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July 2012 Archives

This week marks the last few quiet days around UK Athletics before football fall camp gets started after Media Day on Friday. Still, there are a few news items to report.

-On Tuesday afternoon, UK Athletics announced its 2012 Hall of Fame class. Six Wildcat greats will be welcomed into the prestigious group as a part of Hall of Fame Weekend. On Sept. 14-15, in conjunction with Kentucky's football game against Western Kentucky, the six individuals below will be officially inducted.

  • Derek Abney - Football (2000-03)
  • Leroy Edwards - Men's basketball (1935)
  • J.B. Holmes - Men's golf (2002-05)
  • Jeff Keener - Baseball (1980-81)
  • Clayton Moss - Swimming and diving (1999-2003)
  • Nancy Scranton - Women's Golf (1983-84)

-Junior men's golfer Cody Martin qualified for the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship, shooting even-par over two rounds at the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Coldstream Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. He joins teammate David Snyder as the second Wildcat to qualify. Play at the championship begins on Aug. 15 at Cherry Hills Golf Club in Denver.

-Anthony Davis will be suiting up for Team USA for the second time on Tuesday evening, as the Americans take on Tunisia at 5:15 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network. Even if Davis continues to serve as the 12th man against Tunisia, he will likely play should the game prove to be the blowout so many expect it to be.

Photo: Barnhart at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Sunday. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Sunday.
On Sunday, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart - along with a team of fellow climbers - reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain. Above is a photograph of Barnhart at the summit donning a blue coat and a UK toboggan, which should come as no surprise.

He then completed a descent of the mountain and will now embark on a safari through Tanzania, a tame undertaking in comparison to scaling a mountain nearly 20,000 feet high. Barnhart will return to the United States next week and surely won't have much time to rest with the fall sports season bearing down on us.

It's a pretty safe bet that there will be a mention of Kentucky when Andy Katz posts his "3-point shot" early each morning on ESPN's College Basketball Nation Blog. Tuesday was an example, as Katz recently spoke to UK head coach John Calipari about a number of topics.

The first was senior guard Julius Mays:

Kentucky doesn't have a traditional upperclassmen who will be a legitimate rotation player. But that's fine. Kentucky coach John Calipari said Wright State senior transfer Julius Mays will fill that void. Mays played one season at Wright State (14.1ppg, 2.5 apg and 42.4 percent on 3s) after transferring from NC State. Calipari attended a Monday workout of the Wildcats and remarked about Mays' shooting and overall experience.

Katz goes on to write more about Mays, as well as fellow transfer Ryan Harrow. In speaking to Katz, Coach Cal didn't rule out the possibility of both Mays and Harrow coming off the bench. It's a little hard for me to imagine the two players who have the most point guard experience not starting, but now is the time for experimentation:

He said he fully expects at least two freshmen -- guard Archie Goodwin and forward Alex Poythress -- to start. The question is does he start both freshmen centers -- Nerlens Noel and/or Willie Cauley -- if he wants to go big? I would be stunned if Noel isn't in the starting lineup. The question will be Cauley. Kyle Wiltjer, Mays and Harrow will be in the rotation and likely at times starters during the long season.

We're still over two months removed from Big Blue Madness, but that doesn't mean there won't be speculation about next season in the interim.

Link: Katz on transfers, potential starters in 3-point shot blog

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Saying goodbye

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Megan Moir (top right) and Brooke Keyes (top right) along with six other UK student-athletes returned from a service trip to Ethiopia on Monday. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Megan Moir (top right) and Brooke Keyes (top right) along with six other UK student-athletes returned from a service trip to Ethiopia on Monday. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 29, 2012

Brooke Keyes - Soccer

My heart always seems to feel heavy around airports because I hate goodbyes, and all day I knew this was coming. The people we said goodbye to as we walked into the airport were Mark, Alena, Girma, Wario and Kaleab, people I feel like I have known for years. Tears began to fill my eyes... something that has occurred a lot this week.
A large piece of my heart will be left here in Ethiopia. I am so thankful to be a part of this trip and share this experience with seven other wonderful student-athletes, and three incredible adults that made us feel like adults as well as their friends. On this trip, my heart broke into a thousand pieces and then it was repaired to full. I learned so much from this country, but I narrowed it down to my top ten:

10. I need to listen and be still more often.
9. I am so ungrateful.
8. I need to be intentional about getting to know other UK student-athletes.
7. I need to marry a man who is grounded and keeps me grounded.
6. I will adopt one day.
5. The eyes say so much more than the mouth.
4. God is everywhere... we just cease to realize it.
3. Money is so overrated. So is the "American Dream."
2. I never want to settle for living comfortably. I want to be challenged and take risks.
1. The greatest need in the world right now is TIME.

There is no way we are coming back to America the same as when we left. Thank you to all who made this trip possible.

Kentucky Olympic update (July 30)

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Five individuals with UK ties will compete or coach in the Olympics over the next two weeks. Five individuals with UK ties will compete or coach in the Olympics over the next two weeks.
On Friday, the Opening Ceremonies officially kicked off the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. After competition on Saturday and Sunday, medals have already been awarded in various events with China and the United States tied at 14 and 13 medals, respectively, as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday according to

While Cat Scratches won't be providing in-depth coverage of the Olympics, we figured now would be a good time to provide an update on current and former Kentucky student-athletes participating and when they will be in action over the next two weeks.

Anthony Davis - Basketball - Team USA

Davis is the lone Wildcat to have competed so far. Team USA faced off against France in its first game of play in Group A on Sunday, pulling away for a 98-71 win after leading by just one through the first quarter. Davis played only in the fourth quarter, logging three points, three rebounds and a block in eight minutes on the floor.

Named to Team USA as a replacement for the injured Blake Griffin, Davis isn't playing a featured role, but he's getting some incredible experience. The reigning national player of the year got some face time and a mention during the Opening Ceremonies and has gained the respect of his teammates, according to the broadcast of Sunday's game. As the tournament wears on, don't expect Davis to get much more than mop-up duty, but with how good the Americans are, there could be plenty of that available.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, July 31 - Team USA vs. Tunisia - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)
Thursday, Aug. 2 - Team USA vs. Nigeria - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Team USA vs. Lithuania - 9:30 a.m. ET (Group play)
Monday, Aug. 6 - Team USA vs. Argentina - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)

If Team USA advances, it will play in a quarterfinal on Aug. 8 with the medal rounds on Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.

Jenna Martin - Track and field - Canada

Martin earned a spot on the Canadian National Team with a time of 51.53 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She is the all-time UK record holder in the event, with her top time coming in 2007.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, Aug. 3 - Women's 400m Round 1 - 7 a.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Women's 400m Semifinals - 3:05 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Women's 400m Final - 4:10 p.m. ET

Rondel Sorrillo - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago

Sorrillo is an Olympian for the second time. He will compete in both the 100m and 200m, as he set the UK record in both events in 2010. Sorrillo will also run in the 4x100m relay.

Upcoming schedule

Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Preliminaries - 5 a.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Round 1 - 7:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Semifinals - 2:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Final - 4:50 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 200m Round 1 - 6:50 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 200m Semifinals - 3:10 p.m. ET
Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's 200m Final - 3:55 p.m. ET
Friday, Aug 10 - Men's 4x100m Relay Round 1 - 2:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 11 - Men's 4x100m Relay Final - 4 p.m. ET

Mikel Thomas - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago

Thomas will race in the 110m hurdles. He holds the UK record in the event, running a time of 13.57 seconds in 2008.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 110m Hurdles Round 1 - 5:10 a.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Semifinals - 2:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Final - 4:15 p.m. ET

Edrick Floreal - Track and field (coach) - Team USA

Floreal's busy summer continues. In the midst of transitioning into his new role leading UK track and field and cross country, he will coach jumps and combined events for Team USA. Floreal was an Olympian himself in 1988 and 1992.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, Aug. 3 - Men's Long Jump Qualification - 2:50 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's Long Jump Finals - 2:55 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's High Jump Qualification - 2:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's Triple Jump Qualification - 5:45 a.m. ET
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's High Jump Finals - 2 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Aug. 8 and Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Decathlon
Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Triple Jump Finals - 2:20 p.m. ET

Barnhart, team complete Kilimanjaro climb

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It was an audacious undertaking, but Mitch Barnhart and his fellow climbers reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Kentucky Athletics Director was nearly 20,000 feet above sea level atop Africa's tallest peak. Barnhart's guide - Mark Tucker from RMI Expeditions - checked in with this report from the peak:

Darned if I'm not standing on the top of Africa!  Here on Uhuru Peak with the team. Everybody's looking good.  A little beat up but not so bad; no issues.  We're taking a few shots. It was a cold and windy one. Man, freezing, all layers on. But these guys know how to climb, they demonstrated it. They all did it with great style and impeccable technique. We're looking forward to a safe descent and back to that high camp sooner than later.  All is well, we'll check in again later.

Not long after, Tucker reported that the trek back down the mountain was complete:

Mark Tucker checking in from Tanzania here at our last camp on this trip of Kilimanjaro.  We are all down safe and sound; good spirits and good health.  What a day! Beautiful summit, chilly and windy.  Hopefully you got that message from the top. We pushed our way down to 10,000', so a 9,000' descent. Everybody's feeling it. Ready to go to sleep. A great meal.  Looking forward to getting up pretty early and getting out of here. Have a nice celebration and take care of our fabulous local staff that has been providing us with this great service. I'd love to think we could do it without them but we'd be here for a couple of months. Everybody back home, all your friends and family are in great shape. Everybody did a fantastic job of doing what they could on the mountain. We'll check in after a good night's rest.

Here's a photo from the summit from RMI's blog:

While we anxiously await the start of preseason camp for Kentucky to begin later this week, NFL training camps are in full swing. There are 18 former Wildcats either competing roster spots or starting roles, so when the season kicks off, there should be plenty of guys for UK fans to follow.

Even though the season's first game is still over a month away, some of those former Cats are making headlines. Here are a few stories about them from recent days:

Broncos rookie Danny Trevathan "football part" atones for measurables (Jeff Legwold, Denver Post)

Because with a guy like Trevathan, there is the football part. Trevathan played in the Southeastern Conference, after all -- at Kentucky -- and when the NFL goes shopping, there is no place they love to browse the aisles more than in the SEC.

Players compete against the best athletes in the nation. They play in front of huge crowds and deal with immense, and some would say out-sized, expectations on a week-to-week basis. All in all, those players come into NFL training camps with the ability to compete and adapt quickly.

And while Trevathan may not be the biggest, fastest or strongest linebacker who played in the SEC during his career, few players were more productive. He somehow tackled enough faster, bigger, more-publicized players to lead the conference in tackles in two consecutive seasons.

Packers' multitalented Randall Cobb working hard to fit in (Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Cobb, who frequently popped into coaches meetings at Kentucky, believes he can juggle it all.

"I don't know what it is," Cobb said. "My coaches always said I had some kind of 'it' factor back in college and high school. I just pick up stuff. I hold onto it and try to leave it in my memory. Whatever I'm doing, I just remember those things."

In 2011, every Packers receiver played at least 200 more snaps than Cobb, according to Pro Football Focus. To get onto the field more, he needed to sharpen his route-running. It's what fuels Green Bay's offense. Receivers must deceptively sell each route, an acquired skill that separates Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Rodgers feasts on confused, cement-footed defensive backs with back-shoulder throws and other route adjustments.

A trust is necessary. Cobb hopes he's getting there.

Broncos veteran linebacker Wesley Woodyard eager to answer bell (Legwold, Denver Post)

Woodyard and Hall of Famer Floyd Little are the only players in Broncos history to be selected team captains four consecutive seasons. Woodyard has been a special-teams captain in every previous season he's been in Denver, and he's been a team captain under three Denver head coaches -- Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels and John Fox.

Overall, Woodyard has played in 58 games, started 16 and been a regular in the Denver defense's nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) packages.

"He's had a lot of playing time in the past, so experience-wise he's fine," said linebacker Joe Mays. "He's definitely ready. He's ready to go out there and play, start games, play full games, do those type of things. I have no doubt of his ability and what he can do out there on the field."

Stevie Johnson returns to Bills a changed man (Jay Skurski, Buffalo News)

Looking back, it's hard to imagine the Bills without Johnson. He's their unquestioned No. 1 receiver, the only one in franchise history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

He says the contract won't change him, but his outlook has changed.

"You look around and I guess I'm the veteran now," said the fifth-year pro. "That's what really got me. I like looking over other people and watching out for other people. It's like a natural feeling, being a big brother."

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Trip nearing end

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Emily Holsopple and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia this week for a service trip. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Emily Holsopple and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia this week for a service trip. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 27, 2012

Emily Holsopple - Rifle

After getting back into our morning routine of French toast and scrambled eggs, the group set out on our last day of service. We would be spending some time at the Compassion International Drop-In Center, a combination community center/school/church/playground, with kids. We would spend the rest of the day exploring new restaurants and shopping locations.

Upon arriving at the facility we were greeted by some of the women who helped run the place. They all welcomed us with their warm hearts and gave us big hugs. As soon as I finished greeting the last woman, I could hear a faint chanting in the distance. The girls and I hurried down the long dark hallways following the noise. Once we got to the basement we found the room it was coming from and entered to see over a hundred children all jumping up and down and singing. The energy in that room was so overwhelming and powerful. The children had such huge smiles and all wanted to shake our hands as if we were celebrities. We made our way around greeting the kids and giving hugs until their teacher and our leaders entered the room. Their teacher explained to us that one of their football (soccer) teams had just won their respected scholastic league and asked if we would help in handing out the awards. I felt honored as we shook the hand of each player after they received their medal. That was my first time on the other side of the hand shake and even though I had never seen these kids before or knew what they won, I still felt proud of each one of them. Then, when the team's coach was called up the whole place went crazy! It was as if he was receiving an Olympic medal; the respect and admiration the kids had for him echoed throughout the whole room. A gold cup trophy was then given to the team and the captain kissed it and held it up as if they had won the World Cup.

To celebrate with the soccer team we went outside and brought out the supplies to play soccer, tennis and basketball. Even though it was raining we still managed to get in plenty of games. While trying to help Grace organize a game of tennis I was met by one of the first girls I greeted in the classroom, Trigras. When I first sat down next to her she was very shy and tried to hide from me. Even though she didn't speak a word of English and seemed scared of me, I still tried everything to make her open up. I thought I had failed at this until I was on our "tennis court" and felt a tugging on my hand. When I looked down and saw Trigras' smiling face I knew my effort had been well worth it. She guided me to a group of her friends that seemed to be uninterested in the sports going on. Instead, they wanted to play hand games similar to American "Miss Mary Mack." It took a while but I was able to learn some of their games, it wasn't until they added their feet into the mix that I got lost. Because they took the time to teach me their games I felt obligated to teach them games. Since it had been a long time since I had played any games of the sort, I racked my brain and came up with my own clapping game. By that time we had drawn a crowd of more than ten girls and they all lined up eagerly waiting to learn this new game. I could have played with them all day, but it was time to participate in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Ethiopia is the home of coffee and its coffee ceremony is a significant part of Ethiopians' heritage. Just to be invited to a traditional ceremony is in itself an honor. The ceremony is always performed by a woman, usually the youngest woman in the family. It always starts with the popping of popcorn over an open heat source. The popcorn is then served to the guests while the coffee is roasted, ground and served. Our hosts for the coffee ceremony were very welcoming to us and wanted to share in the preparing of the coffee. Each of us took turns stirring the beans while they roasted over the coals, and then helped in the grinding of the beans. After the grinds were prepared, the woman leading the ceremony finished preparing the coffee and served it to each one us in a little three-ounce coffee cup. The coffee was extremely rich and most certainly the strongest I have ever tasted. We slowly sipped our coffee, said our "thank yous" and made our way back to the bus for a trip to do some souvenir shopping.

Our shopping trip didn't turn out to be what I had expected. For starters, there were no stores like we have here in the States. The shopping center was simply little shacks lined up side by side along the road. The shopping area was large and a little rough so we had to divide up into smaller groups before setting out to find gifts. Each shop was maybe a 10 by 20 foot space filled floor to ceiling with different knick-knacks and trinkets. Every shop had the same things for the most part so it was just a matter of finding a shop with the best price for what you wanted.  Finding a good price took some work though since prices were determined through bartering. With some help from our leaders and Ethiopian friends we were able to negotiate with the store owners and get some good deals.  After a few hours everyone filled their gift lists with paints, scarves, key chains, figurines, blankets and other unique Ethiopian charms.

It's weird to think that our time here in Africa is almost over. In some ways, it feels like we just got here yesterday and in others it seems like we have been here for months. This week has been jam-packed full of learning for me. I got to learn about the culture and people here, the people I came with and about myself. In my twenty short years on earth, I have been blessed enough to do a lot of traveling and see some many different places, but I can't compare the experience Ethiopia has given me to any other trip. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve here and the knowledge it has brought me. I feel as though I can't say thank you enough to all the people who made this trip what it has been. My only hope is that I can carry with me all of the things I learned this week, share them with the people back home and use them to make myself a better person.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Giving and receiving

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Eight UK student-athletes continued their service trip in Ethiopia on Friday. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Eight UK student-athletes continued their service trip in Ethiopia on Friday. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 27, 2012

Aubrey Lamar - Softball

Today we did not use our hands as much as we used our hearts. After breakfast at the hotel in Adama, we traveled to the women-only maternity house in Ethiopia. Once we got there, the two women who run the facility told us about the program and the different opportunities offered to the women living there. The facility provides rooms for 12 pregnant women to stay for about a year. During the 12 months, the women are taught a skill in order to support themselves and their baby in the near future. The women will start working using what they learned while they are there. Half the money each woman makes goes into a personal savings account that will allow the women to have a financial starting point once they leave the maternity house and the other half goes to help the facility.  This maternity house is an amazing place. There's a beautiful garden inside the main gate that includes many varieties of native plants as well as food for those living at the house, like the seven-foot tall stalks of corn. There are so many women in Ethiopia that could benefit from this great maternity house.

This week, I have been struggling with being overwhelmed with the number of people who are in need of food, shelter, or most importantly and something that doesn't cost a dime (or a birr) I have been reminded this week that one person cannot save a country; it takes many people with a common goal. However, I can make a small impact on the few people I come in contact with during this trip. I am so thankful that Ethiopia at least has one maternity house and can make a small impact on the lives of women.

Next, we hopped back on the bus to visit an orphanage/widows home. Jason, our group leader was very excited to visit the facility because Joker Philips and some of the football players who came with him for previous trips planted beautiful plants right in front of the facility. They must have done a wonderful job, because the facility was absolutely gorgeous. The plants they had planted just last May had now grown and filled the space completely. The building is square with the rooms on the outsides while the center is a courtyard with a sky roof. I loved the sky roof because I could feel God's presence shining down on them once you walk in the door. While we were there, we played with the young children in the nursery and learned the stories of the widows. At first, the children were very shy and some cried, however once we showed them that we were there to play; we all started having a great time. The children are very well taken care of at this facility and most of them are adopted through the help of the facility. After playing with the children, I went and sat down with Vickie Bell, Brooke, and Megan to spend some time with the amazing widows who live there. A particular woman shared her heart with us. More than half of her conversation was her saying God bless us and that she will be praying for us. She knows we have much more than her back in the United States, yet she wants us to be blessed. I have met some of the most incredible people with the biggest hearts here in Ethiopia. The people have basically nothing, yet they want others to be blessed before themselves.

After we left the home, we made our long journey back to Addis Ababa. The traffic was bad and made the trip much longer. We have a great driver, although he makes my heart stop many times as he swerves in and out of lanes across rough dirt roads full of muddy deep holes. The only way I can describe the motor transportation here is that drivers use their horn instead of the brakes. There is no way this system would work in America. Once we got close to Addis Ababa, we stopped at a market where people with leprosy make beautiful crafts and sell them. I was in complete shock to see the men and women working on these absolute gorgeous blankets, and other cloth items. Everything made by hand using cotton and stitching the designs using thread. So much time and talent are put into each craft made by the people working there.

Dinner was exciting; the team went to a traditional restaurant that included dancing and music. Personally, I am not a big dancer, but I loved watching some of our team try the interesting style of dance. The native dance included a lot of fast shoulder movements and quick foot stepping. Some of the team then taught the wobble to the some of the local dancers. It was a night that everyone was able to enjoy local culture and talking with each other.

This trip has been a wonderful opportunity for all of us student-athletes. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Joker Phillips addressed fans at the Kickoff Luncheon on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Joker Phillips addressed fans at the Kickoff Luncheon on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For sports fans, locker room speeches are shrouded by intrigue. They've been the subject of many a movie scene and television show, but it's difficult to capture exactly what it's like to be in the room for a coach's final words before competition.

Those in attendance at Kentucky's Kickoff Luncheon on Friday got a pretty good idea.

UK head coach Joker Phillips closed the event with a speech of less than three minutes. Instead of addressing his players, he was speaking directly to not only the UK fans in the room, but throughout the Bluegrass. His message: It's time to rally around the Wildcats.

"These players don't need everybody to believe in them, but they damn sure need somebody to," Phillips said. "And I expect you, the Big Blue Nation, to get behind this football team."

Phillips' impassioned words did not come out of self-interest. He is asking fans to support their team for the sake of the young men he leads.

"Don't do it for Joker Phillips," Phillips said. "I don't care how you feel about Joker Phillips or the staff. Do it for these men that have agreed to come here to represent you and represent you the right way."

The relationship between UK and its fans is a symbiotic one. When fans show pride in the team, players take note. When players reciprocate by performing well, fans are rewarded. To take it a step further, the fan base is a reason why many players chose to become Wildcats in the first place.

"We're out there selling the fact that, since the expansion of Commonwealth stadium, we've had 11 top-25 (seasons) in attendance (nationally)," Phillips said. "We're selling the fact that our rabid fans expect to win, so get behind this team. It's your team. We're selling you, the fans."

Phillips knows what he's talking about when he brings up UK fans. The Kentucky native played at UK and had two different stints as an assistant in Lexington before succeeding Rich Brooks. He knows what he's talking about because he'll go right back to being a citizen of the Big Blue Nation when his career is over.

"When I retire, when I'm done with this sport, I'll be one of you," Phillips said. "I'll be one of you that roots for whoever puts on the Blue and White and has Kentucky across his chest."

In the third year of his tenure, Phillips knows from firsthand experience that his players are doing everything they can to make fans proud, both on and off the field.

"We have a lot of kids in this program that have given a lot," Phillips said. "We have a lot of kids in this program that give a lot. That's why we're excited about this football team - a group of young men, when you look in their eyes, you see Wildcats that are willing to do whatever it takes to get this thing right."

Offensive and defensive coordinators Randy Sanders and Rick Minter both acknowledged that UK will be a young team this season. They also know most outside the program expect the Cats to be nothing more than Southeastern Conference also-rans in 2012.

"It's going to be a fun season," Sanders said. "I'm really looking forward to this. Some of the best years I've ever had were when people didn't give us a whole lot of credit."

That kind of quiet optimism is common around the UK program, and Phillips is hoping fans adopt the same attitude, although he doesn't want it to be so quiet come fall Saturday's in Commonwealth.

"Why?" Phillips said. "Because we are UK. Simply said, we are UK."

This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 26, 2012

Grace Trimble - Women's Tennis

As I sit down to write this blog, I realize that nothing I write will be able to accurately express how I have been challenged physically, stretched emotionally and forever changed by the people of Ethiopia. It is difficult to show how the poverty and disparity of personal situations are overshadowed by the gratitude and pure love Ethiopians so readily give. However, in my best effort to share a glimpse into our trip for a day, I hope one can see that I have not changed the lives of Ethiopians, but they have forever changed me.   

Our day began with us waking up in Debre Zeit and walking to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. It's been interesting to see the pace of the service at restaurants. It isn't uncommon for a meal to take 90 minutes or more. We've used that time to really get to know one another and our hosts. After breakfast, we all piled onto the bus and made our way to a countryside village called T'ede. In this village, we met a community leader named Zeharun who introduced us to the widows and orphans he serves on a daily basis. Aubrey brought along toys and we also brought soccer balls to brighten the day of each of the children. We were also able to bring the widows a gift of coffee and sugar. I met an orphan named Hanna and all she seemed to long for was for me to love her. She walked up to me like we knew each other, grabbed my hand and stole my heart. I only held her hand and hugged her for 15 minutes, little does she know I will always remember her smile.

