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By LARRY VAUGHT
Getting to interact/connect with so many University of Kentucky fans is a real bonus for doing this blog.
Consider this recent e-mail I got from Bill Ryle, a long-time UK fan:
“I don’t know if you remember but about a year ago I wrote you about growing up on a farm next to Allen Felhaus’ family in Boone County. I don’t get on the computer much, but do thoroughly enjoy all you writings. I am really looking forward to the group we have coming in this fall.
“I know your site is not for such things, but since I have been seeing a lot of things about Dominique Hawkins, I have a request. I would love to get in touch with Allen Sr. It has been over 50 years since I have seen him. If you ever have a chance to talk to him or Allen Jr, could you let them know I would like to speak with them.
Now I don’t know any of the three sons but did enjoy watching Deron play at Kentucky. My wife and I went to the SEC tournament the year Kentucky won it at Baton Rouge. Don’t remember the year that was. Please don’t go to any trouble doing this. And if you are ever in Owensboro let me know. I will take you to Moonlite Bar-B-Cue Restaurant. I’m sure you have been there. My favorite restaurant in Kentucky. We’ve only lived here seven years but go there frequently. Our son, Bill Jr came here on a baseball scholarship in 1974 and stayed We love this town.”
Naturally, I sent this e-mail on to Allen Feldhaus Jr., Hawkins’ coach at Madison Central. It was no surprise he replied promptly.
Feldhaus wrote: “I just called dad and shared your letter with him. He remembers Mr. Ryle. Dad said he used to pick him up a lot of days when dad was hitchhiking home from practice. Dad said Mr. Ryle probably is around 80 years old. Thanks for sharing this Larry.”
Again, nothing quite like the memories of UK fans or the connections former players feel with the fans.
And when or if I am in Owensboro again, I definitely will have lunch/dinner with Bill Ryle at Moonlite.
By LARRY VAUGHT
RICHMOND — Dominique Hawkins might not be a McDonald’s All-American, but the Madison Central guard is not coming to Kentucky thinking he’s only going to play a limited role on a star-studded roster.
“He believes he is going to play next year,” said Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus. “He may not show it, but he’s confident he can compete and play. He’s not going to back down.”
He proved that when he played against Texas twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, both UK signees, in the Marshall County Hoop Fest early in the season. He had 29 points in that game and kept Central in the game with the eventual Class 5A state champion.
“In our biggest games, he shined the most,” Feldhaus said. “Before the state tournament (when he led Madison Central to the state title), I am not sure most people in the state had a clue how good he was. I truly believe, and I think Cal (UK coach John Calipari) would agree, that when Cal developed an interest in him it was a feel-good story. He was a Kentucky kid with a chance to be Mr. Basketball and he was doing us a favor recruiting him. After watching him play, I could tell Cal was truly excited and then it was like we were doing him a favor with the way Dominique played and competed. That is what my dad (Allen Jr.) and brother (Deron), both former Kentuck players, told me you just could not appreciate him until you got to see him night in, night out. Cal watched him three state games and got it.”
Hawkins said Calipari told him he would be “able to compete for a spot and see what happens” next season.
“I take pride in my intensity and that is what makes the team special. I’ve got to be a leader. The point guard has to be a leader and help out not just during games, but also in practice,” Hawkins said.
Andrew Harrison is the nation’s top-ranked point guard. Aaron Harrison is the top-ranked shooting guard. But Hawkins says both players have the same versatility he does to do multiple things to help a team win.
“It is going to be an honor to play with them. They are both very talented and practicing with them will make me better and I will try to make them better,” Hawkins said. “It will be tough, but also fun. The thing about having them as teammates is that they can get any player involved in the game. You don’t have to do much when you play with them because they help their teammates. I think I do that. We are all versatile. I will be in the gym working on my shooting and game, but I think I can do things, too, to help the team.”
Hawkins got a dose of what being a Wildcat is like after making his college choice public Wednesday at a school assembly. He did several live radio show interviews as well as numerous TV and newspaper interviews.
“He did an unbelievable job at the press conference and I am not sure how many teachers came up to me to compliment him,” Feldhaus said. “He’s not the most talkative guy, and some people were shocked by the good job he did. But he’s got a lot of experience this yer. We’ve had a lot of media coverage in big events and I think he enjoyed today and understands that’s how it will be now.
“I really think UK fans are going to fall in love with him. Many already have not because of his talent, but the way he is every day with the way he carries himself and handles himself. You can’t help but love him.”
