Earlier this summer, rumors swirled that Rupp Arena may undergo a face-lift in the near future. This news came with some very mixed emotions to many, and that hasn’t changed in the subsequent months.
Change can be good, but not to all in Big Blue Nation who feel that renovating Rupp Arena and potentially changing the name of the arena — gasp — would cause a divide among the fan base. In the latest update of this saga, mayor Jim Gray said he welcomes all kinds of second-guessing when it comes to renovating Rupp, according to KentuckySports.com: “It’s been very informing to hear those voices, which illustrate just how much people care and the attachment they have to this shrine.”
A major part of the renovation would be to add luxury suites, loge boxes and a private lounge. Suites and other lavish amenities — who wouldn’t want this? On the surface it looks nice, but the primary issue is that ticket prices would almost assuredly increase, and that is reason for concern for much of Big Blue Nation. Fans whose wallets aren’t quite as thick as some others may be forced to give up their seats.
University of Kentucky trustee Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton summed up his thoughts on the possibility of fans losing their seats due to a rise in prices: “That’s not fair.”
As for naming rights, Gray saw multiple possibilities: the Lexington Convention Center (Alltech and an undisclosed second firm have made bids), Rupp Arena, the entire entertainment district, an outdoor amphitheater and who knows what other elements. But he called adding a corporate name to Rupp Arena a “last resort.”
Gatton also said he’d give “a few million” to Gray’s project if the city agreed to a scaled-down renovation: Only upgrade the restrooms, plus install a scoreboard over center court and electronic ribbon signage at the bottom of the upper arena. After noting that a scoreboard over center court would require a “substantial” strengthening of Rupp Arena’s roof, Gray showed little interest in a modest renovation. “To me, it’s worth doing only if it’s extraordinary and remarkable,” he said.
Would Kentucky basketball have it not be “extraordinary” or “remarkable?” That’s all they know.
Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.
KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.
“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”
Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.
“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”
Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.
BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.
Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.
“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”
Lee chose BYU over offers from Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.
His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.
Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.
Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.
“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.
With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.
Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.
With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.
The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.
“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”
The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.
North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.
One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.
“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.
The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!
On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.
This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.
The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.
So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.
It’s going to be awesome.
There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.
Make it happen.
Anyway, here’s the schedule:
Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State
Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky
Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky