By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
The results of an incredibly successful recruiting weekend are already starting to show for Kentucky football.
Elijah James, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle out of Iowa Western Community College, has committed to KENTUCKY!
He announced the news this afternoon on Twitter:
— Eli james (@perezejames99) December 16, 2018
With his only other offers being Chattanooga and Southern Miss, James flew under the radar enough for the Kentucky coaching staff to swoop in and seal the deal on a commitment.
In 11 games this past season at Iowa Western CC, James finished with 57 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
He is also teammates with Kentucky wide receiver commitment JaVonte Richardson.
Out of high school, James was listed as a 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end. As a two-star prospect, the newest wildcat was signed on to play at Central Michigan before making the move to JUCO.
Here are his sophomore highlights:
Hopefully there’s more where that came from…
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 10:45pm
After battling through a knee injury his first 45 games in a Kentucky uniform, redshirt freshman Jemarl Baker finally made his college debut last Saturday against Seton Hall. He played all of one minute and accumulated zero stats, but it was a start.
This evening, John Calipari called him off the bench at the end of the game and Baker made sure to make the most of his first real opportunity as a Wildcat.
Two minutes, two shots, six points. And boy were those six points pretty.
On his first attempt, Baker came off a screen, caught the ball at the wing, and went up with zero hesitation. Quick release, beautiful follow-through, bucket. The net barely moved.
On the second, Baker caught the ball at the same spot on the wing in transition. The Utah defender closed out, Baker gave a quick jab to get him off-balanced, and lifted for the shot again. Cash.
After the game, Kentucky freshman forward Keldon Johnson said that’s exactly what the team is looking for off the bench. And he’ll be getting more minutes as a result.
“He’s a great shooter, another great shooter,” Johnson said. “We’re looking for him to score the ball, I think he’ll be getting a lot more minutes. He came in and hits shots. That’s Jemarl, he just scores the ball. Pull ups, driving to the holes, different ways.”
Was there any doubt he was going to come in and look for his shot?
“No, no doubt at all,” Johnson said. “We all knew he was going to shoot it, that’s what he does. He’s been producing in practice lately, and you all saw what he did in the game when he came in.”
Freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley said as soon as Baker came in the game, he knew he needed to get the ball in his hands. After sitting out for so long, he knew his teammate needed to knock some rust off.
“I was trying to find him, I’m looking for him wherever he is, trying to get him the ball,” Quickley said. “Whenever somebody has the hot hand, you’ve got to feed them.”
After a 12-make night from the three-point line, Quickley said it was fitting Baker could come in and make a dent in the scoring column his first time taking shots.
“Absolutely. Jemarl is my guy, I hope he can keep it going throughout the season.”
But it’s not just current teammates excited for Baker’s future. Former Wildcats Jarred Vanderbilt and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were also pretty impressed with the Kentucky sharpshooter’s performance off the bench:
— Jarred Vanderbilt (@JVando) December 16, 2018
— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (@shaiglalex) December 16, 2018
“Shock the world,” eh? Sounds like both former Wildcats know something we don’t…
If Baker had such an impressive few weeks in practice, why did it take so long for Coach Cal to call his number?
“I kind of forgot those last four or five minutes that I had Jemarl because I was trying a rotation,” Calipari said after the game. “I would have put him in earlier except I forgot he was on the bench. I did.”
Fans are obviously going to be excited for Baker to get more minutes and opportunities to make shots, but Calipari wants everyone to know it’ll be a process. That being said, the Kentucky head coach is happy his redshirt freshman sharpshooter made the most of his first opportunity.
“Again you have to understand, Jemarl has practiced about two, two and a half weeks with us, in the last two years,” he said. “But, he’s practiced really well the last couple weeks, and what I’ve told him is: You’re in the game to score baskets, how about that, and he went in the game and he scored baskets and our fans went crazy and I’m happy for him.”
By Robert Cunningham on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 10:30pm
It was my first Christmas as lead pastor at Tates Creek Presbyterian Church. I was young, inexperienced, pretending like I knew what I was doing and somehow getting away with it. But there are pastoral moments that can’t be faked, and this was one of them.
