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Posts from Monday, Aug. 17




Calipari won't walk out, wants fans to show respect

Posted at 8:08 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

When Kentucky welcomes Louisville and Rick Pitino's Cardinals in early January, John Calipari is walking through those Rupp Arena doors. And he isn't leaving either.

Despite a local television report that indicated Calipari would walk out of Rupp Arena during the UK-Louisville game if fans don't show Pitino, a former UK coach, respect, Calipari plans to stay courtside the entire game and coach.

Message boards and blogs over the weekend and into Monday were loaded with frustration that Calipari would turn his back on the fans if he chose to walk out if they booed or showed disrespect for Pitino. The first-year head coach has said that he plans to instruct fans to be respectful when Pitino enters the arena, but he never said he would walk out.

The local story was taken out of context from two national stories by Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News and Andy Katz of ESPN.com.

The comments from Calipari stem from a reference Calipari told DeCourcy regarding a situation he had when he coached at UMass. Following a gambling scandal on Rhode Island's campus in 1992, Calipari warned the people who followed the Minutemen that if they did anything to embarrass the school, he would leave the floor and refuse to coach the game.

Different time. Different story.

Calipari never said he would do that for the UK-Louisville game, despite the rumors and buzz circulating the message boards and blogs. All Calipari wants Kentucky fans to do is to conduct themselves in a respectful manner during the annual rivalry game.

Calipari understands Big Blue Nation is the most passionate and most supportive fan base in all of America, but he wants its fans to show the same respect he would ask of his own team.

"I'll probably make sure at that time to say to be respectful," Calipari said, according to Katz's report. "But I can't control 25,000 people."

 

Basketball schedule coming together

Posted at 4:09 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Get your calendars out, Wildcat fans - there's four more dates you can pencil in for UK basketball games.

ESPN announced its 2010 Southeastern Conference Super Tuesday lineup on Monday, unveiling four nationally televised UK games with it. UK will headline Super Tuesday four times during season, the first of which comes on Jan. 12 at Florida.  

The Cats will also appear on Super Tuesday on Jan. 26 at South Carolina, Feb. 2 against Mississippi and Feb. 16 at Mississippi State.

The UK men's basketball schedule has been completed but has not been released by UK. The school was awaiting approval from the SEC and ESPN to release the entire schedule via a Big Blue Sports Network television special. With the release of Super Tuesday, it appears the full schedule is soon to come.

Date Time (ET) Game
January 12 9 p.m. Kentucky at Florida
January 19 7 p.m. Tennessee at Alabama
January 26 9 p.m. Kentucky at South Carolina
February 2 7 p.m. Mississippi at Kentucky
February 9 7 p.m. Tennessee at Vanderbilt
February 16 9 p.m. Kentucky at Mississippi State
February 23 9 p.m. Tennessee at Florida
March 2 7 p.m. Vanderbilt at Florida
 

 

Shameless plug; baseball update

Posted at 3:53 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

If you're in the Lexington area tonight, I'll be on "Sports Nightly with Dick Gabriel" on 630 WLAP-AM around 6:40 p.m. to talk a little bit about the MLB's signing deadline day and how it will affect the UK baseball team.

Seven UK signees were drafted in the 2009 MLB Draft who had yet to make a decision as of today, as well as left-hander James Paxton, who has yet to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto picked Paxton with the 37th overall pick in the supplemental first round of the 2009 MLB Draft.

Players have until the midnight deadline to sign.

Unfortunately, no concrete updates to give at this point because no one has confirmed with the UK staff what their plans are. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported earlier that highly regarded catcher Luke Maile will not sign with the Boston Red Sox and will join UK.

Expect Paxton to be a midnight decision. There's no word on which way he's leaning, but with the signing of Tennessee's Kentrail Davis, he's the only guy left in the supplemental first round who hasn't come to a final decision.

 

Rumely, Rapp named preseason All-SEC

Posted at 2:23 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Shout out to volleyball players Sarah Rumely and Lauren Rapp, who have been named to the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team as voted on by the league coaches. Full story is on the front page, but I wanted to point you back to it in case you missed it.

Rumely, a senior, is the reigning SEC Player of the Year and has registered more than 1,000 assists in each of her first three seasons. Rapp, a junior, was named a second-team All-SEC selection in her sophomore season after eclipsing the 20-kill plateau twice in a season.

The Cats are expected to challenge Florida for the SEC crown after finishing second a season ago.

UK was one of only two teams to have multiple players on the preseason team with Florida being the other. Rapp, Rumely and the rest of the Cats kick off the season Aug. 28 at Memorial Coliseum for the Kentucky Classic.

