2015 had its predictable and not highs and lows.
Looking back, a few notable column items come to the fore. Looking forward, native son Dominique Hawkins grew some the ways fans in Kentucky enjoy most, and Whitney Creech in Jenkins is growing too.
Also looking forward we still wait to see if the NCAA drops a hammer on North Carolina for cheating. Or will the governing body be so disappointed (afraid?) with Tar Heels country, Cleveland State will be slapped with probation.
Glancing back …
• Karl Anthony Towns led Kentucky to a record shattering 39-1 record and another Final Four in April, but the season still fell into the record book alongside 1966 … 1971 … 1975 … 1981 and 1984.
• Rick Pitino. Last January I suggested Da Coach ought to move on to television. Eleven-plus months later, with an NCAA investigation into an alleged sex scandal at Louisville as backdrop, the prevailing Pitino news was whether or not he raised his middle finger to hecklers at Rupp Arena last week.
Of course he did. So what? Move on.
• Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky played basketball at Diddle Arena December 1. A thriller. Game was decided on the last shot, a 3-pointer by WKU’s Justin Johnson, a native of Hazard.
Now, about a EKU-WKU football series.
• Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, on their way to a 12-2 and bowl win, became the most entertaining college football team not enough of America got to see on television.
• Kentucky-Louisville game in Rupp Arena last week was college hoops at its best. Entertainment quotient – caliber of play and pas- sion for fans was central to its success. Never mind coach technicals and Pitino’s finger.
Reminds me, how fans in Kentucky, arguably the best educated basketball fans in America, are systematically fleeced every November-December.
• Directors of Athletics Mitch Barnhart at Kentucky and Tom Jurich at Louisville, at the behest of their coaches, schedule a parade of flyweight opponents not worthy of fans’ dollars. Priority for ADs? The gate. To sell out two of the finest arenas in the country is the goal, caliber of opponents doesn’t matter. “Open the doors and fans will come.”
• Louisville “stormed back from 16 points” at Kentucky last week before losing 75-73, is fair to say. But, “Kentucky backed up, frittered away a 16-point lead,” is accurate also.
Because the Wildcats panicked, forgot how to counter all court pressure, they are guaranteed to face UofL-like pressure often in weeks ahead.
• Irony Dept. Kentucky fans were asked to “be classy” with Louisville in Rupp Arena last Saturday. Mostly, they were all the way to the last footsteps in the last moment before Louisville’s coach stepped into the hallway from the arena.
• Dominique Hawkins. Thirteen points, a rebound, and an assist against Louisville was more than sum of its parts.
Suddenly, there was no looking at the bench for approval. Hawkins logged 26 minutes while fans witnessed confidence bloom, and audacity.
Now a 21-year-old junior, Hawkins has been a best-seatin the-house loyalist. Played little, pouted some, confidence sagged, looked lost, and was recruited over (JUCO Michael Mulder), but stayed on.
He took four shots Saturday, all from distance, and all went in. One that bounced off the 30-second clock and didn’t count went in too. And, he scored his team’s last five points.
Hawkins’s experience is an educational video for Skal Labissiere and next wave of johnnyjump shot types intending to be one-and-done.
The Hawkins’s Formula: Have a dream … take a bite of humble pie … study … work … grow … learn to handle downers and coach-yell … have another piece of pie … grow. Then, seize the day.
Hawkins will be 22 in June. One day too soon the ball will stop bouncing. Ah, the college experience.
• Whitney Creech – 50.9 points and 17.7 rebounds per game for Jenkins High School earned her a splashy 3-page spread in the Lexington Herald-Leader the other day and a feature in USA Today.
Much ado about Creech’s work schedule, snack habits and community pride in her via a local store marquee.
Nice reward for WKU-bound guard-forward-center.
Sports Person(s) Of Year
Top five from here:
5. Kentucky’s basketball team, 39-1.
4. Western Kentucky’s football team 12-2.
3. Football coach Philip Haywood at 3A three-times-in-arow state champion Belfry High School.
2. Katina Powell, Louisville sex scandal. A recycle of a Jerry Tarkanian classic: “Maybe the NCAA will be so mad at Louisville, Hawaii will be given the death penalty.”
1. Brandon Doughty, All American and college graduate, Western Kentucky University.
• From April. After Wisconsin beat Kentucky at the Final Four, Badger reserve Vitto Brown got on an airplane and encountered an attendant who said she was a Kentucky graduate.
Brown tweeted a friend: “Walked on the plane with a Badgers shirt. Flight attendant asked if I played. I said yes. She said she bleeds blue. I said keep bleeding.”
Kentucky’s ex-offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, it said in this space last week, will make $550,000-a-year from University of Kentucky through 2018 or until he takes a new job.
That ’s $ 4,583- a- month, I wrote. Wrong! Friend John Roseberry in Elizabethtown red lighted my math.
UK’s check to Dawson will be $45,833 a month. Before taxes.
With your New Year’s party in mind, this: “Remember, life is too short to drink cheap wine!”
But let someone else drive home.
And so it goes
You can reach me at bob.Watkins24@aol.com