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Vaught’s note: Kentucky native Laura McDonald now lives in New York but still closely follows her Kentucky Wildcats. She was in New Orleans in 2012 when UK won the national title and was in Dallas a few weeks ago when the Cats lost to Connecticut in the national title game. Friday she went to the Jordan Brand Classic to watch four future Wildcats play. She shares her observations on the game and players.
By LAURA McDONALD
Eleven days ago I watched my beloved Wildcats lose to the Huskies in the championship game. Walking out of AT&T Stadium 1 game shy of the title was a bitter pill to take, but you have to be happy with how it all played out after such a roller coaster up & down season. It was one of the most exhilarating years of college hoops I can remember.
Now I¹m in full recovery mode, I start each day by making sure there was no major college basketball news and then I try to tune into KSR to listen to Matt Jones & Ryan Lemond —those guys give me that Kentucky fix I need to power through the day. With all that being said, I was excited to have the opportunity to go to the Jordan Brand Classic and watch four future Wildcats play. It gave me a chance to size them up from their body language to how the react to playing with equally talented players.
One thing that struck me right away when walking into Barclays Center was how BIG the players are. Its really hard to put into words how these 18 year olds already look like grown men. As a Kentucky fan you better get used to big men based on the way our roster is shaping up for next year. It should be an edge that we¹ll have to work hard to take advantage of every night. Okay, here is my player breakdown from the games.
Trey Lyles: The kid came out ready to play and did a lot of things that did not show up on the stat sheet. He ran the floor well and was active on both ends of the court. He is a well rounded, has great hands and can make mid-range shots and rebound. His upside is tremendous and I think he’ll add a lot to next year’s team. He isn’t going to be the best athlete on the floor every night but if he plays hard he will get minutes.
Karl Anthony-Towns: Not only is his size impressive, but he brings a unique ability to step out and make outside shots. Even though he wears a size 22 sneaker, this kid moves well and is unselfish with the basketball. He has a big smile and great attitude. It won¹t take long for Kentucky fans to fall in love with this kid! If Karl works on getting stronger when his back is to the basket then he will be an elite player for the Cats.
Tyler Ulis: He’s only listed as 5-9 but he is fast, intense, and will be great at controlling tempo. He was by far the smallest player on the court but still stuffed the stat sheet (9 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds). He always keeps his eyes up, finds the open man and is QUICK. He is different from your typical Calipari point guard in that he truly thinks pass first. His understanding of how to play the game will take him far. By getting in the weight room and adding some strength this guy could log some serious minutes for the Cats in the near future.
Devin Booker: Could be the best shooter on the floor next year as he definitely has a soft touch. He wasn’t afraid to get in there in mix it up with the big guys on the floor. He does play strong with the ball despite his thin frame. Working with the Kentucky coaches I am sure Devin will develop an all around game becoming more consistent inside and out.
My big takeaway is that all four of these guys are pretty unselfish team players for being high school superstars. You can tell that even from an all-star game and the fact that several of them have encouraged the current Wildcats to come back for one more year.
I can’t wait for basketball!!! Excited to see this team come together and get to Indy (for the 2-15 Final Four)!
Hey Alex, Andrew, Aaron, Dakari how about 1 more year!
By LARRY VAUGHT
If you want to see why Karl Towns such be a good fit for Kentucky next year and likely a player fans are going to embrace from day one, just look at his reaction to news that Willie Cauley-Stein will be back at UK — a move that likely will cost Towns playing time but make the Cats a better team.
“A little surprised but happy he will be coming back to help us do something special,” Towns told SNY.tv. “It will be a blast playing with him.”
Guessing here that Cauley-Stein will feel the same way about Towns.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Future Wildcats Trey Lyles and Karl Towns have been roommates at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., this week and will play against Team USA tonight.
Towns measured 7-foot without shoes and weighed 248 pounds. Trey Lyles was 6-10 without shoes and 250 pounds.
So Kentucky obviously has size in this recruiting class.
Towns had a wingspan of 7 feet, 3.5 inches and a standing reach of 9-5, one of the top standing reaches for any recruit kept by various recruiting services. His height and wingspan also were even a bit better than many suspected.
Lyles had a measured wingspan of 7-3.5 and standing reach of 8-11.5. Lyles length and strength are a rare combination that made him so attractive to coach John Calipari.
