Posts from Thursday, July 2
Happy Fourth of July
Posted at 4:51 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I’ll be away from the blog for the next couple of days for the holiday weekend as I head back to my hometown to visit with family. There might be a post or two here or there if something big pops up, but in case it doesn’t, you know why.
As usual, stay tuned to the Twitter account for any breaking news.
Everybody enjoy the holiday weekend and be safe.
Meeks making the most of opportunity
Posted at 4:30 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I promised you all last week I would talk to Jodie Meeks about getting drafted. It took a bit longer than expected, but here it finally is:
Jodie Meeks is back on the court where life is simple.
He’s away from the overwhelming opinion of a crazed fan base, removed from mock draft boards and off the Kentucky roster. Maybe it wasn’t the most popular decision in the Bluegrass State, but it was the right one for Meeks.
“It was a tough decision,” said Meeks, UK’s record holder for most points in a game. “I thought about it heavily over the few months after I declared. It came down to making the best decision for me. A lot of people were saying it wouldn’t be the best decision for Kentucky, but I had to make the best decision for myself, and I think this was.”
When fans flooded message boards and blogs pleading for Meeks to come back, they were thinking about the best for Kentucky basketball. There is little denying that UK, a National Invitation Tournament team in 2009, would instantly leap toward the top of the college basketball heap if Meeks would have returned. Quite frankly, UK’s super recruiting class could still warrant a national championship push anyway.
But UK basketball must move on without Meeks. The guard from Norcross Ga., already has.
Just a week after the Milwaukee Bucks selected Jodie Meeks with the 41st pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Meeks was already into his fourth day of workouts at the Bucks’ practice facility in Milwaukee. Meeks said he’s happy just to get back to his normal basketball routine and away from the draft talk.
He was disappointed when he didn’t get picked in the first round, but he said all he wanted was a chance.
“I felt like I was good enough to go first round but it wasn’t the case,” Meeks said. “I wasn’t mad or worried about anything. I was just happy to get picked and it turned out to be a good pick.”
Meeks, who watched the draft with family and friends in his hometown of Norcross, admitted he was relieved just to hear his name called.
“It was a really fun experience,” Meeks said. “It was a great day. Everything happens for a reason. I was just glad when I got picked and was ready to go to work right away.”
Meeks flew in to Milwaukee on Sunday and has been working out with the team since Monday. He’s worked on his shot and ball handling, and watched film and lifted this past week. On July 10 he’ll begin in the NBA Summer League, a critical time for Meeks and other second-round draft picks.
Because Meeks fell out of the first round, he isn’t guaranteed a contract or even a spot on the roster. He’ll have to fight his way through the summer league and hope to make a lineup loaded with veteran guards like Michael Redd, Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour and Salim Stoudamire.
If Meeks is going to crack the lineup much less make the roster, he’ll have to impress this summer.
“I just need to do what I’ve done all my life,” Meeks said. “I need to fit in, buy in defensively, shoot the ball well and just work as hard as I can.”
Meeks said he’ll try to absorb everything he can from his new teammates, most notably Redd. The nine-year NBA vet is probably the most recognizable Milwaukee Buck and closest style to that of Meeks.
“He’s an experienced guy in the league,” Meeks said. “I’m just hoping to pick up on little stuff from him that you don’t know since this is my first year. I’m going to learn and try to absorb as much from him as I can.”
Meeks said he’ll miss UK but is confident they’ll be fine without him. He said head coach John Calipari is the right man for the job and was supportive throughout his decision process.
“He’s a great guy and a great coach to lead the program,” Meeks said.
Asked what he’ll miss most about Kentucky, the answer was simple.
“I’m going to miss everything,” Meeks said. “The fans are great, it’s a great place to play and it’s one of the best traditions in college basketball.”
Although Meeks hasn’t met or seen the incoming freshmen play, he thinks UK could be one of the best teams in the nation next year.
“Hopefully they can win it all," he said. "I’ll definitely be rooting for them to do as well as they can. I’ll try to make it a few games and I’ll definitely be watching.”
Whether they agreed with the decision or not, the fans of Big Blue Nation will be watching Meeks right back.
Kapteyn lighting it up
Posted at 1:06 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
UK pitcher/infielder Braden Kapteyn has been tearing opposing teams apart in the New York Collegiate Baseball League this summer.
Kapteyn, who went 5-0 with four saves this past season in addition to a .319 average at the dish, has tossed 18 consecutive scoreless innings in his last three starts. In those three outings, he’s allowed just four hits while striking out 33 batters.
