Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky fans even took time to throw up the “3 goggles” in the Alps
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- 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
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
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.”
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.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though Kentucky coach John Calipari insisted Wednesday that he was “not hearing” the talk about his team being a lock to win next year’s national championship, he said he could “imagine” the talk is out there.
Apparently he’s the only one that doesn’t know for sure the talk is out there even if the Wildcats didn’t get Andrew Wiggins Tuesday.
“It’s probably because people are really rooting for us to do well. So that’s probably part of the reason. They want us to do so well, they’re putting that out there to help us build this team right,” joker Calipari.
Then, he turned serious to try and downplay those expectations for his team that will have eight new players join five returning players off last season’s NIT team.
“I don’t buy into any of that. I mean, if anybody thinks this is easy, we got a lot of coaches right now that have taken players that are the elite players and it hasn’t worked out,” Calipari said. “What we do here is hard. It’s not the normal thing that goes on. Do I like it? No. Do I wish kids would stay for two or three years? Absolutely.
“I’m still trying to do things to get that rule changed so that at least we encourage them to stay two years by doing things that make it possible for them to stay two years or three. If they stay two with the summer, they’re close to being graduated. They’ll be a little year (away from graduating).”
That led Calipari to tout his team’s 3.4 grade-average during the spring semester that had 12 players with a B average. He reminded everyone again that all 25 players who have gone through his program at UK have either graduated or gone to the NBA.
“We call it the success rate here. It’s a different situation. We’re not working on a 25-year-old model here. It’s different. It makes people mad when you talk about it. Oh, because, ‘You’re not about academics! You don’t care, you’re a basketball factory!’ We had a 3.4 GPA. We’ve had 10 players graduate. We’ve had two players come back. We have two more players coming back to finish up,” Calipari said. “You’re at Kentucky, you’re held to a different standard. Things that go on at other campuses can’t go on here. Just can’t.”
Calipari has hinted he would like to coach a team that goes 40-0 and wins the national title. If UK had landed Wiggins, that would have been the expectation for next season. Even without Wiggins, many wonder if this team could do it. Two years ago UK went 38-2 with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leading the way.
Calipari knows there will be stories about his team “chasing perfection, chasing greatness” next season.
“We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game. What I like about that, people say, ‘Pressure!’ Man, pressure brings out the best,” he said. “‘You’re going to be fired if you don’t get this done! You’re not going to make it if you don’t get this done!’ Wakes you up earlier in the morning. I don’t mind a little pressure. I’ve had it my whole career. I’ve had the gun to my head for 20-something years. And you know what? I’m at my best when the gun is to my head versus, ‘OK, I’m good, I can kick back.’ I’m not as good. And you know what? Players are the same.
“Now, I’m not sitting there saying, ‘If we lose a game, it’s not a successful season.’ No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that? ‘Well, we want to talk moment to moment and we’re not putting that on the kids.’ Well, we are. Any pressure on these kids when they come here? It’s on us. Now it won’t be on us that’s the forefront thing we’re talking about, but there’ll be things out there that they’ll see.”
He remembers one year when he was coaching at Massachusetts and a player talked about going undefeated. The team’s first game that year was against Kentucky. The schedule also included Maryland, Florida, Wake Forest (with Tim Duncan), Syracuse, North Carolina State, Southern Cal and Louisville.
“They said it. ‘Let’s go undefeated.’ I didn’t say it. I looked at the guy: ‘What, do you need drug tested? What are you talking about? We play Kentucky the first game. They’re the No. 1 team in the country.’ Well, you want them in a mentality that they can win every game. It’s hard to. It’s never been done in the modern era,” Calipari said.
Never done, but whether he likes it or not, UK fans are going to be talking about his team doing just that even with Michigan State, North Carolina, Baylor, Louisville, Florida and others on next year’s schedule.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Even without Andrew Wiggins there still should not be any doubt that Kentucky has assembled the nation’s all-time best recruiting class.
Kentucky coach John Calipari still has a record six McDonald’s All-Americans — Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, James Young and Marcus Lee — in this recruiting class. And don’t forget that junior Kyle Wiltjer and sophomore Alex Poythress were both McDonald’s All-Americans.
So there’s no shortage of talent for next year. Remember, sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein is also being mentioned as a possible NBA draft lottery pick and freshmen Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis have unique talents of their own. Plus, with no Wiggins, it should clear the way for both Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood to stay on scholarship one more year.
“The immediate impact of Kentucky getting Wiggins is that this is without doubt the greatest recruiting class of all time,” said Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy. “There’s no more room for argument about that.”
“Kentucky has got the No. 1 player (in the recruiting class) at every position on the floor except for Wiggins in a highly talented class,” Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy said. “There are certain years you could get the No. 1 guys and still not have an extraordinary year like the 2008-09 group. But this is a very highly talented group. You could take Andrew Wiggins out of this class and put Jabari Parker or Julius Randle No. 1 and it would still be very strong. Kentucky will still have overwhelming strength and athleticism at every position. ”
And as I suggested about a month ago, Kentucky’s chemistry could be better without Wiggins. Not because Wiggins is a problem, but because even Calipari can only work so much magic with a loaded roster. He has guys that expect to play, and should play.
