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Orlando Antigua

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even though there is still no official word from Kentucky, Pittsburgh has announced that assistant coach Barry Rohrssen is leaving to join John Calipari’s staff at UK and fill the vacancy created when Orlando Antigua left to become head coach at South Florida.

The move has been rumored since Antigua’s departure even though Calipari has continually denied that Rohrssen was No. 1 on his list.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told Paul Zeise of the PIttsburgh Post-Gazette that Rohrssen was offered a raise to stay at Pitt and that he will be missed.

“I am happy for him as he is to the point in his career and his life now that he is getting married and presumably gonna start a family that he felt like he needed to take this opportunity in order to get where he wants to be in his career. Barry has been a great asset to Pitt, he has done a great job and I wish him nothing but the best but we will move on and we will start the process of replacing him now,” Dixon told Zeise.

Rohrssen returned to Pitt lafter a stint as an assistant coach for the Idaho Stampede (NBDL). He’d worked at Pitt from 1999-2006 then became the head coach at Manhattan before he lost his job after the 2011 season.

Rohrssen and Calipari have been friends and he will give UK the proven recruiter it lost with Antigua.

uk basketball logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

With all the attention focused on what Kentucky players might leave early for the NBA, it’s been easy to forget that coach John Calipari needs to add someone to replace Orlando Antigua.

Not only was Antigua a top-notch recruiter, but he was also a man that players could trust. He was someone who always had a smile and positive outlook. He could tell a player why Calipari was busting their butt with a smile on his face and make them feel better about it.

One name that seems to be surfacing a lot if Barry Rohrssen, an assistant coach at Pittsburgh and a proven recruiter, especially in the New York area. He was an assistant at Pitt fro 1999-2006 and head coach at Manhattan fro 2006-2011. He spent the next year working with the Portland Trailblazers before going back to Pitt last season as an assistant.

His personality would seem to be one that would mesh with Calipari nicely and his recruiting contacts certainly would seem to be a plus as well.

Calipari has given no indication when he may fill the vacancy on his staff, or if he will replace Rod Strickland, a personal assistant, who is also apparently leaving to join Antigua at South Florida.

 

 

By LARRY VAUGHT

Before his son took an official visit to Duke, Mark Kennard was sure that he would either pick Kentucky or Ohio State to play his college basketball. Instead, Luke Kennard liked everything about his trip to Duke — it reminded him of the small town intimacy of Franklin, Ohio — and the 6-6 junior guard announced this week he would sign with Duke.

“He was adamant about where he wanted to do. He sent me a text at work even,” Mark Kennard said. “I asked him what about taking official visits to Kentucky and Ohio State just to make sure, but he said that would just be a waste of their time and unfair to them. I really liked John Calipari and Thad Matta, but Luke had to be selfish picking a school. It’s his life and he has to do what he likes.”

Still, Kennard was a player that seemed destined to play at Kentucky. There are numerous UK fans in Franklin. His parents are Kentucky fans. His grandfather has had UK basketball season tickets. He grew up a Kentucky fan and in his room there is a frame photo of him when he was young getting his shirt signed at a Kentucky game by players with him wearing a UK uniform.

“Duke is on a big stage, but he felt comfortable with the small town setting,” Mark Kennard said. “I was always a huge Kentucky fan. Luke was, too.  Kentucky has great people and that’s what makes this tough.

“Those are tough calls to make to coaches at Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan and North Carolina. We actually waited three or four days to make sure what Luke wanted to do and then I wasn’t going to call those coaches right as they started NCAA play. I waited until they were through playing last weekend.

“Coach Cal was on a plane when (assistant) Orlando (Antigua) called me. They were great about it. I think they were disappointed, but they understood. It’s part of the business but it was tough on Jennifer (Luke’s mom), Luke and I because we had built relationships with these people.  Jennifer cried all day and had to leave the house when we were making the calls. The guys at Kentucky were great to us. They didn’t holler at us or cuss us when we told them. They were classy and understood. They were disappointed, but they wished Luke well. I really liked coach Cal, and our whole family did. That’s what made it tough.”

Local Kentucky fans were disappointed, too.

“Some UK fans were very happy for us, some probably hate us now,” Mark Kennard said. “But they all know Luke had to go where he felt most comfortable. I am proud of Luke for making a decision and knowing what he wants. He wants us to see him play, but I told him never to let that be a roadblock to where he went. The UK fans here who know him feel the same way even though I know how much they were all hoping he would go to Kentucky.”

Alex Poythress shoots in the win over LSU. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

Alex Poythress shoots in the win over LSU. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua is always a positive person and it’s no surprise he had an optimistic outlook on the extra work sophomore Alex Poythress has been putting in during his recent slump.

“Alex has continued to work, and that’s the only way that … Willie got himself out of his little couple-of-games rut by working through it, and Alex is doing the same,”Antigua said. “We hope that he’ll continue to put that work in and that he’ll see the results of the work he previously had done and was having success with.

“It’s a little bit up and down, and the season is that way. You’ve just got to kind of manage those. Can’t be too high, can’t be too low. Just keep working through the process in between.”

UK coach John Calipari photo by Clay Jackson. All rights reserved.

UK coach John Calipari photo by Clay Jackson. All rights reserved.

