John Wall

John Wall

John Wall drops 40 in Kentucky’s alumni charity game with Jahlil Okafor in attendance

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John Wall continued his success inside the storied Rupp Arena, on Monday night during the UK Alumni Charity Game. The former UK point guard dropped 40 points leading his blue team in a 111-95 over the white team. Brandon Knight led the white team with 30 points.

“E. Bled [Eric Bledsoe] told me I wasn’t going for 40 so I just tried to get 40,” Wall said after the game.

Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Patrick Peterson and Terrence Jones were some of the other former first round picks to return to Lexington to play in front of 19,255 fans for event that raised more than $1 million.

While Kentucky uses this game as way to help a cause and honor its history, Monday night’s exhibition game was a way for John Calipari to build for the program’s future. Whitney Young (Ill.) center Jahlil Okafor is the top player in the Class of 2014, and he was inside Rupp Arena for the game on Monday night, as part of his official visit. Moss Point High (Miss.) shooting guard Devin Booker and Marian Catholic High (Ill.) point guard Tyler Ulis were also on hand for the alumni game, as the two four-star guards were both visiting UK as well.

Okafor visited Baylor last weekend, and is likely to visit Arizona, Duke and Kansas. Ulis is down to UK, Iowa, Michigan State and USC. Booker is down to Florida, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri along with Big Blue Nation.

St. Joseph High (N.J.) 7-footer Karl Towns is currently the lone 2014 commit for Coach Cal.

Prospects from the Class of 2015 — Derrick Jones of Archbishop John Carroll High (Pa.), Luke Kennard of Franklin High (Ohio) and Charles Matthews of St. Rita High (Ill.) — were also expected to take in the alumni game.

Kentucky’s ‘Camp Cal’ could turn the season around

John Calipari

John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats lost two straight, one at home snapping a 55-game home winning streak and marking the first time Calipari has lost inside Rupp Arena while on the UK sideline and if that wasn’t enough, Kentucky went from being No. 8 in the nation to be unranked…in a week.

Safe to say Coach Cal is not happy and so the emergence of ‘Camp Cal’ has occurred.

For the past two days, the Kentucky roster has gotten up at 7 a.m. for workouts, followed by an afternoon practice. This will continue until Calipari is satisfied with his team, that started entered the season ranked No. 3.

Camp Cal started after Calipari was unhappy with his team’s efforts in an 88-56 win over Samford, a game in which the Wildcats only outscored the Bulldogs by one in the second half. Calipari certainly wasn’t happy with Saturday’s loss to Baylor.

This lack of effort, especially in Tuesday’s second half against Samford, sparked Coach Cal to use a “forced breakfast club” to get players to begin their days together with training. Classes have already ended at UK, meaning more time has opened up for extra workouts. However this could all be over soon – or extended through Christmas break – depending on the Wildcats performance against 3-5 Portland on Saturday

“We’ve got a good group of guys, we really do,” said Calipari. “They just don’t know how hard you’ve got to work or what kind of investment you have to make in this sport. I’ve always had a couple of guys on the team that could drag others. We’re still trying to find that mix.”

One of the main issues with the team thus far is the uncertainty at the point guard position. Junior point guard Jarrod Polson was great for the season-opener against Maryland in Brooklyn. But in a John Calipari team, the point guard has always been critical, whether it be Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, or Marquise Teague. That floor general was suppose to be Ryan Harrow, who has been unable to find a role after battling illness and dealing with a family matter the first few weeks of the season.

Since then, Archie Goodwin, making the transition from the two guard has filled into that role.

“I worked out like three times on Thursday,” said Harrow. “I was just trying to get a workout in and I’ll work out tonight. … We want to be in shape. We need something.”

At 5-3, this isn’t where Kentucky was expecting to be, but Camp Cal – whether it ends on Saturday or continues through the holiday season – this could make or break the Wildcat’s season.

“It may be a month and half before you really see,” said Calipari. “It won’t change overnight.”

Kentucky has three games remaining on this current home stand – Portland, Lipscomb, and Marshall – before a Dec. 29 road game against rival, Louisville.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Abdul Gaddy is the key to Washington’s season

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy had made a career out of being a pretty good point guard for the Washington Huskies.

He came of the bench as a freshman, spelling Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas. He moved into a starting role as a sophomore, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 assists before tearing his ACL that January, and followed that up with averages of 8.1 points and 5.2 assists as a junior. Throw in two NCAA tournament trips in those three seasons, and Gaddy has had himself a decent collegiate tenure.

The problem with Gaddy having a ‘decent collegiate tenure’ is that he was supposed to be oh so much more.

