Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's Official, Kentucky gets Kansas at Rupp in SEC/Big 12 Challenge

After putting together an overtime classic last season in Lawrence, Kan., the Kentucky men’s basketball team will get the Kansas Jayhawks in Rupp Arena during the 2016-17 season in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. 

The Jayhawks’ return trip on Jan. 28 will mark the first time the two schools have met inside Rupp Arena since Jan. 9, 2005.

This marks the fourth season of the annual challenge between the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and the second straight season where all 10 games of the challenge will be played on the same day. A bye in the league schedule for participating teams was created to accommodate for the format.

Ten of the SEC's 14 teams will participate in this year's event against all 10 of the Big 12's institutions with each conference hosting five games apiece. Each of the 10 SEC teams participating in the 2017 games played in the 2016 event. The four SEC teams not participating will play each other in conference games the same day.

Seven of the 12 SEC/Big 12 Challenge games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2, one game on ESPN2 or ESPNU, and two games will air on ESPNU. All 10 games will be available via WatchESPN. ESPN's College GameDay will originate from one of the Challenge games, to be announced at a later date. Start times and network designations will also be announced at a later time.

The meeting between Kentucky and Kansas will be the third straight season the two winningest schools in NCAA Division I history will play, the fifth time in the last six seasons, and the second straight year in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Kansas won last season’s meeting 90-84 in overtime, but the Wildcats’ won the previous three meetings, all under head coach John Calipari, including the 2012 national championship.

Overall, UK leads the series 22-7, including a 7-1 mark in Lexington and a 4-1 record in Rupp Arena. Kansas won the last matchup in Rupp Arena in 2005, 65-59.

As they are every season, UK and Kansas are predicted to be among the nation’s top teams during the 2016-17 season. With decisions on the future statuses of Isaiah Briscoe and Marcus Lee still looming, UK is expected to return the likes of Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Isaac Humphries to go along with the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class (according to Rivals and ESPN).

Kentucky’s nonconference schedule is quickly shaping up to be a super slate of marquee games. UK is already scheduled to play Michigan State in Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic (Nov. 15), face Arizona State in the Bahamas (Nov. 28), host UCLA on Dec. 3, take on Hofstra at the Barclays Center (Dec. 11), and head to Las Vegas to play North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic (Dec. 17).

UK’s full 2016-17 nonconference schedule will be released at a later time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kentucky Announces Men's Basketball Exhibition Schedule

“Next season” officially begins Oct. 14 with the annual spectacle of Big Blue Madness, introducing the 2016-17 men’s and women’s basketball teams. Madness will begin at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena and will air on the SEC Network. 

That’s just the beginning of the exhibition slate, which will encompass Madness, the Blue-White Scrimmage and UK’s first two exhibition games vs. Clarion and Asbury. All events and games are scheduled for 7 p.m. starts. All four events will also be televised live by the SEC Network. 

Just one week from the official opening of the 2016-17 season, the annual Blue-White Scrimmage will take place Oct. 21. Tipping off at 7 p.m., fans of the Big Blue Nation will see next year’s team in action, including the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class of Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk.

Kentucky will once again have two exhibition contests before opening up regular-season action. UK will take on Clarion, the alma matter of head coach John Calipari, on Oct. 30. A week later UK’s final tune-up will pit Asbury vs. the Wildcats on Nov. 6.  Both of those games will tip at 7 p.m. and air on the SEC Network.

The game vs. Clarion will be the second of the Calipari era. UK also took on the Golden Eagles in an exhibition game prior to the 2009-10 season. UK and Asbury will meet for the first time in program history. 

Ticket information, along with the 2016-17 regular-season non-conference slate and the 2017 Southeastern Conference schedule are expected to be released later this summer. Information regarding campout for Big Blue Madness will also be released at a later time.

2016-17 Kentucky Men’s Basketball Exhibition Schedule
TV Network
Oct. 14
Big Blue Madness
7 p.m.
SEC Network
Oct. 21
Blue-White Scrimmage
7 p.m.
SEC Network
Oct. 30
vs. Clarion
7 p.m.
SEC Network
Nov. 6
vs. Asbury
7 p.m.
SEC Network

Quotes From Today's Calipari Press Conference

John Calipari

On the latest news regarding Isaiah Briscoe …
“Don’t know yet. He’s worked out with a few teams. Did a pretty good job. You know, with Isaiah, the whole thing comes back to just shooting the ball. Because they know the other skills that he has translates, including physically and defensively and rebounding. It all translates, so he’s just got to be a more consistent shooter. And if you’re watching the NBA, if you choose to do that, what you’re finding out is that now there is a premium on shooting. And if you’re someone that’s going to have the basketball, you’ve got to be able to shoot. You look at Cleveland right now. If Cleveland continues to shoot right now like they’re doing, they may not lose a game in the playoffs. So you’re understanding now that it’s important and they’ll evaluate him, first of all, that way and then they go from there. But he’s got all the other skills.”

On Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress …
“I would say Marcus is at the combine. Marcus is a little different. Marcus really wants to do this, and my guess is that he’ll keep his name in the draft because this is what he wants to do. And I just told him to go up there and do your thing and show the athletic player that you are. But he’s also worked out. We’ve had those guys work out with teams before the combine so two or three teams could evaluate them, talk to them, and Marcus went to the combine. Alex, it was funny, his agent called and just said, ‘Coach, the leg is not fully healed, as far as it’s (not) as strong as the other knee. And we’re going do that; we’re not going to let him go to the combine. So one way or another he will not go to the combine and we’re not going to have him work out with teams until we know he’s 100 percent.’ So I was really happy to hear that, that they’re on top of it. And this is about, how do we put him in the best position he can be in? There are a lot of teams that like Alex. But he’s got to go in healthy, he’s got to show them that athleticism and that stuff and he’ll be fine.”

