Tickets for UK Alumni game go on sale Monday

Tickets for the Aug. 24 UK Alumni Charity Game will go on sale next Monday.

Tickets cost $101 (premium lower level), $31 (lower level), and $16 for premium upper level. Tickets can be bought at the Rupp Arena box office, online at, at any Ticketmaster Outlet or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. There is an eight-ticket limit per person.Proceeds from the game will go to charities.

You must be 16 or older to purchase tickets and children under the age of 2 get in for free with a paying adult.

Persons must be 16 or older to buy tickets, UK said in a news release.

The game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. EDT, will pit former UK players against former non-UK players. All participants will have played or are playing professionally, UK said. NBA rules prohibit UK from announcing which players will participate.

ESPN names Donovan nation’s No. 1 coach; Cal No. 2

Billy Donovan of Florida is the best coach in college basketball. John Calipari of Kentucky is the second  best.

This Affirmed-Alydar finish concluded an ESPN production that compiled a list of the top 50 coaches in college basketball.

The countdown, which began last month, was punctuated Thursday with the announcement that Donovan and Calipari topped the list.

Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Rick Pitino of Louisville rounded out the top five.

ESPN cited Florida’s historic season in 2013-14 as evidence for why Donovan ranked No. 1.

The Gators achieved the first 18-0 regular-season record in Southeastern Conference history.

“Sure, the SEC (save, eventually, Kentucky and Tennessee) was bad,” an ESPN story on the top 50 coaches said. “But Florida was also devastatingly good. The Gators held conference opponents to .93 points per possession while scoring 1.14. They averaged the league’s highest two-point field goal percentage while simultaneously allowing the lowest.”

ESPN also noted that Donovan has achieved at a high level at a non-traditional program.

“Before Donovan, the Gators’ basketball history was almost nonexistent,” ESPN wrote.

As for Calipari, ESPN saluted the Kentucky coach for his abilities on and off the court. The all-sports network noted his five-year run at UK, which includes three trips to the Final Four and the 2012 national championship.

ESPN also cited Calipari’s marketing abilities and skills in leading a high-profile program.

“Calipari turned the one major criticism of his time at Kentucky — that he was merely cycling through mercenaries on their way to the NBA — into his chief strength,” ESPN said. “It also put Calipari in implicit opposition to every other program in the country. If you’re not ‘players first,’ Senator, then what are you? The political instinct is pure, the rhetorical brilliance staggering. It also has the benefit of being (A) true and (B) exactly what many gifted young athletes and their families want to hear.”

Kentucky’s run to the 2014 Final Four reminded the college basketball world of Calipari’s coaching abilities.

“There is real tactical substance here: a unique, restrained offensive system, an ability to coax great defense out of young players and real fluency in advanced scouting and statistical ideas,” ESPN said of Kentucky’s late-season revival.

“That’s the story of John Calipari. …The man is a born salesman. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes, it’s about as subtle as a campaign ad. When Calipari refers to himself as a ‘dream maker,’ or when he says his program doesn’t play college basketball but is college basketball itself, it’s hard not to chuckle. But salesmanship resonates only when you have a quality product to sell.

“Calipari has both.”

UK’s non-conference schedule packed with marquee opponents

North Carolina. Kansas. UCLA. Louisville.

Kentucky’s non-conference schedule in the 2014-15 basketball season is packed with the bluest of blue-bloods.

UK announced the non-conference portion of the schedule on Wednesday.  Besides UNC, Kansas, UCLA and Louisville, the schedule also includes home games against two other big-name opponents: Texas and Providence.

Fans in Rupp Arena will also get the chance to see the Cats play Eastern Kentucky and — surprise — a Buffalo team coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley.

With North Carolina also playing in Rupp Arena, the home schedule should please even the most demanding of UK fans.

In neutral site games, Kentucky will play Kansas in Indianapolis on Nov. 18 in the Champions Classic. UK will play UCLA on Dec. 20 in Chicago in the inaugural CBS Sports Classic. The Cats play Texas at home on Dec. 5 in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

Kentucky is also staging a Cawood Ledford Classic, named for the long-time radio play-by-play man and UK basketball icon. Opponents are Grand Canyon, Buffalo, Montana State and UT Arlington.

