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Page 2 | November 7, 2012

Basketball Season Preview

freshman stars are tall, talented Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein have height, coordination By David Schuh dschuh@kykernel.com

UK head coach John Calipari has recruited an abundance of five-star talent during his career. From Derrick Rose to John Wall to Anthony Davis, he’s had some guys that have been able to physically outplay the opposition, simply with innate ability. This year, as hard as it is to believe, Calipari may have his finest athletes yet, the best of which could be freshmen centers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. Noel (6-foot-10) and Cauley-Stein (7-foot) bring a unique set of skills to the table. The quickness and coordination each possesses is rare for players of their height. “They have such great

length, offensively and defensively,” sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer said. “If we can get those guys on the court together and learn how to play together, it will be tough to defend.” It has been one of the more popular questions leading up to the start of the season: How dominant could a defense anchored by two near 7-footers be? “Not too many shots would get up in the paint,” Noel said when asked about playing with Cauley-Stein. “Willie has come a long way with himself, and I think it will be a great duo. I’m looking forward to it.” The Cats’ defense could be their most clearly defined asset this season. There is quickness at every position, but it’s what happens in the paint that dictates how the

PHOTO BY LATARA APPLEBY | STAFF

Freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, left, and Nerlens Noel pose for a photo at media day in September. Cauley-Stein is 6-foot-10 and Noel is 7-foot.

opposing offense attacks the basket. Having two players who can realistically block four shots per game and alter countless others is unprecedented. But, with such expectations come comparisons. Particularly, comparisons have arisen between Noel, CauleyStein and Davis. While it seems unfair to compare freshmen with no game experience to a guy who won every college award he could last season, it’s logical given their physically similarities. “Everybody’s acting like (Noel) is Anthony, and he’s going to come out and he’s not going to be Anthony,” Calipari said. “The same thing with (Cauley-Stein). He’s not the basketball player Anthony was, neither one of those guys (are). Comparing this team to that team in March is not fair.” It’s a challenge for Noel and Cauley-Stein to put that behind them. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, but it’s important that they forge their own identity to maximize their abilities. “We can’t compare ourselves to them,” CauleyStein said. “We just need to keep going out there and doing whatever Coach Cal tells us to do and being effective about it.” Calipari has himself two rare talents in the frontcourt. They are unique players who, if utilized properly, could become a dominant force on both sides of the court. But, for now, they are just two athletic 7-footers trying to get better, develop their games and co-exist with each other.

PHOTO BY TESSA LIGHTY | STAFF

Noel and Cauley-Stein practice at Big Blue Madness on Oct. 12. Both players are freshman centers.

transfers harrow, mays eager to play Guards considered giving up basketball during redshirt year By Les Johns ljohns@kykernel.com

All work and no play has made Julius and Ryan long for game action. UK head coach John Calipari is planning to rely on two transfers to play significant roles in his short rotation this year. Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow and graduate student shooting guard Julius Mays both have experienced the physical and mental strains of sitting on the bench during a redshirt year. Mays considered giving up basketball while he sat out the 2010-11 season at Wright State University, after transferring after his sophomore season from North Carolina State. “There really were times I just wanted to quit. I didn’t even want to play basketball anymore,” Mays said. “I just wanted to move back to Indiana and be a regular student — just go to school with my friends.” Harrow went through many of the same feelings last year during his redshirt year with the Cats. “It was hard knowing that I got to do everything that they do (his teammates) — I have to wake up in the morning, lift weights, I have to do these hard practices and run these sprints,” Harrow said. “But I’m not going to get on the floor (in a game). I would have my down days.” Going through the rigors of classes, weight training and practice without the payoff of playing in the actual games wore down each player’s psyche. “It was tough. I felt like a practice dummy. I practiced, didn’t play, didn’t go to any games, didn’t travel anywhere — it was just real hard,” Mays said. “It almost feels like you are doing it all for nothing. Those were the times I just wanted to quit.”

Just as both players experienced similar situations, they also received inspiration from similar sources — their mothers. “I give a lot of credit to my mom. She always has taught me to use basketball, not let basketball use me,” Mays said. “I could have easily got off track with my academics, but I give all of the credit to my mom because she stayed on top of me and didn’t let that happen.” Harrow expressed his concerns to the coaching staff and eventually called his mother to get guidance. “I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect this to be this hard,” Harrow told his mother. The response from the staff and his mother was simple. “The coaches and my mom told me the end result is going to be what I want, and that is doing well and moving on to the next level,” Harrow said. “So I just worked hard last year and cheered them on. I was their biggest cheerleader, so I can have my time this year.” Harrow’s redshirt year with the Cats climaxed with a national championship. Mays’ was less eventful from a team perspective, but personally just as important. “I stayed ahead in my academics and graduated on time — which put me in the unique situation I am now where I ended up here,” Mays said. “ When I was sitting at Wright State at this time last year, I would have never have expected to be sitting where I am right now. It is a blessing to be a part of it, and I am excited.” Although they will be seeing their first minutes on the floor for the Cats this season, both Harrow and Mays will be counted on to be leaders. When asked how Calipari defined his role, Mays said,

