By – Ira D. Combs – Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
The latest Wildcat winning streak put together by Coach Cal and his uniquely talented hoopsters should be holding at 10 once the Cats paste Columbia at mid-week and then march into the 2nd weekend of play in December with another top 25 battle awaiting this Saturday in Rupp Arena against the North Carolina “Tarheels” at 12:00 (Noon) on CBS .
Already on the Cats NCAA resume are wins over (#5 Kansas , #6 Texas , and #23 Providence) so even the most novice mind of the NCAA selection process will tell you that UK is setting in pretty good shape to get one of those coveted #1 seeds and in the lead for the overall #1 which should put them in a 1st weekend setting at the Yum Center in Louisville , Ky. where I’m sure tickets will be at an all time premium .
The trick now for Coach Cal is to keep this team engaged daily with an eye on the prize at the end of the season next March in Indianapolis .
Actually , that shouldn’t be very hard for the remainder of this month anyway with upcoming saturday prime time nationally televised games against North Carolina , UCLA , and the annual Battle of the Bluegrass with the Cards . If the winning streak continues on thru December and the Cats are setting at 13 – 0 on New Years Day and with the SEC being as putrid as it is then Cal may have a challenge on his hand keeping these young minds from wavering into mindless thoughts instead of the task at hand or heaven forbid having to deal with the old annual nemesis of years past the ( January Shooting Slump ) of the Joe B. Hall & Eddie Sutton eras . Don’t laugh you old school Wildcat fans it could happen and maybe already has to a degree . The last (3) games UK has went inside the last 5:00 minutes of each game 0 for every how many attempts they took behind the arc but was bailed out each game before the final horn .
But then again we or I may not be giving this team it’s just due in being more mature mentally and emotionally than what we think they are . I simply just still have a hard time labeling this a veteran team when it has no seniors who play actual minutes , I guess I just can’t get out of the old school mind-set .
On the other hand at the end of the day or in this case the season what better way is there to keep today’s young and mega-talented players like Cal has engaged and energized at tip off every game when they have a prize lying in front of them of an undefeated season but let’s wait at least until mid January before we start talking about what everybody wants to talk about but won’t and you know exactly what I’m talking about .
One thing I do like about this team is the fact that it has already proven it can win a big game against a solid ranked opponent without shooting the ball well from the perimeter both in front of and behind the arc . Proved that against both Providence and Texas but both those games were in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena when Big Blue Nation had the back .
Now the next question is can they survive a poor shooting night and win on the road because remember all NCAA tournament games are on a neutral court .
Press Row Notes & Tidbits
# 1 – Did you know that U Pike Univ. has scored more points on UK to date than any other team when they posted (68) on the scoreboard back on Nov. 1st .
# 2 – First it was Alex Poythress who missed back to back games with sickness then Tyler Ulis got the bug against EKU and now Coach Cal has left Rupp Arena early (2) games in a row .
# 3 – UK has now hit at least (1) 3 point shot 909 games in a row which puts them in 2nd place among NCAA Div. 1 schools behind only UNLV .
# 4 – After this Saturdays game against North Carolina there will be a (24) day stretch until Jan. 6th that UK will not play a game in Rupp Arena , the longest in recent memory .
# 5 – CBS will televise both the North Carolina & UCLA games but ESPN2 will televise the Battle of the Bluegrass on Dec. 27th .
By Ricky Blair – It is that time of year. The temperature has dropped and the leaves have turned colors and are now falling to the ground. It is autumn in the Bluegrass. But more importantly for folks in Kentucky…it’s the dawn of another basketball season.
Last season was a wild ride. First, we saw the greatest recruiting class of all times along with a possible undefeated season. It turned to be a rough run through both the pre-conference and conference regular season. And just when it looked like all was lost with a late season defeat to a bad South Carolina team, this young team responded with a strong SEC tournament and offered a glimmer of hope. But it was the magical NCAA tournament run that landed the Wildcats in the national championship game. Last season also brought the team back into a positive perspective. With a number of returning players, they have once again sent expectations out the roof.
So, here are five questions to consider as we break down the Cats’ chances of securing a ninth national championship:
Q1: Will the two-team platoon system work?
Well, it’s highly unlikely that UK Coach John Calipari will stick with this approach. It was a fun way to get all the players time on the court in the Bahamas, but it is not a practical system. Calipari has already given hints that he will adjust the group of players according to the game situation. So, yes, look for more players to get into the games during crucial times. But also look for the platoon system to be an earlier season experiment, not something that will last up through tournament time.
Q2: Will playing time become an issue?
