“Born and raised in a house full of basketball talk,” an E-mail message said.
William Sparkman is among those who have lived longer, witnessed the parade of winning teams at Kentucky longer and watched from a special place on our map.
“I was born and raised in Mousie, Kentucky (Knott County).” Sparkman wrote.
A typical citizen in Big Blue Nation, with expertise honed by experience, common sense and time, his brand is higher quality than all who have sold out to oneand done.
Sparkman’s affection for UK hoops seems not measured by money, celebrity and hype, but style, priorities, and skilled team men dating to his favorite coach, Adolph Rupp.
And this: “My dad would turn the game on (TV), then listen to Cawood Ledford on radio,” he said. “Cawood would tell it like it was. … I miss those days.”
The note from the man from Mousie reminded me our game has changed so dramatically that an NCAA official said the other day, “We’ve got to make some changes to make our game watchable again.”
Watchable again? In Kentucky such words smack of sacrilege.
Sparkman’s UK favorites tell a story too: Dan Issel, Anthony Davis, Kenny Walker, Mike Casey, Tony Delk, Pat Riley, Kyle Macy, Jamal Mashburn, Sam Bowie and John Wall. Dedicated team men.
“I could go on forever with this list,” he said, “but if I coached a team I would want these 10.”
Finally, Sparkman had an issue to air. “… Of all the great players at UK only one has been player of the year. (Anthony) Davis. … This year Willie (Cauley-Stein) was the best player in the nation. No question!”
Ironically, Sparkman’s view is supported by best-there-ever-was Larry Bird. The Indiana Pacers executive told Cauley-Stein last week he believes the ex-UK star is a $100 million player.
For Kentucky, and more of a wait-and-see for Louisville, our state’s college basketball powers are projected among rankings high flyers again in 2015-16.
Considering that UK sent half its roster into the job market last month and came up zero-forseven on five-star recruits in the spring, how can Kentucky be a top five team in preseason polls?
Name recognition aside, it’s the plug-in factor.
Having lost recruits Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg (to Kansas), Jaylen Brown (California), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), and Steve Zimmerman (UNLV), Kentucky can plug in Skal Labissiere at center, Mychal Mulder at shooting guard, and Isaiah Briscoe anywhere. These newcomers plus a promising nucleus — Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis — merit a top ranking for the Wildcats again.
One certainty after not winning an NCAA title with an allstar team last year, Kentucky’s coach had better be primed for Big Blue fans who expect him to “Show us something!” this time around.
Louisville. A mostly (new) team that could crash and burn more likely will rise again under its Hall of Fame coach. If the Cardinals succeed, Rick Pitino will be back in demand to write another howto book.
Sign Of The Apocalypse?
University of Kentucky and its men’s basketball coach are discussing a one-year, $8 million contract extension.
Through 2022, it would pay the ball coach $54 million and replace a seven-year $52.5 million contract signed last June. Additionally, five weeks from now a longevity bonus kicks in at $1.6 million.
Odd, how media types report with enthusiasm gargantuan amounts of money going into the pockets of athletes, administrators and ball coaches, but never an investigative look into how they spend it.
When Kentucky suits up at Lawrence, Kansas next January 30, Wildcat coaches will see familiar faces wearing Jayhawk whites. Decisions of three prime recruits came down to UK and KU. And KU signed all three. Power forwards Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg and guard LeGerald Vick all picked Kansas over Kentucky last weekend.
Why would 6-4, 180-pound Vick choose Kansas over Kentucky? Maybe four reasons – shootist Mychal Mulder, Dominque Hawkins, Charles Mathews and Isaiah Briscoe who will earn time taking pride in playing defense.
Always interesting how some Kentucky fans hasten to overreact at any hint of slight against the Wildcats.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, in a fund raiser speech last week, put tongue-in-cheek and said, “… If you have to coach in Kentucky, they should pay you eight million dollars.”
Whereupon, an Internet fan website posted the headline: Boeheim Trashes State of Kentucky in Speech.
Trash a state?
Here came the reactions, predicated first to discredit the messenger.
“Boeheim’s a cheater!” … “Boeheim is a loser.” … “Everybody hates us because we’re UK” … “It’s jealousy!”
But, there is sanity and reason in Big Blue Nation too.
Boeheim’s joke brought these reactions also. v “(Kentucky’s coach) was in attendance. It was a JOKE! Nobody was trashing Kentucky.”
And this one, that should be chiseled in marble. v “I think y’all are wound too tight. It was said in good fun. Lighten up BBN.”
And so it goes.
You can reach me at bob.Watkins24@aol.com