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By LARRY VAUGHT
Normally John Calipari holds his press conferences before practice on the day before Kentucky plays. Today he changed that — but he had a good reason.
Calipari was in Rupp Arena to watch Madison Central beat Wayne County in the opening game of the state tournament because he wanted to watch Central star Dominique Hawkins play.
Hawkins scored 25 points in an 81-56 win. The 6-1 senior hit 11 of 17 from the floor on mostly layups.
Hawkins’ cousin is former Central and UK standout Marquis Estill, who is now a UK graduate assistant. Hawkins remembers going to watch Estill play in high school
“He has put a bug in their (UK coaches) ear about me. That’s one reason they are calling,” Hawkins said after the game.
He said the UK staff had talked to his coach about scholarship possibilities.
“They have one left, so hopefully they might give it to me,” Hawkins said.
He said he didn’t know how decisions by top five players Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins, who have UK in their final lists of schools, could impact his chances of joining the Wildcats.
He has four offers, including Western Kentucky and Morehead. He’s visited Western, the first school that offered him a scholarship.
Vaught’s note: Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart discussed a variety of subjects with Guy Ramsey of Cat Scratches for ukathletics.com. Here are some of the highlights I thought you would find interesting.
CS: Moving on to football specifically, expectations on the part of fans and experts are relatively low for this season, while many around the program seem to have a quiet confidence that the team is better and more talented than outsiders think. For the sake of ticket sales, you would obviously prefer that fans would agree, but are there also positives associated with being under the radar?
Barnhart: I think, sometimes, you need to be able to play with a chip on your shoulder a little bit. I think that’s what we’re going to have to do this year. We’re going to have to play with a chip on our shoulder. People aren’t giving us much of an opportunity to compete and I think you’re going to have use that as a rallying cry around your program. You’re going to have to believe in one another. We’re going to have to have some things go our way. We’ve got to stay a little bit injury-free and we’ve got to stay clear of that. And we’ve got to be able to go out and perform.
We’ve got some young people certainly capable of that and I think we’ve got a really good group of coaches. They believe in one another and they believe in our kids. That’s the first step. I’d agree with you. I think there is a gentle confidence about them, but we’ve got to go out and prove that.
CS: Another much-discussed topic is the Alumni Charity Game at Rupp Arena at 2 p.m. on Sept. 15. What kind of thought went into planning that and why do you believe it can be a successful doubleheader with football’s home game at 7 p.m. against Western Kentucky that same day?
MB: You’ve got some restrictions about when you can play the game and do those kinds of games by NBA rules. We’ve got a unique set of alumni – probably a different alumni base than most programs have – an alumni base of over 20 NBA guys, and it’s growing rapidly. To have a unique group of folks that want to come back and be a part of something like that at Kentucky is very different from a lot of places.
I’ve always been a believer in creating multiple things for your fans to be a part of on a weekend and let them enjoy a lot of things. It goes back to what we talked about with the culture here. Just being able to share assets and share ideas and share fan bases and share things that promote Kentucky in total rather than one thing individually I think is really, really important. If we can use the incredible traditions we have in basketball to help augment people wanting to come be a part of an incredible weekend with Hall of Fame Weekend and Alumni Weekend and Western Kentucky, what an opportunity for us to do that.
CS: The Alumni Game is just the latest example of the department reaching out to former student-athletes. Across sports, former Wildcats are joining coaching staffs and being invited to be more involved with the program. Why do you believe that to be so important?
MB: I think that Joker has done a great job of bring guys back in the program and allowing them to work and begin their careers. That fosters that sense of family that we are trying to create. We want people in our program that love Kentucky and understand Kentucky and take great pride in what we do. To have Jeremy Jarmon, Andre’ Woodson, Glenn Holt, Sam Simpson, Braxton Kelley and Tyler Sargent back on your staff in football (as director of player personnel) or to have a Marquis Estill who comes back to get his degree and works on (the basketball) staff and (former student assistant) Wayne Turner now out there in the working world out there representing Kentucky is really good. You’ve got Tony Delk and Scott Padgett out there in basketball (now assistant coaches at New Mexico State and Samford, respectively, after a stint on Calipari’s UK staff).
Most of our coaches are beginning to reach out and pull those folks back. There was a time when there weren’t a whole lot of folks interested in coming back to be a part of this, but that has become more the norm. Our athletes are now wanting to be a part of us differently than they have in the past. I think that’s very helpful to us.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky head coach John Calipari is pleased to announce the addition of former UK forward Marquis Estill to the 2012-13 men’s basketball staff as an undergraduate student assistant coach.
Estill, who is currently finishing his undergraduate degree at UK, will assist pre-, during and post-practice and primarily focus on working with UK’s forwards.
“I’m really excited about joining the staff this season,” Estill said. “I’m very grateful that Coach Cal is giving me this opportunity. He is a great coach, and I look forward to working with him and this talented team.”
Per NCAA rules returning former players who are working toward their undergraduate degree can be used as on-court staff. With that opportunity Estill, who was a part of two Southeastern Conference title teams at UK, will join a list of former Wildcats and Calipari assistants and former players who have returned to their schools to finish their degrees.
Estill finished his career with 936 points, despite playing only three seasons. He was named Second Team All-SEC in 2003, his junior season while also earning All-NCAA Regional team honors as well as SEC All-Tournament team honors.
“I am so happy to bring back Marquis as an undergraduate assistant on our staff,” Calipari said. “One thing I always tell our players is that they are always welcome back here, especially to get their degree. This is a players-first program, and we will always be here for them in whatever capacity they need. I applaud Marquis for coming back to finish his degree, and I encourage all of our former players to do the same.
“It’s great that we get to help guys like Marquis or Wayne (Turner) or Tony Delk or Scott Padgett – all guys who are members of our family – to get a start in coaching and help them pursue their goals,” Calipari said.