Most Recent Posts
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
- ESPN.com’s Jason King seems to have logical rankings going into next season
- Mark Stoops on John Calipari: “I love being around him”
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands that hiring Vince Marrow was a home run for Kentucky
- Video: Larry hears cowbells, makes a chocolate cow and soaks up the culture in Switzerland
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting the home state of Kentucky
- What role did Drew Barker’s mother play in his athletic development?
- Calipari will be keynote speaker at Iba Awards June 3 in Tulsa
By LARRY VAUGHT
Give ESPN.com’s Jason King credit for altering his college basketball rankings after Andrew Wiggins picked Kansas but not overreacting and taking Kentucky, Louisville or Michigan State out of his top three picks. Of course, he valued Wiggins so much that he raised Kansas, which has no starters returning, all the way to No. 5.
Here’s what he wrote about Kentucky: Could the Wildcats really go from first-round NIT losers to NCAA champions? Absolutely. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being hailed as the best in college basketball history. The haul includes five players (Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and James Young) ranked among the nation’s top 10 prospects by ESPN.com. Even without Andrew Wiggins, this may be the most talented college basketball team ever assembled. But will it jell? Even though injuries and chemistry issues ruined his most recent team, John Calipari has proved to be excellent at coaching players who plan to spend only a year or two in college. He’s great at getting them to play defense and share the ball. It will help that some of Kentucky’s key players in 2012-13 (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer) will return to provide veteran leadership, which is something the program sorely lacked last season.
And here’s his update on Kansas: Before Wiggins committed, Kansas appeared as if it would enter the season as a fringe top 25 team after losing all five starters from a squad that went 31-6 last season. But with Wiggins in the mix, the Jayhawks may be good enough to contend for the NCAA title. It may take a while for them to jell: Wiggins will be one of six freshmen on the youngest team coach Bill Self has had at KU. But it also will be one of his most talented. Self has led Kansas to nine straight Big 12 titles and averaged 30 wins in his 10 seasons in Lawrence. No matter what, he’s going to find a way to win. This particular team will lean heavily on rising sophomore Perry Ellis — who seemed to get more comfortable near the end of the season — as well as returning backups Jamari Traylor and Naadir Tharpe. KU’s veterans must provide leadership for a recruiting class that features Wiggins; a McDonald’s All American in Wayne Selden; a talented-but-raw center in Joel Embiid; and pair of sharpshooters in Conner Frankamp and Brennan Greene. Incoming freshman Frank Mason could challenge Tharpe for the starting point guard job. Wiggins will play small forward for a squad that’s still hoping to add Memphis transfer Tarik Black in the paint.
Personally, I can’t argue with him about UK or Kansas.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Doesn’t it seem like both Mark Stoops and John Calipari recruit non-stop and are always on the go?
That’s why I asked Stoops how he gets along with the UK basketball coach and if they might exchange recruiting tips since it seems like both of them never stop recruiting.
” “We talk, not to that extent (about recruiting tips). I love being around him. He’s been very supportive. (I’ve) gone over and had breakfast with him over at the lodge and just see their operation over there and how they’re doing things,” Stoops said. “He’s helped with recruits. He’s there. He’s made that very well-known. He’s there to help in any way.
“We’ve used him quite a bit, whether it be recruiting and different things. Certain kids we bring over to meet him. During our recruiting weekends when there was a home basketball game, each time he’s taken some time right before his game and come over and addressed our recruits real briefly. It’s been great.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari will be the keynote speaker at the Henry Iba Citizen Athlete Awards on June 3 in Tulsa.
“We have had the big names of college basketball as well as baseball and football here,” said Greg Kach, chairman of the Iba Athlete Awards for the Rotary Club of Tulsa. “I don’t know John personally, but I know his reputation as a giver and someone that likes to be involved in the community.”
Calipari’s foundation has raised millions of dollars to help people in need. In 2010 and 2012, he used telethons to raise money for victims of an earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy.
“John falls right in that sweet spot for us. The guy has got history and is a guy about having athletes that are good citizens and is a real humanitarian. We are thrilled he was nice enough to fit this into his schedule. He told us he is looking forward to it,” Kach said.
