UK launches program to encourage student attendance at games

Besides rooting for the Wildcats, University of Kentucky students now have an additional reason to attend games. UK has launched an incentive program that rewards student attendance with prizes, the school announced Thursday.

A program dubbed BBN Rewards is available for download on Apple and Android devices now, UK said in a news release.

Students can accumulate points by checking in when they arrive at UK athletics events using the Events button on the app, the release said. As students accumulate points, awards will automatically unlock. The first award is entry in a drawing to win free textbooks for the spring semester. Other awards will include participation in halftime contests and UK memorabilia.

In order to redeem rewards, students must complete all fields on their profile using the app’s Account button. UK also encouraged students to enable notifications on the app to receive news about exclusive experiences, coupons and other  updates.

Blue Ribbon names Labissiere, Simmons to All-America team

For the first time in its 35-year history, Blue Ribbon named more than one freshmen to its pre-season All-America team. The ground-breakers are two players from the Southeastern Conference: Skal Labissiere of Kentucky and Ben Simmons of LSU.

“There was a time that Blue Ribbon would never have placed unproven freshmen on its All-America team,” the yearbook’s editor, Chris Dortch, said in a news release Thursday. “But after consulting coaches, NBA scouts and respected media members, the decision was made to include not just one but two this year.”

Joining Labissiere and Simmons on the All-America team are Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, Iowa State senior Georges Niang, and Providence junior Kris Dunn.

“For a long time, the criteria we primarily used to select our All-America teams was past accomplishment in college basketball,” said Dortch, who has been editor for 18 years. Before that, he wrote for the publication.

“But in recent years I’ve been fortunate to assist NBA.com and NBA TV with their coverage of and preparation for the NBA Draft, and I’ve realized that NBA potential, especially when you’re talking about lottery picks, has to be used as a criteria if you’re choosing a team of the five best college players in the country,” he said.

Dortch noted UK Coach John Calipari’s history of turning freshmen into first-year college stars: John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins.

“He can shoot it, he can handle it,” Calipari said of Labissiere in the news release. “When I saw him the first time, I think he was in ninth grade, going into 10th, and when I watched him I said, ‘He used to be a guard.’ Because I saw it in Anthony [Davis], I saw it in Marcus Camby. I’ve seen it before. And they said he was. So he was, again, a young man that played guard and then all the sudden he grew.”

Simmons has been billed as a similarly multi-faceted player. In LSU’s recent tour of Australia, Simmons led the Tigers in scoring (20.0 ppg), rebounding (9.0 rpg), field-goal percentage (.522), 3-point percentage (.444), assists (27), blocked shots (11) and steals (18).

During a press conference earlier this summer, LSU coach Johnny Jones spoke of Simmons as being capable of excelling as a freshman.

Funeral arrangements for Jim Ingle set

Funeral arrangements for the late Jim Ingle have been set. The longtime public address announcer for Kentucky basketball home games died Friday. He was 83.

Visitation will be Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Milward’s Southland. A memorial service will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Southern Hills United Methodist Church.

Ingle personified an old-school approach to public address announcing. As announcer for UK home games from 1968 to 1988, he brought a professional detachment to the job.
“He set the standard,” said Patrick Whitmer, the public address announcer for UK home games since the 2007-08 season. “In the late ‘60s, that was the style.”
Whitmer recalled hearing about P.A. announcers in the 1960s and 1970s receiving advisories that stressed the need to be impartial. In that regard, Ingle was a P.A. announcer to emulate, Whitmer said.

Whitmer said he tries to split the difference between Ingle’s straight-as-string approach and the new-age follow-me verbal assault.
Ingle prized accuracy over showbiz, Whitmer said. This led Ingle to routinely ask Whitmer before games, “How many difficult ones do we have tonight?” When Whitmer would note the names fraught with the possibility of mispronunciation, Ingle would laugh knowingly.
Ingle’s adherence to impartiality was a professional mask. He had attended UK, then worked for UK. He was a UK fan.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he’d occasionally accompany Joe B. Hall, then an assistant coach for Adolph Rupp, on recruiting trips to towns in Kentucky.
Hall recalled one trip he took with Ingle to see Ronnie Lyons play. The two never made the game. Their car collided with another along the way. At the accident scene, Hall found the strength to lift a Volkswagon beetle high enough so a pinned child could escape.
“He had a great love for Kentucky,” said Hall, who was a groomsman at Ingle’s wedding, “and for sports.”

Cal: International flavoring purely coincidental for UK

Coach John Calipari suggested Saturday that the increasing international flavor of Kentucky’s roster is more coincidence than conscious effort recruit globally.

“You’re recruiting guys who don’t want to run from this,” he said. “This is just what they want. And whether I’m from Lexington, Ky., or Toronto, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, who wants this?”

Kentucky freshmen Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray are from Haiti and Canada, respectively. Karl-Anthony Towns, who sat next to Calipari at a joint news conference Saturday, played for the Dominican Republic National Team.

Speculation has UK interested in a 7-foot native of Australia.

“It’s not been by design,” Calipari said. “The guys we have, I don’t care where they’re from. They’re pretty good players.”

To add to the international intrigue, Calipari mentioned a 7-foot-5 Italian who apparently was on campus recently.

“He made Karl look about 6-7,” Calipari said.

To which, Towns added, “He made me look like Tyler Ulis.”

