Archive for the ‘Kentucky Basketball’ Category

Bluegrass Ballers

Posted: July 22, 2011 by Raashaan Myers in Kentucky Basketball, Louisville Basketball

The Louisville Magic AAU program has made a quick rise to the top of the 15 and under division. A combination of great coaching and elite talent has lead to quick success. Now they head out to Sin City and try to deliver another title or two to end the summer. Here is a look inside the program at the guys that make this machine work.

Deangelo Russell – Guard 6’3” 165 pounds Central HS

( All Photos by: Sam Hunter)

Russell is the highest rated prospect on the Magic roster and it is not hard to see why. Blessed with a sweet lefty stroke and incredible maturity for his age Deangelo is an assassin on the court. Using a deft handle and above average passing skills Russell has the ability to play on the ball as well as at the two. Already understanding the local media Deangelo says he does not cheer for either UofL or UK not picking sides in the rivaly. To this point he didn’t mention a list of schools recruiting him though Indiana, Purdue, UofL, and UK were all seen tracking him last week.

Thoughts on playing with very talented teammates: “It brings out the best in you every game. You never know whose night it is going to be so you have to bring it every game.”

On team chemistry: “We are around each other all the time. Even when we are not playing games we are hanging out so we have great chemistry.”

Strengths: “I try to do a little bit of everything. I try to be the leader and guard the best player on the other team. I feel I am a combo guard and since we have some true point guards on the team I can work off the ball too. I can move without the ball and get myself open instead of brining the ball up and running the offense.”

Need to work on: “I want to work on getting more athletic.”

On all the attention he is getting: “It is good right now and I look at it as a blessing. It is fun right now.”

Quentin Snider – PG 6’1” 160 pounds Ballard HS

Quentin gets things started for the relentless Magic attack. Possessing a lightning quick handle and a deadly outside shot Snider is perfectly suited for an up tempo offense. Snider has an extremely mature approach to the game as well as an excellent basketball IQ which makes him efficient and tough to contain. Continued work on defensive principles as well as strength development will help take his game to the next level. Snider is a big time Louisville fan and he already holds an offer from Tennessee Tech as well as interest from Oklahoma State, Xavier, and Louisville.

On the style of play: “It is a fun team to play for. We like to run up and down it is like playing on a playground team.”

On Coach Ellis Myles tough love: “He is just trying to make us better and get the best out of us.”

Strengths: “My biggest strengths are my assists and getting my team involved.”

Needs to work on: “I want to work on my defense and getting more rebounds.”

Trey Grundy – SF 6’6” 185 pounds Henry Clay HS

Trey is probably the best athlete on the Magic roster with great length and non-stop motor to boot. Grundy runs the floor very well and is good with his handle. While the perimeter shot is still a work in progress Trey has good court vision and can make plays off the bounce. He is a tireless rebounder and defender that gets a ton of extra possessions for his team off steals and hustle plays. A UK fan growing up Trey already is getting a ton of interest from Xavier, Purdue, Tennessee, Louisville, as well as interest from Ohio State, South Carolina, and Alabama.

On the team’s mission this AAU season: “We just want to show everybody that we are one of the best teams in Kentucky and one of the best teams in the nation. We don’t feel we are getting the respect we should so we are going out there to prove everyone wrong and show that we are the best.”

On joining forces with the best in the state: “We have been playing against each for a long time so we know what each other can do. This is the first time that we have all come together but we all know each other really well.”

Strengths: “I can guard anyone from a one to a five and I can stop someone defensively but I can also score as well.”

Needs to work on: “I want to work on my 3 point shot and I need to get in the weight room and get stronger.”

Jordan Green – SG/SF 6’4” 180 pounds Henry Clay HS

The name of the game for Jordan is versatility. He can both set up the offense handling the ball as well as finish off a slam in transition. He is a long and agile wing that is continuing to develop his guard skills while continuing to make better use of his considerable potential.  A lifelong Kentucky fan Green has heard from several schools including Tennessee, Xavier, and Purdue so far.

