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#pounditTuesday, February 7, 2023

Articles tagged: Kentucky Basketball

Report: Kentucky eyeing legendary former player for assistant role

John Calipari at a press conference

Mar 28, 2019; Kansas City, MO, United States; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky appears to be reuniting with a program legend who even pre-dated the John Calipari era.

Jack Pilgrim of Kentucky Sports Radio reported on Friday that former NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo is working towards joining Kentucky’s coaching staff for 2023-24. Rondo, who is back on campus taking classes to finish his degree, would potentially be coming on as a student assistant.

Now 36 years old, Rondo played for two seasons at Kentucky from 2004 to 2006 under then-coach Tubby Smith. After one Elite Eight berth with the Wildcats, Rondo became a first-round draft pick and had a very successful NBA career. He made four All-Star teams, earned four All-Defensive nods, led the league in assists three times, and won two championships (in 2008 with the Boston Celtics and in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers).

Rondo’s return to Lexington would be a welcome one. It would also be fitting since another ex-Kentucky point guard recently returned to the team’s staff as a student assistant.

Report: John Calipari, Kentucky AD don’t speak to each other

John Calipari at a press conference

Mar 28, 2019; Kansas City, MO, United States; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky is in the middle of yet another bad season, which has brought further scrutiny to John Calipari. Some new information about the Wildcats basketball program also reflects poorly upon the school’s athletic leadership.

The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker answered fan questions about Kentucky in a mailbag column he published on Thursday. The column sought to answer where Kentucky has gone wrong.

In the story, Tucker revealed that Calipari and athletic director Mitch Barnhart barely talk.

“For whatever reason, he and Calipari no longer have a relationship of any significance. They don’t speak to each other, Barnhart attends fewer games and he hasn’t been to a Kentucky basketball practice in ages,” Tucker wrote in his article.

Tucker noted that Barnhart also seemed to stand with Mark Stoops after Calipari called Kentucky a “basketball school.”

Barnhart gave Calipari the “lifetime deal” the Kentucky coach currently has (10 years for $86 million signed in 2019). Calipari is owed so much money that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

That’s not a great sign if Barnhart and Cal barely talk.

The Wildcats went 9-16 two years ago. Last year they were 26-8 but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This season, the team is 10-6 and just lost to South Carolina.

Kentucky fan with anti-John Calipari sign gets in trouble

John Calipari at the podium

Mar 28, 2019; Kansas City, MO, United States; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A fan who attended Tuesday night’s Kentucky-South Carolina game ended up leaving after his sign caused a disturbance.

The Wildcats lost 71-68 at Rupp Arena in Lexington to the Gamecocks, who entered the game with a sub-.500 record. One fan attending the game brought a sign that said, “Please Go to Texas.”

The sign was a reference to rumors that Texas has interest in Calipari for their head coach vacancy. The Longhorns are looking for a new coach after firing Chris Beard for cause last week.

The fan’s message is clear: he is not happy with the way things have been going under Calipari.

Though the sign was disrespectful to Calipari, the message on the poster was not the reason the fan left. Rather, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports that fans sitting behind the fan in question complained about having their view blocked by the sign. The fan chose to leave rather than lower the sign.

Here is video showing the fan leaving:

Why are some fans frustrated with Calipari? Kentucky has fallen well below expectations in recent years. The Wildcats went 9-16 in the 2020-2021 season and missed the NCAA Tournament. They went 26-8 last season but were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Saint Peter’s.

Calipari, 63, has been the coach at Kentucky since the 2009-2010 season. He’s probably not a long-term solution for a program like Texas. And let’s be real: he has a lifetime contract with Kentucky. There would have to be a lot more pressure than the sign for him to leave Kentucky.

Kentucky had concerning quotes after loss to Gonzaga

John Calipari at the podium

Mar 28, 2019; Kansas City, MO, United States; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari speaks during a press conference for the midwest regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky fell to 3-2 on the season with a loss to Gonzaga on Sunday, and John Calipari and his team were not exactly radiating confidence after their tough night.

The Wildcats came out extremely flat and scored just 25 points in the first half. They made some halftime adjustments and got things going over the final 20 minutes, but it was too late at that point. Calipari said one of the issues was that big man Oscar Tshiebwe only recently returned from injury and did not know some of the offensive plays.

“It was so embarrassing. We couldn’t even run a play,” Calipari said of the first half. “I couldn’t get Oscar to run the plays right. Why? He hasn’t been playing with us.”

A reporter asked Tshiebwe why Kentucky has struggled to score against good teams, and the sophomore gave an honest response.

“Most of the time we don’t really run what Coach is asking us to do,” he said.

If Oscar not being comfortable was one issue for Kentucky, that should straighten itself out the more he plays. However, star forward Jacob Toppin raised a different concern.

“If you want the honest answer … it’s a long season. I don’t want to speak for any guys, but in some moments, guys can’t step up,” Toppin said.

Toppin is right that there is a lot of basketball left to be played, but the No. 4 Wildcats did not exactly sound optimistic after Gonzaga handled them. They have more tough games upcoming in the next few weeks against Michigan and UCLA, and it sounds like they have plenty to straighten out before then.

Tom Izzo offers considerate comment after beating Kentucky

Tom Izzo at a press conference

Oct 2, 2019; Rosemont, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo addresses the media during the Big Ten conference NCAA college basketball media day at Hilton Rosemont. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans pulled off a nice win over Kentucky on Tuesday night, and he offered a considerate comment about his opponent afterwards.

The Spartans beat the Wildcats 86-77 in double overtime, taking advantage after Oscar Tshiebwe fouling out in the first OT. Tshiebwe was making his season debut and came off the bench in the game.

Izzo was complimentary of Kentucky during his postgame interview with ESPN but also recognized that the Wildcats were not the best possible version of themselves.

“Big win for us. John’s team is really good, but they’re not quite ready yet with the injuries they had and trying to get [Tshiebwe] back in there,” Izzo said of John Calipari’s Kentucky team in his postgame interview.

Izzo also complimented his own team for pulling off the nice win.

“I said all summer I like my team. I didn’t think we’re the most talented team that I’ve had, but they play so well together, they care about each other. They’re really good defensively,” Izzo told Holly Rowe.

Michigan State is now 2-1 as they lost last week to Gonzaga. Having the win over Kentucky is a nice win, even if it came against a team that has yet to find itself. And kudos to Izzo for adding that context in his postgame interview.

Mark Stoops not happy with John Calipari for 1 reason

John Calipari at the podium

Danny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari appears to have rubbed some people at Kentucky the wrong way with a quote he gave in a bid to get his basketball team a new practice facility.

In a recent interview with Kyle Tucker of The Athletic, Calipari publicly pressured the school to spend money on an upgraded practice facility for the basketball team. Calipari cited improved infrastructure for other sports, singling out a $200 million upgrade to the football facilities. The Kentucky basketball coach then said that a new practice facility was a must because of the school’s reputation for basketball.

“And the reason is, this is a basketball school. It’s always been that,” Calipari said. “Alabama is a football school. So is Georgia. I mean, they are. No disrespect to our football team. I hope they win 10 games and go to bowls. At the end of the day, that makes my job easier and it makes the job of all of us easier. But this is a basketball school.”

That remark made its way back to Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops, who publicly blasted Calipari on Twitter over those remarks.

Stoops also retweeted one user who deemed Calipari’s comments “insulting,” then put forward another retweet of someone arguing that the football program has been more successful recently than Calipari’s basketball program has been.

Stoops has a point. He took over a struggling program in 2013, and the Wildcats have now won four straight bowl games and are coming off their second ten-win season in four years. That is nothing to scoff at, even if they play in the SEC East, which many would argue is a bit more forgiving than the West.

Calipari may be correct about people associating Kentucky more with basketball. However, his comments come when the basketball team has not made the Final Four since 2015, and lost to 15-seed St. Peter’s in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. That defeat made Calipari the subject of blistering criticism in some circles of the fanbase.

Calipari could have easily made his case for an upgraded facility without disrespecting the football program. Instead, he’s created needless drama within the athletic program. Even if it blows over quickly, it didn’t need to happen in the first place.

Ex-Kentucky star offers update on his recovery after serious car accident

Tyler Ulis in a basketball uniform

Apr 8, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis (8) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

A former Kentucky star is speaking out after he was involved in a serious car crash earlier this year.

Tyler Ulis made a public appearance in Lexington this week to host a youth skills camp. Ulis spoke with local news station WKYT and gave an update on his recovery. The ex-Wildcats guard, who was in a wheelchair, said he has not walked in five months. Ulis added though that he will hopefully start walking again in the next month and then start running in the next four months. He also remains hopeful about continuing his basketball career.

“God gave me a gift,” said Ulis. “I know circumstances have changed a lot of things, being hurt. But just gotta work, take it day by day, build your body back up, and just keep pushing … I’m lucky to be here so it’s a blessing.”

Ulis suffered a broken left ankle and two broken wrists during a scary head-on collision last February. You can read more details about the crash here.

The 26-year-old Ulis was a two-year standout for Kentucky, becoming a fan favorite for his heart and his steady hand running the offense. He was then drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the second round in 2016 and played three seasons in the NBA. Ulis has not played competitively since his stint with the Stockton Kings of the NBA G League in 2019-20. But he sounds very determined to get healthy and to get back to playing basketball again.

Jabari Smith uses NBA Draft suit to take shot at SEC rival

Jabari Smith in his Auburn uniform

Nov 25, 2021; Nassau, BHS; Auburn Tigers guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) and forward Jabari Smith (10) celebrate the win against the Loyola Ramblers in the 2021 Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Jabari Smith is expected to be the No. 1 draft pick Thursday, and he gave a hint about the attitude he’ll be bringing to the NBA with the suit he wore.

Smith arrived for the draft in a custom suit, with a number of meaningful images depicted on the inside of the jacket. Smith went to great pains to point out one of the pictures, which shows him, in his words, “beating up on Kentucky.”

Smith only spent one season at Auburn, but it’s pretty clear that the school made an impression on him. He fully bought into the rivalry with Kentucky as well. By the looks of it, the picture was strategically chosen to make sure the scoreboard was in the background. Smith scored 14 points in that game, an 80-71 Auburn victory.

By the looks of it, Smith might have had some of his college coach’s attitude rub off on him. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Duke makes unusual hire from rival school

Jon Scheyer pointing

Jan 22, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Duke Blue Devils associate head coach Jon Scheyer reacts on the bench against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Duke won 79-64. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Scheyer is already moving differently than his predecessor Coach K did.

247 Sports reported on Friday that Duke has hired Jai Lucas, an assistant coach for rival Kentucky, to fill the last spot on Scheyer’s bench. The report adds that it marks the first time the Blue Devils have hired outside of the “Duke family” since the 1990s.

The 33-year-old Lucas, who is known for his recruiting skills, is part of a prominent basketball family. His father, John Lucas II, is a well-known former player and current assistant coach for the Houston Rockets. His brother John Lucas III also played in the NBA for several seasons. Lucas himself has several seasons of assistant coaching experience as well with both Kentucky and the Texas Longhorns prior to that.

As for Scheyer, who takes over for Duke after Coach K’s 42 seasons at the helm, his unexpected hire of Lucas is a clear power move and one that will weaken one of the Blue Devils’ fiercest NCAA rivals in Kentucky. It is also yet another sign of the changing of the guard in Durham.

Reigning National Player of the Year makes NBA Draft decision

Oscar Tsheibwe at a press conference

Mar 16, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) talks to the media at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats had a disappointing end to their season after losing in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Fans have had little reason to get excited about next season since then, but that all changed on Wednesday.

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning National Player of the Year in college basketball, announced Wednesday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that he will be returning to Kentucky for his senior season.

“I’ll be back again. I’ll be here next year for Kentucky,” Tshiebwe said. “I’ll be in the blue in Kentucky next year again.”

Tshiebwe also posted this video on Twitter with a message saying that he’s back.

Tshiebwe had a dominant junior season, leading the nation with 15.1 rebounds per game. He also averaged 17.4 points per game.

The consensus first-team All-American won all six NCAA-recognized National Player of the Year Awards, including the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy.

The 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe likely did not want his last college basketball memory to be a disappointing loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Second-seeded Kentucky was upset by No. 15 Saint Peter’s University in overtime, 85-79. The loss wasn’t due to a lack of production from Tshiebwe, however, who scored 30 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Tshiebwe’s decision makes him the first player to return to school after sweeping the National Player of the Year awards since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough did so in 2008.

Hansbrough and the Tar Heels went on to win a national championship the following season, and there’s little doubt that Tshiebwe would like to do the same.