Like the rest of the country, Mark Stoops and Mitch Barnhart have kept close tabs on this week's tragic events in Oklahoma. The UK head coach and athletics director shared compassion for the victims of Monday's destructive tornado.
They also share personal ties to the area. Barnhart and Stoops each have family who lives within a few miles of Moore, Okla.: Barnhart's brother Eric, Stoops' brothers Bob and Mike and the families of all three.
Driven by sympathy and familiarity with the area and people affected, Stoops and Barnhart have decided to do something to help.
"I have kept a close eye on the tragic events in Oklahoma this week," Barnhart said. "My heart goes out to all those affected. My brother Eric lives three miles from where the tornado hit, so the devastation has hit close to home for me even though he is safe."
"I am so thankful my family and friends are alright after the storms in Oklahoma," Stoops said. "However, we are heartbroken for those affected by this tragedy."
Stoops, Barnhart and women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell will all donate to the American Red Cross's tornado relief efforts. John Calipari announced his foundation will donate to the cause earlier this week as well.
Now, the leaders of UK Athletics want Kentucky fans to join in.
"We hope the Big Blue Nation will once again show its giving spirit," Stoops said. "There's only so much any of us can do on our own, but we make a real impact together."
Those wishing to donate after may call 859-253-1331 or 1-800-REDCROSS. Fans can also donate money online at RedCross.org or by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 (the text will automatically donate $10). In person donations can be made in-person at Fayette Mall (corner of Nicholasville Road and Reynolds Road) on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 from 3:00 p.m. ET to 7:00 p.m.
No matter how you donate, tweet with the hash tag #BBNcares to show that UK fans stand with the Oklahoma tornado victims.
The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
During the University of Kentucky's 146 May Commencement on Sunday, 49 UK student-athletes received degrees. Forty-seven earned undergraduate diplomas and two received graduate degrees.
(Note: Includes student-athletes who received degrees after their completing eligibility.)
Baseball Thomas McCarthy Zac Zellers (Will complete coursework this summer)
Football Aaron Boyd La'Rod King Quentin McCord Craig McIntosh Kevin Mitchell Matt Smith Taylor Wyndham (Note: 2012 seniors Mikie Benton, Gabe Correll, Gene McCaskill, Morgan Newton, Cartier Rice, Collins Ukwu, Steven Duff and Sam Simpson graduated previously.)
Gymnastics Caitlyn Ciokajlo Storey Morris Whitney Rose
Men's basketball Twany Beckham Marquis Estill Jon Hood Jarrod Polson (Graduated in three years) (Note: Jamal Mashburn also received an honorary doctorate of humanities.)
Men's golf Joseph Barr
Men's soccer Pedro Andreoni Gabriel Conelian Barry Rice
Men's swimming and diving Jon Bullock Jon Keltner Ben Russell
Rifle Heather Greathouse
Softball Chanda Bell Kara Dill (Graduate degree in exercise science) Alice O'Brien Erika Silence
Track and field Katy Achtien Keith Hayes Ben Mason (Will complete coursework this summer) Chelsea Oswald Shiara Robinson Josh Nadzam (Masters of social work) Danielle Sampley Rashaud Scott Samantha Stenzel Hiruni Wijayaratne Megan Wright
Volleyball No graduates this weekend, but seniors Ashley Frazier and Christine Hartmann had already graduated.
On Sunday, 49 current and former student-athletes participated in the University of Kentucky's 146th May Commencement. If you were on Twitter, you likely saw many photos of the graduates floating around, but I figured I would collect them all below. Take a look:
A view of Rupp Arena during graduation ceremonies. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
UK president Eli Capilouto addresses the crowd at Rupp Arena. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
Graduates Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood with John Calipari. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
Women's basketball graduate Crystal Riley with Matthew Mitchell, assistant coaches Danielle Santos (second from left) and Shalon Pillow (far right) and academic advisor Tiffany Hayden (far left). (photo posted by @ukhoopcats on Instagram)
Women's basketball graduate A'dia Mathies with academic advisor Tiffany Hayden (left) and assistant coach Shalon Pillow (right). (photo posted by @ukhoopcats on Instagram)
Baseball graduate Thomas McCarthy with academic advisor Michael Stone and John Calipari. (photo via @UKMichaelStone on Twitter)
Men's basketball graduate Twany Beckham with John Calipari (left) and academic advisor Michael Stone. (photo via @UKMichaelStone on Twitter)
John Calipari with UK graduates in the new Rupp Arena locker room. (photo via @UKCoachCalipari on Twitter)
Men's basketball great Jamal Mashburn received an honorary doctorate of humanities on Sunday. (photo via Kelley Bozeman)
Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood with John Calipari and academic advisor Michael Stone. (photo via @UKCoachCalipari on Twitter)
A'dia Mathies is moving to the WNBA after scoring 2,014 points during her four-year UK career. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
As she proved throughout her four-year Kentucky career, there just isn't much that rattles A'dia Mathies.