Thoughts on the team: “We work hard, we do everything up tempo, and we like to get out and run.”

Strengths: “My rebounding ability everybody can score so I try to bring something different to the team.”

Needs to improve: “Ball handing though I think I am getting better every day.”

Craig Owens – SF 6’2” 205 pounds Trinity HS

Craig is the type of guy that gets you to the winner’s circle. His greatest attribute is what he brings in toughness and intensity on the court. An outstanding defender and fearless rebounder for his size Owens competes with guys 6 to 8 inches taller. He is developing his long range shot and with continued work on his ball handling will only improve his overall game. A lifelong Louisville fan Owens has received interest from Marquette, Virginia, and Alabama among others.

On playing with the Magic: “I love playing for my team.  I really like this team because we all grew up together and we know each other.”

Strengths: “I think I bring the heart and toughness to the team. And on defense I want to go out there and shut down the best player on each team.”

Needs to work on: “I am working on my ball handling and my shooting. I am not going to be a big man so I need to transition to the guard spot.”

Brandon Hatton – SG 6’2” 185 pounds Dixie Heights HS

To watch Brandon on the court it does not take long to see what he brings to the table. The kid gets buckets and he does is in different ways and can score in bunches. A deft touch from both midrange as well as from the arc Hatton is crafty with his handle to help create space to get off his shot. He can score on the spot up as well as off the dribble and is working on his play making and passing skills. From the state of Kentucky he actually prefers Tobacco Road as he is a big time UNC fan. Brandon so far has gotten interest from Tennessee, Texas, Xavier, Florida State, and some others.

On joining the Magic: “This was the first time that we have all be playing together and it is kind of like an all-star team. We all have played against each other growing up and now finally we are getting to play together.”

Strengths: “Seeing the floor and my shooting.”

Needs to work on: “Getting faster and my jumping ability.”

Christian Cunningham – PG 6’0” 165 pounds Scott County HS

Cunningham is a steadying force for the Magic. He shows a good deal of maturity and has some explosiveness off the bounce in full court situations. He makes good decisions with the ball in his hands and has a good basketball IQ for a young prospect. Christian so far has heard from Tennessee and Manhattan as well as mail for Memphis. He is from a house divided as his mother is a UofL fan and his father a UK fan so he does not pull for either.

Thoughts on what drives the team: “We are a really energetic group and we have a lot of hype guys on the team and we feed off that and coach Ellis.”

Thoughts on team chemistry: “We have a lot of good players on the team. We are real close and we are always together ever since we were little. So we just keep everything together.”

Strengths: “I think I settle the team down and can get a bucket if the team needs one.  I find teammates and try to set them up to score.”

Needs to work on: “I want to get my three point shot a little bit better and work on my dribble pull up.”

Justin Miller – PF/C 6’5” 220 pounds Ohio County HS

Justin is a young prospect who will be starting his freshman year at Ohio County this year. He has good size and works very hard but is still a work in progress due to his youth.  He has soft hands and plays with good aptitude on the block which is where he does his damage. As he continues to get in better shape and work on the little things Miller will improve as a player.

On his role with the team: “I try to play hard while I am in there. I don’t get in much but I am only 14 so I just try to play hard.”

Strengths: “Rebounding. I make good post moves on the block, I pass well for a big man, and I hustle when I am on the floor.”

Needs to work on: “I want to work on getting in better shape and get stronger too.”

Advertisements

This article was written by Daniel Wormley, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

By now everyone has seen the 11-12 Kentucky non-conference schedule and have noticed big games against North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, St. Johns, ODU/South Florida, Indiana, and others.  I can’t wait to watch the season and hopefully the Cats can beat all of these highly competitive teams by double digits, and all of us Cats fans can smile like crazy the entire year.  However every time I look at the schedule I can’t help but stare at KANSAS longer than others.  There is a huge reason for this and that reason is focused on one name, PERRY ELLIS!!!

