Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky falls 71-70 to Tennessee in SEC championship
- This year John Calipari says the SEC Tournament is important for UK’s mojo
- High school coordinator on UK WR signee Blake Bone: “He doesn’t get caught”
- Kentucky big man Julius Randle: “We don’t know what we’ve got to do but we’ve got to get going”
- UK coach John Calipari: “I didn’t think we had any kind of fight” to start the game
- Miami Heat sign former UK standout DeAndre Liggins to 2nd 10-day contract
- 2014 SEC Tournament Bracket: Cats to play 7 p.m. Friday
- Photos from Kentucky’s 84-65 loss at Florida
By LARRY VAUGHT
WOODRUFF, S.C. — Offensive coordinator Jonathan Rollins isn’t sure quite how fast Woodruff (S.C.) receiver Blake Bone is, but he knows he’s fast enough.
“He’s been in the 4.5 (second for the 40-yard dash) range,” said Rollins. “But one thing about him — he does not get run down a lot from behind. He doesn’t get caught.”
The 6-5 receiver signed with Kentucky in November and Rollins thinks he could have a big career with the Wildcats.
“He is going to fit into just about any group and I think that is what will make him a special player at Kentucky. Sometimes you get players that will come in and have been the guy and it’s hard for them to adjust when everybody is that guy. But Blake just has that personality that people are drawn to,” Rollins said.
“He is a humble kid, but he works hard. The one thing that I think really makes him good is that when the competition rises, his game comes up. That’s what made him special for us. The bigger the game and you had that defensive back on the other side that was a really good player, he played even better.
“His ball skills are incredible. Some of the catches he has made here, especially in the red zone, and able to get his feet in unreal. At all these 7-on-7 camps, he made catches we just shook our heads. He is just really good about getting his body in position to make a play, and I think it comes from playing basketball.”
Bone, who is still 17, was a 1,000-point scorer in his basketball career and played various positions.
“He was a good player and played hard,” Rollins said. “But I think another thing that will make him special at UK is that even though we have a good weight program here that will help him, once he gets to Kentucky and is able to eat good and workouts they have and not playing basketball, he will put on a little weight that will make him a phenomenal player. Right now he has good size and has good strength, but as that improves he will be really good player.”
Rollins says he knows how to make plays.
“When he runs curls, digs and things like that, he has that ability to find the open area and get there when the quarterback throws it to that area,” Rollins said. “He has a good knack for being on one page with the quarterback. He did a really good job for us of recognizing what the defense was in and communicating with quarterback to check into another pass play or route.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
If five-star Chicago guard Charles Thomas verbally commits to Kentucky Wednesday morning as expected, it will have no impact on what UK target Luke Kennard does about where he’ll play his college basketball.
The 6-6 Matthews has Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Marquette as his final five schools. He is a combo guard who is ranked the No. 12 junior and No. 1 shooting guard nationally by 247Sports.com in the 2015 recruiting class.
Kennard is a 6-5 junior combo guard from Franklin, Ohio, who plans to make his college choice sometime late this spring. Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Ohio State are some of the schools he’s still considering.
“Matthews’ decision will not impact Luke at all,” said Kennard’s father, Mark. “He wants to play with great players in college. He wants to play with great teammates. He will not be impacted by what any particular player does.
“Matthews is a shooting guard, but he can play more than one spot. Luke can play more than one spot. You want to win and get better in college, so you want great players with you.”
Franklin won its first postseason game 66-68 over Dayton Alter Monday when Kennard had 26 points against a box-and-one defense that allowed his teammates to get and hit open shots. Franklin plays again Saturday at 6 p.m. in Dayton against Thurgood Marshall.
“We beat a good team in the tournament and Luke was able to pass and rebound and let some teammates step up,” Mark Kennard said. “It was a great win for our community.
“Right now he is just trying to get wins for our team. He’s had a fun year and a great time with his teammates. We’re just continuing to look at improving and not really worrying about recruiting right here at tournament time.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Five-star running back Damien Harris of Madison Southern, a recent Michigan de-commit and considered the nation’s top junior running back, highlights recruits scheduled to be at Kentucky Saturday.
Current UK commit Montrell Custis of Georgia will be there as will four-star linebacker Eli Brown of Bowling Green, a priority in-state target for UK.
