Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky players mum on mysterious John Calipari tweak except Cauley-Stein says it is ‘mentality’
- John Calipari “disappointed in me for not doing it earlier” after unknown tweak to UK offense
- WR Blake Bone can be flamboyant, different but he says “my only mission is to catch the ball”
- Julius Randle adds USBWA all-district honor
- Julius Randle SEC freshman of year; James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein honored
- Kris Bentley of Sundy Best says performing at UK “one of the coolest things we’ve ever done”
- John Calipari: “I’ve think we’ve done right by these kids (who have gone to the NBA early”
- Father says transfer speculation never bothered Kentucky QB Patrick Towles
By LARRY VAUGHT
FRANKLIN, Ohio — If the pressure of being one of the top players in the 2015 recruiting class is bothering Luke Kennard, the 6-5 guard sure isn’t letting it show.
“I am having a great time with it actually. I don’t feel a lot of pressure on the court or having to prove myself to people. At the same time all the attention and stuff is not just good for me, but for the community as well. I am having a great time,” said the Franklin High School standout.
The numbers certainly reflect why he’s having such a good time. He’s averaging 39.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He’s shooting 83.4 percent at the foul line, 51.7 percent from the field and 40 percent at from 3-point range. In 17 games, he’s scored 40 or more points nine times, including a school-record 53 against Bellbrook Jan. 4.
He’s that rare player who can score that many points and still be the most popular player on the team — or maybe in the school.
“That is just the great thing about being part of this team. We are all really close to each other. It is a small town but that is why I love being part of it. Our team chemistry is great. Coach (Brian) Bales really pushes for that. As a player you have to always get your teammates involved and what I always try to do,” Kennard said.
“Game night is very special to be part of here at Franklin. All the people in this community come out to support us. It’s great to have all the support. Usually when we go to an away game we might bring the bigger crowd than the home team, and that’s special. It is usually packed, the gym is hot and often sold out and that’s great to be part of as a high school player.”
His best friend on the team is Evan Crowe, a likely college player himself who averages almost 16 points per game and often benefits from the double or triple teams that Kennard draws.
“He is a great person. He is just really fun to be around and I love him,” Crowe said. “We used to battle back and forth when we were little. I had a basketball court in my yard and we used to play football all the time. We have been together forever. It’s like we never really switched and it was like, ‘Wow, I am playing with some major college athlete all of a sudden.’
“Then it was like going into eighth grade I was like, ‘Man this guy is pretty good. My friend is a good player.’ I think a lot of people see us play because they want to come watch him. It’s always fun to play in front of big crowds like that. If you get open, he will find you. Everybody wants to help off on him because you can’t let him beat you. He will have three people on him, and then he w ill find the open guy and get it to you, so what’s not like about that.”
Scott Daniels has a son, Jake, that plays on the team and says he has known Kennard since he was in the first grade.
“Great kid, great student. He’s a really humble kid. He is a class act,” Daniels, who used to help coach Kennard’s team in third through sixth grades, said.
Daniels says there’s “absolutely” no jealousy about Kennard’s success that has brought a bevvy of big-time coaches to Franklin such as Kentucky’s John Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Ohio State’s Thad Matta and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
“Every night after every games when Luke is interviewed the first thing that he does is thank his teammates. He is always thanking his parents, coaches,” Daniels said. “It is not just all about Luke. Luke is a team player and always has been that way. I can’t say enough. Just a great, great child.
“Luke can do it all and he can jump out of the gym. He is a 6-5 lefty. He can get hot. The other night he had 7 3-pointers. If you lay off him a little bit, he will stroke you from the outside. If you belly up, he will take you to the rack. He is just an outstanding player. He is the best that has been around here in a lot of years.
“Luke’s basketball IQ is his biggest asset. He knows the basketball game inside and out. This year he is averaging 40 points a game and still is the most unselfish basketball player you have ever seen. If a kid is willing to work and get open, Luke will find a way to get him the ball. He is just a class act that way and one reason he’s so special. There are just really not enough words to describe Luke. He is the most humble kid, straight A student, just an all-around great kid.”
Kennard said he has enjoyed being around most of his teammates all his life and his father and Crowe’s father even played basketball together.
“They grew up as best friends. Me and Evan and are really good friends too. They (the fathers) will give us some advice now on our game, but coach Bales been great with that.”
Kennard, who grew up a Kentucky fan, admits he never expected this type of attention when his high school career started.
“I had to put in a lot of sacrifices to try and get better as a player. Once I started getting a lot of attention and college looks, it was like a dream come true,” he said. “I am having a great time with it all. The media and stuff, as it all started happening I don’t know if I would say it was overwhelming, but it was a lot with that and the college coaches. But I enjoyed it and I enjoy it now. College coaches are great with it. My dad and coach Bales will take some calls for me.”
Kennard is a big unique because he can handle the ball with both hands. He primarily shoots left-handed, but will shoot with his right hand if he’s moving that way toward the basket. In football, he set school passing records and throws right-handed.
“It’s just what I’ve always done,” Kennard said.
His father, Mark, worked extensively with him to make him learn to use both hands. He would sometimes make him dribble home from the gym while he followed along in the car. Another story had him “tying” one hand behind his son to force him to dribble with the other hand.
“Those are true stories except he didn’t tie my hand. He made me put one hand behind my back, though,” Kennard said.
Yet he always respected his dad’s methods — or at least he did most days.
“There might have been some days I would get upset with him, but everybody was telling me when I got older I would thank him for that, and they were right,” Kennard said. “But we worked on shooting a lot, too. We would go to gym and make 100 shots before I was done. So it was not only just ballhandling he worked on with me, but shooting too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Louisville coach Rick Pitino came to Frankin, Ohio, to watch junior shooting guard Luke Kennard practice and spent a couple of hours there during the visit.
“It went well,” said Mark Kennard, the father of the 6-65shooting guard who is averaging about 40 points per game this season. “Coach Ptino is a good guy and one of the top coaches in the game. But all the coaches have been great.”
Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Kentucky’s John Calipari, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski are some of the other coaches that have watched Kennard play this year. He has cut his list of potential schools to Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan and Florida. He visited Ohio State Jan. 12 and plans to visit Duke this season.
“He’s scoring a few baskets and as a team we are having a good year,” Mark Kennard said.
Fans are certainly enjoying what they are seeing as the small community has been turning out in force to watch Kennard and his teammates play.
“Sometimes they presell tickets and sometimes not,” Mark Kennard said. “At our last game they announced early it was sold out. My sister didn’t even get in. It’s neat to see so many fans at games. We go during the freshman game to make sure we get in. But it has been a lot of fun for the community and great for Luke and his teammates.”
That attention won’t lessen because of the schools recruiting Kennard, who still hopes to make a college choice in the spring.
He was at Kentucky when the Wildcats played Eastern Michigan and hopes to attend at least one more game this season.
“It will be a tough decision, but we still hope to get it done in May,” Mark Kennard said.
Teams have tried “trick defenses” to stop Luke Kennard, who can score in a variety of ways, this season.
“But he’s made a lot of nice passes and it helps that he has good teammates,” Mark Kennard said. “Our team is basically all juniors and they are all getting better. His best friend probably will get to play at the next level, too. They are best buddies on the team and the players all get along great.”
By RENE CORNETTE
A rivalry is defined as competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field and with only 70 miles separating Lexington from Louisville, that field is uncomfortably close. It gets even closer when you consider Louisville’s head coach, Rick Pitino, was once a well beloved coach at Kentucky.
It’s almost as if this rivalry were scripted and it’s only grown more heated since Kentucky and Louisville won back to back championships in 2012 and 2013. It’s no longer just a battle for the Bluegrass but a battle for the worldwide stage, fame and glory. Who’s the best fanbase? Who has the best team? Who has the best coach? Those are all questions both fan bases squabble over daily as if there can be winner. It’s the same old song and dance, comment and joke day after day. It’s a fight that’s never ending and since the hiring of Bobby Petrino at Louisville that fight has taken a nasty turn.
Twitter exploded recently with a picture of a child dressed as Bobby Petrino wearing a neck brace while throwing up L’s. His parents were taking him to the Louisville game dressed that way. It provoked quite the response and somehow a rivalry that had always been fun for me took a turn as anything but. I watched fans on both sides fire back and forth taking personal shots, making threats and became saddened by it all. Is this what it’s come to? Using our children as pawns in a rivalry and opening them up for hatred that they don’t deserve.
