Most Recent Posts
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about working with head coach Mark Stoops
- Dallas Prime Prep will bring marquee players Mudiay, Thomas, Ferguson to Marshall County Hoop Fest
- Father had biggest impact on Mark Stoops’ coaching career and life
- UK coach John Calipari has no regrets about giving certain players more than one chance last year even when it hurt the team
- Florida forward Will Yeguete likes Cauley-Stein’s athleticism and way he plays the game
- UK coach John Calipari believes team’s competitive spirit “will drag us to where we’re trying to go”
- ESPN analysts Fran Franschilla and Chad Ford predict Archie Goodwin to be “developmental player” next season
- Mark Stoops: “We’ll be ready” for opening game with Western Kentucky
By LARRY VAUGHT
John CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s high school coach has a warning for those who think the recent rumors and finger-pointing are going to keep him from making Kentucky a national power.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It upsets me to hear people get on him or write those nasty things about him. You get a tone of jealousy from people who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find anything else to say, so they dig up something,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Billy Sacco, CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prep coach in Pennsylvania. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Take the (Marcus) Camby thing (at Massachusetts). John himself was the one that turned it in (to the NCAA). He could have lied. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that. It upsets me that some people are taking shots at him and trying to ruin his reputation.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I can tell you this. It is only going to make him mad. Whoever plays Kentucky next year better come with helmets attached. He will get after everybody. You do not want to get him mad and then have to play him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
When Sacco first heard rumors that Calipari might leave Memphis for Kentucky, he called his former player to get the Ã¢â‚¬Å“scoopÃ¢â‚¬Â directly from him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I knew he had a loaded team coming back at Memphis,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sacco said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said he had to think about this one. I told him this is one of the jobs if you are ever coaching Ã¢â‚¬â€ and no one knows how long you will coach Ã¢â‚¬â€ that you have to consider. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the three jobs in the country you think of as the best there is. I told him if you could land that Kentucky job, it would be something. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the history of basketball. Putting him in that situation had me excited.Ã¢â‚¬Â
By LARRY VAUGHT
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t talk to Rich Brooks about all the historic possibilities for his University of Kentucky football team this year as the Wildcats seek a fourth straight winning season and fourth straight bowl bid.
No, the UK coach is too focused on just getting the season started against Miami at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati Saturday to worry about long-term implications.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am anxious and kind of frustrated, kind of antsy, kind of nervous. I want to go play. I think a lot of our team is in the same mood. Every game is important when you are trying to establish consistent postseason play in your program. Every game is big when you are trying to make a bigger run in your league than we have made. You get 12 chances (to play) and they are all very, very important games. We need to go on the road and get off to a win. Nothing else is acceptable,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said Monday.
His players totally agree.
Running back Alfonso Smith knows the offense was way too inconsistent last season and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t gain enough yards or score enough points. He says the players have used that as a rallying cry the last eight months.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do have something to prove. I felt like we had to prove something in our scrimmages, too but it is even bigger in games,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smith said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to show what we can do. It is a great offense. If we all click, we can do a lot of good things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what Brooks is counting on.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be good to get the team on the field and see where we are and look at the new additions and the improved additions this year,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks, who has eight true freshmen listed on the three-deep depth chart, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are going into this game a little blind. We are not sure exactly what to expect from Miami because of their new coaching staff. We are just kind of winging it in preparation. I am sure we will have to adjust early in the game when we are surprised by a few things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Yet Brooks is counting on Miami being surprised by what it sees from his team, especially on offense where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confident returning quarterback Mike Hartline not only has improved, but also has a better cast around him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think the speed of our team I like on both sides. I am impressed with, believe it or not, the play of our receivers and that is coming off a less than impressive performance a year ago from that unit. Those things and the improved play of Mike Hartline. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what excites me,Ã¢â‚¬Â Brooks said.
That and knowing his team finally gets to play in six days.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Perry Ellis was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas last season as a freshman when he averaged 19.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game and now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clearly on KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recruiting radar.