Not if the team is winning… and especially if the team is winning by a large margin. Sure, every player wants his minutes, but it is usually not as much a factor when the team is winning. A few losses could make it more of an issue. The platoon system will help early on, but look for the veteran players to log more minutes – especially during crunch time.
Q3: Will juniors Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein live up to lofty expectations?
For Poythress, it has been a tough road. He came in two years ago as a top ten recruit and a McDonalds All-American. He showed signs of what he could be early on by scoring 20 or more points in four of the first five games his freshman season. But as the season wore on, he became less and less of a factor, only scoring in double figures in two of the last 13 games during that freshman campaign. Now a junior, Poythress will need to get the most out of his incredible talent if the Wildcats are to become a truly special team. Cauley-Stein, unlike Poythress, came to Lexington two years ago as more of a ‘project-type’ player. His athletic ability has certainly lifted him up high in the minds of the NBA scouts. But Cauley-Stein is still learning the game of basketball and has yet to understand the intense energy level necessary to consistently deliver results. If he can play high-energy basketball, then the sky is the limit for him and his defensive skills could help the Wildcats to a championship in some of the same ways Anthony Davis did in 2012.
Q4: Will the twins be improved?
Most definitely! Andrew and Aaron were both a little out of shape last year and it hindered their ability to get to the basket strongly. Aaron had one of the most incredible runs of last-second heroics in NCAA tournament history last year. That in of itself should give him confidence for a strong run into his sophomore season. For Andrew, it was learning to pass first that turned him around during tournament time. Now with a leaner, stronger body, he will use that knowledge gained along with his new and improved physique to become the player everyone was expecting last season. Both players will play fewer minutes this season because of the depth of the team, but look for each to excel in their own way.
Q5: The Freshmen…will they contribute:
As with every team since John Calipari’s tenure started here at Kentucky, the freshmen have been a huge part of the Cats’ success. This year will be no different. Even with all the returning players for the Wildcats, it will be important for the freshmen to step up and play significant roles in order for this team to win a championship. Karl-Anthony Towns looks to be the best of the group. At 6-foot-11, his size and versatility will make him hard to defend as the season plays on. Trey Lyles is another versatile freshman who has shown more athletic ability than most people first thought possible. He has a good outside shot and handles the ball well. Slowed by an injury when he first arrived on campus, he is now starting to really show the talent that made him a top ten player coming out of high school. Freshman shooting guard Devin Booker has the ability to be a zone buster for the Wildcats and they will need him to be consistent with his outside shot. And least, but not last, is tiny point guard Tyler Ulis. Ulis, who is small in stature at 5-foot-9, has shown a quickness at the guard position that has been missing over the last two seasons. If he can continue to make his outside shot like he did during the games in the Bahamas, he will give the Wildcats an added dimension that will make them tough to beat this season.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Five Kentucky players were selected to the 2015 SEC Men’s Basketball Coaches’ preseason teams, the league office announced Thursday. Sophomores Aaron and Andrew Harrison were tabbed to the first team, while juniors Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress and freshman Karl-Anthony Towns were second-team selections.
Eleven different schools were represented on the two teams, but UK led the league with five selections. Florida and LSU each had two selections. In all, 29 different players received votes for the coaches’ teams.
The coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second teams consist of a minimum of eight players on each squad, voted on by the SEC head men’s basketball coaches. No ties were broken and no predicted order of finish was made.
Aaron Harrison is UK’s leading returning scorer after averaging 13.7 points per game during his freshman campaign. Harrison logged 13 points and three assists per game in UK’s two exhibition contests in 2014. Andrew Harrison started 39 games as a freshman and dished out 159 assists, which ranks third among all-time UK first-year players. Harrison posted a team-high 15 dimes in Kentucky’s two exhibition games.
Cauley-Stein has seen action in 66 career games and has averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds during his first two seasons in a UK uniform. Poythress has appeared in a team-high 73 games in his career while making 31 starts. The Clarksville, Tenn., native averages 8.3 points per game and shoots at a .544 clip for his career. Towns was the lone first-year player selected to either preseason team by the league’s coaches. In UK’s two exhibition games, Towns averaged team-bests in points (17.5) and field-goal percentage (93.8).
The Wildcats open their 2014-15 campaign with three games in six days beginning on Friday. UK tips off with Grand Canyon at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Sure it is only exhibition, but can you really say you don’t see the difference in last years National Champion runnerups and this years newest Wildcat team? Last year, the Kentucky team that was supposed to go undefeated, started off fairly good enough with a 7-1 record and looked like a team trying to find it’s way. It was like that all season long until the NCAA Tournament where the Cats finally got it together. So far this year in two exhibition games, UK has thoroughly dismantled it’s two opponents. UK opened with a 116-68 win over Pikeville and followed that up with a 121-52 beat down over Georgetown. Granted, these two teams are not the caliber of teams the Wildcats will face this season, but they are not rollovers either. Kentucky is 12 deep and can literally field two teams good enough to win every night with either group. For those of you with dreams of a 9th title banner hanging from the rafters at Rupp Arena, this could very well be your year.