Kentucky concludes its non-conference schedule with a game at Louisville on Dec. 27.

Here’s the schedule:

Nov. 2 Pikeville (exhibition)

Nov. 7 Georgetown (exhibition)

No. 14 Grand Canyon

Nov. 16 Buffalo

Nov. 18 Kansas (in Indianapolis)

Nov. 21 Boston

Nov. 23 Montana State

Nov. 25 UT Arlington

Nov. 30 Providence

Dec. 5 Texas

Dec. 7 Eastern Kentucky

Dec. 10 Columbia

Dec. 13 North Carolina

Dec. 20 UCLA (in Chicago)

Dec. 27 at Louisville

Cal: No ‘brainwashing’ when players make stay-or-go decisions

Kentucky Coach John Calipari downplayed his role when players make the decision of whether to return to UK for another season or enter the NBA Draft.

“I literally spend five minutes with them,” Calipari said of meetings he has with players facing such a decision.

There’s no exhaustive “brainwashing” involved in the meeting, he said.

As he did earlier this off season, Calipari mentioned his surprise that Willie Cauley-Stein chose to return to UK next season.

“I thought Willie was leaving,” said Calipari, who said he offered Cauley-Stein a congratulatory thank-you after Kentucky’s season-ending loss to Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament championship game.

Cal preaches unity on Rupp Arena renovation

Kentucky Coach John Calipari struck a non-confrontational note Monday when asked about the Rupp Arena renovation project.

In recent weeks, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray suspended the project after having hired architects and a construction firm. The suspension came after the Kentucky legislature declined a funding request.

UK president Eli Capilouto and Lexington Center Corp. chairman Brent Rice exchanged letters that disagreed about the reasons why funding for the project had not been forthcoming.

Calipari, who has been noticably quiet about the project, mentioned on an SEC coaches teleconference that he had been out of town during the latest developments in the project. He had been recovering from hip surgery. He said he received a “little overview” from UK Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy.

“I just hope everybody gets together and does what’s right for the city and the university,” Calipari said.

Cal: UK will want to win games in Bahamas

Summer trips, such as the one Kentucky’s men’s basketball team will take to the Bahamas in August, usually contain little if any sense of urgency. Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin compared such competition to a meaningless “spring game” at the end of spring practice in football.

But John Calipari said Kentucky will approach the games in the Bahamas “a little different” in August. UK will face quality competition and will want to win, he said.

The UK coach acknowledged not putting a priority on winning when the Wildcats played several exhibition games in Windsor, Canada, in 2010.

He said the competition in the Bahamas from teams based in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Frarnce will be good.

“They’ll be hard games for us to win,” he said.

Lexington mayor suspends Rupp renovation project

Lexington mayor Jim Gray announced Wednesday that he was suspending the much-discussed, much-studied project to re-invent Rupp Arena. He cited the reason as the University of Kentucky withdrawing its support for a proposed annual $10.7 million lease payment at Rupp, beginning in 2018.

The announcement became the latest chapter in an arena saga that began four years ago. UK first explored building a new on-campus arena. When UK decided that was financially unfeasible, Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart ceded the idea of a new arena to Lexington officials.

Gray appointed a task force to explore the possibilities of a new arena or a renovated Rupp Arena as a centerpiece of a much larger arts and entertainment district.

Subcommittees of the task force visited similar sites in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.

Subsequently, Lexington hired an consultant to explore to explore the feasibility of such a project. Priorities included satisfying such UK requests as keeping the seating capacity at a listed 23,000 while replacing upper arena bleachers with chairback seats, private suites and club seating.

Later, Lexington hired an architect and construction firm.

All the while, UK officials were restrained publicly in voicing support for a Rupp Arena renovtion.

In recent meetings with Gray and Governor Steve Beshear, UK relayed the decision it had changed its mind about the lease, Gray said in a statement. “We designed this arena based on what UK said they needed. But I understand timing and pacing are everything, especially with major projects like this. So we’ll adjust and adapt,” Gray said.

In the separate meetings with Gray and the Governor, UK discussed a much smaller project … perhaps 10-15 percent of the University’s original investment in the project under the lease, Gray said in a statement.

Gray said that he would continue to work on the idea of an arts and entertainment district while the Rupp renovation is suspended.


