UK makes it official: Barbee elevated to assistant coach position

From the no-surprise file came an announcement from Kentucky Friday that Tony Barbee would become an assistant coach.

Barbee was widely believed to be the replacement for Barry “Slice” Rohrssen, who left the UK staff this spring to become an assistant at St. John’s.

Barbee, who played for UK Coach John Calipari at UMass in the 1990s, joined the UK staff last season as a “special assistant to the head coach.” He came to UK after being fired as Auburn’s coach. He posted a four-year record of 49-75 (18-50 in the SEC) for Auburn.

“I really enjoyed my first season in Lexington and I’m looking forward to returning to the bench as a coach,” Barbee said in a posting on a UK website. “I’m grateful to Coach Cal for giving me the opportunity to represent this prestigious program and university in this capacity.”

Prior to Auburn, Barbee coached four seasons at UTEP (82-52 record). He had been an assistant coach for Calipari at UMass and Memphis.

“The knowledge & experience Tony brought to our staff last year was invaluable,” Calipari said in a tweet. “To have him a part of our staff is a blessing for all of us.”

As a player for UMass, Barbee scored 1,643 points.

UK fans with good memories may recall Barbee scoring 13 points against  UK in Rupp Arena Dec. 4, 1991. UK led 46-41 at half, won 90-69.

Perhaps UMass hit a wall in second half. Cal’s Minutemen played at UK on the way back from the Great Alaska Shootout.

Barbee and Richie Farmer led UMass and UK, respectively, with two three-point baskets.

UK announces starry non-conference schedule

Opponents include defending national champion Duke, the all-time leader in national championships in UCLA, Ohio State, Kansas and Louisville.

The venues include the United Center in Chicago, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, American Airlines Arena in Miami and iconic college arenas like Allen Fieldhouse and Pauley Pavilion.

On Thursday, Kentucky announced a non-conference schedule for next season that glitters with starry attractions.

Overall, UK will play six programs that played in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The Cats  will play Duke in the Champions Classic in the United Center in Chicago on Nov. 17.

“Putting a schedule together, especially one like this, is fun,” Coach John Calipari said said in a news release. “Having to play those games is a different story. To understate it, this will obviously be a challenging schedule for a young team like ours, which lost more than 85 percent of its scoring and nearly 80 percent of its rebounding. We’re excited for the challenge.”

The schedule includes eight home games highlighted by dates with Louisville and Arizona State. The Sun Devils and newly hired head coach Bobby Hurley, who directed his former team Buffalo to one of the more competitive games against the Cats in 2014, will come to town on Dec. 12. The game with the Sun Devils begins a three-week stretch against power five conference opponents: Ohio State in Brooklyn on Dec. 19 and Louisville on Dec. 26 in Rupp Arena.

The season kicks off with home games on back-to-back day against America East champion Albany on Nov. 13 before hosting NJIT on Nov. 14.

After playing Duke in Chicago, Kentucky will return home to play Wright State (Nov. 20) and Boston (Nov. 24). A game against Illinois State concludes the month of November.On Dec. 9, UK will play Eastern Kentucky.

UK’s 2015 Southeastern Conference schedule will feature nine home games and nine away games, which will be announced at a later date. It’s the fourth straight year the SEC will feature an 18-game schedule.

Big Blue Madness, the Blue-White Scrimmage, exhibition contests, and complete game times and TV information will be released at a later date.

Here is a breakdown on non-conference opponents provided by UK:

ALBANY (Rupp Arena, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015)

Kentucky and Albany will meet for the first time in program history on Nov. 13, 2015 in Rupp Arena in the season-opening game. Albany is coming off its third consecutive American East Championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

The Great Danes were 24-9 overall in 2014-15. Albany returns two of their top three scorers from last season in Peter Hooley (13.7) and Evan Singletary (13.0).

NJIT (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015)

NJIT had  a 21-12 overall record in 2014-15, which included an upset at No. 17 Michigan. Damon Lynn and Tim Coleman highlight the returning players. Lynn was the team’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game, while Coleman was one of four Highlanders to average double-figure scoring in 2014-15.

