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Posts from Wednesday, April 29

Tonight marks the seventh annual CATSPY Awards.

Tonight marks the seventh annual CATSPY Awards.

Live from The CATSPY Awards

Posted at 7:49 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Good evening everybody from Memorial Coliseum. Tonight I’ll be bringing you a running blog from backstage of The CATSPY Awards as UK honors and celebrates the academic, athletic and community excellence achieved by all UK student-athletes.

Throughout the night, I’ll be posting the winners as they come in, describe the evening and festivities, and talk to some of tonight’s winners. This is actually my first CATSPY Awards, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect.

One thing I’ve noticed so far is that UK has gone the extra mile to honor its athletes. The event is blown-out in every sense of the word. There’s a huge stage with two massive television screens on each side on the Joe Craft Center side. In front of the stage is well over 100 tables where the athletes had dinner beforehand, and presumably can watch the awards from. It’s almost like the Golden Globe Awards inside Memorial Coliseum.

That, of course, is what UK tries to emulate with this annual awards ceremony. When Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart arrived at UK, he wanted to do something to honor the student-athletes from all 22 varsity sports at the end of the year. Barnhart decided to put on an event very reminiscent of ESPN’s ESPY Awards in 2003, and it’s taken off ever since.

For the second year in a row, Jay Crawford of ESPN First Take will host the event alongside Christi Thomas of WKYT. 

Basketball star Patrick Patterson and women's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell were just backstage getting interviewed. As are the rest of the hundreds of athletes and coaches here tonight, they were both dressed in style and excited about tonight.

We’re about 15 minutes away until we get this event started. Most of the crowd has finished eating and are starting to take their seats. I’ll have more in just a little bit.

UPDATE (8:27 p.m.):  Nice kickoff to the evening. There was a great intro video to start off the awards ceremony. Definitely got the crowd pumped up and heard a few shouts when the different athletes were up on the screen.

Jay Crawford told the student-athletes that Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has sold the awards short. He said Barnhart told him it was a huge event, but that was an understatement in his eyes. Crawford said not a lot of universities get to hold an event like this and said the student-athletes should feel honored and privileged have something like this.

The first two awards have been announced.

Supporting Role: David “Bingy” Lara, men’s soccer

Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Leah Harms, swimming

Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year:  Brad Hart, football

Hart said he almost couldn’t come tonight because he has a 15-page paper to do. He said it was kind of ironic he got the award because he was faced with the tough task of balancing academics with athletics. So what’s the secret?

“I think it just kind of carries over,” Harms said. “You work your butt off in practice, on the field, in the pool, in the classroom. It all carries over. You start doing it at a young age and you kind of just get used to it.”

Two more awards in:

Female Rookie of the Year: Becky Pavan, volleyball

Male Rookie of the Year: Randall Cobb, football, and Ethan Sttlemires, rifle

Update (8:40 p.m.): No surprise here on Male and Female Performances of the Year.

Male Performance of the Year: Jodie Meeks, men’s basketball

Female Performance of the Year: Ashley Trimble, track and field

Despite all the huge games and crowds Meeks has played in front of, he said he was really nervous going up on stage and accepting the award. He said the award was special because he’s never won an award here at UK. Meeks met with UK great Dan Issel today and said it was just casual talk and where he’s at in the draft process. No change on that front.

“I think (the performance) has kind of sunk in now,” Meeks said. “When I first did it, I was still overwhelmed with it. Now that I’ve had a chance to watch it numerous times and just sit back and look at what I did, it’s pretty phenomenal.”

McDonald’s Female Community Service Award: Ashley Trimble, track and field

McDonald’s Male Community Service Award: Tim Masthay, football

UPDATE (8:55 p.m.) Women’s basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell has easily been the funniest man of the night (no real surprise). They just showed a clip of “How not to handle a press conference” and of course Mitchell was the highlight of the video. They pieced together some random, off-the-wall questions, and then used bits and sound bites from Mitchell’s press conferences. It was hilarious. Mitchell then came out to present an award and decided to poke fun at men’s soccer head coach Ian Collins for his English accent and style of coaching. Of course, it was all in good fun.

On to more awards:

One Shining Moment: Rifle team. The team had a 30-second clip of them to honor their season, a year in which they finished as the national runner-up.

Character Award: Andrea Halasek, track and field

Lifetime Achievement Award:  Donnie Mefford, Tommy Davis and Chuck Stivers of Turf Management.

It’s great to see the Turf Management crew get this award for all the hard work they do behind the scenes. They work long, sometimes odd hours to get the playing surfaces for the student-athletes in pristine condition.

“It’s a great honor,” Mefford said. “We’re just proud to be Wildcats. We want our student-athletes to have the best surfaces possible. We want them to feel right at home when they’re here. I’m just proud of my other guys, Tommy and Chuck, because they just work tireless hours. The rest of our group, when you work as a team, you can accomplish great things.”