On what Briscoe can do to be a better shooter …
“Get in the gym. The greatest thing with shooting is that it’s kind of like ball handling.”

On if it’s a form problem ...
“He’s got a couple little things, but he worked on them last year and he got better. But as you work, it’s kind of like a golf swing. Many of you here are so non-athletic, I don’t think you even play golf (crowd laughs), but I would tell you on a golf swing – Eric (Lindsey), I’m including you on that (laughter) – but in a golf swing, someone works with you and gives you a swing and you’re on the tee box. Why are some of you, like, really laughing at yourself? (laughter) And you’re killing the ball, but it’s not your swing, it’s still that guy’s swing. And so it takes repetition before you own the shot, it’s your shot. So if you look at a guy and you say, ‘Wow, he’s really reworked his shot,’ and it becomes his shot, usually that takes time. It’s not a month. It’s not two weeks. It’s not coming in at night for two months. That takes you eight, nine months, and then getting in games and building your self-esteem of ‘this is my shot and this will work, and if I miss it, I’m not reverting.’ ”

On what teams like about Jamal Murray …
“Steph Curry. Six-five, can really shoot it. They saw him play point guard in Canada. They saw him play both positions here. They love now that he can play off the ball, that he doesn’t have to score with the ball in his hands or just in a pick-and-roll. They love that. They love the fact that he’s improved defensively. So now all of a sudden, it’s a couple guys and then you look at him and say, ‘If I’m going to take one of those, what’s the sure bet?’ He’s 6-5, he’s physical, he’s young, he’s a baby. I want you to think about it. He just came from Canada and then he has eight months of this and you saw him become a volume shooter to a high-percentage efficient player who can play both positions. And there are teams early on when those balls drop that are going to need guard play. More than anything else, we needed guard play. So I like where he sits and I also like where Tyler (Ulis) sits. Now, I’ll say it again, there are teams that won’t take Tyler because he’s 5-9. What helped Tyler’s position? Isaiah Thomas in Boston. He’s 5-9. Absolutely carried Boston. When he played well, they won. When he didn’t play well, they lost. Five-nine, a little sturdier, but for Tyler, it helped him. So now, any team that was afraid is going to give him a second look. And I think he’s going to be fine. I’d like him to be on a better team, because with better players, I think he’s even better. You put him with really good players, they’re going to want to play with him.”

On how the scholarship would work out should Lee return …
“I don’t think it will be an issue for us here.”

On what sparked such a specific reaction to a specific recruiting pitch in a recent blog posting …
“It wasn’t specific. Obviously when I speak, you guys partial every word and you tell me back what I meant when I said something. And I let you run, and I don’t really care. But the reality of it is, that post was more in a general sense. It wasn’t geared to one person or one program. It was in a general sense. And I’ll give you the example. So I go in a house, and I start talking about the academics and what we’re doing here. And again, let me just say this, we just had another semester where our team went a 3.0 (grade-point average). Now, you won’t write that and that won’t go out because that doesn’t fit the narrative. But it was another semester of a 3.0. Jerry (Tipton) will check to see if it was a 2.989, not a 3.0. But it was a 3.0. So I walk in and we’re talking academically of what we do and our kids and Alex and this and this and we talk about servant leadership. We tell the story about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and what he did. We tell about Anthony Davis and John Wall being two finalists for the (Community) Assist in the NBA, which is an award all those players want. It’s community involvement. Two of our players are finalists. We’ve raised all this money, we get involved in the community, we do this, it’s about servant leadership. It’s about preparing you. And the mother looks at me and says, ‘All you talk about is the NBA.’ Excuse me? I just walked in. I looked at the kid and I say, ‘You want to start? I can’t promise you that. If you’re going to start, you’ll start. I’m not promising you shots, minutes. You come here, you earn it. We don’t give fish; we give fishing rods. You come here (etc.).’ And that’s when I said, ‘What is being said out here?’ Not by one. Like Twany Beckham. Twany was a walk-on. He just got hired by the governor of our state. So my point to him is, be governor someday. Dream big. He’s a walk-on. What happens to our draft picks, I really don’t have to help them. I’m asking them for help. Give me a loan. But it’s all these kids, so it was more in a general (sense). You took it how you did, but it’s like, ‘Hey now. This, what we do here and how we do this.’ It gave me a chance to educate. You all, I don’t have to educate because you know. You’re with me whenever I allow you to be with me. (Laughter) Thank you, you don’t have to kneel, stand up. You guys know how I do this, but someone on the outside that lives in another state (might not). So it gave me a chance to say, ‘This is who we are. This is not for everybody.’ It isn’t. And it gave me that chance. Now you guys ran with it and did what you did, but it was broader. Normally I say when you throw a rock at a pack of dogs, the one you hit starts yelping. That hit, it should have hit about 15 heads, OK? Not just one.”

