Most Recent Posts
- Swiss Cat Part 2: Larry continues his adventure in Switzerland
- Brumbaugh understands junior college talent, feels he can bring JUCO players to UK
- Volleyball training, personality will both help Marcus Lee at Kentucky
- UK coach Mark Stoops was patient with Neal Brown because he was “all-in” on hiring him
- UK signee Marcus Lee overcame early education struggles to succeed in academics, athletics
- No. 12 Kentucky and No. 5 Arizona State to start best-of-three NCAA Super Regional set Saturday at 10 p.m. ET
- Stoops: Hiring Neal Brown to run Kentucky offense was a “no-brainer for me”
- Nunley, Cumbess Propel No. 12 UK Softball to Super Regionals
By LARRY VAUGHT
This is turning into quite a week for Madison Central standout Dominique Hawkins.
He led his team to a win over Wayne County in the state tournament Wednesday and then had a sensational second half here Friday to help the Indians outlast Holmes 65-61 in overtime to reach Saturday’s semifinals. He had 31 points on 10-for-27 shooting — he was only 3-for-14 the first half — along with 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks while playing every second of the game.
It was also the second straight game that Kentucky coach John Calipari was in Rupp Arena to watch him. And after Wednesday’s game, Hawkins even got an invite to UK’s practice.
“It was fun watching practice, too,” said Hawkins. “I met coach Calipari. He was telling me we had a great team. He told me just to keep working and they would keep looking at me.”
Hawkins said he “did not know yet” if a scholarship offer might be coming from Kentucky. However, he said having Calipari and assistant Orlando Antigua come back for a second game led him to believe that UK was indeed intersted.
Hawkins, a UK fan, was a bit overwhelmed when he got the text from Antigua after Wednesday’s game inviting him to practice. He didn’ even have Antigua’s name save in his phone contact list and also had to get permission to miss watching the Holmes-PRP game so he could attend practice.
“They looked like NBA players to me. They were dunking and hitting 3’s. It was great to be there,” Hawkins said. “It was like going to a concert and meeting somebody famous and passing out. I could not believe it. It was like a dream.”
Hawkins said he did pay attention to what UK point guards Ryan Harrow and Jarrod Polson were doing at practice and thought “I could do what they are doing” as he watched. He also said Calipari and Antigua told him they would keep coming to watch him play as long as Central kept winning.
What they saw is an athletic, competitive player who plays with a passion that has been missing at UK too often this season. He didn’t hange his head after a bad shooting half. He didn’t back off taking big shots. He didn’t shy away from contact to go inside and score or rebound. In the fourth quarter, Central had 14 points, and he had them all.
While he says UK is his “dream school” among those interested in him, he didn’t convey that message to Calipari or Antigua.
“I did not say that to them and maybe I should have. But I hope they will see it on TV or Twitter,” Hawkins said.
Coach Allen Feldhaus said any school, including Kentucky, that gets Hawkins will be happy.
“He’s a great player and great person. I don’t see how anybody, including Kentucky, could go wrong with him,” Feldhaus said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Karl Towns’ parents were delighted when he picked Kentucky, but his father insisted they did not try to influence him.
“We let him pick the place that would fit him and benefit him,” Karl Towns Sr. said. “He knows the system. He knows Calipari. Kentucky has a great kinesiology program, and he likes that. It came down to Kentucky and Duke. We did not pressure him. When Hurricane Sandy hit and we had not power for two weeks, he put all the pros and cons on the board for the schools he liked. But we didn’t know what he was going to do.”
One plus for Kentucky was assistant coach Orlando Antigua.
“There relationship grew. He did not know coach O until the Dominican team, but the way he worked with him and the fundamentals he stressed impressed Karl,” Towns Sr. said. “All the people out there, he grew to know and like. Everyone on that staff had a key in his development last summer. He got the best of both worlds with all those great coaches and a high level education. But he really liked coach O.”
Kentucky fans have also grown to like the Towns Jr. and communicate with him often on various social media.
“The Kentucky fans have been very good and very active on Twitter especially,” Towns Sr. said. “We monitor that. There are certain things he can’t do. But the Kentucky fans have been so gracious. They have responded great. We are looking forward eventually to his transition to Kentucky. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
BENTON — Bullitt East’s Derek Willis, who signed with Kentucky in November, shared some thoughts about the Wildcats during the Marshall County Hoop Fest.
Question: How often do you talk to coach John Calipari?
Willis: “I talk to coach Cal not as much as (assistant) coach (Orlando) Antigua. I talk to coach Antigua about every other week. I just check in with coach Cal every once in a while.”
Question: What is there about Antigua that makes him such a good recruiter?
Willis: “He is just a good guy. He keeps it real with you. The whole Kentucky staff does, which is what I really liked about them. He is just a real person and just a good overall guy. I think he saw my talent. Even when my rankings dropped, he told me he did not recruit me because my ranking was higher. He recruited me because I could play ball and he stuck with me.”
Question: Do you watch Kentucky play a lot now?