Julius Mays

Ryan Harrow

PHOTO BY TESSA LIGHTY | STAFF

PHOTO BY LATARA APPLEBY | STAFF

Transfer and graduate student Julius Mays makes his entrance at Big Blue Madness this year. He last played at Wright State. “To knock shots down and to be a leader, with the experience I have.” Harrow will have the ultimate leadership role, following in the footsteps of John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague by playing point guard for the Cats under Calipari. “For him to pick me, he obviously had some faith in my game. That made me feel good,” Harrow said about Calipari recruiting him. “I’m just trying to do the best I can do and help my team out.” Following two years at North Carolina State and a redshirt year, Mays had a breakout senior season at Wright State, leading the Raiders with 14.1 points per game and earning secondteam All-Horizon league hon-

ors. Mays is a career 84.1 percent free-throw shooter and drained 42.4 percent of his 3point attempts last season. “He is a great kid who had performed at a high level, that could make baskets — especially jump-shots — that wanted to be a part of this and understood what it meant,” Calipari said about Mays in early September. He appears to have his shooting stroke cranked up just in time for the season. According to Eric Lindsey at CoachCal.com, Mays recently hit 66 3-pointers in a fiveminute shooting drill in practice. Hitting 50 during that time frame is considered good and anything more than 60 is considered “NBA level.” Coach Calipari is looking

Ryan Harrow, shown at photo day this year, sat on the bench last season with the Cats after transferring from North Carolina State. for Harrow to be a vocal leader of the team. “He has to be more aggressive — has to have more intensity to his game,” Calipari said after the Blue-White scrimmage. “He can’t be cool. He can’t act like the other guy’s not playing.” Harrow averaged 9.3 points per game for the Wolfpack his freshman year and was second on the team with 96 assists on the season. He has gotten stronger since arriving on campus prior to last season. He weighed 125 pounds as a high school senior and is up to 167 pounds now, with most of the weight and muscle gain coming since joining the Cats.

“I think he’s played stronger than he looks,” Calipari said. “He’s out of the mold of Brandon (Knight). They’ve got the same body frame. You look at him and say he’s skilled, fast and a pretty good athlete.” Although the year on the sidelines was trying at times for Harrow, it has given him an additional edge of knowing the Calipari system as the season starts. “He’s ahead of the game because he was here last year, but he didn’t play,” Calipari said. “He’s got to go in the game and perform.” After redshirt years that had both considering giving up, performing in a game is exactly what Harrow and Mays are looking forward to.


Basketball Season Preview

November 7, 2012 | Page 3

Must-see matchups of the season By Les Johns

ljohns@kykernel.com

Scheduling became contentious during the offseason, as UK and Indiana failed to come to terms on a continuation of their annual rivalry. UK head coach John Calipari wanted the series to return to neutral sites, but IU wanted it to remain in Bloomington and Lexington. For now, that series is off, but this year’s schedule features many intriguing games, including seven matchups against teams in the AP preseason Top 25. Here are the top nine games you can’t miss:

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9. Lafayette - Nov. 16 - 7 p.m. - Rupp Arena - Fox Sports South This is the first meeting between the Cats and the Leopards, but more importantly it is the first home game of the regular season. The Cats will be coming off two strong tests, starting the season with neutral-site matchups against Maryland and Duke. The Leopards were 13-18 last season, and the game should afford the Cats a chance to better refine their style of play and preferred lineups.

8. Notre Dame - Nov. 29 - 7 p.m. - South Bend, Ind., Joyce Center ESPN2 The Fighting Irish do not lose at home very often. They have enjoyed home winning streaks of 45 and 29 over the past few years. The Irish also return all five starters from a team that went 22-12 last year (13-5 Big East). Head coach Mike Brey believes he has a team capable of contending for the Big East title, and this is a team that will likely give UK fits in South Bend.

7. Tennessee - Jan. 15 - 7 p.m. - Rupp Arena - ESPN The Volunteers, under second-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, invade Rupp Arena in January with much higher expectations than last year. The Vols return seven players with starting experience, including 6-foot-8 forward Jarnell Stokes, who joined the team mid-season last year. Stokes provided a boost, averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, in helping the Vols to a 10-6 SEC record — barely missing out on a NCAA berth. How Stokes battles down low against UK’s post players will likely decide this conference matchup.

