Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky gets the Gator off its back, beats Florida 75-70 in SEC semis
- Willie Cauley-Stein says Cats “obviously 100 percent” believe they can beat No. 1 Florida
- John Calipari has assigned assistants to monitor players’ minutes in games
- Kentucky Wildcats TV: How you approach the end
- John Calipari says Kentucky must “make some jump shots” to play with Florida
- John Calipari: “To have people say this team is done, I just don’t believe it”
- Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood will be “getting in their ears” to tell teammates about March play
- ESPN’s Jay Bilas has fun watching Gators, a team without “big shots going pro” after one year
By LARRY VAUGHT
Jeff Sheppard thinks current Kentucky basketball players have a “little” sense of UK history, but not as much as they probably should.
“I would have been the same way if I left after my freshman year (for the NBA),” said Sheppard. “I came in and had Travis Ford, Jared Prickett, Gimel Martinez and Jeff Brassow, all veteran players, to take me under their wings. Travis Ford would take me home to Madisonville and that’s when I really knew this Kentucky basketball thing was unbelievable. I don’t know how many current players get to do that now and go around the state and see what Kentucky basketball is all about. There is a respect for the tradition, but it is just different.
“I have a great relationship with Rex (Chapman), Sam (Bowie), Kyle (Macy) and all those old Kentucky basketball players that used to play a long time ago. Us young guys have a real respect for them. But I was at UK five years.”
Sheppard thinks current players also miss the benefit of having Bill Keightley, UK’s long-time equipment manager who was known as Mr. Wildcat for his years of work, around daily like he did. Keightley passed away before UK coach John Calipari arrived.
“One guy we miss at Kentucky basketball more than any individual to bridge the gap from old and new was Bill Keightley. He was the last one to bridge gap from Cotton Nash to Demarcus Cousins,” Sheppard said. “He did it well with few words. He knew everybody and everybody loved him. When he passed away, I never thought I could miss a non-family member as much as Mr. Keightley.”
Sheppard said players always found time to visit Keightley, and he always welcomed them and entertained them with UK stories.
“When you had an hour between appointments, you would stop by the equipment room. You did not go to see the coaches or the gym or the (Wildcat) Lodge. You went to the equipment room,” Sheppard said. “You might see the governor talking to Dan Issel. You might see coach Pitino talking to Ralph Beard. In between was Mr. Keightley telling a story.
“He bridged everything together. He was best recruiter of all time at Kentucky. He had way about him about how to work hard and treat people right without saying a word. You just had to watch him. We miss him a lot.”
Sheppard also offered a variety of other insights last week during his talk at the Ohio UK Convention.
By LARRY VAUGHT
The Cats have been without sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow the last two games and there has been no update on his status for Wednesday other than information released Friday that he was “day to day” before he missed that game with an unknown illness. Morehead State coach Sean Woods thinks not having Harrow has changed UK’s mentality.
“I think now they become instead of one of the top teams to beat, they are now one of the biggest underdogs in the country. They are like a wounded dog. That’s even more scary because you do not know where they will hit you,” Woods, a former point guard, said.
He has been impressed with UK freshman Archie Goodwin, who has primarily played the point with Harrow out.
“He is relentless. He is not scared to make mistakes,” Woods said. “I would rather try to calm a guy down than speed him up. Cal has that luxury. I think as the season goes on he will become one of the most dynamic players in the country.”
Kentucky freshman forward Alex Poythress is the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after averaging 21 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against Duke and Lafayette. He had 20 points against Duke and 22 against Lafayette to become the first UK freshman since Brandon Knight to have consecutive 20-point efforts.
Former UK All-American Kyle Macy compared him to former Wildcat Jamal Mashburn on FoxSports South last week. Woods thought that might have been a bit brash.
“Jamal Mashburn. Wow. I don’t know about that one,” Woods said. “Jamal was pretty daggone good and could do more things than Poythress can. I think Poythress is more of a banger trying to be skilled. I don’t see him shooting 3’s a lot in his career. Jamal could shoot 3’s. I think he is very, very good. Don’t get me wrong. But a Jamal Mashburn, that’s going too far. Jamal Mashburn might be the most talented player ever to wear the Big Blue all around.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s got a long list of celebrities again participating, but Jacob Tamme knows why the third annual Swings For Soldiers Classic July 16 in Lexington again looks like it is going to be a successful fundraiser for Homes for Our Troops.