After we ate lunch at a local restaurant, we made our way to the remote village of Modjo. This village of mud-thatched huts was set facing mountains. They had a large grass and mud field fenced in by thorny branches to keep the animals out. The children and even some of the adults jumped right in as we played soccer, volleyball and learned a few new tricks with a basketball. As I stood back and looked at the surroundings, what continues to inspire me is the hope and joy that I see in the midst of all the poverty.

Today I was in my comfort zone; I was competing. And so were the Ethiopians. It's amazing to see the different ways our lives can come together, through sport, through religion and sometimes just plain hard work. They have shown me their unwavering joy through poverty, sickness and situations out of their own control. When I land in Lexington, I will be a changed person because of the people of Ethiopia. I will look at the world around me and all of my blessings through a different lens. Thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to go on this trip. I will carry with me the experiences and the people who have changed me forever.   

Patrick Towles compiled a 38-1 record and three state titles starting at quarterback for Fort Thomas Highlands. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Patrick Towles compiled a 38-1 record and three state titles in three seasons as the starting quarterback for Fort Thomas Highlands. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Leading up to football media day on August 3, Cat Scratches will be spotlighting a few of Kentucky's freshmen to help introduce fans to the newest bunch of Wildcats. Next up in the series of freshman features is highly touted, play-making quarterback prospect Patrick Towles out of Highlands High School in Ft. Thomas, Ky.

Patrick Towles is one of the most decorated high school football players in Kentucky state history. He is a state champion. He's been named player of the year. He is ranked among the top incoming quarterback prospects in the nation.

Today, as a freshman of the University of Kentucky football team, none of that matters anymore.

"It's so hard to get here, because at first, if you want to lead, you have to get the respect of the people you are leading," said Towles. "That's either going to be through hard work or fear or something like that. But coming in as a freshman, high school doesn't matter anymore. I don't have any stepping ground or anything that can prove to them to say, 'Hey, I deserve your respect.' These first two months, I'm just trying to get the respect of all my teammates so that when the time comes, I can."

That's just one of the challenges for a freshman quarterback: leadership. And while his high school credentials don't carry much weight amongst his peers, the intangible skills he learned while quarterbacking one of the best teams in the state don't go unnoticed. 

His head coach Joker Phillips, who identified Towles as a priority for Kentucky early on in Towles' high school career, believes Towles has the ability to be a great leader not only in the future, but now. It was one of the things that most impressed Phillips about his freshman quarterback coming in.

"(He's a) big athlete, takes charge, he's a film room junkie, winner," said Phillips on National Signing Day. "(He) went in as a sophomore when the starting quarterback goes down, he was the guy that went in and all he did was lead 'em to a state championship as a sophomore and then went on to win two more after that.  He's the guy that's the type of leader that we need to be the face of this program." 

Towles showed that leadership on Signing Day being the very first player to fax his papers in. He has not stopped since. Towles' leadership has shown on the football field already this summer, but it's been his ability to build team chemistry off the field that's been a real eye opener. 

Earlier this summer, Phillips invited some of his freshman over to his house for some dinner and team building. In a lake near his house, the guys went fishing. That's when the fun began.

"Zack Blaylock pulled in a 20-pound carp and he had a 10-pound test line," said Towles. "So, we were trying to get the fish in and we had five or six guys. So we got in the boat and started paddling to the other side of the lake to try and coerce the fish out of the water. But we ended up not having to use the boat because a neighbor had a net that we used to get it."

Towles says it's the off-field bonding that helps bring good teams together.

"Everybody can take just so much football bonding," said Towles. "If you build the off-the-field stuff, it's so much easier to have a relationship on the field."

The leadership qualities that Towles has exhibited in his short time in Lexington are hardly surprising. But he didn't get to that point all on his own. 

Towles, in fact, is not the only Highlands Bluebird to take snaps for the Kentucky Wildcats. It just so happens that a player that Towles idolized in his youth has now become a mentor of sorts. Jared Lorenzen, whose last season for Kentucky was 2003, has helped the incoming freshman get familiar with the playbook as well as improving particular parts of his game.  

"Growing up, I always saw him playing on TV," said Towles of Lorenzen. "But my sophomore year, it was my first start, and I was going into halftime, he passed me a note that said he thought I had the potential to be pretty good, gave me his cell phone number. So I started texting him. We really started getting our relationship going and we started meeting to work on football."

They've been working together ever since. Lorenzen, who has assisted Towles with his footwork, throws and routes, had a four-year NFL career, all with the New York Giants. But Towles had help from another NFL talent who still has pretty deep ties to the game.

Chris Collinsworth, a former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver and current broadcaster for NBC, came on board the Highlands coaching staff for Towles' senior season as the wide receivers coach. Just their presence around the team helped Towles become the player and leader he is now.

"It's been awesome because they've been there and done that," said Towles. "They know the best way to do things because, you know, they've done it. It was good to get their point of view and their opinions on everything, and it really helped me improve."

Having those personalities around certainly helped mold Towles' mentality on the football field, but a lot of his leadership skills were developed on their own. Towles took over as the starter of the Highlands football team his sophomore year and never looked back, taking them to three-consecutive state championships, two in 5A and one in 4A. It's an ability that he was born with, but had to discover it for himself.

"A lot of people are born with different things," said Towles. "Everyone is born with the potential to lead, but you have to experience it. Starting at Highlands for three years, it really helped me mature as a leader in all aspects. Improving my leadership helped in developing my relationships with my siblings, my teammates and eventually college coaches."

The summer has been an important time for Towles to develop the relationships with his teammates and start earning their trust. He's worked hard in improving his game to give him a chance to compete this season.

Yes, Towles expects to compete this season. On the field. For Kentucky. As a freshman. That has been the goal all along when he decided to commit to Kentucky. In order to do that, he knows how important the work he puts in this summer will be to him seeing the field this fall. 

"I want to just improve," said Towles. "Improving is the one thing that you can definitely do every day. When I step on the field, I am going to be better by the time I get off of it. I've gained some muscle and weight. I've got a lot faster. I'm really trying to get my body physically ready to play in the SEC."

Whether or not his talent and skills are SEC-caliber is yet to be determined, but his leadership is well-documented. For him to have a successful career as a quarterback at Kentucky and to be able to compete at a high level, he knows it's the responsibility of the quarterback to be the driving force when the going gets tough.

"It's of utmost importance because the quarterback is the position on the field where everybody looks to you when things go wrong," said Towles. "The quarterback is the one that has to call everybody back, to get everybody on the same page."

Leadership is what he knows. That's all he's ever done.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Learning the ropes

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Kastine Evans (women's basketball) and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia for a service trip this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Kastine Evans (women's basketball) and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia for a service trip this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 25, 2012

Kastine Evans - Women's Basketball

The tricks of the trade. Something that was evident on our trip today. As we stood outside a house in Debre Zeit, we looked in at the beautiful landscape.  The fully bloomed trees and flowers, a garden, coffee trees and mango trees filled the front yard. The swings hung from the bamboo tree as the family greeted us. Samy, Ruth, Rebecca and Abigail welcomed us with great smiles.  Samy and Ruth came to Ethiopia two years ago from India to serve the poor in the community of Debre Zeit.  They were renovating their house to accommodate guests who come their way to serve the poor, and we were there to help. We split in groups and some began painting the rooms inside the house. Five-year old Rebecca wished for a Pepto-pink color room, the hallways were re-painted white and the doors grey. Brooke and Megan began painting the floorboards where fatigue began to hit. They sat on the floor, with one hand holding their body in the upright position and the other hand painting the floor board.

Outside, some group members fixed up the garden and flowers. They made a flowerbed with handmade bricks that were purchased on the side of the road and brought back to the house by donkey and carriage. They quickly began to make a trench to place each brick along the fencing of the house. Weeds were pulled in the garden and various landscapes around the house. We each worked with someone from Ethiopia who knew so much about the tasks. Each plant had a purpose and no materials went to waste. It was fascinating to see how knowledgeable they were about everything. The language barrier did not bring as much difficulty as I assumed, and we were able to communicate with hand signals and a positive attitude.

I spent the morning working with a local man who was handcrafting bunk beds for the girls. He measured each metal bar to create rails and we drilled holes into his carefully marked points. The drill was plugged into the wall that would spin the drill and we manually lowered the drill to the exact point. As a first timer, the precision was hard to master, but together with Abebe (a kind, smart Ethiopian leader who is travelling with us), we were able to create consistency in my work. It took time to make the template for the other three bunk beds, and it was crazy to see the lights in the house flicker as he turned on the welder. We sanded the rust and primed the frame for them to paint another day. It was so rewarding to be able to give the girls a bed that they will be able to use for many years.

Kayla Hartley - Gymnastics

Samy and Ruth welcomed us with open arms, feeding the whole team lunch and dinner. As we walked in to the house this morning we saw three chickens in the yard. Guess what we had for lunch... chicken! Some of the girls saw the chickens being decapitated and they quickly came back in the house; no longer ready to eat chicken for lunch anymore. For me, I didn't witness them being prepared for lunch so I had no problem trying the VERY fresh chicken. Amazingly it tasted like chicken, though it wasn't as tender as the processed chicken I'm used to but it was still very good. We had potatoes grown from Samy and Ruth's garden for lunch, and beans and other vegetables for dinner grown by the two. For dinner we also had eggs from the chickens, potatoes and bread. Both lunch and dinner were all homemade and wonderful, giving the team a great home cooked meal away from home.

After dinner, Samy took the time to tell the team that he was grateful for us coming and helping renovate his house. He explained how he and his family arrived in Debre Zeit with very little and it brought him great joy for us to go and help paint and make bunk beds for him and his family. Samy explaining all of this and how he felt was such a great thing to hear, because we came here to serve the people of Ethiopia and knowing that they really appreciate it shows how far a good deed can go. Knowing he had absolutely nothing and that we could help get him closer to his goals was a wonderful feeling.

SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. -- On Thursday, Joker Phillips and members of his staff made the drive down Interstate 64 to the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville, Ky. There, Phillips played in the Governor's Cup Classic and spoke at the press conference following lunch at the annual event.

The week of festivities, sponsored by Kroger, is but one of a handful of events billed as the unofficial kickoff to the football season. The same was said about Southeastern Conference Media Days and will be said again Friday at the Kickoff Luncheon, but Phillips saw Thursday as significant.

"What a day," Phillips said. "My last day to play golf. I put my clubs in the back of my pickup hoping somebody would steal them."

From here, Phillips will have no time to hit the links. He'll be bouncing around to coaches' meetings and events with donors leading up to media day next Friday. The following day is Fan Day, then fall camp gets going.

Football season is truly upon us.

As is the case every year the Louisville Cardinals host the intra-state rivalry, the showdown for the Governor's Cup is the first game on the schedule. Fall camp will lead up to the nationally televised game on Sunday, Sept. 2, which both Phillips and U of L head coach Charlie Strong made sure to try to keep in perspective in answering questions. However, Phillips wouldn't hide from what the game has become.

"It's become an intense game," Phillips said. "Why? Because the team that has won this game usually leaves the game with momentum. We both go our separate ways and the team that has won has carried the momentum to the next game."

Perhaps even more than in recent years, hype is already swirling around the game. Fans from both sides are buzzing, but Phillips isn't about to let himself or his players feed in to making UK-U of L something it shouldn't be.

"I respect this rivalry and I'm a Kentuckian," Phillips said. "I'm just so happy that we play. For many years we didn't play...We're not going to disrespect the rivalry. That's what's important to me."

Phillips talked about the U of L game among other topics regarding the upcoming season. Listen to what he had to say in the video below:

Cedric Kauffmann was named head coach of UK men's tennis on Wednesday. (Chet White. UK Athletics) Cedric Kauffmann was named head coach of UK men's tennis on Wednesday. (Chet White. UK Athletics)
Life changes. You get your first job. You work hard and pay your dues. If you're lucky enough, you get promoted. Eventually, if you've worked hard and long enough, you get the job you've always dreamed of.

For Cedric Kauffmann, life is changing rapidly.

On Wednesday, Kauffmann was named the successor to Dennis Emery and became the 12th head coach in Kentucky men's tennis program history. The fit could not be any more perfect.

"It's been a really good week," said Kauffmann. "It's been a bit of a honeymoon. I'll come back to earth. The baby just got home. I'm just lucky my wife is very supportive and she does a lot of the work. But yeah, it's been a very good week for the Kauffmann family."

Yeah, and the man just welcomed his fourth child into the world earlier in the week. Life is changing, alright.

Kauffmann, who served as Emery's right-hand man as an assistant for the tennis team since 2005, has been pretty lucky to find himself in favorable situations throughout his career. Initially, he was lightly recruited by Emery to come to Kentucky as a player. Shortly into his collegiate career, Kauffmann wondered if Lexington may not be the place for him.

In hindsight, he could not have been more wrong.

"At the beginning, we both got lucky for me to come and him to recruit me," said Kauffmann. "He was not recruiting me highly, but when I went to school, he and I had a tough first year. For me, I was used to a certain coach for about four years and he had a little bit of a different style. So we butted heads and I think with all of the players he's had, they butt heads, but they realize he really cares about them. It's not just the tennis aspect,
but in life."

Now, Kauffmann couldn't imagine a better place for he and his family to be. His wife Caroline is a Lexington, Ky., native. Her family lives here, and since his time as a player and now into his coaching career, they have built several strong relationships in the community.

After his playing days at Kentucky, Kauffmann turned professional and played several years in the ATP. He played in two Grand Slam events in the 2000 United States Open and the 2001 French Open. In his 2001 French Open appearance, Kauffmann went toe-to-toe with Pete Sampras in a first-round five-set thriller. Kauffmann reached No. 170 in the ATP before ending his professional career.

Then it was time to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He found it in coaching, but it took him some time to realize it. The rest of it came together rather quickly.

Life was changing.

"When I stopped playing on the ATP tour, it was kind of a transition, I said I'll just go teach," said Kauffmann. "It was kind of easy money to go teach tennis lessons for six months, and I really enjoyed it more than I thought it would. I stayed in Cincinnati for about two and a half years. Then the same thing, the timing of Greg Van Emburgh getting the head coaching job at Wisconsin opened up the assistant job (at UK), and Coach Emery had a list of two or three people. He came and talked to me and I took the job."

The rest is history.

He's spent the last seven years as Emery's assistant, but the desire to be a head coach didn't take long to develop. Though his first few seasons at Kentucky were tough, it was clear that Kauffmann hoped to be a head coach someday.

"We struggled the first two or three years I was here," said Kauffmann. "They were a long two or three years. But I realized we were getting better and I was doing better on the recruiting trail and it was just exciting to go recruiting and try to get someone to play for you and connect with that player. So I feel like after two years I knew this is what I wanted to do for a while."

Now he has a chance to give back. After everything that Emery and his previous coaches had done for him, Kauffmann relishes in the opportunity to help out his players. It could have been anywhere, but once again, the perfect situation presented itself. When Emery stepped down at men's tennis coach to become Special Assistant to the Athletic Director, his dream position opened up. Kauffmann was the logical choice to succeed Emery, and it was an easy decision.

"I played my four years in Lexington," said Kauffmann. "I didn't know much about it. I took a recruiting visit, but I loved the city, I loved the people, even more than I thought I would. And playing four years, doing pretty well, and coming back to be an assistant. The timing of Coach (Emery) retiring and me coming in doesn't work out for a lot of people. It just did for me, and I really appreciate it."

He's right. That type of situation doesn't work out for everyone. But it's more than luck. Kauffmann has always been viewed as a valuable asset to the men's tennis program and keeping him in the fold was a priority. For now, the perfect situation continues for he and his family. They will be in Lexington for the foreseeable future and he'll be at the helm for as long as he can.

"I was thinking a little bit over the last year, how long (Emery) would stay as head coach," said Kauffmann. "So I've kind of had thoughts, should I just go and interview for other jobs so I can take care of my family. But like I said, it just worked out perfect. Right now I'm very eager, I'm very hungry still, so I'll try to stay here as long as I can and we'll see in a couple years. Life changes."

In his final high school season, Zack Blaylock had 11 interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdowns. (Chet White, UK Athletics) In his final high school season, Zack Blaylock had 11 interceptions, five of which were returned for touchdowns. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Leading up to football media day on August 3, Cat Scratches will be spotlighting a few of Kentucky's freshmen to help introduce fans to the newest bunch of Wildcats. First up in the series of freshman features are twin brothers Zack and Daron Blaylock from Marietta, Ga. Zack is a playmaking safety and Daron is in the middle of a move to linebacker from the secondary.

For new college students, acclimating to living away from home for the first time is a process that doesn't happen overnight. Especially for a student-athlete balancing a course load, tutoring sessions, practice and whatever time is left over for a social life, a period of adjustment is inevitable.

Maybe it's his laidback nature, but incoming freshman Zack Blaylock reports it didn't take long. Even though he's only weeks into summer classes and workouts at Kentucky, the 6-foot, 188-pound safety already feels like he has a new home.

"It was quick," Zack said. "I came down here and got in the groove of everything and it was easy."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has his brother Daron there every step of the way. The two fraternal twins - sons of former NBA All-Star Mookie Blaylock - are roommates at their new school, which is fitting for the pair, both of whom report spending nearly every second of the day together. During the recruiting process, there was some passing thought given to the notion of separating for college, but they figured they would end up together.

"We kind of knew we were going to go to the same place because, me and my brother, we've done everything together," Daron said. "We get along very well. We never fight really so we thought we'd just go to college together. Why not?"

Especially at the beginning, having a familiar face around was a nice security blanket.

"I think it helps," said Zack. "It's one of those brother/twin things. It makes everything easier."
However, it didn't take long for Zack and Daron to build relationships with their new teammates.

"If I knew my teammates like I do now, it wouldn't really matter because I know my teammates pretty well," Daron said.

Perhaps even more fitting than the fact that they're roommates is the hobby that the two easy-going Marietta, Ga., natives share. When they're not on the football field or in the classroom - where they also excel - there's a pretty good chance they're gone fishing. They picked up the hobby as youngsters and became devotees in high school. In fact, the biggest issue they've run into in moving to Lexington is finding a spot to fish bass.

"We're still looking," Daron said.

The twins got a fix a few weeks ago when head coach Joker Phillips invited the entire freshman class to his house for a Sunday cookout. There, Zack and Daron made a beeline for a pond in the backyard, where Zack snagged a good-sized carp and needed help to reel it in. Seven or so of his teammates jumped into action, including Daron. The whole episode showed Phillips a lot about his group of newcomers, in addition to making him laugh.

"That right there showed me these guys really like each other, like working together," Phillips said.

Neither Daron nor Zack need any additional reason to get excited about their freshman class. They go through Rock Oliver's workouts together. They've seen how well they've tested athletically. They've seen spectacular plays in seven-on-seven drills.

"We're a very talented freshman group," Daron said. "Some of us could play this year and we're going to be a really good team in the future, including this year."

The twins are big parts of that future, in addition to the third (unrelated) freshman bearing the Blaylock surname, Shawn.

Daron and Zack each played safety at Walton High School, helping lead the Raiders to a 14-1 record and a state runner-up finish in the Georgia Class AAAAA playoffs. Zack is the ball hawk of the two with a well-deserved reputation for big plays. He picked off 11 passes as a senior, returning five for touchdowns. In defensive coordinator Rick Minter's attacking scheme, Zack would seem to be an ideal fit.

After playing safety in high school, Daron Blaylock is moving closer to the line of scrimmage at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics) After playing safety in high school, Daron Blaylock is moving closer to the line of scrimmage at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Meanwhile, Daron will be shifting away from the safety position. At 6-foot-1, he was projected to move to linebacker in college and is working out at "Sam" linebacker in seven-on-sevens. However, the prospect of playing the hybrid role Winston Guy filled so well in 2011 can't be ruled out either.

Regardless where he ends up, his summer work in the weight room figures to pay off. Daron is happy to report he's already gained a "freshman 15" with weeks to go before the start of the fall semester.

"I came in here at 208 (pounds)," Daron said. "I'm up to 223 now."

Daron and Zack acknowledge the workouts are trying, but a track background has given them a solid baseline in preparation for what they're dealing with now.

"People think it's tough, but I've ran track and everything so I've been in shape," Daron said. "It's not that tough, just some days when Coach Rock is in a bad mood."

The days figure to get tougher and longer in a couple weeks with the start of fall camp and two-a-days. Gaining weight, strength and speed might make the two twins look the part, but they know camp is the time when they have to prove they can play it.

"It all depends on fall camp," Daron said. "That and then getting to know the playbook. That's probably the hardest part of this whole transition."

At least one thing doesn't come easy for the twins.

Notes for a Wednesday evening

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A few VERY quick notes to close out your Wednesday, and I'll spare you any preambles:

  • The big news around these parts is the naming of Cedric Kauffmann as Dennis Emery's replacement. Kauffmann will take over Kentucky men's tennis after eight seasons as an assistant to Emery, the last four as associate head coach. Kauffmann, who was a three-time All-American during his playing career at UK in the late-1990s, is regarded as one of the bright young minds in the college game. Congratulations to Cedric and look for a feature on him later this week.
  • Speaking of new head coaches, Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network posted a Q & A with Edrick Floreal of UK track and field. He talks about why he took the UK job, his illustrious college career and coaching in the upcoming Olympic games. Check it out.
  • It's almost time for some football. Thursday and Friday will feature plenty of gridiron-related content, as I'll be attending both the Governor's Cup and Kickoff Luncheons. In addition, we're starting a series of features spotlighting some of UK's incoming freshman on Thursday.
  • Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is continuing his climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Here's an update from his group leader.

Each Wednesday here at Cat Scratches, we're going to take a look back at the latest week's news in UK Athletics from around the web.

Best on the 'net

Football: Kentucky: Coach Joker Phillips says he's feeling no heat (Chip Towers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips is known as a serious-minded fellow. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a sense of humor.

Asked the dreaded hot-seat question during SEC Football Media Days on Wednesday, the third-year coach had a quick comeback.

"I'm not sitting down right now, so there's nothing hot up here," he said with a laugh.

Football: UK football notebook: Phillips identifies with disgruntled UK fans (Jennifer Smith, Lexington Herald-Leader)

The Kentucky head coach knows that fans are unhappy.

He knows they expected more than a lackluster 5-7 last season.

Joker Phillips knows they want to see much better performances on the field this season.

He knows all of this because he's a Kentucky fan, too.

Football: Kentucky Coach Shares Pre-season Enthusiasm with Fans: A Fan's View (Shannon Frazer,

Every University of Kentucky football fan wants the 2012 season to be special, but perhaps none do more than the Wildcats head coach himself, Joker Phillips.

At the Southeastern Conference Media Day on July 18, Phillips expressed the enthusiasm that he felt going into the fall, thanks to the momentum that winning the final game of the 2011 season provided.

Football: UK Football: QB Change? (Alex Risen,

Two Wildcat quarterbacks have SEC playing experience.  Senior Morgan Newton and sophomore Max Smith.

While Newton nursed his injured shoulder in the off-season, Smith took 100 percent of the snaps under center during the spring.

Coach Joker Phillips says if the season starts today, Smith gets the nod.  But, Joker also noted today while at ESPN, there will be a one or two week competition when camp starts back up in August.

Men's basketball: Everett roots strengthen Nerlens Noel (Dan Duggan,

George Wright-Easy, a 28-year-old friend who has known the 6-foot-10 shot-blocking phenom since he was a gangly grade schooler, picks up Noel at his house. Widely considered the top prep prospect in the country, Noel has the world in the palm of his enormous hand.

So where does he go on one of the last nights before his world changes, before he leaves for the University of Kentucky next month and presumably the NBA draft 10 months later? To the movie theater to see the latest installment of the "Spiderman" series with kids Wright-Easy mentors through New England Community Services -- a Dorchester-based nonprofit that has a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

Baseball: Kentucky's Austin Cousino top hitter for Team USA (Lexington Herald-Leader)

University of Kentucky freshman center fielder Austin Cousino concluded play with the USA Collegiate National Baseball Team on Sunday as the squad's leading hitter.

Cousino batted .351 over 16 games. The U.S. wrapped up the summer by winning the bronze medal at the Honkbal Week competition in the Netherlands.

Former Wildcats making headlines

The New Orleans Hornets have come to terms with power forward Anthony Davis and guard Austin Rivers, a formality since the collective bargaining agreement has established the compensation level for first-round picks.

Davis, the first overall pick in last month's NBA draft, will earn $5.144 million in the first year of his three-year guaranteed deal while Rivers, as the 10th overall choice, is slotted by the CBA to earn $1.865 million in the first year of his three-year contract.