DUKE (United Center, Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015)

UK owns an 11-9 overall record in the series, but the Blue Devils have won the last three meetings. The Blue Devils will be paced by returning players Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, who all played more than 20 minutes in the national title game.

WRIGHT STATE (Rupp Arena, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015)

The Raiders are coming off an 11-20 overall season under the direction of sixth-year head coach Billy Donlon. Last season’s record was 23-13. Wright State returns its leading scorer in senior forward J.T. Yoho, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds as a junior.

BOSTON (Rupp Arena, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015)

UK beat Boston 89-65 this past season.  The Terriers will return leading-scorer Cedric Hankerson (15.9) as well as John Papale, who shared team most valuable player honors with Hankerson. Papale averaged 9.2 points and dished out a team-high 102 assists a season ago.

SOUTH FLORIDA (American Airlines Arena, Miami, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015)

Kentucky will travel to Miami to participate in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the American Airlines Arena on Nov. 27.  South Florida’s coach is former UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua. It will mark the first meeting between the two schools, as well as the first meeting between Antigua and his mentor in Calipari. Antigua led the Bulls to a 9-23 record in his debut season in South Beach. The Bulls have nine returning players off of that roster, including Chris Perry who was second in scoring a season ago at 10.8 points per game.

ILLINOIS STATE (Rupp Arena, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015)

The Redbirds upset No. 8 Wichita State during their Missouri Valley Conference Tournament run, and ISU has beaten at least one top-25 team in each of its last four seasons. Senior guard DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell highlights the returners for Illinois State after ranking second on the team with 12.8 points per game in 2014-15.

UCLA (Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015)
Kentucky and UCLA signed a two-year home-and-home series in December of 2014 set to begin on Dec. 3, 2015 in Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA. It will mark the Wildcats first visit to UCLA’s storied facility. UCLA will return the trip on Dec. 3, 2016 in what will be the first matchup of the two bluebloods in Rupp Arena history.

EASTERN KENTUCKY (Rupp Arena, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015)

Eastern Kentucky went 21-12 this past season and made its third straight appearance in a postseason tournament. Eastern finished first in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division and the Colonels have finished in the top three in the conference each of the last three seasons. First-year Eastern Kentucky head coach Dan McHale is a Kentucky graduate, and a former men’s basketball manager.

ARIZONA STATE (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015)

The Wildcats own an all-time record of 3-0 against the Sun Devils with the last meeting coming in 2003 in Maui, Hawaii. The teams have met just once before in Lexington in a 94-68 win during the 1991-92 season. Hurley takes over the Sun Devils program after leading Buffalo to its first-ever Mid-American Conference title and NCAA Tournament berth.

OHIO STATE (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015)

Ohio State and Kentucky will meet in the second annual CBS Sports Classic in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Dec. 19. UK owns an 11-8 all-time mark against the Buckeyes with the last meeting coming in 2011 during the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes were 24-11 overall in 2014-15 before falling to No. 1 seed Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State lost its top two returning scorers from a season ago.

LOUISVILLE (Rupp Arena, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015)

UK is 33-15 all-time against the Cardinals and has won seven of the last eight meetings in the series, including two wins in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville went 27-9 a season ago and advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. U of L lost its four leading scorer. Rick Pitino will enter his 16th year with the Cardinals’ program and has led them to 12 NCAA Tournaments, including the 2013 NCAA title.

KANSAS (Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016)
This game features the two winningest schools in NCAA Division I history. UK will visit Lawrence, Kan., for their first trip to Allen Fieldhouse since 2006 and just their second since the 1989-1990 season. Kentucky is 22-6 all-time against the Jayhawks, which includes last season’s 72-40 win at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Cal’s Cats, two other UK teams recognized for academic achievement

The University of Kentucky tied a school record by having three teams – women’s cross-country, men’s golf and men’s basketball – receive awards for their Academic Progress Rate scores, the NCAA announced Wednesday.

The teams placed in the top 10 percent of Division I schools in their respective sports. The APR measures  progress toward a degree. The APR scores are a four-year composite, covering the 2010-11 through 2013-14 school years, measuring eligibility, retention and graduation.