A McDonald’s All-American back in 2009, Gaddy was the No. 2 point guard in the class, sitting squarely behind John Wall. By comparison, the No. 2 ranked point guard in the Class of 2008, according to ESPN, was Kemba Walker. In 2010, it was Brandon Knight. In 2011, it was Myck Kabongo. Impressive company.

This season is Gaddy’s final chance to prove that he is capable of living up to those lofty expectations, and it happens to coincide with a year where Washington desperately needs to him to be a star.

Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar may have lost Terrence Ross after last season, but there are still plenty of pieces at his disposal, particularly on the wing. Scott Suggs and CJ Wilcox are both big, athletic wings capable of putting up 20 points on any given night, while sixth-man Andrew Andrews looks like he has the chance to be really good down the road. Aziz N’Diaye anchors the front court, and while he isn’t much more than a shot-blocker and a rebounder, Desmond Simmons has had a solid start to the year, averaging 9.0 points and 7.0 boards through three games.

But it all comes back to Gaddy, the tie that binds.

And never was that more clear than on Saturday night, as Washington knocked off Seton Hall 84-73 in overtime in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

In the first half, the Huskies looked utterly dominant. They shot 61.3% from the floor, they scored 49 points and they went into the break with a 16 point lead. And Gaddy? He was sensational, finishing with 14 points, five assists and just a single turnover while shooting 6-8 from the floor. He hit a three. He drove the lane and finished at the rim. He penetrated, drew defenders, and found the open man. He showed off a decent mid-range game.

“He played as good a first half as any guard around, I thought,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. “When he plays that way he makes our team play at a high, high level.”

And when he doesn’t?

“If no one else steps up, we’re just not that good. We don’t have much ‘superstar’ on our team, so if a couple guys aren’t performing at a high level, there’s not a lot of margin for error.”

That was evident in the second half.

As good as Gaddy was for the first 20 minutes, he was that bad in the second 20. Well, maybe bad is the wrong term; nonexistent is probably more accurate. He took just three shots from the floor. He didn’t score a single point or notch a single assist. He turned the ball over twice, but that’s not really an outlandish number.

Perhaps the biggest sign of Gaddy’s struggles were Washington’s struggles, as they blew that entire 16 point halftime lead. Seton Hall made went on a 31-9 run, eventually taking a 66-60 lead, as the Huskies struggled to get open looks and, at times, to simply get the ball across half court.

And that’s where Gaddy’s importance lies.

It’s not simply the points or the assists; it’s initiating the offense and getting the ball to the right people in the right spots at the right time. It’s facilitation more than simple production. And when he’s doing that effectively, the points and the assists are going to be a by-product.

The Huskies need him to be a leader, to be able to reliable on his consistent production.

It’s the difference between being a tournament team and a team that blows 16 point leads to Big East also-rans.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Weekend Preview: The most important story lines as CBB kicks off

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So about this new Kentucky team…

There are a myriad of intriguing and important story lines surrounding the headline game of the Barclays Center Classic between No. 3 Kentucky and Maryland. It’s the first college basketball game to be played in Jay-Z’s new arena. (I don’t care if it’s not ‘technically’ Jay-Z’s arena.) It’s the first game that Maryland will play with Dez Wells, who was surprisingly cleared to play on Wednesday. It’s the first game the two teams will play after Kentucky beat out the Terps for the Harrison Twins. It’s the launch of Maryland’s relevancy under Mark Turgeon. The reigning national champs. Nerlens Noel’s first game. The list goes on and on and on.

But for me, the most intriguing part of this game will be seeing just how Kentucky’s rotation is built. Coach Cal will find a way to make this team work well together, but I’m struggling to figure out a way that can happen. The best shooter on the team is a power forward, Kyle Wiltjer, who can’t defend and who is the fourth-best front court player on the roster. Getting the five best players on the floor requires using two seven-foot centers, Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, together while playing a combo-forward, Alex Poythress, at the three. Ryan Harrow isn’t at the same level as the likes of Derrick Rose and John Wall, and may not be on the same level as Marquis Teague. How will they all mesh?

