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- Young Kentucky fan (@nosidam__) shares her passion for Kentucky sports
- Stoops: UK-Louisville future games “up to our administration” but “not interested” in 9 SEC games
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands obstacles, challenges at UK but “we’re going to play to win”
- Former UK great Jeff Sheppard excited about recruiting class, but says fans should remember players are young
- 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
By LARRY VAUGHT
Georgia won’t apply the same intense, in-your-face defensive pressure that Arkansas did or push the ball in transition nearly as fast as the Razorbacks did Saturday when they beat Kentucky by 13 points. However, Kentucky will face one of the Southeastern Conference’s premier players in sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope when it plays at Georgia Thursday.
“I’ve been very impressed with how he’s playing. He’s definitely playing like an all-league player,” said Kentucky assistant coach John Robic. “He is a big guard with great size. He’s able to score in a variety of ways. I would label him as he has a pro’s jump shot because he gets great lift when shooting the ball. It looks like it’s going in every time he shoots it.
“He’s able to post up smaller guards in their system with the way that they play. He’s scoring 30 percent of their points, so he’s a key figure in them. He has elevated his game from his freshman year to his sophomore year. You can tell he’s really worked hard at it. They’re playing the same way; it just seems like he’s playing with a very high confidence level right now.”
Pope averages a team-high 18 points per game for Georgia (14-15, 8-8 SEC) and also leads the team in rebounding (6.9 per game) and steals (62). He’s a 44.1 percent shooter from the field, including 37.8 percent from 3-point range.
Caldwell-Pope is one of just 11 players in all of NCAA Division I that have scored in double figures in each of their team’s games. He’s the only SEC player to accomplish this feat and one of just five from the “BCS” leagues to do so. Caldwell-Pope had 25 points and nine rebounds in a 78-68 win over Tennessee Saturday that snapped the Vols’ six-game win streak.
“He is real good. I had heard people talk about how good he was. I went into that game (with Georgia) saying he is good and went out saying, ‘No, he is really good,’” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “Great demeanor. He is big, good with the ball, good without the ball, shoots on the move, passes. If he was greedy and tried to shoot 25 times, he would be the leading scorer in the conference, but he is trying to win and not play selfishly. It’s fun to watch him play.”
Martin said even when teams stack a defense to stop him, he can still score.
“He is a 6-7 guard that is a jump shooter. He can really, really shoot the basketball. He can jump up over a 6-2 guard from 15 to 17 feet and get a clean look. Those are the guys that are hard to defend,” Martin said.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said Pope is one of those rare players that can take over a game.
“For a sophomore to do that tells you what kind of player he is. He is one of the better guards in our conference. He can score, pass, is very athletic and has a very good basketball IQ,” Anderson said. “He is a big guard who can rebound, too. He’s just more well rounded, more seasoned this year.”
Tennessee coach Cuonza Martin is a Caldwell-Pope fan after watching him help Georgia beat Tennessee twice this season, something that had not happened since 2001.
“He is a big-time player,” the Tennessee coach said. “Whenever he advances to the next level, he is going to do it for a long time. I really enjoy watching him play. He has a tremendous pace to his game. He makes shots, but he’s very efficient with the ball. I thought he was a good player last year as a freshman, but he’s better now. He does a good job defensively. He is not one of those guys who scores and hides on defense.”
Cuonzo Martin said he is a “go-to guy” on offense because of the diversity in his play.
“He makes shots. He makes big plays. He moves without the ball. He’s not a guy that just dribbles. He cuts and moves,” the Tennessee coach said. “He scores in transition. He gets steals. He gets to the free throw line. You are not going to stop the guy because he is so effective in other areas. He’s not a guy hunting his shot or forcing shots. He plays within the offense.
“He’s not a guy that dominates the ball. He can catch and shoot. He gets the ball in his hands and makes plays. If (defensive) guys are around him, he finds guys driving to the rim. He does a good job making plays for others.”