And what I really like about both players is that they can shoot from outside as well as score inside.
The 17th Nike Hoop Summit will be on ESPN2 tonight at 7. This will be Towns’ second year to play in the game as he also was on the team last year.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis, who signed with Kentucky in November, also wanted to be a McDonald’s All-American — and now he is. He’ll be one of four future Cats — Gatorade Player of the Year Karl Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles will also play in Wednesday’s game in Chicago — playing at the United Center in the all-star game.
But the 5-9 Ulis has also been chosen to play in the upcoming Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, another huge honor that many thought would not have been possible going into his senior season.
“I think making the Jordan Brand was exciting more for him than anybody,” said James Ulis, Tyler’s father. “Whenever you can get awarded and recognized for something you love doing and have a chance to go to a prestigious game like that, you have to be thrilled. The Jordan game is recognized as where the best play. Some of the best ever have played in that game. It’s an honor for him and as a father, you are always happy to see your son live out his dreams.
“I have been watching him since he was 4 years old and for him to get to this point, I am really happy for him. What I liked about it is that he has turned some heads with his play and has earned everything he’s got. A lot of kids who are good players don’t get to play in these games. A lot of people have been surprised by him, but if you watch him play enough, and I watch him a lot, you get where he is now.”
The guard’s father said his son took advantage of opportunities to play on a well-known AAU team (Meanstreets) and in a competitive Catholic league in Chicago for Marian High School.
“He took advantage of those opportunities. If he was in Los Angeles, he played well. If he was playing in Minneapolis, he played well. He’s had a lot of dreams come true and it starts with his high school team winning like they have the last two years. People in this state never thought Marian could win like it did the last two years. He had trust in what we wanted to do for him and put him on a team not known for basketball without recruits and a lot of size. But the kids were determined to play together and play hard and he fit perfectly.”
Still, few would have predicted a year ago that Ulis would have signed with Kentucky, led Marian to another banner season and now getting set to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game before going to the Jordan Brand Classic.
“If you asked him, he would have said he played like this the last two years, and he did to some extent,” James Ulis said. “He has raised his level and the best get better as they go on and work on whatever there opportunities are. But a lot of things led to this. He had a great high school season as a junior, played well in AAU and really showed as a point guard how good a leader he is. If you have seen him the last two years, you cannot question his leadership ability. That’s his biggest strength and he has shown he can play with anybody, any size. It doesn’t matter.
“When you are a point guard on a team, you are judged by how much you win. He is 56-6 (29-4 last year, 27-2 this year). That’s a lot of wins. He plays stiff competition every game here in Chicago. But he just has played at a high level and never worried about where he was rated. I always told him to be ready when he got opportunities, and he has shown he was.”
Tyler Ulis’ only personal goal this season was to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game in his hometown as he will do Wednesday night. All his other goals — conference, region, section championships — were team oriented.
“It’s a dream come true for him to play in this game,” James Ulis said.
Tyler Ulis will have a lot of family, including some from Ohio, and friends at the game as will Chicago players Cliff Alexander and Jahlil Okafor, both one-time UK targets who picked other schools.
“A lot of coaches who used to train him will be here. A lot of Marian fans and teammates have tickets. He has a great following here and deserves it. He is fun to watch and root for,” James Ulis said. “He’s so excited about this, but he felt two years ago he should have been a McDonald’s All-American because he played as well as any point guard then.
“But making McDonald’s All-American has not changed who he is. He didn’t talk McDonald’s, but getting Marian to the state. He’s always had his own following and been a basketball star in a smaller area. But instead of going nuts, he kept the same demeanor. He acted the same and treated us all the same.
“A lot of that just came from feeling he deserved this honor. Not in a selfish, arrogant way but he’s played with these kids since he was 11-12 years old and always held his own. He just never knew if we could get his chance because of where he was ranked. However, he just stuck to his plan, did what he was supposed to do and good things happened.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 31, 2014) – The 10-member World Select Team, featuring four players who play for U.S. high schools, was announced today for the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, the premier annual basketball game featuring many of the world’s leading basketball players age 19 years old or younger. The 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit will take place at 4 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, April 12 at the Moda Center, in Portland, Ore.
The annual game, which sees the World Select Team take on the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team, which is comprised of elite American high school seniors, has been staged on 16 previous occasions and has given an extraordinary number of talented players the chance to showcase their abilities. As of 2013, an incredible 151 Hoop Summit alumni have been drafted into the NBA.
The World Team, which will be seeking to record an unprecedented third straight victory in the series after beating the USA in 2012 (84-75) and in 2013 (112-98) in front of a crowd of 6,265 and a national television audience, has unveiled a strong roster for the 2014 Hoop Summit, including one player returning from last year’s victorious squad.
Center Karl Towns, Jr. (St Joseph High School, N.J./Dominican Republic) returns for his second Nike Hoop Summit appearance, having scored seven points to go with four rebounds and four assists in the 2013 victory.
The World Team has named two other centers to its 2014 roster – Clint Capela (ES Chalon-sur-Saone/Switzerland) and Trey Lyles (Arsenal Technical H.S., Ind./Canada).
The team also features forwards – Damien Inglis (Chorale de Roanne Basket/France), James Metecan Birsen (Fenerbache Ulker/Turkey) and Nikola Jokic (Mega Vizura/Serbia).
The global squad is completed by guards Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy, Texas/Democratic Republic of Congo), Brandone Francis (Arlington Country Day School, Fla./Dominican Republic), Jamal Murray (Athlete Institute/Canada) and Gao Shang (Guangdong Southern Tigers/China).
The Jordan Brand All-American Game will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 18. In 2013, the event was headlined by Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, who shared co-MVP honors.
The rosters for both teams:
Grayson Allen, SG, 6-foot-4, Providence Christian School (Riverview, Fla.), signed with Duke
Joel Berry, PG, 6-1, Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.), signed with North Carolina
James Blackmon, Jr., SG, 6-3, Marion H.S. (Marion, Ind.), signed with Indiana
Justin Jackson, WG, 6-7, Homeschool Christian Youth Association (Spring, Texas), signed with North Carolina
Tyus Jones, PG, 6-1, Apple Valley Senior H.S.. (Apple Valley, Minn.), signed with Duke
Trey Lyles, PF, 6-9, Arsenal Technical H.S. (Indianapolis), signed with Kentucky
Jahlil Okafor, C, 6-11, Whitney Young Magnet H.S. (Chicago), signed with Duke
Kelly Oubre, WF, 6-7, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), signed with Kansas
L.J. Peak, SG, 6-4, Gaffney Senior H.S. (Gaffney, S.C.), signed with Georgetown
Karl Towns, C, 6-11, St. Joseph H.S. (Metuchen, N.J.), signed with Kentucky
Reid Travis, PF, 6-7, De La Salle H.S. (Minneapolis), signed with Stanford
Rashad Vaughn, SG, 6-5, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), signed with UNLV
Isaiah Whitehead, SG, 6-4, Abraham Lincoln H.S. (Brooklyn, N.Y.), signed with Seton Hall
Shaqquan Aaron, WG, 6-7, Rainier Beach H.S. (Seattle), signed with Louisville
Cliff Alexander, C, 6-9, Curie Metropolitan H.S. (Chicago), signed with Kansas
Devin Booker, SG, 6-5, Moss Point H.S. (Moss Point, Miss.), signed with Kentucky
Kameron Chatman, WG, 6-7, Columbia Christian School (Portland, Ore.), signed with Michigan
Daniel Hamilton, WG, 6-7, St. John Bosco H.S. (Bellflower, Calif.), signed with Connecticut
Stanley Johnson, WG, 6-6, Mater Dei H.S. (Santa Ana, Calif.), signed with Arizona
Chris McCullough, PF, 6-9, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), signed with Syracuse
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, 6-4, Prime Prep (Dallas), signed with SMU
Theo Pinson, WG, 6-6, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.), signed with North Carolina
D’Angelo Russell, SG, 6-4, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), signed with Ohio State
Myles Turner, C, 7-0, Trinity H.S. (Euless, Texas), undecided
Tyler Ulis, PG, 5-9, Marian Catholic H.S. (Chicago Heights), signed with Kentucky
Justise Winslow, WF, 6-6, St. John’s School (Houston), signed with Duke
All four of Kentucky’s fall signees for the 2014 men’s basketball season have been selected to participate in the McDonald’s All-America game it was announced Wednesday evening. Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis were selected to the All-Star game slated for April 2 in the United Center in Chicago.
