Calipari said. "From there I think Michael will be next, and then I think Terrence will be next. How does it play out with those other three? I think all three of them are in great shape. They've proven themselves, now they've got to do it again.
While the championship run has given his players great national exposure and plenty of opportunities for scouts to salivate over their potential, there is still plenty of work to be done and impressions to be made. Calipari likens each workout that his former players have done to a job interview, and only there will the most important impression be made.
"That workout is an interview," Calipari said. "That's what it is. That's your interview right there. You're going to go in that gym, and you're interviewing against five other players. Is your interview better than their interview?"
Regardless of where the dominoes fall and wherever the destinations for these former Wildcats may be, there will be, once again, a Big Blue presence at this year's NBA Draft.
Calipari finds comfort level with new crop of players
North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow did not play a minute last season. But that does not mean he didn't play a role in that team's success. In fact, Calipari and Marquis Teague have often credited Harrow's daily presence in practice on the scout team for Teague's continued improvement during the course of the season.
Due to transfer rules, Harrow was forced to redshirt during the 2011-12 season, but the point guard knows what to expect when it becomes his turn for the 2012-13 schedule. Calipari's track record with NBA-level point guards is unmatched, and Harrow hopes to be just the next in line in Calipari's illustrious point guard lineage.
With a full season's worth of practice under Coach Cal, Harrow will have a leg up on what those other young point guards before had. This gives Calipari a sense of comfort in knowing what to expect from the similar, yet unique point guard.
"I'm happy because I have a feel for Ryan," said Calipari. "Not only does he have a feel, I have a feel for him. And I think he's going to be fine. He's different than all the other point guards I had. How does he compare? Well how did Marquis (Teague) compare to those other guys? They were really good; he's really good. I don't know what to tell you. They were all different."
But this will be Harrow's third year in a collegiate basketball program. Most of the point guards that came before him were entering Calipari's system without a second of college experience. But that doesn't mean Harrow is a finished product.
"Ryan may be a little bit more of a shooter like Brandon was," said Calipari. "And he's not the physical, tough bulldog that Marquis Teague was, but he shoots it better. The way we play, he's gotten tougher but he's going to have to continue. He's going to have to get stronger. But that's why he came here."
Harrow will be joined by yet another top recruiting class comprised of Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein.
This summer, thanks to a new rule change that gives coaches more access to their athletes, Calipari will be able to learn more about his latest haul of basketball talent with individual workouts. Although just two one-hour sessions a week is hardly enough to get a good feel of his players, it certainly beats the alternative.
"Think about what I'm saying: two one-hour workouts a week," Calipari. "Let me say this, it's better than no workouts all summer. I'm more concerned about them getting in great condition, physically getting stronger. We'll put in the dribble-drive, but the reality of it is the way you get better is every day you're working at it, then a day off and you come back every day. This is like sprinkled in. It will help some, but it's not going to have the impact everybody thinks."
Dominican National Team hopeful for Olympic run under Calipari
In a bit more of a limited role than he held last year, Calipari is holding camp at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky. as the Domincan team hopes to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
Calipari was named head coach of the Domincan team last season as it competed in the 2011 FIBA Americas Tournament, a tournament he felt it had a better opportunity in. This time around, he believes it will be a difficult task to lead this team to its very first appearance in the Olympics. But it's a challenge he gladly accepts.
"It's another challenge of trying to get a team together in a short period of time," said Calipari. "And this one's hard. I mean, last time, we had a chance to go to the Olympics, and we came up just a few buckets short."
While the competition may be stiffer, the fact that Calipari is in his second year in coaching this group may give this team a bit of an advantage compared to last year.
"It's going to be really hard. This will be way harder than the stuff we did in Argentina," said Calipari. "The good news is, I think we're a little bit ahead because I have a better feel for what I'm doing with this group. Now does that translate, I don't know."
Calipari notified the Dominican team that he would have a more limited role if he came back to coach them this year due to other conflicts and priorities, but the players called him and requested that he come back to train and coach them any way.
"(They) will leave on the 15th to go to Puerto Rico. I will not go to Puerto Rico," said Calipari. "I'll probably go down for one or two days, then I'll go to the NBA Draft. After the draft, I'll meet them in Caracas. I'm not gonna be the 24/7 that I was a year ago (with the DR team). I explained that to them, and they still wanted me to do this. We'll have them mostly down in Puerto Rico, and Rod Strickland will have them down there too."
