UK women’s soccer team bids farewell to seniors Thursday

Kentucky’s women’s soccer team celebrates Senior Night Thursday in a home finale against Alabama.
“It’s definitely emotional,” said Arin Gilliland, one of the team’s four seniors and, arguably, the best player in the history of the program.
The other seniors playing their final home game are Maddie Lockridge, Emma Brown and Stuart Pope.
Gilliland, who will graduate in December, is projected as a top five pick in January’s National Women’s Soccer League draft. Her 268 shots on goal is a school career record.

Kentucky has won five straight matches, all by shutouts. That season-best winning streak includes victories over three ranked teams: No. 24 South Carolina, No. 5/4 Florida and No. 22 Georgia.

UK will be either a No. 2 or 3 seed in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Alabama goes into Thursday’s game at No. 4 in the SEC standings.

Cal: Redshirting is a player’s decision

Kentucky Coach John Calipari did not rule out the possibility of a player sitting out this season as a redshirt. But he didn’t embrace the idea, either.
“That’s a player’s decision,” he said. “. . . They’d have to explain why, if that were what they wanted to do.”
Calipari seemed to suggest a redshirt made sense at Kentucky, where players can quickly make themselves viable as NBA draft picks.
“You know what’s great about playing here?” he said. “You only have to have one good year. . . . You don’t have to have five good years. No one playing under me has four good years.”
At other schools, players must wait for the chance to play significant minutes, Calipari said. At Kentucky, most players play right away.
Without benefit of a follow-up question in the post-game news conference, Calipari cited Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins in the context of redshirting.
“At the end of the day, if something happens, there’s an injury, somebody has to step back, I have all the confidence putting them in,” the UK coach said.

Cal: Dakari Johnson had been shooting well in practice

Apparently, Dakari Johnson’s one-for-seven free-throw shooting in the Blue-White Game Monday night surprised Kentucky Coach John Calipari.
“He’s been shooting in practice great,” Calipari said. “He’s been shooting free throws. He’s been shooting 15-footers.
“But now he went in front of all these people, the popcorn is cracking, it’s on TV and the dregs of last year came back a little bit.”
Johnson made only 44.7 percent of his free throws last season (38 of 85).
Johnson vowed to do better in the future. “I don’t know what was going on tonight. . . . ,” he said. “It’ll be better next time.”

Cal: PG, mix of vets and frosh key to platoon system

After the Blue-White Game Monday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked about how he’ll try to put together platoons of players this season.
“I’ll probably try some different combos,” he said. “I kind of like two freshmen on a team (and) three vets on a team. It gives it some balance.”
Calipari also spoke of what components he’d like to have in each platoon.
“You want to have a point guard on each group,” he said. “You want to have some size on each group. And how do they fit together? What I don’t want to have is four freshmen on one team.”

AJ Reed reflects on being honored at UK football Saturday Saturday

The No. 1 football team and the No. 1 baseball player will be at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.

During the game against No. 1 Mississippi State, Kentucky will honor one of its former baseball players, AJ Reed.

Last season Reed became the third unanimous national player of the year in Southeastern Conference history. He led college baseball in homers (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211) in 2014. He also led the SEC with a 12-2 record and a 2.09 ERA, becoming the first player in conference history to pace the league in wins and homers.

Reed practically swept the national player of the year awards. He won such awards given  by USA Baseball with the Golden Spikes Award, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association with the Dick Howser Trophy, the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National Player of the Year, the Baseball America College Player of the Year, the Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year and the Perfect Game USA National Player of the Year awards.

In an interview Friday, Reed sounded like a UK football fan. “I’ve watched pretty much most of the games,” he said. “They look a lot better this year, and it’s exciting to have a football team that’s winning this year.”

Reed was the first round draft choice of the Houston Astros. He hit 12 homers in 68 games over the rookie-level New York-Penn League and the low class A Midwest League, hitting .289/.375/.522 with 54 RBI and 20 doubles.

When asked if he planned to run around Commonwealth Stadium like Cal Ripken’s celebration of breaking major league baseball record for consecutive games played, Reed laughed. Of the activities honoring him, Reed said, “At the tailgate, they’ll have be say something. And then at the football game, I guess during one of the timeouts, I’ll just go out and they’ll announce me and I’ll give a nice wave. And that will be about it.”Then we’ll enjoy the football game, and hopefully get a win.”


