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August 21st, 2018

Stoops: "We’re a better team this year than we’ve ever been"

Mark Stoops made a special guest appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio during a break in Week 3 of his team’s fall football camp.

As always, Stoops was very candid and transparent to the show in his comments; although, he did not reveal any new information as to who the starting quarterback will be in 11 days. (Sorry.) He did, however, say, “I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t made a decision on it as far as when and how I’ll make that public.”

Stoops also raved about his team’s veteran leadership in a year that, for the first time, the best players are also its best leaders.

“We’ve been more consistent,” Stoops told the show. “I’ve been impressed; in particular, some of those guys on the offensive side of the ball with Benny, CJ and all the O linemen. All those guys are leaders and want to do the right thing all of the time, so they’ve been impressive. Same with the quarterbacks.”

Overall, he sees his best football team since he’s been at the University of Kentucky. But only time will tell if his best roster will translate to the Cats’ best record in his six seasons in Lexington.

Without a doubt, we’re a stronger football team this year,” Stoops said, proudly. “Whether we play better or whether we win those games, that’s why we play them. But we’re a better team this year than we’ve ever been. And as I say all the time, we should be. How it translates to wins and losses, that’s why we gotta go play because I can’t just say that.

“We have a great opportunity. I like this football team. But until you go play, you don’t know exactly what we have.”

11 days until we see it on the field.

Listen to Stoops’ entire interview:


Jordan Jones Returned to Practice with a Bang

Kentucky’s explosive All-SEC inside linebacker returned to practice Tuesday.

Jordan Jones missed significant time in 2017 with a collarbone injury.  He was also absent throughout the spring with a shoulder injury.  At the start of camp his shoulder was cleared to practice, but according to Mark Stoops, Jones had multiple minor injuries that kept him off the field throughout raining camp.

“He hasn’t been out there much.  He’s had two or three different things going on with with him.  Hopefully he’s back now full-go.  We’ll see,” Stoops said after today’s practice.

In 2016, his only complete season as a starter at Kentucky, Jones was a Second Team All-SEC selection after recording 109 tackles (3rd in the SEC), 15.5 tackles for loss (6th in the SEC) and four sacks.  In today’s practice he had arguably the defense’s best play when he blew up Benny Snell behind the line of scrimmage, one of Jones’ specialities.

“He’s loose. He’s slippery, both in run game and when he’s pressuring.  He’s one of those guys that just has instincts to get to the football.  He showed some signs again with that today,” Stoops said.

The defense felt Jones’ impact today.  How he will perform moving forward after missing so much time is unforeseen, but his experience is invaluable.

“He’s been gone a bunch…so we’ve learned to function and move on without him at times. But certainly with his experience and has playmaking ability, we love having him out there.  As far as his effect on the defense, that’s yet to be seen.  Hopefully it’ll amp us up a bit.  His experience helps because when we’re playing with the freshmen, they’re talented, but they’re still freshmen.”


Former UK assistant accused of paying players at Texas A&M

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Another day and another potential college football scandal. This time it’s Texas A&M.

Former Aggie (now at Arizona) Santino Marchiol is spilling the beans on new A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and how he operates his program. USA Today’s Dan Wolken has the story, and boy, is it interesting.

Marchiol red-shirted at A&M last season and was willing to give Fisher a chance this year, but decided to transfer after a handful of incidents took place between him and the coaching staff.

Because he was a red-shirt, Marchiol would have to sit out a year at Arizona and lose a year of eligibility. But there is a relatively new NCAA rule that could grant Marchiol instant eligibility. If he details wrongdoing at A&M, mitigating circumstances, then he could be instantly eligible.

So, Marchiol snitched and there were three major claims:

  • Assistants (former UK assistant Bradley Dale Peveto was specifically named) handed Marchiol and his teammates cash. The money ($1,000 mentioned) was to be used on recruits during their unofficial visits. This is an obvious NCAA violation but Marchiol did state there was no evidence of the interactions with Peveto and he kept the leftover money.
  • A&M coaches made players participate in “voluntary” workouts, practices and film sessions during the summer.
  • A&M coaches used disrespectful language when talking to players and didn’t use caution with Marchiol’s injured ankle.

Marchiol describes being taken aback after the spring game when Peveto pulled him into a bathroom near the coaches’ offices and handed him $300.

“There were coaches having meetings in the other office, and he said, here, come in the bathroom real quick because he’d just asked me to host the recruit,” Marchiol said. “So I went in the bathroom and it was just me and him in there, and he’s like, ‘Take this, if you need any more just text me and make sure they have a good time.’ ”

I would suggest you read the entire story HERE, but this isn’t great news for A&M. The Cats will travel to College Station in October, so the more headaches the better.

But my big takeaway is the NCAA allowing players to snitch to become instantly eligible. That’s going to be a dangerous game for players who feel they didn’t get a fair shake. I’m guessing this will have college coaches pushing for immediate eligibility soon.

It’s worth noting that Marchiol didn’t go straight to the NCAA with this information, but instead detailed this info to Arizona’s compliance department, who told the NCAA.


Kevin Knox Voted to Have Second Best NBA Career Among Rookies

© Brad Penner | USATSI

The NBA conducted their annual rookie survey, releasing the results on Tuesday morning and several former Wildcats received votes in almost all of the polls. Rookies voted on other rookies and were not allowed to vote for themselves, college teammates, or NBA teammates (and the ones that did anyways had their votes thrown out).

New York Knicks forward and number nine overall pick Kevin Knox received the most praise from his fellow rookies, as 10 percent of them picked him to have the best career among all rookies in his draft class. Former Duke product Wendell Carter Jr. finished with the highest percentage of votes at 13 percent and the three-year man out of Boston College, Jerome Robinson, tied Knox by also receiving 10 percent of votes.

(Via NBA.com)

Not only do the rookies think highly of Knox having a fantastic longterm career, he also finished tied for third with Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic in voting to win Rookie of the Year with nine percent of the votes going his way. Knox also received at least one vote as the best rookie shooter in the class (Trae Young easily won that poll).

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo also received at least one vote to win Rookie of the Year, as well. Remember, these votes couldn’t have come from Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or any other Kentucky rookie, so there is at least one believer in Diallo to have a huge rookie season.

(Via NBA.com)

Diallo also received at least one vote to be the biggest steal of the draft and finished tied for second in voting as the most athletic rookie in the draft with 15 percent of the votes. Zhaire Smith, an unexpected one-and-done player from Texas Tech drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, finished with 24 percent of the votes. The love for Diallo doesn’t even stop there, as at least one player voted him as the best rookie defender.

*I assume the same player is continuously voting for Diallo in each poll, although I have no idea who it might be. Or maybe his peers just have that much faith in him. Who knows. But either way, it’s nice to see him gaining some recognition.*

SGA finished tied for third as the best rookie playmaker with nine percent of the votes and he also received at least one vote to have the best overall career.

Is it October yet?


Skal Labissiere Hit the Weight Room This Offseason

(Via NBA.com)

Sacramento Kings forward Skal Labissiere looks considerably more jacked than in the past. Hide your significant others, gentlemen.

A highlight video posted to Ball is Life’s YouTube channel showcased some private games hosted by Rico Hines, a current assistant coach with the NBA’s G League team, the Stockton Kings. The teams were star-studded with players such as Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Taurean Prince and several other NBA players being pitted against each other. There were also a handful of former Kentucky players who took the court.

Devin Booker, Julius Randle, and Labissiere were all participants in the private games. The thing that will pop out at you the most? Labissiere’s improved muscles.

Labissiere appears to have hit the weight room hard this offseason, looking like a completely different player with the beard to match. His highlights begin around the 4:29 mark (as do Booker and Randle’s) and he can be seen throwing down dunks, attacking the boards, and just being a much more physically imposing player than previously seen.

Also, I can’t help but notice the fact that Labissiere is trying his hardest to look like Anthony Davis. Although that’s not a bad player to try and mold yourself after.

(Via Getty Images)

Most of the 13-minute video consists of Taurean Prince and Kevin Durant exchanging jump shot after jump shot, but it’s some of the first video we have of Labissiere since the offseason began and it’s clear he’s been working hard on his body, something he has been criticized for since he was at Kentucky.

Through two less-than-ideal seasons with the Kings, Labissiere has averaged 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game with several stints in and out of the G League. While he’s shown flashes of being a potential role player in the NBA, he has never been consistent enough to be reliable (with some minor injuries sprinkled in) and his playing time has suffered because of it.

With how the Kings have spent their time and money this offseason (drafting Marvin Bagley III and signing Nemanja Bjelica, both big men) and their infatuation with Harry Giles III (another center), it’s good to see Labissiere investing time into his body in order to compete with what will be a cluttered Kings frontcourt. The third season for fringe NBA players can typically be a good indicator of whether or not they can make it in the league and Labissiere appears to be putting in the work to stand out this season and ensure he’s not on the outside looking in.

I mean, check out this video of him lifting weights in late July.

That’s a grown man. It’ll be exciting to see how it all pays off for him.