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Basketball has no off-season in Kentucky




Bob Watkins Sports in Kentucky

Bob Watkins Sports in Kentucky

Basketball has no off-season in Kentucky, and the glow radiates from Lexington these days.

UK’s basketball roster is 12 deep with another to come. The team’s academic report for spring sparkled. The Wildcats’ latest top recruits are in town, in class and in pick-up games.

From all accounts the new kids in town are high caliber from poise and skill on court to smarts off it. Most of all signals are they want to be here together. Stir in gray beard Darius Miller, “Tiger” Terrence Jones and Doron “No New Guy Is Taking My Playing Time” Lamb and little wonder Big Blue Nation is counting down days to, well, you know — glow times.

News & Views

NEWS. John Calipari reported his players’ grade point average last week. A team average 3.1.

VIEW. Good news. Ironically, Kentucky’s coach being moved to report GPA progress by his players means Bob Knight’s criticism produced a good thing.

Footnote. That Kentucky basketball players excelled in the classroom is no reason for Calipari to crow. His contract includes an obligation for student-athletes to make academic progress. Right?

NEWS. The Carrier Classic is November 11 – Michigan State versus North Carolina on an aircraft carrier deck in San Diego Harbor.

VIEW. But for blustery weather in the Commonwealth in November, a dream game could be No. 1 North Carolina at No. 2 Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium.

Shoni Schimmel

Next Best Thing in sports? Could be University of Louisville sophomore to-be Shoni Schimmel, native American, Umatilla Tribe.

The Cardinals’ dynamic playmaker was centerpiece in Off The Rez last week. A documentary featured on The Learning Channel, Off The Rez was more docu-drama giving viewers a year-in-the-life poignant look inside a growing family and its mix of handling good times-hard times and hard decisions, a (native American) Mom-coach of a successful girls basketball team and its star, Shoni Schimmel. We see racial divide and the P-Word blankets the entire 86 minutes. Pressure. And, how it all works out.

Excellent television. When Off the Rez comes round again, don’t miss it.

Meanwhile, Schimmel may well be college basketball’s next Jimmer Fredette. Fall in love with her smile, flash, charisma and her game.

David Stern

NBA commissioner David Stern offered a few intriguing views during a Q&A with Sports Illustrated recently.

• The Kings are contracted to play one more season in Sacramento then negotiate to stay or find a new home. If not likely, there is plausibility Louisville could be in the mix for an NBA franchise by 2013. Timing and lure of Yum Center or Freedom Hall makes River City a legitimate option.

• Asked if college basketball’s one-and-done is working for the NBA, Stern replied, “There’s no one-and-done rule. … It’s only one and done if the colleges solicit players to come (to their school) knowing they are likely to leave. (In that case) I don’t think colleges should take them in.”

• Asked if 20 should be set as minimum age for NBA-eligible, Stern said management had asked for a 20-year-old rule in collective bargaining with the players union “and we settled at 19. I’m sure we’ll ask again.”

Best case scenario: NBA management and players union agreement to allow high school basketball stars to apply for a job immediately. And, the NCAA applies its baseball rule to basketball – three years.

Result? Clear options. High school athletes intent on going to work (NBA) can do so. High school athletes inclined to advance their education for three years along with basketball and social skills, can.

Murray State

No surprise Murray State lost another basketball coach. Texas A&M hired Billy Kennedy away from Stepping Stone U. last weekend. Kennedy’s pay jumps triple to $1.3 million a year.

First question: How quickly can Kennedy bump up his recruiting pitch to compete with Rick Barnes at Texas and Scott Drew at Baylor?

Back in Murray, assistant coach Steve Prohm may be next in line.

Murray State hoops is a special story. Over decades and through a parade of coaches, Racers basketball has enjoyed incredible success dating back to one of my favorites, Cal Luther.

OVC Adds Fit Well

Perfect fit. The Ohio Valley Conference made a stellar move last week adding Belmont University (and Nashville) to its basketball circuit. Beginning with 2012-13 season, the Bruins join the league Uncle Ed Diddle built.

In an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, Vanderbilt’s Little Brother is an ideal geographic fit in a bus league with Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech, UT-Martin, SE Missouri and Eastern Illinois, and Kentucky affiliates Murray, Morehead and Eastern Kentucky, and a flight to Jacksonville State.

Readers (Right) Write

On one-and-done and Kentucky coach John Calipari.

RL in Ohio: “If I could skip college and make a couple million dollars or more, I would do so. Only way I would change my thoughts on this subject is if it was shown that John Calipari was telling kids ‘come to UK and I will get you to the pros quicker than any other coach. What I have heard (Cal) say is “when a kid is ready to go to the pros I will tell him so. This is what Rick (Pitino) did with (Jamal) Mashburn.”

Parting Shot

Before his death this week, baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew said would forego further treatments for incurable cancer and spend his remaining days “in comfort and peace with (wife) Nita by my side.”

Nicknamed the Killer for his strength, Killebrew was more a man of humility and good heart. Suddenly, as wonderful as they were, his 22 distinguished Big League seasons are an echo, perennial all-star status and 40-plus home run seasons eight times a whisper.

Today Harmon Killebrew is mortal and testament to golden value of kindness and caring for our fellows.

And so it goes.

You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com


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