The Iba Awards are named in memory of the former Oklahoma State basketball coach and three-time U.S. Olympic coach who died in 1993. The Rotary Club of Tulsa paid tribute to Iba by creating an award to annually recognize male and female athletes who excel in their sport and who have shown by their actions a desire to help others. This year’s male recipient of the Iba Citizen Athlete Award will be Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and the female winner is Swin Cash of the WNBA Chicago Sky forward and a two-time gold dedal winning member of the USA Olympic women’s basketball team.
“This is one of the great events that honors one of the great coaches of our time,” Calipari said. “Coach Iba defined basketball coaching with the way his teams played and the class that he showed. I’m honored to be a part of the night and look forward to celebrating athletes who exemplify the highest degree of citizenship and who would have made coach Iba proud.”
Calipari will be an Iba Awards speaker one year removed from leading the nation’s winningest college basketball program to an eighth national championship. In winning his first national title, he fortified his status as one of the top coaching figures in college basketball.
Calipari will become the second Kentucky coach to serve as an Iba Awards speaker. Tubby Smith was the keynote speaker in 2002 when he was coaching the Wildcats. Other former speakers include Mike Krzyzewski, Lou Holtz, Dick Vitale, Tommy Lasorda, Bill Bradley, Tom Osborne, Paul Tagliabue, Rick Reilly, Roy Williams, Tim Brando, Steve Rushin, Archie Manning, J.C. Watts, Bill Self, Jeff Capel, Scott Brooks, Bob Knight and Danny Manning.
Kach had several connections to held land Calipari. Kach is friends with Joe Craft, a long-time UK basketball supporter, and former UK coach Eddie Sutton is the Iba Athlete Award advisory committee chairman.
“Those doors opened the way for us to get coach Calipari,” Kach said. “His plate was full after they won the national championship (in 2012) and he told us then he would try to come the next year. Part of his responsibility in coming will be to help us recruit and nominate for next year.
“He’ll talk about the benefits for being a good role model and giving back. He’ll talk about good citizenship and being involved in the community,” Kach said. “He will address things about an athlete’s responsibility long after he retires and remembers an award like this and what it means.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky basketball signee Marcus Lee is a two-sport standout and the second sport is volleyball where he had numerous Division I scholarship offers as well.
“I am hoping to be a McDonald’s All-American in volleyball, too. I started basketball about age 7 and then volleyball maybe six years ago. I am pretty sure I am better in basketball, but I love volleyball, too,” Lee said. “Basketball and volleyball go hand in hand for me. Volleyball really helps me with jumping and timing for basketball and basketball keeps me together and ready for volleyball. They go well together.”
He’s a prolific shot blocker in basketball, something he attributes to playing volleyball.
“Volleyball helps my timing and helps me know how to keep my arm away from their arm. It teaches me the basics of my footwork that basketball kind of skips over. It shows me all the basic stuff that works for basketball that basketball sometimes forgets,” he said.
Fourth, he has an off-court personality made for Kentucky basketball.
“I definitely enjoy all interactions with fans. I would go on Twitter sometimes, especially during games, and I will be all into it and I will tweet and go back and forth with fans and absolutely love it,” he said. “I am starting to get used to media interviews more and more and know there will be a lot at Kentucky. I am kind of new to all the big media and all that unlike the other players (at the McDonald’s All-American Game). I am getting used to it and starting to love it. I like to talk, so getting with fans and media is something I like and should enjoy at Kentucky.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Marcus Lee is a dynamic basketball player — that’s why he played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic along with five other future Wildcats. However, he’s an interesting personality away from basketball, too.
First, he has an interest in graphic art.
“I have always loved kind of messing around with technology and drawing art. I like to look on the computer and create the interior of a house. When I am on my phone, I am thinking they should have done this better and I will write little notes about how they could do it better,” said Lee. “If I had time, I would probably go to my brother’s work — he works at Apple — and see if I could sit down and talk to them about their Apple products.”
He plans to major in business and then wants to “come back and get my Masters in technology” for future business ventures.