A family in our congregation had lost their teenage son. I sat with them for what seemed like an eternity, vainly trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy. When it finally came time to leave, I’ll never forget the terrible irony from the radio when I turned on my car: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all!”
There is something strangely unsettling when suffering intrudes upon the holidays. We know we’re supposed to “be of good cheer,” but we just don’t have it in us. And everyone else’s happiness feels patronizing, perhaps even insulting.
But I want to suggest that Christmas, rightly understood, is precisely what the hurting desperately need. Not shallow Hallmark sentimentally, but Christmas in its rawest and most scandalous form—the birth of God.
Christians believe that Christmas is not the birth of the main character of history, but the birth of the actual author of history. God actually writes himself into his own story, and in this way, God can actually relate to his own story.
J.R.R. Tolkien speaks of storytelling as the art of secondary belief. Primary belief is our real experiences of the real story we inhabit. We know things because we experience things. Secondary belief is where storytelling comes in. The measure of a good novel or film is its ability to evoke secondary belief. We get caught up into the story in real experiential ways. We cry with the story’s tragedies, smile with the story’s joys, get chills with the story’s drama—we relate to the story as though we ourselves are in it even though we are not.
When we think of God relating to us, we typically think in terms of secondary belief. He certainly cares for us and is very moved by our story, but only in secondary ways as an outsider looking in. But Christmas is God transitioning from secondary to primary knowledge. He now knows our story because he’s now in our story.
And this familiarity is exactly what the suffering need.
We all know from personal experience that nothing comforts us in our pain more than others who have experienced the same. I call it the power of relatability. This is why support groups, for example, are so therapeutic. But conversely, nothing agitates pain more than those who can’t relate trying to comfort you with trite consolations. Of course we smile and politely thank them, but inside we’re screaming, “You have no idea what it’s like!”
Well, because of Christmas, God himself is now with us in our suffering as one who actually knows exactly what it’s like. I suppose you could say there is pain Jesus never had to experience. He never lost a child, for example. But something we are able to say about Jesus is that there is no degree of suffering he is unfamiliar with, for nobody has or ever will suffer more than Jesus. After all, let us never forget the reason he was born was so that he could die. And not just any death. The cruelest of deaths on a cross bearing the sin, shame, and condemnation we all deserve.
None but Jesus has endured a suffering like Calvary, and in this way, Jesus suffers alone. Nobody can say to Jesus, “I know what it’s like,” but Jesus can say to every single one of us, no matter the degree of pain, “I know what it’s like.” Simply put, Jesus is utterly alone in his suffering, so that nobody will ever have to be alone in theirs.
This is the consolation I’ve learned to share as a pastor. When I’m with the hurting, I don’t pretend to relate, because more often than not, I simply can’t. Instead I hold their hands, look them in the eyes, and offer words only Christmas lets me say: “I can’t imagine what this must be like, but God can.”
Perhaps this is what you need to hear this Christmas season? Perhaps your suffering finds you overwhelmed by cynical sneer not holiday cheer? Perhaps you are just going through the motions of the “hap-happiest season of all” with a hap-hapless indifference to all? I understand. Actually, I probably don’t. But God does. Whatever you may be going through, because of Christmas, God knows exactly what it’s like.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 10:00pm
With the BBNBA, there is hardly a lack of storylines. 28 former Kentucky players have appeared in at least one NBA game this season, from superstars such as Anthony Davis and Devin Booker to role players such as Darius Miller and budding prospects such as De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein, there is always something to discuss and debate.
What I don’t do nearly as often as I should is talk about the rest of the former Wildcats, the ones who either haven’t yet made it to the NBA or are trying to make their return. So what I’m going to do here is give a brief update on the former Wildcats who are currently in the G League.
In the future, I hope to do a more comprehensive and in-depth look at some of these players – along with some of the overseas players such as Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson – but for now, this update should at least give you a bit more information on who can potentially still make the jump to the NBA this season.
There are seven former Kentucky players who either currently play in or have played in the G League this season:
Wenyen Gabriel (2017-18)
Gabriel hasn’t played a game yet for the Sacramento Kings but is one of two Kentucky players who are currently on a two-way contract, meaning he can be called up to the big leagues if his organization so chooses to. In the meantime, Gabriel has appeared in 14 games for the Stockton Kings and has averaged 10.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game.