UK-U of L game next season will be Dec. 27

No matter the final score of next season’s Kentucky-Louisville game, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will win. A portion of proceeds from the UK-U of L game will go to the Hall, the schools announced Monday.

Next season’s game, which will be played Dec. 27 in Louisville’s Yum Center, will be dubbed the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout.

Kentucky leads the series with Louisville 32-15. UK beat Louisville twice last season, the second time coming in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

The tip-off time for next season’s UK-U of L game is to be announced at a later date.

John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the hall of fame, cited the quality of the UK-U of L basketball rivalry.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this event, and we are thankful for the continued support,” he said in a news release.

The donation  to the Hall of Fame by Louisville is not unprecedented.  U of L made a similar donation from a game against Memphis in 2011.

U of L spokesman Kenny Klein said the game against Kentucky next season was selected “because among our non-conference home games that were not already identified for other purposes, it was the most high-profile.”

U of L will manage the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout as a regular-season home game, with tickets included in the Cardinals’ season ticket package.

The significant contribution from this game will help the Basketball Hall of Fame in its efforts to preserve and promote basketball at all levels, UK and U of L announced in a joint statement.  The Hall of Fame is in Springfield, Mass.

UK: Trip to Bahamas will be Aug. 10-17

Kentucky announced Friday the dates for its exhibition games in the Bahamas: Aug. 10-17. UK will play teams from the Dominican Republic, France and Puerto Rico.

UK will play the Dominican Republic national team, the Puerto Rico national team reserves and a pro team from France, Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, twice each during the trip to the Bahamas. The games will be played in Nassau’s 2,500-seat Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, which was renovated earlier this year.

NCAA rules allow for a foreign tour by an intercollegiate team once every four academic years. Kentucky has dubbed this trip the “Big Blue Bahamas tour.”

Kentucky will play its first game on Aug. 10 against the Puerto Rico reserves at 5 pm ET. The next day, UK will face Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket at 1 pm ET. Tuesday, August 12, Kentucky will play the Puerto Rico reserves for the second time at 1 pm ET.

After a day off on Wednesday, August 13, Kentucky will face the Dominican Republic on August 14 at 5 pm ET. The second game against Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket will be played either August 15 or 16 (date to be determined) at 1 pm ET. Kentucky will finish the tour on Sunday, August 17against the Dominican Republic at Noon ET.

“We are excited to make the trip to the Bahamas for our foreign tour,”  UK Coach John Calipari said in a statement. “ . . . My goal is for our team to grow together, to learn about one another, to have fun and to compete against teams that will stretch us out. These teams should be a challenge that will let us really see where we are at this point. But again, learning and having fun will be the emphasis of the trip. It’s another opportunity for us to fail fast.”

UK released information about how fans can sign up for travel packages. More information is available at To book travel packages, please call 1-855-UKBBALL (1-855-852-2255). Only those who book through the Big Blue Bahamas tour travel company will have access to tickets, UK said.

Hawkins’ advice to incoming UK frosh: Be patient with Cal

When asked what advice he’d give incoming freshmen, Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins noted Coach John Calipari’s volatility.

“I would say get ready for anything Coach Cal is going to say against you,” Hawkins said at a news conference Thursday. “Just be patient with Coach Cal. You never know what’s going to happen.”

UK called the news conference so Hawkins could talk about a recent trip to China he took as part of a team tour sponsored by Sports Reach.

Hawkins noted how he tried to play more aggressively, which he suggested was something that could please Calipari.

“Anytime I was open, I ended up shooting the ball,” he said. “That’s definitely what the fans want me to do, and it’s what Coach Cal wants me to do. I was way more aggressive on the offensive side. . . .”

Hawkins said he hoped to play a more aggressive style next season as a sophomore.

“Oh definitely,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of doing offensively, and everybody who watched me in high school knows I’m capable of scoring the ball really well.”

Hawkins, who was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball as a senior for Madison Central High, said he surprised himself as a UK freshman by playing as well as he did on defense. He only averaged 0.8 points, making 29 percent of his shots (nine of 31), just two of 16 three-point attempts (12.5 percent) and five of 13 free throws (38.5 percent).

“I know my offense will click in for me this year,” he said. “I’m pretty confident about that.”