John Calipari offered him a scholarship during his freshman year when Calipari was still coaching at Memphis and he extended the same offer from Kentucky to the 6-8 Ellis, who attended the recent LeBron Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, as well as the Vince Carter Skills Academy this summer and recently was one of 24 players to play in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 in New York where former Wildcat Rajon Rondo was one of the coaches.
Jonathan Long covers high school sports for the Wichita Eagle and has seen Ellis play. Her are his observations about the talented sophomore who recently added a scholarship offer from Oklahoma.
Question: How good a player is he and what do you like best about his game?
Long: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has one of a kind talent. The best part of his game, in my opinion, is his ability to adapt. He reads the defense extremely well for someone his age.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How mature is he for his age and how does he handle all the accolades and attention?
Long: Ã¢â‚¬Å“On the court his talent defines him, not his age. But off the court heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shy, very shy. He honestly doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t act like what heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s doing is a big deal. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a winner, so all this extra stuff heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kind of used to. But not in a Ã¢â‚¬ËœIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m the greatest type of attitude.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ More of a I love basketball, so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doing what I love.
Question: Is there a realistic chance Kentucky, or any school, can outrecruit Kansas or do you see him eventually playing for the Jayhawks?
Long: Ã¢â‚¬Å“As far as I understand, he is still open. KU is going hard, but so is Memphis (where his sister plays). I also expect North Carolina to get into the conversation at some point.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What type of high school teammate is he and how good is his high school team?
Long: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t try and do to much, and he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t shy away from doing what he has to do. His team was solid all-around. Perry was obviously the star, but he had a couple of other guys around him. This season will be different. They wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a lot of senior leadership, so he will have to take on that role.Ã¢â‚¬Â
By LARRY VAUGHT
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about John Calipari not making as many community appearances in future years as he has during his first five months at Kentucky or whether heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be involved in charitable functions.
His high school coach, Billy Sacco, says Calipari wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“John is just a leader. Always has been and always will be. He was my quarterback on the court. Three years prior to me taking over they had won three games a year. We had John as our leader, committed a lot to him and we turned it around and did very well. He put in the commitment to make that happen,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sacco said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whatever school he is at, it is the same way. He is into doing things for the kids and community. That makes me so proud of him. Most coaches take the money and run. Not John. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stay involved and be accessbile.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had a camp here that John was the creator of along with me. When I left, he kept it going by himself. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always doing that kind of stuff. When he comes back home, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a coach. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just John. We do basic, down to earth things. We go get wings at some little place or pizza at some place. That is what he wants to do. We could eat high off the hog, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s down to earth. People respect him for that and folks in Kentucky are go ing to love him for that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Sacco recently visited Lexington and Calipari had gone to watch football practice at UK the day before. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to dot hat. He wants to show everybody, though, he is here for all of Kentucky,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sacco said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just basketball for him. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Kentucky guy all the way now.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Once they get established, his wife will do a lot of charity and things, too. She is tremendous, too, and a great person. That is what he brings to the mix. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not just a coach. Every person who approached us when we there for a week asked him for pictures, and he complies. He is so good about that. He never gives you that look like you are bothering me. He understands this is what Kentucky is about. That is how he wants to approach this job. He will bring a lot to the plate. He will have a lot going. He is just very inventive. He gets people and the community involved in things. And then he is a great, great coach.Ã¢â‚¬Â
By LARRY VAUGHT
If Chris Matthews turns out to be the big-time receiver that Kentucky is counting on him to be, someone should thank UCLA for changing its mind about him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Out of high school I was supposed to go to UCLA but unfortunately my grades were bad so a coach at UCLA sent me to Harbor (junior) College and said he would come back and get me. That didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come back,Ã¢â‚¬Â Matthews said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That might have had something to do with my grades, too. Again, I really did mess up. I did minor adjustments and separated from a couple of people, picked up my grades and Kentucky came through.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I learned from what I did wrong. Now I stay on top of my grades and right now I have a 4.0 (GPA from summer school). That is a very big switch for me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While Matthews admit he did have some worries, and disappointment, over his college recruiting, he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be happier now.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I thought about it a couple of times, but I am at Kentucky now. This is a good school and I like it, so it worked out well for me,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Now it could work out well for UK, too, because he seems to be the big, athletic receiver the Cats lacked last year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Athletically, I have always been good. There would be times I would not look very good. My last two years of high school I did well and junior college really was not that much of a challenge. When I came here, this is where I needed to be with the best of the best. I have had to focus and play harder here every day. This is making me better, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I wanted.