On looking forward to the upcoming class …
“Well, with the guys we have coming back, with the incoming guys, I think we’re going to be a pretty good team again. You know, you have a big backcourt. Our returning vets have had good experience. You have a beast. We’ve missed a beast for a year. You know, when he gets it, he’s going to try to either dunk it or knock your arm. And then you’ve got those long athletes we’ve always had in Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Wenyen (Gabriel). They’re different. One’s 6-11, one’s 6-10. But one’s more of a wing, one’s more of a four/five. Bam (Adebayo) is what he is and can dominate a game. But all these guys add to us, Malik (Monk) and De’Aaron (Fox). A lot’s been said. They’re going to have to come in, and there’s going to be an adjustment. Look, every kid that’s come here, there’s an adjustment. The thing that always amazes me is the way we recruit. We’re not promising and I’m not telling anybody, ‘You’re going to be one year and go.’ I tell every kid, ‘You ought to plan on staying at least two and you may be here longer.’ Don’t come in here thinking you’re leaving eight months later. You’re gonna torture yourself. But it’s amazing to me that these kids think that it’s an extension of high school. ‘I want to play like I did in AAU.’ Really? Go back to AAU. That ain’t college. And then, let me say this. When they leave here and then go to that other league, that’s not an extension of college. That’s a whole other profession. So I think we’re going to be fine. I like our team. I like our depth. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It will be ugly early. We should be great defensively. We should be one of my better defensive teams, which, probably some of you didn’t read that part of the post because you just started getting all crazy with the early stuff. But we should be great defensively and we should be a great shot-blocking team and rebounding team. We’ll have to figure out how we’ll play. I can’t tell you exactly how we’ll play. I’ve watched more tape of different teams playing positionless-space basketball, pick-and-roll basketball. And you know I did more pick-and-roll last year than ever because of Tyler. Now I’ve got a couple guys that I think would be great in pick-and-roll; we’ve just got to figure out how we play.”

On the rehab process that Charles Matthews has been through after the offseason procedure …
“He looked so bad. He came in my office and his walk made my hips hurt. Five days later he came in and went home and he’s still tender. He’s probably three or four weeks away, but he’s going to be fine.”

On adding another big man and recruiting …
“That’s not what I said. We don’t try to bully, intimidate or overwhelm people with calls. We’re not trying to bring all of our recruits together on a conference text. We don’t do that. If a kid wants to come and walk on our campus in September, I’m fine with that. I don’t really care. The reason is you have to be sure that this is what you want or you can’t come here. This isn’t for funnsies here. My thing is whatever happens is whatever happens and however this stuff plays out for anybody is about the extent of what I can say.”

On what advice he gave Skal Labissiere …
“I more or less listened to him and there’s no question that he wanted to go. He said, ‘Coach, I have to do this. I’m prepared.’ I asked, ‘What makes you think you’re prepared?’ Skal has the skill set to be in that league. No question. Shooting is a premium for him. He’s a 7-footer who can shoot. Now, physically, he just has to catch up. That usually is at God’s speed, not yours. When will he gain weight? I just was talking to a recruit and he was 5 feet tall in ninth grade. He went from 4-8, went to 5-2 and is now 6-5. He couldn’t grow. It’s not in our hands, that kind of stuff. That maturation is going to happen. You try to push it along. It’s not on our time. When (Labissiere) is physically able to play in that league, he’s going to be one of those guys. What I would tell any team is that if he had stayed in school another year or two, then he would’ve been the No. 1 pick. He would’ve figured it out, blocked shots, run better, and been more physical. Now here’s what I’ll tell you, in 2016, whatever pick you get becomes your 2018 or 2019 No. 1 pick, should you take him? That’s why he’s going to go in the lottery because they’re saying, ‘If we waited a year or two and got him, then he would be the No. 1 pick.” He’s in good shape. I don’t blame him. I wish he would’ve stayed, but I don’t blame him at all. Somebody asked me, ‘Are you sure he’s leaving? Did he get an agent?’ He got two agents to make sure.”

On looking back on last year’s season …
“My only regret is that last game. When I look at it, what else could I have done? Could we have gone small? And I’ve run that through my head. Could we have just played all five small guys? Just, here we go, let’s see what happens. But then you look back and it was a five-point game with seven minutes to go, and if I would’ve done that and something happened, you guys would’ve said, ‘Why in the world? You didn’t do it all year. Why would you try to?’ Because I knew we had guys struggling and they weren’t going to change. I should’ve just said, ‘Look, it’s not your day’. That was my opinion. Would it have worked? Maybe, maybe not, but if you ask me of anything, it would’ve been that. The season played out perfectly. Early on we learned about each other. We had some injuries that moved guys in different positions. Everybody had stepped up and done stuff to prove who they were. In the game, the team was kind of taken on by Tyler as he got healthy and started making shots. Then Jamal became an efficient player. Isaiah figured out how he can score and do what he does with his game at this point and became the best defender. The other guys had spots where they played good and bad, but that last game is always a tough one. And again, should we have been playing those guys in a second-round game? No. No, but we did. So now it’s kind of like being in a fox hole and you tell your men, ‘If those tanks come over that hill over there, we’re dying.’ Then someone looks around and says, ‘I don’t want to die, so what else can we do?’ If they come over that hill, do you have a plan? We said if those tanks come over the hill, we’re gonna die, and those tanks came over that hill, and we died.”