 

Preseason football impressions

Junior Mike Hartline has cemented himself as the UK starting quarterback.


Posted at 1:01 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

I woke up this morning and thought I had a great idea to post some preseason impressions as the Cats enter the midway point of summer camp. Turns out I wasn't the only one with the idea as the always timely Matt May of The Cats' Pause beat me to the punch. So is the life of a lonely blogger.

Oh well. That won't stop me from providing you with my two cents, so without further ado, here's my inside impressions from the first 10 days of camp.

HARTLINE IS THE GUY: Preseason prognosticators thought Mike Hartline might not even last two weeks as the starter with talented quarterbacks like Ryan Mossokowski, Morgan Newton and the emerging Will Fidler behind him. As it turns out, Hartline might be distancing himself from the rest of the pack.

Hartline has entered his junior season as a more poised, more mature and more confident gunslinger. He's added 15-20 pounds of muscle, and head coach Rich Brooks has raved about his accuracy of late, even wondering if he threw a single incompletion in Saturday's scrimmage. The freshman quarterbacks have struggled just a bit with the mental side of the game, but that's not the reason Hartline is separating himself.

Whether it's a year of experience or a better surrounding cast, Hartline just has that look right now as the team's starter. He's looking and playing the part of the offensive leader and the players are following right behind him.  

EVANS, MATTHEWS THE REAL DEAL: One of the biggest mysteries heading into camp was the impact junior-college transfers Chris Matthews and DeQuin Evans would have on the Cats. It was a certainty that they were needed at their respective positions and a lot was expected of them, but the transition from junior college to the Division I level isn't always so smooth.

Consider Evans, a defensive end, and Matthews, a wide receiver, the exception.

I've been to five practices and media day so far this preseason, and I'm yet to do an interview with Brooks without hearing about Evans or Matthews. Brooks has been thoroughly impressed with what the two have been able to do.

Matthews has added some much-needed speed, star-power and size to the wide receiver position and is contending for a starting spot, and Evans has been praised for his high motor and will likely step in and play significant time at the thin defensive end position.

O-LINE VETERANS NEED TO STEP UP: Brooks has made it clear that there could be some early shakeups on the offensive line if some of the older players don't start stepping their games up. The seventh-year head coach has publicly said that he's been underwhelmed with their performance so far, even holding them after practice one day to voice his concerns.

On paper, the Cats look solid up front. All-SEC performer Garry Williams was a tough player to let go of to graduation, but other than that, UK returned a core of experienced linemen.

The obvious loss so far has been center Jorge Gonzalez, who was suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules. Redshirt freshman Matt Smith and junior Marcus Davis are competing for the opening-day job.

Christian Johnson took a redshirt last year and is going through his ups and downs as he tries to get his weight down and adjusts to a year away from college football. Johnson is a load to get by, but Brooks said he needs to work on his footwork. Zipp Duncan is a preseason All-SEC pick, but the truth is he's never played a minute at tackle and is still learning the position.

One of the young players that could steal some early time is true freshman Larry Warford. Brooks has praised the 350-pound guard, saying he has the physical tools and size to play right now.

YOUNG TALENT AT RB: Veterans Alfonso Smith, Moncell Allen and Derrick Locke are going to get the majority of the carries this fall, but don't be surprised to see one of the true freshman get a few touches as the season progresses.

The trio of Jonathan George, Donald Russell and Dakotah Tyler has impressed the coaching staff for the most part this fall. George and Russell both broke long runs during UK's scrimmage Saturday.

Brooks has said that all three are capable of coming in and playing right away, although he hasn't been pleased with the rate at which they're putting the ball on the ground. As UK fans can attest to, you can never have enough tailbacks in the brutal SEC, so they'll provide talented depth behind the upperclassmen.

WIDE RECEIVERS CATCHING ON: One of last year's biggest disappointments could be one of this year's biggest surprises. As Brooks has proclaimed multiple times, the wide receivers are "night and day" better than they were a season ago.

Part of that is experience. Part of that is depth. Another is just the injection of raw talents in Randall Cobb and the aforementioned Chris Matthews.

Last year's woes with drops and route running appear to be a thing of the past as the UK wide outs have shined in the preseason. Cobb's full-time move to pass catcher gives the Cats an immediate playmaker that they didn't have last season, and Matthews has been every bit as good as he was billed to be coming out of junior college.

A host of wide receivers are in a logjam for a limited number of wide receiver spots, including Gene McCaskill, Kyrus Lanxter, Eric Adeyemi, E.J. Fields and La'Rod King. The fact that UK moved Nick Melillo, who caught two touchdowns in the Blue/White Spring Game, to tight end should give you a pretty good indication as to how deep UK is at wide receiver.