Georgia coach Mark Fox says Caldwell-Pope’s unselfish attitude and all-around play make him difficult to stop from scoring.
“He is a very complete player. There are a lot of things he can do. Every night he usually plays well because you can n ot stop the guy from doing everything,” Fox said. “He may not shoot well, but he will rebound and play defense. It might not be the night he shoots it in, but he will get steals. He is usually able to make a lot of really good plays. He has matured as a player and got more efficient. I think this year he is understanding there is a different level of mental attention needed to be a great player.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
When Georgia coach Mark Fox looks at Kentucky, he doesn’t see the team that many feel is on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament one year after winning the national championship.
Instead, he sees a team having a “postseason kind of year” for coach John Calipari despite UK’s recent losses at Tennessee and Arkansas since the season-ending injury suffered by center Nerlens Noel.
“First of all they’re the defending national champions. I think John’s done a terrific job in rebuilding a team after all that they lost and obviously they’ve had a terrible injury in the middle of the season (to Noel),” said Fox. “But Kentucky still has a very good basketball team, a team that’s won 20 games, a team that’s in second place in the league. There is a lot of pluses there that still exist and that’s why I say that (about a postseason kind of year).”
Yet with regular season games left at Georgia Thursday and at home Saturday against Florida, most college basketball analysts don’t have UK in the 68-team NCAA tournament field.
Calipari was not on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Monday because he had a dental procedure. However, associate coach John Robic said UK does not use the NCAA tourney as motivation for the players.
“We’ve never really even talked about it as far as that. We were concentrating on our league games,” Robic said. “It’s never once been mentioned that we have to do this or do that to have a chance to get there. Everything was in front of us. There’s still a lot of things in front of us and that starts with the Georgia game on Thursday.
Robic said the players were “disappointed” with how the team played at Arkansas.
“I think every player in the country is disappointed when they don’t perform well in a losing situation. We were off yesterday and we are going to get back at it today, this afternoon,” Robic said. “We’ve got to right the ship because there is a lot to play for right now, and they know that. They’ll be focused on that.”
Robic said he didn’t know how hard it would be for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to sift through numerous SEC teams — Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi — with similar NCAA resumes.
“There’s a lot of teams out there that have more losses than we do at this point in time. I think finishing is always a big factor. We’re going on the road for a game and then have a home game against Florida on Saturday with a quick turnaround, so there are still opportunities out there for our team,” Robic said.
The UK assistant isn’t sure how the selection committee will evaluate UK without Noel. The Cats are 3-2 since he went down but lost by 30 points at Tennessee and 10 at Arkansas.
“We’ve been without Nerlens for five games now. We took some lumps there without him and then played well. I think there’s still a lot of teams out there that are still being evaluated. You look back at the Arkansas game and there’s only one team that’s gone in there and won this year, and that was Syracuse,” Robic said. “There have been a lot of good teams that have not won on the road. We have won four league games on the road. I think it will come down to the remaining games on our schedule. I know the committee takes a lot of things into factor when they make decisions.”
Kentucky has played much better in Rupp Arena without Noel — consider the overtime win over Missouri — than it has on the road going into Thursday’s game at Georgia where a win would assure UK of a bye into the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
“Obviously our fans have been really behind us for the Missouri game and even for the Mississippi State game. I think every team feels more comfortable playing at home,” Robic said. “That’s why, going through this whole process of the season even with Nerlens, that winning on the road’s hard and when we came away from those wins I think a lot of times you take them for granted.
“I don’t think there’s a huge, huge difference. I think Arkansas played a really good game and attacked us very, very well and fed off their crowd. So I think it’s a natural that most teams play better at home than on the road.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Tennessee had used a 6-0 run to break a 7-7 tie and take a 13-7 lead when a play that eventually led to associate coach John Robic’s ejection happened Saturday. A ball was pinned against the rim on Tennessee’s end and the possession arrow showed the ball went to Tennessee even though it should have pointed to Kentucky because the Vols won the opening tip and there had not been a jump ball since then.
