Posts from Wednesday, May 6
UK meets and exceeds APR mark
Posted at 5:04 EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Kentucky Athletics passed the NCAA test.
The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate report on Wednesday, and all 22 of UK’s sports teams surpassed the NCAA target score. Full details can be found in a full news release here, but let me give you the gist of the important details.
Besides the fact that all 22 sports passed the test – good news in itself – the biggest thing to take away from the scores is that from a department-wide standpoint, it is UK’s most successful report in the five-year history of the APR.
Among the many reasons why it’s the best department-wide score: 12 of the 22 squads exceeded the national average for public universities in the sports, UK’s lowest team score (941) was its highest low score (if that makes any sense) and 11 teams notched a perfect 1,000 score for the 2007-08 school year.
UK has always placed a huge emphasis on making sure its student-athletes succeed in the classroom and graduate in a timely manner, but UK has made a concerted effort over the last few years in making sure it meets and exceeds the target score set by the NCAA.
While we like to count wins and losses, these scores are just as important as those records.
McAtee tackling politics
Posted at 3:16 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Former Kentucky cornerback Robbie McAtee stopped by the office earlier and talked to us about what he’s up to this summer.
McAtee informed us that starting next week, he’ll begin a summer internship with Illinois senator Dick Durbin. McAtee is currently in UK’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, studying toward his master’s in public administration. He will be back in the fall to complete his master’s.
'Kentucky has changed the recruiting landscape'
Posted at 3:08 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
"(John) Calipari plus Kentucky is an incredibly synergistic explosion," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said Wednesday. "They are going to be in on any recruit in the country. The sum of those two parts is bigger than the parts themselves and it's happened much quicker than originally expected. It's happened so quickly it's immediately shaken up the whole recruiting scene."
"I don't think anybody is surprised that coach Calipari is causing a huge stir at Kentucky," Meyer said. "But to be able to do it so quickly and to do is in the spring is catching everybody by surprise. Kentucky has changed the recruiting landscape."
Photos of Pryor, McClinton
Posted at 1:30 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
We have a few photos of former UK football players Myron Pryor and Marcus McClinton at the New England Patriots rookie mini-camp. Check out the photos here.
Posted at 12:45 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
The message boards are already running rampant with talks of this being the best recruiting class ever.
Eric Bledsoe. DeMarcus Cousins. Daniel Orton. Jon Hood. Darnell Dodson.
The names are enough to make even the casual basketball fan drool with excitement. Four top-40 players, one of the top junior-college talents and maybe more on the way.
Even if the signees end with Bledsoe’s National Letter of Intent this afternoon, it’s still one of the best recruiting classes ever assembled. Put the five current signees on the court against SEC competition and you already have a team capable of winning the Southeastern Conference championship. They’re that good.
(It makes one wonder how far UK can go in 2009 if Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson come back. Bledsoe, Cousins, Meeks and Patterson under John Calipari’s dribble-drive offense. Wow! But that’s a story for another day.)
In fact, I’ll go ahead and say that no matter what happens from here until May 20, the last day of the spring signing period, Calipari has the best recruiting class in 2009.
Not ever though. It’s too early to pronounce that.
UK could very well assemble this class and go on to cut down the nets next April. There’s no denying that is now a possibility. Heck, one wonders how any work is able to get done in the Bluegrass State with all this clouded speculation from fans of hanging another national championship banner in the rafters next year.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. While it’s fun to imagine what could be next year, let me remind you that these kids aren’t in college yet. While their talent is undeniable, there is no telling how they’ll handle the grand stage of UK basketball.
On paper, the rankings might indicate it’s the greatest collection of talent in a recruiting class ever, but until they take the court, I don’t believe we can call it the all-time best recruiting class. I have a hard time putting a group of guys who haven’t played a single minute of college basketball ahead of the “Fab Five” or the “Thad Five.”
Again, not saying they can’t or won’t be better. It’s just too early to proclaim they are. Best ever? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Let me know what you think. I’m sure all of you are about to explode with excitement, but if UK’s recruiting class ends with Bledsoe, is it the best recruiting class in 2009? Is it the best recruiting class ever? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bledsoe signs with UK
Posted at 11:54 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Kentucky has its point guard.
On Wednesday, point guard Eric Bledsoe, a native of Birmginham, Ala., announced his intentions to play for the University of Kentucky. Not even an hour later, UK confirmed receiving Bledsoe’s National Letter of Intent.
The 6-foot-1 point guard is rated the 23rd best player in the nation and the third best point guard in the 2009 class, according to Rivals.com. Bledsoe averaged a near triple-double in his senior season at Park High School in Birmingham, where he averaged 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 11.5 assists per game.
Bledsoe joins fellow Alabamian DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala.), Darnell Dodson (Greenbelt, Md.), Daniel Orton (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood (Madisonville) as members of UK’s 2009 class.