On being in Mitch Barnhart’s ear now that he’s on the NCAA selection committee …
“No, we haven’t even talked. We talked about some other things and that didn’t even come up. It didn’t come up. Now that he’s on the committee, the first thing I heard that they told him was, ‘Now that you’re on the committee tell your coach to shut his mouth.’ No, they didn’t do that. I’m just kidding. He deserves to be on the committee and he’ll do a great job. Look, he has to leave the room when they talk about us. So anyone that thinks it’s an advantage, it’s an advantage for college basketball because of him being on it. It’s good for everybody.” 

On Derek Willis … 
“He’s changing more as a player because he’s invested more in the game. Now he gets disappointed when he doesn’t play well. That’s what happens: The more you put into it, the more you work, the more you’re committed, the more disciplined you are in your approach to the game, the less chance you’ll surrender. And when things don’t go right, you’re really going to self-evaluate because you’ve worked too hard. That’s why I’m proud of him. He’s done well in school. He’s not even the same guy that walked on this campus. Dom looked great. I saw him the other day with Mychal (Mulder). I saw Tai the other day before he went back to New Zealand on the 24-hour flight. Isaac drove to Chicago before he went home. So, I saw Charles and his mother before they left to drive back to Chicago. So, probably leaving someone off there.”

On if he expects any other departures other than the guys who have declared for the NBA Draft …
“I don’t believe so, but who knows? Someone may come in and say something, but I would not expect that. But you just don’t know how this stuff is. I’m proud of these guys. This season was hard because, again, we went to No. 1 – we shouldn’t have been No. 1. I told you guys at the time, but we were ranked high preseason. But what they accomplished and what they did and how they did it, under the circumstances, it was a heck of a year. The farther you get away from it, the less it hurts. You ask me about (the final game), I haven’t thought about that in probably two months, but I did when the game ended and I did again for a while. I was mad at me. I wasn’t mad at any player. My job is when they’re not playing well, how do we stay in this game? What do we do? And when things aren’t going well or someone’s in foul trouble, what do you do? Well, we had some guys not playing well, so what do you do? I wish I had the answer at that time. I thought about it, but the game was still in the balance – it’s six (points), I think we can still (come back).”

On last year’s roster missing something and if he sees anything missing from this upcoming roster …
“I won’t know until we get our team here. I didn’t think we had anything missing last year and then you start playing and you’re like, ‘Oh, we have some holes here.’ Bunch of good guys, great kids, they want to be together, want to play together.”

On how much progress freshman forward Tai Wynyard made last season and how much further does he still have …
“He got better, but he has a ways to go. Tai’s on a different path. Isaac (Humphries) was on a different path. Charles (Matthews) was on a different path, so was Derek (Willis) and Dom (Hawkins). They’re all on different paths. Eventually, Tai is going to be a good player here, but it will take him time. He’s not on the same path as some of these guys, but he’s physically tough and strong.”

On the incoming class already bonding …
“That’s a big part of how we’ve been able to do this. They’ve all been recruited the same way, knowing that it’s going to be hard, and no one was given anything or promised anything. There’s not this rosy picture that you come with us and life changes. No it isn’t. It’s hard. Some guys come in with that, ‘I got Kentucky. That means we win and I go pro.’ (mindset). Really? And then they get in here and they’re like, ‘This is really hard.’ Yeah, it’s really hard. Harder than anywhere you can go. So, these kids have gotten together. They’re all great kids. My wife said to me the other day, ‘Every year, we’ll have a group come through and I’ll say there’s no way next year’s group can be as nice as that group.’ And then next year’s group is nicer than the group before. I would say when she meets this group she’s going to say the same thing.”

On where he sees the potential of getting more offense from next year’s team …
“Really fast. Whew. Do you remember our (2012) team when we rebounded and the ball was in the basket? You went, ‘How did – did someone throw it down there?’ Like, we were that fast? Remember Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist)? Remember Doron (Lamb)? (Remember) how fast we got the ball out and Darius (Miller)? And Terrence Jones. This team has that kind of speed. Now, they have to get in great shape. I want to be a great team from defense to offense. In other words, when we block it or get that ball we’re flying. Then we’ll worry about how we’re going to play when a team doesn’t let us fly up and down. We’ll worry about that later. Let’s just get that first piece out first. Then you have to be a great defensive team first to be that. But that’s what I’ll zero in on. Let’s really guard. Let’s take great pride in it. Let’s block shots. Let’s gang rebound, and if a guard gets it fly, don’t pass it, run, and we’re all running. Lobs, dunks and layups, and then 3s if they all fly back there. And then we’ll figure out offense later.”

On his advice to the next person who has to fill Tyler Ulis’ shoes …
“You’re not filling his shoes. This is a totally different team. But De’Aaron Fox is really good. Malik (Monk) is really good. With Dom and Isaiah, if Isaiah’s here, again you have three point guards. We had three point guards last year. That’s why we became the most efficient team in college basketball on offense. That’s what we were. It’s because we had three point guards. Well, we’re doing it again. Malik and De’Aaron are different, but they’re both guards. De’Aaron will probably have the ball in his hands more than Malik, but Malik will probably score the ball more because he just has that ability, even though De’Aaron can score too. But you still have, like I said, three point guards in Isaiah Briscoe. And then Isaiah brings the toughness. Look, for Isaiah, he just has to show the improvement of shooting the ball, and he really doesn’t have to make every shot. You just can’t miss every one. Just be somewhat consistent. And you know what, I think when you see him next year that’s what he’ll be.”