UPDATE (9:20 p.m.): More awards to pass along, including another award for the rifle team.

Blue Heart Award (overcoming injuries): Eleia Roddy, women’s basketball

Female Team Coach of the Year: Craig Skinner, volleyball

Male Team Coach of the Year: Don Weber, track and field

Coach of the Year: Harry Mullins, rifle (joint men’s/women’s team)

Rifle is really sweeping the awards tonight. Rifle head coach Harry Mullins was proud to receive the Coach of the Year Award, but he gave all the credit to his team and was proud to see them get honored for the One Shining Moment.

“I was excited about the One Shining Moment,” Mullins said. “It means a lot to our guys. Coach of the Year is pretty much a direct reflection on them. They’re the ones that make me look good. They’re the ones performing and doing the things that they need to do for us to win. Sometimes I feel like I’m just the bus driver.”

UPDATE (9:43 p.m.): Men’s basketball head coach John Calipari just presented the Bill Keightley Assist Award alongside Keightley’s daughter, Karen Marlowe. We had a chance to catch up with him for a few questions backstage to talk about the event. He said he’s never seen anything like it.

“If it’s done here, it’s done right,” Calipari said. “It’s either first class or don’t do it. When I walk in and I see this for the athletes, I’m just so impressed with how they do it. And then Mr. Keightley’s Award, it’s just an honor to be up on the stage and be a part of that.

“I said to Karen, ‘Why did your dad treat me so good all the time?’ She said he treated everybody like that. Just to be there with Karen is a special thing for me. The one regret is I’m here where I don’t have an opportunity to be with him while he was here. But we’re going to try to make him proud.”

Calipari said he’d like to steal a few more awards for the men’s basketball team next year. He said he wouldn’t mind winning a national championship and being up on stage next year for the One Shining Moment.

Bill Keightley Assist Award: Adam Coleman, strength and conditioning graduate assistant.

Mike Lyden Courage Award: Natalie Rubinstein, gymnastics

You have to really feel for Rubinstein. She missed two seasons because of knee injuries, and she even tore her ACL for a third time at the SEC Championships this year. Rubinstein wanted to compete so bad that she begged her doctors to let her compete on a bum leg anyways, and she was able to stick out a near perfect landing at NCCA Regionals two weeks later.

“Behind the scenes it was all worth it,” Rubinstein said of her career. “Getting to encourage these girls through little minor injuries and even big injuries, it was worth it. … They were able to see, if I could push through it, they can totally push through it too. I’m so glad that I had an opportunity to show younger girls and even girls my age, that you’ve got to have the faith. You can’t do this by yourself.”

Scratch Award (non-scholarship athlete): Jennifer Stone, women’s tennis

UPDATE (10:24 p.m.): The final awards of the night were just presented a little bit ago. Here’s a quick rundown and a couple of quotes from some of the winners.

Male Athlete of the Year: Bruno Agostinelli, men’s tennis, and Tom Csenge, rifle

Female Athlete of the Year: Sarah Rumely, volleyball

Rumely has been one of the keys behind arguably the most successful three-year run in volleyball history. Rumely helped the Wildcats earn the chance to host the NCAA Tournament, and she won SEC Player of the Year for the first time in program history.

“It’s just great to get this award for my team and get the recognition we deserve,” Rumely said. “We’ve fought so hard this season and I think we have great things to come in the future. It’s great to be recognized out of all the great outstanding student-athletes at this university.”

Female Academic Team of the Year: Soccer

Male Academic Team of the Yeaer: Golf

Mr. Wildcat: Bruno Agostinelli, men’s tennis, and Tim Masthay, football

Miss Wildcat: Carly Ormerod, women’s basketball, and Ashley Trimble, track and field

Ashley Trimble was up there with some pretty big names, but it’s hard to argue a better story and more successful career than Trimble’s. She said she nearly lost her scholarship and almost gave up on track because she was having trouble as a hurdler, what she came to UK primarily for. She decided to test out the pentathlon and heptathlon and has shined ever since. She owns the school record for the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon.

“I would just like to thank God,” Trimble said. “We’ve all been through so much. There are plenty of times where you want to just stop and quit because you’re so down and low, but then you have to remember you’re committed, you’re here for a reason, you’re here to work hard and you’re here to get a job done.”

Male Team of the Year: Track and field

Female Team of the Year: Volleyball

UPDATE (10:45 p.m.): And with that, we’ve finally come to an end. I’m tired, beat and worn out, but let me close out with a final few observations.

In his closing remarks, Jay Crawford and Christi Thomas said they were extremely privileged and honored to be a part of the event. Crawford said he was amazed at the event for a second year in a row and couldn’t believe all the pictures and footage UK had of its athletes. He said the student-athletes should feel honored to be at UK and be a part of an awards ceremony like tonight’s.

They then showed a tribute of all the seniors at UK, showing a picture or clip of every single athlete that will be leaving and graduating UK after this year.