The Harrison twins and Randle are all dynamic, forceful leaders. Johnson, Lee and Young all seem to be team-oriented, not me-oriented, players.
Cauley-Stein will be a leader in a less intense way than the Harrisons or Randle. Poythress may not be a vocal leader, but he’ll be a better player. And Wiltjer’s experience on and off the court could be invaluable to the freshmen.
Wiggins would have been a terrific addition. But let Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook editor Chris Dortch put this in perspective for UK fans. Here’s what he said when I asked him what impact not getting Wiggins would have on UK: “Zero. It’s still the best class of all time.”
And still likely more than enough to have UK ranked No. 1 going into next season — even without Wiggins.
By LARRY VAUGHT
What impact will it have on Kentucky that Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, has announced he will not play for the Wildcats? Instead, the Huntington (W.Va.) Prep star announced today that he was going to play for Kansas and not UK, North Carolina or Florida State.
“I think not getting him takes away another weapon that Kentucky could have fielded, but Kentucky still will be overwhelming physically,” said Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy. “I think it forces (UK signee) James Young to accelerate faster. I have seen and like him, but I am not sure I love him. He is the kind of player that can grow into making people love him, but he needs time.”
Kentucky will return Alex Poythress at small forward and now he’ll also have a much bigger role with Wiggins not UK bound.
“Alex was never a natural fit at the 3, but a year of experience should let him know what works for him and what doesn’t and what works and doesn’t work for Kentucky. He can still be a great small forward. But that is the most difficult position in basketball to transition to. If you are an extraordinary talent like Carmelo Anthony, you can excel,” DeCourcy said.
“But if you are out of your comfort zone, there will be moments you might not excel. Alex still has ability because he’s a shooter and a great body. He has to work and know that. Kentucky has every other position covered at a very high level. Without Wiggins, they have maybe a little less playmaking. If they had Wiggins, there would be a little less pressure on (point guard) Andrew Harrison to be extraordinary. With Wiggins, you would have a creator at point guard and small forward. Now you don’t have that 3 man that can be a creator. You have to count on Harrison to be the creator, feed the post, run the break. It puts ore pressure on him, but (John) Calipari has done extraordinary work with extraordinary point guards.”
DeCourcy said from a Kentucky standpoint, having Wiggins pick Florida State and not Kansas would have been a better thing.
“I don’t think anybody looks at Florida State as a roster that can win a national championship even with Wiggins,” DeCourcy said. “They have young talent, but don’t have a great point guard or great inside depth. They will be a NCAA team and with Wiggins would have been capable of beating anybody they play. But I just couldn’t see them winning six games (in the NCAA) even with him.
“Put him on North Carolina and it becomes sort of like 2012. Pick your flavor. Like the young talent at Kentucky or the more experience but physically talented team North Carolina would have. The second best option for a Kentucky fan was having him go to Florida State.”
And what will he do for Kansas?
“Kansas still has a young roster, but Bill Self is a championship coach. Bill has done it and will have a lot of very good, young players. He’s bringing in an excellent class and Wiggins will make Kansas a national championship threat,” DeCourcy said.
Could UK’s team chemistry be better without Wiggins since Calipari could still go nine to 10 deep easily any game?
“With Wiggins, he would have had a lot of guys to keep happy. I think James Young would have been the odd one out,” DeCourcy said. “You have to use the experience Alex brings and Dakari Johnson under any scenario is probably a 15- to 18-minute (per game) player. The one who struggles to get minutes if Wiggins had been there would have been Young. But even for Wiggins it will be a struggle to make the transition to small forward. He is good enough, but that’s the toughest spot in college basketball to transition to because of the defensive assignments being so different from game to game.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Can Kentucky’s historic recruiting class get even better? Kentucky fans and coach John Calipari will find out Tuesday when Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s top prospect, announces his college choice.
He’s down to Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina and Huntington (W.Va.) Prep coach Rob Fulford confirmed on Twitter Sunday that Wiggins would “sign Tuesday at around 12:15. He will not hold a press conference type ceremony. Just classmates, family and friends.”It’s no surprise that Wiggins, who many already expect to be the first pick in the 2014 NBA draft, is not making his decision on ESPN or having a setting where fans and media members could converge on him. Instead, only one local reporter will be in attendance to see which team Wiggins picks.If it is UK, the talk about a national championship and unbeaten season will only escalate. Kentucky has already signed McDonald’s All-Americans Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, James Young and Dakari Johnson along with in-state players Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. Add returning players Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Jarrod Polson and Calipari will have more depth than in any previous year at Kentucky as well as the all-time No. 1 recruiting class.
Wiggins has kept a low profile throughout the recruiting process and has never told coaches, teammates or friends where he would go to school. His parents attended Florida State, and Huntington Prep and teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes signed with the Seminoles.
Kansas has a solid five-member recruiting class that features 7-footer Joel Embiid and perimeter players Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene.
P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo decided to continue their careers at North Carolina and signees include forward Isaiah Hicks and center Kennedy Meeks. Wiggins would boost North Carolina into a top five recruiting class.
So what will Wiggins do?
