Former UK guards Eric Bledsoe and John Wall posted big games in the NBA this week. (UK Athletics)
By Nick Jones, UK Athletics
Through games on Sunday, Dec. 7
A trio of former Kentucky guards highlighted week six in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe, John Wall and Rajon Rondo have been on top of their games to this point in the season, but the three floor generals handed in consecutive spectacular performances this past week.
Bledsoe collected averages of 23 points, six assists and three rebounds while logging over 38 minutes per game as the Phoenix Suns posted a 2-1 record for the week. Even as the fourth year guard carried the scoring load for his team, Bledsoe still let his presence be known on the defensive end of the floor, including this spectacular chase-down block against the Rockets on Sunday.
UPDATE: Bledsoe had another huge game on Monday, posting 27 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in a 121-120 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Bledsoe's triple-double against his former team was the first of his career and the first for a Suns player since 2006.
Rajon Rondo was back to his stat-stuffing ways with several eye-popping box score performances. First, Rondo recorded a season-high 19 assists and 12 rebounds last Tuesday, marking his sixth career double-double with assists and rebounds. No other guard in the league currently has more than one.
Rondo continued his passing display on Friday when he out-assisted the entire Los Angeles Lakers team 16 to 14 in a convincing 113-96 win for the Celtics. He capped off the week by posting a triple-double against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Rondo was good for 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in another Celtics victory, who have put together three straight wins for the first time this season.
Even with the greatness from Rondo, former Wildcat John Wall pieced together an impressive night himself. Wall finished the game with 17 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks in what was truly a heavyweight matchup between two of the league's best point guards.
76ers get first win
The Philadelphia 76ers opened the 2014-15 NBA season with a 17-game losing streak, just one game away from tying the NBA's worst start in league history. On Wednesday, though, Philly defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves as rookie Nerlens Noel chipped in eight points, three rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes of action.
Noel followed up the first encouraging night of basketball in his young career with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance, recording his third double-double of the season.
Week seven TV schedule
Tuesday: Dallas @ Memphis (Tayshaun Prince) 8:00 p.m. on NBA TV Sacramento (DeMarcus Cousins) @ L.A. Lakers 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV Wednesday: New Orleans (Anthony Davis) @ Dallas 8:00 p.m. on ESPN Thursday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Sacramento (DeMarcus Cousins) 10:30 p.m. on TNT Friday: Portland @ Chicago (Nazr Mohammed) 7:00 p.m. on ESPN
With the first month of the 2014-15 NBA season in the books, former Kentucky players have enjoyed their fair share of headlines.
Maybe the most impressive performance thus far came on Monday when the NBA announced that Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month For November.
Casey is from Union County, Ky., and played for UK under Joe B. Hall from 1975-79, helping the program to its fifth NCAA title as a junior in 1978. After his collegiate playing career came to end Casey spent two different stints as an assistant coach and lead recruiter for the Cats over six seasons in the 80s.
In the early 90s Casey spent time overseas with head coaching jobs in the Japanese Basketball League before making his way into the NBA. Now in his fourth year with the Raptors, the former Wildcat has his young team at the top of the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2004.
As it stands, Toronto's 13-4 record is the best start to a season in the history of the franchise, and the team's 13-win total marks the most wins in a one-month span in the Raptors 19 years of existence.
Two former Cats on the court have played distinctive roles in the success of the Raptors' season thus far.
Patrick Patterson has started three games this season for Toronto, but has spent the majority of November in the sixth man role averaging 25 minutes per game. He has expanded his offensive game since he last put on a Kentucky uniform in 2010 becoming a legitimate stretch four with his ability to knock down consistent 3-point shots that he showed began to show in his final season at UK.
The 6-foot-9 big man is shooting 39 percent from deep this season while knocking down 1.3 3s per game.
Patterson may see an increase in playing time going forward. The fifth year pro has notched two straight double-doubles while logging more than 30 minutes per contest in his last two games.
Chuck Hayes has seen far less action than his UK counterpart, playing just over 10 minutes per game in 11 games off the bench this season. But Hayes is now one month into his tenth NBA season. The veteran has not made his living by posting flashy numbers throughout his career.
Hayes brings a locker-room presence that is essential to any team trying to make a run at a championship. And with the fast start in November, mentions of championship expectations are starting to creep up for the Raptors. Other week five spotlights
From a statistical standpoint John Wall had an up and down week as the Wizards tallied a 2-2 record. But when Wall is asked to step up and single-handedly take over a game, he rarely fails to rise to the occasion, and that is exactly what he did on Monday night when the Washington handed Miami a 21-point loss.
