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Vaught’s note: Kentucky fan Kelly Harper was among those at coach John Calipari’s book signing in northern Kentucky and shared these insights on what the night was like. Enjoy.

By KELLY HARPER

Who could bring over 500 people to a book signing in Northern Kentucky on a Monday night? Only Coach John Calipari. The Big Blue Nation was abuzz at Joseph Beth Booksellers waiting for the arrival of Coach Cal for a book signing of his new book Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out.

Northern Kentucky showed Cal that its just as crazy about the Cats as other parts of the Commonwealth. Fans from all ages packed the bookstore and caused traffic jams outside for the chance to hear our coach speak about the program, the players and his new book. Even his delay from a recruiting trip to Chicago didn’t dampen the mood.

As Coach Cal entered, he was greeted by a local high school band’s rendition of the UK Fight Song, he greets toe crowd with his immortal phase “You people are crazy.” Northern Kentucky fans couldn’t have been happier in the acknowledgement or our love and devotion to a university over an hour away.

Coach Calipari spent about 10 to 15 minutes talking and answering questions from the audience. He overviewed the foundation of his new book focusing on servant leadership. He talked about working with talented “young stars” that you are trying to focus on others rather than themselves. One of the best stories of the night was that of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s unselfish attitude before the Vandy game in 2012 asking Coach Cal to put in Darius Miller over himself. He saw Darius struggling and thought giving him the chance could help him overcome. Cal then went on to say, “Would you tell your boss to let you step back and put someone else in your place because that person was struggling?”

Coach Cal also addressed the recent years and the paradigm shift that the Big Blue Nation has had to face with the “One and done” era. He reminded us that his words from the beginning focused on players; “I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys — not just the front.”

His role is for Kentucky’s program to have an impact on families helping many out of generational poverty. In the end, these players will have an impact on the overall program. In 50 years, the University of Kentucky will still be here and many won’t remember the decision that these students made for not only themselves but also their futures. Kentucky’s program is creating more millionaires than many Wall Street firms.

A few notes closer to home and on the minds of the BBN focused on questions from the audience.

— Cal feels the class of 2014 is complete.

— His son Brad is doing well from his injury and has about three more months of recovery. Father and son were on the court practicing last night.

— Cal will have hip replacement surgery on May 2.

—He met on Monday with Dakari and Alex and will meet Tuesday with the Twins. He didn’t share anything on those discussions. But if I had to guess, Cal told them “do what’s right for your family.”

— In the end the best question of the night came from a little boy in the audience. He asked Cal the question we all want to know “Do you like pasta?” Cal answered, “Can’t you tell.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

How does John Calipari compare the progress of this freshman class to other classes he has had?

“Well, the issue – my first year, we had Patrick Patterson and a couple veterans; the second year we had Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins and some freshmen – Josh Harrelson, who hadn’t played the year before. The next year we had Terrence (Jones), Doron (Lamb) and Darius … we had three really good veterans who were the heart of the team,” Calipari sid.

“This is a freshman team. Willie (Cauley-Stein) played behind Nerlens (Noel) until Nerlens got hurt (last year) and then wasn’t able to – OK? And then you’ve got Alex (Poythress), who’s still coming and going. You know, he’s not like the guy. And so we’re doing it with basically all freshmen.

“I’ve never done this before, and one of the things I’m trying to tell them, but it’s also me: What got you here, won’t get you there. In other words, all the stuff you did to get you where you are, at Kentucky, that stuff’s not going to work now, because they’re just as big as you, just as quick as you, they’re just as long and they’re just as skilled.

“Now, what are you going to do to help you get where you’re going? Well, the same with me. What got me the Kentucky job is not playing all freshmen and doing what we’re doing right now. So I’m having to change and do different things. And that’s what I’m trying to do, and I’m trying to learn, and learn about my team as we go.”

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Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans say second-year small forward Darius Miller has had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.

Team officials say Miller had surgery in southern California on Friday and will return to New Orleans on Tuesday to begin his rehabilitation, which is expected to take from eight to 12 weeks.

The 6-foot-8 Miller, a 2012 second-round draft choice out of Kentucky, played in 52 games last season with two starts. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game.

LEXINGTON – The NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards will play a pre-season game in Rupp Arena on October 19th at 7:00 p.m., the Bluegrass Sports Commission (BSC) and Global Sports Management (GSM) announced today.

The game will feature three former UK players, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller from the New Orleans Pelicans and John Wall of the Washington Wizards.  

Taking place the day after UK Basketball’s annual Big Blue Madness, the game will help tip off  the basketball season for Big Blue Nation and provide a unique opportunity to be a part of the excitement of NBA basketball.

“This game will be an exciting weekend of basketball for Kentucky fans. They can start off the weekend with Big Blue Madness on Friday and an NBA game on Saturday,” stated Maury Hanks, President of Knoxville-based Global Sports Management.

“We are excited to partner with Global Sports Management to bring this unique event to Rupp Arena.,” said Terry Johnson, Executive Director or the BSC.  “It will bring thousands of fans to central Kentucky and be a terrific addition to our sports calendar.”

Tickets range in price from $10 – $250 and go on sale to the public Friday, August 2 at 10 a.m. They can be purchased at the Rupp Arena box office or at RuppArena.com.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:

Anthony Davis – Pelican’s star and former Wildcat great

“I am very excited to return to Rupp and compete with two of the BBN’s finest and members of the Wildcat family, John Wall and my teammate, Darius Miller,” said Pelican’s star, Anthony Davis.

Dell Demps – General Manager, New Orleans Pelicans

“We look forward to playing a preseason game at the University of Kentucky that has such a great basketball tradition and look forward to the opportunity to play in front of their fans that are so passionate about the game,” said Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps.

“It’s an additional treat for UK alums Anthony Davis and Darius Miller to play against John Wall and allow them to reconnect with the Kentucky fans and community.”

Ernie Grunfeld – President, Washington Wizards
”We look forward to bringing the Wizards to Lexington and having John Wall back at Rupp Arena,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld.  “As a former SEC player, I know the passion, enthusiasm and excitement of the Kentucky fans will provide a great atmosphere for the game.”




The Bluegrass Sports Commission is governed by a board of directors and is an independent, non-profit 501c3 responsible for recruiting, growing, executing and attracting sporting events of all sizes and types that serve the Central Kentucky by increasing economic activity and/or improving the quality of life for its citizens.
 
The mission of Global Sports Management is to collaborate across sports to improve individual, team and franchise performance and explore ways in which sports can maximize its impact on society, business and the overall quality of life.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Terrence Commodore recently was sitting around with one of his mentors when it was suggested maybe he put together a summer basketball camp featuring some of the players he got to know when he was on John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky.

“I have a good relationship with a lot of guys that came through Kentucky and was good friends with them,” said Commodore, a former Mason County basketball player. “I just put a concept together and ran with it. They were all pretty open to it. The main part was just scheduling and making sure who was available when. But they all like to give back and help kids.”

What Commodore worked out was to have former UK players and current NBA players Patrick Patterson, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe agree to be part of the inaugural Camp One for kids ages 7-16 that will focus on “fundamentals, encouragement and development of children.”

There will be a camp at Lexington Christian Academy June 10-12 and another camp at HOOPS Academy in Louisville June 24-26. Players 7-10 will go from 9 a.m. to noon and those 11 to 16 will attend camp from 1-4 p.m. Cost is $175 per camper and includes Camp One T-shirt and an exclusive autographed Camp One team photo.

“There will be a limit, but we hope to have plenty of room for everybody that wants to come,” Commodore said.

The camp in Lexington will have Cousins, Wall, Miller and Patterson while Bledsoe, Cousins and Miller will be in Louisville. Players will appear on various days and not all together.

“There will be a little time each day for them to give a small lecture about what it takes to work hard to get to where you want to be and the importance of going to school,” Commodore said. “There will able be a Q&A each day. We want guys to interact with the kids and have fun. It’s not going to be a case where they just stop by for a few minutes. They will be there for the day.

“The main focus of the camp will be teaching kids fundamentals. A lot of kids just play and never learn the fundamentals. We will have stations to focus on fundamentals. We will also have a few competitions, play some five-on-five.

***
For information contact Commodore (606-584-1001, Commodore@TheCampOne.com) or Brandon Hutchinson (BHutch@TheCampOne.com, 304-638-9062).

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

This could be the day that Kentucky’s 2013-14 basketball roster starts taking a more definite shape. From the time UK’s season ended with a NIT loss at Robert Morris, speculation has been rampant about who will — and who will not — be on John Calipari’s team next season.