While this may likely be the last year that Calipari will coach the Dominican national team, he has not ruled out coaching another national team in the future: the United States of America.
Duke head coach and current USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has said that this will be his last season coaching the USA team, leaving an opening for the position. Calipari said he would feel honored to be considered, but knows full well there will be several other strong candidates for the job.
"There are a lot of qualified coaches and I don't think any of us coaches would say no," said Calipari. "To have an opportunity to coach for your country is the ultimate honor, but I wouldn't be mad (if I didn't) because there are quality coaches out there who are probably more qualified than me. Obviously, that would be quite an honor."
John Calipari was asked about a number of summer topics, ranging from the NBA Draft to next year's team, and he had plenty to say. Ryan Suckow will have a notebook from the proceedings later this afternoon, but you can watch Coach Cal for yourself below:
On Tuesday, John Calipari announced details about his annual Basketball Fantasy Experience. The event is open to 80 participants age 35 years or older from September 13-15, 2012.
The event will allow campers to experience for a few days what playing for Coach Cal at Kentucky is like. They will go through real-life team activities, play a game at Rupp Arena and attend a dinner at Calipari's house. Proceeds from the camp will go to Calipari's foundation. In addition, Calipari said he wants to find a way to work with the University to donate some of the proceeds to the fund for former Wildcats returning to school.
Coach Cal has never run an event like this before, saying there are only a handful of places that could pull it off. He also said it will expose new types of people to UK and hopefully encourage them to get more involved in the future.
With the lottery order set, attention now shifts to the NBA Draft, which will be held on June 28. Later this week, all six former Kentucky Wildcats hoping to be chosen will participate in the NBA Combine and there figures to be plenty of interesting stuff from that.
In the mean time, DraftExpress.com is posting a series of workout interviews with prospects, including Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones. Take a look:
With baseball's NCAA Tournament run coming to an end, so has another season in UK Athletics.
It started with women's soccer and ended with
baseball. In between were freshman debuts, senior farewell, exhibitions
and even a national championship game. There were record-breaking performances, program firsts, returns to prominence and, of course, No. 8.
In a clear indication of how much different the summer months are going to be, I had time this morning to go back and count how many UK games I personally attended.
The verdict? 115.
The season began back in late August, so that means I was at nearly 13 games per month, or one every 2.35 days. But for the next 75 days or so, there will be none. For now, I'm grateful for the chance to relax, but I imagine it won't be long before withdrawal sets in.
Of course, there will be plenty to do in between. We have plans for a summer series we are still hashing out and knowing John Calipari, you can rest assured he'll have something up his sleeve to keep us all busy before fall camp rolls around for football.
All that's to say that things will be a little slower around here during June and July. We will still be posting regular content, but the features, live blogs, videos and photos you've gotten used to will be a bit more sparse.
Anyway, thank you for helping to make this season, my first working full time at UK, so memorable.
UK was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with a 3-2 loss to Kent State on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
GARY, Ind. -- No matter the results in the NCAA Tournament, 2012 was a special year for Kentucky baseball. To go from an eight-win team in the Southeastern Conference to contending for the league title until the regular season's final day is enough of a testament to the strides takes by the Wildcats.
UK entered postseason play with the ingredients for a deep run, ingredients that were on display over four games played at the Gary Regional this weekend.
Pitching depth, check. Offensive balance, check. Sound defense, check. Resilience, check, and then some.
Even so, it wasn't enough. With a string of almosts and a pair of one-run losses to Kent State, the second by a 3-2 score on Sunday, UK's season came to a close in dramatic fashion. The Cats were left playing a heartbreaking game of what if, wondering if things would have been different with an extra bounce or call here or there.
"I thought collectively that happened a bunch of times, but it's kind of water under the bridge at this point," junior Luke Maile said. "They played in the same ballpark we did and that's just the way baseball is sometimes."
Playing the second half of a doubleheader following a win in an elimination game against Purdue that set a school record of 45 victories, the Cats fell to the Golden Flashes in a game even closer than the score indicated, if that's possible.