Towns: greater confidence makes Lee better than ever

Junior-to-be Marcus Lee made a big impression on Karl-Anthony Towns in recent pickup games.

“I’ve seen Marcus play for two years,” Towns said Saturday. “. . . It’s the best version of Marcus Lee I’ve ever seen him play.”

Kentucky Coach John Calipari noted that confidence was a key factor for Lee’s improved play. Towns agreed.

“He’s running the floor at a tremendous pace,” Towns said. “He’s jumping for everything. He’s getting back the swagger you probably saw him in high school have.”

Cal wants Poythress of Bahamas, won’t settle for less

The Alex Poythress who was the most productive of Kentucky’s players in the Bahamas last August is the Alex Poythress Kentucky Coach John Calipari wants to see next season.

“I told Alex I’m not settling for anything,” Calipari said Saturday. “You’re going to play like you did in the Bahamas. And I’m not settling for anything other than that.”

Poythress averaged 11.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in UK’s six exhibition games in the Bahamas. He made 27 of 36 shots and asserted himself as a presence on the court.

Hopes for a breakout season ended in mid-December when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament. When asked about the rehabilitation, Calipari said Poythress had begun sprinting.

Calipari cited the changing nature of NBA basketball as a reason for optimism. He suggested that playing Poythress at small forward was intended as the best way to prepare him for the NBA. But with “small ball” all the rage in the NBA, Poythress can shift to power forward.

“Now, ‘fours’ all look like him in the NBA,” Calipari said. “Now, he can be in the position he’s most comfortable playing and (it will) be right for him.”

Towns-vs.-Skal competition brings smiles, jokes

During a pickup game Fridaytt, incoming Kentucky freshman big man Skal Labissiere competed against outgoing freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

This competition inspired playful needling by UK Coach John Calipari, who held a joint news conference with Towns on Saturday.

“Skal beat up Karl yesterday,” Calipari said in a deadpan tone before laughing.

Towns had a different take on the competition.

“He showed some great glimpses,” Towns said of Labissiere. “But there’s a reason I’m a pro.”

As Calipari erupted again in laughter, Towns added, “There’s a reason I’m a pro, and he’s a rook.”

Of course, Towns was the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Labissiere is projected as potential first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Calipari saw the pickup game showdown as instructional for Labissiere and other incoming freshmen.

“Let the young guys know you’ve got a ways to go, now,” the UK coach said.

Former UK players to play ex-UNC players in charity game

For those lamenting the absence of a game against North Carolina on Kentucky’s schedule next season, there will be a way to get a taste of the on again-off again rivalry between two of college basketball’s bluest blue bloods.

Kentucky announced Friday that former UK players will face former UNC players in a charity game Sept. 13 in Rupp Arena. Proceeds will go to charity. NBA rules prohibit colleges from identifying which of its players will participate in such a charity game.

Tickets for the this UK-UNC game go on sale Aug. 14, at 10 a.m. EDT.

All seats are reserved with ticket prices ranging from $100 (premium lower level) to $5 (upper level). Tickets will be available at Rupp Arena, online at Ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster Outlet or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. There is an eight-ticket limit per person.

Ticket buyers must be 16 years old. Children under the age of 2 get in for free with a paying adult (the child will not have a seat and must sit on the lap of the paying adult).

UK told Drake not to pose for pictures with prospects

The University of Kentucky has sent rapper Drake a cease-and-desist letter, The Sporting News reported. The order came after UK self-reported impermissible communication between Drake and three basketball prospects at last year’s Big Blue Madness.
A photo of Charles Matthews, who had already committed to UK in February of 2014, posing with Drake appeared on Twitter after Madness. This was considered a Level III violation that does not carry a suspension component.
In the self-reporting letter to the NCAA, UK said it had asked Drake to refrain from speaking or taking pictures with prospective players when “outside the parameters established by the NCAA,” The Sporting News reported.
UK also said he had told Drake before Madness not to interact with prospects.
In two tweets Wednesday, UK Coach John Calipari acknowledged the violations. He called Drake, 28, a “dear friend” who would be welcome to visit anytime.
“Just so everyone knows, my dear friend @Drake took pics with fans as well as a couple guys as he was leaving the arena after Madness,” Calipari tweeted.
In a followup tweet, Calipari added, “There are no issues with @Drake and UK, and Drake is and always will be a part of our Big Blue family. I hope to see him on campus soon.”

UK will distribute Madness tickets on Oct. 2

This year’s Big Blue Madness will be Oct. 16 in Rupp Arena, Kentucky announced Monday.

Ticket distribution for Madness will be Oct. 2, which is a Friday. The change from the usual Saturday distribution will allow fans to attend a home football game against Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 3, UK said. The ticket distribution will be at 10 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Memorial Coliseum.

Tickets will also be available online at UKathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com.

A limited number of control cards will be issued at 2 p.m. on Oct. 2 to those camped out for tickets. All fans must be present to obtain their control cards and only one control card per person will be accepted at distribution. Control cards will not be distributed after 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, and all persons with control cards must be in line by 10 p.m.

UK asked fans who plan to camp out for tickets to do so no earlier than 5 a.m. on Sept. 30.

UK will provide portable restroom facilities, but the use of permanent, wooden-type structures, portable generators, and propane tanks or other open flames used in cooking is prohibited due to safety concerns. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products are not permitted, UK said.

UK also noted that ticket scalping is illegal in Kentucky.