Five more story lines to follow:

  • I’m on a boat: After last year’s inaugural Carrier Classic, there are three games that will be played on the decks of an aircraft carrier this Friday. How long will this gimmick last? Look, I’m all for supporting our troops, but basketball wasn’t meant to be played outside unless it’s the middle of the summer and there is a blacktop involved. Last season, Michigan State and North Carolina were two of the best teams in the country, and they put together a fairly ugly game to watch. As picturesque as the games are, it’s not exactly great basketball that will be played. How long will it be before the novelty wears off?
  • No one can see Tony Mitchell vs. Doug McDermott: The best individual matchup of the weekend will take place in the mid-major ranks, as an all-american will be squaring off with a future lottery pick. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that both of these teams could feasibly be playing during the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. But when they tip at 8:05 p.m. in Omaha on Friday night, the only people that will be able to see the game are the folks in the stadium and those that pay for the live-stream on Creighton’s website. I’m not here trying to pass around blame, but I will say that it’s a bummer it won’t be on TV anywhere.
  • UConn kicks off their season of irrelevance: Kevin Ollie is coaching for a contract. That’s essentially what this season comes down to. He’s not officially an interim coach replacing the legendary Jim Calhoun, but he may as well be; he’s working with a one-year contract. Will he be able to get a young UConn team with a talented back court to play well enough to earn an extension?
  • The new Pauley Pavilion opens: After spending last season playing all over Southern California, UCLA returns to their newly-renovated digs at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night to take on a good Indiana State team. And not only will it be our first glimpse at the new arena, it will be our first chance to see one of the nation’s most enigmatic teams. Is Josh Smith in shape? Can Kyle Anderson be a point guard? Will the Bruins, without Shabazz Muhammad, come close to living up to their lofty preseason expectations?
  • Steve Masiello takes Manhattan into Louisville: Former Cardinal assistant Steve Masiello takes his MAAC-favorite Manhattan Jaspers into the KFC Yum! Center to take on national title favorite Louisville. Will his boys be able to put up a fight? Is Louisville going to be able to iron out their offensive issues?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Could this be the start of Kentucky’s greatest recruiting class ever?

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Generally speaking, when a program brings in a pair of players as talented as twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, their recruiting class is all but set.

Yes, some holes will get filled in and there will likely be a couple of other names that end up on the roster, but at the end of the day, those two top five talents are usually end up being the meat of the class.

Not Kentucky.

Not under John Calipari.

And while we’ve seen him put together some incredible classes in his three years in Lexington — last year’s crop of newbies included three of the top six players nationally and a fourth that was in the top 25 and his first class included DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall  and two other five-star players — they pale in comparison to the kind of class that Coach Cal has the chance to put together for 2013.

Of the top seven players in the Class of 2013, according to ESPN, the five that remain uncommitted are Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh. (The other two are the Harrisons.) Kentucky is involved with all five, and probably the favorite, at this point, for at least two of the them.

And that doesn’t include Andrew Wiggins, the best high school player in the country who is expected by most to reclassify to 2013 from 2014, or Marcus Lee, a top 30 recruit who has whittled his choices down to Cal and UK.

Is it possible that we could be heading for a 2013-2014 season where Kentucky’s starting lineup is completely made up of players who were ranked in the top ten nationally?

As for the Terps, missing out on the Harrisons is a major disappointment, but they still have some promising recruits to chase.

Rysheed Jordan (Philly) and Roddy Peters (Suitland, MD) are both four-star point guards that the Terps are currently pursuing, while forwards Cameron Blakely and Junior Etou and shooting guard RJ Curington are involved with Turgeon’s team. Maryland already has a commitment from Damonte Dodd.

It’s back to the drawing board for Turgeon, but on some level he had to have known: he wasn’t getting the Harrison twins out of Calipari’s grip.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.


Please don’t count John Calipari and Kentucky out of the race for the Harrison twins

John Calipari

Yesterday, took a look at the recruitment of the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, and the possible connections that could land them at Maryland when they announce their decision Thursday evening.

But what about the other horse in the race for their commitment? If we have learned anything, it’s not to bet against John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Maryland might have deep connections from Texas, close ties to the family, a geographic advantage, and the Under Armour card in its back pocket, but the defending national champions have ruled the recruiting world since Calipari took over in Lexington.

The fact of the matter is, aside from Shabazz Muhammad, the Calipari we’ve come to know at Kentucky has never lost out on a prospect that he truly wanted. If a top prospect hears Kentucky calling, he usually answers with a verbal commitment.

Say what you will and allege what you will about Calipari’s behind-the-scenes recruiting tactics, but there’s plenty to legitimize the flood of recruiting heading to Calipari’s program.

Plainly put, Calipari and Kentucky turn the nation’s best players into NBA first-rounders.

Don’t believe it? Ask John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Eric Bledsoe, and the list goes on.

The same way that the country’s top students flock to the Wharton Business School because it’s almost a guaranteed ticket into their desired field, Calipari is now running the equivalent in basketball.

And that’s the draw for the Harrison twins.

Under Armour aside, personal relationships dismissed, Calipari would give the twins an opportunity to be surrounded by some of the country’s best talent for (if all goes as likely planned) one season, compete for a national title, and be NBA lottery picks.

Perhaps that can pull harder than anything Mark Turgeon could do at Maryland.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_