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By LARRY VAUGHT
ATLANTA — Former Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard and Duke standout Christian Laettner combined forces at a fundraiser here Tuesday before the UK-Duke game in the Georgia Dome to help raise $10,000 in honor of Dick Vitale for the V Foundation to use for pediatric cancer research.
Laettner even agreed to let the five high bidders take a picture with him laying on the floor and each person stomping on him similar to what he did UK’s Aminu Timberlake in that historic 1992 NCAA Tournament overtime game won by Duke. “It’s for charity, so why not have fun,” said Laettner.
Here are some other insights on Kentucky coach John Calipari, Vitale and UK fans that Laettner shared.
Question: What is your opinion of John Calipari?
Laettner: “He used to work the Five-Star Basketball Camp back in the mid-1980’s when I was in high school. It was at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. He was one of the big coaches there. He was assistant at Pitt at that time, so we all loved him. We all thought he was very charismatic, very good coach. I had Pitt on my list of 11 schools to go to solely because of him. That’s how much I liked him. I ended up going to Duke and he went his way. I am not surprised at all with the level of successs he has anywhere he goes. He gets very good players. He is a very good recruiter. He gets high level players and he is able to get them to play a certain way in a short period of time because a lot of his kids leave early (for the NBA). He regroups and has another good team the next year, so I just think he is a great coach.”
Question: So even nearly 30 years ago he could connect with recruits in ways a lot of coaches couldn’t?
Laettner: “He definitely was able to do it back then. I know he can do it now. It looks from a distance it looks like he does it now with a little more yelling. I think he maybe has to do that with the freshmen maybe. He yells a lot more than I remember, but you can tell by the way his team plays that he does it the right way.”
Question: Has the charity work Calipari has done since coming to Kentucky surprised you?
Laettner: “No, not at all. Think of Dick Vitale and how much of his own personal time he gives to charities and events. A lot of things that you wouldn’t consider him working, he does even though it is his free time. He chooses to dedicate his time and it does not surprise me that Calipari does. He is just a wonderful person. That’s the way he was at Five-Star a long time ago and why he is doing great right now.”
Question: Do you ever talk to Calipari and does he still remember recruiting you?
Laettner: “He definitely remembers recruiting me. He knows that I considered Pitt just because of him. We wave when we see each other, but he’s a very busy person. I leave him to himself or whatever he has going. I think I shook hands with him at the last Dicky V. event in Sarasota (Fla.). He is a great coach.”
Question: How do you like Vitale and has he changed over the years?
Laettner: “When I first knew him and was a fan of his, I just thought he was this ultra energy guy who commentated the basketball games. After I saw him speak a few times, I realized he is a deeper person and concerned about other things than sports. That’s when I really started admiring him. I went to Duke and he was there every step of the way because every Duke game is on ESPN practically. Once I graduated we started doing charity events like the Jimmy V. fundraiser together and the first few were right there in Raleigh (N.C.). I did that with him for five or six years and then I started doing his event in Sarasota because that is where he lives and I live in Jacksonville, Fla., now.”
Question: Do you worry you are going to suddenly endear yourself to UK fans with things you are doing in conjunction with Sheppard?
Laettner: “It is fun. It all started last year when he had that Villians versus the Heroes all-star game and that was just a blast. We thought we could do something again revolving around this game and the fact Dick was here and we wanted to honor him. It all came together like the perfect storm. It is good to let fans see this side of me, but it is also good that you are relevant once in a while when they look back on it. You may not be as relevant now, but if they think about 20 years ago or it gets brought up with social media and they can see the internet video, it is easy for them to go back and reminisce. So that side is good, too.”
Question: Were the “I Still Hate Laettner” t-shirts every UK fan got your idea or Sheppard’s idea?
Laettner: “All that stuff is always Jeff’s idea. He has his printing press ready to go with that Hate Laettner.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
ATLANTA — As he stopped at midcourt of the Georgia Dome, Kentucky coach John Calipari told ESPN’s Andy Katz that if players in the NBA flopped to draw charges like Duke players had that they would be fined for their antics.
So what did Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski think about those comments after his team held off Kentucky 75-68?
“He has right to say what he wants,” the Duke coach said. “I thought we took some amazing charges and could have taken more. There is a difference in a charge and flop. A flop means you are not taking any contact. I hope anybody who watches the game will say our kids did a good job.”
Then, he added, “We don’t make any money, so we can not get fined.”
Calipari pretended that he didn’t remember what he said to Katz when asked about it.
“I don’t even remember. What did I say?” Calipari said.
Finally, he smiled and said, “It was a joke. Come on, you guys at Duke can’t you take a joke. Just kidding.”
PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) - Seth Curry scored 23 points and No. 9 Duke held off a furious comeback by No. 3 Kentucky, beating the defending national champions 75-68 Tuesday night in the first matchup between the storied programs since 2001.
Duke (2-0) appeared to be in control, even with Mason Plumlee on the bench in foul trouble. The Blue Devils ripped off a 13-3 run, capped by Rasheed Sulaimon’s 3-pointer that made it 58-44 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining.
But Kentucky (1-1) wasn’t done, rallying like the defending champ even though this is essentially a whole new team in coach John Calipari’s one-and-done system. The Wildcats outscored Duke 17-6 over the next six minutes and actually had a chance to tie it.
Julius Mays missed a 3-pointer with the Blue Devils clinging to a 64-61 lead.
Curry made sure youthful Kentucky didn’t get any closer. He schooled freshman guard Archie Goodwin on a drive – using a pump fake to get past the Wildcat – that essentially clinched the win.
Alex Poythress led Kentucky with 20 points, while Nerlens Noel and Goodwin added 16 apiece. All are freshmen, showing this team has plenty of room to grow before tournament time.
Even though Kentucky opened the season with a victory over Maryland, Calipari wasn’t happy with his team’s effort – especially on the boards. They were outrebounded 54-38 by the Terrapins, including 28 at the offensive end.
That was simply unacceptable given Kentucky’s vaunted frontcourt featuring the 6-foot-10 Noel and 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein.
Rebounding wasn’t as much of an issue this time – Duke finished with a 31-30 edge – but the more experienced Blue Devils showed a bit more poise down the stretch. Especially Curry, a senior guard.
After Duke let Kentucky back in the game by continuing to put up errant 3-pointers, Curry finally changed things up. He pumped faked and took off for the hoop, drawing a foul on Goodwin with just over 2 minutes remaining. He knocked down both ends of the one-and-one, pushing Duke to a 66-61 lead with 2:04 remaining.
Poythress gave the Wildcats a semblance of hope, putting back a missed shot, but Curry blew by Goodwin for a layin that made it 68-63 with 1:13 left and essentially sealed it. Calipari called a timeout and screamed at Goodwin as the freshman walked toward the bench.
In the final minute, Curry added two more free throws to finish off the Wildcats.
Plumlee fouled out near the end, but not before scoring 18 points in 29 minutes. Ryan Kelly and Sulaimon had 10 points apiece. Both Curry and Sulaimon hit three shots beyond the arc, as the Blue Devils finished 8 of 18 from 3-point range.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Reader Glen Story of Lincoln County does not agree with a reference I made in a column about Duke’s Christian Laettner “stomping” on Kentucky’s Aminu Timberlake during the memorable 1992 NCAA Tournament game that Duke won in overtime on Laettner’s buzzer-beating shot.
Here’s what Story sent me: “I still believe that Laettner should have been tossed for stepping on Timberlake, but he wasn’t. I do believe that if he had literally stomped on Timberlake that the referees would have done no less than remove him from the game. That episode still gets our (UK fans) dandruff up. Duke isn’t very popular with UK fans. Someone once said, ‘The human race must find the equivalent of war if we are to survive.’ Sports is a great outlet for that. We don’t even have to sensationalize when talking about Kentucky basketball. Just bring up the subject and an audience is quickly gathered.”
Story certainly is right about UK basketball quickly igniting passion in fans as it does even 20 years later when mentioning the Laettner stomp. Was it a stomp? Was it merely stepping on Timberlake without any malice? Should he have been ejected from the game?
Since I was sitting courtside for the game, it still seems to me that if it had been any player other than Laettner he would have been ejected. But since Laettner was the face of Duke basketball and the Blue Devils were the nation’s No. 1 team, I’ll always believe he got a break that someone like UK’s Deron Feldhaus would not have got if he had done the same thing to Laettner in that Philadelphia game.
That’s one thing I am hoping to ask Tom Clark next month. He’s a former college basketball official who worked that 1992 UK-Duke game and he will be one of the speakers at the annual Ohio UK Convention July 21 in Franklin, Ohio. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and having a chance to hear him talk about this historic game from an official’s perspective is going to be interesting to say the least. Maybe he’ll have a different take on what the officials saw than I did. Maybe he’ll have a logical reason for why Laettner wasn’t ejected. Maybe he’ll admit now that Laettner should have been tossed.
But I also want to get his take on the game’s intensity and if he ever expected anything close to the type of game he was part of and how much he thinks back to that particular game.
But what about you? Was it a stomp or step? Many of you also saw the game. Let me know if you remember it as a stomp like I did or a merely a step as Story remembers.
By MIKE MARSEE
UK basketball coach John Calipari was in Danville at Boyle County High School Monday for one of his summer satellite camps, and he granted exclusive interview time with vaughtsviews to discuss newcomers to the team, the NBA draft and other topics. Here’s part 3 of the interview:
Question: Will the expanded Southeastern Conference schedule present more of a challenge this season, and could there even be league games played in December?
Calipari: “I don’t know about that, but it will be more of a challenge because you’re talking about two NCAA tournament teams in Missouri and Texas A&M added to our schedule, one at home and one on the road. We still have the (SEC/)Big East Challenge, so that gives us a 19th league game out of 30 games.
“Then you start talking, ‘Well, you’ve got a home-and-home with another two,’ so now you’re talking 21, 22. And now you add some exempt games, and you have three games. So now you’re at 25, 26 games. Wait a minute, who are we supposed to beat here? I mean, it’s not easy when you start racking up those numbers.
“So we’ve got a tough schedule, as tough as we always do, and the league schedule’s gotten harder. The Big East challenge is hard, it’s at Notre Dame, they have a winning streak there, they don’t lose at home. It’ll be a tough road for us.”
Question: What do you expect the atmosphere to be like at the Kentucky-Duke game Nov. 13 in Atlanta?
Calipari: “I think it’ll be crazy. Atlanta’s been good to us. New Orleans has been good to us. They’re good places for our fans to go. Indianapolis is a great place for our fans to go, St. Louis is a great place for our fans to go. I’m thinking Dallas is going to be an outstanding place for our fans to go spend a weekend.”