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Joker Phillips, UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head coach of the offense, likes MatthewsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ toughness and blocking ability as well as his receiving skills.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The thing is I have been telling our freshmen if we had had toughness like that out of our last group of freshmen, we would have won two more games last year,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I really believe that. The guys that are sophomores now, they have to get to the same toughness level. He is really physical. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not afraid of anybody.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Matthews, who had 80 catches for 1,235 yards and 11 scores at Los Angeles Harbor College last year, says it is Ã¢â‚¬Å“his jobÃ¢â‚¬Â to block.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You have to do that. If I have to block to let a running back or another receiver score, that is what I am going to do. If I have to get better at it, then that is what I am going to do, too,Ã¢â‚¬Â Matthews said.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done enough already to have earned a first-team spot heading into the final week of practice before UK opens the season Saturday against Miami.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s picking it up pretty good, still a mistake here and there, but weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to work our way through that,Ã¢â‚¬Â UK head coach Rich Brooks said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am pleased with the progress he is making. He has not missed a practice. He has been out here every day. He continues to get better,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The kid wants to be a great player.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has been listening and learning and asking questions. We quiz him every night and go around the room and let the other receivers quizÃ‚Â him. So far, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not much not to like about him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Matthews, a first-team junior college All-American last year, readily admits he sometimes hung around the wrong crowd as he was growing up in Los Angeles.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would hang around the wrong crowd at times. But not all the time. At times I would stay away from that and my parents would watch over me and stuff. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t too hard on me growing up,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say I was street wise. I have been through a lot of things just like everybody out here has. Just because you come from the suburbs doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the same amount of problems as the guy from the streets.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Jerry Rice fan
Matthews played basketball, but he always had to work far harder on the hardwood than on the gridiron. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why he dreamed of playing in the NFL, not the NBA.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That has always been a dream since I saw Jerry Rice play for the first time. When I was growing up I had a little Jerry Rice towel and everything. I was always dreaming of the pros. I thought I could play with Jerry Rice when I was younger. He would be the guy I would pretend to be,Ã¢â‚¬Â Matthews said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I like the way he ran his routes and could catch the ball with his hands. He never really caught the ball with his body. He was always using his hands. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I try to do myself is catch the ball with my hands,Ã¢â‚¬Â Matthews said.
Perhaps that love of Rice is why Matthews doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mind the big expectations that have been placed on him to be the big-play receiver that UK needs to go along with Randall Cobb.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have no problem with it. When game time starts, I really tune everything out. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hear the crowd or anything. I have not been in a stadium with 80,000, but at same time I try to concentrate on what I have to do. If people expect a lot from me, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fine because I expect a lot, too,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The talent here is really good. I learn off all of them. Cobb does a tremendous job of running his routes. I try to mimic off what he does. They (the receivers) all have something unique about them. They know what they are doing and I try to learn to make me better. There are no personal agendas here or time to be playing around or fighting. We all want to win a championship.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Not a party guy
Matthews says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a Ã¢â‚¬Å“party-type guyÃ¢â‚¬Â and has enjoyed Lexington.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like to do too much of anything. I like to stay home a lot, watch TV, play with my sister or just sit there and chill with my family,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“
He had never been to Kentucky before making his visit here, but he knew he wanted to play for the Cats because of what Phillips told him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Coach Joker said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThere is a difference between coaching and teaching and I am going to teach you how to play this game first and then coach you.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ That is what got me to come here. That is most definitely accurate, too. He has helped me out with a lot of things,Ã¢â‚¬Â Matthews said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had to adjust to the cornerbacks out here. Junior college was really not much of a problem for me. When I came out here ,I had to adjust he showed me little tricks and stuff.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Matthews canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait for his first game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I change the night before a game. YouÃ‚Â have to do what you have to do to get out there. If you are still smiling and laughing the day of the game, your mind ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t right. I get my mind right the day before a game and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait for that to happen with our first game,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
First it was Rick Pitino involved in headlines he didn’t like. Then John Calipari had to endure the NCAA-related headlines when Memphis was ordered to vacate its Final Four performance.