The guess here remains that he picks UK. It gives him the best chance to win a national title in his one year in college. I also don’t buy the theory that he’ll be overwhelmed by the spotlight at Kentucky because he’s been in the spotlight for years. That won’t change at North Carolina, Kansas or Florida State, so why not join Calipari’s class, win a title and become another No. 1 overall NBA draft pick.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari issued a warning to next year’s opponents during an interview with his go-to guy Andy Katz of ESPN.
“We’re going to be much stronger physically at all positions,” Calipari told Katz. “Our post presence will be there with Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. He’s a lot like Nerlens in terms of blocking shots and going after balls. He’s bouncy with great energy, but he’s not as big.”
And remember that Lee is probably considered No. 6 among the incoming UK McDonald’s All-Americans. However, two NBA scouts recently told me they thought in five years he could be the best player of any of UK’s incoming freshmen.
Lee and Johnson are also going to help Willie Cauley-Stein.
“Willie is coming back with one thought in mind,” Calipari told Katz. “He wants to do something on the basketball court and in the tournament. He’s got something to prove to himself. He’s got a great frame of mind. He understands he’s got to do it and do something different.”
Calipari also told Katz he might play 6-9 Julius Randle at small forward and Cauley-Stein at the power forward to give UK a big, big lineup.
“There will be a lot of teams ahead of us, but we’ll be deeper and the bench will be a great friend of mine,” Calipari told Katz. “I’ll be able to play like we played at Memphis. We’ll be pressing and getting after people because we have more people. We’re going to have competition.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Mississippi guard Devin Booker says he has “always heard about” Kentucky basketball, especially after the arrival of coach John Calipari four years ago.
“I know everybody in Kentucky loves the game. That’s the kind of spot where you want to play where people love the sport and pay attention to it. Some schools are only about football and don’t care about basketball. At Kentucky, it’s strictly basketball,” the 6-5 shooting guard, considered one of the top 25 players in the 2014 recruiting class, said.
Booker says his life “revolves around basketball” and that one reason he enjoys having his father Melvin, a former Missouri and professional basketball player, on the coaching staff at Moss Point High School.
“There are no minuses to having him with me. Probably the only minus is that he is hard on me,” Booker said. “But that just makes me better. It’s everything I can ask for. He’s been overseas to play and played in the NBA. He helps me immensely. Just being around him helps me. I lived with my mom until he got through playing, so being around him has helped teach me how to be a man on and off the court. He helps in everything I do.
“Both of our lives revolve around basketball. When we are at home, we watch games and watch my position a lot and what people are doing and not doing. We just sit and talk basketball. Our whole life is about the game.”
He says he was just a “shooter” when he first came to Mississippi to live with his dad. Now he’s more of a total player.
“I ran the point on my high school team and faced a lot of double teams,” Booker said. “I had to learn to get my shot off the dribble. I just don’t get open shots here. Everything is off the dribble. That’s why I would say I am more of a combo guard now.
“I also believe in always playing hard. That’s my dad’s personality and I am the same way. My dad told me coaches are out there looking at me and to always continue to play hard and big things would happen. That was true last year when I had a young team. You just have to deal with it and I took it as a challenge for me to get better. It made me learn to get my shot off and that will help me in college. Basketball is always a learning process.”
Others certainly are learning about him, too. He has scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Duke, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Mississippi and others. That includes a recent offer from Kentucky.
“John Calipari is one of the best in the game right now. He puts great teams together and wins national championships, and that’s what you want to do,” Booker said. “It did surprise me a bit when he came to my school and made the offer. I can’t lie. He said he had enjoyed watching me play and like what he had seen. But I was not expecting the offer from Kentucky.
“Him coming to offer me means a lot. He did it in person and in my home where I was putting in my work. To have a legendary coach walk through those doors and offer me a scholarship was unbelievable. I have visited most of the schools I have a big interest in. I hope to be at Kentucky, but I don’t have anything set up yet.”
Booker also knows he’s the first shooting guard in the 2014 recruiting class to be offered by Calipari.
“There are so many great talents in this class, to be the first guy at my position offered means a lot,” Booker said.
So does the list of players that Calipari has put into the NBA during his four years at Kentucky and before that at Memphis.
“You can’t help but notice that,” Booker said. “That is probably every hooper’s dream. They may not say it, but they all want to be there one day and so do I.”
Booker doesn’t plan on cutting down his list until after the summer. He says relationships are going to be important when he narrows his college choices.
“Trust in the coaching staff. I trust the players I’m going to be with. Know who I’m going to be playing with. I think that’s most important. It comes down to me trusting the coach and the coach trusting me,” Booker said. “I want to play with players I trust and like the game like I do and have the same goals to win the national title and get to the league (NBA).
“This is what I’ve always wanted. I would say a year or so ago no coaches, no websites knew about me. Now I’ve kind of blown up really. I’ve always wanted this opportunity.”
He says he’s “not close” to any of UK’s incoming freshmen even though he’s been at camps with them. He also knows some of the players Calipari is recruiting in his class.
“I would say right now I have high interest most definitely in Kentucky. It’s hard not to like Kentucky,” he said.