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6. Baylor - Dec. 1 - 12:30 p.m. - Rupp Arena - CBS The Bears, coming off a 30-8 record last year, are ranked in the top 20 of both major polls to start the season. Baylor returns its entire backcourt from last year, including All-American candidate Pierre Jackson. Head coach Scott Drew lost three key players to the NBA draft but replaces them with the No. 6-ranked recruiting class by Rivals.com. The Bears will be the highestranked non-conference team to face the Cats at Rupp this season.

5. Maryland - Nov. 9 - 8:30 p.m. - Brooklyn, N.Y., Barclays Center - ESPN The Terrapins will blend a top-20 recruiting class with three returning starters, attempting to improve on first-year head coach Mark Turgeon’s 17-15 record from last year. A win over the Cats in the season opener would be a program-re-defining win. “It’s definitely a big game for us,” sophomore guard Nick Faust said at Maryland media day. “Defeating them would definitely put us on the map from an early start.” The Terrapins will counter UK’s size with 7-foot-1 sophomore center Alex Len and 6-foot-9 freshman center Shaquille Cleare. Turgeon’s rebuilding effort, the recruiting war between the schools for the Harrison twins and this being the regular-season opener make this a can’t-miss matchup.

4. Florida - March 9 - noon - Rupp Arena - CBS The Gators are ranked No. 10 in the nation preseason and return four double-digits scoring starters off last year’s Elite Eight squad. Billy Donovan’s team is among the favorites for the SEC title, with much more experience than the Cats. If this game were played in November, the Gators would likely be the favorite. By the time March rolls around, however, Calipari’s freshmen will almost be sophomores and this matchup could decide the SEC championship. Calipari is 8-1 during his career against Donovan and looks to better that record in this season finale.

3 3. Missouri - Feb. 23 - 9 p.m. - Rupp Arena - ESPN The ESPN College Gameday show makes its way to Rupp Arena for the first time since the record-setting appearance in 2010, when a crowd of more than 22,000 attended the 11 a.m. show broadcast. Calipari wants to break the attendance record this year as the Tigers face the Cats. “Missouri’s transition to the SEC is going to be really good for them. They have a dynamic backcourt with Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey,” ESPN commentator Jimmy Dykes told the Kernel. “That is a good basketball team that I think will be a major player in the SEC race.” The matchup and the presence of Gameday make this the biggest game of the year at Rupp.

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2. Duke - Nov. 13 - 9:30 p.m. - Atlanta, Georgia Dome - ESPN Two of the greatest programs in the history of college basketball are meeting as part of the Champions Classic in Atlanta, wrapping up 24 consecutive hours of basketball coverage on ESPN. The Cats and Blue Devils have played some classic games, including what many consider the greatest game ever played in the Elite Eight in 1992. The Cats are 1-4 all-time against Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Calipari is 0-1 all-time against Duke. The teams last met in 2001. It will take a special effort from the Cats to have a reversal of recent fortune. The Blue Devils are deep, talented and experienced. They return four starters from last year and will feature a front line that will match UK’s size.

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1. Louisville - Dec. 29 - 4 p.m. - Louisville, KFC Yum! Center - CBS Last year these two faced off in the Final Four. This year, they could possibly take it a step further and make it to the championship game. Both major preseason polls have the Cards No. 2 and the Cats No. 3. Calipari is a perfect 4-0 against U of L head coach Rick Pitino since coming to coach the Cats, but this year could be different. Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva looked like a different player in the postseason last year, leading the Cards to eight consecutive wins until dropping the Final Four matchup to the Cats. This Louisville group will not be able to overachieve. It is expected to make some noise this season. Those expectations include contending for the Big East title, making a run in the NCAA Tournament and finally beating Calipari’s Cats — especially with the game taking place at the Yum! Center.


Page 4 | November 7, 2012

Basketball Season Preview

SEC stats: last year’s returning production 100%

80%

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% of returning points

40%

% of returning minutes

UK head coach John Calipari has been forced to reload more than ever for 2012-13. The Cats return the fewest points and minutes played of any SEC team.

20%

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best- and worst-case scenarios for the cats Could see short NCAA run or another title Flashback to this time two years ago — UK was coming off a season ended by an Elite Eight loss to West Virginia, although some would argue it had the most talented team in the country. EveryDAVID thing was SCHUH there; they just couldn’t Kernel put it all tocolumnist gether. A team almost entirely comprising new players came in, and

there was a bit of uncertainty as to what their potential really was. Sound familiar? UK head coach John Calipari has a team this year with as little experience as any in college basketball. Only one player, sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, has seen meaningful minutes in an NCAA Tournament game. The question everyone has been asking lately is: What is this team’s ceiling? Can the players put their athletic ability together in the right way to gel into a championship-caliber team? Or will the talent fail to translate to wins at this level?

This can be looked at from two angles — first, the bad. The Cats don’t jump out at you right now like they did this time a year ago. There is a lot of talent there, but with it is uncertainty as to their discipline and patience. So, here’s how it would go. UK would play respectably in the first two months, beating teams like Maryland and the others that it should beat. But, then the Cats would cap the calendar year off with a convincing loss to Louisville. They would lose four or five games in the SEC (which wouldn’t sound too

bad anywhere else in the South) and the freshmen would continue to show signs of inconsistency and an inability to buy into Calipari’s plan. A pretty fitting four seed would greet them on Selection Sunday, but winning six games in a row would be too much to ask. The Cats finish with a Sweet 16 loss to a team with a little too much experience in the pressure of March. It doesn’t seem all that outlandish, when you think about it. It really depends on how well Calipari can get them to play within the team concept. If they do that, well, this would happen: The Cats burst out of the

gate, running over Maryland, getting a huge confidence win against Duke and going undefeated into Louisville. The environment is hostile, pitting two of the nation’s three best teams. It’s a struggle, but UK scrapes by with a single-digit win. The Cats take the right steps to progressively continue meshing. They play unselfishly. Five or six players average double-figure points. UK then rolls through the SEC, dropping one game to a seasoned Missouri or Florida team. It clinches the conference title and a No. 1 seed in the process. After using one of the best defenses in the country to lock down lesser teams in the first two weeks, the Cats find themselves

heading back to Atlanta to the Final Four. Once in Atlanta, the Cats grind out a win over Ohio State in the semifinal and get Indiana in a colossal national championship game. It goes down to the wire, but a 3pointer by veteran Julius Mays seals it with under a minute left, also sealing UK’s ninth title in the process. The season could really go either way at this point. It could even lie somewhere in the middle. The talent is there to have an exceptional season. But, as with almost all of Calipari’s teams, if they don’t learn to play for each other, for the betterment of the team, it could just turn into the one that got away.


Basketball Season Preview

November 7, 2012 | Page 5

uk Hoops starts season at toughest team Traveling to Baylor to take on Griner, defending champs Last season, Baylor managed to keep the rest of women’s basketball teams in the NCAA at arm’s length, which may not sound like much — until you ALEX realize that FORKNER arm belongs to Brittney Kernel Griner. columnist The Lady Bears mauled every team they met, going 40-0 with an average margin of victory of 26.3 points per game while only allowing 52.3 points per game. Griner, the reigning player of the year, had one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory, averaging 23.2 points per game, nearly 10 rebounds per game and more than five blocks per game. 206 blocks. 20 more than Anthony Davis had. Talk about intimidating. Baylor is returning six of its top seven scorers, while adding the nation’s eighthranked recruiting class. All of this is to say, Baylor was incredible last season and won’t be much different this season. When UK Hoops travels to Waco, Texas, on Nov. 13, it will have the almost insur-

mountable task of beating the Lady Bears in front of them. Baylor didn’t just beat teams last year, it embarrassed them. Only a handful of times did Baylor not win by double digits. Its average margin of victory in the NCAA tournament? Nearly 21 points per game. You might be wondering why Matthew Mitchell and his staff would even want to schedule this game so early in the season. Respect? Experience? Both. A game against the best team in the country is a prime opportunity for Mitchell to show what his team is made of. The Cats already have gained immense respect in the SEC, and a preseason AP ranking of No. 7 and a No. 6 spot in the preseason Coaches’ Poll show a growing national recognition. Give a team like Baylor your best shot and people will really start to pay attention, including potential recruits. The problem with giving a team like Baylor your best shot is you still might lose by 20-plus. Get within 10 and that’s an accomplishment in itself. Defy all logic and actually win? There ought to be a special trophy made for such an occasion.

No matter the outcome, the game should be a valuable learning experience for UK. Even with one of the toughest schedules in program history, the Cats won’t have many chances to play a team of Baylor’s caliber. There is an upper echelon in women’s college basketball, occupied by teams like Tennessee, Baylor, UConn, Stanford and Notre Dame. UK has seen Tennessee’s success up close over the past three decades and ran into UConn in last year’s Elite Eight, suffering a 15-point loss. Cracking this elite class isn’t easy, but to do so you have to play its members and accomplish some success. UK is just now starting to go toe-to-toe with UT after years of blowout losses. Playing the best teams in the country will only prepare the Cats for future matchups, perhaps even late in the season when a championship is at stake. A Wildcat victory on Nov. 13 is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean nothing will be gained from the game. Other teams will pale in comparison to Baylor, so the toughest test is out of the way early. Should a rematch occur in late March or early April, maybe UK will be more poised for an upset thanks to the early-season matchup. Maybe then, Brittney Griner’s arms won’t seem quite as long.


Page 6 | November 7, 2012

Basketball Season Preview

the top 2 teams in uk history

2011-12 Cats combined talent with inexperience DAVID SCHUH Kernel columnist

It’s rare in a system of one-and-dones to have much certainty of anything entering a college basketball season. There’s always the uneasiness of whether freshmen can win big games at this level and mesh into a team capable of competing for a national championship. Strangely, that uneasiness was relatively quiet entering the 2011-12 UK season.

Coming off of a Final Four loss the previous year, UK head coach John Calipari had a recruiting class coming in that rivaled any in history. Teams have had great freshmen before, but what made last season different was the experience coupled with the talented youth. Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb returned after starting on the team that lost in the national semifinal. Senior Darius Miller also played a crucial role coming off the bench throughout the season, averaging just fewer than 10 points per game. The Cats showed exactly how dominant they could be

when they beat Marist by 50 in the first game of the season. The freshman learning curve didn’t appear to be as prevalent as it usually is. They meshed with each other quickly, understood the college game, and it showed from the start. Three weeks later, UK met No. 5 North Carolina at Rupp Arena in a game that would become a lasting highlight of the season, as the Cats won by one point because of freshman Anthony Davis blocking UNC’s John Henson in the final seconds. After a last-second loss at Indiana on Dec. 10, UK ran off 24 consecutive wins, in-

cluding a 16-0 sweep of the SEC, the third team to do so in program history. The Cats, led by Davis’ shot blocking inside, were arguably the best defensive team in the country. “It was all about the length,” sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer said. “That team had so much defensive intensity, too.” UK lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship game, but some didn’t consider it that much of a detriment. “We don’t have to worry about a win streak, none of that,” Calipari said after the loss. “Let’s go play this tournament.” That’s exactly what they did.

After cruising through the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Cats saw themselves facing what some called the biggest sporting event in the history of the state of Kentucky. UK and Louisville had never faced each other in the Final Four, and the hostility mounted as the game drew closer. The Cats won the regular-season meeting by seven in Louisville, but both teams had since improved. UK came out hot and had a seven point lead at half, but the Cardinals fought back, getting within two with seven minutes left. The Cats, as they had shown all season, would not break, holding on for an eight-point victory. In what became a theme

1996 Untouchables ‘dominated’ opponents

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Derek Anderson battles a Wake Forest player for the ball in UK’s March 23, 1996, Elite Eight win.

The 1996 UK basketball team is one of college hoops lore. It was electricity personified. Audiences were captivated by the squad’s ability to “dominate” CODY opponents. PORTER That Kernel ability columnist brought the illustrious nickname that now portrays those Cats: The Untouchables. Featuring nine NBA players and 10 All-Americans, the Cats needed a bump in the road during their third game against UMass to realize their capabilities, a moment former guard Derek Anderson said is when everything “started clicking.” Upon that moment occurring, the Cats reeled off a school-record 27 consecutive wins, as they became the first team in 40 years to go unde-

feated (16-0) in SEC play. “I just remember beating teams so bad — just seeing guys actually quit. It was fun, but it was almost like a thrill to see guys give in to our pressure,” Anderson said. The Cats rolled to 20plus-point wins in 20 of its 36 games, scoring triple digits in nine of those. Tourney time didn’t halt the dwarfing of opponents, either. UK’s opening round game was a 110-72 defeat of San Jose State and its Elite Eight matchup resulted with a 83-63 win over the Tim Duncan-led Wake Forest Demon Deacons, with routes in between. “The people in the stands were like ‘We’re not coming here to watch you guys play, we already know, we’re just trying to figure out how bad you’re going to beat teams,’ ” Anderson said. “That’s when we knew we were good.” According to Anderson, or any basketball mind, it’s hard to slow a team when it can rotate in an entire new group of All-Americans. For head coach Rick Pitino, that

was the method to his team’s destruction of opponents. “It was physically impossible to outlast us in any game,” Anderson said. “If you look at these teams’ starting fives, they might have a better big man or equally match talent, but nobody could come and touch the rest of our team.” Now a little more than 16 years removed from that historic title-capturing season, those Cats maintain the contact with one another that created their fluid on-court movement. “We actually all hung together,” Anderson said. “We went to the bowling every Friday, we went to laser tag, we went to the movies — there would be 13 guys at the movie theater and they would be like, ‘What is going on?’ But we did it, and it wasn’t planned.” Once CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz deemed the 2012 team’s coronation complete, fans and players alike began the debate of 1996 vs. 2012. Like the ’96 squad, head

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in the tournament, UK again got a rematch with a regular-season foe, this time against Kansas, to determine the national champion. The Cats built a 14point halftime lead, but this time they never let it get close. Calipari finally had his first championship, and UK had its eighth. The 2011-12 Cats were a rare team. They combined speed with length and youth with experience. They ran into little real adversity over the course of the season, which speaks to how dominant they truly were.

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coach John Calipari’s championship team became known for being a close-knit group; just see the Michael KiddGilchrist “Breakfast Club.” “Most of the people saying something about 2012 are young people who didn’t get the chance to watch us play,” Anderson said. “I don’t think anyone five years removed out would judge any other way besides the ‘96 team.” For those choice few, Anderson’s guidance is a reason to see the electricity, one-fifth of the Cats’ domination — Ron Mercer and Anderson, formerly known as Thunder and Lightning. Anderson’s reasoning clearly states what made The Untouchables the clear choice: “Only because we dominated. There is no comparison ... we were just way too deep.”


Basketball Season Preview

November 7, 2012 | Page 7

neutral-site games have pros, cons for team, fans UK playing first regular-season games against Maryland in Brooklyn; Duke in Atlanta The lure of Rupp Arena, the prestige of a UK game in downtown Lexington, the excitement of opening the season in front of a roaring home crowd still bouncing with joy at an eighth national title: that may once have been TOM enough HURLEY razzmatazz for the regKernel ular-season columnist debut for UK’s men’s basketball team, but not in 2012. On Friday, the Cats will get their quest for a ninth national championship under way in the shiny new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Rather than facing the hometown team, as you might expect with a game

not being played in Lexington, UK will instead play Maryland in the first of the Cats’ two neutral-site games this season. The other will come four days later in a venue more used to hosting the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons than a UK-Duke college basketball game — the Georgia Dome. While the enticement of playing in a brand-new building in a big market for the opener, and an NFL stadium in the follow-up, brings national television coverage, it remains to be seen how many fans of the schools playing will be present on game day. That is among the many pros and cons that materialize when contemplating the growing trend of neutralsite games. Yes, alumni in the area will enjoy having their alma mater play nearby, but what about the students on cam-

pus who can ill afford to skip class or the monetary expense of a road trip so far afield? Perhaps fans should just be thankful this year’s regular-season neutral site games take place in the U.S., and not on an Air Force base in Germany, where Michigan State and Connecticut play Friday. Playing games at neutral sites ensures heightened media interest, and in turn, greater media coverage of the school on the airwaves and in print. Having your program play on national television is vital to attract the next generation of players during the recruiting process. Wouldn’t you be more interested in playing for a school that gets to play in these big marquee events on national television each season? Not to mention playing for a coach who gets greeted by Jay-Z, as is likely to

mathies a quiet leader Senior ready for final season on team that’s grown with her

PHOTO BY TESSA LIGHTY | STAFF

Senior guard A'dia Mathies was 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2012 SEC Player of the Year and is predicted to win again in 2013. By Boyd Hayes bhayes@kykernel.com

Most leaders can be heard from a distance, showering teammates with encouragement, constructive criticism, and sometimes what players and coaches might call “tough love.” Every once in a blue moon, in this case the Blue Moon of Kentucky, there comes a leader who can be seen from a great distance, but not heard. A’dia Mathies, a UK Hoops senior ready to take on her final season at UK, is among those silent commanders. Her career in the Bluegrass has done all the talking, allowing Mathies to send messages to her team, her coaches and the sports world without even moving her lips. With the calm and cool technique that has taken her and the Cats to two Elite Eight appearances in the past three seasons, Mathies has consistently topped the charts in points and steals for UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell. The Louisville native has plenty to put on her basketball resume, as she was named the 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year, the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, and recently predicted to be named 2013 SEC Player of the Year in a coach’s poll. With the big wins and the accolades already to her cred-

it, what could possibly be missing from her college career? For starters, she’d like to take the Cats to the next level this postseason. “We’ve been to two Elite Eights since I’ve been here, and now I hope to make it to the Final Four,” she said. New Orleans is a long way off, and in between now and March lies a schedule that will challenge the team, in conference and out. Does this faze Mathies? Has any specific game on the schedule got her worried? Not at all, Mathies said. “I’m looking forward to every game, actually,” she said. “We can’t make it a great year and make it to the Final Four without taking careful consideration to every single team we play. We’ve got big games on (the schedule) like Baylor, Louisville, Tennessee and all the others, but I think even the first game, Delaware State, is what we’re going to focus on right now.” Based on her history, Mathies certainly has the ability to take this team deep into the postseason, but she is not resting on her laurels. Over the summer she worked on her game, as well as her intangibles. “I’ve been taking steps to be sure to be more vocal and lead by actions out there. This is yet another year that I’m trying to take us to the next level,” she said. “I’ve been trying to im-

prove my free-throw shooting. It’s never been terrible, but I want to get into the consistent 70s at least, so that I know I’ll be able to get fouled and make shots,” Mathies said of her work over the summer. “Also, I’ve been working on being able to (be) more than a spot shooter — coming off of screens and being able to shoot threes, something like that.” Mathies’ continued progress has coincided with the program’s growth under Mitchell. After being predicted to finish No. 11 in the SEC several years ago, Mitchell and Mathies, as well as former UK stars Victoria Dunlap and Keyla Snowden, have turned the program into a powerhouse, garnering an AP preseason ranking of No. 6 for 2012. Mathies certainly has been a part of many big moments in her time at UK, but what she calls her biggest moment comes as no surprise. “The biggest moment for me would be when we won over Tennessee and I hit the game-winner. People talk about that like, ‘Oh, it was a great game,’ but I feel like it was more because it was the first time, and you never know how things go, it might be the last time, that we beat Tennessee. Hopefully not, but that was the first time and the only time that we’ve beat them since I’ve been here.” Beyond how her accomplishments reflect on her, she’s proud of how far the team has come since she arrived on campus as a freshman. “It’s meant a lot just to be one of the people to come in here and help change this program around to a powerhouse and finally get national recognition. It means a lot for me and especially my teammates, because they work so hard every day. So to be able to leave here and know Kentucky is being put on the map now means a lot to me. It’s very humbling,” she said. Last year marked the best season (28-7) in the program’s history. Finding out if this season’s team has what it takes to top last season and make it to the Final Four will be a test for Mitchell. Mathies certainly believes her team has the right formula. “I think this team has even more talent, even more potential, so I’m looking forward to this year,” she said. With a difficult schedule, new names on the roster and season tickets nearly sold out, Mathies, with her cool, quiet demeanor, may be the only person in Memorial Coliseum who is not shouting during games this season.

be the case for UK head coach John Calipari prior to the Cats’ game in Brooklyn. If UK recruit Julius Randle was impressed by the presence of hip-hop star Drake at Big Blue Madness, imagine what will be going through his and fellow recruit Andrew Wiggins’ minds when they see that exchange on television. Finances are also a plus when playing a neutral-site game, particularly in a football stadium. Which school wouldn’t want to enjoy the higher gate receipts from crowds in excess of 70,000? On the other hand, the idea of neutral-site games is not a pleasant one for every college official. Calipari and athletic director Mitch Barnhart wanted a new agreement for games against rival Indiana to be played at neutral sites. IU officials didn’t feel the same way, and instead

favored continuing the home-and-home format. The opposing desires resulted in the series being scrapped all together. Aside from the high media interest and larger profits from ticket sales, the other pro in the eyes of coaches and officials is having their players experience the “big occasion.” Playing at the Georgia Dome with its grand stature and unfamiliar basketball setup will give players a taste of what things will be like if they make it back to the stadium in April for the Final Four. That experience could be vital for a teenager as he stands in the Atlanta Falcons’ locker room this spring preparing to take the court for a shot at a national title. UK’s involvement in neutral-site games is set to continue into the future, be it to the delight or dismay

of fans, students, alumni, bankers, recruits and television networks alike. Gimmicks of playing games on aircraft carriers or European air bases are one thing, but setting up your young squad with valuable big-venue experience is another. It’s a sentiment certainly not lost on Calipari. He’s already arranged at least one neutral-site game for 2013-14, against Baylor at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Why does he want the likes of the Harrison twins and James Young to get experience playing in that particular building, I hear you cry? Is it for the ticket money, the national exposure, to please alumni and donors based in Texas? Or, maybe it’s because that’s where next season’s Final Four will take place.

keightley remembered daily by uk fans Daughter works at Athletics By Cody Porter cporter@kykernel.com

Sitting at a desk atop the steps of the Joe Craft Center is Karen Marlowe, a staff assistant at UK Athletics’ administrative office, or a bouncer of sorts, she said. She welcomes guests daily, often for media-related purposes. But, ever so often, names that have gone down in the record books for UK basketball pay her a special visit, as they no longer have a reason to hastily enter the basketball courts and offices below that of Marlowe’s. Years ago, the name Keightley was the only one that followed what was given by her mother and father. Now, it is what defines the person she and so many others have become. Her father, Bill Keightley, is a staple in the history of UK basketball. Much like the names Rupp, Hall and Ledford, it defines “part of the building of the tradition.” “He still has an effect on what goes on there today,” Marlowe said. All across the landscape, whether at historic programs such as UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas or Duke, the identity of a team’s equipment manager has never been so highly regarded. Despite how “crazy” UK basketball head coach John Calipari claims his fans are, few are likely to be able to name a current equipment or student manager, justifying Keightley’s significance to a program adorned with recognition. Once a postal carrier, Keightley began working double-duty shifts in the early 1960s when co-worker George Hukle helped get him a job with UK as his assistant equipment manager. By 1972, Keightley became the lead equipment manager and eventually the Cats’ utility man. “It didn’t matter what the thing was that needed to be done, or if there were materials needed, or if people needed to be contacted, or whatever; he was the person that did it,” Marlowe said. “They’d say, ‘Go talk to Bill about that.’ ” Keightley’s worth during his tenure would have put him in the role of a modern-day assistant coach, Marlowe said, rather than that of an equipment manager. “Dad always seemed like the guy that pulled everything together.” In pulling everything to-

gether, Keightley showed an incomparable work ethic that rubbed off on his daughter, along with those who worked for him, such as current Georgetown College head coach Chris Briggs. “He’d get there early, early in the mornings, be there all day, be back at night sometimes. He was one of those guys that worked hard and took pride in his work ethic,” said Briggs, a student manager and graduate assistant from 2001-06. Considered one of Keightley’s “cream of the crop,” according to Marlowe, Briggs said he carried lessons learned from his former boss with him to Georgetown. This season, unlike those in the past, Briggs has implemented early-morning practices that have reminded him of Keightley’s work ethic, who, he said, “was always (at the gym) at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning.” Work was always a constant for Keightley. Whether it was as a postal carrier, painter, bartender on Derby day or merely cutting grass, a day’s conclusion was always UK related. “There were days he didn’t even go to bed. They would have a road trip and they would get home at two or three in the morning, and he always got up about 4 o’clock,” Marlowe said, adding even “as an old man he did that.” Memories of Keightley’s influence aren’t the only thing Briggs continues to carry with him. One quote in particular struck a chord, providing a path of guidance for him to date. “Mr Keightley, he always said, ‘I’ve never worked a day in my life because I’ve had fun every single day.’ ” With so much time spent on the job, the name Bill Keightley became a recognizable one. Consequently, his notoriety grew, although, “sometimes he didn’t really understand it himself,” Marlowe said. “Mr. Wildcat,” a nickname assigned to him by former UK basketball head coach Joe B. Hall, developed into the persona that fans and coaches become accustomed to greeting. “He was one of those guys that had a personality that attracted people,” Briggs said. Briggs said if you ask any former manager about “Mr. Bill,” they would have countless stories, but when it came down to it, “he’d al-

ways stress to develop good relationships with people.” “We’d be doing summer basketball camp and we’d go somewhere around town with him to pick up shirts, or do this or do that. It didn’t matter where you went with him, somebody knew him and he usually knew them and remembered them,” he said. Just as they do with his daughter now, Briggs said people continuously stopped by to visit Keightley. “You couldn’t sit in there two or three minutes without somebody new coming in to say hello, chat for a few minutes. As they’d head out the door someone else new was coming in.” Whether or not he was in his 70s or 80s was irrelevant, be it a player or student manager, Keightley’s presence was beyond that of a UK employee. His demonstrated values made him “one of the guys” among Cats student managers and players. Since the time of his death in 2008, while he was still employed at age 81, there’s still “a sense of him there,” according to Marlowe. Be it an open seat at the end of the bench reserved by former men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie, a warm embrace by Hall and Calipari following win No. 2,000 for UK, or the equipment room bearing his name at Memorial Coliseum, Keightley’s legacy continues. “If players or other managers just had the chance to know him, they would know how meaningful the program was to him,” Briggs said. In the years since, new names have taken up residence within the dwellings of the Craft Center. Without Keightley’s presence in there, Marlowe said incoming student managers greet her just the same. “They’re very, very respectful of me. I tell them to think of me as your big sister. They’re always very respectful of Dad.” One recent visitor is current UK equipment manager Bo Rodriguez, who is the most recent name to follow Keightley, placing his feet in Shaquille O’Neal-esque shoes. “I wouldn’t think any of those guys think they’re going to step in to fill Mr. Keightley’s shoes,” Briggs said. “If they’re there for 40 or 50 years, I guess it would be possible, but it’s kind of one of those unique deals that doesn’t come around so often.”


121107 Kernel in print - Basketball Preview  

The pages of the Kentucky Kernel for Nov. 7, 2012 - Basketball Preview

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