A Big Weekend for Former and Current Kentucky Wildcats

Feb 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Team Chuck forward Anthony Davis (23) of the New Orleans Hornets shakes hands with Team Shaq guard/forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) of the Charlotte Bobcats after the rising stars challenge during the 2013 NBA All-Star weekend at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament has turned 75 years old and to celebrate, ESPN has deemed themselves the most holy of the trinity to rank and compile a list of the Top 75 Players.  NCAA Tournament:  The Top 75 Players features many names you’ve heard and several you may have not.  The list is a pictorial montage but some players of note and their ranking:




What do you think, Nation?  Who’d they miss or rank incorrectly?

The  Basketball Hall of Fame has come calling on 12 Finalists for enshrinement this year and yes, there’s a definite Kentucky connection.  And since the article didn’t give Pitino’s credentials any ink, here you go:

647-235 (.734%), National Champion 1996 (Kentucky) & Runner-Up National Champion 1997 (Kentucky), 3 Consensus All Americans:  Jamal Mashburn (1993), Tony Delk (1996), and Ron Mercer (1997).  So when you look at his record, no you don’t see as many wins as a lot of coaches today but you do see a couple national title game appearances with a win.  He is 38-15 in the NCAA Tournament with Final Fours at Providence (1987), Kentucky (1993, 1996, 1997) and Louisville (2005, 2012).  He is deserving.

Feb 9, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals coach Rick Pitino on the sidelines against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame defeats Louisville 104-101 in five overtimes. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Now, on to the rest of the nominees.

Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond were among 12 finalists announced Friday for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Former Houston Cougars coach Guy Lewis, current Louisville coach Rick Pitino and UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian also are finalists for the 2013 class. The others included former NBA stars Maurice Cheeks, Spencer Haywood and Bernard King, longtime North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell and five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley. Boston Celtics great Tom Heinsohn, already inducted as a player, is a finalist in the coaching category.

The announcement of the finalists kicked off All-Star Weekend in Houston. The 2013 class will be announced at the Final Four in April.

The careers of Payton, Hardaway and Richmond overlapped in the 1990s and early 2000s and they practiced together in California each summer. They were reunited on Friday, now first-time finalists for Hall of Fame election.

“To actually be sitting next to the guys and being a finalist is awesome,” Richmond said. “I think we’re better friends now than we were then, because back then, we were really going after each other.”

Payton was the most decorated of the three, a nine-time All-Star who earned the nickname “The Glove” for his defensive prowess. He ended his career ranked fourth in career steals (2,445).

Payton played 13 of his 17 NBA seasons in Seattle and lately, he has been focused on the city’s efforts to get another team. The SuperSonics were sold in 2006 and relocated to Oklahoma City, but a Seattle ownership group recently reached an agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings and formally filed for relocation.

“All we have to do is hope. Seattle deserves it,” Payton said. “I’m feeling a lot of confidence from everybody.”

Hardaway was a five-time All-Star and averaged at least 20 points in four consecutive seasons. He ranks 13th in both career assists (7,095) and 3-point field goals (1,542). He and Richmond were teammates along with Chris Mullin in Golden State, a high-scoring trio that became known as Run TMC. It was quickly broken up when Richmond was traded to Sacramento in 1992.

“I played with Mitch for three seasons, and our families became close-knit and keep in touch,” Hardaway said. “One part of Run TMC is in there (Mullin), and it’d be great to get myself and Mitch in there. We played hard, we sacrificed a lot and we had fun together.”

The inclusion of Lewis among the finalists was a significant victory for former Cougar Clyde Drexler, who’s lobbied for years to get his beloved college coach into the Hall. Lewis, now 90, led the Cougars to 14 NCAA tournaments and five Final Fours. He also coached three players who are already in the Hall of Fame — Drexler, Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Feb 11, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) drives for the basket during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out that “stupid” runs rampant all over the country when it comes to Kentucky basketball players, both past and present.  David Falk, Michael Jordan’s former agent, was the latest to put his bald blindness out there and his sights were set on John Wall. While I disagree with his particular sentiment about superior athletes necessarily always losing out to better players, I do agree that Kyrie Irving is a better player as a rookie and second year than Wall.  Obviously Wall’s injuries not withstanding.

“A prominent NBA agent, whom I’ll save from embarrassment here, told me a year ago the Wizards needed to unload Wall before the rest of the league found out he didn’t have trade value.”

It turns out David Falk didn’t want anonymity. He just wanted to go off on Wall.

And Emeka Okafor.

And Trevor Ariza.

And the Wizards’ alleged rebuild.

But he mostly wanted to go off on any perceived homer who believes Wall can eventually make Washington a contender.

“I’m going to save you from embarrassment,” Michael Jordan’s former agent said as an introduction Monday night when he called.

A Wizards season ticket holder, Falk added: “You guys are in dreamland. Because this team [stinks] so bad you guys want John Wall to be someone he will never be.

“Before Wall becomes Nene, I would trade him and get rid of him.”

Come on, really?

“I’m serious. He doesn’t have a feel for the game,” Falk said. “He only knows how to play one speed. Magic Johnson had a great feel, a court sense, by the time he was a sophomore in college. Chris Paul had it by the time he was a sophomore in high school.

“You can develop your jump shot all you want, but if you don’t know how to play more than an up-and-down game by the time you’re about 20 as a point guard, the chances of learning are very slim. I don’t see it happening.”

“Let me ask you a question,” Falk said, maybe 28 times over 30 minutes, often answering for you. “Who’s bigger, Kyrie Irving or John Wall? John Wall. Who’s a better athlete? John Wall. Who’s faster? Who’s stronger? John Wall.

“Now, who’s a better player? Kyrie Irving,” he said of Cleveland’s all-star point guard who was rookie of the year in 2012. “John Wall will never be as good as Kyrie Irving was in his first week in the NBA.

Baseball is back and #8 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season against UNC-Ashville yesterday and did some damage in the 9-2 victory.

Sophomore All-America southpaw A.J. Reed worked five innings on the mound and went a career-best 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 9-2 season-opening win over UNC Asheville, on a gorgeous Friday afternoon at Wofford’s Russell C. King Field.

A 6-foot-4, 245-pound native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed highlighted the win for the Wildcats, working five innings with two runs allowed on the mound and equaling his career-best with a 4-for-5 game and three RBI at the dish, including his first career triple.

“It was a lot of fun,” Reed said about his opening game. “It is always good to get a win in your first game. I was just going out there to try and do what I could to help the team get the win. Getting the start on the first game, there is a little bit of pressure and you are a little bit fired up, your adrenaline is going a little bit. You just got to settle down and make a pitch when you needed to and I was able to for the most part.”

Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle also starred in UK’s season-opening win, going a career-high equaling 3-for-4 in his first career start at the cleanup hitter. A native of Frankfort, Ky., Riddle pounded doubles off the left and rightfield walls, marking his first career multiple-double game.

Kentucky (1-0) also got multiple-hit games from All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino, who went 2-for-4 with two walks and reached on an error, also stealing two bases. Rightfielder Zac Zellers went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a walk, while leftfielder Lucas Witt added a 2-for-5 game with an RBI. Max Kuhn – making his first career start – Paul McConkey and Matt Reida each added hits.

Kentucky opened in South Carolina for the fifth consecutive season … Second baseman J.T. Riddle made his team-high 67th consecutive start … Shortstop Matt Reida hit in the No. 8 spot in the order for the first time in his career, in his 91st career start, making 90 consecutive starts as the No. 9 hitter … Austin Cousino extended his hitting streak to five games … Zac Zellers stretched his hitting streak to a team-high six games … Micheal Thomas made his second career start … Max Kuhn made his first career start and played first base for the first time in his two-year career … Thomas was hit by the first pitch of his career … Paul McConkey was hit by his 10th career pitch … Cousino stole his 16th and 17th career bases … Dylan Dwyer made his first collegiate appearance in a two-out, two-on jam in the bottom of the seventh … A.J. Reed collected his second career four-hit game and launched his first career triple … Riddle charted his first career two-double game and his 10th career three-hit game, tying his career high … Freshman righty Kyle Cody made his collegiate debut … Kentucky won its ninth season opener in its last 10 lidlifters .. UK head coach Gary Henderson won his 130th career game … UK has now won 11 consecutive games in February … UK’s 16 hits are its most since collecting 18 hits in the 21-inning game with Kent State on June 1.

Switching gears a little bit, #7 UK’s Men’s Tennis Team advanced to the Elite Eight as they took down #10 Mississippi State University at the ITA Nationals in Seattle, Washington.

UK Head Coach Cedric Kauffmann after the matches:

“This is a really good win for our team today,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “Mississippi State is a very good team and a team that we have a lot of respect for. We came out today with a lot of intensity and really played well as a team overall. Our boys have a lot of work left still to do, but this was a very good match today. I am really looking forward to seeing how we come out tomorrow against an excellent USC team.”

With the win, Kentucky advances to the Elite Eight of the National Indoors and the Wildcats will take on the Southern California Trojans who enter this weekend as the No. 2 team in the nation and the second seed in the tournament. The match time is still undermined and will be announced at the end of play on Friday.

This is huge for the tennis program as they are seeking to establish dominance for Kentucky in yet another sport.  With a victory against #2 USC, they will be well on their way.



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