By LARRY VAUGHT

When Orlando Antigua said that UK coach John Calipari is “coaching like he’s 35,” that prompted a question Wednesday about whether UK has an assistant coach assigned to Calipari to keep him from going too far on the court — or with officials.

“I don’t think that’s something that’s conversed or talked about. You just kind of – you know, Cal is very passionate and he’s coaching like he is 35, which is great. At the same time, as a staff, we have to help him at times if that’s the case, making sure he’s staying in the coach’s box – which is hard,” Antigua said.

Does that mean he always has to keep an eye on  his boss?

“No, we’re watching the game so we know what’s transpiring,” Antigua said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Late in Saturday’s overtime win over LSU, Kentucky freshman Julius Randle decided to take over guarding Johnny O’Bryant, LSU’s best inside player. It was a move that Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua said Wednesday that he liked.

“That’s what it’s about. Those guys are on the court. As coaches, all we try to do is put them in the best position to go out there and compete and win,” said Antigua. “And when they get to that point where they’re empowered that way and they can communicate to one another, that’s what we try to get them to. When coach Cal (John Calipari)  is talking about this being their team, those are moments that it becomes their team and not a coach-driven team.”

Randle said he didn’t go to Calipari about the move but just told teammates to let him switch off on O’Bryant.

“He was just making a couple tough baskets in the overtime period and I wanted to win. So I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team. On offense, every time I caught the ball they were crowding me, trapping and stuff like that so the biggest thing Coach has really been getting on me about is affecting the game in different ways. It’s not about scoring and that’s how I wanted to affect the game,” Randle said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua was glad to see UK players celebrate the way they did after Saturday’s overtime win over LSU.

“You want them to have fun, especially toward the end of the year. They have put in a lot of hard work and you want them to enjoy their rewards for working that hard,” Antigua said Wednesday.

He likes the way the players are even slapping the floor when the play defense.

“It gets them out of themselves and into each other. When you have that kind of passion and energy, it helps,” Antigua said. “I just think they are enjoying the moment and playing the game the way we ask them to and they are getting enjoyment from that.”

He says the players play so much basketball all year, that now it is just a matter of “if it clicks and they enjoy working together.” That’s why he said seeing the “pure joy” of Saturday’s win was what the coaching staff had been working to se.

“We want them to understand that that is what it is supposed to feel like,” Antigua said.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Mississippi is led by Marshall Henderson, who averages 18.7 points per game and leads the SEC with 4.2 3-pointers per game. But junior guard Jarvis Summers is one of the most improved players in the SEC as he ranks eighth in the league in scoring at 17.8 points per game and has increased his scoring 8.7 points per game over his last season average.

“Marshall and Jarvis are playing as well as any guards, not only in the SEC, but (in all of) college basketball,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said.
The Wildcats know they have to contain Henderson.

“I know he’s like a really enthusiastic player. He’s a great player, can really shoot the ball, stuff like that. So we’re going to have to be ready to play on Tuesday,” freshman guard Andrew Harrison said Monday.

Henderson, who has made a 3-pointer in 54 straight games, can also be a bit emotional on the court and his antics off irritate opposing players and fans.

“You just try not to pay attention to that and try not to feed into it and just play the basketball game,” Harrison said. “I’ve never played against him, but from watching tape and stuff, definitely a pretty tough person to guard because he’s always looking for his shot. He can always go off a screen.”
Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua says the Cats know Henderson is “going to shoot” and have to be ready.

“He is a talented, talented player and it’s going to be a good challenge for our guys. Not just for our guards, but for our entire team to make it difficult on him. He is going to get his shots up. We know that. It’s what he has done his whole career there at Ole Miss, so we are just going to have to try and make it difficult for him,” Antigua said.

“Obviously he doesn’t have a green light, he has no light and he is really active and those guys are really looking for him. Ole Miss does a good job of trying to get him in positions and screen for him so that he can come off and do what he does. So we have our hands full.”

The UK assistant said Henderson was “unique” and not like other players.

“He shoots it out 30 feet so, I don’t know if you can push him out any further than that. Our success last year was that we moved the ball, and we scored the ball really well. Obviously, Nerlens (Noel) had a great impact on defending the rim,” Antigua said. “We just have to try and continue to make it difficult for him. He is going to get his shots up. We just have to have a hand in his face, make it as difficult as possible, control the rebounds, and see if we can get out and get some easy baskets in transition.”

video courtesy Kentucky Wildcats TV

By LARRY VAUGHT

What did Kentucky coach John Calipari tell his players after the game?

“We have to finish games,” assistant coach Orlando Antigua said was Calipari’s message. “Playing on the road in conference games, small things come into play. Executing. Listening out of timeouts. Obviously, rebounding and getting loose balls. It came down to that. A couple of 50-50 plays and free throws.”

Antigua did the final portion of Calipari’s postgame show on the UK Radio Network with Tom Leach after the overtime loss at Arkansas Tuesday.

Leach asked him how he felt point guard Andrew Harrison played against Arkansas’ pressure (Antigua had to help separate Aaron Harrison from a taunting Arkansas fan when the two exchanged words as UK tried to leave the court after the game).

“He did hold up, but he has to continue to get better. They all do, especially defensively and finishing out games. In conference games, it’s going to be tight, especially on the road.”

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