SPEED IT UP: The Cats aren't slow, but Brooks has sounded a little concerned about UK's speed in the first half of camp. Brooks has mentioned several times that the Cats appear a little "dead legged" as they've adjusted to getting back to football life, but he's hoping that now is the time they start picking it up.

Bar none, the SEC is the fastest league in the nation and speed is a must. The Cats have survived in the conference the last few years because of their quickness, and they'll need it again this year if they hope to go to a fourth straight bowl.

Don't be too alarmed though - UK posted some of its fastest 40-yard dash numbers in the team's summer strength and conditioning program, as 28.9 percent of the squad covered the 40 in less than 4.63 seconds.

NO MAJOR INJURIES: The list seems to go on forever.

Alfonso Smith is battling a foot injury. T.C. Drake has a bad shoulder. DeQuin Evans is playing through a hamstring pull. Randall Cobb has a lower back injury. I could go on and on.

But that's the life of preseason football. Every player goes through preseason bumps and bruises, but the important thing is the Cats have made it to the halfway point with relatively few major injuries. Offensive lineman Jake Lanefski tore knee cartilage and underwent knee surgery, but he's only expected to miss two to three weeks, one of which has already passed.

 

Former UK defensive tackle Myron Pryor is making a push for playing time in New England.


Pryor makes huge splash

Posted at 11:12 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Myron Pryor is shaking things up on the defensive line in New England.

Pryor, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound defensive tackle from Kentucky, is drawing rave reviews from New England Patriots' preseason camp, according to this story from Ian. R. Rapoport of the Boston Herald.

As was the case at UK, Pryor's biggest hurdle will be his conditioning and fitness. However, his talent and physical tools are warranting a serious look from New England's coaching staff.

"He's got a good natural feel for the game," New England coach Bill Belichick said in the Boston Herald. "The defense we play is quite a bit different from what they played at Kentucky, but he's learning a lot of new techniques. He was very well-coached by coach (Rich) Brooks, some excellent defensive coaches, and an excellent defensive line coach. His fundamentals and his background are very good."

 

UK baseball draft dish

Posted at 10:56 a.m. EDT - Brent Ingram, UK Media Relations

 

Annually, one of the biggest days of the year for a top-tier college baseball program is the MLB's signing deadline day.

 

That is no different for the Kentucky baseball program, which Monday will have to sit and wait until the 12 a.m. EDT signing deadline to see which of its prized recruits will be in Lexington for 2010.

 

Seven Kentucky newcomers were drafted June 9-10 in the 2009 MLB Draft and so far two of UK's pitching signees have opted to ink a professional contract, sixth-round Phillies pick Steven Inch (RHP) and 24th-round Cardinals selection Keith Butler (RHP). Fellow signees Jordan Cooper (RHP; 17th round pick of the Pirates), Taylor Rogers (LHP, 37th-round pick of the Orioles), Sam Kidd (RHP/OF, 39th round pick of the Phillies) and Luke Maile (C, 43rd-round pick of the Red Sox) will have until Monday's midnight deadline to negotiate with their respective clubs. In addition, UK football freshman Brian Adams, an athletic outfielder, was a 45th-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds.

Left-hander James Paxton has until midnight to decide if he wants to sign with the Blue Jays or return to UK.


 

However, it is not just the drafted newcomers who could sign Monday. UK standout left-handed pitcher James Paxton has yet to sign as the Toronto Blue Jays supplemental first-round pick. Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, finished the 2009 UK season ranking third in the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings (13.2), striking out 115 in 78.1 innings.

 

The draft has had its complexion changed a bit over the last few years, as MLB has changed to bonus-slot recommendations for its draft selections. Each pick has a MLB bonus slot recommendation that baseball encourages clubs to adhere too. However, signability is sometimes in question with some players out of high school and with college juniors and seniors, and they may fall in the draft, as compared to players who make it known before the draft that they will sign for a certain MLB slot recommendation. In 2009, MLB slashed the recommendations 10-percent across the board, meaning several picks may be waiting closer to the deadline this year to announce deals due to the potential to exceed bonus recommendations.

 

UK's roster has already taken a couple of hits for 2010, as two-year starting shortstop Chris Wade - a 2009 second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection - opted to sign with the Florida Marlins in an above-slot deal. Junior right-hander Clint Tilford signed with the Colorado Rockies and is off to a good start to his professional career and senior southpaw Chris Rusin has already seen one promotion in his young professional career.

 

Stay tuned to UKathletics.com and Cat Scratches up until midnight Monday for all the updates.