It’s madness and it has to stop. We have to become more responsible and mindful of our actions. It’s not okay to hide behind a computer and type personal attacks over what in the grand scheme of life doesn’t matter. It’s time to turn down the dial, take a step back and get some perspective.
A rivalry is supposed to be fun. You crack jokes at our team and we crack jokes at yours. It’s lighthearted banter and at the end of the day it’s all in good spirit. The problem lies in when you start seeing everything thru blue/red colored glasses. You allow yourself to only see the other team’s faults while becoming blind to your own in the process and becoming so full of hate you draw rage at the most nonsensical things. It’s pushing a rivalry so far that it loses it’s fun and crosses over into bullying. It’s personal attacks and threats made over a game. It’s writing someone off before you even know who they are because they don’t cheer for your team. It’s silly and it’s childish.
It’s okay to make jokes, share funny pictures and most of all laugh. It’s also okay to show respect to fellow fans who wear a different color from your team. This nonsense of being so into the rivalry that you let it dictate your friendships is ludicrous. If you’re nice to me, I’m going to be nice to you. I don’t care what team you cheer for. That’s how it should be.
A rivalry that makes fun of children, threatens harm on others and crosses over into bullying isn’t one that I want to be a part of. We’re all better than that. We always have been. It’s time to get our sanity back. It’s time to start worrying about our team more and the other one less. It’s about recognizing a rivalry has crossed a line and pulling back.
We have so much to be proud of as Kentucky fans. We have a great basketball coach and team. We also have an outstanding football coach and staff who are pulling in a top recruiting class. Coach Mitchell and our Lady CATS are doing big things as well. Let’s take a break from the vitriol and focus on the positive, myself included. I’ve gotten caught up in the rivalry. too. My hands aren’t clean but I want to do better. I need to do better. Let’s all get back to cheering for the blue and white. This is the year of the Wildcat. Don’t let it pass you by.
Vaught’s note: Alex Otte is a high school junior pursuing a career in sports journalism and has her own sports journalism/photography website all at athleticaspirations.com. “Mainly, I have opinion articles and exclusive interviews with NFL/NBA/NCAA athletes, among others,” Otte said. This is her take on Louisville’s hire of Bobby Petrino and the first of more columns to come from here.
By ALEX OTTE
It has been confirmed that Louisville fans got exactly what they wanted! Immediately after the resignation of Charlie Strong, other than questioning his loyalty, Louisville football fans were quick to say how badly they wanted Bobby Petrino back. Petrino comes with a lot of personal baggage, a history of immorality, and a questionable past (adultery, staying with a program for a season at a time, resigning or transferring without informing his players, etc.), and most recently the loyalty issue of leaving Western Kentucky University after only one season with them.
Last season, the University of Kentucky passed up the opportunity to hire Petrino because of his past. Although we recognize that people are capable of change, the University of Kentucky did not want his personal baggage, which he would likely be bringing with him, to reflect negatively on our program or to influence the young men with which he would be working.
The University of Louisville does not want Petrino because they have hope that he’s changed; they want him because they want to win football games. I understand that winning is a major goal of any athletic team, but there are much better coaches out there with a more respectable reputation. Unfortunately, the hiring of Bobby Petrino reiterates that, at least for the University of Louisville, winning is all that matters.
With an 83-30 record in his career, it’s tough to deny that Petrino knows the game of football and is more than capable of coaching a winning team, but is a winning record really all that matters in the grand scheme of things? Obtaining a first class organization seems like it isn’t even a factor to the University of Louisville and to their athletic program.
On the basketball side, Rick Pitino is a coach who is undeniably talented and is most certainly knowledgeable about his sport, having led both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville men’s basketball teams to national championships, but also has somewhat of a shady past, primarily focused on him being the subject of a sex scandal that took place in 2009 with a woman he met in a bar who was later accused of trying to extort him for cars, money, and college tuition for her children. This just reiterates what the Louisville athletic program invests in coaches for, and it’s not their heart or positive influence on athletes.
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By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — From what Louisville coach Rick Pitino had been hearing about Kentucky, he didn’t expect twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison to show the maturity they did for No. 19 Kentucky here Saturday in a 73-66 win over No. 7 Louisville.
