Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky “really needed this win” over Boise State
- Kentucky-Boise State postgame notes and numbers
- Live: UK TV delivers livestream of post-Boise State press conferences
- NBA scouts offer takes on what’s wrong with Calipari’s Cats
- Kentucky RB JoJo Kemp plans to keep “grinding” and keep “this ship moving”
- UK signee Devin Booker on Cats: “I feel like toward the end of the year, they’re going to be special”
- James Young: “We can play defense, it’s just we tend to stop sometimes”
- Calipari on defense: “It starts with your point guard. If he can’ t pressure the ball, then someone else has to be playing;
By LARRY VAUGHT
What’s wrong with Kentucky? That’s the question I posed to two NBA scouts I know. Here’s what they said”
Scout one: “I feel bad for Cal. This group just wasn’t taught well in HS, and its too much for a college coach to catch them up quickly. Really looking forward to the game against Boise St. Those guards can score in bunches and could be huge problems for UK.”
Scout two: “It’s defense. The team is terrible defensively. The big guys also don’t play with the passion and tenacity necessary at key times. They play great at times, but they don’t get key rebounds or stops when they really need them. Could be too much thinking about next year and not enough about this week.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown says he was “encouraged” by what he saw of Braylon Heard during practice this season.
The 5-11, 190-pound Heard transferred from Nebraska to Kentucky last summer. During his two seasons with the Cornhuskers, he rushed 77 times for 452 yards, a 5.9-yard average, and one touchdown. He had 348 yards — 6.7 per carry — in 12 games as a sophomore.
He played for Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, and rushed for 1,973 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, while catching two touchdown passes and anchoring returning duties for kickoffs and punts. Cardinal Mooney went15-0 and won the Division III state championship his senior year .
He was ranked among the top-five running backs in the country and top 60 overall recruits nationally by Rivals.com. Scout.com ranked him among the top 35 running backs in the nation.
“He has a different gear,” Brown said. “I think he has worked really hard with some of the things off his Nebraska film that (running backs coach) Chad (Scott) and I really thought he needed to work on.
“He has looked good, and when we had scrimmage opportunities, he really made some plays. I think he will be a factor for us in a lot of ways next season.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Julius Randle said he didn’t think about playing at the site of the Final Four Friday when UK lost to Baylor.
And John Calipari said with the way his team played, that was a good thing.
“For us? What you just watched? We’re just trying to win our next game and get tougher,” Calipari answered when he was asked if there had been any talk about playing at the Final Four site.
“Play through. What I did is, I played guys way too many minutes. I was trying to get out of the gym, and it was a big mistake, because they’re not able to play. That’s a high school, that’s an AAU thing. ‘I’m staying on the court.’ Thirty eight minutes? There’s no way. And that’s not their fault. I’m the one that played them that many minutes. These guys shouldn’t be playing more than 28, 30 minutes, any of them. Because they can’t play any more minutes.”
At the center of it all is outspoken coach John Calipari, who’s in search of the program’s ninth National Championship in 2014, a feat that would place it in sole possession of second place on the all-time list behind only UCLA.
On Monday at 7:30 PM ET, Calipari sits down with FOX Sports college basketball analyst Bill Raftery in a special FOX SPORTS 1-ON-1 interview to talk about life, bullying, in-state rival Louisville, the NBA and why he felt taking the reins at Kentucky isn’t for everyone.
“…if you took a job and (have) never been fired, you’re a golden boy, nothing ever happened to you; never coached a high-level player and then – the last part of it – is you had the weakest schedules in the world; you are going to fail here. You are not going to make it.” Calipari told FOX Sports 1-ON-1.
“So, I walked in and said, ‘You know what? I have already been fired.” Calipari continued. “What is the worst they can do – eat me?”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Give coach John Calipari credit for not blaming a relatively small crowd at Friday’s game in Arlington for the reason his team lost to Baylor.
“It was a great crowd for us. I don’t know how these people made it here. They must have been on dogsleds or something. I don’t know how they got here, but they figure out a way to get here. And I look around, the whole building is blue. It’s incredible,” Calipari said. “And I’m just — our fans just want to see a team fight and battle and compete, and this team didn’t.