 

ERIC'S TAKE: Thanks to Brent for the above write-up. Monday's draft deadline is certainly one of the most important days for the upper echelon of college baseball, and UK is no exception. Gary Henderson and his staff will be anxiously waiting all day long to see who will and who won't be back so they can start shaping their roster for next season.

 

Brent did a very good job of highlighting all of the freshmen, but one thing I want to emphasize is the possible return of southpaw James Paxton. If Paxton returns to UK, the SEC better watch out in 2010.

 

When Paxton declared for the draft a couple of months ago, most around these parts thought he was as good as gone. Paxton was one of most highly touted pitchers in all of baseball last year and he's projected as a future major-league pitcher. After being selected in the first round and with a major contract most likely sitting on the table, it was hard to imagine Paxton would turn it down. Or would he?

 

Now let me make it clear that I have absolutely no insight on what Paxton is going to do or where he's at in the thought process. For all we know, Paxton could sign with the Toronto Blue Jays two minutes after I post this. But the fact that Paxton's return is still a possibility could loom large for next season.

 

If Paxton were to return, what once appeared to be a starting pitching overhaul would turn into one of the SEC's most formidable pitching staffs. Instead of having to replace both Paxton and standout Chris Rusin, UK would return two of college baseball's top strikeout pitchers in Paxton and Alex Meyer.

 

We'll have to wait and see what happens, but stay tuned throughout the day for updates.

 

MAILE COMING TO UK? One update already in, as the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that Covington Catholic catcher Luke Maile will not sign with the Boston Red Sox and will instead come to UK. The Red Sox selected Maile in the 43rd round of this year's draft.

 

Morning Coffee

Posted at 10:20 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

UK HIGHLIGHT - WOODSON SHINING: Former Kentucky quarterback André Woodson is making a push to become the third-string quarterback for the New York Giants, according to the official Web site of the Giants.

After one of the most successful quarterback careers at UK, Woodson struggled in his first season in the pros. In his first - and only - preseason game, Woodson managed to fumble a snap, lose four yards, and then drop another snap and lose 10 yards. According to the Giants' feature, it would be the only time we'd see Woodson in a uniform again.

That would seem preposterous to those fans that watched Woodson flourish over the 2006 and 2007 seasons and become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Woodson did things that no other quarterback in UK history had ever done, and he was responsible for lying the foundation for where UK is today and where it's going in the future.

Besides the much-scrutinized hitch in his release, Woodson had too much going for him not to make it in the pros. Woodson could very well lose the battle to Rhett Bomar and get cut, but the guy is going to get a chance somewhere else and he's going to become an NFL quarterback for years to come. No, he'll likely never be a starter, but being a lifetime NFL backup isn't so bad.

BONUS UK HIGHLIGHTS: As we continue to march through summer camp, we'll continue with the daily barrage of Kentucky football stories.

SEC HIGHLIGHT - CONFERENCE VILLAINS: Interesting blog post from Chris Low of ESPN.com, who breaks down the villains of the Southeastern Conference. Low defines the villains as any player, coach, official, anybody or anything that has made a living out of making life miserable for a team.

This is one of those pieces that you'll have to click over and read for yourself. Kind of funny, kind of debatable, but definitely interesting. Some of the villains, as you might guess, are Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow, Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban. Low also lists the all-time Alabama villains as the NCAA playbook and the all-time South Carolina villain as the Chicken Curse, so nothing is off the table.

Interesting to note that Low picks Eastern Division rivals as UK's current villain and UK's very own men's basketball team as its all-time villain.

NATIONAL HIGHLIGHT - TIGER FALTERS TO WHO? The man who doesn't choke finally hiccupped. Tiger Woods, the guy who doesn't falter when he's in the lead at a major championship finally did Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, losing to Y.E. Yang in the 91st PGA Championship. (No forced Y.E. Yang puns included.)

The golfing world is in shock right now as to how a complete unknown could stare down the world's best and beat him by three strokes when no one - not Phil Mickelson, not Vijay Singh, not Padraig Harrington - has ever done it on the final day of a major before. The story following Yang's upset was whether Yang won it or Tiger choked. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but I think we're making way too big of a deal out of a loss.

All it showed was that Tiger is actually - gasp! - human. As unlikely as that sounds to some of you Tiger followers, the man isn't invincible. He misses putts, he tightens up under pressure (although he almost never shows it) and he pulls drives into the trees on occasion.

I'll admit that I was a bit shocked Sunday as well, but Tiger was due to falter down the stretch. He's the greatest golfer of all time, but even Jack Nicklaus finished in second place 19 times. I'm sure this one hurts more than any other one for Tiger, but he's human and he'll do what any other human will do. He'll absorb the pain, take some time off, let it heal and come back better than ever.

 


 

 

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