Wall led the way with 18 points, shooting 6 of 10 from the field. He also dished out some of the most spectacular assists of the seasons matching a season high 13 assists in the game. The All-Star point guard also grabbed five rebounds and grabbed two steals in what was one of his most complete performances of the season.
DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings got the better of the Pelicans last week as the center bullied his way to 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals in the 99-89 win on the road.
Cousins leads the league in double-doubles this season and he now has eight straight games with double-digit points and rebounds.
Anthony Davis had just 14 points and nine rebounds in the game, a performance well below his season averages. The Pelicans lost all three games last week and have since moved quickly to put themselves in position to make an immediate acquisition.
This meant Davis' Kentucky teammate Darius Miller had to be waived to make room for whomever the Pelicans decide to target in the coming weeks.
Miller appeared in just five games (one start) this season as he battled preseason injuries, and took time off for the birth of his daughter. New Orleans selected Miller in the second round of the 2012 draft and the Kentucky product has since played 102 career games (10 starts) over the last three seasons. Week six TV schedule
Thursday: New Orleans (Anthony Davis) @ Golden State 10:30 p.m. on TNT Friday: Denver @ Washington (John Wall) 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV Indiana @ Sacramento (DeMarcus Cousins) 10:00 p.m. on NBA TV Saturday: Golden State @ Chicago (Nazr Mohammed) 8:00 p.m. on NBA TV Statistics (through games on Nov. 30)
This week in the NFL, former Wildcat Ricky Lumpkin rejoined the ranks of Kentucky's active NFL alumni with a promotion from the Oakland Raiders' practice squad to their 53-man roster for the second time in two seasons. The 6-foot-4 defensive tackle went undrafted in 2011, but spent time with the Raiders and Arizona Cardinals over the past three seasons.
With NFL standouts Danny Trevathan and Larry Warford still sidelined by injury, Kentucky's NFL Cats went a combined 4-7 in Week 13.
Cats in the Spotlight
Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (9-3) Cobb caught seven passes for 85 yards in Green Bay's monumental 26-21 win over the New England Patriots. Even without scoring a touchdown, Cobb is still tied for third place among league leaders with 10 receiving touchdowns on the season. Stevie Johnson | #13 WR | San Francisco 49ers (7-5) Despite his team's offensive struggles, Johnson finished with three catches for 28 yards (posting a 9.3-yard-per-catch average) in the 49ers' 19-3 Thanksgiving loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Wesley Woodyard | #59 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-10) Despite another solid defensive performance from Woodyard, the Titans dropped their sixth consecutive game of the season. Woodyard totaled four tackles (three solo, one assist) in Tennessee's 45-21 loss to the Houston Texans.
With two former Cats sidelined by injury and one former Cat enjoying his team's bye week, Week 12 saw five Kentucky NFL alumni emerge victorious and four go home with the sour taste of defeat.
Cats in the Spotlight
Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (8-3) In a game that concluded on a much tighter note than expected, Cobb hauled in four receptions for 58 yards in a 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings. For the second consecutive week, Cobb failed to reach the end zone, leaving his season touchdown total untouched at 10 (tied for fourth most in the NFL).
John Conner | #38 FB | New York Jets (2-9) Conner, who came to the University of Kentucky as a walk-on in 2005, has been considered one of the best blocking backs in football since his days in college. As many teams stray away from the fullback position in favor of today's modern rushing attack, Conner still continues to find his way onto an NFL roster each season. "The Terminator" recorded his first rushing attempt since 2011 with a 13-yard run in Monday's 38-3 loss to the displaced Buffalo Bills.
Avery Williamson | #54 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-9) For the sixth time in his rookie season, Williamson totaled at least six tackles in one contest. The 6-foot-1 Tennessee native made five solo tackles and one assist in the Titans' 43-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wesley Woodyard | #59 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-9) For the fourth time this season, Woodyard totaled at least eight tackles in one contest. The seven-year NFL veteran matched Williamson's tally of five solo tackles, but surpassed his Titans teammate with three assisted tackles in Tennessee's fifth consecutive loss.
After a lackluster 0-5 collective performance in Week 9, Kentucky's NFL Cats bounced back in a big way with an 8-3 overall record in Week 10. Even in losses, two defensive alumni were able to match season highs in tackles.