DeAndre Liggins (2009-11)
Liggins is no stranger to the G League, as he’s appeared in 105 total games spread across several teams – more than any former Kentucky player currently in the G League. This season, he’s back on the Sioux Fall Skyforce, the Miami Heat affiliate located in South Dakota (imagine playing G League games in South Dakota and being called up to move to Miami, Florida only to be sent back to South Dakota). Through 10 games this season, Liggins has averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. Liggins has always been known as a stingy defensive brute and often finds himself being called up to the pros. If there is anyone on this list that has a chance to make it back to the NBA this season, Liggins is my guess to be at the top.
Isaac Humphries (2016-17)
Humphries is currently a member of the Erie Bayhawks – the Atlanta Hawks affiliate. In 15 games this season, he’s averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in over 20 minutes per game. After winning NBL (the National Basketball League located in Austrailia) Rookie of the Year last season, Humphries has returned to the states as he hopes to make the jump to the NBA.
James Young (2014)
Similar to Liggins, Young is a G League veteran at this point. He’s appeared in 84 total games, including 14 this season for the Wisconsin Herd – the Milwaukee Bucks affiliate. Young has averaged 19.9 points (22nd most) and 6.0 rebounds while playing over 32 minutes per game (26th most). He’s attempting right at seven three-pointers game and has converted on nearly 44 percent of them, an impressive clip. I’m not sure if Young will ever receive the call-up, but he’s definitely one of the better pure scorers in the developmental league.
Mychal Mulder (2016-17)
Mulder has quietly solidified himself as a legitimate prospect in the G League. His name doesn’t get brought up often, but he’s played in a total of 67 G League games, 19 of them coming this season for the Windy City Bulls – the Chicago Bulls affiliate. In those 19 games, Mulder is averaging 12.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 40 percent on seven three-point attempts per game.
Tyler Ulis (2015-16)
An obvious Kentucky fan favorite, Ulis joins Gabriel as the other former Kentucky player on a two-way contract with the Windy City Bulls alongside Mulder. Ulis has appeared in only four G League games this season, averaging 23.3 points, 8.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. It’s clear that Ulis is a player too good for the G League, but his physical limitations may never allow him to prove just how good he could be at the next level. He’s spent the majority of the season with the Chicago Bulls but appeared in only the first regular season game for less than a minute. He’s missed time with an undisclosed injury as of late, but other than that, there really doesn’t appear to be a good reason as to why he doesn’t play.
Terrence Jones (2011-12)
Jones joins Humprhies on the Erie Bayhawks, appearing in 11 games this season while averaging 24.4 points (7th most), 8.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.7 steals in close to 32 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 54.4 percent from the field and has made 40 percent of his three-pointers this season on 3.2 attempts per game. Jones is another guy who is clearly too talented for the G League, but just below the talent threshold of being a valuable NBA player. He’s had some chances in the past to prove his worth at the next level and it wouldn’t shock me if he got another opportunity by season’s end.
Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan
By Zack Geoghegan on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 9:00pm
New Orleans Pelicans and former Kentucky Wildcat forward Julius Randle hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Randle had a friendly wager going with Kyle Kuzma – his former teammate from his time in Los Angeles and current Laker – that his alma mater of Kentucky would beat Kuzma’s former college of Utah.
— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) December 16, 2018
Unless you’ve decided to hibernate until Christmas, you know how that game ended. Kentucky dismantled Utah 88-61 and played their best game of the season. So now it’s time for Kuzma to pay up.
??????????????? I got u. Smh https://t.co/yfvZSdoRio
— kuz (@kylekuzma) December 16, 2018
Kuzma is in his second year with the Lakers and spent three seasons in college at Utah where he averaged 10.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. He was the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and played with Randle in L.A. last season.
By Jonathan Miller on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 8:30pm
I’ve come to praise Mitch, not to bury him.