“I’m proud of what has happened on the court with the Final Fours, national championship and league titles, but I’m just as proud of the commitment our young people make to academics,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a news release. “To be honored in this way says a lot about their character and their drive to be lifetime learners. Congrats to Mike Stone and our academic support staff. They’re the best in the business.”

The APR scores of these teams, along with the scores of every Division I team in all sports, will be released by the NCAA later in May.

UK’s news release stated that Wednesday’s announcement was a continuation of good academic news. UK athletes have posted an overall grade-point average higher than 3.0 in each of the past six semesters. On May 9, 62 student-athletes participated in graduation ceremonies, giving UK Athletics a total of 93 graduates for the 2014-15 school year, UK said.

Having three teams earn the APR top-10 award ties the school record set a year ago. It’s also the first time that a UK squad has won in four consecutive years, as this marks four in a row for men’s golf. Women’s cross-country has won two years in a row. Men’s basketball earned the honor for the second time, also in 2009.

Cal: UK met its primary goal in the 2014-15 season

Kentucky met its primary goal this past season, Coach John Calipari said Wednesday during an appearance at the Alltech Rebelation, which is the title of the Lexington-based company’s annual symposium this year.
“Last year we started the season with a goal,” Calipari told an audience estimated at 3,000. “You may think that goal was to win a national championship or win all the games. It was to get eight players drafted.”
Earlier this spring, seven UK players announced that they would enter their names in this year’s NBA Draft. Calipari said an eighth player, Alex Poythress, would have been in the draft if he had not torn an anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December.
“We had an historic year,” Calipari said. Kentucky opened the season in an unprecedented fashion by winning its first 38 games. Of course, UK lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinals and finished the season with a 38-1 record.
“I feel great about what happened,” Calipari said, “because the players got better.”
By making the goal about players getting better and becoming viable NBA Draft prospects, the focus is not placed on winning or losing, Calipari said.
“The mission statement for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams,” Calipari said. “To be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on and on. …
“Now, in our state, they want my mission to be to win national championships. … My mission is bigger than that.”

NCAA Committee approves 30-second shot clock, other changes

The shot clock reduced from 35 seconds to 30.
An emphasis on punishing flopping and other forms of faking fouls.
No longer allowing coaches to call timeouts from the bench.
Allowing referees to check for shot-block violations at any time during a game (Kentucky fans will recall Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scoring after the shot clock expired in this year’s Final Four).
An experiment to allow players to stay in the game after committing a fifth foul (but not a sixth).
So much change is coming to college basketball that Rick Byrd, the chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, tried to cushion the blow for traditionalists.
In announcing the approval of such changes, Byrd said the committee was trying to address issues “as best we can without changing the game as we know it.”
The changes are intended to improve the pace of play, create better balance offense with defense and reduce the physicality in the sport, the NCAA said in a news release. The committee met with representatives of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and several other key stakeholders, the NCAA said.
“The committee has taken significant steps to reverse the trends in the sport that are concerning to the men’s college basketball world,” Byrd said in a release. “We have spent the past year collecting data, opinions and considering proposals that will help our game. Our anticipation is that dedicated officiating enforcement, along with this package of changes, will help balance the offense and defense in our game.”
Despite similar changes before the 2013-14 season, scoring in Division I men’s basketball dipped to 67.6 points a game last season, which neared historic lows for the sport.
Byrd acknowledged how contentious it was to reduce the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. He noted that the shiot clock could return to 35 seconds two years from now.
“I don’t think you have to keep on going down if it’s not good for the game,” Byrd said.
The changes announced Friday must be approved by an Oversight Committee next month before going into effect next season.
The key areas the committee will focus on in the upcoming season are:
— Perimeter defense, particularly on the dribbler and strictly enforcing the directives put in the book before the 2013-14. That means calling hand checks.
— Physicality in post play. Reducing physical play in the basket area.
— Expandingn the block/charge arc in the lane.
The rest of the package to improve the pace of play includes:
— Adjusting the media timeout procedures to allow a timeout called within 30 seconds of a break (e.g., 16:30) or at any time after the scheduled media timeout becomes the media timeout.
— Removing the ability for a coach to call timeout when the ball is live;
— Only allowing a total of 10 seconds to advance the ball to the front court (with a few exceptions); No saved by a timeout when team struggles to get the ball across mid-court within 10 seconds.
— Reducing the amount of time available to replace a disqualified player.
The committee discussed the growing issue of players attempting to draw fouls by deceiving officials. The committee proposed a rule that will allow officials to penalize faking fouls during the use of video to review a possible flagrant foul.
Other changes include:
— To allow officials to use the monitor to review a potential shot clock violation on made field goals throughout the entire game. (Hayes’ basket counted because it came outside the final two minutes of the game).
— To eliminate the 5-second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball.
— To remove the prohibition of dunking in pregame warmups.
In addition to the approved rules changes, the committee also agreed to allow an experiment in the 2016 NIT. Pending final approval, players would foul out on the sixth foul.