Calipari has seven incoming freshmen — Aaron and Andrew Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis, Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle — that will definitely be on the roster. That leaves six more available scholarships.

It seems obvious that Madison Central’s Dominique Hawkins, who led Central to the state title and could well be named Mr. Basketball today, would commit if given a scholarship offer from UK. Calipari watched him three times at the state tourney and made a trip to Richmond to see him this week. Hawkins has called UK his dream school and has been told he’ll learn today if UK has a scholarship for him — and remember he plays with the toughness that Calipari felt his team lacked this year.

Calipari also made a trip to Huntington, W.Va., Thursday to see Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top-ranked prep player who has been compared to players like LeBron James and John Wall at the same age. He’s down to UK, North Carolina, Florida State and Kansas.

If Hawkins gets a scholarship offer, it could mean that Wiggins is not coming to UK. If Hawkins doesn’t get an offer, it could mean Wiggins has let Calipari know he’s not coming. But what if Calipari offers Hawkins and also maybe knows he is going to land Wiggins? That would give UK nine freshmen — all on scholarship — and leave just four available scholarships.

It’s a given Nerlens Noel will opt for the NBA draft despite his season-ending knee injury and mid-March knee surgery. He’s still going to be at least a top five pick and that’s too much money to ignore.

Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer has been the subject of transfer rumors after not playing as well this season as fans hoped or he hoped. However, several sources close to the team said Wiltjer has made no mention of transferring and another source who knows the family says his parents have not mentioned anything about a transfer, either.

Freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin have all been projected as first-round draft picks on some mock drafts. However, only Cauley-Stein seems assured of going that high — and even analysts like Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com insist he could help himself by returning to school.

If all three come back and Wiltjer stays, that’s four scholarship to go with the seven known freshmen. That makes 11 scholarships for next year out of the 13 available.

Point guard Ryan Harrow, who started his career at North Carolina State, had a horrible end to the season. He lacked the toughness Calipari wanted from his point guard. Will he be back? My instinct says no.

What about Jarrod Polson? The junior originally came to UK as a walk-on player, but he’s been on scholarship for three seasons. He was a productive player and reliable for relief that Harrow that was needed far more often than Calipari ever imagined.

“He wants to come back. He would love to finish his career as a Wildcat,” George Polson, the player’s father, said.

However, sources at UK seem to indicate that the odds of him retaining a scholarship offer could be slim — another sign that Hawkins and/or Wiggins will be joining the roster. Apparently he’s not had a meeting with Calipari yet about his future and maybe he would rethink his position about staying on the team as a walk-on.

Then there’s Jon Hood. He has a redshirt year left and, like Polson, would like to return. Both are graduating in May and both turned down a chance to go through UK’s Senior Day in March because they want to be back. However, sources at UK again have indicate there is a strong chance there might not be room for Hood on the roster.

Perhaps Hood and/or Polson could be graduate assistant coaches. Perhaps both will become walk-ons. Perhaps Wiggins and/or Hawkins won’t pick UK and one or two other players could enter the draft along with Noel.

But Kentucky’s young team could use some veteran leadership next season. Don’t underestimate the value of having a Polson and/or Hood to tell teammates where classes are, what to do on campus, where to eat, where to shop, how to interact with fans, who to trust, who to avoid. Seems insignificant in some ways, but remember Calipari had players like Patrick Patterson, Ramon Harris, Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller around before to help talented freshmen.

So who will be on the roster?
Givens — Lee, Harrison twins, Johnson, Young, Willis, Randle, Wiltjer.
Likely — Poythress, Goodwin.
Maybe — Cauley-Stein, Hawkins, Wiggins.
Want to be — Polson, Hood.

That’s 15 — and two over the scholarship limit. Cauley-Stein to the NBA could free one scholarship. Hood as a graduate assistant could free another scholarship. Or maybe Calipari doesn’t offer Hawkins or Wiggins picks North Carolina.
Just remember the numbers always work out and starting today we could find out just what that is going to mean this year.

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Wall finished Washington’s last game on the bench after getting two technical fouls. He stuck around for the finish of his best NBA performance Monday, scoring 17 of his career-high 47 points in the fourth quarter as the undermanned Wizards beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 107-94.

“I was just in a zone. I made my first couple of shots and I knew I was in a great rhythm. Ten points in the first quarter, I knew I had it going,” Wall said after posting the third-highest point total in the NBA this season.