UK women want to be ‘most disruptive team in America’

With mentions of sharks, blood in the water, attacks and wrath, Kentucky’s women’s team set an aggressive tone at the Southeastern Conference Media Days Tuesday.

Coach Matthew Mitchell made it plain what style he wanted in the 2014-15 season.

“He simply said he wants us to be the fastest, most disruptive team in America,” guard Bria Goss said.

Teammate Jennifer O’Neill emphasized the need to stay in attack mode.

“When we’re on defense, we’re going to be on offense, as well,” she said.

Mitchell and his players in the Charlotte cited Virginia Commonwealth’s men’s team as an example the UK women hope to emulate.

“Real aggressive, pressing and causing havoc,” O’Neill said.

Kentucky played that way two years ago. The Wildcats routinely frazzled opponents with pressure defense and fast-break offense.

Somehow, the team got away from the attacking style last season.

“I didn’t do a very good job as a coach giving our team enough reps in the press,” Mitchell said. “I had a veteran team and I just felt it’d sort of come together. So I learned a lesson. If you’re really going to be disruptive in a full-court press, you have to give your team a lot of reps. You have to practice that way.”

Recalling two seasons ago, O’Neill gave a vivid description of what it feels like to discombobulate an opponent.

“It’s like blood in the water,” she said, “and we’re a shark.”

Clearly, the Wildcats hope to make SEC waters unsafe for other teams this coming season.

ESPN hires Delk as analyst for SEC Network

Former Kentucky All-American Tony Delk will be among the analysts on the SEC Network this basketball season, ESPN announced Monday.

Delk worked as a guest analyst during ESPNU’s telecast of the NBA Combine earlier this fall. That assignment served as a tryout for Delk. Apparently, he passed.

Delk will not be the only person with UK and/or Lexington ties working on the SEC Network this coming season. Dave Baker, a electronic media personality in Lexington for many years, will be among the play-by-play announcers.

SEC Network will televise 118 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball games in the 2014-15 season. Besides Baker and Delk, the familiar faces and voices working on the SEC Network will include former Vandy player Barry Booker, former UK assistant Joe Dean Jr., former Auburn players Daymeon Fishback and Will Perdue, plus former Tates Creek star Darrin Horn.

According to a ESPN news release, the SEC Network Basketball Play-by-Play Commentators:

  • Dave Neal –  the two-time EMMY Award winner has been covering SEC sports for nearly 15 years and worked with ESPN since 2009
  • Tom Hart –   play-by-play for SEC Network’s college football coverage, a Missouri graduate covering a span of college sports including women’s basketball and baseball
  • Dave Baker - sportscaster for men’s and women’s SEC basketball for more than two decades

SEC Network Basketball Analysts:

  • Barry Booker –played guard at Vanderbilt University from 1985-89 and has been a college basketball analyst on ESPN networks for the past five seasons. Booker will now cover games as analyst for SEC Network
  • Dane Bradshaw – new to ESPN networks, Bradshaw is a former Tennessee guard he will cover games and appear in SEC Network’s studio coverage
  • Joe Dean Jr.  – former Mississippi State basketball player and assistant coach at two SEC schools, Dean joins SEC Network after covering SEC basketball games for more than 20 years
  • Tony Delk – new to ESPN networks, Delk was a Kentucky point guard for the 1996 National Championship team. He will be an analyst for SEC Network’s studio coverage
  • Daymeon Fishback – former Auburn player, Fishback will contribute as a game analyst for SEC Network
  • Darrin Horn – previously coached at South Carolina, Horn has been covering basketball at ESPN for the last two years and will continue to do so for multiple ESPN networks including SEC Network
  • Jon Sundvold – former Missouri guard, Sundvold was an All-American and a first round draft pick. He has contributed his analytic expertise at ESPN for more than a decade including covering the SEC the last two years.  He will now also cover games for SEC Network
  • Will Perdue – a former Vanderbilt basketball player, Perdue was a first round NBA draft pick and played on four NBA Championship teams. He will contribute to SEC Network studio programming and games as an analyst


ESPNU: No plans to move UK Madness telecast to SEC Network

Kentucky fans have created a social media buzz to have ESPN change its plans to televise portions of UK’s Big Blue Madness. But the so-called “FreeBigBlueMadness” movement will not reach that goal.