“I think they are a good team and they are going to get better and better,” said Pitino. “I thought the Harrisons were very much under control. They handled pressure and didn’t force things. They showed much more maturity than what everybody was saying. I was hearing all of these things and I thought they showed great maturity tonight.”
Point guard Andrew Harrison had 18 points (6-for-16 shooting), four rebounds and two assists while Aaron Harrison had 10 points (5-for-12 shooting), one assist and four rebounds. They combined for seven of UK’s 11 turnovers.
Pitino didn’t think his backcourt played well. Russ Smith, who had a key late turnover, missed 13 of 20 shots while scoring 19 points. Chris Jones was 7-for-13 but had 15 of his 18 points in the first half. Terry Rozier had five points.
“I didn’t think Russ played a particularly good game froma mental standpoint,” Pitino said. “I think he took too many ill-advised, quick shots and that hurts your defense when you do that. They played okay. They did a decent job. We aren’t going to get outplayed in the backcourt (often).”
Smith, a senior, was not convinced that it was UK’s play that bothered him.
“Shots just didn’t go in for us. They were shots we normally make. I guess this is just one of those games,” Smith said. “It happens. We just need to move on from this and move on to conference play.
“I started off slow, but that’s not why we lost. We missed a lot of free throws and rebounds. We didn’t rebound as well as we should have. We didn’t rebound and we didn’t get defensive stops.”
GARY B. GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined for 28 points, including 11 during a critical second-half stretch with star Julius Randle sidelined by cramps, helping the 18th-ranked Wildcats beat No. 6 Louisville 73-66 on Saturday.
Randle’s 17 first-half points staked Kentucky (10-3) to a 41-36 halftime lead before the 6-foot-9 forward went to the locker room early in the second with leg cramps. He returned but cramped again and spent the rest of the game on the bench.
The Harrison twins amply filled the void, turning a 52-51 deficit with 11:01 remaining into a 68-58 lead with four minutes left. Andrew Harrison and James Young each scored 18 points with Young adding a key 3-pointer during the 17-6 run that helped Kentucky beat its in-state archrival for the fifth time in six meetings.
The Wildcats also earned their first win against a ranked opponent in four tries this season.
Russ Smith scored 19 points but was just 5 of 10 from the foul line for Louisville (11-2), which failed to capitalize after rallying from the halftime hole. Chris Jones added 18 points for the Cardinals, who missed their second chance to beat a top-25 school.
Kentucky has had the tougher early-season schedule, losing to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, which also beat Louisville last month. Cleveland State and Belmont have also pushed the Wildcats with their quickness and athleticism, qualities that coach John Calipari warned his team to expect often from Louisville.
Other than allowing Louisville to open both halves with runs, Kentucky handled everything the Cardinals tried, especially in the clutch.
The Wildcats outrebounded Louisville 44-36 including 17-12 offensively. Their significant size advantage kept the Cardinals from driving inside as they consistently contested shots and passes, and they controlled the offensive end 42-24 and held Louisville to 40 percent shooting.
Most importantly, Kentucky earned Bluegrass State bragging rights after a week in which Cardinals coach Rick Pitino and Calipari tried to stress the big-picture perspective. Besides cautioning players about putting too much weight in this game, both coaches also told them to block out the noise leading up to this well-hyped showdown. Louisville even went to Florida well ahead of last week’s game at FIU to keep his team focused and away from the talk-show chatter.
Tuning out the noise before 24,396 in Rupp Arena was another story. The standing-room only student section was filled an hour before tipoff and the din only grew louder — just after Louisville took the sea of Kentucky blue out of the game by scoring the first eight points.
Randle answered with five for the Wildcats, including a driving dunk for his first basket that quickly got the crowd excited. That play set the stage for a half in which he muscled his way past a variety of Louisville defenders on 7-of-8 shooting.
He got help from Young, whose 12 points including two 3-pointers provided the scoring alternative Kentucky needed with Louisville focused on stopping Randle. Andrew Harrison added seven points, helping to provide a 41-36 halftime lead as the Wildcats used their size to keep the Cardinals on the perimeter.