Wall, who added eight assists and seven rebounds, shot 13 of 22 from the field and made a career-high 19 free throws on 24 attempts.

“That was an incredible performance for him. We jumped on it and he carried us. It felt to me that it was all under control. All within our offense. All within what we were doing,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Emeka Okafor added 21 points and nine rebounds for a Washington team that was without five members of its rotation.

The Wizards (26-44) are 21-16 since Wall returned from a left knee injury.

“When somebody has it going like that, there’s really nothing you can do. You just put a hand up and hope that he misses,” Memphis’ Mike Conley said. “He had one of those nights where he was feeling it. We threw everything we had at him and he made the plays.”

With just over four minutes to go, Wall hit a jumper as the shot clock expired to make it 94-83. The lead grew to 13, but Memphis rallied and twice got within four in the final minutes before the Wizards scored the final nine points.

It was a much different ending than Saturday’s loss, when Wall was ejected in the third quarter against Golden State.

“I feel like I really let the team down,” Wall said. “I already had one technical and you’ve got to be smarter than that. We still had a chance to win that game. Right now, we’re just trying to salvage the games we can win and finish the season strong, so I knew tonight I had to step up big.”

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Even Brian Roberts couldn’t believe the performance he delivered to help end Denver’s 15-game winning streak. Starting for only the second time, the rookie doubled his season high with 18 assists, and the short-handed New Orleans Hornets beat the Nuggets 110-86 on Monday night.

Anderson was 5 of 11 on 3-pointers, and the Hornets sank 14-of-25 3s overall. Darius Miller, starting in place of injured shooting guard Eric Gordon, was 4 of 5 behind the arc and had 16 points as seven Hornets scored in double figures.
New Orleans won its third in a row and was in control all the way. The Hornets led by nine at the end of the first quarter, by 21 at the half and by 18 entering the fourth.

Roberts, who added 13 points for his first double-double, and Miller, who was 6 of 7 from the floor, excelled in their absence.

“A lot of times this year we’ve let teams come back after we got ahead of them,” Darius Miller said. “We didn’t want to do that tonight. They went on a great run and had us on our heels a little bit, but we bounced back.”

Kentucky Championship paintingBy LARRY VAUGHT

Artist Jason Robichau of Phoenix says he’s a huge college basketball fan who cannot watch enough of March Madness each year. That led him to start three years ago to putting together a painting of the national championship team.

His newest print is, “The Pursuit of Gr8ness,” in honor of Kentucky’s 2012  national championship team.

“I just want to try and commemorat the national champion each year,” said Robichau. “I decided to do a painting of the team’s run to the national title and for Kentucky it just seemed right to pick the eight primary players who played significant time and put them around (John) Calipari to go with the eight national titles.”

Kentucky players Darius Miller, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist,  Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer, Doron Lamb and Eloy Vargas are shown with Calipari as he holds up the national championship trophy.

“I compiled various images to use in the background, too,” Robichau. “I tried to get every player on the team in the background, too. They are all there.”

The background includes Davis blocking Cody Zeller’s shot, Kidd-Gilchrist scoring against Baylor and the team’s visit to the White House.

“It takes so long to do these because I want them to be something fans want to keep around. But I plan to keep doing this every year,” he said. “It is kind of hard to get the word out, especially when you don’t live in the area where the team is from. However, once word gets out a lot of fans buy it and that’s why I try to make sure every player on the team is included.

Go to http://www.jasonrobichau.com/pursuit-of-gr8ness-lithograph for more information or contact Robichau at jasonrobichau@hotmail.com. The limited edition lithograph prints are normally $50 but can be purchased now for $25.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Having Kyle Wiltjer score in a variety of ways against Tennessee did more than just add to the Kentucky sophomore’s confidence.

“It builds his confidence and builds our confidence, too,” UK freshman Alex Poythress said. “When he is out there, he brings a lot of things to the table.

He is 3-point shooter and is a great free throw shooter, too. But he showed he can score in other ways.

“I think he can be a good defender when he wants to be and when he chases down the ball screens. He’s working on getting rebounds and just getting better at that, too.”

Wiltjer had 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 26 minutes Tuesday in a 75-65 win over Tennessee. He’s averaging 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game going into Saturday night’s game at Auburn. He is UK’s top free throw shooter (80 percent), but has taken just 20 free throws in 16 games.

Kentucky coach John Calipari knows what it would take to get Wiltjer more free throws.

