Kentucky Wildcats Top 2013 target carrying the weight of the “world” while the baseball team visits our service men and women who make it safe and free


The top recruit of the 2013 class, Andrew Wiggins is set to finish his high school career Saturday as he joins the World Select team when they begin play in the Nike Hoops Summit.  For foreign born players, this game has allowed some prior unknowns to showcase their talent, landing some a first round pick in the NBA draft like Nicholas Batum in 2008 or showcases the likes of Dirk Nowitzki.  It’s safe to saw that Andrew Wiggins is not among the unknowns but this game is no less important to him.  Michael Grange has the story at www.sportsnet.ca.

Andrew Wiggins leads the world.

It has a nice ring to it, and for one afternoon in Portland, Oregon it will be true.

The Canadian basketball phenom will take the floor for his last game as a high school student on Saturday, and fittingly it will be as the best player in the world — or at least the best player on the World Select team in the 15th edition of the Nike Hoop Summit.

His opponents the USA Junior National Select Team, a collection of the top players 19-and-under from the No. 1 basketball power on the planet.

Wiggins led the World to a win in the event last year with a team-high 20 points. It was another signature moment for the 6-foot-8 forward from Vaughan, Ontario, and something he would very much like to repeat.

“I wouldn’t want to play my last game and lose,” the 18-year-old said after practice on Thursday.

The World team, which counts as its alumni the likes of NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Serge Ibaka, has just a 4-11 record in the Hoop Summit and has never won in consecutive years.

Would Wiggins like to change that?

“That’s my goal,” he said.

But his motives aren’t quite what might be expected.

Wiggins has had the eyes of the basketball world centered on him for the better part of a year and never more intensely than the past six months when he accelerated his studies so he could graduate from high school this year and likely enter the NBA Draft in 2014. The son a of former NBA player father and Olympic track star mother, Wiggins’ size, skill and athleticism have made him the hottest name in basketball outside of the NBA.

And the focus has become laser sharp this past month as he has played in the major post-season all-star games — the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic and now the Hoop Summit — as the only player among the elite in his high school class that has not committed to a college for next season.

“Anyone who says they know where I’m going is a liar,” he said this week. “I don’t know where I’m going, so they can’t know where I’m going.”

But while he may be the centre of attention of the 50-or-more NBA scouts and executives that have been watching every practice this week, Wiggins doesn’t need it.

But his teammates? That’s a different story. The World team is made up of 11 players from nine different countries. While Wiggins has had countless chances to face off against the elite US players his age, that’s not the case for his teammates.

The possibility of helping their cause gets Wiggins excited.

“It’s a very big deal for them; more so for them than for me because they they’re in America so they get all the American NBA scouts to watch them play and over the past couple of years that’s how they got drafted,” he said. “So it’s a big deal for them; it could be their make-or-break point. If some of them play good in this game they can get drafted this year.”

There is no doubt that Wiggins will be picked by an NBA team a year from now. He’s been seen and seen again. The only question for him is will he go No. 1 overall.

But his playing well on Saturday could have an impact on the futures of those he’s playing with, and he knows it.

“He really takes on whatever responsibility is needed,” said Roy Rana, the Canadian U-20 and Ryerson University head coach who is leading the World team at the Hoop Summit for the third time. “And this one for him is representing Canada. He’ll have the flag on his jersey and he’ll take it seriously. He’s such a giving person … it’s not really about him, it’s what he can give to others.”

“It’s really his last high school game,” Ranna said. “So what better way to go out than in front of 10,000 people at the Rose Garden and against the best in the world on ESPN; It’s a fitting completion to his high school career.”

For Wiggins the weight of the World Select team is on his shoulders.

Speaking of highly touted prospects, one the former great Wildcats just finished his rookie season with the Charlotte Bobcats and while their record was a 14 game improvement from the prior season, Charlotte’s Head Coach Mike Dunlap had this to say about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

On Kidd-Gilchrist: “Michael came to us as the jack of all trades, master of none. With a very special motor and a one percent attitude. It’s good but it will continue to get better with his skill development.”

Now I know that’s not a ton but when a first year coach and a first year player get together to play for the worst owner in basketball, we don’t expect magic to happen.  But it’s great that Dunlap saw in MKG’s first pro season what we BBN members saw his only season in Lexington.  He will improve.

And as always, our great friend, Ken Howlett of coachcal.com brings it with this break down of former Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA and how they fared this regular season. Coach Cal’s are below.

*Eric Bledsoe — Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 stats – 76 games, 20.4 minutes per game, 8.5 points, 3.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Bledsoe displayed tremendous progress in his third year in the NBA, and played very well while replacing injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Bledsoe’s 3-point shooting, once an inconsistent part of his game, has blossomed as he made 39.7 percent of his shots from distance this season and 44.5 percent of his overall field-goal attempts. The Clippers, the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

*DeMarcus Cousins — Sacramento Kings
2012-13 stats — 75 games, 30.5 minutes per game, 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals
At only 22 years old, Cousins is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the NBA. He posted 37 double-doubles this season, and in one 13-game stretch between Jan. 1 and Jan. 23, he posted 10 double-doubles. Cousins ended the season with a bang, posting season highs in both points (36) and rebounds (22) in the Kings’ 112-108 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night.

*Anthony Davis — New Orleans Hornets
2012-13 stats — 64 games, 28.8 minutes per game, 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.2 steals
After missing 11 games in November with a stress fracture in his ankle, Davis rebounded from the setback to finish the year with 21 double-doubles while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Davis ended the season strong. In his final 25 games of the year, Davis averaged 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, with 12 double-doubles. Unfortunately, Davis missed the final three regular-season contests after suffering a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He’s one of two favorites for NBA Rookie of the Year.

*Josh Harrellson — free agent
2012-13 stats — Six games, 5.2 minutes per game,1.7 points, 1.2 rebounds
The Miami Heat signed Harrellson in September but waived the big man on Jan. 7. The Heat re-signed “Jorts” to a 10-day contract Jan. 10. Harrellson is now considered an NBA unrestricted free agent as he continues his pro career in Puerto Rico playing for Brujos de Guayama.

*Terrence Jones — Houston Rockets
2012-13 stats — 19 games, 14.5 minutes per game, 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds
Jones, the No. 18 selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, was sent to the NBA’s D-League in December where he played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. There he averaged 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He was recalled by the Rockets on Feb. 14 and finished the year in fine fashion as Jones, over the last eight games of the regular season, averaged 23 minutes, 8.8 points, and 5.8 rebounds per contest. The Rockets, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

*Enes Kanter — Utah Jazz
2012-13 stats — 70 games, 15.4 minutes per game, 7.2 points, 4.3 rebounds
Kanter suffered a dislocated shoulder against Phoenix on March 27 and underwent surgery last week to repair the damage. Kanter, still only 20 years old, continued to improve in his second NBA season, as his shooting percentage rose from 49.6 percent last season to a very solid 54.4 percent in 2013. Kanter’s scoring also increased almost three full points.

*Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — Charlotte Bobcats
2012-13 stats — 78 games, 26.0 minutes per game, 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 blocks
The No. 2 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft impressed in his first season due to his incredible work ethic and dedication to defense. MKG’s offense continued to evolve, as he scored a career-high 25 points twice this season and scored in double-figures 35 times on the year.

*Brandon Knight — Detroit Pistons
2012-13 stats — 75 games, 31.5 minutes per game, 13.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds
In his second year in the league, Knight quickly acclimated to the speed and strength of the NBA game, becoming a valuable and versatile back court member for the youthful Pistons. As Detroit attempts to rebuild its franchise, Knight will be an indispensable team member going forward.

*Doron Lamb — Orlando Magic
2012-13 stats –47 games, 12.3 minutes per game, 3.3 points, 0.7 assists
Lamb was sent to the D-League to play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in an attempt to get him playing time, but was recalled by the Bucks on Feb. 10. He was then traded to Orlando on Feb. 21, where, in the final seven games of the season, he averaged 7.4 points on 52.9 percent 3-point shooting. Lamb scored a career-high 16 points on April 10 against his former team.

*DeAndre Liggins — Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 stats — 39 games, 7.4 minutes per game, 1.5 points, 1.4 rebounds
Defense not only wins championships, but it also creates roster space for someone like DeAndre Liggins. Although Liggins bounced back and forth between the NBA and the D-League, the Chicago native continued to work on his offensive game in an attempt to earn more playing time, evidenced by his 36.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc on the year. OKC earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will take on Houston in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

*Darius Miller — New Orleans Hornets
2012-13 stats — 52 games, 13.3 minutes per game, 1.9 points, 1.5 rebounds
Miller’s attitude, work ethic and versatility served him well in his first season as he found a way into the Hornets’ rotation. The Maysville, Ky., native shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc on the season and scored a career-high 16 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting against Denver on March 25.

*Daniel Orton — Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 stats — 13 games, 8.0 minutes per game, 2.5 points, 2.0 rebounds
After being released by OKC on Oct. 27, the Thunder re-signed Orton only a few days later after the team traded Cole Aldrich (in a deal involving James Harden). Orton was up and down between the NBA and the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers, but in the season’s final three games he scored an average of 5.7 points and snagged 3.7 rebounds per game. OKC earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will take on Houston in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

*Patrick Patterson – Sacramento Kings
2012-13 stats — 71 games, 25.0 minutes per game, 10.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Patterson, in his third year, came into his own at the NBA level, posting 41 starts with the Rockets. His outside shooting was solid (38.6 percent from distance), and he proved to be an inside scoring threat as well (51.2 percent overall shooting).Patterson’s role was slightly reduced when he was traded to the Kings midway through the year, but he’s proven he will be a reliable NBA veteran for years to come.

*Marquis Teague — Chicago Bulls
2012-13 stats — 48 games, 8.2 minutes per game, 2.1 points, 1.3 assists
Teague was in learning mode this season, as he sat behind Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson at the point position. When former MVP Derrick Rose returns from knee surgery, Teague will have the great benefit of being taught by not only a John Calipari pupil, but one of the most dynamic players in the league. Teague recorded the first double-digit scoring game of his pro career against Denver on Feb. 7 as he put up 10 points in 22 minutes of action. Chicago is the No. 5 seed in Eastern Conference and will take on Brooklyn in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

*John Wall — Washington Wizards
2012-13 stats — 49 games, 32.7 minutes per game, 18.5 points, 7.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals
A knee injury caused Wall to miss the beginning of the season, but after he returned to the starting lineup, the 2011 NBA Draft’s No. 1 pick found his groove. Over the final 26 games of the year, Wall averaged 22.7 points per game and set a new career-high with 47 points on March 25 against Memphis. Wall recorded 14 points/assist double-doubles on the season. After facing some mild criticism while he rehabbed from injury, Wall proved his doubters wrong by playing the best basketball of his NBA career and carrying the Wizards to some improved play.

 

Switching gears as we continue straight into the heart of the SEC baseball schedule, UK had a game scheduled against the South Carolina Game Cocks Friday night but was postponed due to inclement weather.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – With inclement weather forecast for Friday evening, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 14 South Carolina’s series opener at Carolina Stadium has been moved to a Saturday doubleheader, with first pitch of the lidlifter slated for 1 p.m. ET.

Kentucky will now face the Gamecocks in the series opener at 1 p.m. ET at Carolina Stadium, with the second game of the series slated for 45 minutes after the conclusion of the opener.

The first game of the series will now be televised live on Fox Sports South, with the final two games of the three-game set not slated for television. All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.

Gary Henderson’s squad had an amazing opportunity while in South Carolina when the team was given a guided tour of Fort Henderson.  This proved to be a great opportunity for the staff and players to get an idea where the real heroes reside and what they do.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Usually on the day of night games in the Southeastern Conference, visiting teams spend the day wasting time at the hotel, eating pregame meals and preparing for the daunting challenge of winning a league series opener on the road.

Not so on Friday for the 17th-ranked Kentucky baseball team, which faces off with No. 14 South Carolina at Carolina Stadium this weekend.

The Wildcats had a different Friday, spending the morning at Fort Jackson, the United States Army’s main production center for Basic Combat Training under the command of Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts.

UK’s club was invited to visit Fort Jackson during the week leading up to the trip to Columbia. UK jumped at the chance to break from its routine and show its student-athletes the training ground for America’s heroes.

UK head coach Gary Henderson, assistant coach Keith Vorhoff, support staff and a dozen Wildcats boarded the bus and ventured down the road to Fort Jackson.

“This was a tremendous opportunity to get some of our group out to see a special place at Fort Jackson,” Henderson said. “The men and women that serve in our armed forces are heroes and we were honored to have been welcomed on a visit. The chance to see what our soldiers go through on a daily basis to prepare them to fight for our freedom is an eye-opening experience. We can’t thank General Roberts, Captain Meyer and the soldiers who were able to visit with us enough; they make us all proud to live in this great nation.”

After a chance to meet with General Roberts, the Wildcats were given a personal tour of the recently renovated Fort Jackson museum where they were given a glimpse into the fort’s history dating back to its inception in 1917.

Among the Wildcats on the trip was redshirt junior catcher Micheal Thomas. The Elizabethtown, Ky., native is a child of the military just 20 minutes from historic Fort Knox.

“It is cool to see what the men and women who serve our country have to go through to get ready to go to Afghanistan and other places for war,” Thomas said. “It was an eye-opening experience for me and the guys, to see what guys our age actually have to go through.”

Thomas, who has been a fixture behind the plate in 2013 after spending the previous four years behind standout catchers Marcus Nidiffer, Luke Maile and Michael Williams, was touched by the personal invite to the historic military base.

“It is really cool. Most of my family has been in the army,” Thomas said. “Both of my parents were in the Navy so it was a little different for me. I got to see some of the other aspects of what my family has gone through from generation to generation. Being one of the first in my family to not join the military right out of high school was kind of cool to see what they went through, how they lived their lives and what has led them to be the kind of people they are today.”

After the tour of the sparkling new museum, the Wildcats ventured across the base to an indoor shooting range, equipped with electronic sensors and screens to replicate battle scenarios. Henderson and the Wildcats were instructed on loading and re-loading their high powered, automatic weapons, before beginning the training scenarios.

“This was a great opportunity to come out and see just how the army life is,” UK senior right-hander Walter Wijas said. “I had never had this experience, I had never shot a gun before and it was just a great experience to learn how it is and see how difficult it is for our soldiers to live here and fight for our country.”

The Wildcats went through several battle simulations scenarios on the range, while lying in the prone and kneeling positions. The players had to think on their feet in a battle simulation, deciding on the fly about potential threats and civilians.

After the visit to historic Fort Jackson, the Wildcats returned to Columbia with a new perspective thanks to an experience much more meaningful than an afternoon spent in a hotel room.

“To see this just makes me respect our soldiers even more then I already do,” Wijas said. “To see what they go through on a daily basis, it makes me feel for the work to do, it really makes us feel grateful that we have the life we do. The chance to play baseball everyday has been given to us by the brave soldiers in our military.”

 

 

 

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