KSR readers, I have not lost my mind…nor my compass. I’m still the tree-hugging, LGBT-embracing, immigrant-welcoming, campaign finance-reforming, pro-choice feminist that you are used to. I still strongly disagree with the Senate Majority Leader on any number of critical policy issues, from Kavanaugh to climate change, from pre-existing conditions to budget-busting tax cuts.
But when it comes to hemp, I’ve seen another side of Mitch McConnell. And it makes me feel just a little bit more bullish about our otherwise broken political system.
This week, the 2018 Farm Bill became law. Buried within its hundreds of pages is a monumental development: The era of hemp prohibition is now over. Hemp is now permanently removed from the Controlled Substances Act. Non-psychoactive hemp is forever deemed an agricultural commodity, no longer mistaken as a controlled substance, like its crazier cousin, marijuana. By redefining hemp to include its “extracts, cannabinoids and derivatives,” Congress explicitly removed popular hemp products — such as hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) — from the purview of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
No one is more responsible for this development than Mitch McConnell. He wrote the provision, inserted it within the Farm Bill, fought back an attempt to weaken it in the Senate, and took the unprecedented step of placing himself on the House/Senate conference committee to ensure it remained in the final version. He used all of his power and wile and influence – qualities that I normally lament — to achieve victory for the industry I represent. Congressman Jamie Comer deserves considerable credit for setting the legalization process in motion as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner and then bringing McConnell to the table. Current Commissioner Ryan Quarles deserves due notice for running a successful state pilot program, demonstrating to McConnell the modern value proposition of the crop that ran Kentucky’s agricultural engine in our early history. Senator Rand Paul and Congressmen Thomas Massie and Jon Yarmuth supported legalized hemp long before it was cool.
But in the immutable swamp that is Washington, the relatively lightning speed of passage of this complex, nuanced and controversial subject could never have happened without the leadership of the Majority Leader.
What’s instructive about the Senator’s laser-like focus on this issue is that it’s in stark contrast to the way many of us Democrats usually think about him — as a political animal solely focused on advancing Republican interests. Perhaps McConnell polled the issue before he began advocating for legalization. But there are no elections to be won by his support, and scant political contributions to be raised. As his staff and former colleagues have insisted to me, McConnell has a sincere desire to assist Kentucky farmers, struggling in the post-tobacco economy, and potentially to build a vibrant new industry back home. Sure, there may be political value, but earning support by doing what’s right for one’s constituents is what politics should be about.
I’ve also been deeply impressed – and as a recovering politician, a bit jealous – about the staff he’s assembled. McConnell seems to pick off some of the smartest, most capable and most diligent folks on Capitol Hill and state politics. And they seem to all love their boss. Not in an Obama-2008 dreamy fan-boy kind of way; but rather as a friend, mentor, even sort of a surrogate father — deeply admiring his loyalty, self-discipline and commitment to public service.
I won’t be joining the fan club. We are too far apart on too many issues, and I cringe every time McConnell enables the bully in the White House pulpit. But the hemp example proves my stubborn idealistic belief that there’s so much more that Americans agree about than disagree. And the way to start fixing our polarized and paralyzed body politic is to identify that common ground and work toward it together.
I was asked a few weeks ago, on KET’s Kentucky Tonight, whether I thought that the federal judiciary would be McConnell’s legacy. I said I hope not. (Long live Justices Ginsburg and Breyer!) I’m very hopeful instead that a century from now, when the hemp industry has helped transform Kentucky’s economy for the better, we will remember the essential, bi-partisan role played by Mitch McConnell.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
The Memphis Tigers saw their first sellout at the FedEx Forum since John Calipari was the team’s head coach in 2009.
But the team made history in another way during their 102-92 loss to the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers.
For the *first time in school history, a fan was arrested for defecating behind a concession stand inside the arena. Why? According to a report by WREB in Memphis, it was because the lines for the restrooms were too long and he didn’t feel like waiting.
Judging by his mugshot, is it really that much of a surprise?
Here is the mind-boggling play-by-play:
A security guard was making her way from a stairwell and saw the man, later identified as 46-year-old Royce Thomos Lodholz, squatting behind a concession stand. She went over to Lodholz and found that he had his pants off his body, exposing himself to several people walking nearby, and was defecating on the floor.