“Soon as this thing got rough and the first two raindrops hit, it’s like a front-running team. The raindrops hit, we stop fighting. We start looking for excuses and heads down. That’s what we are right now, but we know that, and that’s why we have to play these kind of teams.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
BENTON — Kentucky signee Trey Lyles said he felt Kentucky had a “great” recruiting class already with him, Karl Towns Jr., Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, who also played here Saturday. However, he said UK hopes to “add two or three” more and he’s working on some of those players.
He would not say if Gill-Caesar is one of those players, but did tell a fan while signing autographs after his game at the Marshall County Hopp Fest here Saturday hat he was talking to Texas big man Myles Turner, who had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks Thursday in a nationally televised game with Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua watching.
The 7-0 Turner is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class by Scout.com. He plans to visit UK and Oklahoma State and has been to Ohio State already. Turner is also considering Texas, Duke, Kansas and Arizona.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari blasted his team’s lack of fight — and selfish play at times — after Friday’s loss to Baylor and guard Aaron Harrison and forward Julius Randle were sitting by him when he did it.
What did they think of him saying the team didn’t fight?
“You can’t take it personal. He’s doing it as a challenge, just challenging us. He knows all of us have fight in us. It’s just another level at the college level. We just have to focus more. When things get rough, that’s when we really have to come together,” Randle said.
“It’s tough to hear, but I know – we’re a group of guys (who are) definitely going to get better and learn from this. I just – I mean, I really don’t know,” Harrison said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Julius Randle became only the second Kentucky player to have seven straight double-doubles to start a season (Jim Andrews was the first), but having the streak snapped in Sunday’s win at Providence was not a big deal.
“I don’t even think anybody on the team knew about the double-double. We just know that he played a good game and we won,” said Kentucky freshman Dominique Hawkins.
Randle, who ranks second nationally with 12.6 rebounds per game, had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the win over Providence in what many considered an “off” game for him.
“I’m all about winning. That’s why I came here. I came here to win a national championship. So just to see those guys step up and make plays, it’s a big relief for me,” Randle said about the improved play of teammates. “It’s also encouraging for me because I know they’re growing, so it’s only going to help me. It’s only going to help them too. It’s going to help our team.”
Now Randle, a Texas native, gets to play a game in front of many family members and friends when UK plays No. 20 Baylor tonight in Arlington, Texas.
“Yeah, I’ll have a bunch of family and friends, so I’m excited to see all of them,” Randle said.
Here’s more of what he had to say Wednesday before practice.
Question: How long have you looked forward to going back to Texas for this game?
Randle: “I would say it’s a dream of mine just to be able to come back to my home state and be able to play in front of family and friends and fans in the city too, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Question: Did you know when you were recruited by Kentucky that this game was on the schedule?
Randle: “Yeah, I had already knew, plus I knew the Final Four and national championship was there. I’m just more excited to see my family. I don’t get to see them very often because I’m here. I’m just excited to see those guys.”
Question: How important it is to him to get to go back to Dallas for a second time at the end of the season for the Final Four?
Randle: “Very important. It’s the most important thing this year.”
Question: Has he shot at spacious AT&T Stadium before?
Randle: “No. I went to a game last year in that arena and it was kind of funny, the dome and everything. It seemed like a really fun environment.”
Question: Is it too big for basketball?
Randle: “No, it’s packed out so no. I couldn’t imagine playing in front of all those people. It had to be fun for them.”
Question: Will he get any time with his family?
Randle: “I’m hoping so. We get there early tomorrow, so I’m hoping that. I know if I’m not able to go out in the city and hang out with my family, I know that they were all saying they were going to come to me. Hopefully I have some good downtime just to hang out with them.”
Question: How familiar is he with Baylor?
“Pretty familiar. I know some of those guys just because of AAU basketball and high school playing against them. I’m very familiar with their guys. They’re a really good team. They can shoot the ball and have some long, athletic bigs. It should be a good challenge for us. They have length at positions one through five. They have a lot of length, so I think it will be a pretty good matchup for us.”