After a peeved Chan Gailey yanked Stevie Johnson out of the Buffalo Bills' 2011 season finale for another excessive-celebration penalty, the wide receiver believed he'd just punched his ticket out of town.

"At that point, I was thinking I was done with Buffalo," Johnson told Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver. "I was like, 'They benched me? Really?' I figured I'd go back to Hunter's Point (to play for the 49ers). But the (Bills) stepped up and paid me. And it felt so good to be wanted."

Quigley, a South Oldham graduate, won four state high school singles titles and blossomed into a elite-level collegiate player on the courts at UK.

"Pretty much my whole career I have played some of my bigger matches at the Boone Center at UK. It has been really good to me," Quigley said. "I love it and I love all the fans that come out to support me."

News from

Thumbnail image for SEC tickets.jpg Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News wrote an article on Sunday about the football fan experience in the Southeastern Conference. He tackled the topic of how schools throughout the league are approaching the trend of more and more fans opting to watch games at home instead of actually going to the stadium.

It's a very interesting piece, but the reason it's of particular interest here on Cat Scratches is the research that led to the chart embedded on the left of this post.

The chart lists the "minimum cost per game for the general public to buy SEC season tickets." As you can see, Kentucky offers the second-least expensive season tickets of any school in the conference at $33.86.

In response to recent economic woes, UK has also cut its prices from $40.00 in 2008.

Add in the mini-pack options UK just began offering, and games in Commonwealth Stadium are that much more of a bargain.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Changed forever

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On Tuesday, eight UK student-athletes spent their second day working with the residents of Korah as part of a service trip to Ethiopia. (Photo by Nathan Golden) On Tuesday, eight UK student-athletes spent their second day working with the residents of Korah as part of a service trip to Ethiopia. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 24, 2012

Kayla King - Women's Soccer

My hands are dirty. My mouth's been dry all day. My heart's racing. I have this immovable lump in my throat. I think I could still be shaking. My jeans are wet and haven't been washed in two days. They've been covered in everything from paint to kerosene to charcoal dust to mud to gravel. They probably won't get washed for another few days. My nails are filthy and my hands will be stained from paint and charcoal for the duration of this trip. My hands are empty but my heart is full. My eyes are dry but my soul weeps. My mind and eyes have been opened farther than I could have ever imagined and it's only been two days. My heart has been stretched and pulled and used and changed. I have made so many human connections that I feel like my heart will burst with all the love that I've been given. I don't know where I belong or how I will go back to the life I left in Lexington. Forty-eight hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and I will never be the same again.

Today we went back to the community center and church that we painted yesterday. Tesfaye and Kaleab greeted us with huge smiles and big hugs. We walked in through the door, debriefed, prayed and started to work. Today we had a mission - sort and deliver rice, coffee, soap, sugar, salt, and charcoal with matches to 50 families. We also needed to finish some of the painting from yesterday, so Aubrey and Kastine offered to finish that as we only needed two workers for that job. Everyone else was given bags and told to begin sorting the charcoal. Fifty-pound bags were dumped out on the cement floor under the canopy and after putting latex gloves on for safety, we dug right in. They gave us yellow bags to fill and the competitive athletes in all of us came out and soon it was a race to see who could fill the most bags the fastest. Needless to say, I won. We filled every bit of 15 bags by the end of it and my gloves were torn to pieces. Completely worth it. Bragging rights are mine.

The day was split by lunch where we went to a nice little pizza place. But the highlight of the lunch hour was sitting next to Noonish and Belailu and picking their brains about Ethiopian customs, weddings, phrases, obscure facts, and their personal lives. I've sort of acquired the reputation of an interrogator, and it might be justified by the fact that I corner everyone and demand (politely) that they tell me about their lives. It worked perfectly at lunch because they were more than happy to explain their country to me. They were proud, too. They were glad I asked and it seemed like it gave them a measure of self-worth that the firenga (foreigners) wanted to know about them.  I learned just last night that Belailu had recently lost his six front teeth due to a gum infection. With the loss of his teeth, he also lost his bubbly personality due to an extreme self-consciousness and embarrassment. When we started talking to him, he lit up and was more than happy to talk and educate us. I didn't know him before he lost his teeth, but it seemed like his personality came right back out and his whole demeanor changed. It was really cool to see.  It was his birthday and I learned later that one of our team's leaders had sponsored a full repair of his teeth.  I'm so excited for him to get his confidence back and for him to share his sincere smile.

After lunch we went back and were greeted by 20 families of single mothers and their children. They had filled up the small concrete patio and were patiently waiting on us. Tesfaye ushered us in and explained that we were going to distribute bags to these families and then take the remaining 15 or so out into the community, as those individuals were too sick or handicapped to make the walk to the church. The women came forward one by one and accepted these 25-pound bags with surprising ease. The highlight of the day, though, came right after I handed a bag to an elderly woman. I heard my name being called and looked out the doorway and saw Berexet weaving her way through the densely packed crowd to me. I met her yesterday and had mentioned that we'd be back today to deliver this food, with no expectation that she'd remember or even come back. Not only did she come back but she remembered me by name and asked after me. When she saw me, her face lit up and she gave me the biggest, strongest hug that I've had yet. She immediately latched on to my hand and didn't let go for anything. We found a seat, sat down, and talked. She just finished 6th grade, her favorite subject is English (at which she's quite proficient), she has two older brothers, her favorite color is blue, she's 13 and doesn't care for the rain. She likes bright colors, and she wears them everywhere, from her bright orange shirt to her pink hair clip. She asked about my family, and I was fortunate enough to have some pictures on my camera to show her. She marveled at my parents, my two sisters, my grandparents, and she remembered them in different pictures. She told me how young my mom looked and how tall my stepdad was. She loved my sisters. I was able to snag someone and get our picture taken, and she loved seeing herself on that little screen.

When Tesfaye gave the word, we picked up our bags of charcoal and supplies and headed out to the community. Berexet was worried that she'd lose me and offered to carry a bag so we could hold hands, but I assured her that I could carry both of them and she could link her arm through mine. After trying and failing to pick one up, she agreed and latched onto my elbow. That's how we walked through Korah together, me carrying two yellow bags full of charcoal and her gripping my elbow and chit chatting as the rain lightly fell on our heads.

We were walking along and following Kaleab, an absolutely fantastic man who serves as one of our translators, when I looked up and saw where we were. And it just hit me. All those pictures of the destitute and poverty-stricken Ethiopians in this leper colony, all of the trash heap houses and mud roads, all of the hopeless and fallen, all of that was real. Real and right in front of me. All around me were the faces of men and women, who, through no fault of their own, were ostracized because of an ignorance and fear surrounding a treatable disease. It started with leprosy and only worsened with the advent of HIV and AIDS. These people were unloved by society, outcast because of a physical appearance, and left in this pit to waste away their remaining days. I forgot about Berexet, I forgot about the rain, I even forgot about the uneven footing. I just stopped and looked around at what I'd only seen in pictures and realized that the pictures miss so much. They miss the pallor that the rain causes, the feel of your shoes when you miss a rock and sink into the muck, the emptiness that echoes as loud as the silence. They capture so much, but miss all of it at the same time. I simply couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Then Berexet brought me back real fast.

"I live here."


"Yes, right there. 11-30."

Are you kidding me? Berexet, my gentle, smart, conjo (beautiful) Berexet, lives here? The girl who loves bright colors and wears red boots lives here? No. She couldn't. It had to be wrong. Surely she meant that she lived on the other side of Korah, somewhere with gravel roads and a patch of sunlight. Not here.

"Oh look! There is my dog, Jack. He is very fun to have. I like playing with him very much."

It was true. Berexet lived in this filthy mudhole with everyone she called family. I told her how nice Jack looked and how I'd take a picture of her in front of her house when we finished delivering all the supplies. She didn't seem as excited to take it as she was about our first picture, with me under the canopy, but she agreed and pointed her house out to me. I stared at it in utter disbelief as she changed topics and cautioned me to watch my step.

Our group traversed the uneven, muddied, gravel-strewn maze that was the pathway through Korah in the steady rain carrying our charcoal in one hand and supplies in another. Tesfaye finally stopped at a side road, and explained to us that the majority of the families lived here, down this back alley wide enough for maybe a person and a half to walk side-by-side. The walkway behind the house was even worse than the streets we just walked on, and our 20-person group filed in one by one. Berexet left me here; she said she'd meet up with me after we finished delivering the food. Astonishingly, the alley opened into a small courtyard which then became a labyrinth of more back alleys and corners and people too many to count. Our first house was smaller than my room at home. The bed filled half the room and the dirt floor was carefully arranged with the very few possessions they had. A mom with HIV and her daughter lived there, Tesfaye said. We crowded in and filled the small house.

The next house was arguably the hardest on each of us. This woman had lived for 18 years in the same bed because her leprosy had debilitated her beyond movement. She had no hands, no feet, and no body fat. The rags that adorned her body as clothes hung loosely around her shoulders and her wraith-like appearance showed her despair. In her one room house, her daughter and three other people lived with her. Her daughter was a member of the church we visited and took good care of her, but insufficient funds and expensive medicine only created more health problems for her mom, a stomach pain of some sort, Tesfaye said. As I was leaving, I saw a shadow of a man sitting almost invisibly in the corner. Without thinking, I reached out my hand and said "Selamo," hello in Amharic. He grasped my hand and rose out of his corner to thank me in whatever words he had. As I turned toward the door, I saw Kaleab who had been watching the whole exchange. He opened his arms and I just clung to him.
It began to rain harder.

House after house, story after story we walked and saw and lived and learned. We reached out, held hands, gave hugs, left food and maybe gave hope. As we finished with the last house, I couldn't help but think that the rain was well fitted to our journey today. It matched the conditions we saw, and just hammered home the destitution of this place. I walked back to where we started, only in silence, thoughts weighing heavy on my soul.

There are so many things I haven't even told you about, grand things, heart wrenching things, awe-inspiring things. I could go on for pages about the people I've met, their kind personalities, the beauty of their souls, the joy they radiate. I could tell you of Kaleab's impeccable sense of fashion with the sweetest shoes I've seen here in all of Ethiopia, but his disregard for them the minute we walk the streets to give food. I could tell you of Tesfaye, whose name means "hope happens," and how he returned to his village after getting a degree in computer engineering. He works as a community developer for his people, when he could be making bank somewhere else. I don't have time to tell you of Nathan, our photographer, or Alena the pastor's daughter or Beesa, a girl who gave me her only bracelet yesterday. There are countless people with countless incredible stories, and simply not enough time to tell them all.

The purpose of this trip was not to leave with clean hands.  The purpose of this trip was to do as much as we can for as many as we can in the time that we have. To pour ourselves out and love on these people with all that we have. In doing so, these people have poured into us, with their stories and knowledge of their country. They have given us more than we could ever give them, and for that, I am forever grateful. I have seen what it is to live in poverty, in absolute abject poverty, and I have seen in the same instant the unadulterated joy that these people who live there have. Their smiles light up their whole faces and their laughter rings out amid the corrugated tin. They do not pity themselves, nor do they ask for it. They live with what they have - disease, isolation, poverty. And yet, they do not mourn, they do not begrudge, they do not hate. They simply live day to day, doing the best they can.

I have been so blessed to be part of this trip and I cannot express in words how grateful I am for this opportunity. To everyone who has had a part in me being here, physically and financially, to those who have listened to my excitement and worries, to the people who have donated shirts and supplies for me to bring over here, thank you. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart. You have changed me, whether you realize it or not. I hope one day to have the opportunity to pass it forward, and touch lives like you have touched mine. To the people on this trip with me, thank you for being here and for making me a better person. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, and I have greatly benefited from your influence, and will continue to do so. I am so humbled and honored to be chosen to be to be here, representing the greatest university in the nation. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. As they say in Amharic, "Ameseginalehu." Thank you.

Barnhart begins Mt. Kilimanjaro climb

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UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. (Photo via RMI Expeditions Blog) UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week. (Photo via RMI Expeditions)
During the offseasons of his 10-year tenure, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has made a habit of stretching his physical limits. He's scaled Mount Rainier - the tallest peak in the contiguous United States - and skydived already, but now he's taking things a bit further...and higher.

On Thursday, Barnhart, along with a small group led by RMI Expeditions, completed day one of an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. At the end of the first day, Barnhart is already nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, but barely halfway to the peak of the tallest mountain in Africa.

"I wanted to find something that challenged me mentally and physically and this is a good deal," Barnhart told WKYT earlier this month. "And it's extremely quiet and I love nature and I will tell you when you get up high and look down low there's nothing more beautiful."

At the base of the mountain, temperatures were in the 80s, but the 19,341-foot apex is typically below zero. The climb is expected to take five days and Barnhart spent the weeks leading up to his trip to Tanzania running the steps at balmy Commonwealth Stadium to prepare for the physically exacting climb.

"I love being up high, there is some intrigue, there is some degree of risk, a pretty good degree of risk," Barnhart said. "Not a lot people do it, which is really good, and they can't find you very easily on the mountains the cell phones don't work."

Barnhart welcomes the chance to take a break - if it can be called that - from his busy schedule before the 2012-13 heats up in a few weeks. Though he's pretty much unreachable, you can track his climb on the RMI Expeditions Blog here.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: A long trip and a rewarding day

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This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 21-22, 2012

Nathan Schwake - UK Athletics Staff

As we left the Joe Craft Center on campus Saturday morning at 8:30 am, many of us were in for the longest trip of our lives. Flying through Minneapolis; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Khartoum, Sudan, we finally arrived in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, on Sunday night at almost 11 p.m. After multiple airplane meals and thunderstorms that delayed our landing into Addis by 90 minutes, we were very grateful to be to our final destination. Each of us paid $20 for our visas, we collected our baggage and prepared to spend another significant amount of time waiting to get through customs. Thanks to a very generous customs agent, we were granted a pass to the front of the line and went out to meet our hosts. Our suitcases and gear piled into a 20-passenger van and we took the (thankfully) short trip to the guest house that will serve as our home base for the week.

While our student-athletes know one another to some degree, it's been rewarding to see them already begin a bonding process that will likely last the rest of their lives. Trips like these have a way of bringing people together, experiencing another culture that is so different from our own to have a greater view of the world, themselves, and each other.

After getting a quick bite to eat placing our breakfast orders for the next morning, we shuffled off to our rooms anxious to see what Monday had in store.

July 23, 2012 - "Korah"

Megan Moir - Women's Golf

UK student-athletes Megan Moir, Brooke Keyes, Kayla King, Kayla Hartley, Grace Trimble, Kastine Evans, Emily Holsopple and Aubrey Lamar are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden) UK student-athletes Megan Moir, Brooke Keyes, Kayla King, Kayla Hartley, Grace Trimble, Kastine Evans, Emily Holsopple and Aubrey Lamar are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
As the old adage goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words".  Today we spent the day in Korah, a very poor area on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Most of the people in the area search through a nearby dump to find food for their families and make a living. We spent the day working with a community to help expand their current outdoor meeting area. The work consisted of putting up wooden beams to hold up a tarp that will keep the rain off, especially during the current rainy season. The "walls" and outer fence of the church consist of some sheet metal, which we painted with sky blue paint.

When we arrived in Korah we were immediately greeted by the pastor and a few other people who work for the church. There was one man who spoke decent English but most of the people only knew a few words. The language barrier posed some difficulty when we first arrived. Thankfully, we brought a Polaroid camera today and soon began taking pictures of a few people who were around. Most of the people there have seen their picture on a camera but they have never had a photo of themselves they could keep. It was difficult at first explaining to shake the photo and eventually a picture would appear, but once the first girl's photo developed it was an instant hit. Everyone was flocking around to have picture taken and shaking Polaroid pictures. This formed an instant bond between us all and somehow we began to communicate through these little pictures.

Photo by Nathan Golden Photo by Nathan Golden
The children are beautiful and carefree. They "helped" us paint but I'm not sure who had more paint on them by the end of the day, us or the walls! We had so much fun playing with the children and teaching them new things. Most of the kids have never seen any sports besides soccer; Aubrey started teaching a boy how to swing a "bat" - a piece of wood - and hit a plastic bottle. This event gathered about 200 hundred people around to watch! I also went on a quest to use a bathroom which was quite the experience, traveling through muddy land and small gaps in houses to a very small hole in the ground. Toilets really were a great invention and something I will not take for granted anymore.

We went to lunch with some of the men from the community and were able to hear more about the city and their work. I am overwhelmed by what God is doing in and through a few faithful men in Korah. We learned and witnessed that many of the people in the area suffer from HIV and leprosy. The leaders in Korah could not stop talking about the people from the University of Kentucky who have come to serve and love their community and what an impact those in the past (and us now) have made upon him. I have simply been overwhelmed with the acceptance, love and gratitude of the people here in Ethiopia. We are surrounded by so much pain, suffering and poverty but it is impossible not to see God at work here. These people are beautiful because they possess infectious joy, joy in spite of their circumstances and it radiates from their being.

I love these people and this country. They are so simple, their culture so different, yet they are just like me. They desire to love and serve the Lord, to love and be loved, to live a meaningful life, and to provide for their families. To the world, they may have so little to offer materially, but I know I have so much to learn from my brothers and sisters here in this foreign land. Much to learn about gratitude and hard work, thankfulness and perseverance, and most importantly much to learn about their abounding joy and love for life and those who are different than them. I am so honored and blessed to have the opportunity to serve here over the next 6 days.

This week, the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships are being hosted at the Boone Tennis Center. In addition to seeing UK's all-time winningest tennis player - Eric Quigley - you also may notice a former Kentucky basketball player on the courts in an unexpected capacity.

WKYT has the story about Todd Svoboda - a member of the 1992-93 Wildcats - serving as a very tall ball boy.


Video: Behind the scenes at SEC Media Days

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Thumbnail image for NBA-Logo.png Play in the 2012 NBA Summer League concluded Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. As we've done over the last three weeks, we've told you about how several former Wildcat basketball players fared. The Summer League provided the first taste of the NBA life for four young men, while it allowed others a chance to improve and make a strong impression on their front offices to help earn a spot in the 2012-13 NBA season. 

There were some really nice surprises from this summer's draft class from Kentucky. Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets) and (Doron Lamb) each performed on a high level in their first five games with their new franchises. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a stellar 18-point debut for the Charlotte Bobcats, but was sidelined with a left leg injury for the rest of play. Marquis Teague was able to get his points, but it's clearly evident, as it is for the rest of these guys, that he has room for improvement. And Darius Miller had some solid moments for the New Orleans Hornets, starting more times in five games than he did all season with Kentucky, but he was quiet offensively.

Several other members of the Kentucky basketball fraternity also participated in the NBA Summer League this year. In all, 11 different Wildcats were in action the last few weeks with an eye on improving their games and NBA opportunities next season. 

Here is a look at how they did...

Terrence Jones (HOU): 5 GP, 25.2 MPG, 18.2 PTS, .50 FG%, 8.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, .2 SPG

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA): 1 GP, 22 MPG, 18 PTS, .583 FG%, 8 RPG, 5 APG, 4 SPG

Brandon Knight (DET): 4 GP, 29 MPG, 14.5 PTS, .347 FG%, 3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.3 SPG

Doron Lamb (MIL): 4 GP, 29 MPG, 14 PTS, .455 FG%, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 APG

Eric Bledsoe (LAC): 3 GP, 33.3 MPG, 12.3 PTS, .441 FG%, 3.7 RPG, 5.7 APG, 3 SPG

Marquis Teague (CHI): 5 GP, 27.4 MPG, 10.6 PTS, .294 FG%, 1.4 RPG, 3 APG, 0.6 SPG

Enes Kanter (UTA): 5 GP, 25.2 MPG, 10.4 PTS, .50 FG%, 8.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG

Josh Harrelson (HOU): 2 GP, 11 MPG, 6.5 PTS, 0.5 FG%, 3 RPG

DeAndre Liggins (ORL) 5 GP, 24.4 MPG, 5.6 PTS, .40 FG%, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.8 SPG

Darius Miller (NOH): 5 GP, 18.4 MPG, 4.4 PTS, .333 FG%, 2.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.8 SPG

Daniel Orton (TOR): 5 GP, 13.8 MPG, 2.6 PTS, .364 FG%, 4.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.4 SPG

New football ticket options announced

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Last week, UK Athletics announced it would offer new ticket plans for football, allowing fans to buy mini-packs of three or four games. Here are details about the Quarterback 4-Game Pack and Touchdown 3-Game Pack from Friday's release:

The Quarterback 4-Game Pack enables fans to choose:

  • any two of the Southeastern Conference games (South Carolina on Sept. 29, Mississippi State on Oct. 6, Georgia on Oct. 20 and Vanderbilt on Nov. 3)
  • any two of the non-conference games (Kent State on Sept. 8, Western Kentucky on Sept. 15 and Samford on Nov. 17).
  • The four-game pack costs $150, a savings of $24 over single-game prices.

The Touchdown 3-Game Pack enables fans to choose one game from each of these ticket levels:

  • Blue Level - South Carolina or Georgia
  • White Level - Mississippi State or Vanderbilt
  • Wildcat Level - Kent State, Western Kentucky or Samford
  • The three-game pack costs $115, a savings of $18 over single-game prices.

In addition, full season tickets for football are still on sale, as well as tickets for road games. Football isn't the only sport fast approaching, so volleyball season tickets are for sale in addition to Olympic Sports Passes.

All tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 800-928-2287 or in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office.

One last batch of videos from Media Days

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Joker Phillips

Larry Warford

Thumbnail image for NBA-Logo.png The NBA Summer League is winding down in Las Vegas. With just three days of games slated for this weekend, a few former Wildcats will be participating in an attempt to make one final impression on their organizations before training camp in a couple of months. 

Thus far, it has been a mixed bag of results for Kentucky NBA players, but they certainly have made some noise. Though it's not quite actual NBA action, almost all of them have shown the ability to adjust to the professional game and have some success.

With some teams wrapping up their final games and a couple others being held out with bumps and bruises, the Kentucky flavor that was playing summer league ball has since faded a bit. But let's take a look at the last few days to see how they are faring. 

Terrence Jones

You would be hard pressed to find a player that has been as consistent as Terrence Jones was in the NBA Summer League this year. For the third time in five games, Jones once again went off for 17 points in a 96-88 win over Marquis Teague's Chicago Bulls. 

Jones, whose Rockets went 4-1 in their five summer league contests, finishes play in Las Vegas with an impressive stat line. He averaged 18.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 25.2 minutes per game while shooting 50 percent from the field. He was simply phenomenal and has without question made the most noise of any Kentucky player competing in the event.

Marquis Teague

After a tough debut in the summer league, Marquis Teague bounced back and had a better performance in the Chicago's 96-88 loss. Teague finished with 14 points (6-of-13 shooting) with five assists. He did turn the ball over five times, so the ratio was not desirable, but it did show a marked improvement from game one, which is certainly a positive. 

Teague, as many have said, has a long way to go before he becomes a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA, but the skills are there. Like most freshmen that come out after their first season, there is still plenty of room for improvement and development. This was the case when Teague was at Kentucky, but he showed spurts of dominance and pure ability, which is something that projects well to the NBA, even if the finished product may come well down the line.

Doron Lamb

The second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks continues to show that he can score the ball at any level despite some perceived deficiencies. Doron Lamb continues to prove his doubters wrong. After scoring 20 points in his summer league debut, Lamb came back with a quiet, but solid 12-point performance. 

Lamb's 12-point night came in 78-75 defeat to the Washington Wizards, but he's done all of his scoring this season in an unconventional way. At least unconventional by his standards. Lamb has been doing all of his damage inside the arc where he seemingly lived during his days at Kentucky. He's only taken three of 25 total field goal attempts from three-point land, and he's yet to make one of those. His reputation as a deep-threat speaks for itself, but it's been his mid-range game and ability to take the ball to the basket that has impressed in the summer so far.

Lamb was held out of Milwaukee's third game to get some rest. He and teammate Tobias Harris were simply given the night off.

Darius Miller

New Orleans' other draft pick from Kentucky, Darius Miller, has started all three games for the Hornets in the summer league so far. He's averaging just six points including an 11-point performance in his second game. He came back in his third game against the Phoenix Suns and scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field. 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

After scoring 18 points in his first game with the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continues to be sidelined by a leg injury. He's missed the last three Bobcats games and is likely being held out to make sure he is healthy by the time training camp rolls around.