Calipari and Robic both tried to point that out to officials, but to no avail. Tennessee guard Skylar McBee hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 19-10 and it grew to 24-12 when there was a TV timeout at 11:17 of the first half. Calipari again pleaded his case to official Doug Shows and assistant Orlando Antigua stepped between the two. That’s when Robic said something to Shows as he was walking away. Shows immediately turned and not only called a technical foul, but ejected Robic from the game.
“They (the officials) got the call wrong. John was disappointed about it. I don’t think that he said enough to get tossed, but they did it,” Calipari said.
Shows later called a technical foul on Willie Cauley-Stein for something he said on the court in the second half and Archie Goodwin was called for a technical foul for shoving a Tennessee player in the back after he was shoved first.
Calipari would not elaborate any more on the officiating.
“You can never blame it on the refs. This is all on us,” Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer, who scored a team-high 15 points, said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
This has been such a strange season for Kentucky that there was no way coach John Calipari was going to let LSU get off a potential game-tying, 3-point shot.
Who could blame him considering that it might have taken a heads-up move by associate coach John Robic seconds before to keep UK in position to claim a 75-70 win.
Calipari had Archie Goodwin foul Anthony Hickey before he could take a shot after Kyle Wiltjer hit two free throws with 3.1 seconds left to play to give UK a 73-70 lead. Alex Poythress, UK’s player of the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds, got Hickey’s miss, made two free throws after getting fouled and got a huge hug and smile from the UK coach.
His assist came with 3.9 seconds left before UK inbounded the ball after the Tigers got a follow shot by Johnny O’Bryant to cut the lead to 71-70. After the timeout, the Cats sent Archie Goodwin, Poythress, Wiltjer, Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays on the court. But Nerlens Noel also stepped on the court and seemed to be on the floor as UK inbounded the ball before he was pulled off by Robic.
LSU coach Johnny Jones immediately protested and the officials conferred. They did not review the play and refused comment after the game to a pool reporter after indicating they would explain what they saw — or didn’t see.
Did Jones think Noel was on the floor when play started, a move that would have resulted in a technical foul against UK and free throws for LSU?
“That is what it looked like to me. I thought that was what was going on,” said Jones. “I wasn’t sure. We asked the refs if there was any way possible (to check). I thought the ball was in play. It didn’t happen. We have ample opportunities prior to that to make plays. I don’t think that was a game changer there.”
LSU did have opportunities, but that call could have been not only a game-changer, but a season-changer for Kentucky. The Wildcats are clinging to the NCAA Tournament bubble. They have already lost at home to Texas A&M and blown a big lead at Alabama. Now they face road games at Mississippi and Texas A&M. Losing another home game would have been disastrous.
Calipari said he “didn’t see all that stuff” with Noel.
“I just know when the ball was handed, we had five guys on the court,” Calipari said
However, he also knows UK was dangerously close to perhaps giving a win a way.
“I think we got sloppy in that timeout, and I got on my staff after the game and said, ‘You need to be responsible for that.’ So that may have happened, but again he was off the court,” Calipari said.
By ASHLEY SCOBY
Since Coach John Calipari arrived at Kentucky, many records have been shattered in men’s basketball. But what about with women?
He’s got that covered too.
The John Calipari Women’s Clinic broke a record Wednesday night for attendees at an NCAA women’s clinic, with over 600 participants coming from all over the country.
The first part of the night included an autograph session with all 12 players on the team. Hundreds of women stood in a line (some for two hours) that snaked twice around the Memorial Coliseum court. No matter how long it took, participants who were repeats from last year said that this year’s method for autographs was much more efficient. Last year, the players were separated, and participants had to choose which autographs they wanted. But this year, everyone just waited in line for all 12 of them.