With all four of UK’s signees earning selection to the McDonald’s game, Kentucky now has 20 players named to the prestigious high school event during the John Calipari era. North Carolina is second with 15 players tabbed to the game.
Towns was selected to the East squad, while Booker, Lyles and Ulis will suit up for the West team. The game will air live on ESPN at 9:30 p.m. ET on April 2.
Booker, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Moss Point, Miss., was named Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in 2012-13, averaging 29.7 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. Booker is rated No. 18 in the 2014 ESPN 100, No. 30 in the Rivals 150 and No. 31 according to Scout.
A 6-10 forward from Indianapolis, Ind., Lyles averaged 17.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks en route to being named Indianapolis City Player of the Year for a second consecutive year as a junior at Arsenal Technical High School. Playing for Team Canada in the 2013 U19 World Championships, Lyles averaged 20.3 points per game.
Towns, a 7-0 forward from St. Joseph’s in Metuchen, N.J., was named the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012-13. Averaging 21.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game, Towns was named First Team All-State and Player of the Year by The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Entering his senior year, Towns has led his St. Joseph’s team to two consecutive state championships in New Jersey.
Ulis is a 5-8 point guard from Chicago Heights, Ill., who averaged 21.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game as a junior for Marian Catholic. Ulis is ranked 29th nationally by Scout and 33rd by Rivals and ESPN. The latest in a line of highly ranked point guards to sign with Kentucky under Coach Calipari, Ulis ranks as the No. 4 point guard in the country by ESPN and No. 6 at his position according to Scout.
Kentucky has signed 40 total McDonald’s All-Americans, including 20 under Calipari since the McDonald’s All-America team began in 1977 with the first game featuring the top players in the nation first played in 1978.
Former and current Wildcats who played in the McDonald’s All-America game previously during Calipari’s tenure include: DeMarcus Cousins (2009), Anthony Davis (2011), Archie Goodwin (2012), Aaron Harrison (2013), Andrew Harrison (2013), Dakari Johnson (2013), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2011), Terrence Jones (2010), Brandon Knight (2010), Doron Lamb (2010), Marcus Lee (2013), Alex Poythress (2012), Julius Randle (2013), Marquis Teague (2011), Kyle Wiltjer (2011), and James Young (2013).
By LARRY VAUGHT
PADUCAH — He played with a sprained wrist and had to leave the game briefly in the first quarter when he cut his tongue, but Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis thought having 14 points, 10 assists and six steals in an 80-63 win for Marian Catholic over Lausanne Collegiate at Mustang Madness was a typical game for him Saturday.
Not only did University of Kentucky fans turn out to see Ulis, but so did UK coach John Calipari and assistants Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne.
“My wrist has been banged up, so I’ve been getting in the lane and finding my teammates, and they’ve been playing very well,” said Ulis after Saturday’s game.
He said having Calipari there to watch him in person for the first time since he signed with UK in November added no pressure.
“I’ve played in front of him a couple times before. There’s no pressure, especially knowing I’m already signed to his school,” the 5-9 guard said. “You have to play no matter who is in the crowd watching. You still have to go out there and try to get a win.
“The fans are a little wowed by my passing, a lot of oohs and ahhs, especially lately because my teammates have been playing so well. Like I said everybody is stepping up, and we’re winning pretty big.”
Question: Do you think Kentucky has the best recruiting class in the country?
Ulis: “Yeah, I believe we’re the best recruiting class in the country. I think we’re No. 2 on ESPN, but at the end of the day, I still think we’re best.”
Question: What will it be like when you have 7-footers to finish your passes to the block next season?
Ulis: “That’s going to be great. I haven’t played with anybody that big or as great as Devin (Booker). He’s the best shooter in the country. Karl (Towns) and Trey (Lyles) are two of the best post players in the country. That’s going to be great. That’s going to be a fun experience.”
Question: How has your season been going?
Ulis: “It’s been going great. We’re 12-1. Everybody has been playing their role, doing their job. We haven’t come out and saying we’re better than people just because we’ve had success. Everybody still comes out and plays hard and tries to win.”
Question: What’s it like being a Kentucky commit and everybody knows that going into the games?
Ulis: “Everybody has a target on my back right now. I had the target on everybody else’s back going through the summer, and now everybody is looking at me like, ‘He’s going to Kentucky. We need to beat him.’ It’s good, but at the same time it helps me because I don’t have to worry about which college I’m going to, and I don’t have to worry about the media (talking about recruiting). I just can focus on playing.”
