Somerset coach Robbie Lucas felt that quarterback Kaiya Sheron had a better command of the offense this season than he did in 2019 when Somerset won the Class AA state championship.
“Obviously it was his team this year,” said Lucas. “He got better each year here and this year he improved a great deal. I have never coached a Mr. Football but he is a viable candidate for sure.
“He is that good. He had Power 5 offers and committed to Kentucky early or he would have had more offers. His future is extremely bright.”
Sheron plans to sign with Kentucky this week even after the dismissal of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw.
“I trust coach (Mark) Stoops and he has done a good job at Kentucky. I trust who he will hire,” Sheron said.
Lucas said he never had a conversation with Sheron about UK’s offense this season.
“Kaiya will figure that out. A lot of times a team’s record is not indicative of what you are. During this COVID year to expect the Kentucky offense to bounce back and put up big yards this year was probably unrealistic,” Lucas said. “Kaiya gets all that.”
Sheron amassed 9,009 total yards and 81 touchdowns — 7,080 yards and 56 touchdowns passing and 1,929 yards and 25 scores rushing — in his career and had a 31-5 record as a starting quarterback, including a state championship in 2019. Sheron completed 413 of 640 passes and threw only 16 interceptions.
Lucas was most impressed by the way Sheron improved the way he read progressions this season.
“He just understood defenses and coverages better. He checked us in and out of a lot more plays this season,” Lucas said. “He lost some key receivers and linemen from last year. He had to adjust and let some other kids catch up with him. But we still scored a bunch of points thanks to him.”
Sheron missed part of his eighth-grade and freshmen seasons with knee injuries.
“I worried about his future. He never did. He just worked to get stronger,” Lucas said.
Sheron has what Lucas calls a “reserved personality” on and off the field.
“He never gets too high or low. I always thought he handled every pressure situation the same whether it was the last drive of the state championship game or our last game this year,” Lucas said. “He’s a very smart, heady kid. He’s a verbal leader but leads more by his actions. Kids look up to him and follow him because they see the work and effort he puts in. That’s why he improved so much.”
Somerset lost to Lexington Christian — a team it beat during the season — in the second round of the playoffs but Sheron was proud of the way his team handled this season.
“It was stressful, especially at the beginning,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors and bunch of guys close to me. If we had not able to play it was going to be really tough. Then when we did, we had a bunch of new kids that were not Somerset football ready for a while. We got better as a football team and I was just happy we got to play.”
Lucas said the COVID-related stress took a toll on players and coaches.
“I felt like every morning we were in a shooting gallery. Was COVID going to take away the season or practice or games? It was like waiting for the bullet to get you. But we got to play nine games and had a very good team. Kiaya was our leader and handled being in that shooting gallery all year very well. He was very resilient.”
Sheron never had any second thoughts about finishing his high school academic work at Somerset this week and enrolling at UK in January to start his collegiate career even if it means giving up basketball where he averaged 9.0 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game for his 26-6 team.
“No regrets (about missing basketball),” Sheron said. “Maybe later, but not now. I’m ready to report to UK and get started.”
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When Kentucky plays UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic Saturday there will be a familiar face playing for the Bruins.
Sophomore Johnny Juzang transferred from UK after his freshman season — with the blessing of UK coach John Calipari. Juzang made his UCLA debut in the Bruins’ 83-56 victory over San Diego last week at Pauley Pavilion after missing the first four games with a foot injury. He had 10 points — and hit a 3-pointer — and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin likes what Juzang adds for the Bruins that might not show on the stat sheet.
“Johnny is such a weapon to score, he gives space to guys to drive to the basket,” Cronin said. “You always have to be guarding him.”
Juzang, who had a limited role at UK, was happy to finally get to play again, especially back in his home state.
“It felt great, man. I’ve been waiting to play a game in this jersey for a while now. My conditioning, my body in general, my foot as well — everything felt really good,” Juzang said after the win. UCLA has a balanced scoring offense and Cronin likes to go to his bench “We have multiple guys that can start. Trying to wear teams down with fresh bodies is going to be a big factor for us going forward,” Cronin said. “Whoever we put in the game, we have to be able to count on them to be solid on the defensive end and make good decisions on the offensive end. It will allow us to play at a pace that wears teams down.”
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Kentucky coach John Calipari had suggested he might give freshman wing Terrence Clarke a chance to play point guard if his team’s point guard play did not improve. Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy thought the UK coach would only do that as a “last resort” for several reasons.
“Terrence at the point is not impossible but it would be hard to do given the circumstances they are in,” DeCourcy said. “I think (senior Davion) Mintz is a capable point guard. He can shoot, handle the ball and start the offense.”
Yet in Kentucky’s loss to Notre Dame last week, Calipari did put Clarke at point guard for most of the game. He finished with 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting with three assists, two rebounds and one steal in 38 minutes. But he also had a team-high four turnovers.
“Terrence has size and he’s really aggressive in the lane. I think it opens up a lot of things, a lot of options. He can pass the ball, he has great vision. So, I think going forward, he’s really good at that position,” UK center Olivier Sarr said.
Despite the turnovers, Calipari said he liked Clarke at point guard so he likely will be playing that position a lot more.
“I like having his hands on the ball. I like him at point,” Calipari said. “Weren’t you (media members) more comfortable with him having the ball in his hands? Didn’t you know that he could make plays at the rim and score and do things where they got to play him?”
What about freshman Devin Askew, the team’s other point guard?
“The biggest problem with Askew is that he does not go past anybody,” DeCourcy said. “But the second problem is when the ball does recycle to him and he is open, he does not shoot it. His numbers are not awful (from 3-point range) but the number of attempts taken is ridiculous.”
Askew has only taken 10 3-pointers in five games but he’s made four of them. He’s got the best 3-point percentage on this year’s UK team and DeCourcy says he has to shoot more. “At some point Devin has to play at this level and if he’s not ready, then let him wait until next year and move on to someone else,” he said.