ESPN, which plans to include Big Blue Madness in its ESPNU coverage of Madnesses around the country Friday night, said in an email that the plans included replay opportunities on the SEC Network.

“Big Blue Madness will be available nationwide live in its entirety on ESPN3,” an ESPN statement read. ” ESPNU will also have robust cut-in coverage throughout the event.  SEC Now, the nightly news and information show on SEC Network, will feature clips and highlights of the event.  In addition, SEC Network will produce and air a separate one-hour recap show on Big Blue Madness airing 10 p.m. CT/11 p.m. ET.”

Bill Fey, a 31-year-old UK fan living in Louisville, started the FreeBigBlueMadness movement Monday morning.

“I was listening to Kentucky Sports Radio,” he said, “They just said that the SEC Network has the rights. It almost sounded like they were holding it hostage.

“So I just came up with FreeBigBlueMadness just as a joke to try to get my tweet read on the radio.”

Fey added that he did not intend to create a buzz. He has not written or called ESPN to ask for the entire Big Blue Madness to appear on the SEC Network.

ESPN considered allowing a Lexington station, presumably WKYT (Channel 27), to televise Big Blue Madness, ESPN spokesman Derek Volner said. But ultimately ESPN chose not to do that.

New York Times reviews Combine: Too little Cal, too much idle chatter

In its Saturday edition, The New York Times reviewed the ESPNU telecast of Kentucky’s Combine Friday. The Times gave the lukewarm review and all but suggested the show be taken off, off Broadway and re-tooled.

“It was not terribly exciting for anyone but devoted Kentucky fans or college basketball junkies, who probably make up a lot of the ESPNU audience,” wrote Richard Sandomir, who covers sports media for The Times. “For the rest of us? Eh, not so much.”

Sandomir called UK’s Combine “a lesson in marketing” for both the basketball program and “the ESPN college sports machine.”

Sandomir lamented that ESPNU did not provide some play-by-play coverage of the five-on-five scrimmage, which ended during a commercial break.

“Does anyone know if the Blue team or the White team won?” he wrote. “How many points did the twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison score? How many assists did the freshman guard Tyler Ulis have?”

Sandomir said the telecast needed more commentary from UK Coach John Calipari. During one snippet, Calipari wore a live microphone. “But not for long and without a hint of revelation,” Sandomir wrote.

Sandomir suggested ESPN fly in Brent Musburger for play-by-play announcing and “then sent back to Gainesville for Saturday’s Louisiana State-Florida football game on the SEC Network?”

ESPNU: UK real good, but not without question marks

During Friday’s telecast of a NBA Combine, ESPNU announcers lauded Kentucky’s team but suggested questions can be raised going into the 2014-15 season.

Jay Bilas, who acted as the telecast host, noted Kentucky’s depth.

“There are 12 guys on this team that can play,” he said. I’m not sure anybody else in the country can say that.”

Later, Bilas added, you could cut the Kentucky team into two six-man halves. Each halve would be a top 25 team, he said.

Avery Johnson said freshman Tyler Ulis answered the question about opponents like Connecticut in the 2014 title game disrupting Kentucky will full-court pressure.

Another freshman, Devin Booker, could shoot. “You can never have enough three-point shooters,” Johnson said before adding, “Devin Booker is a knock-down shooter.”

But the analysts raised questions.

Greenberg said the much-discussed platoon system of five players rotating regularly with five other players could work. “I think they’re going to wear people down,” he said.

But, Greenberg added, would any five players accumulate enough playing time together to be steady, cohesive and productive in the final minutes of a close game?

Greenberg also said that for all of UK’s depth, the Cats lacked a “traditional small forward.”

Johnson suggested UK had too many big men. “I don’t think there’s going to be enough minutes for all their big guys,” he said.

Even Coach John Calipari raised a question by acknowledging a downside to a platoon system.

What if one of two players separated themselves as elite players among very good players, he asked.

“They deserve more minutes,” he said. “. . . This isn’t Communism.”