Once again, Ohio players dominate the recruits visiting. Those scheduled to attend include four-star offensive lineman Georg Brown; four-star linebacker Nick Conner; three-star offensive linemen George Asafo-Adjei, Noah Listerman and Rob Dowdy; three-star linebackers C.J. Stalker, Anthony McKee and David Long; three-star cornerback Kei Beckha; and three star defensive tackle Elijah Taylor.
Others known to be planning on attending — providing weather doesn’t change that — are four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis and three-star receiver Jabari Greenwood of Washington, D.C., four-star defensive lineman Darius Fullwood of Maryland (a teammate of 2014 signee Kobie Walker), and three-star receivers Tavin Richardson of South Carolina and Dexter Neal of Georgia.
Two quarterbacks — junior Reese Ryan of Lexington Catholic and sophomore Messiah deWeaver of Ohio — are scheduled to visit along with these in-state players: tackle Mason Wolfe of Henderson, linebacker Ramone Kelly of Louisville, receiver Marcus Floyd of Lexington and running back Michael Nero of Louisville.
By LARRY VAUGHT
With the seven schools that Luke Kennard has left on his college list, there’s really no way for him to make a bad decision. So how will the 6-5 Franklin, Ohio, guard decide whether to pick Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State or another school?
“I will take a couple of official visits. I will narrow my list to five. I might not take all five visits,” said Kennard. “I think will click to me when I know that this is where I am going. I have been praying about it a lot and I am blessed to have the opportunity.
“I think some factors would be the coaching staff and how well that relationship is with that coach, and possibly playing time. You want to go somewhere that you are going to be able to play and how you fit into the system they have. Academics has to be there, but schools I am looking at now are all great academically.”
Kennard is ranked as one of the top 20 players in the 2015 recruiting class, so “he would like to think” he can play anywhere he goes.
He has plenty of connections to Kentucky. He grew up a Kentucky fan. His grandfather, Frank, was a long-time UK season ticket holder and still attends games regularly with friends from Franklin.
Kennard’s family is good friends with Linda and Joe Heagen, two long-time UK fans with season tickets.
“He goes with them to games to watch a lot,” Kennard said. “He sits down low to watch players early. He just enjoys it so much. He has been a Kentucky fan and grew up a Kentucky fan. He doesn’t really talk that much recruiting with me. He will support me no matter what happens, but he will wear his UK gear sometimes and talk about it.”
He says there are also “tons” of UK fans in the Franklin area and he will “see some at games wearing Kentucky stuff” almost every game.
His family even had a UK room when he was younger.
“We did in my basement but it flooded and we had to take it all out and we ended up putting just a couch and carpet down there. But we did have a UK room when I was younger,” Kennard said.
Scott Daniels has a son playing with Kennard, but he knows how the Kennards feel about UK.
“His family are big, big Kentucky people. Me, I am a big Buckeye fan. We have had all the big coaches here. My son talked about Rick Pitino coming to school. I hope to see him be a Buckeye but wherever he goes he is going to succeed. He is academically sound, great family around him. I don’t really know how to put it but a class act all the way around and a great, great player who has a family that has always loved Kentucky from what I have seen,” Daniels said.
Teammate Evan Crowe has been on recruiting trips with Kennard.
“Honestly I don’t think he knows where he wants to go. I sometimes think do you really not know, but it will be a tough decision for him,” Crowe said. “The Kentucky atmosphere is amazing. It is Kentucky basketball. The coaches seem like great guys, so down to earth.”
Tayshaun Prince was his favorite player and Prince’s team was the first UK team he can really remember following.
“He was a lefty, I am a lefty. I remember going to the Heagen’s house and they would set up a hoop in their basement to watch the game down there and I would shoot during the game. That team was my first one to really follow,” Kennard said. “I met him this past summer at his camp. He is a great guy. I always liked his mentality and the way he controls himself on the floor. You could tell he was a great, humble guy. He was a role model for me and I was hoping to grow up like him.”
First, though, he has to decide whether to play at UK like Prince did or go a different route with his collegiate career.
“Making the decision early kind of has two sides to it,” Kennard said. “The first one would have to be it will be good to get it over with and get some pressure off and I can enjoy the rest of my season, AAU and my senior year.