UK to play at Kansas in SEC-Big 12 Challenge

Kentucky and Kansas, the two winningest programs in college basketball will play in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge next season.

The game will be in historic Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 30. UK has not played at Kansas since 2006, and just once since the famous (infamous?) 150-95 loss in the 1989-90 season.

With 2,153 all-time victories, Kansas ranks second behind Kentucky’s 2,178 wins in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history.

As is customary, Kentucky and Kansas are expected to be among the nation’s best teams when they meet during the 2015-16 season. UK returns Alex Poythress, Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee next season. They will join another highly touted recruiting class.

Kansas returns the core of its 2015 Big 12 championship team. Both teams are among the top 10 in various early pre-season national rankings.

The meeting with Kansas adds to what was already a super slate of non-conference games for the 2015-16 season. Kentucky is slated to play Duke in Chicago in the Champions Classic, South Florida in Miami in the inaugural Hoophall Miami Invitational, at UCLA in the first game of a home-and-home series, Ohio State in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the CBS Sports Classic, and Louisville in Rupp Arena.

UK’s full 2015-16 nonconference schedule will be released at a later time.

The third annual Big 12/SEC Challenge will feature 10 games played on Jan. 30, 2016.

All 10 of the Big 12’s teams and 10 of the SEC’s 14 member institutions will participate in this year’s event. Each of the 10 SEC teams participating in the 2016 Challenge will also play in the 2017 event.

Fourteen participating teams earned postseason berths in 2015 and nine of the 10 games will feature at least one team that participated in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

The first two years of the challenge were played over several days in November and December but the 2016 event will be consolidated to one single day in January. A bye in the league schedule for participating teams was created to accommodate the new format. The four SEC teams not participating will play each other in conference games the same day.

The four SEC teams not participating in the Challenge next season are Alabama, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Missouri.

Eight of the 10 games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2 and two games will air on ESPNU. All 10 games will also be available via WatchESPN. ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm – the Saturday morning and evening roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the college basketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games, to be announced at a later date.

Start times and network designations will be announced at a later date.

2016 Big 12/SEC Challenge:

Texas Tech at Arkansas

Oklahoma State at Auburn

West Virginia at Florida

Georgia at Baylor

Kentucky at Kansas

Oklahoma at LSU

Ole Miss at Kansas State

Tennessee at TCU

Iowa State at Texas A&M

Vanderbilt at Texas

NBA measures, weighs UK players at combine

At its annual pre-draft combine, the NBA measures and weighs potential picks. This year’s combine, which continues Thursday and Friday in Chicago, includes six of the seven Kentucky players who’ve entered their names in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Karl-Anthony Towns, widely projected as the overall first or second pick, is not participating.

Here’s how the NBA measured the other six UK players:

Devin Booker: 8.3% body fat, 6-4 1/2 tall (in sock feet), 205.8 pounds, 6-8 1/4 wingspan.

Willie Cauley-Stein: 6.3% body fat, 6-11 1/4 tall (in sock feet), 242.4 pounds, 7-3 wingspan.

Aaron Harrison: 6% body fat, 6-4 1/2 tall (in sock feet), 209.2 pounds, 6-8 1/4 wingspan.

Andrew Harrison: 5.9% body fat, 6-4 1/2 (in sock feet); 213.2 pounds; 6-9 wingspan.