Now it is former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie’s turn to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. HeÃ‚Â was arrested at 2:45 a.m.Ã‚Â today in Anderson County and charged with driving under the influence.
WLEX-TV has exclusive footage of a handcuffed Gillispie being escorted by a state trooper and put in a vehicle for transport to jail in Franklin County. Gillispie refused to take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test. There was no smirk or smile from Gillispie like he often would have during his two years at Kentucky following a loss.
Why would Gillispie take this chance? What’s even doing still in Kentucky? What’s wrong with him?
Obviously, Gillispie doesn’t have a job this year and is content to count the money he’s got from UK and the money he anticipates he’s going to get. But how will he ever get another job now? He was fired at UK after two seasons and now he has a DUI. That’s not exactly what most athletics directors will want to see on a potential coach’s resume.
Gillispie’s arrest came about 12 hours after Pitino lashed out at the media for its coverage of what he says was a one-time affair with Karen Sypher and her allegations against him. Excerpts of her police interview were aired on Louisville TV stations Wednesday and that sent Pitino into a rant.
Actually, his response was not surprising. That’s Pitino. When he has something to say, he says it. Pitino was that way when he was at Kentucky. Several times I got late-night phone calls from him when he was upset with something I had written. He didn’t want to wait to address the issue, so he would call immediately. It was the same at some press conferences when he would be irritated.
However, the difference here is that when Pitino would call me or voice his displeasure at a press conference, that was it. He put the incident behind him and moved on. He can’t do that here. Sypher is charged with extortion and is going to trail. Plus, opposing fans are going to have a field day with him this season.
All his reaction Wednesday did was put the focus and national headlines right back on him. And Gillispie’s arrest is not going to change that, either.
Big-time coaches in Kentucky are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Thank goodness college football starts next week and maybe UK coach Rich Brooks can put the focus back on games, athletes and winning.
By LARRY VAUGHT
John Wall was one of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top recruits last year, but the talented point guard has found that coach John Calipari has a strong overall group of players at the University of Kentucky .
Wall talked about his teammates in an interview Wednesday:
Question: How talented is this team?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a great team. It is just going to take a lot of team chemistry. Coach Cal will get the offense down for us. We have to do work off the court and make sacrifices on the court to make our team the best it can be.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Is it true that you and freshmen Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins call yourself the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Three AmigosÃ¢â‚¬Â and like to play jokes on others?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is true. If you see me, you see them. If you see those two, you see me. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. It felt good for all of us to come in together. We joke around a lot but we know when we get on the basketball court or in the classroom to be serious.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everybody thought me and Eric would not bond. I was No. 1 point guard, he was No. 2. I am a great player, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great player. Everybody thought we wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get along. But when we got here we are just two competitive people trying to make each other better for this upcoming season. We became like brothers and proved everybody wrong.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We could play together in this offense. It just depends on working hard and who coach Cal starts. Hopefully we can both do well and start.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What impresses you about junior college transfer Darnell Dodson?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is a 6-7 shooting guard. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a load. Then you have Jon Hood who is 6-6. When you guards that big who can put the ball on the floor and make shots, that makes you hard to guard. You have Patrick (Patterson) and DeMarcus and Daniel (Orton) and Perry (Stevenson) as tall and strong players who can finish down low. Then you have the competitiveness of DeAndre (Liggins). He is really doing well. He has that Chicago mentality to not give you anything easy. We have that mentality on our team to have the right chemistry and make sacrifices to make us good.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How good is Cousins, another top five recruit?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is really good. He is a great player. He has really been working since he got here. He has lost 20-something pounds and getting his weight down to be prepared for the season.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What about Patterson?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just having him back is huge. He could have gone to the NBA and been a great player, but he came back and we want to get him in the NCAA Tournament and hopefully get him a national championship. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a big plus to our team that we needed. He is a steppingstone for us when we need to know things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman point guard John Wall thought he was prepared for the Kentucky basketball mystique. However, it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take the North Carolina product long to find out he was wrong after he arrived in Lexington this summer.