Chandler Shepherd, a freshman starting in a pinch, turned in the best effort of his short college career, carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning and a shutout all the way to the eighth.
"I just knew going into it that I had to throw strikes," Shepherd said. "That's what I tried to do. I knew that I had a great defense behind me, one of the best in the country in my opinion, so I wasn't afraid to throw the ball in the zone."
Meanwhile, the UK offense continually hit balls hard only to have them fall into the gloves of defenders in spacious U.S. Steel Yard. When the Cats did reach base, the Kent State pitchers found a way to either negate them on the base paths or wriggle out of trouble. Continuing a trend from Friday's 21-inning affair, UK left a pair of runners in scoring position in the fourth inning after advancing them to second and third with just one out.
With the way both teams were struggling to score, the game had a distinctly similar feel to the initial matchup between the two squads. When Derek Toadvine reached first base following Joe Koch's single to break up Shepherd's bid for a perfect game, Maile shared the sentiment with his opponent.
"I talked to their second baseman about that when he reached base," Maile said. "I said, 'We better get this over with in 20 tonight.' It was some fun baseball games played this week."
The game remained that way until the eighth inning, when UK fell victim to the ultimate close call in a weekend full of them. Shepherd departed with runners on first and third and one out, lifted for senior Alex Phillips, pitching for the second time on Sunday. Phillips' first pitch to leadoff man Evan Campbell was hit sailing into the Gary, Ind., night toward the right-field corner that had been so unkind to UK all weekend.
Cameron Flynn ran toward the wall, watching as the ball sailed over his head and ricocheted high in the air. First base umpire Ken Durham called it a home run - the first of the Gary Regional - while Flynn and his fellow outfielders argued to no avail. UK was down 3-0 with just six outs left, but would rally in the bottom of the frame.
J.T. Riddle singled, then scored on a drive to center by pinch hitter Jeff Boehm that nearly cleared the wall. Austin Cousino followed with a single and Boehm would score later on a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-2. Maile then stepped in, hitting a ball deep to center that looked and sounded like a go-ahead home run off the ball. Of course, it would be last of countless would-be long balls that turned out to be merely loud outs.
"We hit several balls that would have gone out in our park but so did the other teams," Henderson said. "We probably hit more than them but it goes both ways."
It would be the final time UK seriously threatened and the Wildcats were left reflecting on the season that was, and there was certainly plenty of that to do.
This Regional is enough to think about on its own. It's fairly staggering that the two teams that played the second-longest game in NCAA Tournament history on Friday were the two left standing on Sunday, but it should not be surprising considering the nature of this UK team from the outset.
"I couldn't be more proud to be a part of a team," Maile said. "They way we reacted to all types of adversity this year is really impressive. I'm talking about this weekend but I'm also talking about the whole year."
The season was one of redemption for Henderson and a group of returners - headlined by Maile and Michael "superman" Williams, who caught all 48 innings this weekend.
" I've said on numerous occasions they made a decision that they wanted to have a better experience and I was pleased, motivated, inspired by them all year," Henderson said. "I think Luke Maile and Michael Williams were at the core of that."
"This is a collection of guys," Maile said. "There's leadership all over the place on this team. I've said that since probably November. There's just a lot of good leadership by example and vocally and I couldn't be more proud to have my name next to the guys I played with this year."
Maile and Williams, as well as seniors Thomas McCarthy, Phillips and other draft-eligible juniors, may not be back with next year's team, but the foundation for a bright future has been laid. A year ago, Henderson's future at UK was in doubt, but now he's at the helm of a reenergized program.
"Mitch Barnhart and I had a real personal moment last year after about nine straight losses...You're wondering can you get this thing right," Henderson said. "Our job is to win. I never lost any confidence but sometimes you feel like you're banging your head against the wall. To get a group of kids that not only had this year but has put us in place (for the future), that's a pretty good group coming back."
GARY, Ind. -- Behind winning starting pitcher Corey Littrell and Alex Phillips, who picked up his eighth save, Kentucky once again staved off elimination with a 6-3 win over Purdue.
Littrell (9-2) pitched 7.1 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out seven. He rebounded from a rocky two-run first to settle in and provide crucial innings for his team. His offense overcame the early 2-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning, during which Cameron Flynn had a two-RBI single and Zac Zellers a run-scoring double.