Trey Lyles: 12.1% body fat, 6-9 (in sock feet), 241.2 pounds, 7-1 1/2 wingspan.

Dakari Johnson: 14.9% body fat, 6-11 (in sock feet), 264.6 pounds, 7-2 wingspan.

Fraschilla assesses draft stock of UK players other than Towns

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla sees several Kentucky players joining Karl-Anthony Towns among the top 20 selections in this year’s NBA Draft.

While noting that Dakari Johnson and twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison do not project as first rounders, Fraschill said, “the other four clearly are in the top 20 picks, I believe.”

Those four are Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles in addition to Towns.

Fraschilla likened Cauley-Stein to Tyson Chandler: A shot blocker, rim protector and defensive player who might not be counted upon for scoring.

Fraschilla noted how Booker was the youngest player in the draft, has been in “the family business” (father Melvin Booker played overseas), is mature, will be “low maintenance” and is a “deceptive athlete.”

Lyles played out of position much of this past season “by necessity,” Fraschilla said. UK’s glut of “bigs” meant a shift to small forward in order for Lyles to get on the floor.

Fraschilla called Lyles “a good , solid low-post player who can pick-and-pop a little bit. Not a great athlete. But I can see himm being a solid NBA player for a decade.”

Johnson has one undeniable attribute: height.

Quoting a friend’s maxim, Fraschilla said, “Size rises.” So Johnson could become a first-round pick.

“Kind of a plodder,” Fraschilla said before adding, “but he is very young still.”

As for the twins, Fraschilla noted that each had “prototype NBA size.” But . . .

“They’re not elite athletes,” he said. “. . . Andrew plays point guard better than Aaron plays two-guard right now.

“Both must prove they can shoot well from the perimeter because, right now, shooting is at a premium.”

Of the Harrisons, Fraschilla said, “Both will end up on a roster when it’s all said and done.”

Fraschilla: Okafor better now, but Towns projects as better pro

History’s famous debates include Lincoln-Douglas, Kennedy-Nixon and Tastes Great-Less Filling.

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla says the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft adds another: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.

“There’s going to be a long, healthy debate about both Towns and Okafor,” Fraschilla said on a teleconference Wednesday. “And it’s going to take a few weeks to sort itself out.”

Fraschilla saw Okafor as a better player, especially offensively, right now. But he suggested Towns could be the better player long term.

Of Okafor, Fraschilla said, “You’re talking about a very skilled, young offensive player at 6-11 who I think in his early 20s is going to be unguardable.

“Whereas, Towns is  not as ready-made as Okafor, maybe, offensively. But he’s got tantalizing shot-blocking potential. He’s developing  into a low-post scorer.”

While noting questions about Okafor’s defensive ability, Fraschilla said Towns could be a more versatile offensive player.

“Something that was not seen this year that many of us who have watched him play since he was about 16 know he can do is step away from the bucket and shoot threes.”

Fraschilla gave the edge to Towns. “Because he’s the grand slam,” the ESPN analyst said, “and Okafor is just the home run.”

Neither Towns nor Okafor will participate in the NBA Combine, which will be held Thursday and Friday in Chicago. Fraschilla did not sound alarmed by their absence. He called the Combine “essentially a cattle call.”

UK’s ‘Boogie Man’ faces surgery after softball injury

Darren Moscoe, better known as the Boogie Man at Kentucky basketball home games, will be a wallflower for a while. He is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday after being hit in the face by a batted ball while playing softball.
Moscoe, who turns 50 on Wednesday, was pitching in a church softball game in Frankfort last Tuesday. A batter hit a line drive that smashed into his face.
“Landed fast as ever right to my face,” he said Monday.
When asked how much time he had to react to the on-rushing softball, Moscoe said, “Whew! Maybe one or two seconds. That ball was like watching Tasmania.”

Moscoe sustained a broken nose and two black eyes. “It made my teeth go backwards,” he said. “It gave me lots of headaches. Can’t breathe out of my nose. I got sore gums.”

Moscoe’s surgery will be at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. He expressed confidence that he will be dancing to the Tommy James hit, Mony Mony, again next season.