On if he thinks Briscoe is coming back … 
“I don’t know. I say that, I don’t know. He and I haven’t talked probably in two or three days. I try to give him space. Go work out for these teams and let them tell you and talk to them and I’m here for them. My whole thing is, you gotta get better. You’re coming back to get better.”

On how much the new NBA Draft rule has helped players …
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable. This whole combine thing – and understand the combine wasn’t for first-round draft picks. The combine was for the second-round picks, borderline first-rounders, or people not getting drafted so when you go to the combine they tell you go back to school. So now guys who go undrafted, why did you put your name in? They told you, you weren’t going to get drafted? Why’d you keep your name in? We give these kids now every opportunity to learn themselves so you’re not delusional, or the people around you aren’t delusional. And then by being able to go work out for teams, now, before, and then make a decision? Think about it, for these kids. I mean, the decisions we make should be for these kids, and I think that was for the kids. That’s why I want my kids to go the full Monty, try it, see what you want to do, make sure it’s what you want to do, and then go for it.”

On if he expects his staff to remain the same next year …
“I hope not. I hope three of them get head coaching positions, but I think they love me so much they just don’t want to (leave). But I hope they all get jobs. Kenny (Payne) deserves an opportunity, Tony (Barbee) does, Robes (John Robic) is there. I think Joel (Justus) is – unless Joel wanted to do something at a lower level, I don’t think he’s ready to do what those other three would do.”

On Mark Coyle being named athletics director at Minnesota …
“I just heard about it. So, I said, ‘Oh, so you get them two Final Fours – one for the men, one for the women – you get football right and then you take off because you did your job? What the heck’s going on?’ But he worked at Minnesota. He’s from out that way, his family’s from out that way and Minnesota really wanted him to be their AD. Unfortunate for Syracuse, but you know what? They’ll be fine. I mean, it’s Syracuse. They’ll have their pick of who they want. For Mark, my guess is even though he’s young I would say that will be his last—well, it’ll be a 10-, 12-, 15-year run, and if any indication, every time he gets into any position, their teams go to Final Fours and bowls and all the other stuff. So I wish him well and tell Minnesota they got a—I got a call from Harvey McKay already. He wants to know, ‘Who is this guy? Give me the—“ You know, Harvey from Minnesota. Anybody know who Harvey McKay is here? I know you’re not athletes. Does anybody read books? No? OK.”

On whether he’s always had the idea of coaching until he’s 75 …
“No. No. No. No. I’ll tell you this. The mistake I made was the weight-training video because coaches are weight training. They’re getting hurt now trying to lift weights. It’s a bad deal. They should not be lifting weights. I told them, ‘Don’t do this.’ But here’s what I would say. At my age – mid-50s, that’s right – to think about 20 years. If you’re thinking four to five down the road, it’s kind of easy to make a decision. ‘I’m going to go ‘til I’m 75.’ But when you’re 57 to say that, it was more joking. I didn’t think I’d ever coach to age 60, but you know what? I’m at a place now—it took me 20 years to get to this place. It’s the Carnegie Hall of basketball. And what I mean by that is if you put players on this stage, they make it. This is that stage. And I get an opportunity to go beyond basketball. I want to win a championship every year I coach and if you know me you know that’s true. But I get as much out of seeing a family breathe for the first time. Like, the mother was working two jobs. And I hear, ‘Oh, no, all my kids—‘ Well let me tell you: 80, 90 percent of the kids I coached have come from tough backgrounds, so maybe I wasn’t fortunate enough that the lawyers and doctors send me their kids. I don’t know. But I’m telling you, they get to breathe for the first time and they get to—you look at that mother, she’s crying. They’re tears of great joy and it’s not because, ‘My son’s now a millionaire. We’re going to go crazy and I’m going to lose my mind.’ No. It’s, ‘I can breathe.’ And if you don’t understand that—for me, I’ve gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families. That’s not a recruiting story. That’s the truth. And as long as I can keep doing that—I tell the staff, better prop me up. I tell Lunetha (Pryor), ‘How long you gonna go?’ ‘As long as you go.’ ‘Well you better be propping me up then. Put that stick in my back and my arm up and I’m standing there like (puts arm up and stiffens back).’ ”

On whether he’s particularly excited to see any of his incoming recruits …
“I’m going to give you a couple things, OK? I don’t think he’d like that I called him the General, but De’Aaron Fox, people just come to him. He’s one of those kind of guys. He makes everybody better and he’s got John Wall kind of speed. Gotta get him shooting more consistently. Malik Monk, I don’t even believe knows how good he is and when he gets in a regimented program—he had a great high-school coach and program and all that, but a college program where the other guys are just as good as him. I think his game is going to go to another level because he’s got Derrick Rose. Like the bounce, but he can shoot it a little bit better than Derrick did. I’m not saying he’s—Derrick was the MVP of the NBA, but I’m saying that. I’m anxious to see Wenyen (Gabriel) play a wing position at 6-10 and be that big and do it with other really good players so he’s not forced to do stuff he can’t do. Do what you do. I’m anxious to see—because Sacha’s (Killeya-Jones) has just gotten so much better. He keeps growing. He’s 6-11. He may be 7-4 by the time he gets here. And Bam, just a great name. Bam Bam. We’re going to have people literally coming to games with the (mimes outfit worn by Bam Bam on “The Flintstones”) and the stick. What was it? (Reporter says, The Flintstones.) Yeah. Bam Bam. They’re going to come to games. We’re going to have the whole student section looking like that. And remember how he used to pick things up? The car and stuff? Bam Bam? Yeah, that’s him. But I’m going to be honest, I’m just as excited—I want to see Dom. He knows he’s gotta get better. You gotta be more consistent. He’s gotten so much better. I want to see where Derek is. I’m excited about it. I want to see Charles (Matthews) be able to say, ‘I can knock down shots. I can spread the court.’ Because you know athletically how bouncy he is and all those things. Now give us the offense. Show us. I’m anxious to see that. I’m anxious to see the big guys. Isaac, where do you take this? Now you’re 18. You’re no longer 17. What do you do? What’s Tai do? Where’s Mychal now? I’ll be honest with you, most junior-college players the first year is a flop. His wasn’t a flop, but it wasn’t a carryover from junior college. No. It’s hard. I’m anxious to see him and we’re going to need him making shots. So I’m excited. I’m going to take some time. They’ll get on campus in early June and I’ll be here for a while with them, two, three weeks. And then I’ll take off. We do some recruiting. They’ll get out of here in August and then all of a sudden it’s my eighth season. Do you guys feel bad how much I’ve aged? Does that bother anybody here? When you look at me, other than you, Alan (Cutler), you look older than I look.”