That wasn’t a problem for Louisville, which used Jones’ perimeter shooting to stay within reach. The junior college transfer scored 15 points on three from long range while Smith worked his way for 10 points including driving the lane for a huge dunk that maintained hope for a Louisville team needing that one spurt to get back in the game.
Sure enough, the Cardinals needed just 2:05 to tie it at 43 as Smith scored five points while Mangok Mathiang added a putback. With Randle in the locker room and sidelined again by cramps after that, Louisville grabbed its lead since 9:09 of the first half, 52-51, on Jones’ three-point play.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
By LARRY VAUGHT
How big is Kentucky’s game with Louisville? For John Calipari, it depends on the outcome.
“It is only a big game if we win. If not, it was only the next game and we move on. If we win, it is a huge game,” said the Kentucky coach Friday
“The schedule we have played is top heavy to this point. We have games we won that were good wins, but not teams in the top five or top 10. How many more opportunities do we have in games like that? You just don’t have that many opportunities (to beat a top 10 team).”
For Kentucky to beat Louisville, Calipari says three things are key.
“We have got to look like a team. We have got to play with more energy. When adversity hits, we have to respond,” Calipari said. “The winning will take care of itself if we look more like a team, play with more energy and when adversity hits, respond in a positive way.”
Calipari said so far Kentucky is “not what everybody said at the start” of the season when a potential 40-0 season was being tossed around. However, he noted UK’s three losses came to ranked teams when UK trailed by just one point with about three minutes to go in all three games.
“We are not ready to win those games yet. This team in February will not be what it is now,” Calipari said. “It is a team game. We are only now beginning to be that type of team (that everybody expected). We will see where we are against a top team and where we go from there.”
I caught up with Anthony Epps, the starting point guard on UK’s 1996 national championship team, over the weekend. He played for Rick Pitino, but likes what John Calipari has done since he came to UK.
Enjoy his thoughts on Saturday’s upcoming game.
Question: How much do you think Rick Pitino would like to bring Louisville into Rupp Arena and win?
Epps: “I think he is looking forward to that challenge with Kentucky having the talent they have and Louisville being almost under the radar as defending national champion and you don’t hear much about them. They have a really good team. I think he is looking forward to trying to stick one to us.”
Question: Since Kentucky has played a more difficult schedule, will that impact the UK-Louisville game?
Epps: “I don’t think so. I think what Rick does with his schedule is play a lot of home games and get a lot of easy wins and build his team’s confidence where Cal’s motto is we will play anybody anywhere at any time. He’s not afraid of nobody … not saying Rick is. But they just have a different philosophy in the way they want to schedule.”
Question: Does it surprise you that the new emphasis on calling fouls really has not impacted Louisville this season like some thought it would?
Epps: “No I don’t think so. I think he probably just told his guys this is the way it is going to be called. Accept it or you will be in foul trouble. If you watch a high school game, you wish the rule change was not there. Some high school games are two hours, and that’s kind of ridiculous.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
With Saturday’s showdown with Louisville looming and then the start of SEC play, has there ever been a more important session of Camp Cal — unlimited practice time when there are no classes — than the one UK coach John Calipari will be putting his players through.
“Whatever happens in that game (with Louisville), I can remember we (Memphis) played Tennessee one versus two, and there must have been 30,000 people outside the arena watching it on the big screen because they couldn’t get tickets to get in the arena,” said Calipari.
“It came down, and the game was so high powered, I can’t begin to tell you how fast and how aggressive, and we had a lead, they made a shot, we missed a shot, they made a shot, late at the buzzer, we missed a shot, they won. From that point my team went like that (up) and their team went (down) like that, and I mean tanked.
“Why are you laughing? I’m not saying that about anybody, I’m just saying it was the truth. So my point being we have to get better. Andrew (Harrison) has to get better. He’s got to have a better understanding of what we want and then do it. If he doesn’t, I’m not communicating well enough.
“James Young has to play. He did not today. Julius, we’re getting better at how we’re playing him. Did you notice we changed a little bit of how we did transition? We’re trying to do different things because we have to play different with this team. It’s a big game because it’s the next one, and they’re in our state.
“It’s a big game (with Louisville) that way. But the reality of it is if we win and don’t get better and throw one at half court and it banks in and all of a sudden we start losing, it didn’t do ‑‑ we have to get better as a team.”