Her facial expression - no matter the circumstances - hardly changed and Matthew Mitchell said he could never quite get a handle on what she was thinking.
But as the WNBA Draft moved into the latter half of the first round, Mathies admits that her normally imperturbable pulse quickened a bit.
"I think I was excited so much I was just sitting on the couch and once they got up into the seven, eight, nine area, my heart started beating fast when every single pick was called," Mathies said.
Watching Monday night's draft at her grandmother's house in her hometown of Louisville, Ky., Mathies still wasn't showing much emotion as she waited to hear her name called. But when the Los Angeles Sparks took her with the 10th overall pick, the same could not be said about most of her family.
"My mom started jumping around," Mathies said. "I haven't seen her jump around like that in a while so I know she was excited."
Not only had Mathies become the highest draft pick in UK Hoops history, but she would be joining an organization that has won two WNBA titles in the league's 17-year history and moving to the hometown of someone she has looked up to for a long time.
"Pretty much everybody who thinks about the WNBA they automatically think of the Sparks," Mathies said. "Just to be going there and my brother lives in L.A. and being with him and I miss him and I'm just very excited right now."
Johnny Mathies is a few years older than his sister and played basketball at Creighton from 2003-06. A'dia says she grew up trying to be her own player, but that her older brother was the person she most looked up to.
"He knows basketball and he gives me pointers all the time, especially when I was playing at UK and things I need to work on and I think that's really going to help me out a lot," Mathies said. "He's going to support me so I know I have somebody I can trust and I think it's going to be really beneficial to have him there."
Also already helping Mathies in her transition to the professional ranks is Ukari Figgs, UK's assistant athletics director for women's basketball. Figgs played five years in the WNBA, including three with the Sparks, so she has a good idea of what's in store for the second-leading scorer in Kentucky women's basketball history.
"She has just been giving me the basics right now like getting an agent and really helping me out with the draft experience since she has been through it," Mathies said. "We will talk more about it as far as what it's like to play out there and being a WNBA player. We have been working out a little bit and we are just going to take it step by step over the next couple of weeks."
Mathies will take any help she can get right now because of how much she has on her plate. She is slated to graduate with a degree in psychology in early May and will head west immediately after for training camp. The Sparks play their first regular-season game on May 26.
"Right now (her head is) on cloud nine, but I'm going to come down very soon," Mathies said. "Just stay grounded and humbled. I had a great workout today with the team and Coach Figgs. ... It's real great to see how everything is coming together and I'm just trying to stay focused and do everything right and try to be the best that I can."
That's really no big change for Mathies.
Just as she'll enter the WNBA intending to do nothing but make the most out of her ability, Mathies came to UK four years looking to be the best version of herself. By doing that, Mathies became unquestionably one of the best players in the history of her soon-to-be alma mater, helping to bring the program to national prominence in the process.
"It's very humbling to see somebody like me to actually get that accomplished and just doing the things that I've done here," Mathies said. "When I first came here, I never would have imagined I would be top in this and doing this and even getting drafted this high. The work that we put in as a team and individually I think it's definitely paid off and I'm just happy and humbled that it actually happened and it's a great time in my life and I'm very excited."
Even though her college career is over, A'dia Mathies continues to find ways to rewrite the Kentucky women's basketball record books.
On Monday night, Mathies was selected with the 10th overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, becoming the highest draft pick in UK Hoops history. She is UK's second first-round pick in the last three seasons, joining former teammate Victoria Dunlap.
Mathies will begin her professional career after cementing herself as one of the all-time greats at UK with a stellar four-year career. She ranks second in program history with 2,014 points and is in the top 10 of 13 different career lists, including steals, games started and games played.
Even more importantly, her arrival in Lexington marked the beginning of the renaissance of the UK program. Picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference before her freshman season in 2009-10, Mathies helped lead her team to the first of three Elite Eights in four seasons that year and a league title in 2011-12.
"All of us are thrilled for A'dia," UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "She did so much for the Kentucky program while she as here and we had no doubt she was one of the top players in the country. Being chosen as a first-round pick just shows what she did for us and how hard she has worked to get here. I think the Los Angeles Sparks made a great pick."
She will now look to make an impact at the next level, though she likely won't be asked to carry as heavy a load as at UK. The Sparks reached the WNBA Playoffs a season ago and appear poised to once again compete for a title in the upcoming season, which begins on May 26.
"She will be a good player to come in," analyst Carolyn Peck said on ESPN2's draft coverage. "She doesn't have to shoulder the weight of responsibility of providing all of the offense."