On what advice he would give Anthony Davis after a tough season …
“I would say, ‘Use it as fuel.’ And he would say, ‘Come on, Coach. You know I am.’ He’s built different. I’ll say it again: I believe in the next five years he will be the best player. And there will be about three right below him and they’ll all be Kentucky guys. So those top five will all be Kentucky. If I do coach ‘til I’m 75, half of the NBA All-Star Game will be Kentucky graduates. It will be, ‘Basket, Kentucky. Kentucky. That other school. Kentucky.’ It will be a ball.”

On what he hears from DeMarcus Cousins …

“Yeah, it’s funny. He calls me and says, ‘You want to coach in this league.’ I said, ‘No.’ And then we went back and forth and then I called him and we were talking about stuff. He’s in a great frame of mind. They’ve just gotta get their stuff together so he can be what he is. Don’t worry about coaching. Don’t worry about anything. Just play and be an All-Star. If that team can win, if it can advance by the first round in the playoffs, I would say that he will be in the equation for MVP in the NBA. He’ll be in the conversation, and he should be. He’s that good. He is that good. But you can’t do it when your team’s messed up. There’s no MVPs coming from a team that’s winning 25, 30 games. You gotta be a 50-win team, a 55-win team, you gotta advance in the playoffs and all of a sudden you’re one of the guys that they’re talking about. He’s got that kind of talent.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tyler Ulis Consensus First Team All-American

It’s official: Kentucky men’s basketball point guard Tyler Ulis is a consensus first-team All-American.

Ulis earned the honors Tuesday after making the Associated Press All-America First Team alongside Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson and Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. Ulis is the only non-senior on the team. 

According to the AP, the 5-foot-9 Ulis is the shortest AP All-American since 5-9 Johnny O’Brien of Seattle in 1953. Ulis received 43 of a possible 65 first-place votes, third among all players. UK now has 17 AP first-team All-Americans with 19 total AP first-team honors.

The sophomore point guard was also tabbed to the CBS Sports All-America First Team earlier on Tuesday.

Freshman guard Jamal Murray was selected to both the AP All-America Third Team and the CBS Sports All-America Third Team. With Ulis and Murray, UK has now had nine AP All-Americans under head coach John Calipari.

Kentucky was the only school with two players named to the AP's three All-America teams. 

The NCAA recognizes consensus All-Americans based on four “major” NCAA-recognized All-America teams: the AP, Sporting News, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Since 1984, the NCAA has applied a standardized point system based on those four All-America teams, with three points awarded to first-team honors, two to second-teams honors and one to third-team honors. The top five totals in the country plus ties are considered consensus first-team All-Americans, and the next five plus ties make the second team.

Ulis, by virtue of the points system, earned first-team honors on Tuesday. He was named a first-team All-American by the AP and Sporting News and a second-team All-American by the USBWA and the NABC.

The Chicago native is the shortest consensus first-team All-American since Pittsburgh’s Don Hennon, at 5-9, earned the distinction in 1958.

Ulis is the 21st consensus first-team All-American in school history and the fourth under Calipari. All told, UK has had 26 consensus first-team All-America honors. Forest Sale (1932, 1933), Ralph Beard (1947-49), Alex Groza (1947, 1949) and Cliff Hagan (1952, 1954) achieved the feat in multiple seasons.

Willie Cauley-Stein (2015), Anthony Davis (2012) and John Wall (2010) previously earned the distinction under Calipari.

Kentucky’s 26 consensus first-team All-America selections is tied with North Carolina for the second most all-time. Kansas leads with 28.

Ulis posted one of the greatest all-time individual seasons for a point guard in school history while leading the Wildcats to a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, the SEC Tournament title and a 27-9 overall record in 2015-16.

En route to becoming one of the nation’s elite players, Ulis ended the season with 246 assists, setting the new single-season school record previously held by John Wall. Until the season’s final game, Ulis had a streak of 28 consecutive games with four or more assists, the longest streak in school history since at least 1972-73.

Later this week he will be in Houston as one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation’s most outstanding player of the year. Next week he will head to Los Angeles as one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tyler Ulis Named NABC Second Team All-American

Kentucky sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis has picked up three of the four NCAA-recognized All-America honors after being tabbed to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America Second Team on Monday. 