Willis: “Whenever they are on ESPN, I check them out. When they are not, I try to go to somebody else’s house to watch. They are a very talented group. I think once they start clicking and toughing it out and playing through the bumps, they will be fine. I think they will jump back up and have a good season.”
Question: What do you think next year will be like in terms of your class adjusting to college basketball?
Willis: “I think it will be different with our class. People will gell together quicker. Even on the visit I took, it seemed like people were kind of cool with each other. Everybody is like kind of the same personality. I would not say anyone is cocky. We are all humble and just all want to play and win. Me and the twins, James Young and Marcus Lee all got along great on our visit and were all cool with each other. Marcus was not committed at the time but when he left I felt we would add another recruit.”
Question: What do you think of twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, two UK signees who played at Marshall County Friday and Saturday?
Willis: “They are just genuinely good people. I was surprised because some high profile recruits have egos and sometimes they don’t. They are real humble, real down to earth. They are real talented and I wish the best for them.”
Question: What did you do at Big Blue Madness to make such a big impression on their father?
Willis: “I was just being myself. I don’t have an ego. I am about the team. I chose Kentucky because I wanted to win and that’s where the best players go. I talked to him and I hope he knows that I am humble.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He means no disrespect to John Calipari’s current players — and remember that Kentucky had the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class last year again — but St. Joseph (N.J.) High School athletics director Jerry Smith believes 6-11 sophomore Karl Towns is already better than anyone at UK now.
“This is a special kid. We went to the Kentucky-Maryland game (in Brooklyn). We watched the game. I was watching the players at Kentucky right now and just taking in the overall game,” said Smith. “He is better than the kids there now. He can shot beyond the 3-point line. He can dribble. He can go inside or outside.
“Don’t forget he is young (16), too. Wait until he gets stronger and hits the weight room and gets individual attention. The sky is the limit. He is unbelievable. I have never had a kid like this at our school. We have two other kids that will be Division I players, and they are not even close to this kid. He’s that good.”
And it looks like he’s ready to make it clear he wants to play his college basketball at Kentucky. Towns, the nation’s top-ranked sophomore, will make his college choice Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. on regional cable network MSG Varsity. The announcement will be streamed live on www.MSGVarsity.com.
“Everyone here when they were guessing where he would go and he went to Michigan State, Florida and Duke for visits,” Smith said. “Everyone thought with John Calipari coaching the Dominican national team that Karl was a part of last summer and practiced there in Lexington, that he would automatically go to Kentucky. And there is nothing like Kentucky anywhere else. He is on the road to being a pro, and knows Kentucky can help that. He also has a really good relationship with (Kentucky assistant) Orlando Antigua. He really likes him a lot.
“His second choice is really Duke. He does love academics and knows Duke is rated pretty high. I thought Florida had a shot. His mother is Dominica and he has a lot of relatives in Florida. I thought that would be where he would go. But he feels very comfortable at Kentucky and really, really likes Kentucky. He is making the announcement early to stop all phone calls and questions.”
One question that will persist is what graduating class Towns will be part of. He has a 4.2 grade-point average and is already taking accelerated classes. Smith says graduating early has been discussed.
“I do know his last year at our school might be in question,” Smith said. “It might be this year and next year here and then done. The school is going to give him more accelerated classes from college. (NBA player) Andrew Bynum went to school here. So did (NBA player Jay) Williams. They never did that (re-classified). This is all new to us, but it is being discussed.
“Basketball-wise, he is ready for college now. Just the strength would be the only question. As far as the skill level, he is ready now. (Duke) Coach Mike Krzyzewski told him recently that he is better than any guy he has right now. He told him he would start this year. He did a shootaround at Duke with the coaches. He made five 3’s going right, five to the left and then went to halfcourt and hit a shot. Made 11 in a row for the coaches.
“Someone told me yesterday he is actually 7-foot or 7-2 now. He has a size 20 shoe that we special order from Texas. And he is so humble. Most kids with his notoriety could not handle like he does, but he takes it all in stride. He won’t get upset with tough love from Calipari. He doesn’t get nervous. Referees even love him. He just smiles, hugs refs and gives them the ball. He is a great person and great player.”
Smith thinks Towns will be a perfect fit with the kind of player Calipari wants playing for him.
“When I watched Kentucky play against Maryland, I liked that the Kentucky kids did not taunt anyone. They handled the ball, ran to the bench, cheered for teammates. There’s really a lot of discipline in the program, and that’s nice to see. They share the ball. They pass the ball and care about each other,” Smith said. “I like the program and the direction they take. So does Karl.
“Calipari gets booed even when he does good. He gave a million dollar check to Red Cross at the game to help Hurricane Sandy victims, and he got booed. You’ve got to be kidding me. Maryland fans were brutal. But I guess that’s what happens when you are top. That’s Kentucky basketball and Karl understands that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Willie Cauley-Stein admits his offensive game has already taken shape quicker than he expected.
“We work out a lot. Thirty to 45 minutes before every practice, it is all just jump hooks like that and shooting and stuff. Eventually it is going to come where everybody has a nice offensive game,” he said.