UK advanced to another game against Kent State with the victory, which set a single-season school record for victories. The two teams will match up at 8 p.m. ET.
Below Littrell and head coach Gary Henderson talk about the win and the rematch with the Golden Flashes:
A five-run sixth inning propelled UK to 8-1 win over Valparaiso, staving off elimination in the NCAA Tournament. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
GARY, Ind. - The best-laid plans of Gary Henderson went up in smoke in nearly every way imaginable during an NCAA Tournament-opening loss to Kent State.
Starting pitcher Taylor Rogers' day didn't last past the fourth inning. His previously well-rested bullpen was taxed to the limit in the 21-inning affair, severely damaging Kentucky's prospects of advancing past the regional round. To make things worse, two players off a largely healthy team - Luke Maile and Lucas Witt - went down with hamstring injuries.
The memorably nightmarish loss didn't end until after 9:30 p.m. CT - six hours and 37 minutes after it began - and Henderson spent nearly every intervening minute before the Wildcats' next game on Saturday afternoon hatching his next set of plans.
"That's about the earliest I've ever gotten to 3 o'clock in the afternoon," Henderson said. "I really felt like, wow, it felt like noon or earlier. I looked up and it was 3."
After a night during which Murphy's law seemed like an immutable truth, UK was apparently due for the polar opposite to happen, and happen it did. Everything that could have gone wrong - and did the day before - went exactly right in an 8-1 win over Valparaiso to keep the Cats' season alive and set a school record for wins at 44.
"I think it was absolutely as good as it could have gone," Henderson said.
UK needed its starter, Jerad Grundy, to turn in a solid effort, and more importantly, pitch relatively deep into the game to preserve the staff.
"If you would have asked me, 'What do you need out of Grundy?' " Henderson said. "I would have said, 'Six or seven and I got to get him to 90 (pitches).' More than 90 pitches out of him and you're begging."
Grundy's final line? Six innings pitched, one run allowed and six strikeouts on, you guessed it, 90 pitches.
"We used a lot of pitchers last night," Grundy said. "Everybody knows that. But going in, I just wanted to fill up the zone and try to eat up as many innings as I can so we have a good chance to make a run in this tournament."
He cruised through the game's first four innings, benefiting from a pair of double plays turned by his infield as well as a pickoff, and the Crusaders only got to him with one run in the fifth inning. That tally, which came across after three consecutive two-out singles, created a worrisome tie at 1-1 following Friday's interminable affair. An offense that had habitually struggled to create separation had to wonder whether it could scratch together an attack that would allow the Wildcats to forgo another nip-and-tuck game.
UK didn't wait long to deliver an answer.
The Wildcats needed its offense to awaken, and it did so violently in a five-run sixth inning. Answering Valpo's two-out rally with one of its own, Kentucky scored one when Zac Zellers came around on a double by J.T. Riddle, who rebounded from an 0-for-9 outing against Kent State. Paul McConkey walked before Matt Reida knocked in knocked in Riddle with a single to right. Henderson likely would have been happy with two runs, but Austin Cousino - mired in a postseason slump that had seen his batting average fall from .343 to .316 - gave him even more with a two-run double off the wall in center field. He would later score on a steal of home when Thomas McCarthy intentionally got himself into a rundown between first and second.
"It felt good," Cousino said. "I think more importantly, it felt a lot better that there were runners in scoring position, because we've been struggling with that lately as a team. Personally, it's always great to get back on track, but it kind of sparked some of the other players and they really stepped up after that one big inning. There was more of a loose feel, one through nine."
The 6-1 cushion created by the sixth-inning outburst was crucial in that it proved to a capable offensive club that it is, indeed, capable.
"Some of that tension dissipates a little bit," Henderson said. "You've got a chance to relax, the kids got a chance to relax, and you don't have to send that message through an artificial means. 'Hey, we're OK, we're OK.' That's all you have if you're not scoring runs."
To Henderson, always thinking like a pitching coach, it was just as crucial in terms of how it allowed him to handle his arms the remainder of the game.