He shared his thoughts on the Big Blue experience Wednesday:
Question: Have you been surprised by the magnitude of Kentucky basketball?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know it would be like this. I knew it was big in the state of Kentucky, but I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know the fans were like this. They want this team to do well and they are here to support you. We can walk into a restaurant or the Student Center and fans want our autograph or shake our hands. They really care.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have been here for Midnight Madness one year and I have seen 24,000 cheering. They had a sign with my name. So I knew it would be hectic, but I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait for the season. I need to stop being so anxious, but we all are. Coach Cal is anxious himself. We just do what do in the classroom this first semester and support our football team and other sports here and keep doing work for basketball.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did your high school emphasize academic performance and is coming to a big university like UK a big change for you?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes sir. If you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a 2.5 (GPA) you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play and it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter who you were. We had a couple who didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make it, but if you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the GPA, you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Most of my classes in high school had 20 people. I stepped on this campus and it is 20 times bigger than my little high school. I went into one class and it had over 200 people. That was nothing like home. You could have put all our classes together just to equal that one.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Have you had any trouble adjusting?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I like it here. I am glad I came here. It is a great campus with great teachers and great students and great fans. When you walk past somebody, they might look at you and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHey, how are you doing.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ They know you and respect you.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Why do you like passing so much Ã¢â‚¬â€ and you did set a record with 12 assists in the Nike Hoop Summit Ã¢â‚¬â€ and has it always been that way with you?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the biggest thing I like. I can score when I want to, but I would rather make a great pass and then score later. I think being little I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a great passer. I used to score a lot because I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have too many people on my team that I could trust to score a lot. My AAU coaches taught me to pass. My mom told me it was not good to be selfish and that you had to make sacrifices to get what you wanted. So I started passing the ball and my game blossomed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just having my mom there, it was pretty tough. I was thinking if I became a great passer along with the other stuff I could do, then maybe I could become a great player, too, and be tough to guard.Ã¢â‚¬Â
* * *
One more to come.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman John Wall, one of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top recruits, took most of the spring to make his college decision. However, the North Carolina native knew he was going to eventually play for John Calipari after the coach made an in-home visit and won over his mother, Frances Pulley.
Wall talked about his recruitment in this exclusive interview Wednesday:
Question: How hard was the recruiting process that led you to pick Kentucky?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was really hard. Three years ago I was sitting home thinking I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to get recruited by these schools I was looking at on Scout. com. Then I turn around and they are recruiting me as the No. 1 point guard. It is tough, but glad I got it over with. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like taking that pain medicine for your headache when it finally ends.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did you and Calipari immediately click?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Back when he was recruiting me and I talked to him for the first time I thought that was a coach I could play for. When he came to my house for the first time to visit with my mom and coaches, my mom said she trusted him. I knew this was a coach then I could play for. The main thing for me was my mom trusting the coach and my relationship with the coach. I knew the style of play fit me. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s when I knew I was going with coach Cal. My mom really liked him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How close are you to your mother?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is the love of my life. If I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have her, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what I would be. If anything happened to her, I would be lost. My dad passed away when I was 8, so she is there for me. She will come to about every home game. My sister is like my biggest fan and if she canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make a game, she will be mad.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: So are you a mommaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boy?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes sir, I am. I still have my dad inside of me and his competitiveness. My mom was very competitive when she played softball, too, so I have that competitiveness in me. If I do bad, she pops in and out of the gym looking at the games. Here in college, she canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just keep running in and out. She will have to sit down. But she is a competitor and I am glad I came here for preseason workouts to be competitive in the weight room and prepare for college and the classroom.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How would you describe your personality?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have developed a more outgoing, friendly personality. When I was little, I used to have a bad attitude. When I lost my dad, I was going through a lot. I like to have fun. I am getting used to talking to the media. I like talking to fans. When you meet new people, you should say yes sir, no sir no matter who it is. If fans want a picture, you smile and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t act sad or mad that they are taking it. You need to be happy and thank God that you even have this chance to sign autographs or do interviews.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am shy when it comes to talking in front of people, though, when it is not about basketball. That is something Kentucky is helping me with. That is why I amÃ‚Â taking a communications class to help get myself ready for more interviews. I am more used to it now. We had media training here that helped me, too.