Perry Ellis is a spetacular player and Calipari wants him badly as he has been in attendence for numerous of Ellis’s games lately.  While Calipari is a magician at pulling the most amazing recruits year after year, I don’t think Ellis will be that easy to get.  His playing ability has made him a priority for a large amount of teams to include Kansas State, Duke, Wichita State, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  Bill Self has been working overtime to get the Wichita, Kansas native just as much as Calipari has and while Calipari is the better recruiter, Self isn’t to bad himself.  Self also has the advantage of being the in state powerhouse in a place where Kansas fans are almost as crazy as Kentucky fans are in Kentucky.  Ellis won’t be an easy pick up for Calipari and he will certainly have to bring out the big guns to get him!

Now back to the importance of the Kansas game for Coach Calipari and our Kentucky Wildcats.  I think you may see where I am going with this…WE NEED TO WIN THIS GAME!!!  A win over Kansas early in the season would be huge towards the recruitment of Ellis, a game you know Ellis will certainly be in attendence for.  While winning this game would be great, another thing would help motivate Ellis towards Kentucky as well.  Kentucky fans need to be so overwhelmingly present at the game that it would be almost difficult to even find a Kansas fan while there.  We did it at the Louisville game last year when Kentucky fans outnumbered Louisville fans at their own venue, so we can certainly do it at a neutral site.

Just imagine if you are a 17-18 year old kid that has a decision to make between two powerhouse programs and they play each other.  While at the game you see thousands of Cats fans everywhere and no where near as many Kansas fans.  Through out the game all you can hear are Cats chants and you see thousands of Cats fans going crazy chanting players names, making 3 in your face signals, and writing CATS across their chests.  While the occasional Kansas chant gets dwarfed by the much louder Kentucky chants you watch Kentucky just run Kansas into the floor.  CATS WIN, CATS WIN and fans go crazy!!!  Every Cats fan that you see already knows you by name, knows your mother by name, knows your high school and AAU stats, and tell you they would love you have you.  Now imagine how that could effect your decision process.

So when I read the schedule you can see why I stop at Kansas and just think about how badly we need to win that game.  Of course we need to win every tough game because Perry Ellis isn’t the only high profile recruit that we are after who is thinking about other schools as well.  The most important game for most Cats fans is against Louisville, but this year I want a W against Kansas just as badly!!

This article was written by Daniel Wormley, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

Kentucky fans all remember the recruiting saga last year over 5 star point guard Josh Selby who eventually decided on Kansas over Arizona, UCONN, Tennessee, Syracuse, and Kentucky. Of course picking Kansas wasn’t what we wanted but the kid made his decision and that decision may just help Kentucky in the future. Now I’ve got you wondering….How does Josh Selby going to Kansas last year help Kentucky???

However, Josh Selby’s’ decision may not only help Kentucky but could help many other college programs as well to include Louisville. The one-and-done industry is big business in college basketball whether we like it or not. Personally I am more for a two-and-done format or just get rid of the one-and-done rule and go back to the old way. Potential one-and-done players are amazing basketball players whom can greatly help programs and are hard to pass up in college basketball. Of course Coach Calipari goes after them all but many teams are slowly starting to realize the potential of these players and go after them as well. Duke grabbed Kyrie Irving and while he did get hurt and couldn’t help them throughout the year as much as they would have liked, he still went number 1 in the draft. Ohio State has had their share of these players as well as Texas and a few other programs. Other teams are starting to get their hands in the mix as well such as Louisville this year with the possibilities of Wayne Blackshear or Chane Behanan playing one year only.

Kentucky has set a standard for one-and-done players that other programs have to prove as well. To get one-and-done players you have to put these kids in the NBA after one year and they want to go high. If you still don’t see where I am going with this…keep reading slowly. Kyrie Irving went number 1 in the draft, Brandon Knight went number 8, Cory Joseph went 29th, Tristan Thompson went 4th, and Tobias Harris went 19th. All these players were one-and-done players that went first round in the NBA draft and were scattered throughout last years player rankings out of high school. Three of these players hold importance to our subject and those are Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, and Cory Joseph. Rivals listed these players respectively at 2, 3, and 4 out of high school. Josh Selby was considered the number 1 point guard in the country and was highly recruited and was considered a top 5 NBA draft pick early on. What happened that made him drop to be a second round number 19 pick (49th overall) doesn’t really matter. Keep thinking about it…