"If we don't, we're playing one to one into who knows how long and then I got to use tomorrow's starter (Corey Littrell) today because we're certainly not going to go home not having pitched one of our best guys in a situation where we could have used somebody," Henderson said. "It's extremely important for us to get back on track that way."
Instead of going to Littrell, Henderson called on Chandler Shepherd to relieve Grundy, and the freshman did all he could. He turned in three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out a pair en route to his first career save.
By no means does Grundy and Shepherd's combined effort erase the 346 pitches thrown by Rogers and the UK bullpen on Friday, but it certainly helps. Kentucky still has to win three games in two days, beginning against the Purdue vs. Kent State loser at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, but the prospect of advancing is much more reasonable that it was a few hours ago.
"This gives us a chance to win a couple of ball games tomorrow," Henderson said. "Obviously, one at a time and we do a good job of that. We do a great job of that. But this puts us in a position to be able to do something, certainly, with our first ball game because Corey's ready to go."
"We're not in a situation we haven't been in before, playing two games tomorrow and we hope another game after that," Cousino said. "I think the mindset of the team is come out and win that first one and move on from there."
First, Cousino and company will take advantage of playing a game four hours and 13 minutes shorter than the day before with an evening of relaxation and sleep, while Henderson is off to devise a new plan for what could be a doubleheader on Sunday. At this point, the only pitchers not expected to be available are Taylor Rogers, A.J. Reed and Sam Mahar. Witt will likely be held out with his hamstring injury, while Maile could be available.
"I think it's a tremendous challenge but in all honesty we're not going to talk about game two," Henderson said. "We're going to talk about Corey going out and getting seven or eight (innings) and if he does, great. If he doesn't we'll do everything out of the bullpen to pick up however many innings we have to get."
Michael Williams had three hits in UK's 7-6 loss, catching all 21 inning against Kent State. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
GARY, Ind. -- It's close to impossible to pick out just one guy.
Too many Kentucky Wildcats turned in extraordinary efforts on Friday afternoon, evening and night to narrow them down. Too many players went beyond anything they had ever done in a heart-stopping 21-inning NCAA Tournament game against Kent State.
And they all came in a losing effort.
After six hours, 37 minutes and 678 combined pitches between the two teams, UK was on the wrong end of a 7-6 instant classic that had the College Baseball Hall of Fame asking for the Golden Flashes lineup card.
"I've never been a part of it myself personally," said catcher Michael Williams. "Definitely unique. You've got to grind, all of it. You just got to stick together as a team and it was definitely a good competitive effort by both teams we just came up short."
Following a game no one in attendance will ever forget, the Cats ware left ruing a bevy of missed opportunities, namely 23 runners left on base. UK forced extra innings with a run in the bottom of the ninth and again extended the game with a run in the 18th inning, but narrowly failed to score the winning run in increasingly maddening fashion as the night wore on.
In the 10th inning, little-used utility player Steven Hoagland - who raised his season at-bat total from three to eight in a substitute role - came to the plate with runners on first and third with one out. He laid down a safety squeeze bunt that bounced into the glove of pitcher Brian Clark and failed to score the run from third base.
In the 12th, Williams roped a would-be double off the left field wall, appearing to start another serious UK threat. It was not to be, as the senior was called out for not having touched first base on his way to second.
In the 14th, Paul McConkey - also on as a substitute - pulled two balls deep down the line in right field that looked to be potential walk off home runs. Instead, both were ruled foul, one after hitting the fence inches away from the line and the other after easily clearing the wall.
In both the 15th and 20th innings, UK loaded the bases only to be denied, the latter of which happened in particularly logic-defying fashion. With one out, J.T. Riddle stepped the plate needing just a fly ball to win the game. Instead, he bounced a 2-2 pitch back to the pitcher for a rare 1-2-3 double play that ended the frame.
Perhaps even more heartbreaking than that 20th inning was a play on which Williams at once got retribution for his double-that-wasn't and was left wondering what might have been. After A.J. Reed singled to move McConkey to third base with one out in the 18th, Williams came up with his team trailing by a run. He got a hold of yet another ball that likely would have been a home run if not for the win and the cavernous nature of the U.S. Steel Yard. Instead, it one-hopped the fence in center, McConkey scored and Reed got on his horse. He was waved home from third as the potential winning run, but with a good relay throw and cramps that kicked in at just the wrong time, he was gunned down.