From day one, Mathies will have a relationship with Mitchell in common with her new head coach. Carol Ross - in her second season with the Sparks - is a former head coach at Ole Miss and Florida and hired Mitchell for his first collegiate assistant position while with the Gators.
Though Mathies will be far from the Bluegrass - where she has spent her whole life first as a Louisville native and later at UK - she won't have to look far for a familiar face. The Sparks share their home court at the Staples Center with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Playing for the Lakers is former Wildcat Jodie Meeks and playing for the Clippers is Eric Bledsoe, who arrived at UK the same season as Mathies.
With Tennessee's Candace Parker and other former college stars like Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford and Kristi Toliver of Maryland on the roster, Mathies will play a supporting role. Though that's something she never did while at UK, her time as a Wildcat did prepare her well for one facet of being a successful role player.
"You know that you're going to get that defensive effort because she's going to bring that Kentucky defensive style," Peck said.
At 8 p.m. ET on Monday, the WNBA will hold its annual draft on ESPN2. There, A'dia Mathies will be looking to become the second Kentucky player chosen in the first round in three seasons. Before then, take a look back at Mathies' stellar UK career in the video above.
Women's basketball - The 2012-13 season was the most successful in program history with school records of 30 wins and eight victories over top-25 opponents. The Wildcats tied a school-record with 13 Southeastern Conference wins and advanced to their school-record fourth Elite Eight in the last four years, including second straight. - UK has charted 25 or more wins in a school-record four straight seasons. - Seniors A'dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson leave as the winningest class in UK Hoops history with a 111-30 record (.787). - Mathies ends her career as UK's all-time leader in steals (320), games played (140) and started (139), while ranking second in scoring (2,014), 3-point field goals made (177) and field goals attempted (1,687), third in field goals made (712), free throws made (413) and attempted (590) and ninth in assists (349).
Gymnastics - The Kentucky gymnastics team posted the program's highest-ever NCAA Regional team score with a 195.575 on Saturday. - Kentucky finished in fourth-place overall just .45 outside of second position. - Audrey Harrison finished in a tie for third for the individual all-around title with a score of 39.2, but tied for the highest AA score among competitors not on a team advancing to regionals. - Alexis Gross earned a career-high all-around score 39.05, in her first meet competing in all four events during a single meet this season. Softball - The Kentucky softball team finished a 3-1 week with a sweep over Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina over the weekend, moving its SEC winning streak to a school-record tying six games. The streak began with a sweep of Mississippi State a few weeks ago. - True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley led Kentucky over the weekend with a 2-0 record and a 2.50 ERA. Nunley is an impressive 17-4 on the year with a 2.09 ERA with her 17 wins moving her into a tie for fourth on UK's single-season wins list with Morgan Marr, who had 17 in 2001. Nunley is the first UK pitcher to post 17 or more wins in a season since Chanda Bell had 18 in 2010. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 1-0 on the weekend, clinching the sweep with a strong seven-inning performance on Sunday, allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Cumbess led UK at the dish over the weekend by going 5-for-10 with a double, two home runs and four RBI. - Cumbess tied the game Saturday with a two-run homer and tied Sunday's game with an RBI single. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also went 5-for-10 with a double and home run, while junior Ginny Carroll, senior Alice O'Brien and freshman Christian Stokes also hit home runs. Sophomore Griffin Joiner had three hits and three RBI.
Baseball - Kentucky suffered its first series loss of the year at the blistering-hot Tigers, previously owning series wins over Florida, No. 14 Mississippi State and Georgia. - UK earned a thrilling 5-4 win over No. 9 Louisville in 10 innings in front of a UL school-record crowd, with freshman Kyle Cody turning in a quality start and freshman Kyle Barrett driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. - Freshman Kyle Barrett drove in the game-winning RBI against Louisville in the top of the 10th inning, completing the dramatic late inning comeback. - UK has been led offensively by junior J.T. Riddle, who has hit .322 with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing five bases. Sophomore A.J. Reed has belted eight homers and has 33 RBI, batting .319.
Men's tennis - Kentucky dropped the first match of its three-match road trip to conclude the regular season at No. 14 Vanderbilt, 4-2. - Kentucky won the doubles point with wins on courts one and three to get the early 1-0 lead, but were unable to hold on in singles play. - Beck Pennington gave UK the early 2-0 lead as he won on court six. The Bowling Green, Ky., native is undefeated in singles play this season, with an 8-0 record, and is 2-0 in SEC play. - The Wildcats finish the regular season at Florida and South Carolina this weekend before traveling to Oxford, Miss., for the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats defeated both UF and SC in 2011.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell 5-1 at home on Friday to No. 19 Vanderbilt. - Freshman Nadia Ravita improved on her already impressive freshman season, defeating No. 61 Lauren Mira in straight sets. The 24th-ranked individual won the match on court one 7-5, 6-3. - Kentucky will host No. 2 Florida on Friday and No. 29 South Carolina on Sunday to round out the regular season.
