Whitesburg KY

Are Wildcats the Yankees of NCAA?

Sports in Kentucky



Indiana is a basketball state. Kentucky isn’t. Hard to swallow isn’t it, living this side of the Ohio River?

The Hoosier high school all-star boys swept another pair from its Kentucky Kousins last weekend. Is 13 in a row and 92nd in 134 games dating to 1939. Last time Kentucky won a game in this series, the U.S. government was freezing Osama bin Laden’s bank accounts.

Once upon a time Indiana- Kentucky matched was a midsummer classic, clash of titans in America’s heartland of hoops where kids dreamed to make the team. Basketball states is now singular.

Today, Indiana is still passionate about basketball, but all-star high school hoops in Kentucky has meandered down to a yawn, shrug, given way to pay-to-play summer camp, “I gotta be thinking about my NBA future,” and video gaming in the shade.

Traveling by car across the Bluegrass State’s 120 counties, I see a plentiful number of outdoor basketball goals but difference is, kids aren’t using them, even ball goals with fresh nets.

To further the Kentucky-is-nobasketball state argument, these sets of numbers. v Eight-hundred-thirty-four. In all the Commonwealth this was the reported attendance for last Saturday’s all-star game at Transylvania University. 834 tickets sold. v Two. Jersey No. 1 for the first time in my memory, Mr. Basketball for both states were no-shows. Vanderbilt-bound Camron Justice and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue).

In 59 years of Mr. Basketball, here’s a first: A compliance office spokesman at Vanderbilt dictated Camron Justice could not play. He “is now considered a college athlete.” v And One. Kentucky’s best big man and Louisville signee Raymond Spaulding didn’t bother. Practice and games, a no show. Apparently he “now belongs to University of Louisville.”

Changing times. Probably time for Indiana to file for divorce. Take it’s dedicated all-stars and series to Ohio or Illinois. Kentucky high schools’ best making the team, representing the state, is not important.

On our side of the Ohio, on another level, a flicker of irony.

With enthusiasm for future gone tepid, preserving the past becomes a new option – a basketball museum.

Ground-breaking and plans for a hoops museum located in Elizabethtown was announced in early June by Association of Basketball Coaches.

Geographically is sound, and downtown (with convenient parking) makes perfect a museum for fans to appreciate what has gone before – players and personalities and places, will project images of times when basketball was still a magical dream game in Kentucky.

With another historical fact in mind, I hope the museum in E’town enjoys a more sustained run of popularity than the once hot item one linked to University of Kentucky. Fan interest even around tradition-rich UK didn’t last.

Today, given the abject decline of interest in the Kentucky-Indiana summer series, I hope officials have ever developing ideas to maintain interest for fan visits to E’town.

Maybe it will re-ignite a surge of pride on this side of the Ohio to lift Kentucky back to a place equal to Indiana again as a Basketball State.

Rick Pitino ‘Plans’

Something comical seeing a 62-year-old ball coach discuss a contract extension intended to assure he will be screaming at 19-year-olds another decade-plus, until age 73.

Rick Pitino discussed his new deal with University of Louisville last week and even the idea of a press conference brought to mind Woody Allen’s expression: “Wanna make God laugh? Tell Him(Her) your plans for tomorrow.”

With grinnin’ Tom Jurich at his left, who apparently believes he will live forever also, and God on Pitino’s other side, Da Coach plans to stay on the job through the 2026.

This was gold for us if not for the Pitino at Minnesota: “… never thought at 62 I would be more passionate than 22 or 32, and I am. I just really, really love it.”

Admirable and good motivation for us, Pitino’s sustained joy and passion for his work after 30 years-plus, coaching at five universities and new plans to stay for 11 more.

God must be smiling … for now.

Villains In Sports?

Headline at internet site Bleacher Buzz, June 12: Biggest villains in sports today.

First 10, column-writer Laura Depta says: Sepp Blatter (FIFA), Roger Goodell (NFL), Alex Rodriquez (Yankees), Floyd Mayweather (boxer), Skip Bayless, Bill Belichick (coach), Tom Brady (Patriots), John Calipari (Kentucky), Dwight Howard (NBA), and Dan Snyder (NFL owner)

“… Calipari is one of those ongoing sports villains,” Depta writes. “This is likely, in part, because of the success he has enjoyed as the poster coach for oneand done recruits. In April, seven players from his Final Four team declared for the NBA draft.

“ Calipari has been known to make some arrogant statements now and again, as well, often rubbing people the wrong way.”

Old Made New?

An age thing, I suppose. Being here long enough, we are certain to witness old ideas recycled, made new again. This week, sports writer Samuel Goldman at Hardwood Nation compared Kentucky basketball to the New York Yankees.

Gosh, I thought, Goldman must be 12-years-old. That premise was not even new when 66-year-old Mike Pratt was Mr. Bank Shot at Kentucky.

Excerpt : “ Every evil sports empire possesses the ability to reload talent immediately. What (John) Calipari is doing appears to be working. The Wildcats’ ability to consistently build one-and-done dream teams rivals the Yankees front office. Now that’s impressive can you imagine how talented the wildcats would be if they were allowed to spend money?”

You can read Goldman’s 531-word old-made-new notion on the Internet.

And so it goes.

You can reach me at bob. Watkins24@aol.com

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