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Vaught’s note: Former Kentucky guard Julius Mays recently made an appearance at Freedom Ford and Honda in Ivel, Ky., and vaughtsviews.com regular Jami Young talked to him and also took pictures to share. Enjoy.
By JAMI YOUNG (@jami_lauren)
I recently had the opportunity to interview former University of Kentucky basketball player, Julius Mays. I hope you enjoy my interview of the class act known as Julius Mays.
Question: What was it about UK that made you decide this is where you wanted to spend your last year of college basketball?
Julius: “Just the great fan base, the school- the education part of it- and getting my masters. It was a big part of my decision and obviously the opportunity to play in front of Big Blue Nation, play for Coach Cal and get the experience of a lifetime; all played a major part of me coming here.”
Question: Did you have a moment when you stood back and said ‘Okay, these fans are crazy?”
Julius: “No, I’ve never said they’re crazy-but you know-I had a moment when I had to step back and say guys you got to be really appreciative of these fans because they travel with us everywhere we go. We got a huge crowd win, lose or draw they always cheer their hearts out for us.
Question: If you were Coach Calipari, what would you say to the recruits who are considering UK as their college choice?
Julius: “I mean, there is no place like it here. You are going to get the best coaching staff, best fan base and the experience of a lifetime that you won’t get anywhere else. Once you are a wildcat, you are always a wildcat.”
Question: Just curious, what is the one food you cannot live without?
Julius: “Probably my mom’s chicken.”
Question: Who is your favorite NBA player of all time?
Julius: “My favorite NBA player of all time? It would probably have to be Kobe Bryant.”
Question: What are your future plans and do you have anything you would like to say to the Big Blue Nation?
Julius: “My future plans are still up in the air. I’m still going to push to keep playing whether it be in Europe or in the NBA. Whatever opportunity presents itself and then after that I plan on breaking my way into coaching. My message to the Big Blue Nation is that I just appreciate the fact they took me in. You know I felt like I’ve been here for four years and I only had the chance to play one. I wish I could’ve played longer, but you know, fortunately, I am very happy for the opportunity that I got and for the time that I got to play here.”
In closing, I would like to say the jersey #34 has been worn by many UK greats: Kenny “Sky” Walker, John Pelphrey, DeAndre Liggins and now we can include Julius Mays to the list.
By LARRY VAUGHT
By Keith Taylor, The Winchester Sun
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Alex Poythress was just as “shocked” as the rest of Big Blue Nation following Kentucky’s 59-57 loss to Robert Morris in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament Tuesday night.
“We just couldn’t do it at the end,” the Kentucky freshman said. “It’s real disappointing.”
It was a similar road loss for the Wildcats, who failed to gain traction in games played away from home during most of the season. Kentucky, the top seed on the NIT, won just four games in eight attempts in hostile environments, inducing an 0-3 mark against non-conference foes.
“It was a tough environment and they had a great crowd,” Poythress said. “They were incredible and cheering them on. It was just one of those away environments where (they) were rooting against you. It’s incredibly tough to play on the road. You just don’t realize it’s not a home game. You may have fans, but to the other team, it’s their home game. It’s tough playing in the road. It was a a tough game (Tuesday night) because it was so compact and so close to the floor. It was a tough environment.”
From the beginning, the Wildcats had problems overcoming and overflow crowd of more than 3,500 and found themselves in a hole after the hosts scored the first 10 points of the game. That lead blossomed to as many as 13 points in the second half before the Wildcats battled back to make things interesting down the stretch. The overall environment also was an issue for the Cats down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t capitalize (down the stretch),” he said.
Poythress said the Wildcats had trouble matching Robert Morris’ intensity throughout most of the contest.
“They came out and strong, they came out hitting every shot and came out pumped,” he said. “They came out wanting to win the game. They had a nice crowd and everything, but got us down and we played catch up the rest of the game.”
Poythress, who scored just six points in 27 minutes, said the Cats came in with a “good game plan” and one that he thought was enough to put the Wildcats back over the top.
“To come out on the losing end of this game is really disappointing,” Poythress said. “It’s just frustrating.”
Poythress said the Wildcats had a renewed focus following a 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last Friday in Nashville. The team failed to make the NCAA Tournament field and was denied an opportunity to defend the NCAA title, but Poythress didn’t mind continuing the postseason in the NIT in a season that failed to measure up to last year’s standard.
“I felt like we were ready and I feel like we are ready every game,” he said. “The coaches do a great job of preparing us, but we us players just didn’t execute. It comes down to x’s and o’s and for us, just playing ball, really. Coach (Calipari) is going to help us (and put us in position to win).”
Looking back on the season, Poythress said capitalizing on “on the little things” would have made a difference for a team that failed to live up to last year’s expectations.
“We just had mental lapses and we just had to focus,” he said. “It was tough to follow last year’s team. If you think about it, they were one of the best basketball teams (in history). The had six pros, almost had 40 wins and won a national championship. It’s tough to follow that. But there are high expectations when you come here. People expect you to win and you can’t let them down. We had great potential, but we just didn’t know how to put it all together.”
He added that the team wasn’t lacking in the leadership department.
“We had great leadership in Julius (Mays),” he said. “He was always there from Day 1. We just didn’t follow him. It was kind of our fault.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
MOON, Pa. — Unless you win the national championship like Kentucky did last season, there’s never a perfect way for a team to end a season. However, sometimes there can be a fitting way — and that’s just what happened to Kentucky.
A team that lacked toughness, cohesiveness, playmakers and focus got dominated early, battled back and then made crucial mistakes at the end to fill 59-57 to Robert Morris here Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
“They deserved to win. If we had won at the buzzer, it would have been a shame. We didn’t deserve to win,” said Kentucky coach John Calipatria, who said he grew up only about “two 7-irons” away from the campus.
He was right, too. Robert Morris roared out to a 10-0 lead over Kentucky — a team that even Calipari admitted may not have wanted to be playing after falling to Vanderbilt Friday in the SEC Tournament to lose a NCAA Tournament bid on Sunday — in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,444 that had many fans lining up three hours before tip-off to secure the best seats.
Kentucky got back into the game by halftime, but trailed 53-42 before an 11-0 run tied the game with 3 minutes, 15 seconds to play. Kentucky tied the game again at 57-57 with 42.5 seconds left, but with time running out on the shot clock the Colonials’ Mike McFadden got an offensive rebound after a Willie Cauley-Stein block on an inbounds play and was fouled. He hit both free throws with 8.7 seconds to go.
The Cats got an open 3-pointer for Kyle Wiltjer, who had missed his only 3-pointer Tuesday and 19 of his last 22 tries, just before the buzzer. But it missed to touch on a court-storming by the Robert Morris students and a funeral-like procession off the court one last time this season for Kentucky.
“Robert Morris played great,” Calipari said. “They said we could not withstand their physical toughness, so go at them. They played a physical, hard-nosed game. We were down 10-0 and the game was too rough. We had guys that couldn’t play. Just couldn’t put them in. We were trying to win.”
One obviously was point guard Ryan Harrow. He cried after UK’s loss to Vandy and blamed himself for the loss and letting his team down after missing 13 of 15 shots and making four turnovers. He didn’t get to miss that many shots this time because despite two early scores, he played just nine minutes, including just two the second half when Calipari turned the team over to junior Jarrod Polson, who had 10 points, three assists and one rebound. More importantly, he played with some pizzazz that Harrow didn’t.
Calipari said it wasn’t only Harrow that backed down. He recalled early last season when teams tried to play rough with UK before the Cats decided they wanted no part of that.
“Guys said this ain’t happening and negated that and by the end of the year you could not play us physical and tough and win the game,” Calipari said. “We never accepted that was an issue and that we had to change how we played.”
Against Robert Morris, Alex Poythress had six points and two rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein had nine points, four rebounds and four turnovers. Neither could dominate inside.
Julius Mays, who tried to be UK’s team leader, was 1-for-5 from the field after going 2-for-8 in the Vanderbilt loss. Wiltjer made one of four shots and had no rebounds in 10 minutes.
Archie Goodwin overcame a shaky start to score 18 points and almost give UK the win. He also had seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. He even took a hard shot to the face on a deliberate foul after a steal and made both free throws — he was 8-for-8 at the line — while refusing to back down. But other than Goodwin, Polson and Jon Hood, who had two points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, the fight just was not there.
Yet Calipari insisted he was not relieved to have the season end.
“I wanted to keep coaching them. The reason was I was hoping the light would go on for Alex. The light would go on for Kyle. The light would go on for Archie,” Calipari said. “You don’t know when the light goes on. This was good for them. They needed a game exactly light this to see what they needed and then evaluate where they are. I am tough enough to play college basketball. Maybe I don’t have it.
“We fouled twice in a tie game. Why foul? Why not play disciplined? Well, we have not been disciplined all year. It kind of ended on a note that we have been talking about all year. You can’t win if you play that way.”
Calipari vowed it won’t be that way again. He got caught with little depth, especially after Nerlens Noel went down with a knee injury, and not enough depth. He’s already signed six players for next year and could add another star Wednesday when Julius Randle makes his college choice. Goodwin, Poythress and Cauley-Stein all indicated after this loss they expected to be back next year, too.
“This was humbling. You think you are supposed to win 30 games, win 35 games, get to the Elite Eight, win tournament championships, win the national title. This was a humbling experience, but also a learning experience,” the UK coach said. “I did things I have never done to try and help the team. The things I did to try and save guys, when you have more people they won’t play this much.”
But that’s next year and for now UK can only think about what was supposed to be a rebuilding year that would turn into a NCAA Tournament ready team instead turned into a NIT bust.
WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
MOON, Pa. (AP) – Mike McFadden hit two free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining and Robert Morris shocked defending national champion Kentucky 59-57 in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats decided not to call timeout after the second free throw but Kyle Wiltjer’s 3-pointer before the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim, sending hundreds of students onto the court as Robert Morris ruined Kentucky coach John Calipari’s homecoming.
Lucky Jones led the Colonials (24-10) with 15 points but was ejected for a flagrant foul on Archie Goodwin with 3:41 to play. Kentucky, which trailed by 13 in the second half, managed to tie it twice but could never grab the lead.
Goodwin scored 18 points for the Wildcats but couldn’t stop Kentucky’s disappointing season come to a stunning end.
The victory was validation for the Colonials, who won the Northeastern Conference regular season title with ease but were upset in the conference tournament. The loss relegated the school to the NIT, but it hardly felt like a letdown in perhaps the biggest win in the program’s history.
“I know they were disappointed not to get to NCAA tournament. This is a memory they’ll get for rest of their lives.” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said in the giddy aftermath.
Robert Morris will advance to the second round, while Kentucky’s injury-marred underachieving year came to a merciful end. The Wildcats were never the same after center Nerlens Noel went down with a devastating knee injury. Kentucky dropped six of its final 10 games, the last one coming in a somewhat rickety gym in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
The Wildcats let the Colonials race to an early 10-0 lead, only led briefly at the end of the first half and appeared disinterested to spoil the return of a hometown kid made good.
Calipari was born in Pittsburgh, grew up a couple of miles from the Robert Morris campus and played guard at Moon High a couple of 3-pointers away. He returned to Western Pennyslvania to finish up his college playing at Clarion and served as an assistant coach at Pittsburgh in the 1980s before hitting the big-time.
The homecoming, however, was less happy than hostile.
Fans scooped up the 3,500 tickets in a matter of hours on Monday then lined up outside in the blustery March wind well before tipoff of arguably the biggest game in school history. Robert Morris averaged barely 1,000 fans during its 15 home games, yet there were scalpers asking for $75 to get in the door.
Though disappointed in missing the NCAAs, in a way, it may have served as a blessing.
While the NCAAs would have provided Robert Morris with a brief moment in the sun, the NIT gave the school of just over 3,600 undergraduate students an opportunity to host one of college basketball’s big boys on its own turf.
Kentucky earned a top seed in the NIT but was forced to hit the road because Rupp Arena is hosting NCAA games this weekend. Though Calipari warned his team to be ready, the Wildcats hardly looked thrilled to be there, and it showed.
Robert Morris scored the game’s first 10 points while the Wildcats ‚Äî who typically play in front of home crowds in excess of 23,000 ‚Äî stumbled their way through a series of miscues and appeared rattled in a gym with wooden bleachers that swayed underneath the feet of a clamoring student section chanting “Bobby Mo” every chance it could.
Senior Jarrod Polson came off the bench to steady things, and Kentucky recovered to get within 28-27 at the break.
Yet the Colonials never folded, making 8 of 12 shots during one stretch to move back in front 49-36 then holding off a late Kentucky push to send students leaping over tables and onto the floor in a delirious celebration.
KENTUCKY (21-12): Cauley-Stein 4-6 1-4 9, Poythress 3-7 0-0 6, Goodwin 5-8 8-8 18, Harrow 2-3 0-0 5, Mays 1-5 2-2 5, Hood 1-2 0-0 2, Polson 4-5 2-4 10, Wiltjer 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 21-40 13-18 57.
ROBERT MORRIS (24-10): L. Jones 4-5 6-6 15, Johnson 5-11 2-2 14, McFadden 3-4 2-2 8, Williams 2-4 0-0 6, Myers-Pate 3-7 0-0 6, V. Jones 3-7 2-2 8, Appolon 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 0-5 2-2 2, Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0, Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 14-14 59.
Halftime_Robert Morris 28-27. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 2-10 (Harrow 1-2, Mays 1-4, Hood 0-1, Poythress 0-1, Wiltjer 0-2), Robert Morris 5-16 (Williams 2-4, Johnson 2-4, L. Jones 1-2, Appolon 0-1, V. Jones 0-1, Myers-Pate 0-1, Anderson 0-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 25 (Goodwin 7), Robert Morris 19 (Johnson 5). Assists_Kentucky 7 (Polson 3), Robert Morris 10 (V. Jones 5). Total Fouls_Kentucky 17, Robert Morris 20. A_3,444.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook editor Chris Dortch, who also writes for www.nba.com, watched the SEC Tournament, and got to see Kentucky lose a game to Vanderbilt he was convinced the Cats would win.
Before that loss, I asked him a few questions about the Cats. Enjoy the answers as you await to see if UK will host a NIT game or not this week at Memorial Coliseum.
How would you rate the overall job Calipari has done this year?
Dortch: “Under the circumstances, he’s done well. Some may dispute me, but those would be people who don’t understand basketball. Coaches always look better when shots fall. This hasn’t been one of John’s better shooting teams. He’s also been challenged to get his players to consistently defend and play with the aggression he prefers. And we haven’t even gotten to the Noel injury yet. That was critical.”
What UK player has been the biggest surprise to you this year?
Dortch: “I probably expected more consistency out of Harrow, not based on his previous performance but based on the fact Cal signed him. Cal seems to have had a little success with point guards recently.”
What UK players are back next year, which ones are gone to the NBA?
Dortch: “It wouldn’t surprise me if all the freshmen left. But if they asked my advice, I’d tell them to hang around and win a national championship before you take your place in the real world.”
What UK player has improved the most?
Dortch: “Julius Mays, maybe? All of the freshman have had their highs and lows. Frankly, I thought, like probably every other UK fan did, that, based on Cal’s track record, these guys would be playing like seniors come March. That hasn’t happened, but yet the Cats still have every opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. That has to account for something.”