"You start to do things when you're playing a game like this," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "You start to push things a little bit. You steal, you wave A.J. from first, you're going to safety even though they come in and you make gambles. That's all there is to it. You start gambling."
It's hard to blame Henderson for aggressiveness, and it's even harder to blame Reed for anything at all. After playing the first 12 innings at designated hitter, then first base, Reed was called on to pitch. All he did was turn in the equivalent of a complete game, allowing just two runs over nine innings while tallying eight of the 26 strikeouts registered by UK pitchers on this night.
"Getting a guy that's been the DH for 12 (innings) and you go and get him and he gets nine innings, that's a special guy," Henderson said of the freshman.
"I'm just hoping to go out there and throw up a zero and hope our team's going to score the next inning. I just had to keep going out there doing what I can to help the team," Reed said.
Helping steady Reed in his efforts was Williams, who was behind the plate for every out tallied by the Wildcats. Somewhat miraculously, Williams reported feeling no worse for the wear, but he doesn't expect things to stay that way.
"To be honest, I couldn't feel anything," Williams said. "I was trying to grind it out for the teammates and I was really (on) an emotional high so I couldn't feel anything...I'll probably feel it later. I don't feel it now. It just stinks that we didn't come out with the win."
The heroic performances didn't stop there either. Trevor Gott pitched four scoreless innings of dazzling relief, far surpassing his previous high. Hoagland fielded nearly flawlessly at second base, a position he had scarcely played before. Luke Maile ran and fielded on a tweaked hamstring for a handful of innings. Zac Zellers reached base seven times in nine plate appearances, smacking five hits in the process.
Henderson's feelings after such a gutsy effort were understandably mixed.
"There's a lot of positive things there," Henderson said. "Obviously a loss is a loss...You feel good about your kids."
There are no mixed feelings on the part of Henderson or his team about how the Wildcats will respond when they have to turn around and play in the loser's bracket Saturday afternoon against either Purdue or Valparaiso.
"It's definitely tough, but our team has handled adversity all year and we'll come out ready to fight tomorrow," Williams said. "We'll forget about this game and we'll be fine because we'll be emotionally high again."
UK's staff is depleted and Maile and Lucas Witt are not expected to play due to injuries sustained on Friday, but Henderson expects his bunch to be able to make due.
"It's going to be enough," Henderson said of the players he'll have available. "Unless we play 21 innings."
Terrence Jones led UK to a 72-58 victory over Notre Dame in the 2010 Big East/SEC Challenge. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The offseason following Kentucky's eighth national championship has been dominated by talk and speculation over who the Wildcats will and will not play next season. In spite of all that, UK's schedule for 2012-13 is coming together piece by piece.
After John Calipari's announcement last week of a two-year series with Baylor, the matchups for the Big East/SEC Challenge were unveiled on Friday morning. Awaiting Kentucky as part of the annual event is a familiar foe. On Thursday, November 29, UK will travel to South Bend, Ind., to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The time of the game and television information will be announced at a later date.
The Fighting Irish are led by head coach Mike Brey and have reached the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons. In 2011-12, Notre Dame rebounded from an 11-8 start to win 10 of its final 12 regular season games - including nine in a row at one point - before receiving a No. 7 seed in the Big Dance. Notre Dame finished the season with a 22-12 record and will return an experienced team next season.
This will mark the second time in three seasons that Kentucky and Notre Dame will have matched up in the Big East/SEC Challenge, with UK coming back from a first-half deficit in Freedom Hall to win 72-58 in 2010-11. The Wildcats have faced the Fighting Irish 60 times, more than any other Big East opponent, including Louisville. UK has won 42 of those games, including 11 of the last 12. The only loss handed to the Wildcats by Notre Dame dating back to the 1990-91 season was in the 2009 NIT.
Thursday, Nov. 29 South Carolina at St. John's Seton Hall at LSU Kentucky at Notre Dame Marquette at Florida
Friday, Nov. 30 Georgia at South Florida DePaul at Auburn Tennessee at Georgetown Syracuse at Arkansas Saturday, Dec. 1 Mississippi State at Providence Rutgers at Ole Miss Alabama at Cincinnati Villanova at Vanderbilt