Anthony Davis

No, Anthony Davis has not played a single summer league game yet, nor will he, for the New Orleans Hornets. He is, however, seeing some playing time for the USA Men's Basketball Olympic  team right now. Thursday afternoon, Davis made his presence felt in a 118-78 rout of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War reenactment.

Davis, the youngest player on this year's national team, played just 13 minutes near the end of the game, but was an efficient made 5-of-7 attempts while scoring 11 points with three rebounds. And in true Davis fashion, he flushed down two thunderous dunks on the British. 

Former star defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will return to UK as assistant director of player personnel. (UK Athletics) Former star defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will return to UK as assistant director of player personnel. (UK Athletics)
Kentucky head football coach Joker Phillips took to the podium at SEC Media Day on Wednesday to give the scribes a preview of the upcoming season. There were several storylines that emerged from Phillips' appearance discussed in stories here and here, but here are some of the smaller tidbits you may have missed from Birmingham.

Jarmon takes on new role with Kentucky football

Joker Phillips announced a brand new addition to his staff Wednesday at SEC Media Days, but it was a familiar face. Jeremy Jarmon, just a few months removed from his playing days in the NFL, has been hired as the assistant director of player personnel. While his role with the team is a new experience, his familiarity with the program and the staff and the program should make him feel right at home.

A role model during his time wearing the Blue and White, Jarmon will now look to be a positive influence on the current players looking to follow in his footsteps on their way to the NFL. It will be his job to help keep them on the right track and show them the way.

Collins Ukwu, a senior defensive lineman, is particularly excited about the idea of seeing his former teammate back in Lexington. 

"When he was here, that was somebody I looked up to and I still wish that he played his senior year because I wanted to pick up a lot more things from him as a redshirt freshman," Ukwu said.

Jarmon, just 24 years old, hung up his spikes due to some nicks and injuries after a few seasons in the NFL. In an effort to stay around the game, he and Phillips engaged in conversations over the last few weeks to help make that happen. Phillips believes Jarmon will be a great addition to the staff, adding yet another player with NFL experience.

"I think it's really huge that we get a young man like Jeremy around our freshmen," said Phillips. "The biggest problem in college football is getting guys from their freshman to their sophomore years. I think it's really huge to have a guy like Jeremy around that's been a part of our program, understands how we do things and also he's just a couple months removed from being an NFL player. Those things are really huge as far as developing young players in our program."

Phillips looking to fill program with long, lean athletes

Football players are football players, no matter what shape or size they come in. If they can produce, it doesn't matter what type of package they come in. But if they have great size and length, it certainly can make a difference. Joker Phillips emphasized Wednesday that he has been and is looking for "long, lean" athletes to fill out his roster. 

This philosophy is one that he has borrowed from other coaches and programs that he has been at in the past like Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

"We're trying to take a similar model to what we did at Minnesota when I was at Minnesota with Glen Mason, is to take long, lean athletes, bring them into our program, see what they grow into being," said Phillips.

And he has done that in his time at Kentucky, starting when he was an assistant under Rich Brooks and now into his second full season at the helm. In fact, some of those long, lean players could have a significant impact for Phillips defense this season.

The idea is to get players with potentially great football frames, but mold them and polish them into SEC-caliber players after a few years in the program.

"You'll see a guy that's walking around here named Collins Ukwu," said Phillips. "He was one of those guys. Now he looks like an SEC defensive lineman."

In the position that Kentucky is in currently in the SEC, Phillips and his staff have to work extra hard to find the diamonds in the rough and rely heavily player development. Two of his newest additions to his coaching staff were hired with that idea in mind, specifically new defensive backs coach and former Kentucky assistant Mike Cassity.

"He has unbelievable experience in recruiting and in developing players to the next level," said Phillips.

Relationship with basketball is a positive for Phillips

While some coaches may feel overshadowed or frustrated with the amount of publicity their men's basketball team receives in comparison, Phillips realizes there are plenty of positives to gain from a national championship team. A Kentuckian and an alumnus himself, Phillips realizes it would be crazy to try and go up against the basketball team in a basketball-hungry market. Instead, he embraces the relationship he has with John Calipari and uses it to his advantage. 

"We want to hitch our wagon to our basketball program," said Phillips. "Who doesn't want to see John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Brandon Knight, who doesn't want to see those guys play? All these football players think they're basketball players. They want to see good basketball. That's a chance for us to sell, 'Hey, come watch these guys play.' "

In fact, the relationship between Phillips and Calipari is so strong that Calipari has gone out of his way to help his colleague even in inconvenient moments. 

"A couple weeks ago I had a kid on campus, a dual-sport athlete on our campus," said Phillips. "Coach (Calipari), he's coaching the Dominican Republican team and Puerto Rico. Five minutes before he goes out on the court, Coach Cal calls me on speakerphone to talk to a recruit. How many coaches would do that five minutes before they're going out on the court?"

Probably not many.

But for Phillips, bringing in a recruit is not about selling the football program itself, but everything Kentucky stands for and is about. He's selling the state, the city of Lexington, the University, and Kentucky basketball is a part of that.

"Again, we're selling. Everything there is to sell about Kentucky, we're selling to our football recruits," said Phillips. "Our basketball program is one of those selling points."

Walk-on Gruenschlaeger soaring up the depth-chart

One player who has made a big - even humongous impression - is 6-foot-11 left tackle John Gruenschlaeger. The walk-on sophomore has made huge strides in the off season and is listed as the team's backup left tackle on the depth chart. Phillips has been impressed with what he's seen so far from the abnormally large lineman.

"He's a guy that continues to get himself better," said Phillips. "If he can continue to improve as much as he did in the first year, he'll have an opportunity to help us in some aspect."

The one they call "Big Jack" and "Sunset" because he "blocks the sun" was even bigger, but his hard work to shed some of the weight has paid dividends and gives him a chance to see some playing time this season.

"If he can continue to improve as much as he did from the first day he walked on campus to now, he is a guy that could help us some day," said Phillips. "He's changed his body. He's lost about 50 pounds. He came in here at about 386 and he's now down under 340."

Collins Ukwu, Matt Smith and Larry Warford represented UK at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. (Photo by Padraic Major) Collins Ukwu, Matt Smith and Larry Warford represented UK at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. (Photo by Padraic Major)
HOOVER, Ala. -- Matt Smith, Larry Warford and Collins Ukwu were something of an oddity at Southeastern Conference Media Days this week. Most of the other players representing their teams at the conference's unofficial kickoff are accustomed to making highlight reels with electrifying catches, punishing runs or even incredible pass breakups.

Meanwhile, Smith, Warford and Ukwu have touched the football just three times in their combined 11 years at UK - all fumble recoveries by Ukwu. The three Wildcats accounted for over a quarter of the 11 linemen in attendance in Hoover, Ala., and while their counterparts rack up touchdowns and yards, the UK trio will be thinking about playing assignments when the 2012 season starts.

SEC Media Days was a brief foray into the spotlight for three players accustomed to battling at the line of scrimmage. It was also a symbol of where success will start for this UK team.

"You see a lot of quarterbacks and wide receivers, running backs," said Ukwu, a defensive end. "We're just three linemen that don't get a lot of media attention. This is a fun experience and we feel like, for our team, the trenches will be important for us being successful."

The significance of line play in the SEC goes without saying. A season ago, UK's offensive line was expected to be the strength of the team. Its struggles due to injury, among other things, were a central reason for the Cats inability to consistently move the ball. On the other end of the spectrum, it was the progress of the defensive line that laid the foundation for the defense's best two efforts of the year to close out the season against Georgia and Tennessee.

Beyond that, the three seniors are being asked to fill a crucial leadership role. The fact that they were selected to represent their teammates this week is no accident.

"I like to believe it's our leadership abilities (that caused Joker Phillips to choose the three)," Warford said. "I guess he appreciates that. I do try to do what's best for the team. Him choosing me is a great honor."

Warford and Smith, in particular, will be vital. Penciled in at right guard and center, respectively, Warford and Smith have started a combined 47 games. With a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a redshirt junior in Darrian Miller, Zach West and Kevin Mitchell who have made three combined starts projected at the other three spots, Warford and Smith will be asked to be the unit's anchors.

"They've done a really good job from what we've been hearing of leading the troops this summer, especially the offensive linemen," Phillips said of the two seniors. "This is going into their third year with (offensive line) Coach (Mike) Summers, so they understand all the drills. They understand how he teaches."

Warford and Smith are well aware of their role and wasted no time in undertaking it.

"Larry and myself, especially on the o-line, took it on ourselves to try and be the coach, try and be the replacement for Coach Summers in the film room and on the field," Smith said. "We're going to need a lot of these young guys this season. We're trying to be leaders out there and lead in our own way."

Warford has certainly evolved into a leader. A pre-season All-SEC selection by both coaches and media, the 6-foot-3, 343 pounder has been a solid performer throughout his career, but his teammates have noticed a change in him this offseason.

"Since I've been here, Larry has been a quiet guy that just plays and does well," Ukwu said. "Now he's being more of a vocal leader and just bringing the young guys along with him."

According to Warford, early returns have been positive.

"The guys coming in don't have much experience," Warford said. "During this offseason, all we've been doing is getting the best prepared that we can to get ready for that. Me and Matt are working hard to get the linemen on the same page. So far, I believe the young guys are doing great. They're so good, so attentive, so focused and I'm just so impressed with how much they're into it."

The offensive line isn't the only group where youth will be served on this team. Among the 44 players listed as first and second string on offense and defense, 26 are freshmen or sophomores. That number doesn't even include UK's incoming freshman class. Entering his 10th season as an assistant or head coach since returning to UK in 2003, Phillips sees precedent for that kind of youth movement.

"To me that's similar '05 when we had 24 (freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep depth chart) and '06 when we started this streak of five bowl games," Phillips said. "We had 24 in both of those. From top to bottom, we might have a little bit more athletes in those 26."

Considering those numbers, the defensive line is a departure from the rest of the team. Talented youngsters like Farrington Huguenin, Mike Douglas and Christian Coleman are expected to be backups, but the listed starters (Ukwu, Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble and Taylor Wyndam) are all upperclassmen with plenty of experience.

Ukwu can remember well what it was like as a freshman and sophomore and is still benefiting from the lessons taught to him by his predecessors.

"Jeremy Jarmon, Corey Peters, DeQuin Evans," Ukwu said. "These are guys that I look up to and I said, 'I want to be that type of guy when it's my time to be a senior or a junior.' All of these qualities that you see now, it's just reflecting from them."

For Ukwu, leadership is more than just a buzzword.

"It's not even making every play," Ukwu said. "It's doing the right thing and being a professional at what you do. You got to think that everybody's looking at you every day, even off the field, especially the young guys that are around you. You want to do everything right even though it is hard to do."

Ukwu watches his understudies and sees a group of young players even more advanced in their development than he was at the same point. That both gives him a sense of responsibility to lead and enthusiasm for what the future holds.

"That's something that you're excited to see, because when you leave here the program is in good hands," Ukwu said.

Craig Skinner is entering his eighth season at the helm of UK volleyball. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Craig Skinner is entering his eighth season at the helm of UK volleyball. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Expectations are high for the Kentucky volleyball team this season. The Wildcats nearly knocked off top-seeded Texas in the Sweet 16 in Memorial Coliseum last year. Two years prior, they were narrowly edged out by Florida State for a chance to play in the national semifinals.

It hasn't always been that way at UK, but ever since head coach Craig Skinner took over in December of 2004, expectations increase each season when autumn draws near.

"Anyone else's expectations from outside the program are probably going to be less than our own expectations," said Skinner. "There are always high expectations and I think our team embraces that and wants those because when there are high expectations, it pushes you to work harder."

And this team does work hard. In fact, this team might work harder than any group that Skinner has had since his time at Kentucky. Whether it's gathering for pick-up games in between volleyball camp sessions after working the camp and squeezing in classes, or putting in quality time in the weight room, this team looks and acts hungry.

"I'm not satisfied as a coach," said Skinner, "And I know our players aren't satisfied. From how they're training this summer and how they're getting into the gym more than they ever have, I really have a sense that they are pretty motivated this season."

After tasting success once more in the NCAA Tournament and having Texas on the ropes in the Sweet 16, these Cats know they have the capabilities to meet and exceed the expectations they have for themselves and what others have for them. 

The internal push from within this experienced and talented group of returning players will be key to meeting their goals. Junior All-American honorable mention Whitney Billings and All-SEC Freshman team selection sophomore Lauren O'Connor return to the front line this season, but Skinner says it all starts with his seniors, a decorated bunch led by Stephanie Klefot, Christine Hartmann and Ashley Frazier. The senior leadership could be the key to one of Kentucky's best seasons in program history.

"I think a lot of coaches would say you have to have good leaders to be successful," said Skinner. "The most successful teams I've ever been a part of, whether it's conference champions or national champions, the motivation and drive came from within the team. If that starts with your seniors, then you're way ahead of the game. I really have a lot of respect for the seniors that we have this year. If we didn't show up to practice one day, I have a pretty good idea that they would get a lot out of those two hours even if we weren't there."

Leadership has been something that Skinner has searched for in past seasons, but with fiery personalities like Klefot and Hartmann on the floor and the work ethic and production from Frazier, Kentucky ought to be set in the leadership department. 

Those leaders that Kentucky possesses are allowed to lead due to the trust that they've gained over the last few years amongst their teammates. They have developed as strong a team chemistry as any coach could ask for. When the going gets tough, the Cats get going, and these Wildcats don't back down from any challenge. 

"Any coach you ask, chemistry is a big deal, and we're no different," said Skinner. "We've had great chemistry the last few years. It seems like we have great chemistry now. You really find out how good that chemistry is when you're under pressure and you have challenges, so the closer you are when you get to that point is certainly a big difference in getting beyond the challenges in a successful way."

But as any college program sees turnover in their team on a year-to-year basis, Skinner has been able to reload on a yearly basis. This season, they lose two starters in Becky Pavan and Ann Armes as well as a key contributor off the bench in Gretchen Giesler. 

As the Kentucky volleyball brand grows, Skinner has been able to figure out just what type of team he wants. The job is never over, as he hopes to one day make Kentucky not only an SEC power, but an elite program on the national landscape. 

He has taken the right steps to make those things happen over his seven full seasons as head coach.

Skinner has molded his program into one that emphasizes character, academics, work ethic and winning. Those characteristics are evident in each one of his players.

The challenge is to seek out and bring those types of players into the program while maintaining a winning atmosphere. With more success comes the ability to cast a wider net to be able to pick and choose the type of players he likes. 

This season, Skinner has hauled in the nation's 15th-ranked recruiting class with some players that are capable to contribute right away and bring more talent into his stable. They also fit the Skinner bill.

"The group we have this year has been successful in most levels that they've played in," said Skinner. "So they're conditioned to be in places and programs that challenge to be the best in whatever they're in; the league, the conference, the country, whatever it may be, so they're used to what we're trying to accomplish. I think that's a major benefit for our program, and they're certainly not afraid of anything."

Skinner knows that it's important to have good people in his program, but it is paramount to have good players. Over the years, he has been able to do that more effectively each season to where he has his program on the precipice of its first conference championship in 24 years. 

This year would be an ideal opportunity to just do that, despite new additions to the conference and a tough non-conference schedule. Though the SEC title is a goal they shoot for every season, it is not the ultimate goal. This year, the ultimate goal lies west down I-64 with the Final Four being held in Lousiville, Ky. A conference championship would go a long way in setting the Cats up for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and eventually to the KFC Yum! Center. And the added benefits of an appearance in Louisville could be immense.

"We certainly want to be there," said Skinner. "There are a lot of things that have to happen to get to that point. We have to have a great year to put us in a good position to have a run in the NCAA Tournament. I think if we are able to put ourselves to be in the Final Four, I think that would be a huge boost for volleyball in this state. Not only from an athlete perspective, but in this fan base. I think there's no reason why we shouldn't have that as a goal, and the next step is improving every day."

That's Skinner's mantra: Improve every day. If not, players and coaches are wasting their time. All the while, he is calculating and lying out detailed plans to help him reach he and his team's goals for this season. After a long string of volleyball camps ended last week, he and his staff have focused their energy into the preseason.

"We are trying to figure out how to get the most out of 12 practices before we play North Carolina," said Skinner. "Obviously the reps in the gym are mandatory, but team building things and trying to prepare for when challenges and obstacles that might occur, they always do, it's on your radar so that it's not such a surprise when they do."

With Skinner's preparation and his players' motivation and mentality, the Wildcats will not be surprised if they have a break-through season to reach their lofty goals. In fact, they would be more surprised if they didn't.

Joker Phillips participated in SEC Media Days on Wednesday with Matt Smith, Larry Warford and Collins Ukwu. (Photo by Padraic Major) Joker Phillips participated in SEC Media Days on Wednesday with Matt Smith, Larry Warford and Collins Ukwu. (Photo by Padraic Major)
For more coverage of UK's participation in SEC Media Days, including video, transcripts and photos, click on this link. Stay tuned for additional stories on Thursday.

HOOVER, Ala. -- Of Kentucky's four representatives at the Southeastern Conference's Football Media Days, Joker Phillips was the only one who knew what he was getting into. Hundreds - to be exact, a record 1,115 this week - flock to the annual event, which serves as the unofficial start to the season.

"We are excited, I know everybody in this building is excited because it's football time," Phillips said in addressing the gathered press.

Coaches and players from the conference's 14 teams are asked every conceivable question and most more than once in rotation through interviews with television, radio, print and internet reporters. SEC football has the reputation as the best in the nation because of what happens on the field, but there might not be a better way to grasp its scope than coming to Hoover, Ala.

Matt Smith, Larry Warford and Collins Ukwu found out all about it Wednesday, as they were back and forth between Kentucky and Alabama within a matter of hours, with a flurry of activity in between.

The UK contingent met at TAC Air at 9 a.m. for a flight that left minutes later. The three Wildcats were each dressed in brand-new suits, complete with suspenders. Phillips was pleased to learn that each was able to tie his own tie and that the lessons of one of the team's "Straight Talk" lessons had paid off.

"The thing that we're doing at Kentucky is we're trying to prepare our young men for the rest of their lives," Phillips said. "We have a program during the season we call 'Straight Talk.' We bring in a lot of people to educate our kids in life lessons.

"Now you know they're listening and it's reaching home."

In just over an hour, the Cats were on the ground in Bessemer, Ala., and being picked up by an SEC representative. Interviews didn't start until 10:30 a.m. CT, so the group had about 30 minutes to relax in a holding room before the craziness began. The players spent their time thumbing through an SEC media guide and debating how many practices they had before the season's first game (29 was the verdict).

They started a grueling day of answering questions with some familiar faces, as local Kentucky media that had made the trek south were granted time with Phillips first, then the three players.

That was just a warm-up.

From there, Phillips and players ventured into the madness that was the second floor of the Wynfrey Hotel. They split up and tackled each breakout room one by one. For example, Smith - the senior center - fielded the questions of two different groups of television reporters for 10 minutes each. He then made a beeline to a live on-camera interview with CSS before running into Kentucky great Tim Couch, just one of a handful of former SEC stars in attendance.

More interviews with Fox Sports Net, and CBS followed for each of the players, while Phillips stepped to the podium in the main print media room to take 20 minutes worth of questions from SEC scribes. Once Phillips was finished, the three players occupied corners of the room, which was filled with dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs to address topics ranging from last season's win over Tennessee to the unpleasantness at the bottom of a pile on the gridiron.

UK's partner in the Media Days rotation was Arkansas, and the two offensive linemen and one defensive lineman there on Kentucky's behalf couldn't help but notice they were different from their counterparts. The Razorbacks' representatives were Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis and Tenarius Wright, a quarterback, a running back and a wide receiver.

Arkansas' positional makeup was hardly unique. Of the 39 non-UK players scheduled to attend Media Days, 17 were quarterbacks, running backs or wide receivers. Just five were offensive linemen and three defensive linemen even though those two groups comprise nine of the 22 offensive and defensive starters in a traditional alignment.

"I was thinking that too," Ukwu said. "You see a lot of quarterbacks and wide receivers, running backs. We're just three linemen that don't get a lot of media attention. This is a fun experience."

Reviews for all four UK attendees were glowing.

"A guy who makes you want to be a better person, a better man," ESPNU's Trevor Matich said of Phillips on air. "Not because you fear what he will do if you don't but because you don't want to disappoint him."

His players are clearly following along, because Smith, Warford and Ukwu were described as some of the most thoughtful and well spoken of all interviewees.

After a final set of interviews, an intense three-hour schedule was over and the group got to enjoy a well-deserved, though late lunch. By 4:45 p.m. CT, they boarded a jet bound for the Bluegrass having enjoyed a unique experience, but were exhausted by it. Within minutes of takeoff, Phillips and his three players were asleep.

SEC Media Days may have been the unofficial kickoff of the 2012 season, but having talked enough football to last a lifetime, these Wildcats are ready for the real thing.

Matt Smith

Collins Ukwu

Head coach Joker Phillips

Matt Smith

Larry Warford

Each Wednesday here at Cat Scratches, we're going to take a look back at the latest week's news in UK Athletics from around the web.

Best on the 'net

Men's Tennis: Kentucky tennis coach Dennis Emery succeeded because he cared (John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader)

The 58-year-old coach retired on Tuesday, at least from coaching, giving it up after 30 years at UK, announcing that he had accepted Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's offer to become a special assistant AD where Emery could put his focus and determination to use helping the entire athletics department.

"The thing is, as I know he does, I feel like we're really close to being a top-15 program in all sports," said Emery in what turned out to be an emotional news conference at the Memorial Coliseum media room. "For somebody that's been here 30 years, let me tell you, that's a completely stunning revelation."

Emery is one of the most decorated tennis coaches in collegiate tennis with an all-time record of 655-404, which ranked him sixth among active coaches. His 23 NCAA Tournament berths was second among active coaches.

"Although he will no longer be gracing the courts, we are thrilled that he has elected to stay with our department and help us achieve our goals of building a championship culture," Barnhart said. "What Dennis achieved with our tennis program is historic and we will always be indebted to him for his hard work and dedication for that program. I look forward to him continuing to be a part of UK Athletics."

In his new role, Emery will serve as a liaison between the athletics department former athletes, donors and others in the community while working with the fundraising office.
"It's the ability to be an incredible ambassador for things that I can't get to all of the time, places we can't go and places we need representation," Barnhart said of Emery's new job. "Two, (it's) fostering relationships with people that we have not been able to, at times, do as good a job as we need to do."

Game times for the Kentucky football team's home opener against Kent State and following home game against Western Kentucky University will both be night games. 

The Southeastern Conference announced the television schedule on Monday for the first three weeks of the 2012 football season.

Baseball: More All-America honors for UK freshman - No, not Anthony Davis... (Dick Gabriel,

Of course, unlike Davis, both Cousino and Reed will be back next season, and the one after that as well.  College baseball is governed by an eligibility rule many believe college basketball should adopt.  So while Davis collects millions in the professional ranks, the UK duo will be playing more college baseball.

The latest honor marks consensus freshman All-America prizes for the UK duo who are now the first Kentucky players in school history with consensus freshman All-America honors. The two standouts join former shortstop Chris Wade (2008) as the only freshman All-America selections in school history.

Former Wildcats making headlines

Anthony Davis signs with Nike (Eric Freeman,

Davis is the seventh top pick in the last decade to sign with Nike, which isn't surprising considering they are the biggest basketball-related company in the world by a significant margin. Yet that status doesn't mean that Davis is a guaranteed shoe superstar. In fact, as a defense-oriented player on a team with a long way to championship contention, Davis might not reach a superstar level of market penetration for some time. That doesn't mean Nike made a bad deal here -- it just means that Davis probably didn't command a gargantuan signing bonus or get promised a certain number of national advertisements. Different players demand different shoe-company salaries, and there's no shame in being a mid-level endorser in the Nike stable as a rookie.

Kidd-Gilchrist's off-court self-confidence has grown over the last 12 months since being thrust into the national spotlight. That's what happens when you chose to play college basketball at the University of Kentucky, win a national championship and become the second pick in the NBA draft.

"It's a part of me. It's who I am." Kidd-Gilchrist said of his stuttering.

Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins both hit solo home runs, while Joe Blanton held the Dodgers to two runs over eight innings before turning things over to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth as the Phillies won for the third time in four games since the All-Star break.

Pitchers Alex Meyer and Aaron Barrett have been pitching lights out all season for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns, and just a few days into the second half, they are getting rewarded.