The security guard called for her partner, who saw the same thing.
Lodholz told police officers that people in the restrooms were taking too long to clear out, so “he had to do what he had to do,” according to a police affidavit.
The man was immediately arrested and charged with indecent exposure.
Could you imagine being the No. 1 recruit in the nation and wanting to play at Memphis? Me neither.
*Considering I have never seen or heard of another instance of public defecation at the FedEx Forum, this is just an educated guess. Judging by the fanbase’s presence on Twitter, though, it really wouldn’t shock me at all if there were serial public defecators in Memphis.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Los Angeles Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has been cleared to resume all basketball-related activities as of Saturday.
Rondo hasn’t played since Nov. 14 and has missed the Lakers last 15 games due to a broken hand he suffered during a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Rondo fractured the third metacarpal on his right hand after punching the floor and underwent surgery the following day.
The Lakers say Rajon Rondo has been cleared to resume all basketball activities after seeing the doctor again today. He will not join the Lakers on the road trip, however.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 15, 2018
A few days ago, it was reported that the swelling in his hand had gone down and he was ready to be reevaluated within the next 48 hours. He’s been cleared now but, according to ESPN, Rondo is not expected to join the Lakers on the rest of their road trip to Washington D.C. and Brooklyn.
The Lakers next home game is Dec. 21 against the New Orleans Pelicans, so look for that date to be Rondo’sfirst possibility of returning.
Since his injury, Lonzo Ball has assumed the starting point guard duties and has faired quite nicely, including a triple-double performance in Saturday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. I would expect Ball remains as the starter – considering the public praise he’s received from teammate LeBron James – and for Rondo to come off the bench and direct the second-unit.
In 11 games this season, Rondo is averaging 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. The Lakers are 11-5 since Rondo’s surgery.
By Eli Mitchell on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 6:00pm
Anthony Davis took some time out of his busy schedule to host his annual shopping spree for underprivileged kids on Thursday evening.
Kids that were selected from two non-profit groups, the Kingsley House and Raintree Child Services, were given $200 gift cards to Target, two tickets to a Pelicans game, and a pair of Beats headphones.
After six years, Davis’s favorite part of the Holiday tradition is spending time with the kids, telling Nola.com, “just to see the smiles on their faces, it means a lot to me, I can’t wait to go out there and shop with them, interact with them.”
Good on AD for using the fortune he’s earned to give the less-fortunate a Holiday to remember.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 5:00pm
Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari has been pretty outspoken about his support of the football program this season. Yesterday afternoon, he took that support one step further.
During one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year, Coach Cal went out of his way to spread the love to some of the elite football prospects on campus following his team’s victory over Utah.
Kentucky four-star linebacker commit Jared Casey tweeted out the following video while he was on campus:
— Jar?d Çasey 6?? (@jared_casey01) December 16, 2018
Four-star defensive back Jammie Robinson was one of the big dogs on campus, and he seemed to have a pretty great time:
— BIG 6? (@Jammierobinson6) December 15, 2018
Not too shabby when a recruit’s mother arrives on a visit wearing a customized Kentucky hoodie of her son in a Wildcat uniform…
The other uncommitted big shot in town was four-star wide receiver Devonta Lee, who said he “fell in love with Kentucky” during his official visit to Lexington:
— Devonta Lee (@DevontaleeLee) December 16, 2018
Three-star defensive back Taj Dodson posted the following image on his Instagram:
As for committed prospects (beyond Casey), Kentucky had plenty of elite talent to help secure signatures from prior to National Signing Day next week.
It starts with three-star quarterback commit Amani Gilmore, who just led his Amite Warrior squad to a Louisiana 2A State Championship last weekend:
— Amani Gilmore (@iam_maniiii) December 15, 2018
Kentucky three-star quarterback commit Nik Scalzo said he was excited to officially move in:
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) December 16, 2018
He also responded to Gilmore’s tweet, saying it was going to be “the best QB room in the nation” when they both arrive in Lexington:
About to be the best QB room in the nation? #bbn
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) December 15, 2018
Scalzo said a few days back that fans should “look out for a couple key commits this weekend.”