Hawkins got a dose of the “Kentucky love” even at school.
“Everybody was patting me on the back. I was signing autographs and posing for a lot of pictures. I feel kind of famous,” he joked. “If that’s what it will be like next year, it will be fun.”
What’s more fun, though, is competing. That’s what he enjoys. He’ll play in the Kentucky-Ohio All-Star Game Saturday and the Derby Classic April 19. He’ll compete in the Kentucky-Indiana all-star series in June.
“It’s not hard for me to be excited for those games. I am going to be playing with some great players. I will be playing with guys I don’t know, and I like doing that,” Hawkins said. “The Kentucky-Indiana series is the longest all-star game in the country. That is big deal for us and we want to end that (losing) streak against them.”
He was so busy Wednesday — and so secretive the last month not letting word out that he had a scholarship offer from UK — that he also has one more thing to do soon.
“I haven’t got a lot of Kentucky gear yet. I have to go do that for sure,” he said.
* * *
Hawkins will join us on WLAP (630 AM) at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Listen and you won’t be disappointed.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Could this be the week that Madison Central guard Dominique Hawkins, Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball, finally learns if will get the scholarship offer from Kentucky that he obviously wants?
Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus said Saturday there was “nothing new” between UK and Hawkins, who averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the 32-5 Indians last season. In the state tournament, he averaged 26.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in four wins.
The 6-1 guard is not a McDonald’s All-American, but he is a fierce competitor and seemed to earn a spot in UK coach John Calipari’s heart with his intense play in the state at the same time the Wildcats were collapsing at the end of their season.
“We would all like to see happen and have got our fingers crossed,” said Feldhaus.
Kentucky found out last week that two players — Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress — would stay at UK for their sophomore seasons while freshman Archie Goodwin is bolting for the NBA and Ryan Harrow is transferring. With seven freshman recruits to go with Poythress, Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer, that’s just 10 of UK’s available 13 scholarships. The Cats are still in the race for Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top prep player, but even if Wiggins says yes that would just take up 11 scholarships. So it seems there is room for Hawkins, who showed at the Marshall County Hoop Fest he could be a handful in practice for twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
“In big games, you can always tell he is ready to go. He likes to prove something,” Feldhaus said. “We were not very good at the time of the Hoop Fest but he kept us in the game with his play. Nothing intimidates him. Teammates asked him if he thought he could play at Kentucky and he thinks he can fit in and contribute anywhere. He has a lot of confidence in his play, and should. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but he’s got confidence.”
Feldhaus knows what UK basketball is about because his father, Allen Sr., and brother, Deron, both played there. He thinks Hawkins is the type of player who belongs at Kentucky.
“I know the type of kid he is. He is the most humble young man I have ever coached. He is always team first, self second,” the Madison Central coach said. “When we were playing teams it was obvious we were better than, the deferred to teammates. When the big lights came on, that’s when he was at his best. Coach Calipari liked his toughness, but he is pretty explosive and has game in him. Calipari sees a lot of (current NBA guard Eric) Bledsoe in him because he is so strong and physical.
“And he handles himself so well on and off the court. He always has that big smile. I think the entire state has fallen in love with the way he has handled everything with Kentucky.”
Hawkins, who will play in the Kentucky-Ohio all-star game this weekend and the Derby Classic April 19, was on spring break last week and put off any college plans until he got back to see what UK might do. Some have speculated he might be asked to be a walk-on for a year and then go on scholarship even though he has several Division I offers and more could be coming.
“I don’t think Dominique Hawkins is a walk-on. I hope it does not come to that,” Feldhaus said. “I don’t know what else he can do to prove himself. He is not a walk-on player.
“Kentucky has been very up front with us. We know they have been dealing with a lot of stuff and Dominique has let it be known he wants to be a Wildcat. We’re just waiting to see what happens.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
This is turning into quite a week for Madison Central standout Dominique Hawkins.
He led his team to a win over Wayne County in the state tournament Wednesday and then had a sensational second half here Friday to help the Indians outlast Holmes 65-61 in overtime to reach Saturday’s semifinals. He had 31 points on 10-for-27 shooting — he was only 3-for-14 the first half — along with 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks while playing every second of the game.
It was also the second straight game that Kentucky coach John Calipari was in Rupp Arena to watch him. And after Wednesday’s game, Hawkins even got an invite to UK’s practice.
“It was fun watching practice, too,” said Hawkins. “I met coach Calipari. He was telling me we had a great team. He told me just to keep working and they would keep looking at me.”