According to a club source, the right-handers have been promoted to high Single-A Potomac and will report Thursday.

News from

Five days of NBA Summer League action remain in Las Vegas, Nev. As the mid-summer heat continues to build in the desert, so does one former Kentucky Wildcat who is tearing up the competition. 

The transition from the college game to the NBA has not been the smoothest for some of the news professional Cats, but for Terrence Jones, he's making it look easy.

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers

Though it was just the NBA Summer League, Terrence Jones seemed to have a little extra pep in his step when he faced his favorite team from his childhood in the Portland Trailblazers. Jones, an Oregon native, had his best game of the league thus far with 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets in both categories.

While 24 and 12 are his highs in both scoring and rebounding respectively in the summer league, he's been awfully solid. No, this is no broken record. Jones has shed, at least up until this point, the perception that he is not a consistently hard worker. His effort has been superb in his first four games as a Rocket, and perhaps no one else in this summer league has surprised more than Jones. 

Jason Friedman of has been very impressed with Jones. Here's an excerpt from his game story from Wednesday night's game:

Terrence Jones is just a ridiculous physical specimen. But he's much more than just an athlete; his skill level is so very impressive for a man his size. As always, it's important to keep all things summer league in perspective, but Jones' comfort level with the ball in his hands both running the break and on the wing certainly lends credence to the idea that he'll be able to play some small forward in a pinch (at the very least) even during the early stages of his career. I mentioned this several times during our film session series on the Rockets' rookies, but positional versatility is an invaluable currency in today's NBA. Jones and White really fit the bill in that regard.

If beat writers are taking notice, rest assured that the Houston front office is well aware of Jones' performance. He may be better than advertised. If the Rockets elect to keep this young talent, they may have quite a core to build around for the foreseeable future.

Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics

As good as some of his former teammates have been early on in their professional debuts, it was a rather tough one for Marquis Teague in his first showing with the Chicago Bulls. When Teague was selected with the 30th overall pick in the NBA Draft this summer, many were surprised, but saw it as a value pick and insurance for starting point guard Derrick Rose. Rose suffered a knee injury during the regular season and his return to normal activity is still up in the air. 

Enter Teague.

If Rose is not healthy at the start of the season, Teague will likely see some valuable minutes for the Bulls. Will he be ready for that type of responsibility in helping to fill some of the largest shoes in the NBA? If Tuesday night is any indication, the answer is likely, "Not yet."

Teague struggled in his first game in the red, white and black. He did score eight points, but it was a struggle to get there. He shot just 4 of 17 from the field, turned the ball over six times while recording only one assist. Teague struggled to adjust to the college game initially, looking to do too much. It's likely that the same will happen for him once he gets a taste of the NBA. Don't put too much stock in his performance in his first game with a new team, but know that there is plenty of room for improvement for this young point guard.

Up-to-date stats of UK players in the summer league

Doron Lamb: 1 G, 20 PPG, .500 FG%, 4 RPG, 34 MPG

Terrence Jones: 4 G, 18.5 PPG, .537 FG%, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 24.3 MPG 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 1 G, 18 PPG, .583 FG%, 8 RPG, 5 APG, 22 MPG

Brandon Knight: 4 G, 14.5 PPG, .347 FG%, 3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 29 MPG

Enes Kanter: 5 G, 10.4 PPG, .500 FG%, 8.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 26 MPG

Marquis Teague: 1 G, 8 PPG, .235 FG%, 32 MPG

Darius Miller: 2 G, 7 PPG, .333 FG%, 2 RPG, 21 MPG

Deandre Liggins: 5 G, 5.6 PPG, .400 FG%, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 24.4 MPG

Daniel Orton: 3G, 0.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 11.7 MPG

Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as UK's head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as UK's head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For longtime head coaches, stepping aside can be the hardest thing to do. Oftentimes, the job becomes such an interwoven part of their identity that retirement almost becomes an impossibility.

Even though he had been at the helm for three decades, Dennis Emery was never going to be the coach who held on too long. Emery wanted to leave the position he had held for so long of his own accord. He wanted to leave the position he had held for so long at the peak of his powers.

"I always wanted to go out on top," Emery said. "I never wanted to feel like there was any slippage in my performance."

In announcing his retirement as head coach of Kentucky men's tennis on Tuesday, Emery did just that.

In his 30 years as a Wildcat, Emery redefined the program he so capably led. He left Austin Peay in 1983 to take the job at UK, one that paid $13,100 per year without benefits, a dollar amount Emery says is "burned into my mind." Since then, UK has been transformed into a team to be reckoned with on a conference and national level.

Emery finished his last season with 655 career wins - 568 of which came at Kentucky - ranking him sixth nationally among all coaches. He coached his Wildcats to 23 NCAA Tournaments and won three Southeastern Conference coach of the year awards, the last of which came this past season, fulfilling Emery's goal of finishing strong.

Throughout the 2012 season, it was clear whenever Emery spoke that he felt he had a special group. With a pair of seniors in Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek leading a team Emery called the most talented he'd ever coached, UK completed a perfect SEC regular season, a feat unmatched in Emery's first 29 seasons. Postseason play would lead to a disappointing Sweet 16 loss, Quigley would help ease the pain by advancing all the way to the finals of the NCAA Singles Championships, cementing his legacy as Emery's - and therefore UK's - most decorated player.

Like his coach, Quigley, along with Musialek, is off to the next phase of his life. The departure of the senior duo leaves a void that will not be easily filled, but Emery isn't leaving because of the program's uncertain future. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

"I know we're losing (Eric) Quigley and we're losing (Alex) Musialek, who were two great players, two top-10 all-time winners here, but we've got a really good, solid foundation and a good class coming in," Emery said. "I feel great about the direction we're going. In fact, I'm stepping away now because I feel so good about the direction we're going."

The search for Emery's successor will begin immediately, a process Barnhart expects to move "fairly quickly."

Listening to and reading Emery's comments, it's hard to miss his use of the word "we" when referring to UK. Of course, it would be hard to blame him for reflexively calling himself a part of the school he came to call home, but in this case, the term still applies.

The retirement announcement was accompanied by the news that Emery will remain on staff as special assistant to the athletics director. Emery will of course maintain close ties to the men's tennis program, but his new role is based on the countless relationships he has built in the community during his time as head coach.

"If you talk to Dennis at any point in time and you say, 'I met this guy' and you give him a name he will say, 'Oh, I coached his son, or I coached his daughter. Or, I saw his child play,' " Barnhart said. "Sure enough, he has."

Barnhart will look to Emery to assume immediate responsibility in fundraising - an area in which Emery has already shown an aptitude - and in serving as a representative for UK.

"I think that there are a variety of things that I would hope and I think that he would absolutely thrive on," Barnhart said. "It's the ability to be an incredible ambassador for things that I can't get to all of the time, places we can't go and places we need representation. Really, really important. Two, fostering relationships with people that we have not been able to, at times, do as good a job as we need to do."

Barnhart was the one who first conceived of Emery's new position, but Emery didn't need much convincing.

"Going forward, when Mitch came to me, it's something I've always wanted to do, what he proposed to me, it seemed like what he was saying fit perfectly with the skill set I have," Emery said.

The fit may have been perfect and the timing just right, but the decision to move on was not taken lightly and it certainly wasn't made without emotion. In spite of his best efforts to avoid displaying that emotion in announcing the decision, a tearful Emery couldn't hide his feelings.

"I just feel like God has really blessed me over these 30 years to do what I'm doing and I'm doing it here," Emery said. "It's a very special place."

Emery has come to be a big part of what makes it special and one that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"We are fortunate as an institution to have the Emery family and to have specifically this guy be a part of us for 30 years, and what I would hope is 10 to 15 more," Barnhart said. "Somewhere in that range, but I mean it is his call. We've got a spot for him to help us become the university that we want to be. We know how much it means to him and we want to make sure we honor that, but more importantly take advantage of all the skills that he has and the love he has for this university."

Video: Emery's retirement press conference

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Another day and there's more NBA Summer League action to talk about in regards to former Wildcats hitting the court in their new duds. Monday's action in Las Vegas brought about some particularly strong performances, specifically in one player's summer league debut. One player had a strong bounce back performance, and another continues to put up huge numbers. 

There were four former Kentucky stars playing yesterday, and one particular match up had two Wildcats from the 2012 national championship team going head-to-head. Let's take a look to see what these formers Wildcats did on Monday.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Hornets

Doron Lamb's Milwaukee Bucks finally played their first game in the NBA Summer League on Monday when they faced Lamb's former teammate in Darius Miller with the New Orleans Hornets. It was a big game for both players with Lamb's Bucks coming out on top 76-68.

Lamb, yet to play a game against professional competition, came out right where he left off from his college basketball days scoring 20 points and played 34 minutes in his debut. Lamb didn't do much else in the game, but he's not going to be a guy who is expected to do much besides fill up the basket. He did just that with a 6-for-12 shooting performance while going 8 of 9 from the line.

Meanwhile, on the other bench, Darius Miller had a nice bounce-back performance with 11 points in his second game in the summer league. He didn't shoot it particularly well (4 for 10), but he's been aggressive which is something he has always felt uncomfortable doing while wearing a Kentucky uniform. His 10 shots were second most on the team, so it is nice to see that he is trying to assert himself immediately.

Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings

The most pleasant surprise of the NBA Summer League with relationship to former Kentucky players has to be Terrence Jones who continues to have really nice games for the Houston Rockets. Jones and the Rockets put a beat down on the Sacramento Kings, 113-91 as Jones came off the bench to put up 17 points and eight rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. Perhaps most surprisingly, Jones did not commit a single foul in his time on the floor.

Jones is now averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his team's first three contests and has arguably played as well as any of Houston's three first-round draft picks they acquired in this year's draft. And Houston has to be particularly excited that Jones fell to them at No. 18 after his early performance. 

Josh Harrelson did not play against Sacramento after playing just a few minutes in the game prior. 

Dallas Mavericks vs. Toronto Raptors

After not having his contract renewed by the Orlando Magic, Daniel Orton has been playing in the Summer League with the Toronto Raptors. Orton is looking to make an impression on someone and hopefully earn an NBA contract before next season.

Orlando was a struggle for him trying to get playing time with Dwight Howard on the floor. But when Howard went down last season, they turned to Orton who delivered mixed results. This summer, Orton has really struggled with a new team scoring just two points and pulling down nine rebounds in over thirty minutes of play in his three games. Orton is going to have to pick it up if he hopes to see himself in an NBA uniform come next season.

Marquis Teague will finally make his NBA Summer League debut for the Chicago Bulls when they take on the Boston Celtics tonight at 10 p.m. He will be the last (excluding Anthony Davis who is playing for Team USA) of Kentucky draft picks this season to make his debut in the NBA Summer League. 

Terrence Jones' Rockets and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's Charlotte Bobcats will also be in action Tuesday night.

Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as head coach of UK men's tennis. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as head coach of UK men's tennis. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
For the second time this summer, a University of Kentucky coaching legend has stepped down.

On Tuesday morning, legendary men's tennis head coach announced his retirement after 30 years in the position. Longtime track and field coach Don Weber did the same last month. Emery will remain with the athletic department, as Mitch Barnhart named him Special Assistant to the Athletics Director, a role that will involve fundraising.

Emery is the most successful coach in UK men's tennis history, and it's not even close. After his arrival in 1983, he led UK to two Southeastern Conference championships, 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and helped 19 Wildcat men to 38 All-America honors. For more on his announcement and achievements, check out our release here.

We'll have complete coverage of the joint press conference Emery and Barnhart will hold at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday to discuss the decision here on Cat Scratches and on Twitter @UKAthleticsNews.


Former Kentucky players continue to get their work in during the Las Vegas portion of the NBA Summer League game with mixed results. With such a large contingent of NBA teams participating in Las Vegas rather than Orlando, a few of the former Wildcats have seen some professional basketball action, meanwhile, some teams are yet to play a single game with the likes of Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague still waiting to see the floor. 

Over the last couple of days in the league, only a couple of former Wildcats even saw action, so here is a brief update on how those players performed.

Terrence Jones

In just two games for the Houston Rockets, Terrence Jones is already making a strong impression. Jones fell a little bit further in the NBA Draft than many expected, but he was still a first rounder, one of three selected by Houston in the 2012 draft. Thus far, he's been one of the most consistent performers for the Rockets.

In Saturday's 76-70 win over the Washington Wizards, Jones followed up a 17-point performance with 16 points and five rebounds. Though he scored less, he was much more efficient from the field shooting 7 for 10. Already in just two games, Jones looks to be one of the top performers of former Kentucky stars playing summer league hoops.

Josh Harrellson

The newly acquired Josh Harrellson made his Houston Rockets debut alongside Jones on Saturday in a brief showing. Harrellson played less than five minutes and took only one shot in his scoreless effort, but it is likely that his minutes and opportunities will increase as the league goes on.

Harrellson was off to a strong rookie campaign for the New York Knicks before suffering an injury in the middle of the season that saw him miss 21 games before he was slowly worked back into a new-look rotation when he returned. He's shown the ability to defend and rebound so far in the NBA and when given an opportunity, can fill up the scoring column. He could be a nice, quiet acquisition for the Rockets this season.

Darius Miller

The sixth man of the 2012 National Championship team made his NBA Summer League debut Sunday. Darius Miller's professional debut came in a brand-new role: starter. It was a forgettable debut for Miller where he scored just three points on 1-of-5 shooting in 17 minutes for the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets fell to Portland, 85-82.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

The second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, did not play in Charlotte's 68-64 win over Cleveland due to a coach's decision.

Marquis Teague & Doron Lamb

Neither Marquis Teague or Doron Lamb have made their summer league debut in Las Vegas because neither player's team have yet to see action. Lamb will make his debut Monday night against Darius Miller and Anthony Davis's New Orleans Hornets. Teague will throw on the Bulls uniform for the first time on Tuesday when Chicago takes on the Boston Celtics.

The Las Vegas portion of the NBA Summer League got underway Friday, coinciding with the final games of the Orlando Pro League. While three former Wildcats have now completed their summer action, a few more are getting ready to take the stage for the first time in their new colors.

The NBA's summer schedule comenced the Orlando league Friday on the same day that the Las Vegas league began, creating a marathon of July basketball from 8 a.m. with Enes Kanter's Utah Jazz, ending with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's Charlotte Bobcats, and a smattering of other Wildcats in between. 

With No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis bowing out of summer league games to go play in the Olympic summer games and Brandon Knight inactive for his last game of the Orlando league, the Big Blue Nation's focus turned to the No. 2 overall pick in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He did not disappoint in his professional debut.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz

In the early game of the NBA's summer hoops marathon, Enes Kanter's Utah Jazz fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 89-75. Yet, it was a big step and a strong showing for the Turkish center. 

Kanter had his highest scoring output of summer league action in the finale with 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds (seven offensive) in a losing effort. While winning in the summer league carries little significance, the improvement of players is paramount. That is what Kanter did in all give of his games. Though he set the standard rather low with a three-point performance in game one, he either increased or matched his point total from the previous game throughout the week. In five games, Kanter nearly averaged a double-double with 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.

Though he started slow, Kanter really came around throughout the week, which has to make Utah Jazz management happy. He showed improvement, great touch, and nifty footwork in the post. He was aggressive on the boards. Perhaps most importantly, he stayed on the floor and continued to build his endurance while playing big minutes.

Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

DeAndre Liggins' Orlando Magic dropped their finale to the Boston Celtics 94-73 Friday. Looking at straight point totals, Liggins appeared to have another sub par performance. He scored only two points, but what Liggins gives to a basketball team often does not show on the stat sheet. But he was still productive against the Celtics despite a poor scoring performance. He pulled down eight rebounds while dishing out three assists in the losing effort.

Liggins is a guy who is starting for the Orlando summer league team, so he is getting a really good look from Magic evaluators. Though they have to be concerned with his ability to put the ball in the hoop, they have to love his effort and athleticism. When Liggins struggles to score, he is still able to affect the game in a positive way with his defense, rebounding and ball handling. 

For the week, Liggins averaged 5.6 points a game, with his high of 11 coming the game before. He also tallied 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists over the five game span.

Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors

With play switching from Orlando to Las Vegas, Terrence Jones made his professional debut for the Houston Rockets as a reserve. He played like man on a mission. 

Houston used their second first round pick on Jones, and he did not disappoint. In 25 minutes on the floor, Jones racked up 17 points 9 rebounds, outscoring fellow first-rounders Royce White (6) and Jeremy Lamb (16). It was quite a first impression and one of the better performances from a former Wildcat in all summer league action thus far. 

Jones and his Rocket teammates went on to win their opener with a comfortable 93-81 victory over the Toronto Raptors. If he continues to perform in a similar manner, he'll likely find himself in a starting role for the summer league and move up the Houston depth chart. What remains to be seen is if Jones' future lies in Houston or if he may be part of a deal that ultimately lands Dwight Howard. Regardless of who he ends up with, he will likely make that team very happy in the not too distant future.

Sacramento Kings vs. Charlotte Bobcats

In the nightcap in Las Vegas and the final game of the summer league marathon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his professional debut as a Bobcat rather than a Wildcat. Regardless of name or jersey color, Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be a really good NBA player. He showed everyone why Friday night.

While many NBA Draft experts had Kidd-Gilchrist falling down to the fourth or fifth pick in this year's draft, it seems the Charlotte Bobcats, who have been much maligned for their draft history, may have made a wise decision. Kidd-Gilchrist went second overall in this summer's draft behind Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, but with Davis traveling with Team USA, Kidd-Gilchrist is the highest pick playing in the summer league. 

With an 18-point, eight-rebound performance in a 121-87 shellacking of the Sacramento Kings, Kidd-Gilchrist showed the world what Kentucky fans have known for a year: He is good at basketball. He was aggressive in getting to the rim, attacking it like a player who has been in the league for years. He also kicked in four assists and had five steals. It was a big first night out for the former Kentucky All-American. 

Davis officially bound for Olympics

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Anthony Davis has done it all over the past year. The national player of the year, national champion, Final Four Most Outstanding Player and No. 1 overall pick will now officially have the chance to add a gold medal to his impressive resume.

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo announced on Friday morning
that Davis will be the permanent replacement for Blake Griffin - who will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee.

"We are sorry to have received confirmation of Blake's injury which has forced his withdrawal from the USA Team for this summer," said Colangelo. "Blake worked extremely hard in our training camp and certainly would have been a valuable contributor. This is another unfortunate injury, but we have to continue to move on and we're very fortunate to have Anthony Davis available. Anthony offers our team additional height and length, and this will be an incredible experience for him."

Davis played with Team USA for the first time on Thursday night against John Calipari's Dominican Republic National Team. He was substituted into the game in the fourth quarter by Mike Krzyzewski with the Americans up big and Davis promptly scored nine points in less than 10 minutes.

"It's sad to hear what happened to Blake (Griffin) - he's a great player and it would have been a great opportunity for him," said Davis after making his USA National Team debut Thursday night. "Tonight was a great feeling out here and I had fun. They (teammates) told me to go out there and have fun, relax and take deep breaths. Don't think of it like there is pressure on you. It can really help me being around all these guys in this experience and playing in the Olympics fresh out of college."

A highlight from Team USA's 113-59 exhibition victory was when Davis drilled a 3-pointer and was fouled. He would break out the 3-goggles familiar to Kentucky fans before playfully pointing toward his former coaches John Calipari and Orlando Antigua.

"I'm so proud that Anthony Davis is having this opportunity and I truly believe this experience will push him ahead in his career by years," Calipari said. "The coaching and what he'll learn from the players will be an enormous benefit."

On a team full of All Stars and NBA MVPs, Davis will certainly have ample opportunities to learn.

"Whatever Coach K wants me to do I am going to do. I am going to look forward to the challenges, and I'm looking forward to going overseas and my first time out of the United States. I am looking forward to that and getting to mingle with some of the guys and getting to know them and their workout routines and how they get ready for each game. They are superstars and they are here for a reason, so I'll just try to emulate what they do."

The NBA Summer League is about to get busier as play in Las Vegas gets underway Friday. This season, 26 teams will participate in the league in Sin City as they look to develop their young talent. 

With DeAndre Liggins (Orlando Magic), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons) and Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz) all in action over the past week, an additional slew of former Kentucky Wildcats will be getting their first summer league action this weekend. 

The 2012 national player of the year, Anthony Davis, will not participate in the summer league due to his obligations to Team USA. The No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets was summoned Thursday to play with the team in their exhibition game against John Calipari's Dominican Republic team. Davis scored nine points in 10 fourth-quarter minutes to steal the show late for the Americans.

Over the last couple of days, the former Wildcats competing in the Orlando Pro League have been making some serious noise of their own. 

Brandon Knight

Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Knight has had a tale of two days in his last two games. In Wednesday's 83-62 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma City Thunder, Knight's Pistons were in complete dysfunction. Knight had one of his poorer games of the league thus far, scoring just 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field. He gathered only three assists while he coughed up five turnovers.

Thursday saw Knight turn to (Austin) Daye, and several other of his Pistons teammates. While Knight led all scorers in the game with 19 points in Detroit's 93-79 win over the Boston Celtics, it was his floor leadership and distribution that made waves. Knight dished out a cool 14 assists, which was five more than the entire Celtics team had combined.

Knight is quickly becoming one of the bright young stars in the game, and his ability to bounce back from a tough contest the day before shows his toughness and resilience. The former UK point guard has always shown the ability to score, often times at will, but if he can continue to find his teammates and rack up assists in the manner in which he did Thursday, it won't be long before he is making all-star teams on a consistent basis.

Enes Kanter

Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter has improved in each of his first four games in the NBA Summer League. You can see it in his confidence, his attitude and his skill. He becomes more and more comfortable by the day showing why he was a top talent in the 2011 NBA Draft despite not playing a single minute of college basketball. 

Kanter continues to build his stamina and is beginning to be one of the leaders on the court. He played 28:32 in Wednesday's 79-75 win over the Orlando Magic in which Kanter was quite instrumental. He chipped in 12 points from the post and poached 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the summer league. After a slow start, Kanter has been rolling.

Though his teammate Alec Burks continues to fill up the scoring column and perhaps overshadow Kanter, he's continued to be solid and do his job. In Utah's next game against the Indiana Pacers, Kanter posted a similar effort with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 87-81 win to push them to a 3-1 start in summer league play. Kanter's been very active in the low post and has worked hard to get position on defense to help gain possession for the Jazz. Kanter will see his minutes go up considerably if he can continue to post double-doubles on a nightly basis.

DeAndre Liggins

After a frustrating performance against Kanter's Jazz in Wednesday's game, Orlando Magic guard DeAndre Liggins bounced back with a strong effort on Thursday. In a 79-75 loss to Utah, Liggins didn't register a single point or assist and played just under 13 minutes. 

Liggins was out for redemption on Thursday, and he got it in Orlando's 77-75 double-overtime victory. After not scoring a point the game before, Liggins went 4 for 5 from the field to notch 11 points, four assists and four rebounds. While he has been lauded for his defensive ability and effort, his best opportunity to see the floor is if he can prove to be an offensive threat in the NBA. If he shows an ability to defend and make the open look, Liggins could see a fair share of playing time come the 2012-13 season. 

The Orlando Pro League gets started early as the Las Vegas league kicks off with NBA's Summer League marathon on NBA TV. Game play begins with Kanter's Utah Jazz taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder at 8 a.m. in Orlando and winds up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's Charlotte Bobcats taking on the Sacramento Kings. 

To catch all the NBA Summer League action, NBATV will show all 60 games as well as offering Summer League broadband for $14.99.

We'll have notes and highlights from the summer league here on Cat Scratches for the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

Hendo TV Show: Williams inside the dugout

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The Gary Henderson TV Show had another great season in 2012, highlighting some of the top moments of the year and bringing fans inside the program with interviews, coaching tips and insight. The show had a weekly feature "inside the dugout" with coach Henderson interviewing a player from the club. From the first episode of the season, here is coach Henderson and catcher Michael Williams.

Season can't come fast enough for Phillips

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Joker Phillips spoke at a meeting of the Lexington Rotary Club on Thursday. (Bill Straus, UK Athletics) Joker Phillips spoke at a meeting of the Lexington Rotary Club on Thursday. (photo courtesy of Bill Straus)
With the way the calendar works out for college football, now is the time for coaches to take rare vacations. NCAA rules prohibit staffs from both recruiting and working with current players, so Joker Phillips and his assistants are spending much of July on vacation.