Question: Is there any point guard you watch that you try to mimic?
Ulis: “I watch Chris Paul. That’s my favorite player, and I think he’s the best point guard in the game right now. I like how he gets his teammates involved and doesn’t force the issue or try to score too much. He makes everybody happy first, and then if he has to score, that’s what he does.”
Question: Did you meet and play with him at his camp?
Ulis: “I got to play him one-on-one. He beat me 3-2. I thought I could have had him because I went up 2-0 at the beginning. He let me shoot a couple shots, and I made them. Then I did a move and the ball just went in and out, so he beat me.”
Question: What do you think you’ve got to improve upon at the next level?
Ulis: “Just get stronger, increase my range and just keep working at my game.”
Question: How important is your 3-point shot?
Ulis: “It’s very important because I have to be able to knock down a long-range shot at my size consistently because people are going to try to sag off of me. If they can’t sag off me, then it’ll be easier for me to get in the lane.”
Question: How do you see the Kentucky offense working next year?
Ulis: “It fits me perfectly because I like to get in the lane. I like to drive and kick, and with Devin on the wing with me, he’s going to knock down most of the shots. We have a 7-footer (Towns), and a 6-10 guy (Lyles) who can shoot 3’s, so the floor is going to be spread out. I’m pretty sure they’re going to have mismatches with bigs trying to match up with them, especially Karl. He’s so versatile. He can step out on the wing or in the post. We’re just going to have a great team.”
Question: How familiar are you with Dominique Hawkins?
Ulis: “I haven’t seen him play much, except from the Kentucky games that I’ve seen him come in and out. But I’ve heard he’s pretty good. Didn’t he win Mr. Basketball in Kentucky? So it’s going to be nice.
Question: Are you friends with Louisville signee Quentin Snider of Ballard?
Ulis: “Me and Q. grew up playing against each other, playing against each other back and forth when we were younger and he played for the Kentucky Tar Heels. We’ve just been going at it for a long time, but we’re close friends. We actually roomed together at the Chris Paul camp. I knew he was going to go back to Louisville because that was his dream school. It’s great that we’re still going to be playing each other like we always have. We’re kind of the same player. We get in the lane. We shoot the ball from deep and get our teammates involved, so some of the same schools wanted us, and we both went to where is best for us.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
PADUCAH — Kentucky coach John Calipari has developed elite point guards, but the Kentucky coach always makes it clear that playing point guard for him is not an easy task.
That could be especially true for 5-9 Tyler Ulis, who is far smaller than point guards — John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Andrew Harrison — Calipari has had at Kentucky.
“I have no worries about that,” said James Ulis, Tyler’s father, before Marian Catholic played in Mustang Madness at McCracken County Saturday night. “At the end of the day, I think if you can’t be coached hard and don’t understand what it takes to be a point guard at Kentucky where it is all about winning and being a leader, you do not need to go there.”
Tyler Ulis, who had 14 points, 10 assists and six steals in 21 minutes in an 80-63 victory over Lausanne Collegiate (Tenn.) Saturday despite playing with a sprained wrist and cutting his tongue in the fist quarter, agrees.
“Kentucky is not the place to be if you are not willing to be competitive. Every day you have to come into practice and work hard and know somebody is trying to take your spot every day. Coach Cal is going to recruit the top players, so you have to work hard,” Tyler Ulis said.
“My ultimate goal is to make it to the NBA. That’s why I am here. Coach Cal really produces point guards. It is a list that goes on forever. He does a great job with point guards, but he’s hardest on his point guards as you can see in the game and on TV. He is just hard, but I like that.
“A lot of people tell me that they don’t know if Kentucky is for you because of this and that and he is so hard on his guards. But I knew that even before he started recruiting me and I accept that. That’s what I have to live through. He’s great at his job, so obviously I have to listen to him.”
James Ulis said one reason he sent his son to Marian Catholic was because of its academics. Another reason was he would have to work to improve against quality competition every game.