Official Basketball Box Score
Georgetown College vs Kentucky
11/09/14 7:00 pm at Rupp Arena – Lexington, Ky.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Nineteen former Kentucky Wildcats were on opening day NBA rosters, which were released league-wide Tuesday. Kentucky’s total former players in the league trump any other school in the country.
UK’s longest tenured member in the NBA is Nazr Mohammed who enters his 17th season in 2014-15, and the third with the Chicago Bulls. Kentucky’s newest members to the league are Julius Randle and James Young who enter their rookie seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, respectively.
Four different franchises have two former Cats: Boston (Rajon Rondo, James Young), New Orleans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller), Phoenix (Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin) and Toronto (Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson).
Coach John Calipari has coached 19 players who have been drafted over the last five seasons. Fifteen players were selected in the first round with eight going in the opening 10 selections. All three of those totals are the best marks of any school in the country in the five-year span.
Furthermore, Coach Calipari has had at least one player selected in the top 10 of the draft in each of the last seven seasons dating back to his time at Memphis. No other school in the country has had a first-round selection in each of the last seven seasons. Calipari is the only coach in the history of the sport to have three of his players drafted No. 1 overall (Derrick Rose – 2008, John Wall – 2010, Anthony Davis – 2012).
Entering the 2014-15 NBA season, Kentucky players comprise 4.2 percent of all players in the league.
The NBA season officially tips off on Tuesday. Four former Wildcats will take the court tonight on the league’s opening night. Davis and Miller with the Pelicans host the Orlando Magic at 8 p.m. ET, while Terrence Jones’ Rockets visit Randle and the Lakers at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Former Wildcats on NBA Rosters: Rajon Rondo, Boston James Young, Boston Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Nazr Mohammed, Chicago Jodie Meeks, Detroit Terrence Jones, Houston Julius Randle, LA Lakers Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Anthony Davis, New Orleans Darius Miller, New Orleans Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Archie Goodwin, Phoenix DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Patrick Patterson, Toronto Chuck Hayes, Toronto Enes Kanter, Utah John Wall, Washington
• This was Kentucky’s first exhibition game of the season.
• Kentucky is 52-4 all-time in preseason exhibition games and has won 23 in a row.
• Pikeville has played one official game already, a 100-63 win over Grace Bible College. The Bears are picked as the preseason No. 2 team in NAIA Division I.
• Kentucky’s next exhibition game is Sunday Nov. 9 vs. Georgetown College at 7 p.m. at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats officially open the season Nov. 14 at home vs. Grand Canyon.
• Kentucky started with the lineup of Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.
• Kentucky jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed.
• Pikeville kept it close and trailed only 35-28 midway through the half when UK went on a 21-0 run to make it 56-28.
• UK went to halftime ahead 67-40 as all 10 Wildcats who played in the first half also scored.
• UK eclipsed the century mark, 101-60, on a layup by Dakari Johnson with 8:22 to play.
• UK’s largest lead was 49 points at 114-65.
• UK finished with a 116-68 victory.
• Kentucky shot 65.3 percent from the field.
• The Wildcats won the rebounding 49-28.
• UK piled up 29 assists, led by nine from Andrew Harrison.
• Six Wildcats scored in double figures although no player saw more than 20 minutes of action.
• Kentucky’s “second platoon” was comprised of Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson.
• Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wildcats with 22 points, including 10 of 11 from the field.
• Also tallying double figures were Devin Booker (16 points), Dakari Johnson (13), Alex Poythress (12), Trey Lyles (11) and Willie Cauley-Stein (10).
• K.K. Simmons of Pikeville led all scorers with 28 points, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
November 2, 2014
AN INTERVIEW WITH: JOHN CALIPARI
Q. What did you like the most?
JOHN CALIPARI: 29 assists – and in a game where guys could have tried to get their own, it’s the only way this will work if they really want to share for each 25 what we would call one ‘mores’. I have a shot, but he has a better shot, we need to let that one go. You know, we did not settle for 3’s in the first half, we just did what we had to do. I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to give it to them. They came out of the gate making shots and playing and they weren’t afraid. We were just too big. What I’m happy with is that because we were too big, we threw the ball where we should have, in the post.
Q. How do you settle on the two groups and what did you think of that tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: I didn’t think Alex (Poythress) played as well as I thought he should have played in the Blue/ White. And as much as I didn’t want to put two young kids on one group, I thought it was better for Alex and Trey (Lyles), I thought it would be better for him, too. Trey is still behind. Trey wasn’t doing it for the summer he didn’t do the Bahamas. He is just starting. So, he’s still a little bit behind and you see he’s still pretty good. But he stepped in the hole a few times because he ran up‐and‐down, got tired and went to jump and just stepped in a hole. He didn’t jump very high. So, then he dunked that last one. I left him in because I just wanted him to make some plays and shots. I thought Andrew (Harrison) was ridiculous. Andrew wanted Dominique (Hawkins) to shoot that. He wanted 10 assists. He threw that ball crosscourt and Dom was wide open. “Shoot it.” And he passed it to Alex, who made the shot. And he had nine assists, and I’m guessing four hockey assists. In other words, he threw it ahead quick enough for that I could throw it for a pass. So he was outstanding today.
Q. Speaking of communication in the first half, there was one time when Tyler threw the ball into Dakari (Johnson). He went over a double team, and I heard Tyler shout out, coming from behind. I don’t remember ever hearing that kind of communication on the court last year, is that what you’ve been striving for?
JOHN CALIPARI: A friend of mine came in, the coach up in Western Pennsylvania and watched us practice yesterday. And he said, last year at this time, you were coaching effort intensity, and passion, if you remember. And he said now you’re just coaching basketball. It’s a big difference. So, while I enjoy it a lot more, I’ll do the other if I have to. But that’s what happens when you have veterans back that get it and understand and have young kids that are hungry and are listening and watching. They’re learning from each other. Dakari (Johnson) made a free throw. How about that, too?
Q. Was there any part of the game that was exposed that would give you concern that is something you might need to work on?
JOHN CALIPARI: Probably should have one more platoon. I would probably feel better with three platoons, rather than two.
Q. What can we make of what Karl (Anthony-Towns) ended up doing, just because he was kind of towering overeveryone or is that ‐‐
JOHN CALIPARI: You can say what you want, but, you know, Dakari (Johnson) didn’t get that many baskets, and part of it was Andrew was spoonfeeding him. But, the other part was he was running the floor, he was active, he was getting to where he was open. He made his free throw. I mean, Karl can play. Now he broke down definitely a couple times, and I told him and Devin (Booker), if you guys want to score the ball, you will defend or you’ll be out. You’re not taking all the ball shots, and then go back and let a guy run by you and dunk on you. It’s not happening here. But they’re young. I thought Devin played well. I love his speed up‐and‐down the court. See, Devin ‐‐ if Devin thinks he’s going to get two points, you can’t believe how fast he is. He will run ‐‐ he will outrun world-class sprinters to go get that ball.
Q. Speaking of which, how well do you think your guys kept the pace, kept attacking?
JOHN CALIPARI: There was one segment where we backed up a little bit and we’ll show them on the tape. But short of that, I thought they were really good. We didn’t press and trap the whole game, but we pressured the whole game. And there are games we’ll press more. I like the rotation the way I did it, because if that veteran group comes in the eight-minute mark or 7:45 mark, I can finish a game with that group with one or two subs if I choose to or I can go back with that other group. And again, I’ve got to figure out how we finish games, it looks as though the best five free throw shooters should be on there, Karl being one. Maybe Trey being another. And probably the twins and Tyler. That will probably be a finishing team. I would imagine. We haven’t tried it yet, but that’s what I would imagine.
Q. How much do you feel like they have progressed from the exhibition games in the Bahamas?
JOHN CALIPARI: Physically you’re looking at a body and you’re saying, my gosh ‐‐ his dad said, I can’t believe this is my son. Karl Towns’s dad saying the same thing about him. The twins dad looking at their sons like, whoa. Dakari, you look at him running up‐and‐down the court, he’s as fast as anybody. This kid is flying up‐and‐down the court. Now the question is can we sustain it. And by doing it this way, we can sustain stuff. Now we’ll look at the stats, guys played all of about 20 minutes and we’ll equate these into 34 minute stats. If they had played 34 minutes, if it was a normal college starter playing a lot of minutes, what would their numbers have looked like. That’s efficiency. We’ll look at some rebounding efficiency. Which is how many offensive rebound attempts were there, how many did you get. Defensively the same thing. And I think when you start looking at those efficiencies, you’re going to see a different look at these guys. And I thought that, again, I loved Andrew’s aggressiveness on defense and how he passed the ball and got guys involved. One team can switch pick and rolls, the other team doesn’t have to. We can fight and force down and it’s kind of like playing two different styles of games when you play these guys.