Hawkins said he “did not know yet” if a scholarship offer might be coming from Kentucky. However, he said having Calipari and assistant Orlando Antigua come back for a second game led him to believe that UK was indeed intersted.
Hawkins, a UK fan, was a bit overwhelmed when he got the text from Antigua after Wednesday’s game inviting him to practice. He didn’ even have Antigua’s name save in his phone contact list and also had to get permission to miss watching the Holmes-PRP game so he could attend practice.
“They looked like NBA players to me. They were dunking and hitting 3’s. It was great to be there,” Hawkins said. “It was like going to a concert and meeting somebody famous and passing out. I could not believe it. It was like a dream.”
Hawkins said he did pay attention to what UK point guards Ryan Harrow and Jarrod Polson were doing at practice and thought “I could do what they are doing” as he watched. He also said Calipari and Antigua told him they would keep coming to watch him play as long as Central kept winning.
What they saw is an athletic, competitive player who plays with a passion that has been missing at UK too often this season. He didn’t hange his head after a bad shooting half. He didn’t back off taking big shots. He didn’t shy away from contact to go inside and score or rebound. In the fourth quarter, Central had 14 points, and he had them all.
While he says UK is his “dream school” among those interested in him, he didn’t convey that message to Calipari or Antigua.
“I did not say that to them and maybe I should have. But I hope they will see it on TV or Twitter,” Hawkins said.
Coach Allen Feldhaus said any school, including Kentucky, that gets Hawkins will be happy.
“He’s a great player and great person. I don’t see how anybody, including Kentucky, could go wrong with him,” Feldhaus said.
By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Allen Feldhaus got a glimpse into Kentucky’s future during the Marshall County Hoop Fest.
The Madison Central coach came away impressed with Aaron and Andrew Harrison following his team’s 64-57 loss to Fort Bend Travis High (Texas) during the two-day event last weekend. The University of Kentucky signees led the Tigers to a pair of victories in the event and offered Big Blue Nation a chance to view their skills.
“They’re good,” Feldhaus said. “We saw them play the night before we played them an they’re good enough to play for Kentucky right now. The look the part of a college player already. You could tell they’re already bulked up and they’ve been lifting weights. I think they’re physical enough to where they could step right in and play right away. They’re the best we’ve seen in a while.”
Feldhaus also liked Huntington Prep standout Andrew Wiggins, who also competed in the event. Wiggins, also in the class of 2013, hasn’t yet committed but is on Kentucky’s radar screen as well as other prestigious programs in the nation.
“We watched Wiggins play twice,” Feldhaus said. “He’s a freaking beast of nature athletically. He has more size on him and I was really impressed with him.”
Andrew Harrison, a point guard, scored 25 points against the Indians and grabbed 12 rebounds, including nine on the defensive end of the court. Although he fouled out late in the fourth quarter, he dished out four assists and collected one steal. Aaron Harrison, hampered by foul trouble, had three points and a pair of rebounds.
“They’re so strong physically,” he said. “They’re not super athletic, but just very strong physically and you can tell they both have a good feel for the game and both of them can shoot it extremely well.”
Feldhaus, whose Indians are ranked among the top teams in the 11th Region this season, liked the way both players created shots and opportunities inside the paint.
“They’re strong enough to where a little bump doesn’t bother them,” he said. “They can finish inside. They seem like really good kids, too.”
Prior to the contest against Madison Central, the Tigers inched out a 78-76 victory over Louisville Ballard to open the event.
“I think they a little bit tired because they played the night before,” Feldhaus said. “I thought we did a really good job on them. Quan (Taylor) guarded (Aaron) and he only had three points. The other one took over a little bit, but they’re nice (players). I can understand why their the second- and third-ranked players in the country. The have a good head on them and a good feel for the game.”
Feldhaus said the two players “definitely” have the potential to contribute immediately at Kentucky next season.
“Truthfully, you can’t tell much difference in them,” he said. “I know one of them is more of a point (guard) then the other, but they’re both very skilled offensively and what I like, is that they’re going to always draw a lot of double teams, but they always seem to find the open man. I was very impressed.”
Feldhaus added that it’s not easy to tell the two prospects apart.
“One of them is No. 2 and the other is No. 5,” he said with a smile. “That’s the only way I could tell them apart to be honest with you. They’re identical. They listed them at 6-foot-6 down there, but they’re not 6-6. I thought they were a good 6-4 maybe. I was just real impressed with their overall strength. I love the twins.”