University of Kentucky fans may have witnessed a breakthrough moment last week. Says here, didn’t happen in Knoxville.
Scene: Second half against Georgia. UK had a large secondhalf lead when Jodie Meeks broke free on a three-on-two fast break. In front of family and friends, the native Georgian, fresh off 54 five days ago, was clear for a pull-up jump or drive to the hoop.
Instead, Meeks slipped a bounce pass through traffic across the lane to a teammate coming from the left. Result: Michael Porter lay-up and one.
A team-play moment.
Coupled with a platinum win at Knoxville and romp in Athens, the Wildcats had two road wins, are 3- 0 in league play, and showing signs of a team becoming one.
So, another eat-crow January for SEC media and national experts who chortled in preseason “Kentucky is history.”
Kentucky atop the SEC. Tunes are changing, times have not. Again.
In Knoxville, Meeks was a video game, his right arm plugged into a GPS. National player of the week put on a show that stuffed a large sock into mouths of 20,000 Rocky Tops and moved Wayne Chism to roll his eyes toward that Bozo the Clown headband.
Meeks was a clinic not seen since Pistol was in Baton Rouge. Difference? Meeks shot 22 times on the way to 54. No conscience Pete Maravich would have fired 45-50 times.
Gleeful Kentucky fans haven’t had as much fun watching Tennessee get its orange sliced since Chris Lofton’s eligibility ran out. And the big hurt Hoptown native Scotty Hopson planned for home state will have to wait.
After the game one UK fan elbowed another, winked and had a question for Kentucky media: “So, tell us, which one of you guys is gonna e-mail Jay Bilas to ask if Kentucky needs a third scorer?”
Meeks’s KO in Knoxville also set off a spirited debate in Big Blue Nation. Who is Kentucky’s best shooter ever?
Here’s one man’s list.
5. Travis Ford (1992-94). Quickest release. True point guard whose shooting was equaled by passing and floor savvy.
4. Tony Delk (1993-96). Strong and certain every shot was going in.
3. Larry Pursiful (1960-62). Immaculate jump shot form and deadly from perimeter.
2. Kyle Macy (1877-80). A clinician at shot selection. Over three seasons shot an incredible 52 percent.
Best of the best?
1. Louie Dampier (1965-67). Swished 50.8 percent and averaged 17, 21 and 20 in three seasons without a 3-point line. Dampier could not always see the basket, but knew where its center point was.
UofL & Number 1
Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals splattered Pittsburgh last week. Impressive.
The Cardinals did not beat the best team in college hoops however. A three-game series, Wake Forest against Pitt, would be a Deacon sweep.
No matter what polls say, Pitino knows UofL need wins at Rutgers and Syracuse to re-earn top 10 ranking. Card fans who say it doesn’t matter ignore the popular add-on to the English language — bracketology.
ELSEWHERE . . .
• In Bowling Green. Western Kentucky scrambled to the summit of League Sun Belt with wins over Middle Tennessee and New Orleans. Steffphon Pettigrew scored a put-back against each to secure wins. More and more Mr. Basketball ’07 elevates his confidence, broadens his comfort zone on the Hill.
• Georgetown. Perennial power No. 3 Georgetown (17-1) beat University of Cumberlands and passed Bellarmine (14-2) as our state’s only once-beaten team.
• Mid-state. Personal favorite Burgin High, near Harrodsburg, won its 12th game last week. Most Bulldog wins in a season since the average American worker’s pay was $7,564 and our national debt was only $382 billion. Burgin could be the People’s Choice if the Bulldogs advance to the All A Classic in Richmond.
• Owensboro. Apollo High’s Tony Hopper will coach the Kentucky All-Stars against Indiana in June. Hopper’s skill for blending stars into team is a large plus. Tryouts at Campbellsville College are in April. Kentucky plays the Hoosiers June 14 at Bellarmine.
• Covington. Unless Hopper’s ’09 team manages to sweep the Hoosiers, next best chance falls to Covington Catholic coach Listerman who will chose his 2010 team from a bumper crop of seniors to-be. Twenty of the state’s 49 top-rated players this year are juniors, according to veteran talent scout Rick Bolus.
• Winchester. Media massage continues for Jon Hood at Madisonville, C.J. Penny at Anderson County, Vee Sanford at Lexington Catholic, and an all-star team at Scott County. But two-towatch are Robbie Stenzel at Clark County and Elijah Pittman at Holmes.
• Covington. As is tradition, high school basketball in Jefferson and Fayette County regions, along with popular teams of the day in eastern Kentucky (Mason and Elliott Counties), earn a lion’s share of media attention, but going about its business making it the team to watch is Covington Holmes (15-1).
• Elizabethtown. Dwayne Ellis was inducted into the Kentucky Baseball Hall of Fame last week. As with Jim Rice and Cooperstown, Ellis’s induction was too long coming. An accomplished and nononsense educator, Ellis built baseball at North Hardin High School from the classroom out. His winsome style (and smile) re- minded us of Chuck Tanner handling Pittsburgh’s Lumber Company in 1979. Do fundamentals, stayed disciplined, keep an eye on the goal, treat everyone fairly and let them play.
Jodie Meeks’s 54-point gem on ESPN Big Tuesday made headlines well into last week. Bonus for Kentucky fans? Dan Issel came back to center stage for a cameo. Hall of Famer Issel’s 53 points record had lasted 39 seasons.
Issel was quick and gracious, telling reporters Meeks’s new record “couldn’t happen to a nicer kid.”
And so it goes.
Contact Bob Watkins at