What do you know or have you heard about the recruits UK has coming in?
Dortch: “It’s the most talented group Ca’s yet brought in. Is it the toughest group he’s signed? The most basketball savvy? That remains to be seen. But from a sheer talent standpoint, this is a haul for the ages. All the positions are covered. And the scary thing is, Kentucky’s not finished yet.”
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.
TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Dai-Jon Parker scored 12 points, and the Vanderbilt Commodores beat Kentucky 64-48 Friday night in a rematch of last year’s Southeastern Conference tournament championship and put a serious dent in the Wildcats’ hopes of at least having a chance to defend their national title.
Kentucky (21-11) came in as a bubble team projected possibly as a play-in candidate after coach John Calipari sent six players to the NBA last summer and tried reloading yet again with another top recruiting class. But Nerlens Noel had surgery earlier this week to fix his torn ACL, and the Wildcats couldn’t match the intensity of the Commodores.
Kevin Bright scored 11 points, Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller had 10 apiece. Vanderbilt (16-16) shot 50 percent overall, hitting 8 of 17 3-pointers.
Archie Goodwin led Kentucky with 12 points, and Kyle Wiltjer had 10. Ryan Harrow was 2 of 15 for four points as Kentucky was held to a season-low in points. The Wildcats outrebounded Vandy 32-30 but just couldn’t keep up with how well the Commodores shot the ball.
The Commodores also lost their top six players off the team that won the school’s first tourney title in 61 years with three also in the NBA. Their growing pains have been such that winning is the only way to keep playing now.
They came out and hit 18 of their first 27 shots, including their first five of the second half, in building a 48-27 lead. Kentucky clawed back with 10 straight points, the last a high-flying dunk by Goodwin to pull within 48-37 with 12:43 to go. Then the Wildcats went cold, not hitting another field goal until Alex Poythress’ layup with 7:31 remaining made it 53-41 because Vandy suddenly couldn’t hit after a Kevin Bright 3-pointer with 11:22 left.
Johnson hit two free throws followed by a 3-pointer from Sheldon Jeter to push the lead back to 17 with 6:00 left, and Kentucky didn’t threaten again. Vandy coach Kevin Stallings was able to pull his starters in the final minute for an ovation.
Kentucky swept Vanderbilt in the regular season, but the Wildcats won both games by a combined six points. The Commodores weren’t happy about a 60-58 loss Jan. 10 at Memorial Gym where officials missed a late shot clock violation on a key bucket by Noel.
Even though this game is only a couple miles away from Vanderbilt’s campus, Wildcats’ fans turned Bridgstone Arena into Rupp South filled with blue from the court up to the rafters.
The atmosphere only seemed to rev up the Commodores.
Kentucky led twice, the last on a reverse layup by Goodwin at 6-5. Shelby Moats hit a 3 from the top of the key for Vandy, then Willie Cauley-Stein dunked to tie it up at 8. Odom scored on a layup putting Vandy up 10-8 with 12:42 to go. Kentucky got within two three times, the last at 18-16 with 6:22 to go on a layup by Harrow on his lone bucket of the half as he missed eight shots.
Vanderbilt finished the half on a 20-7 run as the Commodores kept tipping away passes and pushing the Wildcats out away from the basket. When they had the ball, the Commodores knocked down shot after shot. Cauley-Stein picked up his second personal with 4:53 and went to the bench. Vanderbilt scored 16 of the next 23 points.
Moats capped the half as he hit a long jumper in the final seconds for a 37-23 lead before going to the bench for a chest bump with Fuller.
VANDERBILT (16-16): Odom 3-7 2-2 9, Johnson 3-9 4-4 10, Bright 4-6 0-0 11, Parker 5-8 0-0 12, Henderson 1-4 0-1 2, Watkins 0-0 0-0 0, Fuller 4-6 2-2 10, Josephs 0-0 0-0 0, Astroth 0-0 0-0 0, Jeter 1-3 0-0 3, Moats 2-3 2-2 7, Siakam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-46 10-11 64.