Bledsoe, Cousins, Orton and Hood are all ranked in the top 40.
Softball rakes in awards
Posted at 11:11 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Record-wise, the Kentucky softball team has the numbers to prove that this season was one of the best in program history. Now the Cats have the hardware to prove it.
The Southeastern Conference announced its 2009 softball awards Wednesday, and four UK players were honored. Junior shortstop Molly Johnson, sophomore catcher Megan Yocke, pitcher Chanda Bell and infielder Brittany Cervantes were all named All-SEC.
Johnson, who is fifth in the SEC with a .422 batting average, was named to the first team. With Johnson’s selection, she becomes just the fifth Wildcat all-time to be named to the first team and the first since Nikki Jones in 2002.
Following a sophomore campaign in which she hit .333 at the dish with six home runs and 35 RBI, Yocke was named second-team All-SEC.
Bell, who won 18 games for UK and threw the program’s first no-hitter, joined Cervantes on the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Brick by brick
Posted at 10:25 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Much like his stoic demeanor, Bruno Agostinelli’s game has slowly and quietly gotten better with each passing season.
As a freshman, Agostinelli erupted on the scene as one of the most talented players on the team. He improved his sophomore year and became the face of the program his junior year when he cemented himself as the No. 1 singles player.
Although a stellar nationally ranked player, Agostinelli hadn’t quite reached his potential yet. With a chance to join some of the all-time greats at UK like Jesse Witten, Carlos Drada and Cedric Kauffmann, Agostinelli entered his senior season as the same shy, quiet guy that arrived in Lexington several years ago.
Or so that’s the way it seemed.
While Agostinelli continued to be the same reserved guy off the court, he had finally put all the potential together on it. Starting with an upset of the No. 1 player in the nation last fall followed by a victory over the defending national runner-up the very next week, the senior began an onslaught of the nation’s top players.
Carrying a 33-12 singles record, he’s beaten four players in the current top 10 this year, which includes two victories over Tennessee’s John-Patrick Smith, the fifth-ranked player in the country.
In his rise to the top 10 – Agostinelli was ranked as high as No. 2 earlier in the season – the native of Niagara Falls, Canada, is entering the NCAA Team Tournament and this month’s NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships with an opportunity to join the ranks of guys like Witten, who competed for an NCAA Singles Championship in 2001.
“It would be an honor to be characterized among a Carlos Drada and Jesse Witten and Cedric Kauffmann,” Agostinelli said.
Agostinelli has always had the talent to be put in the same breath as Witten, Drada and Kauffman, but why is he suddenly beating more players and playing like he belongs there? Was something holding him back before?
“More and more people graduate,” Agostinelli said jokingly.
In all honesty, it might have been Agostinelli’s focus of getting better at every aspect of his game. Head coach Dennis Emery said he pays attention to improving every detail. He described Agostinelli as someone who dots all their I’s and crosses all their T’s, and at times, that came at the expense of winning.
“Sometimes when you’re younger, you’re really intent on developing a bigger serve and you’re willing to lose some matches to do that or the ability to come forward and finish more points at the net,” Emery said.
It’s a common trait among up-and-coming tennis stars. Winning is obviously important, but the ultimate goal is to get better and improve, a target Agostinelli has never let go of.
“When you’re coaching, one of the things you try to tell people is you’re building your career and you’re building it one brick at a time,” Emery said. “He’s a person who hasn’t missed building one brick. He’s every day.”
Eventually that wall of bricks comes together though. Over time, sculpted by the right person, it can become a work of art. Agostinelli, although still the same quiet, reserved player he was as a freshman – he’d rather his game do the talking than talk for his game – he’s a more polished, experienced and consistent player than just a year ago and he’s laying the final brick to what could become a tennis masterpiece.
Ranked the sixth-best singles player in the nation and as a part of the 22nd-ranked doubles team alongside Brad Cox, Agostinelli will lead No. 11 UK into the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend. Behind the leadership and play of Agostinelli, the Cats were chosen as one of 16 schools to host the first two rounds of the tournament.
“He’s become a better player because he’s just a little more intent on winning,” Emery said. “He’s not so intent anymore on developing a particular aspect of his game as much. What I see in Bruno now is that he’s comfortable with what he’s got. He knows he can win with that game. The focus became winning instead of development as a senior.”
That will be the focus starting this weekend for the entire UK team. Making the NCAA Tournament every year is one of the team’s goals – an objective the Cats have achieved 15 of the last 16 seasons – but Emery wants more.
“Making the tournament is a reflection of how consistently we’ve been a solid program,” Emery said. “But the reality is if we want to take steps forward, we have to go deep into the tournament.”
Like Agostinelli’s career, it’s the next brick in the building of the program. UK has laid the foundation. Starting this weekend, UK will have the chance to lay the final brick of a masterpiece.