Phyllis Diller pretty and Parris Island tough, theme enough for Kentucky’s first SEC road win, at Georgia last week.
The kind of grind-it-out victory that lets Big Blue faithful realize what boot camp can do.
Billy Clyde’s boys did a Cowboy Up in Athens that sent an old message across the old south. Old Colonel Kentucky might be short on skilled soldiers, but it’s long on relentless. Watch out boys, look at who’s climbing out of the fox hole.
With Ramel Bradley sitting in a twilight zone and Jody Meeks back on the DL, Gillispie called Joe Crawford to man up. Then he called out Derrick Jasper. Both are wounded and candidates for purple hearts, and both played with a limp that gladdens the hearts of Kentucky fans who love their work-ethic Wildcats enough to name their children Kyle, Derrick and Winston. Is Ramel next?
Too early and too optimistic to call it a surge, but the Wildcats are beginning to show a little Fiddlin’ Five symphony. Boys turned men who take turns fiddlin’ as pretty as Phyllis Diller, and pulling up one another’s bootstraps transforming a nightmare first two months into a team-made march back to respectability.
Irony? Gillispie is beginning to get results … with Tubby Smith’s players.
“Those who say the SEC is down this year aren’t seeing the same league I’m coaching in,” South Carolina’s Dave Odom says.
In fact, the ‘SEC down’ came from ESPN’s Jay Bilas, The media herd jumped it, and fans bought it.
In fact, 11 of 12 SEC teams have winning records; five are or have been ranked in the top 25.
Best part? The SEC is extraordinarily young. Sixteen of the top 20 in minutes played are underclassmen; 10 of the top 15 scorers are not seniors and include four freshmen. (see next paragraph).
Nation’s premier freshmen? The SEC has four, Chris Warren at Ole Miss, Nick Calathes at Florida, Patrick Patterson at Kentucky and A.J. Ogilvy at Vandy.
The Louisville Cardinals will meet Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament. That, according to one internet bracketologist.
But first, the Cardinals still have issues. Shot discipline. Recognizing good from bad. Extra pass. Has it sunk in yet one more pass can result in more than player-of-the-game. More vital: Can the Cards defend with passion for 40 minutes? Louisville must climb out of the wouldashoulda coulda category.
But, it’s February and UofLhas arrived at a surge point. With two games against Georgetown to come, visits to DePaul, Providence and Pittsburgh, coupled with home dates with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Villanova, Rick Pitino’s team will surge to high seed probable or sag to NCAA Bubble Land.
UK ‘Horse’ Award
The coming of Patrick Patterson as a relentless work horse, brings us to rating best post players in UK basketball history. We will call it the Horse Award in recognition of the standard of work hard, play hard, Hall of Famer, Dan “Horse’ Issel.
Qualifications? Less emphasis on points and rebounds and more on heart and sustained passion. Playing hard for 94 feet and most of 40 minutes. Or, polar opposite of Randolph Morris.
The Horse Award. In order, my special seven: Dan Issel, Kenny Walker, Rick Robey, Cliff Hagan, Ed Beck, Thad Jaracz, and Mark Pope.
How about your special seven?
Footnote: Centers who must rate high on any list, but I did not see play the post – Bill Spivey, Alex Groza and Cotton Nash.
Jeffersontown High basketball coach Jeff Morrow is latest to feel the sting of KHSAA sanction for rules violations. Morrow denies recruiting student-athletes, but evidence got him a four games suspension and more. J’town boys basketball is on probation through the 2008-09 season.
The punishment is an embarrassment for J’town boys basketball and Morrow has faces two new challenges as an educator. Explain to a J’town kid and his parents why their son will sit while a new kid gets his opportunity. And, explain to coaching peers about the stain on his reputation.
Meanwhile, the KHSAA’s action is a volley across the bows of two constituencies.
– High school administrators who look the other way or are complicit in violating rules do so at their peril since whistle blowing is in vogue.
– And, the governing body demonstrated again it is a pragmatic partner in teaching studentathletes about ethics and consequences for the weak argument for justification, “… recruiting, other schools are doing it to win, so we have to do it too.”
Kudos to J.B. Holmes who pressed Phil Mickelson into a playoff then won the FBR Open in Arizona Sunday. A Campbellsville native, Holmes joined the PGA Tour one year ago. Last Sunday the 25-year-old took home a check for $1.08 million.
Bigger prize? Holmes is on the brink of qualifying for the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup at Valhalla Country Club near Louisvill in September. “I want to play in my home state for my country,” he told a wire service reporter.
And so it goes.
Have a point of view you’d like to share? Write to bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com