Whitesburg KY

Where SEC hoops officials can improve

Now that University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari is resting in the weeks after his team’s special NCAA championship game appearance, it is time for the powers that be in the Southeastern Conference to tweak their officiating crews a tad so they can better understand how to implement the rules of the game and incorporate some plain and simple rationale into when to toot the old whistle.

I’m here to help.

Let’s start with some observations from my spot on the baseline where Rupp Arena’s press row is located. Supposedly, the supervisor of each NCAA conference constantly demands each official be in correct floor position and concentrate on their respective areas, especially in the half-court setting. I lost count by late December of how many times the outside official standing within five to seven feet of mid-court — 40 to 45 feet from the lane area — would blow his whistle and make a call in the lane or in the low post area while the baseline official standing right there completely swallowed his whistle, making him look clueless to the contact level directly in front of him.

By the way, let’s give credit where it’s due. The contact level out on the perimeter, which was a point of emphasis this past year, was much improved, but as the season grew on the lane area ended up being another blood bath where only those with pure brute strength survived. The exception was UK’s Julius Randle, who was beaten like a rented mule every night to the point he stopped looking to score and Cal stopped setting him up to score. Cal tried to defend his stud forward with the boys in stripes many times early on, but I’m afraid Coach Cal doesn’t have the respect from today’s officials like Adolph Rupp had when the opponents beat on Cliff Hagan or big Dan Issel. Or maybe I should say the SEC brethren today don’t fear the wrath of Cal like they did The Baron when the Kentucky basketball legacy was being built.

Hopefully this summer the supervisors will work to clean the game up so the skill levels of the players can show more and determine the outcome of the game more than just being physically strong and bullish with football-type contact.

It may have been different in the old days when Coach Rupp walked the sidelines, but in the past 25 years of the so-called modern age of college sports you’ll never convince me that Kentucky’s basketball team, when playing in Rupp Arena, gets even close to as many breaks as LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama do when they strap on the helmet and shoulder pads on the gridiron.

Calipari’s Fantasy Camp

One of the more popular summer vacations for those who live and die sports is the fantasy camp experience of recent years. There are a select few that have been considered highly successful and have waiting lists. Most are with professional sports teams, and some of the more popular fantasy camps are offered by the New York Yankees, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Boston Red Sox. Richard Petty’s racing fantasy camp also does very well.

When John Calipari arrived at UK some five years ago he mentioned early on that he thought the fantasy camp experience was ideal for certain UK basketball fans. Coach Cal will be hosting his third annual Kentucky Wildcats Fantasy Camp later this summer. It is basically an entire weekend of experiencing what it is like 24/7 to be a Kentucky Wildcat basketball player with Coach Cal and his staff overseeing the entire experience with the assistance of several former and present UK basketball players.

Each camper is provided lodging and meals plus a nice Nike gift bag to take home that includes several expensive gifts and your own personalized UK Wildcat uniform.

There are several spots left at this time for this summer’s camp that will take place August 22-24. You can be one of the select few to experience the camp if you can pony up $6,995.

You can go online to www.johncalipariexperience.com for more information, or call (513) 745-5850.

UK’s baseball, softball teams advance

Gary Henderson and his battle-tested Bat Cats entered post-season play as the No. 9 seed in the extremely tough SEC baseball tournament this week. If they weathered the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, No. 1 seed Florida awaited them on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Most folks inside the program feel the team’s high RPI ranking has the Bat Cats a lock for the NCAA tournament, but Henderson’s team has been dealt a bad hand in recent years by the boys from the NCAA baseball selection committee.

In many ways Rachel Lawson’s UK softball program is at the same crossroads this post season as Matthew Mitchell’s UK women’s basketball team has been the last two years. There has been one more hump to jump on the road to rebuilding their respective programs.

For a couple years now, Mitchell and his women’s hoops program have made it to the Elite 8 round but couldn’t finish the deal and get that coveted Final Four spot. As Lawson and her UK softball program make their way West to UCLA for their second straight Super Regional appearance they are still looking to make their first-ever appearance in the Women’s College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City.

To do so they must win two of three from the Lady Bruins on their own turf. UCLA is the No. 3-ranked softball team in the tournament, so it won’t be an easy task.

That final hurdle in the rebuilding process is usually the most difficult, but until it’s completed you can’t really feel fulfilled as a player or coach. So here is our most special wish that Rachel Lawson and her team earns that coveted bid to the land of “Oz” in Oklahoma City this weekend.

Just stay out West for the week and celebrate, because you have come a long way baby, both as a team and a sport.

Columnist Ira Combs of Jeff in Perry County operates Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. with his brother, Harold. There web address is: www.combsbrothersonkysports.com

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