At the present time I don't know who Kentucky basketball and it's leader John Calipari are hated by or should I say envied by the most these days the NCAA or the other top 10 to 15 college basketball programs across America , oops , I forgot their for a second that spot belongs to one General Robert Knight and I doubt anyone will take that away from him as long as he's above ground . Still , can any one in their wildest dreams believe the run that UK basketball is on right now and it appears for many more years into the future .
One thing is for sure I don't see John Calipari making the mistake that Rick Pitino did back in 1997 . Coach Cal in my eyes appears to be enjoying this ride as much as anyone and maybe as a few close to the program have told me enjoying it privately with his inner circle of friends even more . Those NBA vaults don't tease him like it has others .
As Calipari said so eloquently last week , " I'm making more money than me and my family will ever spend right now " .
For several years John Calipari was considered the ultimate point guard coach and curator for recruiting and developing the lead guard position with NBA stardom and million dollar paychecks awaiting his players from Memphis and UK into the NBA . Derrick Rose , Tyreke Evans , John Wall & Eric Bledsoe , Brandon Knight , and Marquis Teague have all flourished in his dribble drive system but along the way a few other traits were established that are just now being recognized in the Calipari system .
You could say the worm has turned slowly during the last few years with Cal's system or you could say we have all finally had our eyes opened to accepting that Calipari is a much more well rounded college basketball coach than what many of his critics have been giving him credit for , he's much more than a developer of the lead guard position . In case your confused and don't understand my rationale in those remarks let me make it real plain and simple . John Calipari has now recruited , signed , and developed as well as utilized or incorporated into his system three of the last # 1 rated post players coming out of the high school ranks ( DeMarcus Cousins - Anthony Davis - Nerlens Noel ) oh yes, don't forget that other center project named Josh Harrellson that he pulled out of Billy Gillispie's bathroom stall and turned into a 2nd round NBA draft choice .
As of this writing John Calipari and his crack assistant recruiters of Orlando Woolridge & Kenny Payne had resurfaced the 2012 Kentucky recruiting class back to it's # 1 spot as in the past three years and according to most national recruiting sources is still in the hunt for as many as three other prime time recruits and one special JUCO forward / center out of California .
It says here that John Calipari is not only a well rounded college basketball coach but he's very astute in knowing how to run the many facets of a college basketball program . Not only a master at running a program but he knows how to masterfully coordinate the pressures of a high profile program like UK and actually relishes it to some degree in my opinion .
But make no mistake my friends there are folks associated with the NCAA inner circles as well as the National Association of Basketball Coaches that are lying awake deep into the night every night trying to come up with some scenario and / or rule that will shorten or bring this run to a halt that Coach Cal is on at UK .
In the late 40's and early 50's Adolph Rupp was dominating college basketball with an era of inside players like Bill Spivey , Cliff Hagan , Frank Ramsey , Johnny Cox , etc. and what happened all of a sudden . The free throw lane was widened and a 3 second count placed on each player who entered it . In the early years of the John Wooden era the college basketball rule makers couldn't make their mind up on whether to allow dunking a basketball or not due to the dominance of just a few players and finally arrived at a decision to permit it only because it was such an exciting play and the TV cameras had just caught the eye of college basketball which in reality kept the art of dunking in the game .
Fast forward to 2012 and we are on the brink of another quirk to success in what is referred to as the one and done era that John Calipari has mastered .
I'm betting it won't last to long if the NCAA and Cal's brothers in the college coaching fraternity have anything to do with it , but hadn't it been a sweet ride so far .
UK Baseball At Midway Point Of Dream Season
UK baseball is officially at the half way point of the SEC regular season and coming off it's third successful road trip in the first half of the SEC winning a best 2 out of 3 series at Arkansas . The Bat Cats swept a saturday DH with scores of 5 - 4 and 2 - 1 to win it's latest weekend series . The pride of Louisa , Ky. and Lawrence Co. H.S. Chandler Shepherd a 6' 3" Fr. pitcher has been one of the main cogs in Gary Henderson's deep and successful pitching corps this spring . Shepherd had been serving as one of the weekday starter's against the non conference opponents until last weekend when he made his first appearance in an SEC game and rewarded Henderson with a sterling relief performance of 3 2/3 innings pitched without giving up a run .
UK stands at 32 - 5 overall and 11 - 4 in SEC play going into this weeks play and having been ranked # 1 by several different collegiate baseball polls in recent weeks .
This weekend starts the down hill backside of the 2012 SEC regular season slate and the Cats will be entertaining always tough LSU at Cliff Hagan Stadium located right beside Nutter Training Center and across from Commonwealth Stadium . The three game series kicks off friday night with the first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. then resumes on saturday afternoon with the first pitch at 2:00 and concludes sunday afternoon with the first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and good tickets are still available for all three games at very reasonable prices of $5.00 for adult admission and $2.00 for youth and senior citizens , children 6 and under are admitted free .
Now that the 2012 Wildcat baseball team has proven that this is no fluke start with the solid numbers that they have posted in the first half both team wise and several individually the Cats will start the process of solidifying their record and building a resume for post season bids and the opportunity to be a host in the 1st round and possibly even the super regional which puts you in the college baseball World Series .
In a recent visit to cover a UK - Ole Miss game UK's baseball media relations director Brent Ingram informed me that based on recent NCAA baseball history any SEC baseball program that can finish a couple games above 500 in conference play and put up 35 - 37 wins overall has a great chance to host one of the 16 first round sites if they are competitive at all in the bidding process with NCAA headquarters . Also , Ingram stated that on most occasions in years past if you won or finished in the top 3 or 4 spots of the SEC regular season championship and put up 40 or more wins overall you stood a great chance of hosting a Super Regional . For those of you not familiar with the NCAA baseball playoffs the 16 1st round sites consist of 4 teams that play a double elimination tournament with the winner advancing on to one of the eight Super Regional's where there will be only two teams to play a best 2 out of 3 series with the winner advancing on to the college World Series in Omaha , Nebraska which many consider one of the most fun and entertaining amateur sporting events that our American sports world has to offer .
Blue - White Spring Game This Saturday
With all of the success of the men's basketball team and the pleasant surprise that Gary Henderson's baseball team has produced the last month the spring football season over at the Nutter Center on Cooper Drive has virtually gone unnoticed for Joker Phillips and his boys . Actually , that's not all bad especially for Joker Phillips because even though UK ended the season last November with a win against the hated Vols for the first time in 26 years the football fan base has been in pretty much a negative mood because the Cats missed going to a bowl last year for the first time in six seasons .
Don't feel to neglected though because for the first time this spring we all ( fans and media ) will get an opportunity to witness the skill level of this team in the annual Blue - White scrimmage at 6:00 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium and come to our own conclusion if this team has improved any or not since that last game back in November .
Considering what little info and reports that have come out of Nutter Center one would have to say most folks inside the program are cautiously optimistic that UK's offensive woes of last year will be much improved on due to a couple young play makers emerging at the skilled positions of WR and QB . Demarco Robinson a 6' 1" Soph. wide out and return specialist has reportedly turned some heads and on days that his injuries weren't holding him back freshman RS wide out Darryl Collins of Alabama showed flashes of brilliance . The only returning starter at end Larod king has been more consistent in catching the ball this spring according to reports coming out of camp .
The all important QB position seems to be in better hands now that Maxwell Smith a 6' 3" sophomore has a few live games under his belt as well as two full spring practices .and his familiarity with the system and schemes are coming to him naturally . A name you might want to keep an eye on is Jacob Russell a red shirt sophomore QB from Anderson Co. who had a stellar high school career and was courted by a few Div 1 schools only to settle on EKU and after one fall in Richmond thought he owed it to himself to give Big Boy Football a try to satisfy his own curiosity . Sr. quarterback Morgan Newton has been nursing an injury and not been on the field and true freshman phenom Patrick Towles of Ft. Thomas Highlands a four star recruit who appears to be the future of Wildcat football fortunes and just maybe the saviour of Joker Phillips job is still finishing up his high school work and won't arrive on campus until June for summer workouts .
Defensively the Cats have been hot and cold this spring . Hot at times because evidently there is a lot of young talent that has shown flashes of brilliance but cold at times also because due to players leaving the program on this side of the ball some of those young talented players have been thrown to the wolves due to lack of depth and available bodies .
What does all this mean ?
Absolutely nothing in my eyes . I've never bought into any serious observations of spring practice whether they be negative or positive because those competing against one another for spots on the depth chart simply are going against a different class of athlete and football player than what they will see in a SEC football game , especially at a Kentucky spring practice . With that being said saturday's scrimmage situation will be a little better barometer because it will be live game action type work but I'm personally not buying into anything that I see this coming weekend unless the Cats just lay an egg on both sides of the ball . If that happens the summer could be brutal for one Joker Phillips and right now that's the last thing he needs .
Hopefully , saturday's scrimmage will produce some nice pass and catch plays along with a couple bust out runs of 50 or more yards and a ray of hope can be seen for this fall .