“My first thought is to get my education. That is always my first goal and has been drilled into my head since I was probably one. I think when I was born it was like, ‘You need to get your education.’ That’s my first goal. If the opportunity is given to me (to play in the NBA), I will speak to my family and we would come to a quick decision,” Lee said.
“But my mom, my dad, my brothers, everybody drilled education into my head. They all were just like you didn’t have a choice and it was great that I didn’t have a choice but to be great in education.”
Second, that emphasis on education comes despite being placed in special education in second grade because he had dyslexia and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can be characterized by either significant difficulties of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness or a combination of the two. Symptoms normally emerge before seven years of age and led to Lee being placed in a special education class.
“School is extremely hard, especially with dyslexia and ADHD. I started off in special ed. Being in a regular class and going into special ed in second grade was really hard for me, especially when other kids saw me going into the class. I would wait and go in last so no one would see me,” Lee said. “Knowing that I had to work 20 times harder just to be even with everybody else showed me that I had to work 1,000 times harder to be at level with or above everybody else, so that has always helped me with my drive to be the best in basketball. I learned early to take on challenges.”
He said the most frustrating/painful part of being in special education was not knowing why he couldn’t learn.
“It was extremely hard. Some days I would go home and was like, ‘Why can’t I figure this out?’ Or you are in class and don’t understand what is happening, so you just go into shutdown mode and you are like, ‘I don’t understand why everybody else understands but I don’t.’ It kind of taught me how to not shut down as much and just keep working hard and keep trying to figure it out,” Lee said. “Then I got help (from teachers) and they taught me tricks and ways to get over my problem. I love them for helping me like that. It changed my life dramatically.”
Next: Lee’s other sport and personality made for UK.
By LARRY VAUGHT
If there is anything point guard Emmanuel Mudiay can’t do well, Dallas Prime Prep Academy coach Ray Forsett has not seen it.
“He is just a special player. He can do it all from getting to the rim to shooting the ball. He’s electrifying,” said Forsett. “You’ve got to see him play to appreciate all the special things he can do. He could go to Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona or about anywhere else because of the type player he is.
“He can do it all. He can get teammates involved. Being 6-4, it lets him do it all at point guard. He loves to make those special plays. He always keeps his teammates involved. We’ve challenged him to be an even better leader, and he is.”
Mudiay has definite interest in Kentucky. He says Calipari is a “great guy and great coach” and likes the “good job” he has done with point guards such as Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague. He has another highly touted point guard, Andrew Harrison, coming to UK for next season.
Mudiay, regarded as one of the top five overall players in the 2014 recruiting class, said he also likes that Calipari “can win championships and worries about his program” by bringing in all the best talent he can.”
Arizona, Louisville, North Carolina, St. John’s, SMU, Texas, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State are some of the teams recruiting Mudiay along with Kentucky.
He’ll be at the Marshall County Hoop Fest Dec. 6-7 — ironically UK will be in Dallas then playing Baylor on Dec. 6 — and will return to Kentucky again in January to play in a showcase at McCracken County.
“I thought it would be a great experience because competing against the best teams is always great,” Forsett said. “I took a team to Marshall County a couple of years ago and it was a great experience, great crowd. Everybody should experience that environment once. We are happy to be coming to Kentucky for two great events.
“I think you have to have been at Marshall County to know how great that event is and I am sure it will be crazy at McCracken County with that being a new event (in January). It’s going to be a great experience for our kids. We’ll throw our hat out there and see what we do.”
Last year UK recruiting targets Andrew and Aaron Harrison along with Andrew Wiggins all played in the Marshall County Hoop Fest. All signed numerous autographs and posed for countless pictures — mainly with UK fans.
“Emmanuel loves fans. He will have a good time with it. We all will. It will be a great experience for him and all our kids,” Forsett said. “Emmanuel is fine with the attention. He just loves to play.”
Mudiay plans to go through the summer and fall at least before making a college decision.