Phillips has managed to squeeze in a diversion here or there and even a short trip with his wife, but it's hardly been a relaxing time for him. In fact, Phillips called his vacation "grueling" simply because he's so ready to return to football full time.

"We'll be back in office next week, but we're eager to get back to work," Phillips said.

The only member of the Kentucky staff that can work directly with players right now is strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver. Knowing Oliver's reputation, you can be sure that means this summer has been no vacation for the players with whom he's working. Phillips gets regular reports from Oliver on the Wildcats' progress, but he doesn't need much more confirmation that they're working hard than the kind he gets by administering the eye test.

"I can tell you this," Phillips said. "They look good walking through the halls."

That's only adding to Phillips' optimism for 2012, which started with strong performances by the Cats in their final two games of 2011. In a close loss on the road against SEC East champion Georgia and a streak-busting win over Tennessee, UK turned in arguably its best two efforts of the season. Even more encouragingly, they came with returners like Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Avery Williamson, Cartier Rice, Eric Dixon and Darrian Miller playing big roles.

Memorably, the Tennessee victory came without a true quarterback under center, as Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton were sidelined due to injuries. However, Smith showed flashes of both production and potential during his freshman season.

"Somebody's got to get the first-team reps, so Max will be the guy that gets the first-team reps when we run out on the field the first day," Phillips said. "We'll gradually start trying to see who else can get in the mix to take some."

Joining in that quarterback battle will be newcomers Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow. The two are members of UK's 2012 freshman class, a group that has seen all of its members already arrive on campus. Phillips has not yet had the opportunity to coach those youngsters on the field, but he is getting to know them. Phillips had the freshmen over to his house this past weekend and learned quite a bit by simply watching them interact.

Defensive back Zack Blaylock caught a good-sized carp in Phillips' backyard pond. Towles, displaying the kind of leadership needed out of his position, wasted no time in quarterbacking the efforts to reel the fish in while teammates helped.

"That right there showed me that these guys really like each other," Phillips said. "They like working together."

The carp likely didn't weigh enough to test the strength of running back Dyshawn Mobley, a 5-foot-11, 225 pounder who can dead-lift "close to 700 pounds" according to Phillips.

"That's a huge number, especially for a back," Phillips said. "We haven't had that back here in a long time."

The thing is, Mobley isn't the only power back in his class. Fellow freshman Justin Taylor, a one-time Alabama commit, is listed at 5-10, 215 pounds and could help make running back the deepest position on UK's roster. With top runners CoShik Williams, Josh Clemons, Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders returning, the Cats may just have a stable of backs necessary to survive the rigors of a Southeastern Conference season.

"It's a deep position," Phillips said. "It's a talented position. We got some game experience. We got the two young guys who are excited about being here and working their tails off."

Hendo TV Show: Coaching Tips

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The Gary Henderson TV Show had another great season in 2012, highlighting some of the top moments of the year and bringing fans inside the program with interviews, coaching tips and insight. Here is the first coaching tip of the year, with UK assistant coach Brian Green, shortstop Matt Reida and second baseman J.T. Riddle demonstrating how UK had such a dynamic middle-infield combo last year. 

Anthony Davis will report to Team USA training camp in place of the injured Blake Griffin, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Anthony Davis will report to Team USA training camp in place of the injured Blake Griffin, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When Anthony Davis was among the last players cut from Team USA's roster, he had little reason to be disappointed in himself. The national player of the year, national champion and No. 1 overall pick of the New Orleans Hornets has accomplished basically everything a 19-year old basketball player reasonably could.

It turns out Davis might just get the chance to add an Olympic gold medal to his unforgettable year after all.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Davis has been asked to report immediately to training camp in Las Vegas for the United States Olympic team after an injury to Blake Griffin. Griffin twisted his knee in a scrimmage with his fellow Dream Teamers and will return to Los Angeles for an MRI, according to the report.

Davis was actually in Los Angeles for the ESPYs on Wednesday night. The severity of Griffin's knee injury will likely determine whether the former Wildcat sticks on the roster.

On Thursday night, Team USA will face off against John Calipari's Dominican Republic National Team in an exhibition in Las Vegas on Thursday night. It's of course uncertain how much or even whether Davis would play in the game - which will be televised on ESPN at 9 p.m. - but it would be pretty cool to see him go up against his former coach.

UPDATE: Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports that Jerry Colangelo - director of USA Basketball - confirmed that Davis will be available for Thursday night's game against the Dominican Republic., though that does not guarantee him a spot on the Olympic roster. is starting its annual series of features spotting the latest batch of newcomers to Kentucky's men's basketball team. Over the coming weeks, Eric Lindsey will be writing about Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel, but Julius Mays is up first.

A member of John Calipari's fourth incoming class, Mays is a bit different than those than came before him. Like many of his forebears, he will spend only one year in Lexington, but he comes already having played three seasons at the Division I level and graduated from Wright State, the school from which transferred to Kentucky.

Over the coming months, we'll learn plenty more about Mays, but's story and accompanying video serve as a good introduction to the senior guard:

While Mays is clearly one of the elder statesmen in terms of age and college experience, he's just as green as guys like Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein when it comes to learning and adapting to Calipari's unique style and philosophy.

As a college veteran, Mays could have used an attitude that he's been through the wars before and knows how to get by. After all, he's played in nearly 90 college games and averaged 14.1 points per game last season as a guard at Wright State.

Instead, he's embraced the opportunity he's been given to play an integral part in Kentucky's next title run, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to improve his game and fit in with his team, even at the expense of being a 22-year-old "first-year player."

"I feel like to be a great player, you've got to be willing to make changes," Mays said. "Your game is never perfect. The best guys that you'll hear talk, they're always changing things. Nothing is ever just great. The greatest player in the game, Michael Jordan, I'm sure he changed things all the time. I don't feel like it's difficult with (Calipari) changing things that I've been used to. His way might work better. It probably will work better. It never hurts to try something."

Link: Mays willing to change for chance to win big

Wide receiver La'Rod King was named preseason second-team All-SEC by league coaches on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Wide receiver La'Rod King was named preseason second-team All-SEC by league coaches on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Larry Warford could be getting ready to head to his first NFL training camp right now. Instead, the decorated offensive guard is preparing for one last go-round in a Kentucky uniform.

Recognizing his next-level talent, Warford was named preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference by the league's coaches. The rising senior was a second-team performer each of the past two seasons and an All-Freshman performer following his first season as a Wildcat. In 2011, the Richmond, Ky., native allowed just one sack all season.

Warford was one of 71 players named to the Outland Trophy watch list on Thursday. The award annually recognizes the nation's top interior lineman.

In 2012, Warford will be counted on to anchor an offensive line that will feature a blend of experience and youth. Warford will also represent UK at SEC Media Days next week along with fellow senior offensive lineman Matt Smith and senior defensive end Collins Ukwu.

Warford was one of two Wildcats honored in the preseason by league coaches, as senior wide receiver La'Rod King was named to the second team. King was UK's top outside threat a season ago catching 40 passes for 598 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the team in all three categories. For his career, King has 86 catches for 1,218 yards and 13 touchdowns. He already ranks 19th in school history in receiving yardage and can climb the charts in 2012.

Anytime a head coach takes over a program, there's a great deal of work involved. For new Kentucky track and field coach Edrick Floreal, the transition will be even more significant.

Floreal is balancing tying up loose ends at his former job at Stanford, moving his family to the Bluegrass and serving as jumps coach for Team USA at the Summer Olympic Games. And don't forget about getting to know his Wildcat student-athletes. Mark Maloney writes about that subject and others in a story in Thursday's Lexington Herald-Leader:

Under his watch, 91 Stanford athletes earned 197 All-America honors. The Cardinal won three NCAA women's cross country titles and finished among the top-five men's cross country programs in three of the last four years. Add to that seven NCAA track and field finishes indoors, as well as outdoors.

UK is coming off a seventh-place men's finish and 12th-place women's finish in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships.

"I have to have (UK athletes) buy in, and buying in means 'wherever we're at right now, we need to do better,'" Floreal said. "Can we do three or four spots better? I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so. But it might be two spots better; it might be six spots better.

"I don't know right now, and I just don't want the kids to get discouraged. ... Like my former A.D. (at Stanford), Bob Bowlsby, said, 'you've got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.' I'm not interested in trying to eat the whole thing together, so we're going to keep biting at that until we eat the whole thing."

That challenge to build UK's program and take advantage of a new outdoor facility are part of what lured him from Stanford, Floreal said. He cited the support of his UK predecessor -- Don Weber -- and the passion of Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as factors.

Give Maloney's full story a read to learn more about UK's newest coach.

Link: New Kentucky track coach Edrick Floreal has a full summer on tap

Three years ago, University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy Professor Joseph Fink was tabbed as the school's faculty athletics representative by then-President Lee Todd. Now, he has been appointed for a second term by President Eli Capilouto.

Ethan Levine from UKNow writes about Fink and the role he plays:

According to the university's administrative regulations, the faculty athletics representative (FAR) "shall represent faculty concerns for the institution's conduct of its intercollegiate athletic program. The FAR shall demonstrate the faculty's belief that the intellectual and emotional development of students is the primary mission of the institution and that the value of athletics shall be measured by their contribution to that goal. The FAR will work closely with athletic administration and staff to ensure that these goals are realized."

As FAR, Fink represents the university's faculty in not only the Southeastern Conference (SEC), but also in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

And no one better fits the job than Fink.  The man is like Forrest Gump around UK's campus; he's done almost everything and met almost everyone that UK has to offer.  He is currently a professor of pharmacy law and policy in the UK College of Pharmacy, as well as a professor in the College of Public Health.  He is also a professor in the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, where he once served as acting director.

The story has much more about Fink and what he does to make sure UK and its athletic department remain strident partners.

Link: UK's faculty athletics rep thrives in role

UK-Duke to punctuate Tip-Off Marathon

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For the second year in a row, Kentucky will play in primetime as part of ESPN'sTip-Off Marathon.

On Wednesday, ESPN unveiled the schedule for its annual marathon, which will feature 11 games over a 24-hour period on Nov. 13. All 11 games will be broadcast on ESPN. UK's State Farm Champions Classic matchup with Duke in Atlanta will be marathon's final game. UK-Duke will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of Kansas-Michigan State, which means tip-off will be at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET.

Here's the complete schedule for the event:

Midnight: West Virginia at Gonzaga
2 a.m.: Davidson at New Mexico
4 a.m.: Houston Baptist at Hawaii
6 a.m.: Stony Brook at Rider
8 a.m.: Northern Illinois at Valparaiso
10 a.m.: Harvard at Massachusetts
12 p.m.: Temple at Kent State
2 p.m.: Detroit at St. John's
4 p.m.: Butler at Xavier
7 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Kansas (Champions Classic, Georgia Dome -- Atlanta)
30 minutes following MSU/KU: Duke vs. Kentucky (Champions Classic)

Each Wednesday here at Cat Scratches, we're going to take a look back at the latest week's news in UK Athletics from around the web.

Best on the 'net

A state that has just under 4.4 million people according to a 2011 estimate -- which is the 26th highest total population in the U.S. -- is able to generate enough interest in Kentucky basketball to sustain a number of websites, newspapers, radio shows and TV shows. It is no secret that Kentucky fans drive college basketball traffic on the Internet.

How is that possible from such a small state? Why does the Big Blue Nation have such a powerful online presence?

Men's basketball - Breaking down UK's schedule from Massimino to Pitino (Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Leader)

Overall, a schedule with games against Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor and Louisville, plus quality mid-major foes Long Island and Marshall is respectable. The Rupp Arena part of the schedule, especially in a season in which UK raised ticket prices for some fans, leaves a lot to be desired.

The University of Kentucky has announced its 2012-13 men's basketball non-conference schedule, including games against Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor, Morehead State and the traditional Christmas week game against Louisville on Dec. 29.

University of Kentucky senior Matt Smith has been named to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which annually honors the best center in college football.

Smith, a Louisville native who was also on the Rimington watch list last season, has played in 29 games in his career with 22 starts.

In 2011, Smith missed the first two games because of injury but bounced back strong with nine starts. Two years ago, Smith helped anchor a UK offensive line that ranked in the top 25 in the nation in fewest quarterback sacks allowed.

Football recruiting is far more an inexact science than baseball and basketball, for obvious reasons. There's no way of knowing if a kid who physically dominates at the 12th-grade level will keep doing the same every year. And, like it or not, AAU basketball gives recruiters the opportunity to see the nation's most highly-touted players clash with each other.

The difference is - and it's huge - one great player still can change the fortunes of any quality basketball program. Two can prompt your fans to start squirreling away money for a trip to the post-season. Three? Assuming they get along and play well together, well, they can make history.

It takes dozens of players, arriving every year, to make it happen in football. And even though you're bringing in around 25 per year, if you're Kentucky, you can't make many mistakes.

Track & Field - Kentucky hires Stanford's Floreal to coach track and field (Mark Maloney, Lexington Herald-Leader)

Floreal, a UK assistant from 1995 through 1997, returns after a highly successful run at Stanford University, where he was an assistant from 1998-2005 and director of track and field for the past eight seasons.

He soon will be heading to London as the Team USA jumps coach at the Summer Olympic Games.

That Floreal would leave national-power Stanford for Kentucky prompted Track & Field News magazine to label one of its tweets "a coaching shocker."

Baseball - Cuba claims Game 4 against Team USA (

The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team couldn't find an answer for Cuban starting pitcher Freddy Alvarez who struck out eight and allowed just two hits in 7.1 innings to lead Cuba to a 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon at Latin American Stadium.

Team USA fell behind early and played catch-up all game. Trailing by four with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the U.S. put together a two-out rally, getting a single from Kyle Farmer (Georgia), a double by Austin Cousino (Kentucky) and another two-bagger, which drove in both runners, by Johnny Field (Arizona).

Former Wildcats making headlines

Alex Meyer did not get his turn to pitch in the Futures Game until the eighth inning, when USA led the World by 12 runs. He waited and waited, and he only threw six pitches, but Meyer packed into his impressive performance all the reasons why he is considered the Nationals' top pitching prospect.

The biggest loss is Harrellson, a versatile power forward who rebounds well, defends solidly and can shoot the three-pointer. His skill set should translate to a solid career in the league. But on this current Knicks team, his minutes were likely to be eaten up by Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries and Camby himself, who is a far better fit for backup center than Harrellson.

Trevathan making his mark with Broncos (Frank Jolley, The Daily Commercial)

Danny Trevathan is proving that he belongs in the National Football League.
The former Leesburg High School and University of Kentucky linebacker, a sixth round draft pick of the Denver Broncos, became the team's first rookie from the Class of 2012 to crack the starting lineup.

The team announced Saturday that forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky signed a deal worth about $4 million for his first season, according to the union negotiated rookie pay scale. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged nearly 12 points and more than seven rebounds in his only season with the Wildcats.

The Bobcats chose Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall rick. Kidd-Gilchrist's Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis was chosen first overall by New Orleans.

News from

Day two of NBA Summer League action in the Orlando Pro League saw three former Wildcats hit the wood floor. Here's a quick rundown of how these Kentucky stars performed on Tuesday.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Utah Jazz

After a rough first outing for Enes Kanter, the Turkish center got back on the right track with a 5-for-9 shooting performance en route to a 10-point, eight-rebound effort against the 76ers.

Kanter struggled with his shot and was not very active in his first action of the summer league Monday, but after knocking off some rust, Kanter looked more like the player most expected him to be, adjusting to the defense and game flow. He's got a wealth of upside, but is still very much a work in progress. That's why Kanter hopes to use this summer league to help improve his game.

After not playing basketball for a season while at Kentucky, then heading straight to the draft, Kanter was unable to play for long stretches of time. He hopes to be able to get more minutes next season, and thus far, has seen a good amount of playing time come his way. In Tuesday's 84-80 win over the 76ers, Kanter logged 26:48 after averaging 14.3 minutes per game last season.

Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic

Tuesday marked the second straight day that two members from the 2011 Kentucky Final Four team went head-to-head in summer league competition. This time, DeAndre Liggins and Brandon Knight matched up in a close one, as Knight's Pistons pulled off a 79-75 win over the Magic.

Though the Pistons got their second straight win in the league, Knight struggled with his shot all day. He tallied just 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting, but he did a nice job of distributing the basketball with six assists on the afternoon.

Liggins, though he scored a personal league-high nine points, was just 2 of 5 from the field and made 5-of-10 free throws. He pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists, but four turnovers kept him from having a better day.

Play continues in the Orlando Pro Summer League Wednesday at 11 a.m., but Knight leads off the Wildcat action when his Pistons take on the Thunder at 1 p.m. Liggins and Kanter will then square off in the finale when the Magic and Jazz tangle this evening at 5 p.m.

The Las Vegas league does not get underway until Friday with the other 24 teams competing in the dessert with teams competing from July 13-22. To catch all the NBA Summer League action, NBATV will show all 60 games as well as offering Summer League broadband for 14.99.

We'll have notes and highlights from the summer league here on Cat Scratches for the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

Video: SEC Football Media Days a week away

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From July 17-19, the Southeastern Conference will host the unofficial kickoff of football season in Hoover, Ala. Kentucky's turn at Media Days will come on Wednesday, July 18.

After a week away from his Kentucky team, John Calipari returned from coaching the Dominican Republic National Team on Monday to take advantage of a new rule allowing two hours of on-floor instruction each week during the summer. As Coach Cal is set to hit the road again on Tuesday, Monday's practice was longer than the hour-long sessions that have been the custom the last few weeks.

Much to his delight, Calipari came home to a group of players that improved during his absence. Left in the capable hands of assistants John Robic and Kenny Payne, the Wildcats were further along in the dribble-drive motion offense and in better condition than when they were last on the floor with their head coach, which Calipari said both during practice and in this video posted on his website.

"I'm excited because we've gotten better," Calipari said. "Guys, you can see, are in better shape, guys are getting stronger, skill levels are improving, the dribble-drive is starting to take shape."

Cat Scratches was in attendance for Monday's practice. It was my first opportunity to see UK's 2012-13 team and below are my observations from the Joe Craft Center viewing deck:

  • With incoming freshman Nerlens Noel and sophomores Sam Malone and Brian Long not in attendance, UK did not have its full complement of players for its ninth session of the summer. Just nine players participated, so the Cats were unable to do any five-on-five drills, but they still got plenty of work in.
  • After Coach Cal gathered players at mid-court for a few quick words, players were split into two groups for warm-up skill drills. On one side of the floor, perimeter players Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and Twany Beckham cycled through a two-man passing and shooting workout. Joining them for the first few minutes was combo forward Alex Poythress. At least early on, UK is not expected to be an elite shooting team, but there were a few extended stretches without a miss. Mays, the Wright State transfer, has a natural shooting stroke that starts with solid footwork, while Harrow and Goodwin also stuck out as players capable of hitting jump shots regularly.
  • On the other side of the floor, big men Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein worked with Payne and were later joined by Poythress. They focused on playing through contact and finishing at the rim. Wiltjer showed off smooth hooks with both his left and right hand, which we already knew about, and served as an example for the freshman. Payne and Calipari harped constantly on Cauley-Stein's release point in the paint, asking him to use his length and shoot from higher as Wiltjer does.
  • Speaking of Wiltjer, the sophomore still has that silky outside shot that he showed off last season, but he also seems to have a little added bounce. He threw down a couple one-handed dunks in individual drills I can't remember seeing in the past. It's no stretch to say he'll be much more of a featured offensive piece in 2012-13.
  • Cauley-Stein continually caught my eye throughout the practice. Of course, he needs to clean up his fundamentals in some areas and is clearly accustomed to relying too much on his size, but Coach Cal is right about him flying under the radar. He's long, fast and moves very well. Noel has been looked at as the successor to Anthony Davis in terms of throwing down lob dunks and blocking shots, but don't sleep on Cauley-Stein. Calipari devoted more individual attention to the 7-footer than probably any other player on the floor, which tells me he expects big things out of the youngster. He had some early struggles playing through contact, but after some encouragement by Calipari, Cauley-Stein had a series of physical finishes at the rim, culminating in one lob dunk on a full sprint that caused Coach Cal to say, "You run like a guard, you dunk like Shaq."
  • Cauley-Stein was indicative of the improvement Calipari noticed, and he challenged his team to keep it up. Coach Cal is willing to get on guys when they aren't going 100 percent, but he prefers not to have to. He wants his players to hold themselves accountable, particularly since they only get two hours of practice together weekly over the summer. "Push each other, push yourselves," Calipari said.
  • If Poythress gets significantly better than he already is, he's not going to be any fun to deal with for UK's future opponents. Poythress readily switched between interior and perimeter drills, showing the kind of flexibility that will make him a matchup nightmare. His shot is a bit mechanical, but he has the kind of no-wasted-motion game that makes it look like playing basketball is easy for him, whether he's jumping a passing lane for a steal, elevating for a block or driving to the basket for a dunk.
  • Speaking of dunks, there will be plenty of those this season. If you're looking for a player to throw down an alley-oop, Cauley-Stein is probably your guy. Harrow would probably win a dunk contest among the guys on the team with his vertical and ball skills. But if you're looking for the guys most likely to put an opposing player on a poster, it has to be Poythress and Goodwin. Poythress is powerful, while Goodwin shows no hesitation in simply jumping over you. He had a pair of one-handed dunks over unwitting defenders in situations where it didn't even look like he would have a layup. What made them even more amazing was his teammates and coaches reacted as if the dunks were an everyday occurrence.
  • Goodwin's outside shot will likely be a bit streaky this year, but he has the look of a player who can get anywhere at any time off the dribble. Calipari focused mainly on decision-making with the freshman, as he'll likely be asked to play point guard during stretches this season, but Goodwin might better suited for beating his man in an isolation than any UK player since John Wall.
  • Next on that list might just be Harrow, the heir apparent at point guard. He's put on some weight, but he's still at a bit of a strength disadvantage much of the time. However, he often makes up for it with speed and incredible ball handling. Also, the year he spent learning as a redshirt is paying dividends, as Coach Cal is having to spend less time correcting mistakes than with Marquis Teague during early-season practices a year ago.
  • Mays will also spend time at the point and was interesting to watch throughout the practice. He has the savvy and the knack for getting open of a veteran, but is still in a transition phase, learning a new system on the fly. Compared with backcourt mates Harrow and Goodwin, Mays doesn't catch your eye athletically, but he knows how to play the game. He also had a few good battles with fellow senior Beckham hounding him on defense. Beckham, who will be looked to as a defender this season, didn't get much of a chance to showcase his ball-hawking skills in a practice that focused primarily on offense, but his time will come.
  • After a year of watching him be limited to helping out during practices, it was good to see Hood back on the floor. He's playing with a sleeve on his surgically repaired right knee and is rounding into form. His shot looks good and he had a couple really nice finishes cutting to the basket as the players worked on pick and rolls.
  • With drills focusing on playing in the open floor, the dribble drive and the pick and roll, these practices are about playing basketball, not installing plays. Coach Cal wants his players to be able to read and react on the fly and he isn't afraid to make the same group of players go through another repetition if he notices something he wants to address. Calipari also frequently uses callbacks to former players and teams. He referred to Anthony Davis a few times when coaching Cauley-Stein, and once cited a backdoor pass from Josh Harrellson to Brandon Knight that resulted in a game-changing layup against North Carolina in the 2011 Elite Eight. He knows how to get his players' attention.
  • For that reason, among many others, these summer sessions figure to prove extremely valuable. Yes, the Cats only get a couple hours of practice time, but they'll be thinking about and working on the concepts learned in the practices for much longer than that.

On Tuesday, Kentucky unveiled its men's basketball non-conference schedule for the 2012-13 season. It features nine home games, two road games and two neutral-site games, plus two exhibitions in Rupp Arena and the annual staples of Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White game.

You can read more details about the schedule in Eric Lindsey's post here, but this will be a slightly different look at UK's non-conference slate. In breaking down the schedule into segments, we'll be touching on each opponent a bit individually as well as evaluating what UK will be looking to get out of the non-conference in preparing for Southeastern Conference play and beyond.

Getting to know the Cats

Big Blue Madness - Friday, Oct. 12
Blue-White Game - Wednesday, Oct. 24
Northwood (exh.) - Thursday, Nov. 1
Transylvania (exh.) - Monday, Nov. 5

A season ago, John Calipari was incorporating four freshmen with a team returning a senior and two sophomores well-known to the Big Blue Nation. Fans knew all about Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer and pollsters dubbed the Cats an early-season title frontrunner, but no one really knew what kind of team the Wildcats would be.

