Kentucky Speedway announced on Wednesday that Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been named the honorary pace car driver for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400, which takes place on June 29.
In the release, Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger proclaimed the opening lap to be “one of the quickest fast breaks in the history of our commonwealth.” And for his part, Calipari is looking forward to taking part in the festivities.
“It’s kind of like walking out in the Final Four and having your team behind you, excited and ready to go,” Calipari said in the release. “The last time I was part of this event it was incredible. This is a great thing that brings our people together. The state of Kentucky takes great pride in the facility like it does in basketball, like it does in horseracing, like it does in bourbon.”
Calipari’s appearance isn’t the only college basketball-related aspect of this year’s Quaker State 400, as Brian Vickers’ car (and fire suit) for the event has a paint scheme that will honor the reigning national champion Louisville Cardinals.
This is the second consecutive year in which Michael Waltrip Racing has honored a national champion in this particular race, with Michael Waltrip driving a Kentucky-themed car in honor of the 2012 national champions.
“Like everyone in Kentucky I grew up watching basketball. It’s a part of our culture and tradition,” Waltrip said in the release announcing the new paint scheme for Vickers’ car. “We have so many great teams in our state that when March Madness rolls around it is just a great time of the year for everyone.
“Last year our Kentucky Wildcats won the championship and I got to race the car at Kentucky Speedway. This year we have the Louisville Cardinals on the car and we get to honor them as well. I’ve always been a huge fan of Rick Pitino and it means the world to me to join him and celebrate with Louisville.”
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
NEW YORK (AP) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s next book will be a fond look back at his long friendship with John Wooden, the celebrated basketball coach at UCLA.
“Coach Wooden and Me” will be published next June and will combine personal memories and lessons learned from his friend and mentor, Grand Central Publishing told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Wooden, who died in 2010, coached 10 NCAA championship teams at UCLA. Three titles were won while Abdul-Jabbar, then called Lew Alcindor, was the Bruins’ star center.
Abdul-Jabbar, who went on to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, remained close to Wooden. In a statement released through Grand Central, he called Wooden a great coach and “an even better teacher and friend.” Abdul-Jabbar’s other books include the memoir “Giant Steps” and the novel “Mycroft Holmes.”
Five-star 2017 prospect Brian Bowen has trimmed his list of possible collegiate destinations to six.
Creighton, North Carolina State, UCLA, Michigan State, Arizona and Texas are still under consideration, Bowen announced Wednesday evening.
Bowen, a consensus top-20 recruit, is a 6-foot-8 small forward out of Sagniaw, Mich., but he currently is attending the prestigious La Lumiere School in Indiana. He’s also the cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, leaving many to believe that he’s a heavy Spartan lean.
“People think I’m 100 percent to Michigan State,” Bowen told Brendan Quinn of MLive.com earlier this month. “I love them to death and I’ve been there my whole life and everything — it’s a great coaching staff and everything — but I’m not 100 percent to a school until I commit there. Right now, I’m open to the schools that are recruiting.”
Bowen hasn’t said when he plans on making a final decision.
Indiana senior Collin Hartman underwent surgery to repair damage on his left knee, the school announced Wednesday.
The Hoosiers provided no timetable for Hartman’s return following a non-contact injury he suffered in practice last week.
“Any time you see one of your players go down to injury,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said in a statement, “it tears you up as a person and as a program — even more so when it’s someone like Collin Hartman, who has been a huge part of our success and is in his senior year. We all look forward to helping him recover and rehabilitate.”
After playing sparingly as a freshman, Hartman has been a role player for the Hoosiers the last two seasons, averaging right around 20 minutes per game. He put up 5.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists last year as a junior.
The school hasn’t released the nature or severity of the Hartman’s injury, so it’s impossible to even guess when he might be able to suit up next for the Hoosiers, who are a likely top-15 team heading into the season.
Indiana opens the year in a big way on Nov. 11, facing off against Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu.
The upward trajectory of Virginia Tech basketball under Buzz Williams continued Wednesday.
Wabissa Bede, a Class of 2017 point guard, committed to the Hokies to give them their second top-100 player in the class.
The 6-foot-1 Massachusetts native choice Virginia Tech after taking official visits to both Blacksburg and Butler with UMass and LaSalle also in the mix. He’s ranked 77th in the 247Sports composite rankings.
“Wabissa Bede is a rugged guard who helps his team win games by defending and playing smart basketball,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “He can stand to improve his perimeter jumper, but he has a high IQ and can make plays for others as a passer.
“Bede is a perfect Buzz Williams fit.”
Williams is developing quite the backcourt in this class with top-50 shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker already committed to the Hokies.
It’s becoming a good time to be a Virginia Tech basketball fan after a couple of lean years to start the Williams era. The Hokies are a likely top-25 team and expected to end a 10-year NCAA drought this season with Seth Allen and Zach LeDay returning.
With the improvement of the on-court product and the recruiting successes, Virginia Tech certainly looks like a program on the rise.
Indoor basketball courts.
A kitchen that’s nicer than what is in my home.
A pool table.
A rooftop patio overlooking the baseball field.
Flat-screens literally everywhere.
The $12 million building also houses 17 students that don’t play on the basketball team. I wonder how much money their parents had to donate to the school to get them on that list?
[Video via KUHoops.com, a Jayhawk-centric vertical launched by the Kansas City Star this month. Go ahead and bookmark that page. You’ll want it.]