“He’ll just see how things unfold and how it plays out,” Forsett said. “He has definite interest in Kentucky. If you are a top player, you have got to have interest in Kentucky. But he has interest in a lot of top programs. It’s about finding the great fit for him. He is a high level kid. He’ll just ask God for help making the right decision and who he is comfortable with is where he’ll know he needs to be.
“This is my third year with him. We have a good relationship and he is a great kid. He has matured a lot. He still has a ways to go, but there is no questioning his basketball skills. He’s special.”
The team also has another big-time prospect in 6-9 junior Elijah Thomas.
“He is a little Zack Randolph. That is his game,” Forsett said. “He is a special kid, too. He will love the attention and crowds in Kentucky. He will have a good time. He is being recruited by a lot of schools.”
That’s because he can score with either hand and is good at getting teammates involved. He has scholarship offers from Baylor, California, Connecticut, Houston, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Massachusetts, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, SMU, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M.
Prime Prep also has another rising star in 6-5 guard Terrance Ferguson.
“He was a stud as a freshman,” Forsett said. “A lot of schools are recruiting him early and the fans will enjoy watching him play, too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
What do you think John Calipari learned over the course of last season? Here’s what he said:
“First of all, you have to have more than eight scholarship players. You may ask why I did that. Because I was trying to protect players in the program. What you learn is, you can’t protect players. You can’t protect them from competition. You bring in your group and the guys that understand competition brings out the best, they strive and they get better. They don’t have to play 30 minutes a game to reach their dreams. And so why I did it – if I had it to do over again, we would’ve had a couple more players. By not having a couple more players, guys were put in positions you have to play, and it’s hard to change guys when they’re in that mode.
“My wife and I talked about it, I don’t have any regrets where I gave guys more than one chance to make it and it hurt our team. Like, ‘Why did you leave this guy there? Why didn’t you just tell him, ‘Beat it. You’re not going to be good enough. We’re going to put you here.’ Because it’s about each individual player. And I can tell you that guys got the full season to prove themselves and do what they were gonna do, and you know what? I told my staff, ‘If I’m going to err, it’s going to be on the side of a player.’ Now, I know that’s, ‘Well, the program’s got to go and this kid’s got to go!’ That’s all good. But if it were your son, what would you want me to do? So if I’m going to err, it’ll be on the side of a player, which at times hurts the program. Now, it’s now how we’ve all been brought up to do this. It’s how I do it. And so, there were some things that went on that I should have changed this and this, but I was giving guys that opportunity. And Ellen and I said it: You can live without regrets. It may have hurt you for a season; what’s it doing to you? Nothing. But that young man had every chance to do what he was supposed to to change, to do it. If he didn’t, if he wasn’t willing or wasn’t able, now we know and we move on. But he got that full shot.
“So those were some things (I learned). But I’ll tell you again: Can you imagine if all four of the guys put their name in the draft (and) we would’ve have had four first-rounders? Do you know what that means? This is about the players. This is about them getting better. Can you imagine that? Now you can say why however you want to say why, but that’s a fact. The guys coming back should have come back. The guys that put their name in the draft, I’m going to do everything I can to help them. We’re not changing how we do that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Count Florida junior forward Will Yeguete as one who expects big things from Kentucky sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein next season.
“I think he did a good job defensively this year. He was a factor. He was blocking shots, tipping the balls. I think he did a really good job overall,” said Yeguete. “The first time we played them, he didn’t really play that much and do anything to impact the game because (Nerlens) Noel was playing all the time. The next time he was starting and played more minutes and was a big factor in the game. I was impressed.
“He is really athletic. I think his timing is great. Blocking shots at the right time. He knows when to jump. He has size and when the guards are coming inside, he is really aggressive and defensively was just there. When you have a 7-footer in the lane, he will impact your shot and did a good job doing that every time I saw him play.”
Yeguete also appreciates Cauley-Stein’s demeanor on the court.
“I think he plays the game the right way. He had a little foul trouble against us, but when he came back in he was ready to go. He doesn’t say anything. He just plays the right way. I love the way he plays,” the Florida junior said. “He was only a freshman, so his offense is a work in process. He affects the game more defensively than offensively right now. They had a lot of scorers on their team and I think his coach would want him to be the defensive presence that they need without Noel and not worry about offense. I think he did a good job at that, but I know his offense will be a lot better by next year because you can tell he’s a hard worker.”