“But the other side have to be that I have grown so close to so many coaches, that it will be hard to tell some no. So there will be two sides to it, but I think the big one really is just getting it out of the way and that’s what I plan to do sometime late spring.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
FRANKLIN, Ohio — Luke Kennard says he likes basketball better, but football is right there.
“I have a great time with football and I have grown close with the football coaches and all my friends play both sports. I have a great time with football, but been with basketball since I was born is what people like to say,” Kennard said. “There have been a few colleges talking to me about both sports, but I’ve had conversations with my parents and coach Bales about playing both in college and the decision is just play one and that is basketball.
“But I like being a part of the football team here. I have grown up playing it and enjoy it a lot. I love being part of it with my friends. At the same time, being a highly recruited player I like being a high school student and kid that can have fun. So I am no sure what I will do about football after I make my college choice this spring.”
Basketball teammate Evan Crowe, who plays tight end and receiver in football, agrees that Kennard is better at basketball.
“But he is a heck of football player, too,” Crowe said. “He knows not to risk getting injured. We take good care of him. He has good linemen to protect him and he knows how to get rid of the ball.”
However, winning is what Kennard likes no matter what he’s doing.
“I am very competitive. I like to win,” the Franklin junior said.
No one understands, or appreciates, that more than Crowe.
“We are playing Flappy Bird, some little stupid (video) game (in which a player controls a bird flying awkwardly through a series of tubes), and he like has a 100 and I have 20,” Crowe smiled and said. “He is competitive in everything. In practice, he wants to win every drill, which is good because that makes us all better. But we also have great teammates to push him as well because we all enjoy beating him if we can, too.”
However, Kennard knows his success has made him a role model for youngsters in the Franklin area and, win or lose, he tries to always make time for youngsters.
“I love being around little kids. They always have a great time. I think that really comes with how my parents raised me and have to give credit to my parents for that. I have grown up able to communicate with young kids,” he said. “There are a lot of them that want pictures and autographs after games, and that’s fine. But there will be some older and middle aged people, too. It is kind of a mixture. My teammates will kind of joke around about it or stuff. They don’t really mind. They enjoy being a part of it seeing the kids interact with me. That’s why I just love being part of this team so much.”
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
Question: What does he like about running back Stanley ”Boom” Williams and receiver Blake Bone?
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown: “Boom? He is a guy that’s really a perfect fit for our offense. He’s big enough to pick up the blitz. He can run inside and outside. We can use him inside the slot some as well. He’s really, really fast, OK? He has the ability to make people miss in space. He’s really a great get by coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto, to go into Atlanta and a kid who was committed to Georgia for a long time and bring him up. Great family, going to make a big contribution.
“Blake Bone? That was our No. 1 goal in the receiver corps this year. We had to get size and I think if you look at our roster right now of guys that played last year, really we didn’t have anybody over that 6-foot, 6-foot-1 range and everybody can run in this league, but you’ve got to have length. Because regardless of how fast you are, length wins and we felt like we added two guys with great lengths. Coach (Tommy) Mainord went and got one of the top kids out of South Carolina, which is a great testament to him, and he’s a guy who needs to put on some weight, get stronger, but I thought he had two really good all-star showings in the Shrine Bowl and Offensive/Defensive Bowl against some really great opponents. Feel good about him coming in and being able to help us right away.”
Question: Was he surprised UK had a top 25 recruiting class this quickly?
Brown: “I think that’s something that’s been asked a few times in different ways and I’m not overly surprised and this being why. The location we have is really centrally located. You can get to a lot of places within a six-hour radius and I think coach Stoops, he himself is a tremendous recruiter, and he hired a bunch of guys that can really relate to the young guys, the kids we’re recruiting. Has some really good connections and can evaluate and then you add onto that the schematic success that D.J. (Eliot) and Mark had at Florida State and that we’ve been able to have at Texas Tech and Troy and those type of places and then on top of that, all of the things that are going on on campus. We talked about the dorms, you know, our guys are going to be living in brand-new dorms when they get here. That’s a little thing that people think of, but that’s big. Then you have the stadium renovation and the new practice facility.”
Question: What are his thoughts on receiver Dorian Baker?
Brown: “He came to camp here and he was (pause) physically, he looks the part. He’s 6-3, he’s going to be 215-220 pounds when he gets here and basically for this offense, what we’re looking for, is some guys who are really fast who can really beat you over the top. Guys like Jeff Badet. We want some guys who are really solid that are strong, that can kind of do everything, guys like Javess Blue, Thaddeus Snodgrass, once he matures is going to be one of those types of guys.