John Robic, one of the main orchestrators of the clinic, was the one in charge of ushering the players around the line in an effort to make the process quicker. He kept repeating over the microphone, however, that they would not start the program until every last woman had gotten all her autographs.
After that process wound down, the rest of the night went much smoother. Ladies were divided into three groups and sent to either the men’s or women’s gym at the Craft Center or told to remain at Memorial Coliseum. Then, three groups of coaches and players rotated around the gyms and offered their own programs.
Coach Robic was in charge of running some of the smaller players through skill drills – Nerlens Noel was even still hanging around when the drills were ready to start, but Robic told him, “This is skill work, Nerlens, you don’t want any part of this.”
After Noel left, female volunteers were called down from the bleachers to go through the same ball-handling drills that Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Jarrod Polson, Twany Beckham and Ryan Harrow were going through (drills they had never seen before, according to Robic). Players were made to dribble two balls at a time – sometimes one had to be lower than the other, or they had to criss-cross the balls – and then the women imitated them.
Robic took great pleasure out of coaching both his players and the clinic participants. He joked around with the women who lost control of the balls and he even pulled one girl away from her drill to talk about her neon pink and green shoes.
After Robic and the guards finished their work, women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, with Jon Hood in tow, came by to run a short conditioning drill and to give a motivational talk. She spoke of her friendship with such legends as Muhammad Ali, Warren Buffet and Michael Jackson, and what those friends taught her.
Being fearless was a key point of what Lieberman had to say – a piece of advice that has clearly gotten her far in life, as she became the first woman in history to coach in the NBA’s Developmental League. She also mentioned that she had seen DeAndre Liggins at the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Media Day.
“I told him I was going to Kentucky and I was going to get to see Coach Cal, and his face just lit up,” she said. “That caused me to get a high-five from a complete stranger. Isn’t it amazing what a logo can do?”
The final ones in the coaching rotation were strength coaches Rock Oliver and Mike Malone, along with Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Brian Long, Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer. Oliver put the players through the same stretches/warm-ups they do before they do any kind of running. At one point, when he didn’t think they were doing a particular move as well as they could, Oliver made all five guys go back to their starting point and repeat the process.
That never-quit mentality is one the players have taken from their strength coach: The team lifts weights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. No big deal, right? Well, they do it at 6 a.m. Oliver said that in his 28 years in the business, this year’s Kentucky team has been working harder at strength and conditioning than any other team he’s been around.
With that weighing on their minds, all the women headed back to Memorial Coliseum for a presentation from Coach Cal about how a typical in-home recruiting visit will go with his staff. According to Calipari, he discusses with the potential player that player’s dreams and aspirations, and then they move to the topic of academics. Cal makes sure the player is committed to finishing his degree, no matter how quickly he leaves the University of Kentucky.
Then, of course, there is the speech about being selfless.
“I ask him, ‘Do you want to win a national championship?’” Calipari said. “They all say yes. Then I ask, ‘Can you do it by yourself?’ They say no. I tell him you’re going to need six or seven others just like you. Now do you understand why you can’t shoot 30 times each game?”
After listening to the typical speeches Cal gives to recruits, clinic participants were treated to the very same video Calipari will show a potential UK basketball player. Only recruits (and now, women’s clinic participants) are able to see this video that documents the Coach Cal era, including NBA Draft footage, a UK-only “One Shining Moment” tape and footage of Calipari’s speeches at Big Blue Madness events. Several women even teared up over the video, showcasing just how much emotion they invest in the Kentucky basketball program.
As a few tears were dried, the women turned their eyes to what is generally considered their favorite part of the clinic: the player fashion show. Lights are extinguished, and with Jennifer Palumbo at the mike reading out fun facts about the guys, each player struts (and occasionally dances) under the spotlight as they display a particular UK clothing item. Whether it was the winter coat, the white golf polo, or the traditional jersey and shorts that were shown off by the players, the women were ecstatic.