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) December 14, 2018
Four-star running back commit Travis Tisdale said he had a “great time” in Lexington:
— Tis6ale? (@Tisdale_6) December 16, 2018
Three-star wide receiver commit DeMarcus Harris announced his arrival on Friday night:
— HD? (@D_harris2121) December 14, 2018
Kentucky three-star defensive tackle commit Cavon Butler and offensive line commit Jake Pope were also on campus this weekend.
Though he wasn’t able to make the trip, Kentucky three-star tight end commitment Nikolas Ognenovic wanted to join in on the tweeting spree, posting about his in-home visit with Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran earlier this week:
— ? Nikolas Ognenovic ? (@N11KOLAS) December 16, 2018
Can the Kentucky Wildcats secure a few more high-profile commitments prior to National Signing Day on Wednesday?
Nik Scalzo certainly seems to think so…
By Eli Mitchell on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
Behind that ferocious defense the Chicago Bears have clinched the NFC North with a 24-17 win over the Green Bay Packers.
That means former Kentucky star Danny Trevathan is back in the playoffs for the first time since he won the Super Bowl in 2016.
Trevathan has been an anchor for a Bears defense that has been the highest rated unit in the NFL this season, and they proved that again today with an impressive performance against Aaron Rodgers.
With four tackles Trevathan pushed his season totals to 91 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, and one INT. That’s a pro-bowl caliber year for the former Kentucky legend.
On the other side of things, Randall Cobb had a quiet day with 3 catches for 30 yards. It has been a tough year for Cobb in what may be his last season with the Green Bay Packers as they are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Following today’s victory the Bears still have a slim shot at a first-round bye if the Saints or Rams slip up in the last two games of the regular season.
BBN, let’s help Danny out & send one of our one to Orlando for the Pro Bowl.
— Danny Trevathan (@Grindin_59) December 13, 2018
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
Anthony Davis celebrated Christmas a little early with his teammates on Saturday. Davis gave customized Red Bull mini refrigerators to his teammates.
Each refrigerator has the player’s number and face on the side.
Davis shared the moment of Frank Jackson opening his refrigerator on his Instagram. Pelicans beat reporter for The Athletic, Will Guillory, shared it on Twitter.
Anthony Davis gave all his teammates custom gifts from Red Bull today pic.twitter.com/uDt8fU2QnZ
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) December 15, 2018
Can I get one of those, Red Bull?
The Pelicans take on Bam Adebayo and the Miami Heat tonight at 7:00 pm ET at the Smoothie King Center.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 3:00pm
To say Kentucky fans have mixed emotions about former head coach Rick Pitino would be an understatement.
On the one hand, Pitino took over a program in the midst of a crushing probation and brought them back to glory, winning a national title in 1996.
On the other, he went on to coach at Louisville, Kentucky’s most bitter rival. It was hero turned villain.
This weekend, Pitino’s 1993 squad came back to Lexington to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their historic run to the Final Four. The vast majority of the team was in attendance, but the former head coach was notably and unsurprisingly absent.
He did tweet about the reunion, telling his players he was proud and “loved the hell out of them.” He also added that John Calipari reached out to him, sparking controversy within the fanbase:
Congrats 93 UK team! Proud of you guys and love the hell out of you. Thx Cal for reaching out. Much appreciated.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) December 15, 2018
After Kentucky’s victory over Utah on Saturday night, Calipari addressed the comment, saying he absolutely reached out to Pitino and hopes he makes his way back to Lexington sooner rather than later.
“So what?” he said of Pitino’s tenure at Louisville. Calipari wants you to appreciate him for what he did in Lexington.
“He was with family and he had things going on but I said, ‘Look, you need to get up here. This will be respectful here,’” he said. “What that program did to change this back, we should recognize it. You may be mad he went to coach Louisville. So what? When he was here and we needed this program on a different track, he put it and that group, and I thanked that group last night. ‘You guys got this thing back going. You guys did.’”
He likened the situation to Joe B. Hall’s in Lexington. He had his ups and downs, but fans only remember him for the good now. In his mind, Pitino deserves that same respect.