Yeguete had no idea Cauley-Stein was an all-state receiver in high school.
“That is funny. He must be really fast. That would be fun to watch him on the football field,” Yeguete said. “But he was good in basketball, too. Both he and Noel are good shot blockers. I don’t know if you can compare them. You saw Noel play more games, but they both change the game a lot and he (Cauley-Stein) could really be special next year.”
Kentucky teammate Alex Poythress tends to agree about that.
“Willie has done incredible from the day he got here. He has just got better every day,” Poythress said. “I ain’t never seen a 7-footer that moves like him, jumps like him. He is strong, He is just incredible out there. He has been great friend and great teammate. And you know next year, based on how he improved this year, that he could just be dominant.”
Practice competition was almost non-existent at Kentucky last season. That will change for John Calipari’s team next season thanks to eight new players.
Would the coach expect there could even be some practice skirmishes when tempers maybe flare?
“I’ve had that in teams. The thing is, when they walk off the court it’s got to end right there. I’ve had teams that laugh about it when practice is over, a hard screen and somebody comes up pushing and shoving and has to be broken up. Yeah, there is a competitive spirit,” Calipari said.
“What it does is, I think, it will drag us to where we’re trying to go. I’m going to tell you, two years ago we did not have a bad practice, not one. That led us to building a swagger and confidence level that we knew we could win every game we played, let’s just be at our best and if we weren’t and somebody got us, fine, next game.”
Here is what ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla and ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford said Wednesday when asked about Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin and his NBA potential.
FRASCHILLA: Well, first of all, I can't wait to start talking to you about next season's Kentucky Wildcats, but we'll save that for another day. If Chad doesn't want to start, I'll start. I watched a lot of film of Archie Goodwin. I think that given this draft, he's a developmental player. If I'm not mistaken, he'll be one of the two youngest players in this draft. He does a lot of things well for a young player. He's athletic, terrific end to end quickness. Gets into the lane at will. There is one and he's actually a willing passer at 6'4", 6'5".
The problem with him right now, as you know and you saw this is he has a way below average jump shot, so that's going to scare a lot of people off. I think he's a kid that has really good value for a team that's looking for a developmental player, kind of like Lance Stephenson a couple years ago, not equating the off the court stuff at all. But this is a kid that's very much in the developmental stage of his career, but he has NBA athleticism. The jumpshot is the major red flag in this overall game, along with the fact that he's a very inexperienced young player.
FORD: I agree with Fran on that. I just add, he's having a rough go right now with NBA teams, partly because the expectations were so high for him out of high school, and that so many of the freshman have been successful and Calipari has had this ability to get the most out of these guys. I think that's been a huge feather in Calipari's cap. So when it didn't happen with Archie, I think a lot of NBA scouts put that back on the player and said if Calipari can't get the best out of you, and it didn't feel like he developed much as a player from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, how does that bode for your NBA future playing in the D League or playing on an NBA team?
And I think that is the big question mark, not athletically, but the questions about will he develop as a player when they just didn't really see it happen at Kentucky this year?
FRASCHILLA: I talked to more teams and we're seeing this too, Jeremy Lamb, who was a terrific college player spent much of the year in the D League. Archie Goodwin is one of those guys that I can almost guarantee you where and when he gets taken, is going to probably spend a lot of his time playing in the D League in the next year or two, just because a team can work with him, give him minutes.
Chad, I don't know about you, but it seems like the D League is becoming much more of an opportunity for the teams to utilize their young players and develop them.
FORD: Exactly, I agree, and I think that's where he'll go. His potential suggests still he should be a mid to late first round pick. I think the question mark is: Will he take that time; will he have the right attitude; will he be willing to be coached; and will he work on his weaknesses? No one knows the answer to those questions, and by the way, he's a young player, as Fran pointed out and players can mature and get a better work ethic or what have you, but there are those questions right now about him and his lack of development at Kentucky. If he can't develop there, will it make any difference whether he's in the D League or not?