Track and field - A small contingent of Wildcats competed at the Bellarmine Invitational on Saturday. - Joanne Imbert placed second in the high jump with an outdoor season-high clearance of 1.72 meters/5'07.75". - Michelle Canterna finished as the runner-up in the pole vault, with a top clearance of 3.80 meters/12'05.5" - Shelby Kennard cleared 3.5 meters/ 11'05.75m, tying her outdoor season-high pole vault, before being unable to get over the bar at 3.65 meters /11'11.75".
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team finished fifth at the M&F Bank Rebel Invitational last week in Oxford, Miss., shooting 22-over for the tournament. The Cats recorded the third lowest round on the final day to propel them into fifth place of the 18-team field. - Junior Liz Breed, who competed as an individual for the Wildcats, charted one of her best performances of her career, tying her career-low with a 54-hole score of 2-over-par, 218 and equaled her best finish, tying for eighth place overall. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht tallied her third-lowest score of the season, finishing tied for 12th at 1-over-par. Freshman Sarah Harris also had an impressive tournament, posting a career-low 7-over-par, 223, including a personal-best 1-under-par, 71 on the final day. She finished tied for 24th.
Monday, April 8 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Tuesday, April 9 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.) Softball hosts Marshall - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Austin Peay - 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10 Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 2:00 p.m. Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 4:30 p.m.
Matthew Mitchell looks on as his team falls to Connecticut in the Elite Eight Monday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The Wildcats have been on a meteoric rise through the women's basketball ranks over the last four seasons, but they haven't yet reached the top tier of elite teams. For the second consecutive season, Kentucky's season came to a halt at the hands of one of those elite squads in the Elite Eight: Geno Auriemma's Connecticut Huskies.
For the second straight season UK has been unable to get over a pretty sizable hump.
Kentucky has made no secret to the public about its desire to win Southeastern Conference championships and reach Final Fours. After UK took care of an SEC title in 2012, the main focus shifted to making a larger splash on the national scene.
This season, the Final Four was a goal, if not the primary goal, from the outset. Players spoke openly about their desire to reach New Orleans, the site of this year's Final Four, much like the men's team exactly a year ago. After Monday night's loss, UK has now reached three Elite Eights in the last four years, but has zero Final Four appearances to show for it.
Monday's loss prompted the question as to whether or not Mitchell believed that his program would ever be able to get over that hump. His response was emphatic.
"I think if anybody starts to think this is not going to happen, they will not be inside our program," said Mitchell. "Because it is going to happen."
If Kentucky continues reaching Elite Eights, Mitchell is right; it is bound to happen. It's only a matter of time.
For comparison's sake, it took Auriemma six seasons at Connecticut to reach his first Final Four, but he had never reached an Elite Eight prior to the 1990-91 Final Four season. Mitchell already has three Elite Eight appearances to his name in his six seasons at Kentucky.
Still, Kentucky seeks to reach its first Final Four in program history. Mitchell knows that he's developed a devoted fan base, one that longs to see him reach his goals. He also knows those fans are just as disappointed as they are for not having realized them this season.
That won't keep UK from taking another swing at it next year and for many years to come.
"I don't think we're going to get discouraged," Mitchell said. "Maybe people outside the program to see a result like tonight (will be). ... I know our fans wanted us to perform better. I know our players did, too."
Kentucky is at the doorstep and knocking. Just a few years ago, not long before Mitchell got to Kentucky, such a thought seemed impossible. The women's program was merely a middle-of-the-road SEC squad with little chance of ever chasing down a program like Tennessee. Today, the Wildcats are reaching the SEC Tournament final, competing for and winning regular-season crowns and making waves in the national landscape of the sport.
This program has come a long way. The program still has a long way to go.
Much is still left to be achieved, and Mitchell plans on seeing that through.
Thanks to the efforts of a player like A'dia Mathies - to this date, Mitchell's greatest recruit at Kentucky - the UK program has been able to flourish to the point that it's not a surprise when the Wildcats sign a player of Mathies' caliber.
Kentucky has a couple of top-notch recruits joining them next season to help reload the roster when Mathies and fellow senior Brittany Henderson depart from the program. It won't be easy to fill that void, but a greater influx of talent year after year shouldn't put the Wildcats too far off from contending for more SEC titles and that elusive Final Four.
It didn't happen last year. It didn't happen this year. It may not happen next year. But Kentucky won't stop trying. The Cats have come too far to be disappointed with their results. Is there disappointment? Sure. A losing coach and team should be disappointed after a loss if they are truly competitors. However, this is much more to be proud of than not.
So while the question remains, "when will Kentucky reach the Final Four?" The answer isn't a matter of if, but when.