Ulis has now been named an All-American by the Sporting News (first team), the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (second team) and the NABC (second team). The Associated Press, the fourth NCAA-recognized All-America team, has not been released yet and will determine if Ulis is a consensus All-American.

The Chicago native was tabbed to the NABC All-America Second Team alongside Providence’s Kris Dunn, Kansas’ Perry Ellis, Iowa State’s Georges Niang and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl.

Ulis is the eighth Wildcat to be named an NABC All-American during the John Calipari era. Willie Cauley-Stein was a first-team selection, while Karl-Anthony Towns was named to the second team last season.

Located in Kansas City, Mo., the NABC was founded in 1927 by Phog Allen, the legendary basketball coach at the University of Kansas. The NABC currently has nearly 5,000 members consisting primarily of university and college men’s basketball coaches. All members of the NABC are expected to uphold the core values (advocacy, leadership, service and education) of being a Guardian of the Game by bringing attention to the positive aspects of the sport of basketball and the role coaches play in the academic and athletic lives of today’s student-athletes. 

Ulis posted one of the greatest all-time individual seasons for a point guard in school history while leading the Wildcats to a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, the SEC Tournament title and a 27-9 overall record in 2015-16.

En route to becoming one of the nation’s elite players, Ulis ended the season with 246 assists, setting the new single-season school record previously held by John Wall. Until the season’s final game, Ulis had a streak of 28 consecutive games with four or more assists, the longest streak in school history since at least 1972-73.

Later this week he will be in Houston as one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation’s most outstanding player of the year.

Among the honors Ulis has already received this postseason:

·         Sporting News All-America First Team
·         USBWA All-America Second Team
·         NABC All-America Second Team
·         SEC Player of the Year (Coaches/AP)
·         SEC Tournament MVP
·         SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches) 
·         All-SEC First Team (Coaches/AP) 
·         SEC All-Defensive Team (Coaches) 
·         USA Today All-America First Team 
·         CBS Sports SEC Player of the Year 
·         USBWA District IV Player of the Year 
·         USBWA All-District IV Team
·         NABC District 21 First Team
·         Naismith Trophy finalist
·         John R. Wooden Award finalist 
·         USBWA Oscar Robertson finalist
·         Bob Cousy finalist 

About Mr. Fab-ULIS: Ulis finished the season averaging 17.3 points and an SEC-best 7.0 assists. Following his final game, he ranked seventh nationally in assists and sixth in the country with a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

He was the only player in the SEC averaging at least 17.3 points and 7.0 assists or better. He was one of just four players in the nation (Kahil Felder, Oakland; Denzel Valentine, Michigan State; Juan’ya Green, Hofstra) with those numbers and the lone underclassman entering this weekend’s action.

Ulis completed the year with the single-season school record for most 20-point, five-assist games with 14, and according to the SEC Network, his three 20-point, 10-assist games this season are the most of any SEC player in the last 20 seasons.

In league play, Ulis averaged 8.4 assists with a 4.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. He played 672 of a possible 725 minutes in SEC games, committing a turnover every 19.8 minutes per game.

Ulis’ value was probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He averaged a team-best 24.4 points and a team-high 7.6 assists in UK’s seven games vs. ranked opponents. He shot 54.2 percent with a 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider he played 291 of the possible 295 minutes in those games, including the entire 45 minutes of all three overtime contests.

Four Future Cats Will Play In McDonald's All-American Game Wednesday Night

The future of the Kentucky men’s basketball program will be on display this week at the McDonald’s All American Game in Chicago.

UK signees Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk will play in Wednesday night’s premier high school all-star game. The game will be televised at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, live from the United Center in Chicago. 

Kentucky’s other 2016 signee, Wenyen Gabriel, was not eligible for the game as a fifth-year senior.

Monk is expected to compete in both the dunk contest and the 3-point contest in Monday night’s 2016 Powerade Jam Fest, which will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2. All four of UK’s 2016 McDonald’s All-Americans took part in Monday’s practice.

Adebayo, Fox and Killeya-Jones will suit up for the East team in Wednesday night’s main event, while Fox will play for the West.

With the selections of Adebayo, Fox, Killeya-Jones and Monk, UK has signed 25 players during the John Calipari era who have been named to the prestigious high school event, more than any other school in the country during that time period. Four players or more from each signing class have been tabbed McDonald’s All-Americans during the Calipari era, including six in the 2013 class.

Fox, who made the Naismith All-America First Team for high school boys basketball, led Cypress Lakes (Katy, Texas) with a pair of back-to-back 40-point performances in the Texas high school state playoffs before falling in the regional finals. During the regular season he scored 30 or more points in 20 games, 40 or more eight times and even hit the 50-point mark in February.

Fox is rated as high as No. 2 overall in the rankings by 247Sports. Scout ranks him at No. 4, Rivals has him at No. 5 and ESPN tabs him No. 7. Scout and 247Sports both rank the five-star prospect as the No. 1 point guard in the talented 2016 group. He participated in the 2015 USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp, made the 2015-16 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team in September and will play in the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit.

Adebayo will join Kentucky out of High Point Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., where he averaged 18.9 points and 13.0 rebounds his senior season. He led High Point Christian Academy to an appearance in the state title game.

Adebayo, who made the Naismith All-America Second Team, is ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (No. 4) and Rivals (No. 7). 247Sports (No. 15) and Scout (No. 15) tab him as a top-15 prospect in the 2016 class. He has prior USA Basketball experience and was named a MaxPreps All-American in 2013. He’s also slated to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 15.