“We have people who care about what we are doing,” said Tamme, the former Boyle County and University of Kentucky standout who now plays for the Denver Broncos. “There are so many things for people to be involved with that are good causes, but here you see the impact you can have on a family.”
Homes for Our Troops has a simple mission: To build specially adapted homes for wounded veterans as the needs grows because more servicemen and women are coming home without the mobility needed to operate in their previous home.
The golf scramble July 16 at Keene Run Golf Club will again have 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. rounds, the same format as last year after the first event in 2010 had only one set of tee times. Tamme has slightly reduced the number of teams playing in the morning and afternoon to make the rounds go faster. He also has a few spots left for four-member teams in the morning rounds (go to http://www.swingsforsoldiers.org for more information). There will be a 6:30 p.m. dinner and silent auction to conclude the fundraiser.
“We’ve had a few folks that have participated in the past that can’t for different reasons, but we’ve had new ones come in,” Tamme said. “We feel like we put on a neat event and it is for a great cause.”
His celebrity guest list can change but it will include UK football coach Joker Phillips for the first time as well as UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart. Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will also play as well as Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb unless he has a late scheduling conflict. Former UK quarterbacks Shane Boyd, Bill Ransdell and Jared Lorenzen will play
Former UK basketball players Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty and Antoine Walker are all possibilities. Former UK All-American guard Kyle Macy will play along with Mike Pratt, a former UK basketball standout and current analyst on the UK Radio Network.
Tamme’s former Indianapolis teammate, quarterback Curtis Paynter, is also coming back. He’s now with the Baltimore Ravens.
County music singer John Michael Montgomery has also indicated he’ll play.
“We will have five or six military guests as celebrity golfers, too,” Tamme said. “Ken Preston, the new president for Home for Our Troops, will also play golf.”
Tamme is pleased that Kenneth Parker of Evansville will attend also. Proceeds from the event will be going to help fund his new home.
Tamme and his wife, Allison, will be going July 20-22 to go help with the construction. “Allison knows every bit as much about what to do as I do. Basically, they’ll just have to tell us what to do and we will try not to mess up,” Tamme said.
Little goes wrong at the Tammes’ event because of the volunteers, including numerous family members, that help. Tamme also credits Jamie Legate (859-913-9261, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kate Ballard (502-294-0439, email@example.com) for handling even more organizational details this year as he made the move from Indianapolis where he played for four years to Denver.
“It has been a crazy time, but we’ve had so much support for this event,” Tamme said. “Jamie and Kate have been unbelievable.
“We will have a lot of the same volunteers this year, and people enjoy that. We have become friends with several people we did not know before through this event. I also think people enjoy see the family members we have volunteering and working.”
* * *
Anyone wishing to make a donation can go to SwingsforSoldiers.org, click on the donate button and follow instructions. Or you can send a check payable to Homes for Our Troops care of me at Box 149, Danville, Ky., 40422, and I will get the checks to Tamme. I’ll even match the first $100 in donations for this worthy cause.
Louisvilleâ€™s loss to Georgetown on Wednesday was â€œdamagingâ€ to the fourth-ranked Cardinals going into Saturdayâ€™s game at No. 3 Kentucky and ESPN college basketball analyst says thatâ€™s one reason heâ€™s picking the Wildcats to win 74-68. â€œThe only way Louisville has a chance is to make a lot of 3â€™s like Indiana did (when it gave UKâ€ˆits only loss),â€ said Vitale Thursday. â€œIf you donâ€™t make 3â€™s, you donâ€™t beat Kentucky. Louisville will battle, but when it is all said and done, (John) Calipariâ€™s team will not lose on its home court.â€
Vitale also says thereâ€™s no doubt â€œKentucky has absolutely more to loseâ€ in the game than Louisville because of lofty preseason expectations for Calipariâ€™s team.
â€œKentucky has more to lose, Louisville has more to gain,â€ Vitale said. â€œThe standard is so high for Kentucky, this is a game they have to win.â€
Hereâ€™s how other national and state media members responded when asked who would win the game and which team had more to lose/gain in the game.
Question: Who do you think will win Saturdayâ€™s Kentucky-Louisville game and why?