Unfortunately, Larry Warford--a 2013 third round pick with the Detroit Lions--suffered a knee injury that could possibly sideline the right guard for several weeks. Regarded as one of the league's top offensive linemen after a stellar rookie season, Warford had not missed a career snap until the injury.
Cats in the Spotlight
Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (6-3) Randall Cobb continues to demonstrate that the only time he can't find the end zone is when the Packers aren't playing. In a 55-14 thrashing of the Chicago Bears on national TV, Cobb made four catches for 72 yards and a one-handed TD grab you have to see to believe.
Cobb's 10-touchdown total is tied for third most in the NFL and has found the end zone in six straight games and eight of nine of the season.
Avery Williamson | #54 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-7) Though Avery Williamson's Titans are far from fielding a competitive football team, the rookie linebacker shined in a 21-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Williamson tied his career high of 10 total tackles, including six of the solo variety.
Wesley Woodyard | #59 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-7) Alongside his teammate Williamson, Woodyard headed a two-way defensive spark for Tennessee. The former first-team All-SEC selection recorded three solo tackles and six assisted ones, tying his season high of nine.
By Nick Jones, UK Athletics All stats through games on Nov. 9
Former Wildcat Brandon Knight is now his fourth NBA season and second with the Milwaukee Bucks. To this point in his career he has made a name for himself for his ability to score the ball from the point-guard position.
All jokes aside, Knight is off to a great start as the lead guard for a young Bucks team. He has scored in double digits in all seven games this season, but that comes as no surprise.
Knight is also leading all point guards with 45 total rebounds on the season, as well as averaging 7.3 assists per game.
In their last outing on Saturday the Bucks delivered the previously unbeaten Grizzlies their first loss of the season as Knight hit a game-winning and-one layup and converted on the free throw to give his team a 93-92 edge with just 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock.
Tayshaun Prince logged 27 minutes in the game for Memphis. The veteran registered eight points, two rebounds and two steals in the losing effort.
Anthony Davis, who is being pegged by experts as the future of the league, hit a game winner of his own in week two. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams drew up an isolation play for the All-Star forward in the closing seconds against the 2014 world champion San Antonio Spurs.
Davis caught the ball on the free-throw line, faced up, took two dribbles and used his length and quickness to get all the way to the rim with two dribbles. The basket gave him 27 points for the game and sealed a 100-99 win over the Spurs.
The former No. 1 pick is ranked fifth in the league in scoring (24.4), first in rebounding (12.8) and first in blocks (4.4), sparking early-season MVP conversations.
Another former Kentucky big man who entered in talks for postseason awards is Nerlens Noel, who was atop the Rookie Ladder after week one. Noel missed both games over the weekend as he went down with a sprained ankle Wednesday against Orlando.
The 76ers went 0-2 in his absence and currently hold a league worst 0-7 record on the season. But with Noel set to return to action on Thursday, and with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams joining the team for the first time this season, it will be interesting to see if Philly can make any noise on their upcoming three-game road trip.
As for other Cats who are dealing with injuries, Jodie Meeks has been sidelined for the first seven games of the season for his struggling Pistons squad.
Detroit fully expects Meeks to be inserted into the starting lineup at the shooting guard position upon his return, but he's still about five weeks away from being cleared to play as he recovers from what the team diagnosed as a stress reaction in his back.
Also, Celtics rookie James Young has only seen action in one game in the opening weeks of the season. Young has been battling a hamstring injury dating back to the preseason, and he will miss the upcoming two-game road trip for Boston due to an undisclosed illness in his family.
Week two TV schedule
Tuesday: Orlando @ Toronto (Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson) 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV Wednesday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Minnesota 10:00 p.m. on ESPN Thursday: Chicago (Nazr Mohammad) @ Toronto 8:00 p.m. on TNT Sunday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Oklahoma City 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV
With the NBA a week into the 2014-15 season, several former Wildcats have dominated national headlines throughout the league.
First, Julius Randle entered his rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the most disturbing fashion imaginable. After logging just 14 minutes of play in the season opener against Houston Randle went down with a broken tibia in his right leg.
Randle's injury will leave him out of action for the remainder of his rookie season. But after being selected as the seventh overall pick in last June's draft the power forward is expected to play a significant role in rebuilding the Lakers back up to a championship level franchise.
Randle being carted off the court on opening night stole the attention away from what was a very strong outing from Terrence Jones, who has now solidified himself in a starting role for the Houston Rockets next to All-Star center Dwight Howard. Jones posted 16 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers and has shown no signs of slowing down through week one.