Self and his beloved Kansas Jayhawks (GAG) failed Josh Selby somehow, someway! The preseason number 1 point guard in the nation fell out of the first round and went late in the second round which is a long way from guaranteed money or guaranteed playing time. I don’t care how this happened and neither do all the future potential one-and-done players that are currently or will be searching for college programs to play for, but it did happen and players will take note of this. Think about it, if you are a top tiered senior in high school and you are looking for a program and a coach that is going to ensure you make it to the NBA early in the draft and hopefully in those guaranteed money spots where do you go? Well thanks to Josh Selby falling so low you probably don’t even consider Kansas and Self anymore do you??? But you do look towards Duke, Kentucky, Texas, and other schools whom have proven they can put you in the NBA easily. You also still look toward teams like Louisville even though they haven’t put out any one-and-done players, they haven’t failed to either.

Josh Selby falling so low hurts Kansas in the recruiting world and gives other schools a huge advantage over them.  Kentucky, Texas, Duke, etc can now tell a recruit that they have proven they can put kids in the NBA early while Kansas can’t.  So now when you see the list of a recruit and that list includes Kansas you better believe that other schools will be bringing up the Josh Selby situation.

This article was written by Tyler Bloyd, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

Everyone knows that John Calipari and staff year in, year out put players in to the NBA, and as we enter the week of the 2011 NBA Draft, we should take aquick look at our “Draft Cats” for this years class.

Starting with another one of Cal’s point guards, Brandon Knight. He came off a great freshman season for the Wildcats, averaging 17 points 4 assists and 4 rebounds, playing in the foot steps of John Wall who was last years #1 pick. Knight stepped up, hitting game winning shots against Princeton and Ohio State before advancing to the Final Four and now he is predicted anywhere in the 1-7 range. You think a good option would be Cleveland, considering they have 2 picks(1 & 4) and can pick a big and small, but if they do choose Irving, then watch for the Utah Jazz to look into Knight.

 

Moving to DeAndre Liggins. He was a solid contributor all season, was on the ropes about leaving at first but at the end other priorities called and he made the right choice. Liggins is know as a stopper, or the go to defender for the Cats, as he consistently locked down opposing teams best player, who was usually smaller and quicker than him, but his length and toughness made up for it. Now word coming out is that he has had good workouts, and impressing scouts with more of a offensive game than most thought(we always knew DeAndre!) and he has one of the better “NBA ready” body’s so he should get picked and I’m thinking anywhere in the late first to early second round depending on where other guys fall ahead of him.

Now for one of the more loved players in recent years, Josh Harrellson. The big fella was basically unknown coming into the season, playing behind DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton last season, but everyone knew his name come April. He tore up the final month of the season, grabbing boards left and right and showing a little bit of a offensive game. His most known performance came in the Sweet 16 against Ohio State and the so called best big man in the Nation Jared Sullinger. Sullinger got his, but the fact that “Jorts” held his own and neutralized him, caught scouts eye and allowed him to be invited to camps where he has done good, but we are not sure if we will hear his name called or not, but my prediction is a late second rounder as Calipari seems to get everyone in these days.

Last but certainly not forgotten is the guy who never played a minute for the Cats but made a big impact on campus and around the team. Enes Kanter from Turkey, who everyone knows got robbed of his eligibility no matter what happened when he was a kid, he wanted to play college bball but couldn’t, but that’s another story and now he has taken it personal, tearing up drills for every team that’s worked him out.  He’s been impressing with the versatility of his game, banging hard down low but also stepping out and knocking down jumpers, and a lot of people are saying they wouldn’t be surprised if the Cavs take him #1 overall as he will be meeting with owner Dan Gilbert this week, but if not there you could see him drop to #6 to the Wizards which would officially make them my favorite team with him playing along side our man Wall.