* * *
More with Wall at 9 p.m.
By LARRY VAUGHT
John Wall knows all about the expectations for him and the University of Kentucky this season.
Yet the talented freshman point guard from North Carolina insisted Wednesday he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let that overwhelm him or change the way he prepares for his first Ã¢â‚¬â€ and maybe only Ã¢â‚¬â€ collegiate Ã¢â‚¬â€ season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I do worry about that (the expectations) a little bit. There are such big expectations for me and the team. Everybody is saying we supposedly had the No. 1 recruiting class in history. Some people already have us winning the national championship,Ã¢â‚¬Â Wall, who was ranked as the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top recruit by many, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a big target. We know that.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have to make team sacrifices and get our team chemistry down pat. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about stuff that people say and just do what we are supposed to do on and off the court and then worry about other stuff later.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wall averaged 22.1 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game last year for Word Of God. He was a McDonaldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s All-American and played in the USA Nike Hoop Summit where he set a game record with 12 assists and the Jordan Brand All-American Game.
He knows many believe heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a one-and-done player at Kentucky. Yet he made AÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in every summer school class, something no other incoming freshman basketball player did.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I did want to prove to people that I am not just a basketball player. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not just the No. 1 player (in the recruiting class) when I step on the basketball court. I am working on trying to hit the books very hard,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I did great this summer getting a 4.0 (grade-point average) and hopefully I will do that this school year. I am not just trying to slack off. I want to hit the books and be a great student-athlete, not just a good basketball player.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Wall insisted UK, not the NBA, would be his priority when he signed with the Wildcats and coach John Calipari in the spring after also considering Memphis, Miami, North Carolina State, Baylor, Duke and Kansas. He says that commitment has not changed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I want to be a true student-athlete, hit my books and get better on the basketball court. I want to have a great season. If my team does well and I do well like I am supposed to, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to worry about the NBA. Coach Cal and the NBA scouts will tell me when to go. If not, then I will come back to Kentucky,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
There seems little doubt that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be a big hit with Kentucky. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perhaps the fastest player handling the ball ever to play for the Wildcats and his propensity for passing before shooting could make him ideal to lead CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s talented team.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I push the ball. I get my teammates involved. I can score when I need to,Ã¢â‚¬Â Wall, who is already projected as a lottery pick in the 2010 NBA draft, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I bring another person that is 6-4 and can play defense. I think I bring a lot to the team.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think all the incoming freshmen can bring lot to the team and the six returning players can bring a whole lot. They know the college game and what to expect and can teach us stuff we need to get used to. All of us can bring a lot to the team.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Can he be a leader on this team that has five talented freshman, a junior college transfer, one of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s elite returning players in Patrick Patterson and five other veterans?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I can definitely be a leader for this team. I can be the leader that a point guard needs to be on a great team,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really not in my personality to get on players, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something coach Cal has been working on with me this summer to help me get that mentality. Whatever it takes for us to win, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I want to do.Ã¢â‚¬Â
* * *
More with John Wall at 8:30 p.m.