That's where this initial stretch came in, and figures to come in again this season with a team featuring even more new faces.

Davis thrilled fans with his incredible shot-blocking during Big Blue Madness. Could Nerlens Noel do the same this year? Terrence Jones showed off his improvement with 52 points in the Blue-White Scrimmage in 2011. Will Kyle Wiltjer be the guy to prove how much better he is this time around? In two exhibitions to follow, UK figures to overwhelm opponents with sheer talent, but if you'll remember, Transylvania created some nervous moments in 2011, staying close deep into the first half in the schools' first matchup in a century.

All in all, the season won't be made or broken in October and early November, but crucial relationships will be formed as the team practices together full-time and takes the floor in Rupp Arena for the first times. Teammates will learn about each other, Coach Cal will begin to learn about his new team and fans will get to know the team they'll be rooting on for the next 33 to 40 games.

Stiff tests out of the gate

Maryland - Friday, Nov. 9 (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Duke - Tuesday, Nov. 13 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

There might not be a team that faces two schools with bigger names to start the regular season than UK.

It starts with a game against Maryland as part of the Barclays Center Classic, when the Cats will take on the Terrapins in the first college game to be played in the new home of the Brooklyn Nets. It will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2001, when Maryland defeated UK in the Sweet 16 en route to a national championship.

Maryland will play its second season under Mark Turgeon, who left Texas A&M to succeed Gary Williams. The Terps were 17-15 a season ago, but could be improved with the return of sophomore 7-footer Alex Len and classmate Nick Faust. The pair will be joined by a six-man recruiting class ranked 18th nationally according to

Four days later, UK will play in another made-for-TV matchup with an ACC opponent, this one even more enticing. Perhaps no team catches the eye of Kentucky fans more than Duke, but the Cats haven't played the Blue Devils since 2002. In March, the two teams seemed on an Elite Eight collision course before Duke fell in upset fashion.

With notable departures on both sides (Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee for Duke), this game will have a different feel than the one that didn't happen last season, but it should still be very interesting. Part of another State Farm Champions Classic doubleheader, the game will be played at a relative midpoint between the two schools in the Georgia Dome and the crowd figures to be fired up. The Devils will be integrating two McDonald's All-Americans in Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon into an experienced, guard-heavy roster.

Losing one of these two games is certainly a possibility for UK, but Coach Cal won't be evaluating his young bunch on wins and losses at this point in the season. Calipari is getting what he wants out of his non-conference schedule in these games, playing a pair of high-profile opponents on a big stage similar to the kind of games UK will face come tournament time.

Finding a rhythm

Lafayette (Pa.) - Friday, Nov. 16
Morehead State - Wednesday, Nov. 21
Long Island - Friday, Nov. 23

By this point, Calipari will have a better idea of his team's strengths and areas for improvement. Three home games will give the Cats a chance to work on those things while facing opponents that will play contrasting styles.

Opening this stretch is the first-ever matchup with the Lafayette (Pa.) Leopards of the Patriot League. Fran O'Hanlon is entering his 18th season as head coach, coming off a 15-18 record in 2011-12. The Leopards lose a few key players to graduation, but should challenge UK from outside. Lafayette took and made lots of 3-pointers last season, scoring the second-highest percentage of its points from 3-point range (39.3 percent) in the NCAA.

Next, UK hosts in-state foe Morehead State with former Wildcat great and "Unforgettable" Sean Woods in his first season as head coach. The Eagles are just two seasons removed from a memorable first-round upset of Louisville and last played UK in Calipari's first game as head coach back in 2009. Look for Woods to implement a more up-tempo style in his first season with his new team.

Speaking of fast-paced basketball, the team that will come to Lexington after Morehead likes to run as much as any in the country. Under Jim Ferry, Long Island ranked among the nation's top teams in adjusted tempo each of the past two seasons according to Ferry has since been named head coach at Duquesne, but understudy Jack Perri is unlikely to change the script after back-to-back NCAA berths.

Early-season progress reports

at Notre Dame - Thursday, Nov. 29 (SEC/Big East Challenge)
Baylor - Saturday, Dec. 1

After three games in a week at home, another road trip quickly follows for the Cats. This time, UK will play its first true away game of the season against Notre Dame, a team that returns the bulk of its contributors from the 2011-12 edition that went 13-5 in Big East play on the way to a third NCAA Tournament appearance in as many season. A big and boisterous crowd at the Joyce Center will welcome the Wildcats for a game that will serve as a preview of what life will be like on the road in SEC play.

UK returns home for another game two days later, but it won't be an easy one. In a rematch of last season's Atlanta Regional final, the Cats will host Baylor for a game between two teams that lost a combined nine players to the NBA Draft. Though Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy are gone, Scott Drew brings in a top-five recruiting class that includes center Isaiah Austin, the No. 3 overall prospect in the class according to

Like the Bears, UK will be an unfinished product when the two teams face off, but these games against marquee opponents will provide some insight into how Coach Cal's team is coming along.

Home for the holidays

Samford - Tuesday, Dec. 4
Portland - Saturday, Dec. 8
Lipscomb - Saturday, Dec. 15
Marshall - Saturday, Dec. 22

With just four games over three-and-a-half weeks, the Cats will have the opportunity to focus on final exams before focusing on basketball alone during "Camp Cal."

The first two games will be against familiar opponents, as both Samford and Portland will travel to Rupp Arena for a second season in a row. Somewhat strangely, Portland poured in 11 3s against UK last November, while normally hot-shooting Samford hit just three in 16 attempts. The Cats will then have a week between games with Lipscomb and Marshall coming to town the next two Saturday's. Following what could be a challenging game against the Thundering Herd - which played its way onto the NCAA bubble late last season - the Cats will likely be given a few days off for Christmas.

The Dream Game and a final tune-up

at Louisville - Saturday, Dec. 29
Eastern Michigan - Wednesday, Jan 2

After Christmas, UK will have just two more games before going through the SEC's new 18-game schedule for the first time.

Departing from the tradition of the last two seasons, the annual UK-U of L game will not be played on New Year's Eve and will instead move to Dec. 29. For the third time in less than a full calendar year, the Cats and Cardinals will face off, this time in the KFC Yum! Center. Returning the majority of their players from last season's Final Four team, the Cardinals will be ranked in the top five next preseason, making for what could be one of the year's signature games in college basketball and one more chance for Coach Cal's team to face a road environment in preparation for SEC play.

Before conference play begins, UK will host one final non-conference game against Eastern Michigan, a team that relies on the kind of zone defense future opponents could use in an effort to slow down the athletic Cats.

The SEC Digital Network is continuing its "40/40" series, which is a celebration of women in Southeastern Conference athletics since the passing of Title IX 40 years ago. Former Kentucky stars Jenny Hansen (gymnastics) and Valerie McGovern (track and field/cross country) have already been featured as a part of the series, but Tuesday was Valerie Still's turn.

Still is the all-time leading scorer in UK basketball history - men's and women's - and was the leader on the school's SEC title team in 1982. Written by Tim Letcher, this story gives some interesting perspective on Still's time as a Wildcat:

Still didn't know exactly what she was getting into when she arrived in Lexington. "I didn't even know about Kentucky basketball, men or women," she says. "All we knew was that they had a pretty good football team at the time, because Art was on it. We thought it was a football school," she says with a chuckle.
In the fall of 1979, Still embarked on what would be a record-breaking career. She led Kentucky in scoring all four years of her career. When she scored her 1,599th point as a junior, she passed Pam Browning to become the leading scorer in Kentucky women's basketball history.

"Pam was in that first group when they brought the program back (in 1974), and she was just inducted into the UK Hall of Fame this September," Still says. "When I came in, you knew Pam Browning if you knew women's basketball. She was a pretty special athlete."

"Passing Pam was pretty significant for me," Still says. "When I came to UK, one of the things I liked doing was, I'd take a look at the media guides and I'd look in the back and see who had the records, and she (Browning) had all of the records. And I thought it would be kind of nice if I could get my name in there."

Not only did Still get her name in the record books, she shattered nearly all of the women's basketball records at Kentucky. In addition to points and rebounds in a career, she holds school records for points in a game (42), rebounds in a game (27), field goals made in a career (1,118) and free throws made in a career (527), just to mention a few.

As she started to place her names among the greatest women's basketball players in Kentucky history, Still accomplished something that most people probably didn't expect.

In a game against Miami (Ohio) on December 5, 1982, Still scored her 2,139th career point, passing Issel as Kentucky's all-time scoring leader, man or woman.

When asked what she remembered about the moment, Still says, "Not a lot. I think when you're young and doing things, I was sort of limited in my knowledge. I was just doing something that I loved doing, and something incredible happened."

The story goes on to talk about life after UK for Still, touching on her professional career and now her career as an author. Take a look.

Link: SEC 40/40: She's Still the One
With last season coming to an end just two weeks ago due to the lockout, the NBA has already resumed activity with its NBA Summer League. The NBA Summer League, the first in two years due to the lockout, is a great opportunity for young players, rookies, and free agents to hone their skills, get acquainted with the NBA, and try to open up a few eyes in the stands. Several participants during the summer league are for former Kentucky Wildcats who are looking to accomplish the aforementioned goals.

Since men's basketball head coach John Calipari took over at UK, Kentucky has been churning out professionals like no other school in the country. With many young former Wildcats just entering the league, that means the NBA Summer League has and will continue to have a Big Blue presence.

Day one of the Orlando Pro Summer League kicked off Monday with three former Wildcats in action.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic's roster could see an incredible overhaul with the impending future of center Dwight Howard. But one current player, second-year guard DeAndre Liggins saw plenty of clock in his first Summer League appearance. It was a bit of a struggle for the former Wildcat, scoring just six points in 32:10 on the floor. He was 1 of 5 from the field, but hit 4 of 7 from the free throw line.

Liggins was never depended on to be a scorer at UK, rather he was looked to as a defensive stopper that was capable of doing the little things. To his credit, he helped in other ways in 92-88 win over the Brooklyn Nets with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. With a new coaching staff on the way and a roster in flux, the Summer League could be a prime opportunity for Liggins to display has ability and athleticism for next season.

Utah Jazz vs. Detroit Pistons

Two members of the 2011 Final Four team and NBA Draft Class squared off Tuesday in Orlando in Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter. Both enjoyed solid rookie campaigns in their first season in the NBA, and they were back in the Summer League to continue their development. 

In their first action of the summer, Knight was the clear winner in their first live action since their seasons came to an end in the spring. Knight's Detroit Pistons won in a nail-biter that saw the Utah Jazz come back with a 28-19 fourth quarter to cut the deficit down to three, but the Pistons held on to pull out a 76-73 victory. Knight was rock-solid with 17 points and six assists. Despite a less than stellar shooting performance (4 of 11), Knight got to the line 14 times, scoring nine of his 17 for the game. His 17 points was just one point shy of the team high (18 - Kim English).

Kanter, on the other hand, struggled mightily and looked not like the player he showed flashes of during his rookie season. The third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was held to just three points in a poor shooting effort (1 of 7 from the field) and grabbing five rebounds. 

Both Knight and Kanter were projected to be cornerstones for rebuilding franchises. To this point, Knight has been the better pick despite being selected five picks after Kanter as the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to the Detroit Pistons.

Play continues for the Orlando Pro Summer League Tuesday with Liggins, Knight and Kanter all getting back to action immediately. Kanter's Utah Jazz kicks off Tuesday's slate against the Philadelphia 76ers at 11 a.m. Meanwhile, Liggins and Knight will square off in the afternoon when the Magic and Pistons get together for 3 p.m. tilt.

The Las Vegas league does not get underway until Friday with the other 24 teams competing in the dessert with teams competing from July 13-22. To catch all the NBA Summer League action, NBATV will show all 60 games as well as offering Summer League broadband for 14.99.

We'll have notes and highlights from the summer league here on Cat Scratches for the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

John Calipari has made it a point of emphasis this offseason to build a schedule that includes nontraditional games, marquee opponents and a slate of NCAA Tournament-like experiences that will prepare his team for the postseason.

The 2012-13 non-conference slate, which was officially released by UK Athletics on Tuesday, includes all of the following.

With the addition of two more Southeastern Conference games this year, Kentucky will play a total of 13 non-conference games over a two-month span. The schedule includes nine games at Rupp Arena, two on the road and two neutral games against Maryland and Duke to open the season.

For the first time since the 2002-03 season, UK will begin its year away from the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. The Cats will help open the brand-new Barclay Center against Maryland on Nov. 9 in the Barclays Center Classic. Kentucky will stay on the road and play Duke for the first time since 2001 on Nov. 13 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Duke game is part of the Champions Classic, the second straight year UK has participated in the event.

Coach Cal's team will open the home portion of its schedule Nov. 16 with three straight games as part of the Barclays Center Classic against Lafayette (Nov. 16), Morehead State (Nov. 21) and Long Island (Nov. 23). A trip to Notre Dame for the SEC/Big East Challenge on Nov. 29 will break up the home stand.

The Cats will return to Rupp Arena for five straight home games, beginning with a showdown against Baylor on Dec. 1. The game is part of a two-year deal that will conclude in 2013 when the Cats travel to Cowboys Stadium. UK defeated Baylor 82-70 last season in the NCAA Tournament to earn its second straight Final Four berth.

Following Baylor is Samford (Dec. 4), Portland (Dec. 8), Lipscomb (Dec. 15) and Marshall (Dec. 22).

Kentucky's annual rivalry game with Louisville will take place Dec. 29 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. UK won both meetings last season, including a historic victory over the Cardinals in the Final Four.

UK concludes its nonconference schedule with Eastern Michigan on Jan. 2.

Prior to the regular season, the Cats will host a pair of exhibition games at Rupp Arena. The first will be Nov. 1 against Northwood (coached by Rollie Massimino), followed by Transylvania on Nov. 5. It's the second straight year in-town Transy has played UK.

The season officially opens with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 12. The Blue-White Game is set for Oct. 24.

A by-the-numbers breakdown of the schedule is available below, but first a look at the full nonconference schedule:




Oct. 12

Big Blue Madness

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Oct. 24

Blue-White Game

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 1


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 5


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 9*

vs. Maryland*

Barclays Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Nov. 13#

vs. Duke#

Georgia Dome (Atlanta)

Nov. 16*

Lafayette (Pa.)*

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 21*

Morehead State*

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 23*

Long Island*

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Nov. 29

at Notre Dame

Joyce Center (Sound Bend, Ind.)

Dec. 1


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Dec. 4


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Dec. 8


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Dec. 15


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Dec. 22


Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Dec. 29

at Louisville

KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, Ky.)

Jan. 2

Eastern Michigan

Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.)

Home games are in BOLD
Exhibition games are in ITALICS
indicates Barclays Center Classic
# indicates Champions Classic

Earlier this offseason, Calipari outlined his philosophy on scheduling. His basic belief is to form a schedule that will prepare his players for the NCAA Tournament and put them in a position to win a championship.

For one, that includes more neutral-site games, which this year's schedule has in games against Maryland and Duke, but it's also a delicate balance of games that will toughen up his players without breaking them down before the rigors of the SEC. Calipari's philosophy has always been to form a schedule that will bolster his team's RPI, give his players the best chance to succeed and help his program obtain a favorable NCAA Tournament seed.

This year's schedule features thirteen teams from 11 different leagues. Combined, the 13 schools posted a 2011-12 record of 248-187, a winning percentage of .571. Last season, their average RPI, which the NCAA takes into consideration when forming the 68-team NCAA bracket, was 126.8.

Five were NCAA Tournament teams in 2012, including one Elite Eight team (Baylor) and one Final Four squad (Louisville). Overall, six opponents were in postseason play.

UK played three of the opponents last year (Samford, Baylor and Louisville), including two (Baylor and Louisville) the Cats saw in the latter stages of their national championship run.

Two of the teams (Lafayette and Eastern Michigan) UK has never played before.

Regular-season schedule breakdown


2011-12 record


Final RPI

Final AP ranking

Series history

Last meeting






UK leads 7-5

Maryland won 78-68 in 2002



NCAA third round



UK leads 11-8

Duke won 95-92 in 2001






Never met

First meeting

Morehead State






UK won 75-59 in 2009

Long Island


NCAA second round




UK won 63-62 in 1947

Notre Dame


NCAA second round



UK leads 42-18

UK won 72-58 in 2010



NCAA Elite Eight



UK leads 7-0

UK won 82-70 in 2012






UK leads 1-0

UK won 82-50 in 2011






UK leads 2-0

UK won 79-48 in 2010






UK leads 1-0

UK won 67-49 in 2005



NIT first round



UK leads 11-0

UK won 89-76 in 2003



NCAA Final Four



UK leads 30-14

UK won 69-61 in 2012

Eastern Michigan





Never met

First meeting

Floreal named track and field head coach

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Edrick Floreal was named head coach of Kentucky track and field on Monday. Edrick Floreal was named head coach of Kentucky track and field on Monday.
Bit by bit, Kentucky is turning into the kind of head coaching destination Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart envisioned it could be a decade ago.

On Monday, UK announced the hiring of Edrick Floreal as head coach of UK track and field. Floreal comes to Lexington after six years leading Stanford's program, the kind of job that would have caused a coach to consider leaving UK in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, recognizing the vast potential of the Kentucky program and the lure of coaching in the Southeastern Conference, Floreal is a Wildcat once more.

"I am very excited to return to Kentucky and guide this program into a new era of success," Floreal said in a release. "I am certain that with the support of the administration and the Wildcat community, we can accomplish great things. The new outdoor track and field facility provides the perfect venue to accomplish the many goals I have for UK. My wife and I are looking forward to being back in the SEC, competing against the best in track and field and taking part in the new rise of champions at Kentucky. The potential is limitless and I am excited to join the Big Blue Nation as part of the Wildcat Family."

After winning five NCAA triple jump titles and four team championships as a student-athlete at Arkansas and competing for Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, Floreal spent 1996-98 as an assistant under Don Weber at Kentucky. He would then depart for Palo Alto, Calif., where he spent 14 seasons and the last six as head coach. During his tenure, 50 of his student-athletes earned 142 All-American honors. In 2011, he led the Cardinal men (eighth) and women (14th) to top-15 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.  

"We are proud to announce Edrick Floreal as the new Kentucky track and field head coach," Barnhart said. "Edrick has found success in every step of his career, both on the track and in the classroom. He knows the SEC both as a student-athlete and as a coach, he has ties that span the country and he has developed student-athletes to compete on the national level and global level. His passion in the classroom is something we take great pride in at Kentucky, and we look forward to opening our new outdoor track and field facility under Edrick's direction."

At UK, Floreal will lead six different programs, including men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track and field, along with men's and women's outdoor track and field.


NBA Summer League starting Monday

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Thumbnail image for NBA-Logo.png As the summer months wear on, it's become somewhat of an annual tradition for Kentucky fans to get their basketball fix by keeping up with the NBA Summer League. Since John Calipari arrived back in 2009, the summer league has been the first place to watch the latest batch of Wildcats freshly headed to the professional ranks.

This year is no different, as all six of UK's draftees are expected to suit up for their new teams in either Las Vegas or Orlando, including Anthony Davis, who decided to take part after missing the cut for the USA Basketball team in the Olympics. In addition, a number of other young Cats like Eric Bledsoe, Enes Kanter, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson are expected to play.

Play in the Orlando Pro Summer League begins on Monday at 11 a.m., as Liggins and his Orlando Magic take on the Brooklyn Nets. At 3 p.m., Kanter and the Utah Jazz face Brandon Knight's Detroit Pistons. The Orlando league features eight teams in total and 20 games will be played before it ends on Friday, July 13.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas league starts on Friday with a record 24 teams playing games from July 13-22 at the Thomas & Mack Center and the COX Pavilion on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. NBATV will broadcast all 60 Vegas games and is offering Summer League Broadband for $14.99, which will allow you to steam all 60 games online.

We'll have notes and highlights from the summer league here on Cat Scratches for the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

The 2012 season will be Johan Cedergren's first as head coach of UK men's soccer. (UK Athletics) The 2012 season will be Johan Cedergren's first as head coach of UK men's soccer. (UK Athletics)
New head coaches always have some type of plan for what they want their new team and program to be about. 

"I think the plan was to be somewhere where you could win a national championship and compete for national championships every year, and that's Kentucky."

No, those aren't the words of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari, but if it sounds like something he said at the beginning of his tenure, there's a reason for that. Coach Cal's philosophies, aspirations and goals are very similar to those of the man to whom that quote is attributes. Those are the words of new men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren, and he has big ideas and lofty goals for the UK men's soccer program even before his team has played its first real game under him.

Cedergren was named head coach back in December, and since day one, he has been trying to implement his plan and message to his players. 

"One of the first things I did, I think it was the second day of class, and we met," said Cedergren. "And at that point, my assistants weren't hired yet, so it was just me and the guys that were coming back. And I basically went through my philosophy of how I wanted to do things going forward."

He laid it all out there for his players in an attempt to connect and build the foundation for relationships with his new team. It's important to Cedergren to have close relationships with his players so that they always are on the same page. That did not happen immediately. But his open-door policy helped smooth things over right away.

"We had several guys that came in the spring," said Cedergren, "where in my mind I thought it was crystal clear what we wanted to do, but in their mind, not at all on the same page. So I think it's always important to keep an open door. And I think throughout the spring, they all got to know me and we know what to do going forward."

Kentucky had an uneven season in 2011 (9-9-2) by their standards, but there was plenty of talent on the roster. That is one thing that has Cedergren particularly excited about his first season at the helm. However, he also knows that there are some things already in place and old habits are hard to break. 

Cedergren also has an influx of freshman that he is ecstatic about despite the fact that he and his staff has only had three to four months to put a recruiting class together in their first season. One of the challenges he will encounter is making an early first impression on his freshmen, but also handling the returning players in a way that he's not completely retooling their games.

"Kentucky has been a very good soccer team in the past, and they started off really good early on, and they had some good results," said Cedergren. "They beat Brown 5-1, so there's a lot of ability already on the squad. So you don't want to take that away, but maybe you want to do things a little differently. So we try to take the best of what's already here and then bring some of the stuff that we're used to doing and change things up a little bit, and that took some time in the spring, but we definitely got pretty far."

The spring season was definitely encouraging for Cedergren and his staff. They defeated all five of their spring opponents and began laying the foundation for what their team will look like in 2012. Playing short in the spring season had players somewhat out of position and questioning what was going on, but with the results and the continued success, Cedergren noticed his players started to buy in to what he was selling. 

Now, as he and his family settle into their new Kentucky home, Cedergren is realizing that Lexington isn't quite Hanover, N.H. The former associate head coach at Dartmouth is now understanding what the Big Blue Nation is all about, and it's quite different than what he's used to.

Even in his first few weeks in the job, people were starting to recognize the new men's soccer coach at the University of Kentucky. The UK faithful, especially in Lexington, feel a strong sense of ownership in their athletic teams with no professional sports in the state. The notoriety is something that surprised Cedergren, but he happily embraces it.

"Anywhere you go, everyone's wearing blue," said Cedergren. "License plates, flags, it's everywhere. I've been surprised with how many people knew who I've been. I went to the (YMCA) when my wife signed up and the very first person there was like, 'Oh, you're the new soccer coach.' So I think that just being recognized out and about, and also the support from the institution is a big difference."

With that kind of support comes lofty expectations. That's where Cedergren's ambition come into play. 

The Kentucky men's soccer program has never won a national title, but that doesn't mean it can't. Cedergren sees his new job as a place where that can happen, and even in its infancy, his plan is right on track.

"I think you have all kinds of thoughts and ideas before you get here, and then you want to implement them," said Cedergren. "And I would say so far, everything is going according to plan. We've been able to bring in some high-profile recruits, scheduling has been no problem...I've been saying to (assistant coaches) Dave (Casper) and Erik (Imler) that there's got to be something really bad around the corner because so far it's been easy."

That "something around the corner" is the 2012 season, and that will likely be his biggest challenge to date as head coach at the University of Kentucky.  But the challenge is exactly why Cedergren, the 2010 National Soccer Coaches of America Assistant Coach of the Year under Dartmouth head coach John Cook, chose to come to Kentucky. The challenge is great, but the reward is much greater. If Cedergren has it his way, those rewards will come sooner rather than later.

"We have a very good returning team as far as a really good incoming class, so we're hoping to be good," said Cedergren. "But you never know until the fall, and you never know what's going to happen. A couple of bad results and all of a sudden things derail and you have to go back to the drawing board. We have some very high expectations within the staff, and we're hoping to make a splash."

