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.

Ex-Cat John Wall to pay prom expenses for high school students

Former Kentucky All-American John Wall is helping four high school students attend their senior prom in style.
Wall will pay for tuxedos for four Eleanor Roosevelt High School students. The prom is May 22.
The participating students are part of Future Leaders & Young Entrepreneurs organization (FLYE). FLYE is a non-profit organization that is equipping minority males in the Washington, D.C., area with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in life, a news release said.
​Because of the Washington Wizards’ playoff schedule, Wall will not attend the prom, the news release said.

UK to play Eastern Kentucky next season

Eastern Kentucky announced Thursday that its men’s basketball team will play Kentucky in Rupp Arena next Dec. 9. That will mark the second straight season the teams have played.
Of course, new Eastern Kentucky Coach Dan McHale is a UK graduate.
“It will be special to take a team into Rupp Arena for the first time as a head coach,” McHale said in a news release. “I met my wife and a lot of special people that are still very close to me while I was a student at UK. Between now and then I won’t be thinking much about that. My effort will be spent every day on getting our Eastern Kentucky team ready to win all 31 games on the schedule.”
UK and EKU had played only once before 1990. Since they’ve played 10 times.
UK won last season’s meeting 82-49. Eastern took pride in scoring more points against Kentucky than Kansas, Providence, West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and UCLA.
Eastern Kentucky went 21-12 this past season and made its third straight appearance in a national postseason tournament. Eastern finished first in the Ohio Valley Conference East Division and the Colonels have finished in the top-3 in the conference each of the last three seasons.

Ex-Cat Derek Anderson criticizes John Calipari

During an appearance on Louisville radio station ESPN 680 this week, former Kentucky player Derek Anderson criticized UK Coach John Calipari.
Anderson questioned:
— Calipari’s reliance on so-called one-and-done players. In particular, players like Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and Dakari Johnson entering the NBA Draft despite projections of not being taken in the first round.
“If Coach Cal wanted to keep these kids and develop them, he should tell them that,” Anderson told host Drew Deener. “He’s just running them in and out. It’s not him. It’s not just him. It’s the parents. If my son is supposed to go second round, ‘Son, you need to stay in school, get your degree in case something happens, and also finish the job. Make sure you make these people know you can actually play.’
“They’re just running them out of here. Like Dakari Johnson. I hope he makes it, but he’s a 7-footer who can’t jump. What’s he going to do with no degree when he’s done in two years?”
Comment: Calipari is merely taking advantage of what the kids want to do. They want to go pro as soon as possible. So he feeds into that and sells that in recruiting: Come to Kentucky and be on the fast-track to the NBA. “Fulfilling dreams,” he calls it, which sounds a lot better and is much more difficult to dispute.
Kentucky has been to four of the last five Final Fours. So in that sense the formula is working.
— Calipari’s coaching in the 2014 national championship game against Connecticut.
“Why did Louisville beat (UConn) by 30? They pressured their guards,” Anderson said on the radio show. “We let the kid Shabazz Napier — he walked the ball up and just shot in our face the whole night. I’m like, did you not watch the tape of Louisville beating them? They pressured these guys.”
Comment: Kentucky did not have the players to apply pressure like Louisville did. And it’s Louisville’s system to trap and apply pressure, but not Kentucky’s system. What message would be sent if the coach makes a radical change in style in the championship game?

Indiana A.D.: Report of UK series resuming ‘overblown’

Kentucky and Indiana may resume their storied basketball series someday. But that day is still difficult to see, despite a story in the Indianapolis Business Journal Wednesday that suggested otherwise.
“I’ve not had any conversations with my counterpart there since we kind of agreed to disagree quite some time ago. . . . ,” IU Athletic Director Fred Glass said later Wednesday.
Glass acknowledged that UK Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy had spoken to Jayd Grossman, IU’s Assistant A.D. for Basketball Administration. But those conversations should be viewed as leading to the resumption of the series.
“Nothing specific. No framework. Certainly nothing imminent,” Glass said. “I’ve appreciated at a staff level good general conversation and relationships. Hopefully that bodes well for something ultimately coming together. But there’s really nothing new.”
The Indianapolis Business Journal story mentioned “optimism” about the UK-IU series blooming this spring. Kentucky and Indiana played each a game each season from 1970 through 2012.
“I really think, unfortunately, the story is a little overblown,” Glass said. “Which I think just reflects the fan interest in it.. . . Right now, even ‘preliminary’ is further along than we really are. . . .
“I’m sorry it’s much to do about nothing in a way. The good news is there’s a lot of interest in this, which I think reflects we ought to try to get it back together again.”