But whatever happens to these guys, BBN and KYSCO would like to say thanks for everything you guys did while at UK, on and off the court, and we hope for the best and can’t wait to see you all back at Rupp! Go Cats!

This article was written by Hank Garrett, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

Bellarmine’s head man Scotty Davenport joined the Louisville Sports Buzz radio show this morning.  Davenport who is also a former and University of Louisville assistant, and State Championship winning high school coach here in Kentucky with Ballard high school.  He has coached the likes of NBA great Alan Houston, and UofL great DeJuan Wheat.  Bellarmine is the reigning NCAA DII National Champion, and will return three starters and their top reserve from this past season championship team, which will more than likely make them a contender once again for a DII championship.

As the Knights prepare for another championship run they have decided they best way to prepare for that run is to play best, and I am not talking DII contenders.  Although nothing has been finalized Davenport announced his tentative exhibition schedule, and it is a murderer’s row. The Knights will go to Louisville, Duke, and Xavier in the pre-season.  Talk about not resting on your laurels,  all three of teams made the tournament this past march, and in numerous 2011-2012 pre-season ranking UofL and Duke have been ranked in the top ten.

Bellarmine has shown they can win these types of games; as they will look to run their winning streak to two against Xavier, beating them 63-61 last season in Cincinnati.  I look for Bellarmine to be very competitive against UofL as the success of Bellarmine and the expectations of UofL next season should make for an extremely exciting game.  Should make for a can’t miss ticket here in the Ville as some March type intensity will be in play in November.  The most intriguing game of the three is the trip to Cameron Indoor to play Duke.  This is a place that teams don’t come in and win especially teams out of the ACC.  Duke has won NCAA best 85 consecutive non-conference home games, with the last loss coming February 26th 2000 against St. John’s.  And pre-season game or no pre-season game Cameron Indoor will be rockin with Cameron Crazies as Bellarmine will face the toughest home court advantage in college basketball.

In 2004 Louisville assistant coach Mick Cronin left Pitino’s staff to take the head coaching job at Murray State. After just three seasons as the Racers head man Cronin moved on to be the head coach at Cincinnati. His replacement Billy Kennedy this weekend left town to become the head coach at Texas A&M after a succesful five-year stint in Murray, Kentucky.

Could the local position opening be a good opportunity for  Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua or Kenny Payne now?

With Rick Pitino watching assistant coach Steve Masiello move on to Manhattan College and the process of bringing in three new faces, well two new and one repeat, the odds of someone leaving his staff to take over somewhere are very unlikely. Kentucky on the other hand has a pair of assistant coaches in Antigua and Payne that are primed to take that next  step.

First there is Kenny Payne. He just finished his first year under Calipari at Kentucky and may not be ready for a head coaching job. Known more for his recruiting ties then his ability to perform X and O’s though, Payne did spend six seasons as an assistant at Oregon before joining Kentucky’s staff. In Payne’s tenure at Oregon, the Ducks won a Pac-10 title and made the Elite Eight in 2007. Losing to eventual champion Florida.

The Racers other Kentucky assistant option could be Orlando Antigua. Antigua has a better resume then his colleague Kenny Payne and may be better prepared to take over his first head coaching position.  He has worked under Calipari for the last three years (two at UK and one at Memphis) and has been a huge component in bringing in three straight recruiting classes to Calipari of historic proportions. Prior to his brief stay in Memphis, Antigua worked at his alma mater, Pittsburgh. Antigua spent five seasons at Pittsburgh were the Panthers won 20+ games each year as well as one Big East  regular season title and one Big East tournament title.

Would either of Calipari’s assistants want to leave a Kentucky bench and roster that is favored along with North Carolina as a favorite to win the national title this season?

Would Murray State be a big enough name to get a coach like an Antigua away from Calipari?

The answer to both those questions can only be told in time but it is certain they both might be ready to move on. My own opinion says that this would be a good move for Antigua. Payne may not be ready just yet to be a head man but Antigua, who has been Calipari’s right hand man the last three seasons should be ready. Why not make Murray State his first head job?