But as a head coach, things do not always work out as planned. If he does not reach the successes he strives for in the early going, he will rely on some advice he received from Cook during his time at Dartmouth.

"The one thing he said over and over again was to be patient," said Cedergren. "It's O.K. It doesn't all have to happen in the first week, first month or first year. Whenever I've gotten frustrated with whatever it is, I've always kept that in mind to be patient, it doesn't all have to happen right now."

If it doesn't happen this year, it likely will in the near future. Though winning is very important and the primary way head coaches are measured, Cedergren's program will be about much more than that. Yes, he has big goals for what he hopes to see on the field one day, but he knows that there's more to life than soccer. 

Perhaps this is where Cedergren's philosophies are most like Calipari's. What he hopes to impress on his young team is to have the desire to win and to be the best they can.

"It is a lot of hard work, and it's something we talked a lot about in the spring. You may not want to do as much fitness, lifting or study hall hours, but in the end, anyone who comes into this program, we're going to make you the best you can be in all facets of life. Not only on the soccer field, but in the classroom, as a person in society in general. Those are the kinds of guys we want to have here, and the guys we have here are really, really buying into it."

If Cedergren can continue to hammer those concepts into his players, the results will come faster than even he could hope. Despite not having coached a single meaningful game in his tenure, Cedergren has already tasted a lot of success at UK. Expectations are high again for the UK men's soccer team and many feel that he is the man to get the job done.

A new voice and a bit of youthful enthusiasm may reinvigorate the program; much in the way Calipari has done for the basketball program. If Cedergren executes the plan he has in place, he will be raising banners of his own somewhere down the road.

Despite dropping Saturday's match up with Lithuania, 109-83, the Dominican Republic's hopes for an Olympic berth are still very much alive.

The Dominicans fell behind early yet again, this time to a shot-making Lithuania squad that benefited from early Dominican foul trouble. They found themselves facing another 20-point deficit yet again Saturday night, but they could not muster up another comeback like they were able to against Macedonia in the quarterfinals.

Things looked very promising at the outset of the game. Francisco Garcia had picked up where he left off on Friday night, drilling both of his first two three point attempts in the first quarter. His playing time would be limited in the first half, however, as head coach John Calipari was forced to sit his sharp shooter after picking up two early fouls within the first four minutes of play.

Still, the Dominicans hung tough, using a 5-0 run at the beginning of the second quarter to pull into a 21-21 tie with Lithuania, and it looked like the Dominicans had built a head of steam.

Lithuania immediately answered, using an 8-0 run to get back out ahead, 29-21, and the lead gradually grew from there. The Lithuanians used some efficient shooting in the first half, including 4 of 6 from the arc. Calipari elected to put Garcia back in the game in the middle of the second quarter as Lithuania made its run, but Garcia had cooled off.

As halftime rolled around, the Lithuanians held a convincing 52-36 lead. 

The Dominican Republic was plagued by foul trouble, not only from Garcia, but Al Horford. The leading scorer for the Dominicans this entire tournament had three fouls of his own, logging just four points at the halfway point. Lithuania took advantage of the foul trouble and was perfect from the line, knocking down all 12 free throw attempts in the half.

Lithuania did not cool down at halftime. They pulled out to a 20-point lead at 63-43, and it appeared that they had this game all but wrapped up. The Dominicans improved offensively in the third quarter, cutting the score to 75-61 after three quarters of play, but it wouldn't get any better from there.

The fourth quarter saw Lithuania lay it on, racing out to a 96-69 lead in the fourth quarter before Calipari threw up the white flag and allowed some of his younger, more inexperienced players to get some minutes and rest his guys for Sunday. 

When the clock struck zero, Lithuania had taken down the Dominicans 109-83. Jack Michael Martinez led the way with 13 points and 10 rebounds, notching his fourth double-double of the tournament, and Horford kicked in 12 points of his own despite foul troubles.

The good news for the Dominican Republic is that it is still very much alive for the final Olympic bid for the 2012 games. Because they reached the semifinals and the top three teams advance to the Olympics, the Dominicans will need to defeat Nigeria Sunday in the three/four match up to decide who gets to advance. 

It will be the biggest game in the Dominican Republic's history in the game of basketball as it looks to advance to its very first Olympic Games. It will be no easy task as Nigeria upended heavily favored Greece team in the quarterfinals.

A John Calipari-led Dominican Republic national basketball team is one step closer to its very first appearance in the Olympics. 

After yet another slow start, a rapid onslaught by the Dominicans over the Macedonians helped the Dominican Republic pull off the comeback, 86-76. A poor shooting Dominican squad changed identities at halftime, and that was all she wrote for Macedonia.

The dream lives on for the Dominicans. The Macedonians now head home.

The Dominicans found themselves behind the eight ball almost immediately against Macedonia. It was familiar territory, as they've played from behind in both previous games before the quarterfinals. They would have to try and play come back again falling behind the Macedonians 23-10 after the first quarter.

It was not Al Horford carrying the Dominicans in the early going, however. Jack Michael Martinez was the lone bright spot in the first quarter, scoring eight of the team's 10 points in the opening period. 

Horford didn't make a shot in the first quarter as the Macedonians played it smart and doubled him on almost every one of his touches in the post. This forced the supporting cast to step up and have to make some shots. Unfortunately, they weren't falling and they shot just 5 of 18 from the field.

In the second period, the Dominicans found themselves facing an even larger deficit as Macedonia was red-hot behind the arc, building a 37-17 lead. 

A couple of key scoring runs helped the Dominicans stay above water.

They used a 5-0 run to pull to within 37-22. The half ended with a clutch 8-0 run to end the quarter and put the Dominicans into striking distance at 41-28. It appeared at that point that the Dominican Republic had gained some much-needed momentum.

Calipari must have given his team some kind of halftime speech, because that momentum carried deep into the second half. Whatever the message was at halftime, former Louisville Cardinal Francisco Garcia heard it loud and clear.

In the third period, the Dominicans stormed back to cut what was once a 20-point deficit to six points at 41-35. That's when Garcia got hot. He nailed a three to cut the lead to five points, which later became a three-point deficit with a Martinez stick back.

Before the Macedonians could blink, they held a shrinking two-point advantage after three periods of play at 56-54.

Macedonia would relinquish that lead in the fourth quarter as the Dominicans finally grabbed their first lead of the game on a Garcia jumper to put them ahead, 60-59. The Dominicans never looked back.

Calipari's squad really put it to the Macedonians who struggled to score down the stretch, while the Dominican Republic opened up a sizable lead at 80-71, their largest of the game.  

Garcia continued his offensive surge, carrying a hot start in the third quarter over to the fourth and helped the Dominican Republic close it out. After tough outings in the first two games in the tournament where he was ice cold, Garcia finally heated up to lead an otherwise balanced scoring attack with 28 points. He was 8 of 14 from the field including 4 for 7 from three and made all eight free-throw attempts. 

Horford finally got back to his scoring ways, finding ways to get on the board with 14 points while hauling in 15 rebounds to give him another double-double. Martinez also notched his third double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Ronald Ramon chipped in 13 points as well.

The Dominican Republic will move on to play tomorrow in the semifinals, but the time and opponent are unknown. They will have two opportunities to make the Olympics as the top three teams in tournament advance. If they win Saturday against the winner of Lithuania and Puerto Rico, the will become a top-two seed and be in. If they lose Saturday, they will need a win in the third/fourth place game on Sunday.

An Olympic bid is becoming more and more possible by the moment, as No. 4 ranked Greece was upset by Nigeria. With the Calipari getting the Dominicans to play their best basketball at the right time, anything is possible from here on out.

With a win Tuesday, the Dominican Republic (1-1) was already set to play in the quarterfinals of the of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament set for Friday where they will face Macedonia. But Wednesday presented a test to see just how far along this Dominican Republic team has come along.

They may not have won, but Dominican Republic head coach John Calipari has his team playing hard, competitive basketball at the right time.

The Dominicans fell to No. 11 Russia 84-69, but the game was closer than the score indicates. They held their own against a tough Russian team for a good portion of the game and pulled even with the Russians in the second quarter.

A slow start hurt the Dominicans, but as he did Tuesday afternoon, forward Al Horford came through in big way to help the Dominicans charge back. Horford, scoring only four points in the first quarter after a 30-point performance the day prior, sparked a 9-4 run in the second quarter to help pull the Dominicans into a 27-27 deadlock in the middle of the period. He would finish the quarter with eight points and the half with 12 as the Dominicans trailed the Russians 44-38, still right in the game.

Jack Michael Martinez found rebounds much tougher to come by against the Russian rebounders. Martinez grabbed 25 boards in their winning effort over Korea, but only had six points and four rebounds through the first half. However, he would finished strong in the second half to notch his second-consecutive double-double, 13 points and 12 rebounds.

A poor shooting second half plagued the Dominicans as they struggled to get anything to fall. Though Horford continued his solid play finishing with 22 for the game, and Martinez came on in the second half, they had virtually no help. As a team, they shot 25 for 68 from the field including just 5 of 20 from beyond the arc. Francisco Garcia of the Kings scored just two points while miss all seven of his three-point attempts.

The Russians pulled away early in the second half and never really looked back, pulling off a 84-69 win led by current Utah Jazz Andrei Kirilenko who had 16 points for Russia.

But the Olympic hopes for the Dominicans are still very much alive with a win over top seed Macedonia from Group D standing in the way. The winner advances to the semifinals, and the loser goes home. 
Each Wednesday here at Cat Scratches, we're going to take a look back at the latest week's news in UK Athletics from around the web.

Best on the 'net

Baseball: UK rewards baseball coach with 5-year deal worth more than $2 million (Mark Maloney, Lexington Herald-Leader)

Henderson was named SEC Coach of the Year, having led the Cats to a third-place finish in the regular season. UK led the league for a school-record eight of 10 weeks, was ranked No. 1 in the country for three weeks and was nationally ranked for 13 consecutive weeks.

"It goes on and on and on, all the things that they did and they accomplished," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "The guy leading the charge is obviously Gary Henderson."

"Gary Henderson is a good example of the type of coach we want to lead our athletics programs at Kentucky and he and his staff are very deserving of new contracts," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "He has helped build the program from the moment he arrived in Lexington and it was thrilling watching his team complete a historic campaign in 2012. We are convinced that the success our baseball program achieved last spring is just the beginning and it is an exciting time to be a UK baseball fan."
While Barnhart and Henderson both expressed excitement with the direction of the program Tuesday, they also noted the importance of continuing to invest in the program in the form of a facility upgrade in the coming years.

Men's basketball: Kentucky basketball makes history at NBA draft (Kyle Tucker, The Courier-Journal)

That the 6-foot-10 Davis would be taken first was a foregone conclusion. He set an NCAA freshman record with 186 blocks and earned National Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and consensus Player of the Year honors. He led UK to its eighth national title in New Orleans -- his new home city -- in April.

Kidd-Gilchrist immediately following him was something of a surprise. That seemed more possible a month ago, but as the draft drew closer, the buzz was that he might slip to the third, fourth or fifth pick. In his final prediction Thursday, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford had him falling to No. 7.

Men's basketball: Calipari's got it figured out (Perry Hunter,

UK and Coach Cal are a match made in heaven. Whether you like it or not, UK is one of the -- if not the -- elite basketball schools in the country with fans that Cal calls "crazy." And Coach Cal is not afraid to sell UK for what it is known for -- a basketball school.

With UK's Anthony Davis going No. 1 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going No. 2, Coach Cal is lord over the NBA draft. In his three years at UK, he has sent 11 players out the door in the first round of the NBA draft and had two top picks. The success he has had, from an Elite Eight to a Final Four to the 2012 National Championship, all the while using one-and-done players, is exactly what UK fans want and is exactly what someone who is willing can do to take advantage of the current rules.

Men's basketball: Draft night gives John Calipari an edge over Nick Saban in turning out pros (Kevin Scarbinsky, Birmingham News)

Saban owns the BCS football na­tional championship, his second at Alabama and third overall.

Calipari owns the NCAA basket­ball title, his first. How many will he win? As his friend LeBron James might say, "Not one. Not two. Not three. Etc."

This is beginning to get monoto­nous. Anything Saban can do, Cali­pari can do at least as well and, in some cases, better.

Women's basketball: Kentucky women add top-flight junior-college transfer (Lexington Herald-Leader)

The University of Kentucky women's basketball team added to its extraordinary depth of talent for the 2012-13 season Wednesday, announcing the signing of junior-college transfer Jelleah Sidney.

Sidney, a high school teammate of current UK players Jennifer O'Neill and Bra'Shey Ali, is a 6-foot-2 power forward who spent last season at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. Sidney arrives at Kentucky with three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Football: Q&A with Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips (Kyle Tucker, The Courier-Journal)

Joker Phillips is two months away from the most important season of his career. The former University of Kentucky player and assistant coach is 11-13 in two seasons as the Wildcats' head coach and suddenly finds his seat warm entering Year 3.

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart has shown steadfast public support for Phillips, saying over and over that he believes Phillips can get UK, which ended its streak of five consecutive bowl berths last season, back on track. But Barnhart also acknowledged this spring that the Cats need to show signs of that in 2012.

Football: Ranking the importance of Kentucky's football games 1-12 (John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader)

1. Louisville (Sept. 2): I normally argue against the chronic notion that the U of L game is the must-win of every Kentucky football season. Much can happen post-Louisville, good or bad. This year, I join the chorus. A UK loss, especially a lopsided one, and a pessimistic fan base could toss in the towel. A UK win at Papa John's, however, and the outlook on the entire campaign changes -- for the better.

Former Wildcats making headlines

Davis, a 6-foot-11 center from Kentucky, could return to practice for Team USA within a week to 10 days. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski plan to be patient with Davis, especially with the glut of injuries that have hit the team's frontline. Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge are already out for Team USA.

Randall Cobb doesn't have an easy path to be this team's breakout player because the Packers' wideout depth chart is so stacked. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are the starters. James Jones and Donald Driver make terrific reserves. But Cobb is going to force the Packers to find room.

Cobb announced his presence as a rookie with two touchdowns in the season opener, but he barely played on offense that night against the New Orleans Saints. As late as Week 13 against the Giants, Cobb was an afterthought. His playtime and production gradually increased after that.

Cowgill up and running, nearing return (Casey Pratt,

Cowgill, 26, has missed nine games since the injury. He was hitting .300 (9 for 30) with a homer and five RBIs in 10 games before getting hurt.

"Every day it has been better," Cowgill said before Monday's series opener against Boston. "I think when it is time to come off I'll be ready to go."

News from

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and baseball head coach Gary Henderson agreed to a five-year contract worth $2.145 million. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and baseball head coach Gary Henderson agreed to a five-year contract worth $2.145 million. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Considering the position he was in a year ago, Tuesday could have been a day of celebration for Gary Henderson.

Last offseason, Henderson's future as Kentucky baseball head coach was in doubt after the Wildcats missed the postseason in 2011. Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart decided to stick with the man he hired in June 2008, at once showing the kind of patience that has been characteristic of his tenure at UK and uncharacteristic of a business infamous for quick changes.

Having signed a new contract, Henderson's future is now quite a bit more secure, but he wasn't in much a celebratory mood. Rather than reflecting on his accomplishments or how far he has come in his career, Henderson was focused on something much simpler.

"I'm really glad that I know where Ty Henderson's going to go to school for the next five years," Henderson said.

His words about where his young son will attend school weren't sarcastic or meant to be funny, but rather an emotional illustration of what stability means to a family. The five-year deal he and Barnhart agreed on will pay Henderson $2.145 million through the 2016-17 season with the opportunity to earn more in performance incentives certainly provides a welcome measure of it. Barnhart believes it is well deserved.

"He has led our program here to a spot now where we have a chance to move forward in a very special, unique way," Barnhart said. "We wanted to make sure that we honored the efforts that he has made here over the last few years and especially this year."

Assistant coaches Brad Bohannon and Brian Green also signed new contracts.

"There have been a lot of fun times over at Cliff Hagan (Stadium) and there are a lot of things left I want to get accomplished," Henderson said. "I am really, really excited about the direction that we are going and there is a lot of things left to do. It's a good place for us to be at this point."

Having worked for almost a quarter-century as a coach and having spent almost his entire life around the game, Henderson is of course aware of the significance of his new deal. He appreciates the commitment being shown to him, but is matching it with the same kind of commitment rather than rejoicing in the past.

"The sense of accomplishment is there, it's great, but it's all about 2013 now," Henderson said. "That's just how it goes. You enjoy it for a short moment, but it's like I said earlier, you're happy with the direction but you're not satisfied with the results. We have some things to prove."

Henderson and his team certainly proved a great deal in a 2012 season to remember, winning a school-record 45 games and falling just one short of a Southeastern Conference title. The same was also true in 2006 when Henderson was the pitching coach on a team that won the SEC championship. The task now becomes turning that level of success into something more lasting.

"I want to create an environment where we feel good about that all the time," Henderson said. "That's just kind of an expectation level. Not necessarily the expectation that you're going to win a certain number of games, but an expectation that the kids in our program couldn't be more proud."

That won't be easy though.

Henderson, in the release announcing his new deal, said, "Kentucky baseball will not be sneaking up on anybody in 2013," and expanded on that notion in answering questions from the media on Tuesday afternoon. The Wildcats will return numerous talented players from last year's roster - eight of whom are currently playing in the Cape Cod League - and add another heralded class of newcomers, but nothing is guaranteed.

"Once you have that and you create that kind of thing, everybody's going to be looking for you," Henderson said. "That's good. That's the way athletics are. It's hard to stay on top."

Outlining his priorities for building on the momentum the program has, Henderson pointed to continuing to recruit effectively and sustaining the bullpen success of last year, but he did not overlook what was arguably the most important element of the 2012 season. Whether it was in celebration of a walk-off win over South Carolina in the first SEC series of the season or in the wake of a devastating season-ending loss to Kent State, the closeness of Henderson's team was unmistakable. Cornerstones of that chemistry like Luke Maile and Michael Williams are now pursuing professional careers, but Henderson believes his next team will have a similar bond.

"You want to create moments, you want to create memories, and you want to create a feeling of belonging," Henderson said. "That's what athletics are. We've taken a very positive step in creating an environment where I think J.T. Riddle loves playing with Matt Reida. I think Trevor Gott loves playing with Corey Littrell. That's what we want to do. And that's a lot easier said than done. Look around. We were able to do it and we're going to work really hard to create that same culture."

New baseball stadium being pursued

Barnhart showed how committed he is to the baseball program in awarding new contracts to his coaching staff, but he isn't done working to secure its future. He talked at length on Tuesday about building a venue to replace Cliff Hagan Stadium.

"We know our facility needs some help, whether it's (at the same site as Cliff Hagan) or whether it's moved to Alumni Drive or something like that," Barnhart said. "Obviously those are probably our two options and how we make that all work as fast as possible is critically important to the ability to help Gary."

Henderson needs no convincing of whether Barnhart is devoted to that cause, which is why he felt no need to push to include any language about facilities in his new contract.

"I think Mitch is going to do everything he can as quick as he can," Henderson said. "There's limitations in all areas of life, but my feeling is that Mitch is committed to a new facility...and I've got a lot of confidence that he's going to do what he can do to make that happen."

Foremost among those limitations is the fact that UK Athletics is unable to secure bonding authority at the state level. However, Barnhart has shown the flexibility to work around such issues. He also said plans at the university level are "coming down the pipe" that will give his department some clarity in terms of what it can and cannot do.

What Barnhart does not want to do is make some kind of quick fix.

"We don't want to just do it to do it and put a band-aid on it," Barnhart said. "That is not the purpose. The purpose is to have the ability to last the test of time a little bit. We have done band-aids before and they are probably not our best plan. We have to figure out how to create a facility that can stand for a while."

The Dominican Republic National Team and John Calipari took the first step in reaching their Olympic goals Tuesday with a 95-85 win over South Korea in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela. In a tight affair, the Dominicans rallied late before hold off South Korea behind a 30-point performance by Al Horford.

The former Florida Gator and current Atlanta Hawks forward had a monstrous second half, scoring 21 of his 30 points after halftime, while adding in 12 rebounds to notch a double-double. He was the key to kick-starting the Dominican offense that struggled through the first half.

Horford led the way in the first half with nine points for the Dominican Republic, but they trailed a balanced South Korean squad, 41-37. While Horford was getting buckets, Dominican forward Jack Michael Martinez owned the boards grabbing 12 rebounds at halftime.

The third quarter saw Horford put his team on his back to scratch back into a tie game with South Korea at 52-52 with six minutes left in the third quarter, and then used a 6-0 run to gain a 65-58 lead in the period. At the end of the period, it looked as if the Calipari-led Dominican team might have a comfortable lead heading into the fourth.

There was plenty of fight left in the South Koreans, however. The stormed back to take a 78-77 lead over the Dominicans with four minutes to go in the final period as the momentum had shifted. But Horford came back to the rescue and the Dominicans went on another 6-0 run to pull ahead 82-77 with 3:53 left, and there was no looking back.

The Dominicans held on and pushed out to a 10-point lead with the final tally reading 95-85. Horford finished with 30 to lead all scorers, and Martinez finished with 16 points and continued his dominance of the glass with 25 rebounds, three short of the South Koreans total rebound total for the game. The Dominican Republic completely out-rebounded South Korea 58-28.

With the win, Calipari and the Dominicans pulled much closer to reaching their goal of qualifying for the Olympics. The win Tuesday made the dream much more likely, clinching a quarterfinal spot. They will have another game Wednesday against Russia. The top two teams from their three-team group (Russia and South Korea) will face the top two performers from Group D (Macedonia, New Zealand and Angola) in the quarterfinals. 

The top three teams in the tournament will advance to the Olympics, so the Dominican Republic must reach the semifinals or win the third-place/fourth-place game to participate.

Three months after a national championship, the Kentucky Wildcats are still in the running for some hardware.

Last week, Anthony Davis, John Calipari and the Wildcats as a team were nominated for four different awards as part of the 20th annual ESPYs. A week later, UK fans can still vote for the Cats in the following categories:

Davis - Breakthrough Athlete
Davis - Best Male College Athlete
UK men's basketball - Best Team
Calipari - Best Coach

In addition, former UK star Rajon Rondo is up for the Best NBA Player award.

Head on over to this link to vote for the ESPYs, which will air on July 11. Voting closes on July 9.

Slow holiday week coming

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With the NBA Draft now in the rear-view mirror, we head into a Fourth of July week that looks to be pretty quiet. Starting on Wednesday, I am going to be going on a short vacation, so content here on Cat Scratches will be a bit slow.

Ryan Suckow will have coverage of the Dominican Republic National Team's bid to reach the London Olympics - a run that begins at 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday - as well as a feature on new UK men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren later in the week, but beyond that, we won't have as much on the blog as you're used to.

Before I do head out for the week, I'll be providing video and written coverage of a joint press conference with Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and baseball head coach Gary Henderson on Tuesday afternoon. Stay tuned for that.

It takes something special to get people in Alabama talking basketball instead of football during the summer. John Calipari couldn't quite pull it off in having six of his players chosen in the NBA Draft, but he was close.

Football wasn't entirely removed from the conversation as Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky compared Coach Cal and Alabama football coach Nick Saban, declaring Calipari Saban's "biggest competition for SEC supremacy."

This is beginning to get monotonous. Anything Saban can do, Calipari can do at least as well and, in some cases, better.

Take the pro draft. The Kentucky basketball program did the other night, by storm, just as the Alabama football program did in April.

Alabama had four players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, a parade started by Trent Richardson as the third overall pick. Someone tell Jim Brown that's an extraordinarily early selection these days for a running back.

Kentucky came back Thursday with four first-rounders of its own in the NBA Draft and six picks overall. Those numbers were equal to and greater than Alabama's because former Wildcats were the first two players off the board.

The comparison isn't difficult to understand. Alabama football and Kentucky basketball boast comparable traditions and fervent fan bases and the two programs are certainly atop their respective sports having both won national titles.

Link: Draft night gives John Calipari an edge over Nick Saban in turning out pros

At midnight on Sunday, Texas A&M and Missouri officially joined the Southeastern Conference. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto welcomed them to the conference on behalf of everyone at UK in this video message:

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  • Pat Heitz: Wonderful story and I hope ending is as great as the beginning. Best of luck to all involved with Dr. read more
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