Jones has been the answer for what was a failed experiment last season in Houston when the Rockets attempted to play Howard and 7-foot center Omer Asik side-by-side in the frontcourt. This offseason Asik decided to go elsewhere and he ended up in New Orleans where he combined with All-Star forward Anthony Davis on opening night for 40 points, 34 rebounds and 14 blocks as the Pelicans defeated the Magic 101-84.
Davis came into the season with sky-high expectations and after a near triple-double in game one, and a 30 and 15 outing in game two, the 6-10 star is more than living up to his No. 3 player ranking by ESPN.
Another ultra-talented big man having his way in the Western Conference is fifth-year pro DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been mediocre at best during the first three years of his career, but after winning a gold medal this summer in the FIBA World Championships in Spain with Team USA, Cousins - now 24 years old - seems more than ready to change the culture in Sac-town.
The Kings' week one schedule was arguably the most difficult in the entire league as they faced off against three Western Conference playoff teams from a year ago, recording a 2-1 record in those games. Most recently Sacramento began a two-game road trip on Sunday with a gritty win over heated rival the Clippers at Staples Center. It was a statement game for the 6-11 center as he finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds and five assists. If Boogie can combine consistent contributions like this with his goal of just five technical fouls this whole season, it will be impossible to keep him out of the All-Star game in April.
Two former Cats who are considered to be locks to represent the eastern conference in the All-Star game are point guards Rajon Rondo and John Wall.
Rondo's availability for the season opener was in question all entire offseason after suffering a hand injury, but the Celtics' floor general has not missed a beat in his first two outings. Averaging just shy of a triple-double after the first week, Rondo is among the league leaders for point guards in several statistical categories, a feat that is not likely to change as the season advances.
John Wall has posted a double-double in each of the Wizards' first three games. That sort of production will almost certainly continue as Wall carries the load for his young team during the first several weeks of the season without backcourt running mate Bradley Beal. Washington is looking to build on last season's playoff run and Wall will be the centerpiece for whatever success the Wizkids enjoy in 2014-15.
Wall's former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe was a hot topic this offseason as experts debated whether or not he was worth the max contract he desired. In the end, Bledsoe was able to reach a five-year deal worth $70 million. Now in his fifth year in the league, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard has set out to shake off the injury woes that have defined his career to this point and drag his team in Phoenix to a playoff appearance in the West for the first time since 2010.
Entering the 2014-15 NBA season, Kentucky has 19 ex-players on 16 different rosters. Cat Scratches will provide a unique inside look at former UK fan favorites, as well as a detailed TV schedule and updated statistics as the season moves along.
Stats through games on Sunday, Nov. 2)
Rajon Rondo, Boston - 8.5 PPG, 10 APG, 8.5 RPG, 2 SPG James Young, Boston - Earned a DNP in season opener, scored six points in six minutes in game two Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte - 11.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG in three starts Nazr Mohammed, Chicago - DNP for the Bulls in week one Jodie Meeks, Detroit - Out 8 weeks with a back injury Terrence Jones, Houston - 16.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG Julius Randle, LA Lakers - scored two points in 14 minutes off the bench before sustaining a season-ending leg injury on opening night Tayshaun Prince, Memphis - 4 PPG, 2 RPG in 18 minutes per game Brandon Knight, Milwaukee - 19.7 PPG, 9 APG, 6.7 RPG Anthony Davis, New Orleans - 28.5 PPG, 16 RPG, 6 BPG, 2.5 SPG Darius Miller, New Orleans - DNP for the Pelicans in week one Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia - 7.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG in three starts Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix - 12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 6.3 RPG Archie Goodwin, Phoenix - 2.5 PPG, 1.5 APG in 10 minutes per game DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento - 23.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG Patrick Patterson, Toronto - 4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG in 21 minutes per game Chuck Hayes, Toronto - grabbed three rebounds in 12 minutes in his only appearance in week one Enes Kanter, Utah - 8 PPG, 3.7 RPG in three games as a starter John Wall, Washington - 21.7 PPG, 11 APG, 4.7 RPG, 3 SPG in more than 37 minutes per game
Week two TV schedule
This week's nationally televised games featuring former UK players:
Tuesday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Miami 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV Wednesday: Indiana @ Washington (John Wall) 8:00 p.m. on ESPN Thursday: San Antonio @ Houston (Terrence Jones) 8:00 p.m. on TNT Friday: Memphis (Tayshaun Prince) @ Oklahoma City 8:00 p.m. on ESPN Saturday: New Orleans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller) @ San Antonio 8:30 p.m. on NBA TV Sunday: Philadelphia (Nerlens Noel) @ Toronto (Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson) 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV
Arantxa King trains as coach Edrick Floreal looks on. (Jake Most, UK Athletics)
Even before the 2013 fall collegiate athletics season gets under way later this month, the wait is over for Kentucky fans ready for live sports action featuring Wildcats. The IAAF World Championships begin in the Russian capital on Saturday and UK will be well represented.