Killeya-Jones was a double-double machine during his final season at Virginia Episcopal in Lynchburg, Va., posting 13 games with at least 20 points and at least 10 rebounds.

A long, athletic big man considered to have a ton of upside, Killeya-Jones is a consensus top-10 forward in the class of 2016. The 6-foot-10, 207-pound forward is a highly skilled offensive post player who is a consensus top-30 player. 274Sports ranks him 14th overall, Rivals has him 26th, ESPN has him at No. 27 and Scout tabs him at No. 30.

Monk, a Naismith All-American (second team) is considered the top shooting guard in the class. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Monk is a long and athletic guard that can both shoot it and make plays off the dribble. The consensus five-star prospect is ranked No. 5 overall in the 2016 class by 247Sports, No. 6 by Rivals and Scout, and No. 8 by ESPN.

In a season in which he averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists at taking Bentonville High School (Lepanto, Ark.), Monk’s season highlights include a single-game school scoring record with 53 points. He, who was named to the 2015-16 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team in September, led Bentonville to the state championship game. He will also play in the Jordan Brand Classic.

Kentucky has signed 57 McDonald’s All-Americans since the team began in 1977, including current Wildcats Isaiah Briscoe (2015), Marcus Lee (2013), Alex Poythress (2012) and Tyler Ulis (2014).

Former and current Wildcats who played in the McDonald's All-America Game previously during Calipari's tenure include: Devin Booker (2014), Briscoe (2015), DeMarcus Cousins (2009), Anthony Davis(2011), Archie Goodwin (2012), Aaron Harrison (2013), Andrew Harrison (2013), Dakari Johnson(2013), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2011), Terrence Jones (2010), Brandon Knight (2010), Doron Lamb (2010), Lee (2013), Trey Lyles (2014), Poythress (2012), Julius Randle(2013), Marquis Teague (2011), Karl-Anthony Towns (2014), Ulis (2014), Kyle Wiltjer(2011) and James Young (2013).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Poythress Named Finalists for 2016 Arthur Ashe Jr. Athlete of The Year

Kentucky senior forward Alex Poythress has made the final list for the 2016 Arthur Ashe Jr. Athlete of the Year award. Poythress is one of just two basketball players and one of four total student-athletes named as male finalists.

Poythress joined Corey Brown (men’s soccer at Queens University of Charlotte), Marcus Paige (men’s basketball at North Carolina) and Paul Pitts III (football at San Diego State) on the final list. The male and female athlete of the year will be announced April 7. 

This year marks the third season Poythress has been named an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar.

The finalists were chosen from 30 semifinalists and more than 1,000 outstanding minority student-athletes nominated by their respective college or university.

In 1992, “Black Issues In Higher Education” magazine, now “Diverse,” established the Sports Scholars Awards to honor undergraduate students of color who exemplify the standards set by tennis great Arthur Ashe Jr.
A scholar and athlete, Ashe sought to expand opportunities for young people. Each year Diverse invites every postsecondary institution in the country to participate in this awards program by nominating their outstanding sports scholars. In addition to their athletic ability, students named Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars must exhibit academic excellence as well as community activism.

To be included, students need to compete in an intercollegiate sport, maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2, and be active on their campuses or in their communities. The NCAA Office of Inclusion has partnered with Diverse to support this standout class of scholar-athletes.  Approximately 1,000 male and female students from across the country were nominated.

Past recipients of the award include: Baylor University’s (2011) Robert Griffin III, Heisman Trophy winner and former Washington Redskins quarterback; the University of Tennessee’s (2003) Kara Lawson, an ESPN analyst who played for the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs; San Diego State University’s (1993) Marshall Faulk, NFL Hall of Famer; and the University of Kansas’ (1996) Jacque Vaughn, former head coach of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Poythress concluded his UK career over the weekend with 966 career points, 597 rebounds and 77 blocks. He’s just the 12th player in Kentucky’s storied history to post 900 points, 500 rebounds and 70 blocks in a career.

In his final season at Kentucky, Poythress averaged 10.2 points and a team-high-tying 6.0 rebounds per game. He recorded four double-doubles, tied for second on the team.

Earlier this month Poythress was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America Second Team, the first Wildcat to make CoSIDA’s Academic All-American teams since Mark Pope in 1995.

The Clarksville, Tenn., native graduated in just three years with a degree in business marketing. He earned a 3.517 undergraduate grade-point average and is now pursuing a master’s of science in kinesiology and health promotion with an emphasis on sport leadership. He finished his first semester of grad school with a 4.0 GPA.

Poythress has appeared on the SEC Academic Honor Roll during every year of college. He has been named to the Athletic Director’s honor roll three times, which honors the student-athlete with the highest GPA of his team. 

Since his arrival on campus, Poythress has been a steady presence within the community. He’s contributed to various activities such as the God’s Pantry Food Drive and Samaritan’s Feet. He is often a volunteer for stops at local children’s hospitals, as well as appearances at local elementary schools. Poythress has played kickball with elementary students, read to them a various times and has even made guest appearances at camps in his hometown.

Along with his teammates, he was involved in a Hurricane Sandy telethon, a clothing drive for the needy, and various meet-and-greets during the holidays. Furthermore, Poythress is a mainstay at UK basketball camps throughout the summer, serving as a camp counselor for kids of all ages.