Question: Can length maybe create some one-on-one matchups for him instead of the usual double and triple teams?
Randle: “If they play me one-on-one I’d be surprised. That would be Christmas.”
Question: Does he feel any pressure going back to play in front of family and friends?
“(Assistant) Coach (Kenny) Payne has been joking with me about not embarrassing myself when I go back home, but I don’t feel any pressure.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Because he’s in better physical shape, sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein has “come a long way” since last season when he was the least heralded member of Kentucky’s recruiting class and a backup for Nerlens Noel.
“He’s in good enough shape he can continue to play. There have been times before, he’d just stand there and just let the guy drive in and like hold onto his guy and say, ‘Well, I was … I was holding my guy.’ Now he knows he can go get it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after Cauley-Stein had 15 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds against Providence Sunday.
“And then the second thing is, we’re doing a better job if he does leave to block out, cracking down and taking his man. But to have nine blocks in a game like this? Big-time. Big-time. And then to play the way he did and to run like a gazelle. Did you see him run the court? Oh, my gosh.”
Cauley-Stein has 31 blocks through eight games, or just five fewer than Anthony Davis did during his record-setting season two years ago. He’s almost averaging a double-double (9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds per game) and is shooting 60 percent from the field.
“I think just more aware. Like before in the past it was like I was hesitant on going (to block a shot),” Cauley-Stein, who has 17 blocks in the last two games going into Friday’s game against No. 20 Baylor. “Now I’m just going. Like coach said, ‘Don’t even worry about it. Try to go block every ball.’ So that’s what my game plan is coming into the game: just go try to block everything.”
Cauley-Stein says his improved offense is due in large part to his better play on defense this season.
“It definitely feeds off the defense, just flying around everywhere. It makes it where you’re not thinking about the offense. In the past that’s what I was doing: thinking about, like pre-thinking what move I need to do. Now, it’s just I’m reacting and just trying to go up,” Cauley-Stein said.
Teammates know how valuable Cauley-Stein has been.
“When Willie picks it up on defense, it just gives us the extra energy boost that we need. We clap, clap it up on defense, which really picks us up on defense,” freshman guard James Young said.
Freshman Dominique Hawkins says Cauley-Stein’s defense “sparks” the team.
“It makes us want to play defense better. To give the energy that he’s giving, we all want to give that same energy and we know that he probably has our backs as guards if somebody drives around us that he’s going to be on the help side to block their shot or change their shot or anything like that,” Hawkins said. “Running up and down the court has really been effective for him. I think he probably got at least two alley-oops a game just because he’s running up and down the court. And definitely he’s improving on his offensive game every day. If you ever watch practice, Willie, he’s always going as hard as he can and working on his post moves.”
Hawkins says Cauley-Stein is simply doing what Calipari is encouraging him to do on defense.
“He tells all the bigs to go after the shot block because that’s how team defense becomes better and he wants us to get the loose balls once the shot is blocked. So basically he’s telling Willie to be an effective shot-blocker,” Hawkins said.
Freshman Julius Randle, UK’s leading scorer and rebounder, says Cauley-Stein is embracing his role as a team leader.
“He’s maybe not going to say as much. He’s starting to become really vocal, but before anything he’s going to lead with his actions or how hard he plays,” Randle said. “You can tell that’s what he does by having nine blocks last game and then scoring the ball there at the end. He’s changing the game and making our team a lot better.”
Calipari said he asked players why Cauley-Stein has been playing so well and one answered that he was “not thinking” and was just playing. That was the wrong answer.
“The statement you don’t think, that’s not true. You got to think. He’s reacting better, and I’ll tell you why: because he’s practicing like crazy. He is attacking practices, which make the games easier,” Calipari said. “We have other guys that the practice is attacking them every day. One guy shut it down: ‘I can’t breathe!’ And they looked at his heart rate and it was at 82 percent. Well then you have a lung disease, OK?
“So it’s not — you just can’t push through the comfort level. There are times, I have a couple guys, their heart rate gets in the 90s and I tell them — they’ll tell me, ’94!’ Who? ‘Willie.’ Step off, Willie. Step off, Dominique.”