Current volunteer assistant coach and two-time Olympian Arantxa King will jump among the world's best athletes inside Luzhniki Stadium. In addition to King, three former Wildcats are also entered in the biennial track and field meet.
King will jump in Group B of the qualifying round, which gets begins at 11:20 a.m. ET. Select events will likely be broadcast on a delayed basis on NBC from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
King, a Stanford alumna who serves as a volunteer assistant coach at UK working with the jumps and sprints groups, will compete for Bermuda. She is coached by UK head coach Edrick Floreal, himself a former Olympian and World Championships competitor.
King boasts a broad array of major championship experience having competed in the past two Olympic Games despite just having finished her decorated NCAA career in 2012.
She missed the 2012 Olympic long jump final last year in London by one spot and less than a centimeter on a tiebreaking procedure. King's top mark from three qualifying round attempts of 6.4 meters (just under 21 feet) tied her with Veronika Shutkova for the 12th and final spot in the final, but the Belarusian's second-best mark of 6.21 was 0.01 centimeters better than Kings'.
King is coming off a silver medal at the 2013 Central America and Caribbean [CAC] Championships in Mexico last month. King owns an all-time personal-best long jump of 6.57m and a wind-legal best of 6.5m. Her 2013 seasonal-best is 6.45m.
The Boston area native comes from a family of top-class athletes. King's father Adrian is one of the best cricket players in Bermuda history. He represented the Bermuda national team as its top fast bowler and Arantxa's mother Branwen Smith-King also represented her country as a Pan-Am games level thrower.
Should King advance, the women's long jump world championship final is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m.
Former Wildcats Descend on Moscow
A number of former Wildcat athletes will also be competing over the course of the World Championships, which run from August 10-18.
Mikel Thomas, who won the Trinidad and Tobago National Championship in June, will represent his nation in the 110m hurdles. Thomas' fellow former Wildcat and countryman Rondel Sorrillo will also represent T&T in the 100m and 4x100m relay.
Jenna Martin will compete for Canada as part of the 4x400m relay pool. Martin was slowed by a hip injury for much of the season and did not qualify for Canada in the 400m.
Collin Cowgill has been waiting a long time for his first full-time opportunity in the big leagues.
The former Kentucky All-American spent his first four professional seasons with Arizona, earning a spot on the Diamondbacks' postseason roster after a dominant season in Triple-A. The next year, he appeared poised to start after being traded to Oakland, but was squeezed out of a starting role by other offseason acquisitions.
Before 2013, he was acquired by the New York Mets, who named him their starter in center field early this spring. Leading off for the Mets on opening day, he did not disappoint.
In an 11-2 win, Cowgill had a pair of hits in five at-bats. The first was a fourth-inning double (he later scored) and the second was a grand slam to left that turned the Mets' game against the San Diego Padres into a laugher. Here's video of his third-career major-league home run.
More Cowgill!!! WOW!!!!!!! @ccowgill12 first career grand slam and second by a Met on Opening Day. Todd Hundley in '95 was the other.
Among former Kentucky student-athletes, there are many Wildcats with better known names than Scott Downs. However, there are far fewer better at what they do than the 11-year MLB veteran.
Downs, 36, has cemented himself among the best left-handed relievers in baseball, posting an ERA of 3.09 or better in each of the past five seasons. In 2011, he had the best year of his career, winning six games with a miniscule 1.34 ERA out of the bullpen for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Downs, an All-SEC performer at UK in 1997, has once again been impressive in 2012, allowing just five hits and zero runs in his first nine appearances. Downs contended with an ankle injury earlier this month, but is now healthy and for the first time in his career, has been named the closer for the Angels in place of Jordan Walden.
In his first opportunity after winning the job, Downs tossed a scoreless ninth inning to salt away a 2-1 victory against Cleveland. Here's video of the final pitch: