May 16th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Former Kentucky standout Nerlens Noel voiced confidence Thursday that he’ll return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament better than ever.
Speaking to reporters at the NBA Combine in Chicago, Noel said of his rehab, “It’s been good from week one. I’m 100 percent confident, not just getting back to what I was, but stronger. Going through this time not playing basketball, I’ll just be working on things I need to polish. It will improve me in the long run.”
Noel, who was one of the nation’s leaders in blocks and steals, tore his left ACL in a game at Florida in February. The injury ended his season and effectively killed Kentucky’s chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“The day I heard what the injury was – an ACL – was the only day I felt sorry for myself,” Noel said. “Every day since then I’ve devoted to my rehab.”
Noel said he has progressed to the point of shooting free throws.
“I think I’m at a good point,” he said. “Obviously I can’t do too much right now, but when I come back I’ll be able to knock down that 15-footer and take my game to another level.”
Noel defended Chicago Bulls’ star Derrick Rose, who is returning from a torn ACL. Rose chose not to play this season despite getting medical clearance.
“It’s an injury you have to be mindful of; you have to be careful with it,” Noel said. “With Derrick Rose, he had to be careful with it. This is a sport of slashing and explosiveness. You have to be mentally ready for that.
“As much as you want to be back, you also want to be playing as long as you can in the NBA. You have to build back up as far as you can. Mental is a big part of it; I’ve already seen that.”
Noel continues to be projected as a possible No. 1 overall selection in this year’s draft despite the injury.
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “I’ve got the talent and I’m going to do things the best thing I can. I definitely think this will make me a better player, having gone through this. I’m working on my jumper and putting on good weight.”
May 15th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Here is how Kentucky Coach John Calipari summarized the 13 players expected to be on UK’s team in the 2013-14 season:
– Willie Cauley-Stein. “Has a chance to be one of the better players I’ve ever coached.”
– Kyle Wiltjer. “His body has to change. (The SEC’s) Sixth Man of the Year has to get better physically. My hope is he makes the Canadian National Team and it takes his game to another level.”
– Alex Poythress. “Learned a lot about himself (in 2012-13). … If the competition brings out the best in him, it’s scary how good he’s going to be.”
– Jon Hood. “For the first time, he had a breakthrough.”
– Jarrod Polson. “One of our better guards by the end of the year.”
– Aaron Harrison. “Should be and will be and expected to be and will be demanded to be a lock-down defender.”
– Andrew Harrison. “My hope is by the end of the year, he’s just like some of the other point guards we’ve had. … Both (Harrisons) are terrific drivers. Which kind of tells you we’re going to go back to a lot more dribble-drive.”
– Dominique Hawkins. “Just kind of blew me away with his will to win. . . . After what I went through, I wanted a tough point guard.”
– Dakari Johnson. “The line of improvement for Dakari is just like that (raises right arm on 45-degree angle).”
– Marcus Lee. “Pogo stick. Active. High energy.”
– Julius Randle. “Truly a hard worker who can play multiple positions. Can play inside-out. He’s a beast. He’s an alpha beast who will drive this team.”
– Derek Willis. “He wanted the challenge of this. He’s got a chance of really being good and really being special.”
– James Young. “6-7 wing who can flat shoot the ball.”
May 15th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Last season’s struggles can help Kentucky take on the challenge of outsized expectations for 2013-14, Coach John Calipari told reporters Wednesday.
Buoyed by a mega recruiting class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans, Kentucky looks to rebound from a 2012-13 season that ended with a first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris.
“There were many things that happened that were good last year,” Calipari said in reference to individual player improvement. “Part of last season was the beginning of success for this coming year.”
Calipari preached patience as he tries to build a team from a roster that includes eight highly decorated freshmen and five holdover veterans. By that count, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson will return to next year’s team as scholarship players.
“What we’re about to undertake has never been done before, trying to put a team together like this,” Calipari said. “It takes time. There’s a learning curve. There’s a galvanizing process. And you know what? We’re going to have to be patient.”
Calipari elaborated on the need for patience.
“We’ll have a talented team,” he said before adding, “They need (to be) coached. Each individual player needs (to be) coached. They need to be taught the level of commitment, the intensity. The will to win has to come out.”
Calipari spoke confidently of UK possessing the required zeal and toughness.
“The alpha males that we didn’t have a year ago, I think we have,” the UK coach said. “Two years ago, we didn’t have one bad practice. Not one. Last year we had about five good practices.”
May 1st, 2013 — Uncategorized
The non-conference schedule Kentucky announced Wednesday includes heavyweights and lightweights. In other words, the typical schedule for a highly regarded college team.
There are two opponents that finished last season with a Ratings Percentage Index (according to CBSSports.com) in the top 10 — No. 3 Louisville and No. 8 Michigan State.
Two other UK opponents were in the top 20 — No. 17 North Carolina and No. 19 Belmont.
No. 41 Boise State gives Kentucky a fifth opponent with a final RPI in the top 50.
No. 70 Baylor and No. 90 Providence give UK a sixth and seventh opponent in the final RPI’s top 100.
Kentucky’s home schedule includes six opponents outside the top 100 — No. 199 Cleveland State, No. 239 Eastern Michigan, No. 124 Robert Morris, No. 120 Texas Arlington, No. 215 UNC Asheville and No. 271 Northern Kentucky.
But the inclusion of Louisville makes Kentucky’s home schedule look much better than last season.
Overall last season, CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm rated UK’s strength of schedule at No. 70.
May 1st, 2013 — Uncategorized
Kentucky announced a salute to UK basketball icon Bill Keightley as part of its non-conference schedule for 2013-14, which was announced Wednesday.
Keightley worked as UK basketball’s equipment manager and de facto grandfather to players from the early 1960s until his death in 2008. As part of the inaugural Keightley Classic, UK will play Robert Morris, Texas Arlington, Cleveland State and Eastern Michigan.
UK’s non-conference schedule includes the resumption of the series with North Carolina and a much-anticipated game against defending national champion Louisville in Rupp Arena. The latter highlights a home schedule that also includes Boise State, Belmont, UNC Asheville and Northern Kentucky.
Besides the game at North Carolina, Kentucky’s games away from home also include games against Michigan State in Chicago, Providence in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Baylor in Cowboys Stadium.
UK’s conference games — home and away — will be announced at a later date.
April 23rd, 2013 — Uncategorized
In his first meeting with reporters since his season-ending knee injury in February, Nerlens Noel said he considered returning for his sophomore season.
But as his draft status remained solid, he found the lure of the NBA irresistible.
“Yeah, there was a consideration of coming back,” Noel said Tuesday.
Noel added that he decided to enter this year’s NBA Draft after discussing the options with his family.
“(The knee injury) wasn’t going to affect me too much,” he said.
Noel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a game at Florida. He said the rehabilitation process was going well. He spoke of Christmas as a target date for his return.
“I love playing here,” he said, calling playing for Kentucky “one of the best experiences of my life.”
Being a player in Rupp Arena is a “once-in-a-lifetime” thing,” Noel said. “I’ll never get to do that again. It was a hard decision. I love the Big Blue. I love Coach Cal (UK Coach John Calipari).”
Noel noted his familiarity with several of the players making up UK’s ballyhooed freshman class of 2013. “I played with half of those guys when I was in their class,” he said in reference to reclassifying as a high school player. “I know how good they are. . . . That would have been a real special team if I stayed.”
But when asked whether he preferred that the system require players to stay in college, say, two or three seasons, Noel blurted out, “Nah.”
Laughter erupted in the Memorial Coliseum space set up for news conferences.
April 22nd, 2013 — Uncategorized
In speaking to reporters Monday, Willie Cauley-Stein embraced his decision to return to Kentucky next season. He spoke optimistically about the 2013-14 season.
“I just like the college life,” Cauley-Stein said. “I like going around like a celebrity. Here, everybody knows you. In the pros, you can tell he’s a pro, but who is he?”
With a smile, WCS noted that there is a financial reason returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season. NBA millions also interest the Internal Revenue Service.
“I’m not trying to pay taxes,” he said.
As he did the night of UK’s season-ending loss at Robert Morris, Cauley-Stein spoke of the empty feeling created by a disappointing ending to a disappointing season. “I want to fill it,” he said.
Cauley-Stein spoke of the latest ballyhooed freshman class as a reason to be optimistic.
“We have, like, 10 potential first-round picks,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of returning players coming off the bench next season, Cauley-Stein said, “It is what it is. At the end of the day, you’re still going to get better. I feel the record will be a lot better (to) where Kentucky is supposed to be.”
April 18th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Kentucky will play Providence in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 1, UK announced Thursday. Tickets for that game go on sale Friday, beginning at 10 a.m.
Tickets are available on Ticketmaster websites, by calling (800) 745-3000 and at Barclays Center.
UK and Providence agreed to a two-game series. The first game will be played in the Barclays Center next season. The second game will be in Rupp Arena during the 2014-15 season.
“We are excited to return to the Barclays Center next year to play Providence,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a news release. “Last year’s game against Maryland was an NCAA Tournament environment in November. It’s a great event, a great building and a great city. We’re looking forward to being back in Brooklyn.”
Kentucky opened the 2012-13 season in the Barclays Center, beating Maryland 72-69.
April 18th, 2013 — Uncategorized
With Thursday’s official announcement of players in the incoming class of 2013, Kentucky Coach John Calipari lauded that group’s championship pedigree. Without saying so directly, he suggested the newcomers will provide a sharp contrast to the psychic surrender on display this past season.
“The thing I like most about this group is its competitive spirit and its will to win,” Calipari said in an official statement. “These guys are All-Americans and award winners, but more importantly they’re world champions, national champions and state champions. They know what it takes to win. The size and talent of the group will allow us to have tough, hard-nosed practices which will carry over to the games. I’m excited for the opportunity to coach this group.”
Dominique Hawkins, Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle have officially signed, UK said Thursday. They join fall signees Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and James Young in what is viewed as the No. 1 class in the nation.
In leading Madison Central to the state championship, Hawkins was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball. He became the 17th UK player so named. He and Derek Willis of Bullitt East give the class a homegrown element. Both will play in the Derby Festival Classic Friday night.
“I kept hearing about Dominique from Marquis Estill and my good friend Dr. Robert Palmer,” Calipari said in the statement. “When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold. At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game – when it was winning time – everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won. The last player who was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball and won a state title in the same year was Darius Miller. He went to two Final Fours, won a national title and is now playing in the NBA. My hope is Dominique will be on the same path.”
Actually, Hawkins became the fourth player since Miller to win win a state championship and be named Mr. Basketball. The others were Anthony Hickey, Elisha Justice and Nathan Dieudonne.
Johnson, a 6-10 center from Brooklyn, N.Y., played his senior season at Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla. He led his high school team to a national championship at the National High School Invitational where he claimed MVP honors.
Johnson began his high school career as an eighth grader player for Sayre, the Lexington private school.
“Dakari’s improvement over the last year and a half has been phenomenal,” Calipari said. “His ability to be a true low-post threat adds an important piece to what our team will really need. He’s patient when he gets the ball on the block and has a great understanding for how to use his size for a kid his age. Dakari is a great student and a great kid. He’s won a high school championship, a world championship with Team USA, and he said he wants to win a national championship with us and an NBA championship. That statement says a lot about the type of winner he is.”
Randle, a 6-9 forward from Plano, Texas, led Prestonwood Christian Academy to three state titles. The nation’s consensus top power forward is ranked the No. 2 overall player by Rivals, the No. 3 overall player by ESPN and the No. 5 overall player by Scout.
“Julius is another hard-working player who is a great student and person along with being a ‘dominator’ on the court,” Calipari said. “He has that will to win that the players I’ve had who have become special have all had. That motor will be important to our success next year. Julius has the skill set to be an inside-outside guy for us. He has the ability to put it on the floor and beat guys off the dribble, but he’s also got the toughness, size and ability to score against bigger defenders. At the end of the day, he’s a true leader whose personal drive is off the charts.”
The UK release noted that the class of 2013 joins returning players Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer who combined for 949 points, 40 percent of UK’s offensive output in 2012-13. The trio also accounted for 515 rebounds or the equivalent to 41 percent of the team’s total rebounds.
The spring signing period runs from April 17 through May 15.
April 15th, 2013 — Uncategorized
Kentucky’s basketball program made it official Monday: Nerlens Noel will enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft.
In entering the NBA Draft after this freshman season, Noel joins such recent UK players as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.
“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Noel said in a news release. “I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I’ll always be a Wildcat!”
Noel was among the nation’s leaders in blocks and steals. But a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee cut short his freshman season.
Noel, an Everett, Mass., native, led the nation in blocks as he averaged 4.4 rejections per game and tallied 106 in 24 games played. Prior to his season-ending knee injury he was the only player standing taller than 6-foot-5 to rank in the top 30 in steals per outing as he had accumulated 50 steals on the year, UK said in the news release.
Before and after the injury, Noel was projected in several mock drafts to be a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
After the injury, his brother, Rodman, told CBSSports.com that it was likely that Noel would enter this year’s draft.
Noel finished the season ranked second in UK single-season history with 106 blocks. His 50 steals ranked as the fifth most in a single season by a freshman, and the average of 2.1 steals per game (2.1) is the seventh-best mark in school history.
“I support Nerlens’ decision to enter his name in the draft and am excited for him and his future,” Calipari said in the news release. “The hard work and will to win he showed on the floor this year and the dedication and attitude he has shown in his rehab will only be a reward for him and whatever team drafts him in June.”
The NBA Draft lottery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, and the 2013 NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 27.