“I just — like I said, I’d like him to come back and let him — one of the happiest things for me is when I see how Coach [Joe B.] Hall is treated here,” he said. “He’s treated like royalty. I love it when he goes out on the court. I love to see him in practice and I love how our fans treat him. My guess is back in the day they probably weren’t as friendly. But now they look at it and say, you know what? Who would have followed Adolph Rupp? Who was stupid enough to do that? He was. Won Final Fours, won national titles. Think about it.
“And now, what Rick did? Like I said, he deserves to be able to get the respect from what he did here. And I think our fans would be great. I think they’re by all that. He may not think that, but I’m convinced that if he came back, the fans would be great to him.”
When asked about Pitino’s time at Kentucky, former Wildcat point guard Dale Brown said he had nothing but love for his former head coach.
“Nothing negative to say about Coach,” Brown said. “I love that guy. He prepared me for life… Great guy, man. He did great things for us. He’ll always have a special place in our hearts.”
Brown added that under Pitino, players believed in one another and accepted their roles on the team. That cohesiveness led to their Final Four run.
“We just believed in Coach Pitino’s system, we knew he was going to put us in the best situation possible,” Brown said. “We just fulfilled our role night in and night out, and we eventually made it to the Final Four. It was a dream come true.”
Former Kentucky forward Gimel Martinez said Pitino’s presence, combined with the tradition, was enough to seal the deal on his recruitment.
“When coach Pitino was recruiting me, we were obviously on probation, and I knew we would be on probation one more year,” he said. “Just to be able to play for someone like coach, and when I came here on my recruiting visit, just the atmosphere and the tradition, it was something you couldn’t get anywhere else. It was definitely something I wanted to be a part of.”
Martinez said his former head coach made all of his players the best version of themselves, and that’s what he appreciates most.
”Pitino got the best out of all of us, made us all better players,” he said.
Former Wildcat forward Jared Prickett said his head coach would never allow anything of that nature in his time at Kentucky. That’s why his situation in Louisville was so unfortunate.
“Everyone has their ups and downs in life,” he said. “But I look at that (Louisville) situation, and the way Coach communicated with us, how he was strict with us… not allowing anything of that nature at our program. It’s an unfortunate situation”
Beyond the controversy surrounding Pitino and his career trajectory, Prickett wanted to get something else off his chest about his time in Lexington.
The former Kentucky big man said if Brown hadn’t gone down with a shoulder injury and Jamal Mashburn never fouled out in crunch time, the Wildcats were moving on to the national title game. They wouldn’t have lost to Michigan’s Fab Five in the Final Four.
“We should’ve won that game,” he said. “We could’ve won it, we should’ve won it.”
By John Reecer on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 2:30pm
The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines so far from the first month of play.
1. Tennessee’s Dynamic Duo
No team in the SEC has looked as good as the Volunteers have so far. In the most up-to-date rankings Tennessee is ranked as the No. 3 team in the country. This comes in large part because of their huge win over previously No. 1 Gonzaga.
Their only loss on the year came in a crazy environment at Kansas by just six points (in a game that was terribly officiated). So how did the Volunteers turn into a college basketball powerhouse?
They have Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. That’s how.
— The Ringer (@ringer) December 13, 2018
Tennessee's Admiral Schofield big time balling against Gonzaga with 27 points pic.twitter.com/iiE7q4Qt7O
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) December 9, 2018
This duo is quite frankly the best in college basketball outside of Duke’s Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Both are skilled behemoths standing near 6’7 and weighing around 240 pounds. What makes them so dangerous is that they are completely different players.
Schofield is an excellent outside shooter and Williams chews opposing defenses up with an imposing inside game. They have gradually improved over the past few year and now they reached the peak of their abilities as they combine to average 37.8 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.
This duo will wreak havoc on the SEC once conference play starts. The only way to defeat Tennessee this season will be figuring out to guard these two excellent players. That is easier said than done.
2. Kentucky Tries to Regain its Swagger.
The Wildcats have had quite the disappointing start to the season after one month of play. Kentucky was picked by many to win it all, but now John Calipari’s team finds their selves at No. 19 in the latest AP ranking (at of time of publication).