He said assistant coaches Kenny Payne and Orlando Antigua have developed the bank shot he hit twice early in the Blue-White game.
“No, I didn’t have that shot last year,” Cauley-Stein said.
That’s the type of development he wanted, even if he isn’t projected as a one-and-done player as others have been at Kentucky.
“Most of the reason why we come here is to win. You watch every year and know that they are making it to the Final Four and they always make it to the end of the tournament. You see that, and going to the NBA is a perk, but winning the national championship is the ultimate goal. Especially me, I didn’t get a ring in high school, so I really want one now, and that’s my goal,” he said.
“I think Cal has so many connections and resources and he just knows so many people. How can you not trust what he is saying? He has sent so many people to the (NBA) and done so many great things in his career.”
Cauley-Stein has learned that numerous opposing fans don’t like the one-and-done concept John Calipari embraces.
“They always have something to say about us being one-and-dones, and Cal only recruits one-and-dones. He is just recruiting the best players in the country. If they are one-and-done, it is their decision. He is not telling them to go. It is more of a self-decision,” he said.
That’s why he will accept whatever role Calipari has for him.
“I just want minutes. I don’t care if I start. Really, I don’t even have to start. I just want to finish the game and get better,” Cauley-Stein said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky assistant basketball coaches recently got a nice pay raise, but it still nice to see Orlando Antigua get the kind of recognition that ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf gave him this week.
Medcalf listed the nation’s top college basketball assistants under the age of 40. Kentucky fans would have had to think Antigua, 39, would be on the list based on UK’s NCAA Tournament success the last three years and the way the Cats have lured top talent to Lexington â€” and turned that talent into first-round NBA draft picks.
But Medcalf listed Antigua No.1 on the list of coaches 40 and under who are best positioned to earn a head coaching job in the near future. Here’s what he wrote about Antigua:
“The former Pitt standout helped John Calipari sign another top-ranked recruiting class. Heâ€™s also assisted Calipari in developing the young prodigies who have come to Lexington. After Kentucky won the national title in April, Antigua was a candidate for multiple jobs, including Duquesne. Itâ€™s just a matter of time before heâ€™s leading his own show. He turns 40 next year.
He also had a name â€” Steve Wojciechowski of Duke â€” fourth on his list and said this about him: “The 35-year-old might be Coach Kâ€™s heir after a lengthy stint as one of his top assistants. He started out as an assistant in 1999 but was promoted to associate head coach in 2008. â€œWojoâ€ was known for slapping the floor on defense during his playing career and heâ€™s equally passionate on the sidelines for the Blue Devils, who have won two national titles during his tenure.”
Nothing against Wojo, but give me Orlando any day. He’s a better recruiter. He has a great way of relating to kids. He has real-life experiences.
I was surprised he didn’t get a head coaching job this year, but it’s coming and when it does he’ll be incredible
See all of Medcalf’s story at http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/58925/top-ten-thursday-assistants-40-and-under
The 2013 recruiting class seems loaded with talent and Kentucky has positioned itself well with numerous top players.
â€œThey are hot on the trail right now. Year in, year out they are in on the top guys. They are in good shape with all of them,â€ Scout.com national recruiting director Evan Daniels said. â€œItâ€™s still so early, but they have done as well as they can so far. You just have to wait it out and hope the chips fall where they may. But itâ€™s hard to doubt Calipariâ€™s recruiting success.â€
Part of that is due to the work of assistants Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne.
â€œThey certainly should get some credit for Kentuckyâ€™s success. They are the guys out in the field and finding guys and building the early relationships,â€ Daniels said. â€œThen Cal comes in, does his deal and makes his pitch. But those assistants deserve a ton of credit. They are a big part of Kentuckyâ€™s recruiting.
â€œThey are visible and clearly care about their jobs and are both very good recruiters. The past couple of years Kentucky has had great recruiting success, and will again, and they have been a major role in accomplishing that.â€
Eventually Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua is going to get his chance to be a head coach. He’s young, energetic, a proven recruiter and has been part of three terrific seasons at Kentucky.
â€œWhat I always tell my staff as it starts winding down is you see whatâ€™s out there, and you tell me what you want me to do. OrlandoÂ is ready to be a head coach if thatâ€™s what he chooses to be. The issue is, we got a pretty good thing going here,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Tuesday. “So now, you have to be a little choosy on what you do. But, there are going to be schools that will contact him.
“I talked to Kenny (Payne), and I just said the same thing. I said â€˜Kenny, if there is anything out there, you let me know.â€™ Just like my players, I want my players, I want everyone around me to have benefits, and move forward and chase their dreams the same way. I donâ€™t hold anybody back.
“If he has an opportunity, we will be for it. But, Iâ€™ll say it again, this is a unique place to coach, and live and be. You are not anxious like â€˜Oh, I canâ€™t wait to get out of here.â€™ This is a place where people want to coach. They want to be here. People are here, and are in no hurry to leave. Again, if they have an opportunity to chase a dream, then I am all for it.â€