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- Kentucky falls 71-70 to Tennessee in SEC championship
- This year John Calipari says the SEC Tournament is important for UK’s mojo
- High school coordinator on UK WR signee Blake Bone: “He doesn’t get caught”
On his thoughts regarding the Harrison twin’s play …
“I thought they would play similar to the way they played tonight. Obviously, Aaron (Harrison) hadn’t shot great until tonight. Like I said, we had to make a choice. I think they are great in transition. They do a good job of pushing the ball and putting pressure on your defense. I don’t think we did a good job in transition defense. Both (Aaron and Andrew) Harrison played with such great poise. It’s hard to speed them up and hard to rattle them. It’s a handful.”
On Kentucky or any school starting five freshmen …
“If I had five freshmen that good, I’d start five freshmen. I think that’s what I’d make of it. I think every coach in the country is at a point where if guys are able to compete and contribute, whether they’re freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors, they’re going to be on the floor. Their five freshmen (are) obviously doing what Coach Calipari wants them to be doing on a daily basis and those are the ones that get the starts. We’re figuring out who can produce and who can follow our game plan and those are the guys who will play, regardless of year.”
By GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON — Archie Goodwin is looking to build off a surprising effort in the summer league in which he played like somebody with something to prove.
There were doubts about Goodwin after he joined Kentucky teammate Nerlens Noel in the draft pool following an inconsistent freshman season with the Wildcats. The Oklahoma City Thunder nonetheless took him late in the first round before trading him to the Golden State Warriors, who then shipped him to the Phoenix Suns that night.
Goodwin went on to lead the Suns to the NBA summer league title in competition against fellow rookies and second-year players. In seven games he averaged 13.1 points and shot 50 percent from the field but impressed many with his explosiveness and willingness to draw contact.
Noel, Goodwin and fellow former Wildcats Julius Mays and Twany Beckham were back on campus Monday assisting Kentucky coach John Calipari’s pro camp for youth players.
Other parts of his game remain a work in progress for Goodwin, but the 6-foot-5, Little Rock, Ark., native believes his performance suggests what he’s capable of providing for the rebuilding Suns.
“I knew that people would have negative things to say just because of the way our season went,” said Goodwin, Kentucky’s leading scorer last season at 14.1 points per game. “But at the end of the day I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I was going to do. I control my own fate and just continue to work hard and block out what people are saying.”
Goodwin added that Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has indicated that he will be part of Phoenix’s offense.
“He’s telling me that I’m going to play right away. He wanted to make that clear,” he said. “They were excited to get me as I was excited to be there. They said from the get-go that I was going to be a special player and be one of the better players out of this draft. I felt the same, and with my work ethic and the way I compete, I’m going to make that happen.”
Mays went undrafted after transferring to Kentucky and playing last season as a fifth-year senior. But he has worked out for several NBA teams and is exploring possibilities overseas.
He said he’s “got a lot of great opportunities to choose from.”
By MIKE MARSEE, email@example.com
By just about any Kentucky fan’s standard, last season was a failure. By John Calipari’s standard, not so much.
The Kentucky coach said he was disappointed that the Wildcats didn’t have a better year — they finished 21-12 and lost in the first round of the NIT one year after winning a national championship — but he said that wasn’t the only measure of success for him or the players.
Calipari said all of Kentucky’s players got something out of last season — even those who didn’t play as well as expected. He talked about what he and the players took from the season Monday during his remarks to children and their family members at his satellite camp at Boyle County High School.
“In a lot of ways, it was really rewarding for me. We were disappointed. We finished second in the SEC, we were disappointed. The three (SEC) teams that went to the NCAA tournament, we were 3-1 against those teams,” Calipari said. “And you never use injuries as an excuse or any of that. Here’s what’s disappointing: We didn’t even get to the tournament; we played our way out of it.”
“But this is a players-first program. We had a 3.4 grade-point average as a team last year. Twelve out of 13 guys had a B average. Two had a 4.0. Aside from that, players benefitted from last season. We talk about players first, that’s what this is supposed to be about.
“Did we benefit from this, our staff? No. But did Nerlens (Noel) benefit from this past season? He may get drafted (number) one. He did all right. How ’bout Archie (Goodwin)? We would have like to have him come back, but we’re going to support him. Looks like he’s going to be a first-rounder, maybe a second-rounder; he’s going to get drafted.
“How ’bout Willie (Cauley-Stein)? No one knew who Willie was. He benefitted. How ’bout Alex (Poythress)? Oh, yeah, he benefitted. The benefit was you saw signs and he saw signs of where he can go, but knowing he’s got to change the path he’s on to get where he’s trying to go.
“How ’bout Kyle Wiltjer? Sixth man of the year. By the end of the year, though, what happened to him? What did every team do to him defensively? They went at him on defense, and he knew, ‘I’ve got to change my body.’ He benefitted. How ’bout Julius Mays? No one knew who Julius Mays was. Julius is going to get a contract to play in Europe.
“You may say, ‘Well, what about Jon Hood?’ Jon Hood benefitted. How ’bout Jarrod Polson? Did he benefit? Yes, he benefitted. Ryan Harrow. You may say, ‘Well, he didn’t benefit.’ Yeah, he did. In a lot of ways, he benefitted in that (he realized), ‘I’m not made for this.’ So now, that season got him to where he can go to have success.
“What I mean to say, again, when you’re about players first, it’s got to be that way, your principles, your core values, even when it doesn’t go good for me, it’s got to be about those guys first. We graduated 10 of our last 10 players in four years. Ten players who have used up their eligibility have graduated. Ten out of 10. We’ve had 17 draft picks? We just helped create 17 millionaires. Isn’t that nice. Wouldn’t you like to have that lottery ticket?
“Now, 10 out of 10 have graduated, 17 have gone on to pro careers. Some have done both: Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson. They stayed the (entire) time and they became pros. We call it a success rate. People have this graduation rate. OK, we graduate our kids, but it’s more than that.”
Calipari said he’s excited about the team he’ll put on the floor next season, but he said the incoming players will also need some work.
“This team we have coming in, with the players we have returning, we should be good. They will decide how good we’ll be,” he said. “And every one of those players, they need us in different ways. Some need us to be right on top of them, some need us to just teach. Some need us to encourage, some need us to bring them back to show we have no fear of coaching them as a player. They all need us in different ways.
“So I’m excited about the opportunities we have. I’m really excited about where this program is, what it stands for, what it stands for around the country, not just in the commonwealth. We’re about players first. We drive them. They don’t always like us, they’re not always happy with us, it doesn’t mean I’m trying to be everybody’s buddy, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about helping them reach their dreams. When we help them reach their dreams, they drag us to where we’re trying to go.
“Do we want to win national titles? Absolutely. And if we win a national title, I’m ecstatic. But you know what would disappoint me? If we won a national title and not one player was drafted. That would disappoint me.
“And you say, ‘Well, why?’ I should benefit from that, you should benefit from it, the school should benefit, the state should benefit, but those young people shouldn’t benefit? If you’re about them, it’s about, yeah, we want to do all this, but not at the expense of our young people. We’re here to help them reach their dreams.”
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.”