KENTUCKY (21-11): Goodwin 5-10 2-5 12, Harrow 2-15 0-0 4, Cauley-Stein 2-6 3-5 7, Poythress 2-3 1-3 6, Mays 2-8 0-0 6, Hood 1-3 0-0 3, Polson 0-2 0-0 0, Wiltjer 4-5 2-3 10. Totals 18-52 8-16 48.
Halftime_Vanderbilt 37-23. 3-Point Goals_Vanderbilt 8-17 (Bright 3-5, Parker 2-3, Moats 1-1, Odom 1-1, Jeter 1-3, Fuller 0-1, Johnson 0-3), Kentucky 4-14 (Mays 2-7, Poythress 1-1, Hood 1-3, Goodwin 0-1, Wiltjer 0-1, Harrow 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Vanderbilt 30 (Odom, Parker 6), Kentucky 32 (Cauley-Stein 9). Assists_Vanderbilt 9 (Johnson 3), Kentucky 6 (Mays 3). Total Fouls_Vanderbilt 16, Kentucky 16. A_NA.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — Kentucky guards Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays and Archie Goodwin have frustrated UK fans with their inconsistency at times this season and befuddled even coach John Calipari at times.
However, Tennessee guard Skylar McBee says the trio may have had no chance to succeed this year considering who they had to follow.
McBee, a senior, played against John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, both first-round draft picks and current NBA stalwarts, three years ago. Two years ago he went against Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins, both draft picks and both on NBA roster. Last year UK had Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb, two more NBA draft picks, in the backcourt.
“I think their guards are very talented this year because they have talented guards every year,” said McBee after Tennessee beat Mississippi State Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. “But I think these guards this year are a different style of guard. They are more slow down, run the offense than the guards I played against before.
“You had John Wall and Eric Bledsoe that liked to get it out and push in transition all the time. You have some guys this year that who really do a good job slowing down, running offense and fitting in that system. They are not the defensive players that Liggins or Teague were or the scorers that Knight and Lamb were. They are different, but that doesn’t mean they are not good.”
LSU junior Andre Stringer, who had 16 points and three assists in a win over Georgia Thursday, did not play against Wall and Bledsoe. But he competed against Knight, Liggins, Lamb and Teague.
“First off, they are still good players. I think all those guards have a lot of different games,” Stringer said. “The point guard (Harrow) this year, I think Teague was more of a run the team guy and Harrow is more of a scoring guard. I think Lamb was a shooter, and can’t leave him. He kind of reminds me of Mays some.
“I think they had five pros on the court at one time in the past few years. That is what is so different about the Kentucky team now. They don’t have that. They have guys that aren’t as talented as those other guys, so they have to work harder.”
McBee said he assumed Harrow and Goodwin knew the comparisons were coming this year.
“Those are big shoes to fill, and that’s part of it playing at a big school like Kentucky with the success it has had,” McBee said. “They have had a lot of talent come through the years and it is big shoes to fill. They are doing a good job and as long as they play well in the SEC Tournament, they should be fine going into the NCAA. We play in a strong league with a bunch of good teams. They are not bad players at all. I am not sure why people might think that. They are a very good set of guards. They just are not the guards they have had the last three years, but how many teams have had guards like they did those three years.”
Stringer thinks the past comparisons are unfair to UK’s guards, too.
“Those guys have hard shoes to fill because of guys that came before them and paved the way and made Kentucky what they are,” Stringer said. “Calipari is a great coach, but it is hard to come behind those guys. They were all pros.
“I don’t think it was pressure on them that they can’t handle. I think guys at the collegiate level know what to do. They have been playing ball since they were kids, so there is not any undue pressure to come in and star. They knew they had to come in and work and what was expected of them. But they are not bad players.”
Photos by Clay Jackson, 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.