Kyle Macy, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports Talk: â€œI will take Kentucky! I think the home court will be the difference.Â U of L has only played one game outside of the KFC Yum Center so far and that was at Butler, who is having a down year.Â Seemingly, all Big East teams are taking this approach of playing only home games vs non-conference opponents so as to build up a high numbers of wins and thereby a higher RPI.Â (see Syracuse, there recent game at NC State was their first true non-conference road game since 2008)Â Then, with these elevated rankings, when they lose multiple games in conference it doesn’t hurt their rankings.Â Granted the Cards have played some good teams, but playing on the road can be a challenge, and you never know how a team will react?â€
Michael DeCourcy, Sporting News: â€œAt least on the front end, that doesn’t seem like a tough question. Kentucky has the better players and is playing at home. That should get it done. But the Wildcats would be wise to not leave it close at the end, and absolutely to play to the final buzzer. One thing Louisville does as well as anyone: believe. Sometimes I think they’re changing clothes in the locker room after a loss and still trying to figure out a way to turn it into a win.â€
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: â€œKentucky has proven to be a tough team to beat under John Calipari at Rupp Arena and I don’t think it will change against an instate rival. Louisville is ranked right behind Kentucky in the polls, but, Louisville’s roster isn’t interchangeable like Kentucky’s and the Wildcats have proved they can win without Terrence Jones. Louisville is a good team, but I really don’t think the Cardinals can matchup with Kentucky’s size in the post and won’t have answer for Anthony Davis inside. The return of Jones, along with Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist give the Wildcats an edge in this one.â€
Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook: â€œI think Kentucky will win, for a couple of reasons. I think the home-court advantage for Kentucky has become huge in coach Calipariâ€™s three seasons. And I think Kentuckyâ€™s frontcourt is more talented and physical than Louisvilleâ€™s.â€
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: â€œI definitely think UK will win. The Cats hold all of the Cards, so to speak, with talent and home court advantage at the top of list. Louisville’s only chance is that they catch the Cats a little flat and there is NO way that Cal and the Big Blue Nation will let that happen.â€
Matt Jones, Kentucky Sports Radio: â€œI will take Kentucky due to the combination of more offensive weapons and home court advantage. Both teams can play defense, but I simply don’t see how UL will be able to score on Kentucky. They don’t have the offensive firepower of UK and will be unable to get the easy baskets that the Cats can produce.â€
Jacqueline Sprague, WTVQ: â€œI think Kentucky will win the Louisville game. It will be a tough battle but I donâ€™t think the Cards have enough ammo to beat the loaded Cats team, especially with T. Jones playing. However, this ESPN magazine coming out with Anthony Davis adds a little more fuel to the fire.â€
Alan Cutler, WLEX-TV: â€œI like UK and not because I work in Lexington. Itâ€™s at Rupp. UK has better talent. But for those UK fans who hate Louisville and donâ€™t give them any credit, so far this year when it comes to playing offense, pretty is not the word you would use. But they play defense and they are tough. March tough? No. December tough. For UK fans, the raw power of the athletes often makes some exciting plays, but pretty is not a word you would use for their offense. UK is still trying to figure out their rolls and has a long ways to go when it comes to playing together. But, for a young team they play defense and they are tougher than Cal tells us. But, Cal is right, they arenâ€™t March tough. December tough? Yes.
â€œLook for a low scoring game. Hope that the refs donâ€™t decide the game with blowing the whistle too early and too often with too many of the best players sitting and watching. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist says he wonâ€™t change how he plays. But heâ€™s been picking up â€˜twoâ€™ fouls quickly.Â Scoring eight points in the first half against Lamar is okay.Â Playing only seven minutes in the first half because he was in foul trouble isnâ€™t.â€
Mark Mathis, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer: â€œUK will win the game 77-68. It has more overall talent than UofL, although the Cardinals have decent depth despite all their injuries. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist need to continue to play strong inside and in the lane. Terrence Jones needs to have a much better effort than he did at Indiana.â€
Mark Buerger, WLAP: â€œUK wins. I’m hard pressed to find a position where Louisville has an advantage over Kentucky (maybe Siva, but he can just as well play Louisville out of a game as play them into one). Between that and the game being at Rupp, it’s UK’s to lose.
By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky lost at North Carolina early in the 2010-11 season, it was possible to project that Kentucky would be a better team if the two teams met again later in the season because of the dependence the Wildcats had on freshmen.