The Racers are coming off a OVC regular season title and were in the second round of the NCAA tournament the year before. Knocking off SEC Vanderbilt before falling to national runner-up Butler 54-52. Murray will bring back their top scorer in sophomore guard Isaiah Canaan and their top rebounder in junior forward Ivan Aska next season.

This article was written by Hank Garrett, a contributor with KentuckySports.co.

This past week, former Wake Forrest player/ former Louisville Cardinal commit Tony Woods made a visit to Lexington and met with the UK coaching staff but also met with athletic director Mitch Barnhart and President Lee Todd.  Now I am not sure what was discussed in that meeting, but I would say that Wood’s character and past transgressions were brought up; stemming from Wood’s arrest for assault of his girlfriend on Labor Day weekend in 2010.  Although I think there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary with the A.D. and the President wanting to get a feel for a young man with a somewhat checkered past, it does show that the Kentucky program is going to maneuver this situation very carefully, if in fact that they do want Woods.  With caution is how they should proceed with Woods because of the potential backlash from the community.  Not to mention it may heighten the NCAA allegation lighting rod that is John Calipari.  But in the end if Cal does see something in Tony Woods that can help the program, and Barnhart and Todd don’t see it as a PR nightmare, I trust John Calipari one hundred percent.

When it comes to Public Relations John Calipari does not have an impeccable record.  The Derrick Rose SAT fiasco,  Tyreke Evans being present during a murder committed by his cousin, and the 2007 Memphis Men’s basketball bar fight that lead to the arrests of then players Shawn Taggart, and Jeffery Robinson.  But we all know by now that Calipari isn’t in this business to win a popularity contest, he is in it to win basketball games.  He doesn’t care what people say or write about him to almost a fault, and he won’t care about the criticism he will get if he takes Tony Woods.

One area where it is hard to find critisim about Cal is the product that he puts out on the floor year in and year out.  Not just the fact that his teams at both Memphis and Kentucky have won and won a lot. His teams seem to demonstrate certain chemistry and have not had the locker room problems that plague so many major college teams.   Which shows that in the locker room, in practice, and out on the floor, Cal is in Control.  In a sport where teenage premadonna egos run rampant control is sometimes a very difficult and fragile thing to have and John Calipari knows this.  So why would Cal risk the control that he has for a player like Tony Woods, when he seems to have the team that can give him his first national title?  The answer is he wouldn’t.  If Cal believes in any way that Tony Woods will be a problem on the court or disrupt the chemistry of this team they will not take him.  Cal knows how to manage egos and big personalities, look at the success he had with DeMarcus Cousins.   The questions about his character were almost as prominent as his talent.  Yet Cal was able to work his magic and prevented any major issues with Cousins, while Cousins was just a beast on the court, and helped lead Kentucky to 35-3 record and elite eight birth.  While Woods is in no way the talent Cousins is, but if Cal could keep Cousins in check I don’t see Tony Woods as problem under Cal and the fans and naysayers should see this too.

Big blue nation should have that faith because in Cal’s two seasons at the helm he has done nothing to show that he doesn’t know exactly what he is doing when it comes to winning basketball games.  If Kentucky were to take Tony Woods it would be for that reason, because Cal and the staff think he can help them win games.  Now there have been rumblings that taking woods would seem desperate, this thinking is just absolutely ridiculous.  Although all coaches may not admit on the record, but I would say most of them if the decision was left entirely up to them would take Tony Woods past and all.  That is because the coaches know that 6’11’ 250 pound players with a skill set that Wood’s has don’t just fall out of the sky, and they usually help you win games.   With all the talent that Kentucky will have next year if there is one hole it will be a in the middle, where they lack a true center.  Tony Woods can possibly fill that void plain and simple, and could possibly the difference maker in a tournament game when Kentucky needs a big rebound or to make a big stop.  If that were take place and Tony Woods character stayed at a high level, all the rumblings about Tony Woods would cease.  If Kentucky needs to take that gamble it is John Calipari’s decision, and no matter what it is I have complete faith that it will be the right one.