“And then you want little guys who can make you miss, not real little, but Ryan Timmons type of kids that maybe can play a little running back. And then you want big, physical guys, guys like Alex Montgomery and guys like Dorian Baker that you can play inside or play on the outside and they’re physically imposing. They’re bigger than their nickels or their corners and Dorian’s going to be one of those guys. He’s a guy that I’m really excited about. I think he’s raw right now, but when he really gets honed in on that position and is training year-round to be a great receiver, I think he’s going to have a tremendous career here.”
By ASHLEY SCOBY
Signing Day 2014 provided plenty of smiles around the Kentucky camp on Wednesday, but none bigger than CJ Johnson’s.
Johnson, a defensive tackle signee from ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., seems to be the ringleader of a particularly exuberant group of seven early enrollees.
“You just have to see us interact with each other, basically,” he said. “As soon as we get together, it’s all smiles, giggles and chuckles and stuff like that. It’s just great. I love these guys.”
Between Johnson karate chopping at the podium on Signing Day and his charismatic grin, it’s easy to see why he will soon be a fan favorite.
The karate chops escalated from a comment that Johnson made about some of the “Jackie Chan” skills he had as a defensive tackle.
“I have great explosion,” he said. “When I was at my last school, I lost about 30 pounds. I had to work on my track skills a little bit. I’m thinking I might come out and run a 4.2. I’ve got great hand movements. I got a little Jackie Chan in there.”
Although Johnson, at 6-3 and 275 pounds, probably won’t be running a 4.2 40-yard-dash anytime soon, his enthusiasm will still carry onto the field and into the weight room. He is already taking on sort of an “older brother” role as one of the two JUCO signees in the group of early enrollees (AJ Stamps, his roommate, being the other).
“I just feel like since I’m older – I talk to them a lot – and I feel like I know a lot more and I can mentor a lot more,” he said. “I just look at them like brothers. I just try to help them. They help me. There’s a lot they know, and there’s a lot that I don’t know. So they teach me a lot, and I teach them a lot.”
That brotherhood was just established recently, as Johnson doesn’t communicate via social media as much as some of the others – such as Drew Barker or Thaddeus Snodgrass – do, which inhibited how much he talked to his classmates before enrolling. In fact, Johnson said he didn’t even know Barker, who has long been considered the guy that brought much of this class together, until they both arrived on campus in January.
“A lot of people always ask me, ‘Add me on Twitter’ and all this,” Johnson said. “I just made an Instagram about three days ago. I don’t really do it like that. I don’t like too many people hitting me up, because then I have to learn how to create accounts and stuff. I ain’t trying to do all that. I’m just good with texting and phone calling. That’s all I need.”
That lack of time spent on the computer could translate to more time in the weight room or practice field for Johnson, especially once spring practice time rolls around. Once that time comes, some of those “smile and giggles and chuckles” might be cut short by early mornings, tough practices and intense competition.
But Johnson doesn’t plan to stop smiling anytime soon.
“I hear I’m one of the funniest, but I don’t want nobody thinking I’m a joke,” he said. “But I would think I’m one of the funniest, because I’m always joking. I don’t ever get down about nothing. I always take a moment to smile and laugh about something. That’s how you get the day going.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow said the coaches “would feel good for a couple of hours” and then go into 2015 recruiting even harder than they have been.
“We are targeting and getting a lot of responses from top (20)15 guys. I love the coaches I work with. I think parents see things with them,” Marrow said. “But you’ve got to win, which we plan on doing.”
Stoops said the priority for 2015 would again be to get “good football players before sending a not so subtle message to Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, who recently de-committed from Michigan and is considered one of the nation’s top recruits.
“We could always use a home run running back. Know where I can find one? And we’re always going to continue to build on O‑line and D‑line,” Stoops said. “We’re just going to continue to recruit quality players and guys that are good leaders. But we’re going to need help in a lot of positions again. We’ll have a pretty good sized class again next year. I don’t know if it will be this big, but it will be a good group.
“But just want to reiterate how much I appreciate this coaching staff. To this point, we’ve been able to keep everybody in place. I hope to do that. They’re very talented group with a great work ethic, but they’ve done a great job.”