Not only did an unranked Seton Hall team best the Wildcats in overtime, but they also suffered what has been the most embarrassing defeat of the year when Duke demolished UK in the Champions Classic.
Now with the announcement of Quade Green’s transfer many are saying that Kentucky has momentarily lost its famous swagger. The great news is that it is only December and there is plenty of time to regroup.
Thankfully for BBN, the Wildcats came out last night and actually hit numerous jump shots in their blowout win against Utah. Their woes from beyond the arc were very well-documented last season, and Kentucky hasn’t been much better this season.
That changed on Saturday night. Keldon Johnson caught fire and hit six three-pointers, Tyler Herro at times looked like his old Bahamas self, and most importantly THERE WAS A JEMARL BAKER SIGHTING!!!
Jemarl Baker with his first basket in a Kentucky uniform. pic.twitter.com/IaU8iY85yt
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 15, 2018
That jumper was so incredibly fluid and smooth. Who knows what exactly UK will get from Baker. But if he can be a reliable three-point shooter (think Doron Lamb) it would be HUGE for the Wildcats floor spacing. Plus, it would ease some pressure off of Herro. This might (emphasis on might) be something, folks.
3. Auburn’s Dominant Backcourt
Like Tennessee, Auburn has jumped out to a very strong start this season thanks in large part to a duo of their own. Different from the Volunteers, the Tigers’ duo is in the backcourt.
Guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper have been stellar this season. Brown is a true go-to scorer and big-time shot maker while Harper is an electric point guard who is a talented passer (6.8 assists per game).
The two give Auburn what has been bar-none the best backcourt so far in the conference. This was on full display when the Tigers went up against Duke in the Maui Tournament and gave the Blue Devils all they could handle.
Auburn started with some fireworks! Gotta come hard at Duke
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 21, 2018
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Take whatever PG you want, I'll take Jared Harper seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Best PG in the SEC.
Auburn over UAB.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 16, 2018
Despite eventually falling to Duke, Auburn gave the Blue Devils a much better game than Kentucky did, and I do think that is meaningful. Come tournament time you need elite play from your guards if you need to go far, and luckily for Bruce Pearl’s squad they have that at the moment.
4. Gafford Powers the Razorbacks
In the running for best player in the SEC along with Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Bryce Brown is Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford. In case you did not know, Gafford is a borderline lottery pick who can at times look like a future all-star.
Of course, he is not as good as the comparison made in the title of that video, but don’t underestimate just how good Gafford is. He has the range and athleticism to change a game at the rim on offense and defense.
Thanks to Gafford’s strong start (18.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) the Razorbacks are off to a 7-2 start which includes a big win over Indiana. Their defeats have been to two very capable teams in Texas and Western Kentucky so it’s safe to say at the moment that Arkansas is going to be a tough out for any team.
Also, freshman guard Isaiah Joe has had a fantastic start to the season as he is averaging a head-turning 16.5 ppg on 46% shooting from beyond the arc. If Gafford and Joe continue to improve throughout the year, then the Razorbacks could cause some havoc in the SEC.
5. A Very Strong Start for the Conference
Overall, the conference as a whole is off to a great start this season. Tennessee and Auburn look like legitimate final four contenders, Kentucky still has a ton of talent despite a less-than-desirable start, and Mississippi State 9-1 and ranked nationally.
Couple those four legitimately solid teams with really athletic squads like Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, and even Vanderbilt and you have a very good basketball conference.
At one time the SEC was the butt of a lot of jokes from the national media. It used to be just the conference that Kentucky dominated every year. While UK is still really talented, other programs have finally closed the gap.
There's a new No. 1 in the Power 36! ?
1. Michigan ??2??
2. Tennessee ??5??
3. Gonzaga ??2??
4. Virginia ??2??
7. Kansas ??3??
9. Michigan State
10. Texas Tech ??3??
11-36. ? https://t.co/w2h33elFIa pic.twitter.com/dOvJi811dt
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 10, 2018
What does this mean for Kentucky? Well it means that there is a real chance the Wildcats could struggle in January and into the start of February. Conference play will be tough at first, but the good news is that time and talent are both still on UK’s side. Just be prepared for some bumps along the road.