Kentucky did come back and beat North Carolina in March, too, in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
But what if the two teams play again in the NCAA Tournament this season? Which team figures to have improved more from the time of UKâ€™s one-point win last week until March Madness rolls around?
â€œI like UK’s upside more as they are younger and still learning, plus with the season they will gain valuable experience. Not to mention the talent level is pretty good,â€ said former UK All-American point guard Kyle Macy, who now works as a TV color analyst and is also a Lexington radio sports talk show host.
Both teams are good. Really good.
And donâ€™t forget that even with North Carolinaâ€™s older roster, the Tar Heels also have some talented newcomers and the team will likely improve as players become more accustomed to playing together.
Kentucky has a senior â€” Darius Miller â€” playing in coach John Calipariâ€™s system for the third season. Two others, sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, are in year two. For Calipari, that could be as much experience as heâ€™ll have among his top seven players while heâ€™s coaching at Kentucky.
â€œIf I am doing my job, players are leaving here,â€ said Calipari. â€œIf I coach them right, they will be ready to move on (to the NBA).â€
With the high level talent he recruits, heâ€™s right.
Still,â€ˆMacy sees a big upside for Kentucky. The Wildcats have four freshmen â€” Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer â€” among the top seven players and itâ€™s impossible to believe all will not be better in March than they are now even though they have already been good enough to help beat Kansas and North Carolina.
â€œBut I also think a guy like (senior Eloy) Vargas is going to keep getting better,â€â€ˆMacy said. â€œThe whole bench is doing what it is asked to do. Just come in and be solid. Thatâ€™s what they need from Vargas, and heâ€™s doing it. Block shots. Rebound. Play defense. Be physical.â€ˆIf he can do that for eight to 10 minutes, thatâ€™s huge for Kentucky.â€
If Vargas can do that, and it seems Calipari is starting to believe he can, it makes it easier to give Davis and/or Jones a needed break.
â€œKentucky is so young, you know it will develop and improve,â€â€ˆMacy said. â€œI think with North Carolina, you may already know what you are going to get.
â€œThe talent level, from top to bottom, is better at Kentucky. Calipari may not play as many players and the last guy may not be as talented as North Carolinaâ€™s guy, but at the top Kentucky is more talented.â€
Heâ€™s right because last weekâ€™s game showed that Kidd-Gilchrist can more than hold his own with North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes, a preseason All-American like Jones. It showed that Davis can hold up inside against Carolinaâ€™s Tyler Zeller and John Henson if he becomes more physical like he did the second half.
â€œThen donâ€™t forget that Wiltjer is going to improve. There are questions about his strength and quickness, but he can bang and rebound,â€â€ˆMacy said. â€œHeâ€™s also such a threat on the perimeter to score, but he can also go inside and do damage like he did against North Carolina. To me, he is maybe the wild card for Kentucky. You can put him in a game and see how he is doing. If he can maintain his own on defense, then you can keep him in and let his offense really cause problems. Teams donâ€™t usually have a guy like that to bring in off the bench.â€
North Carolina coach Roy Williams says Kentucky has one thing most teams donâ€™t have â€” scoring versatility.
â€œThey have the ability to score at every position,â€ Williams said. â€œI think they are trying to get one of their good players an advantage and then be a basketball player. The lateral screen underneath is tough to handle, the flat screen out front,â€ Williams said. â€œWe were pretty good defensively, they made some big time shots and itâ€™s hard for a coach to say we were good defensively when they shot 56 percent in the second half. But theyâ€™re willing to run some clock also.
â€œItâ€™s not just throw up the first bad shot. So for me, Iâ€™d like it a lot better if John would let them take bad shots but I donâ€™t think they did that. I think what he was doing offensively is what they work on every day. If they take some bad shots it usually helps us and I didnâ€™t see many.â€
Thatâ€™s because Kentucky did maintain its poise against the more experienced Tar Heels and won a December game that no one would have been shocked to see the Cats lose. But the good news for UK is that the players seem to understand they not only can get better, but they must get better.
â€œWe felt like this was a test to see where we are at, playing against one of the best teams in the country, and we come out with a W,â€ Miller said after the North Carolina game. â€œI think we are pretty happy and proud about it, but we know we aren’t exactly where we want to be.â€
And thatâ€™s why if the two teams do play again, one has to believe UKâ€ˆwill be an even better team.