“You’ve got to be aggressive, play through bumps and be tough, ball fake and go in with the idea you’re going to get fouled, not going to avoid contact and say the guy grabbed me. They ain’t calling that,” Calipari said. “You’ve got to go in with an idea to hit baskets. Ball fake and go through, not ball fake and avoid, fadeaway, step back, all of that stuff that we’re doing. You can’t get fouled. They’re not going to just give us calls so you’ve got to create that contact, get a foul and get to the line.”

Wiltjer did ask twice late in Tuesday’s game to have plays run for him — and he scored both times.

“Kyle is always hitting shots in practice. If he wants to shoot the ball, he can. Nobody on this team has a problem with anybody taking shots. We can all hit shots. We are all unselfish players. If one person says he can hit a shot, we are going to get him the ball like we did Kyle,” Poythress said. “We just pass to him if he’s open and we know he will hit the shot. We have confidence in him.”

Here’s what Wiltjer had to say after Tuesday’s win.

Question: Did you make a conscious effort to be more active on defense in this game?
Wiltjer: “Yeah, that is a new way to play on defense with me hedging on the ball screen. It kind of takes the pressure off me. I think we are going to stick with that. It has worked the last two games and that’s the main thing.”

Question: Do you and Julius Mays work a lot on plays together?
Wiltjer: “We run a lot of handoffs and stuff together. When you have two shooters, it is hard to defend and something we want to use more.”

Question: Why did you attack the rim more in this game?
Wiltjer: “Coaches have just been on me to drive every day in practice. I kind of had that mentality in practice and I guess it carried over. They were playing my (outside) shot pretty heavy.”

Question: How is it to see what Nerlens Noel has done in recent games?
Wiltjer: “His intensity has been great on both sides of the ball. He’s been active and when he’s like that, we are lot better.”

Question: Have you changed anything in your workouts recently?
Wiltjer: “Every day in practice just going hard. Coaches have been really on me to be aggressive and look for my shot and using that to kind of get in the lane a little more.”

Question: Why did you ask for the first time to have plays run specifically for you?
Wiltjer: “I was just feeling it a little bit. I knew we had plays in for me. I knew it would be open. I just called it. I have been working hard in practice and trying to stay positive even though my shots have not been going down. Staying confident is the key.”

Question: How hard was it to stay confident overall after Calipari and others questioned your defensive play at Vanderbilt?
Wiltjer: “We have a great coaching staff and it is really easy to just forget about it when you go in the gym and work hard. (Assistant) Coach (Kenny) Payne does a great job of working us out and just taking the pressure off by putting in the work.”

Question: But is it easy to forget when you are reading about it in the newspaper or hearing about it on sports talk shows or TV?
Wiltjer: “I don’t read a lot. I just live my life, go to school and play basketball sometimes.”

Question: How different is it this year to have to win games like this compared to last year when some victories came easier?
Wiltjer: “We know every game is going to be close. We can use that as motivation because we want to be a team that can womp down on people. We still have things where we break down that hold us back, but I think if we keep improving we will be okay.”

Question: How is your role changed from last year to this year?
Wiltjer: “Coach Cal knows what I have been through, so not only does he want me to lead every day in practice, but wants me to be confident. I have put in a lot of work, so he wants me to be a better player. I just see my role expanding more and I want to keep improving.”

Question: What have you told the freshmen about expectations here and the type of questions they would get when the team was not winning?
Wiltjer: “I am keeping the guys focused on getting better and not reading stuff. We are a hard working team. There’s no question about that. We just need to keep coming together. We have taken a little longer (than last year) but coach Cal has done a good job of coaching us every day in practice.”

Question: Are the practices harder this year?
Wiltjer: “They have been very hard. This is the hardest we have played in our lives. Just getting that mentality of going hard every drill is big for us.”

Question: How big could this game be for your confidence since you scored in a variety of ways and did more than just hit 3-pointers?
Wiltjer: “It is important. Coaches have done a good job of working me out every day and getting my mentality to not just be a shooter. I have been doing other things. If I can do more than just shoot, it will help my team a lot.”

Question: How do you react to people saying this team lacks a Patrick Patterson or Darius Miller type of leader?
Wiltjer: “We don’t really try to compare to last year’s team or any past team. We just try to focus on ourselves.”

Question: Do those type questions annoy you?
Wiltjer: “Not really. We just try not to compare is all.”

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