It was the perfect ending to the perfect night, as lady after lady said that this was a better clinic than in the past. As only Coach Cal knows how to do, he continues to impress the participants of this wildly popular event – so much so that he was able to break yet another NCAA record.
By LAURA WILLIAMS
Yet again, the University of Kentucky sets a NCAA record. This time it’s the ladies of the bluegrass celebrating our love of the Cats. With over 600 women in attendance, we set the NCAA record for largest attendance at a coach’s women’s clinic.
As always, Coach Cal’s clinic was the place to be in Lexington on this Wednesday night. I arrived about 3 PM and the line was already down Memorial Coliseum’s walkway.
Check-in was a breeze this year and we were quickly where we wanted to be — getting autographs and pictures with our favorite basketball players. All of the players were fun to hang out with, very friendly if shy at times, and always had a smile on their faces. I’ve always wanted to get a real answer from a player about what they think of 600+ screaming, cheering, clapping women there to just see them.
With my friends and I reasonably toward the front, we were able to snap our pictures and get our autographs with time left over. We got to sit down and enjoy a quick meal provided by Rafferty’s with time left to head over to the new Wildcat Coal Lodge to check out the first floor. Coach Cal’s rule no women above the first floor. We got to see our eight national championship trophies, sit in the big recliners, (And I do mean big; I felt like a child with my feet not touching the floor!) and simply walk around and check out all the new space they get to live in.
My “scare” of the night was looking at my basketball to notice I only had 11 players signatures. Who had skipped my ball? After careful looking, I figured out it was Nerlens Noel! As a big Blue Fan, that was a signature I had to have.
With my ball now signed, I had the opportunity to ask Nerlens if the fundraiser that we did for Haiti several years ago had any influence over his decision to ultimately choose the University of Kentucky. I asked this because recently I saw a media clip about Nerlens having a tattoo representing Haiti on his arm. I could tell he was surprised by my question but, after thinking about it for a second, still with a surprised look on his face, he answered that yeah he thought it did. I know that we did not do that fundraiser in anyway thinking about bringing a player to our school. (Shame on anyone in the media who may even begin to say differently.) However you never know how acts of kindness will play forward into our lives.
At this point, the real clinic began. We were divided into groups and taken into different rooms throughout the Joe Craft Center to watch demonstrations by players and coaches about different basketball topics. First up, was strength and conditioning with Rock Oliver. The guys were put through several exercises where they could show us how to stretch out, loosen up, and increase strength and stability. Alex Poytress worked on what have to be rock hard abs with the way he was able to balance on the exercise ball. Nerlens and Willie Cauley-Stein showed off their skill of being light on their feet and pretty darn fast.
Next up was Coach Robic running players through ballhandling drills. Trust me, some of those were a sight to see. All I can say is watch out for Archie Goodwin. Twany Beckham impressed as well.
Our last session was run by special guest Nancy Lieberman and John Hood. I’m sad to say I had never heard of Ms. Lieberman before tonight. Her career in basketball was fascinating to learn about and she was truly inspiring. She also has a great sense of humor and really had the crowd rolling with her. She and John were taking half-court shots over the shoulder, over their heads with the back turned to the basket, and pretty much any other way they could think to shoot. Lieberman 2, Hood 0.
I would like to tell you about the next part of the clinic, but we were sworn to secrecy by Coach Cal. Let’s just say, I think he definitely has an edge when visiting with moms and their sons when it comes to recruiting. Sorry folks that’s all I can say.
My guess is that with the extended time they needed to get in all of the autographs, we were unable to see the players actually practice. This is my one and only disappointment from the clinic. I love when Coach Cal saves some time for us to be the first people to see the new team play. But I understand. I wanted my autographs and pictures like everyone else. Luckily, I have season tickets and I’ll be in the stands at Rupp ready and waiting for that first game.
This was one of the better organized clinics. I know they put a lot of effort into making this the best experience possible. My thanks goes out to everyone and I will look forward to seeing you next year. Go Cats!