“He’s not playing with four-star, Division I guys. He’s had to carry the load, but he’s the leading scorer and leads in assists,” James Ulis said. “He holds himself more accountable than the coach does. He is tougher on himself than the coach. He gets it. I try to help him and let him know how tough his role is. He doesn’t get chewed out much now because he does what he is supposed to do
“When I watch Calipari, guys get in trouble for not giving the ball up, not guarding. Tyler does a lot of those things well. He’s a student of the game and will do what it takes to get better. He will gain weight, and maybe grow.
“But if he stays the same size, he knows he’s got to be one of the toughest players in the world to make it to the league (NBA). We get that. But Calipari has shown he can develop point guard. If you don’t believe that, just look at who has the most point guards in the league. For Tyler, he knows there is something John is doing to create opportunities for point guards and he coaches them hard because it is the most important position on the floor. So Calipari being hard on him does not bother me. I think he tries to play error-free basketball, and Calipari will like that.”
James Ulis says playing in the open court and not worrying about being double-teamed so often will help his son utilize his quickness even more.
“He will get the opportunity to play man on man on a 94-foot floor, and I can’t wait to see that,” James Ulis said. “He is really good with the ball. He’s 5-9 and can’t just dunk. He has to create, has to make the right decisions. If he was 6-8 and could dunk or just turn around and score, it would be different. But everything with him is about moving. He’s in a tough league and has had to learn how to play.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
New Jersey 7-foot center Karl Towns, the first player in the 2014 recruiting class to commit to Kentucky, is off to a solid start averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds per game for St. Joseph High School. He nearly had a quadruple double in a recent win over Woodbridge when he had 20 points, 14 rebounds, nine blocks and eight assists. He even had two steals.
Brian Fitzsimmons (@FitzWriter on Twitter), senior writer/editor for MSG Varsity and contributor to various other media outlets, has watched Towns during his prep career and offered these insights on the future Wildcat.
Question: Is he a potential one-and-done type player in your mind?
Fitzsimmons: “That’s a great question. Part of me says he is a one-and-done player simply because of his great skill-set and the recent trends of players ranked as high as him in the latter stages of high school. However, I honestly could see Karl staying past his freshman year. I’ve gotten to know him very well over the last three years and he is very serious about his education — especially studying kinesiology. MSG Varsity produced a documentary on Karl last season entitled ‘Center of Attention’ and he showed how school work truly is a top priority.
“He maintains a 4.0 GPA and went to visit actual doctors to obtain advice about getting internships involving the field of kinesiology. In addition, if he isn’t a top-flight player as a freshman with the Wildcats, I bet he stays. Karl has a thirst to thrive at every level, and he’ll keep at it until that happens.”
Question: Is he a player that will embrace the attention/spotlight at Kentucky?
Fitzsimmons: “Without a doubt. Karl is arguably the most personable player I’ve ever covered in my career. He’s a big kid at heart and simply loves people. You come across so many players who can’t wait for interviews to be over with. But Karl, I can’t get rid of him. For instance, I had a long, sit-down interview with him at his house in Piscataway, N.J., and when I was finished asking questions for about an hour, he begged me to check out his new golf club collection.
“He’s extremely friendly, takes pride in being an ambassador for St. Joseph (Metuchen) High School, and makes sure to stay an extra 20 minutes to sign autographs and take pictures with little kids after games. And, believe me, the line of people trying to meet him following every game is very long.
“Karl’s outreach to the community is incredible, too. He has made a lot of time to help young children, including those with autism at the Reed Academy in Oakland. He came after school one day to read books and shoot hoops with the kids. They loved him. But, then again, everybody does.”
Question: What’s the general perception of him in your area and feeling about him coming to Kentucky?
Fitzsimmons: “Karl has built a reputation as somebody who is an elite basketball player, but a better person. He’ll likely contribute a great deal to Calipari’s team next season and strengthen the locker room chemistry. He’s one of those players that will instantly become a fan favorite.
“Fans in New Jersey are very excited about Karl choosing Kentucky. After all, the same hoops community rallied around former St. Patrick star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist becoming a member of the Wildcats and winning a national title.”
* * *
Fitzsimmons wrote a book, “Celtic Pride: How Coach Kevin Boyle took St. Patrick to the Top of High School Basketball” and much of the story features from UK star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/celtic-pride-brian-fitzsimmons/1114367827?ean=9781462063703). Also here is a link MSG Varsity’s documentary “Center of Attention” written and directed by Larry Berger (http://www.msgvarsity.com/new-jersey/watch-center-of-attention-1.1498443