Finally, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart closed out the evening with three thoughts for the student-athletes to think about: family, fortunate and finish.

Barnhart said he wanted them to take all three words to heart. He said they should always remember that the entire UK athletic department, athletes and staff are all family and that they should never forget that.

On a special evening like tonight’s, he said they should all remember and think about how fortunate they are. In a tough economic time like this, Barnhart said it’s important that they appreciate the privilege they have and that they work hard to give back to the community and state of Kentucky.

And the final thing Barnhart touched on was finishing. He talked a little bit about the 15 by 15 by 15 Plan and his desire to capture 15 championships. A part of that means finishing the job. He said he’s so proud of all the accomplishments that all the teams and student-athletes have conquered over the years, but now it’s time to finish those. “Getting close to a championship is great, but finishing one is special,” he said

Tonight was special and I was glad to be a part of it. I hope you all enjoyed the running blog. I’m sure there were a few typos and mistakes along the way, but I hope you all had a good time with it nonetheless.


Tennis teams back in postseason play

Posted at 2:40 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Often overshadowed but never underestimated, the men’s and women’s tennis teams have found themselves in familiar spots entering May.

Both teams were assured Tuesday of what they have already come to expect: a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

For the second consecutive season and 15th time in the last 16 years, the men’s tennis team has made the field of 64. Likewise, the women will have a chance to compete for a national championship for the 13th straight year.

“For the coaching staff, it’s a great feeling to consistently get into the tournament,” women’s head coach Carlos Drada said. “But, I believe it is structure and the fact that we aren’t satisfied that gets us there each year. We want to get back to where we are hosting regularly and we are always working toward that.”

For now, the women’s team will have to settle with playing at Northwestern for the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament. If Drada’s Wildcats can take care of business May 8 and beat Ohio State, who UK defeated 4-3 earlier in the season, they’ll likely have the tall task of facing the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament in Northwestern.

“We have to focus on our first match against Ohio State,” junior Christine Johnston said. “We had a tough match against them earlier in the season. We should all go in there with a lot of confidence, and I think all of us girls will. If we do that, we will get the win against Ohio State and hopefully play Northwestern. I think that it is a great opportunity for us and everyone in the tournament has a chance to be as successful as any other team. I don’t think that it will be an intimidating experience but a great opportunity.” 

Because of a stellar regular season, one in which the men went 17-10 and are ranked at a season-high No. 11, the men will get the honor of hosting the first and second rounds at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.

The Wildcats, the top seed at the Lexington site, will face Cleveland State in the first round May 8 and match up with either Wake Forest or Northwestern if they win.

The prospect of playing at home serves not only as a home-court advantage, but a recruiting tool as well.

“I think that No. 1 our players play better in front of their home crowd and families,” associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “I’m sure that it will be a big crowd and we are excited.

“For the program, I think that it will be big for recruiting reasons and to show the guys that it is important to host. For the freshman and sophomores that we have on our team, they are going to realize how important it is to host. If the crowd can pull us out of some tough ones, then it will give us that extra edge in a close match.”

The men will have the advantage of playing at home, but they both share the similarity of being battle tested. Playing in the Southeastern Conference, the teams have faced arguably the toughest competition in the nation.

“Facing that pressure every day makes our players ready to face that in the NCAA whether it is Cleveland State, Wake Forest or Northwestern,” Kauffman said. “If they play like we did against the SEC then we will be fine.”

Nine teams from the SEC made the tournament on the men’s side, and all but one – Mississippi State – made the tourney on the women’s. Even more impressive, 10  of the top-26 teams in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association women’s rankings are from the SEC.

So while the outlook of playing the overall top seed, Northwestern, on its home court  likely stands in the women’s way, they’re not intimidated.

“It’s a tough draw, but we are used to that kind of competition playing in the SEC,” Drada said. “Every time you go out there, you compete and have the possibility to beat anyone. From our schedule, you can see we were able to beat teams who were ranked 14th in the nation (Clemson) and we beat Florida who went as high as fourth in the nation.”


CATSPY Awards tonight

Posted at 1:15 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Kentucky will host the seventh annual CATSPY Awards tonight in Memorial Coliseum to celebrate and honor the academic, athletic and community excellence achieved by all UK student-athletes. The awards, which were emulated from the well-know ESPY Awards, will start at 8 p.m.

Cat Scratches will be at the event tonight to blog the awards. We’ll have a running blog throughout the night to highlight who wins what and talk with some of the winners. A total of 27 honors, including Performance of the Year, Team of the Year, and Mr. and Miss Wildcat, will be announced.


Rondo reels off another big night

Posted at 11:11 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Another night. Another huge playoff outing for Rajon Rondo.

This time the former Wildcat scored 28 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds for another near triple-double. It’s getting to the point where I almost expect him to do this on a nightly basis. He’s become that good.

Oh, and the playoff series isn’t too bad either. With the help of Rondo, the Celtic went up 3-2 in the series. It was the third overtime game in five games.