In five starts this summer, Kapteyn is 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA. He’s surrendered only nine hits in 27 innings, fanned 43 hitters and is holding opponents to a .105 batting average.
If Kapteyn continues to pitch like that into next season, he could find himself in UK’s starting rotation, possibly as the No. 2 guy behind Alex Meyer. Kapteyn was brought in as both a hitter and pitcher, but when UK’s bullpen was decimated by injuries, he stepped in and filled in magnificently as the team’s closer.
Moving Kapteyn to the starting rotation might hinder Kapteyn’s offensive opportunities, but his baseball future is likely on the mound, in my opinion. Even at such a young age, most MLB hitters would have a tough time putting wood on Kapteyn’s nasty slider.
Keenan Burton Sportsfest
Posted at 11:18 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Former UK football player Keenan Burton of the St. Louis Rams is hosting the First Annual Keenan Burton Youth Sportsfest in Louisville on Friday and Saturday.
Burton, with the support of some other NFL stars, will host the event at DuPont Manual High School. Kids and fans will have the opportunity to get autographs and take pictures with the players during the two-day event. It is open and free to the general public.
On Friday, Burton will host miniature golf with the NFL stars at 6:30 p.m. They’ll reconvene Saturday at 9 a.m. for a free football and cheer camp with the pros (grades 1-8). The enrollment is limited to 200 and will come at a first-come basis.
For more information, click the link above.
Posted at 10:17 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
UK HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Rivals.com has been unveiling its preseason rankings for the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Kentucky has just appeared on the board at No. 43. Not too high, not too low. Maybe just about right.
One thing we can take from all these preseason polls is that you'll never see UK ranked higher than it should be. It just doesn't happen. The Cats still don't have the nation's respect much less attention to move anywhere near the top 25, which wouldn't be all the inconceivable if they could navigate through their murderous early season schedule.
The biggest question mark is obvious: it's the offense. The preview notes wide receiver Randall Cobb as a potential star, but it also says UK must become much more efficient in the passing game if it wants to make and win a fourth consecutive bowl. That's probably a fair assessment.
Kudos to Rich Brooks and his coaching staff for finally getting a little respect in one of these preseason rankings. The Cats' coaching staff graded out with a B-plus.
Rivals.com always takes one of the more extensive looks at teams in these types of rankings, so I'd recommend clicking over.
SEC HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: Speaking of football rankings, Chris Low, ESPN's Southeastern Conference blogger, ranked his favorite stadiums in the SEC. The only problem? You'll need to scroll down the page before you see Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium on the list.
Commonwealth Stadium ranks dead last in Low's favorite conference stadiums - below Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Really?
I can't argue with Low's top five - although I might reorder them just a bit - but it makes me wonder if Low has been to Commonwealth Stadium the past few years. On game days the tailgating atmosphere is second to none, and with Kentucky's recent success, Commonwealth has become a pretty tough place to play.
Ultimately it's Low's personal opinion, but I'm wondering what he saw at Vandy and Mississippi State that warranted a better ranking than UK. I've been to Vandy a couple of times, and let me tell you, it isn't much better than the atmosphere at a high school game.
I haven't been to every SEC stadium yet so I can't put out of my top 12 (still have three more stadiums to visit), but here's my top three among the places I've been:
1.) Alabama - Bryant-Denny Stadium - tradition, 90,000-plus fans, an open-air press box (always a plus with the scribes), beautiful co-eds and one of the best tailgating scenes in the country all rolled into one jam-packed rocking stadium.
2.) Georgia - When the Dawgs are good, it's as loud as any place in the country. When Georgia calls for a Black Out, you can usually forget about strolling into Athens, Ga., with a win (although Alabama had something to say about that last season). This doesn't pertain to the stadium, but few college towns can touch Athens.
3.) Florida - I wasn't a huge fan of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but it's hard to argue with the raucous crowd in the The Swamp. The always beautiful weather is definitely a plus, but some of the seating views left a little to be desired.
What do you think about Low's rankings? More importantly, what's your favorite stadiums in the SEC? Send me a list of your favorite stadiums to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIONAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: So much for that proposed Rajon Rondo for Tayshaun Prince trade we heard a few weeks ago. I'm not saying it still won't happen, but suddenly it looks like the Detroit Pistons are more worried about reloading than rebuilding.
The Pistons have reached an agreement with free-agent guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva. If Detroit decides to hold on to its trade bait, namely Prince and Richard Hamilton, Detroit could suddenly become one of the top players in the Eastern Conference again.