Poythress on his potential next season: ‘Sky’s the limit’

Expecting to be fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Alex Poythress spoke expansively about how he can impact Kentucky’s basketball team next season.
“I have things I have to work on like everybody else has things they have to work on,” he said. “. . . I feel I’m in a great position to put it all together. So I feel the sky’s the limit for me. I feel I can accomplish great things. Just stay on track with the plan.”
When Poythress torn an ACL in mid-December, UK Coach John Calipari was quick to note that the player could enter the 2015 NBA Draft.
Poythress said Wednesday that he considered entering this year’s draft.
“I still had an opportunity,” he said. “If I wanted to be in the draft this year, I could have been. I was well aware of that, and I still would have been drafted.”
When asked if he would have an expanded role next season, Poythress said, “I’ll be fine in that role (or) any role I need to play. I feel I can be better than a role player. Play my role. Be a big leader on this team.”
As for his rehabilitation, Poythress said he has returned to jogging and “doing some jumping stuff.” He still does not cut on the leg, he said. But he expressed confidence that he’ll be 100 percent next season.
“I’ll be fine before pre-season (practice),” he said.

Returning UK players confident about next season

Fan anxiety about recruiting has not spread to Kentucky’s returning players, who on Wednesday expressed confidence about next season.
“I guess our fans got kind of spoiled,” Alex Poythress said of the 2014-15 season. “We had 10 guys. We only need five to play, to be honest. So whatever five we put out there, we can still win games. You don’t need to go 10 deep. . . .
“I feel we have five of the most talented people already. With (newcomers) coming in, too. So I feel we’ll be fine (and) ready from Day One.”
The heir apparent at point guard, Tyler Ulis, was succinct when asked if UK will have enough talent next season.
“Yeah,” he said.
Ulis said he did not follow social media, so he was not aware of fan anxiety about recruiting. Not every prospect has committed to Kentucky.
“We’re definitely not what we had this past season because we had 10 guys,” Ulis said. “And, now, we’re definitely not going to have that many. It’s going to be a lot different, but we’re still going to be talented. And we’re still going to make a run for this.”
Of course, UK had nine McDonald’s All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein last season.
“We were overly blessed with so many players who could play,” Marcus Lee said. “It didn’t really matter if everybody had a great game or not. This year, everybody has to be on the ball.”

Coroner rules out foul play in Phillips’ death

The autopsy of former Kentucky basketball player Mike Phillips showed no evidence of intentionally violent or criminal behavior, Hopkins County Coroner Dennis Mayfield said Monday.
Phillips, who played center on UK’s 1978 national championship team, died after falling down a flight of stairs in his Madisonville home Saturday. An autopsy was performed Monday morning.
No one was home when Phillips fell, so it’s not known what led to his death, Mayfield said. A cause of death is pending as officials await toxicology results, which are not expected for six to eight weeks, Mayfield said.
Funeral services for Phillips, 59, are set.
Visitations will be held Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. CDT and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. CDT at Victory Church in Madisonville.
The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. CDT Friday at Victory Church.

Ex-UK player Mike Phillips dies

Former Kentucky player Mike Phillips died from a fall Saturday night in Madisonville. He was 59.
Hopkins County coroner Dennis Mayfield confirmed the death. An autopsy will be performed Monday morning, Mayfield said.
Phillips teamed with Rick Robey to form a “Twin Towers” tandem that helped Kentucky win the 1978 national championship. Both averaged double-digit points: Robey 14.4 and Phillips 10.2.
In his four-year UK career, Phillips scored 1,367 points. That ranks 25th on UK’s career scoring list.
Before coming to UK, Phillips was a two-time Mr. Basketball in Ohio (1973 and 1974).
Former UK teammate Jack Givens noted how Phillips became the first player from the 1978 national championship team to pass away.
“Even at our age, now, we feel invincible,” Givens said in describing the shock of Phillips’ death.
Kyle Macy, a guard on the 1978 championship team, noted how Phillips evolved: from a “free spirit” as a UK player to a man who arrived at a team reunion the model of decorum in a three-piece suit.
Macy said he wondered, “OK, what did you do with Mike Phillips?”
Joe B. Hall, who coached UK’s 1978 national championship team, called Phillips a “statue of competitiveness.”