Calipari said Cauley-Stein is “going like there’s no tomorrow” at the last part of every drill compared to teammates who just want the drill to end.
“There’s a difference. You finish the drill; the hardest part is those last seven, eight seconds. ‘Ah!’ And those other guys are looking at the clock: ‘Can I get through it? The clock.’ Well, you’re not going to get better. What got you here, won’t get you there. You’ve gotta change,” Calipari said. “So some guys are changing. Willie’s changing. Other guys are not.
“Until they accept they’ve got to change, they won’t. But all in all, I’ve been really pleased. I’m dragging this team faster than they need to go, yet taking some things back to the very elementary that they needed to be doing when they got here.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari says No. 20 Baylor, the foe UK plays Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is “really long, they are really athletic.”
But he also notes that Michigan State, the one team to beat UK this year, “has some length” and had “two big guys in there and their wing was big and athletic” also.
Baylor, which won at Rupp Arena last year, has impressed Calipari.
“They are a talented team, and they play both man and zone. Their zone is very effective,” Calipari said. “My feel is they will play us 95 percent zone and they play it different ways. They are like us in that they are so long that you are not getting the looks that you think you will get. The good news is just about every team has played a zone and the one thing I want to tell you is there is a cohesiveness to playing this game.
“Against man to man, we don’t seem to be as cohesive as we do against zone. My answer to you would be because you have to pass it against zone. You can’t just try to make a play, you have to pass the ball, pass the ball, move it inside, kick it out, drive it, and all of a sudden we become a cohesive team.
“I really don’t care that people play a zone, that’s fine, it makes us come together. It also showed me on our offense, we have to pass the ball a little bit more. There is a difference between transition when you go, but in half-court offense you have to pass it some.”
Calipari admitted he didn’t realize until he was watching game tape that UK seemed to be moving the ball better against zone defenses than man to man defenses.
“The man, we don’t seem to pass it as much, we hold it more. You know what I’m saying? So we have to then, against man, you have to pass it more. If you don’t have an easy play, get rid of it, move the ball,” Calipari said.
Freshman forward Julius Randle, UK’s leading scorer and rebounder, is getting better moving the ball. He still has a team-high 29 turnovers — about one for each eight minutes he plays — but had four assists and just two turnovers in Sunday’s win against Providence despite again having two or three defenders collapse on him.
“The only thing I said: Quit trying to be perfect. You’re trying to act like you should make every play. Just stop,” the UK coach said. “Just play harder than the other guy. Just worry about that. Don’t worry about anything else. ‘I can’t make this shot. I missed that shot.’ So what? Doesn’t matter. But he’s doing fine. He’s doing fine.”
Randle said he didn’t face the same problems in high school because he was “so much bigger and stronger and faster” than opponents that it could fight through defenders.
“At the college level, you’ve got guys that are just as strong and as big as you. It’s a different level. It’s a different challenge,” Randle said. “It’s nothing I can’t handle. Luckily for me I have teammates who can help make plays and guys who are capable of doing a lot of different things. You have to kind of pick and choose what you want to do.”
Freshman guard Dominique Hawkins sees Randle making adjustments.
“He’s adapting to that big time. They’re banging on him. As soon as he catches the ball, there’s three guys or two guys going to him and he’s just looking for the open person because he knows he’s going to get double-teamed and triple-teamed,” Hawkins said.
When UK lost to Michigan State in Chicago in November, the young Cats struggled early and fell behind before rallying to get back in the game the second half. Calipari wants to see if UK has learned how to start a game against a ranked team since then.
“Obviously we started better last game and were more aggressive, but you know this is about are we playing with energy throughout, how many times do we stop, whether we’re on offense or defense. Do I pass the ball and I stand straight up, I get the ball and I walk because I have to take it down before I drive? How many times on defense do I just stand straight up and my man runs off the screen and I go ‘Ahhh.’ How many times do we have that happen?” Calipari said.
“It’s narrowing from 50 times a game to 20 times a game. Now, you really want to be good, every minute you’re in there, you don’t stop. You play until you sub yourself. But we’ve got a ways to go.”