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No. 3 Kansas outlasts No. 7 Kentucky in ugly Champions Classic game

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CHICAGO — Kansas used a late three-pointer from Malik Newman and some clutch free-throw shooting to outlast Kentucky, 65-61, on Tuesday night in a disjointed second game of the Champions Classic.

With both teams struggling to score in the half court for much of the night, Newman’s trey with 2:10 left proved to be a critical bucket for the No. 3 Jayhawks (2-0) as the redshirt sophomore also knocked down two important free throws late in the game. Svi Mykhailiuk paced the Jayhawks with 17 points to lead an ugly offensive effort while big man Udoka Azubuike tallied 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-for-5 shooting. Newman finished with 12 points.

Preseason All-American Devonte’ Graham had a sluggish 3-for-14 shooting night for Kansas but he iced the game with two free throws with 7.1 seconds left as he finished with 11 points and five assists.

The No. 7 Wildcats (2-1) had a solid effort from freshman Kevin Knox as the five-star wing looked like he was ready to play in a high-pressure game. Knox finished with a game-high 20 points as his perimeter shooting and ability to create his own shot were a bright spot for Kentucky.

Freshman guard Hamidou Diallo was the only other double-figure scorer for Kentucky as he ended with 14 points. Kentucky’s interior struggled much of the night as freshmen P.J. Washington and Nick Richards provided little-to-no help on either end of the floor.

 

 

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

VIDEO: Kentucky’s John Calipari participates in the #DriveByDunkChallenge

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The #DriveByDunkChallenge is sweeping the nation on social media this summer.

Rules to participate are pretty simple:

  1. Drive around in your vehicle.
  2. Find a basketball hoop (or a basketball ring if you’re Ted Cruz) on a random driveway.
  3. Run out of your car and dunk on that random hoop while a friend films.
  4. Run back to your car and drive away.

Let Anthony Davis show you how it works:

Pretty simple, right?

The #DriveByDunkChallenge isn’t raising money or awareness for ALS like the #IceBucketChallenge did three years ago, but it’s something harmless and fun to do to pass the time during the dog days of summer.

Sensing an opportunity to join an Internet craze, while also following in the footsteps of his former player Kentucky star, Wildcats head coach John Calipari got involved with his own dunk late Friday night.

And his video is much funnier than I thought it would be.

While most #DriveByDunkChallenge videos are done by healthy and spry teenagers who are cruising neighborhoods during the day, Calipari, and his hip replacement, got in on the fun with a late-night dunk.

I love that Calipari ditched the ball behind his back while running back to the car after the dunk.

Most people who participate in the challenge usually have their own ball and keep it with them through completion. But Calipari either picked up a random ball in the driveway or just he lost the handle with his own ball and had a turnover.

The next time Calipari goes hard on one of his point guards for losing control and playing too fast, remember this moment.

Five-star forward Kevin Knox commits to Kentucky

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The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby was the major headline in sports on Saturday, but John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats might have stolen the show within the Bluegrass state thanks to a shocking recruiting announcement.

Kentucky men’s basketball added another top-ten prospect to one of its deepest recruiting hauls on Saturday night as five-star Class of 2017 forward Kevin Knox committed to the Wildcats on Twitter. Many believed that Duke or North Carolina was the favorite to land the 6-foot-8 Knox–with the 247 Sports Crystal Ball giving Kentucky only a 4 percent of a chance–but the No. 9 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national Class of 2017 recruiting rankings is a big-time get for the Wildcats.

Knox is the seventh pledge for Kentucky’s class and he’s the fifth five-star prospect–and that doesn’t even include Hamidou Diallo if he decides to opt out of the NBA Draft for his freshman season.

Knox gives the Wildcats a potential perimeter shooter as he could be tasked with defending a lot of perimeter players at Kentucky next season. Put together with players like Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards, and potentially Diallo, and Knox gives the Wildcats a ton of athleticism on the defensive end.

The son of former Florida State star wide receiver Kevin Knox, the younger Knox picked Kentucky over Duke, Florida State, Missouri and North Carolina as head coach John Calipari gets another potential lottery pick to work with next season.

Knox is the type of versatile wing that Kentucky has been looking for in this class and if he’s able to stick perimeter jumpers, it means that the Wildcats can play a bunch of their frontcourt players at the same time while also helping a lot with spacing.

A multiple-time gold-medal winner for USA Basketball, Knox could be perhaps the best pro prospect of this Kentucky class, which is really saying a lot given how much talent they have coming in.

Landing Knox also qualifies as one of the true shockers that we’ve seen from Kentucky in recruiting. Many believed that the battle for Knox was coming down to Duke and North Carolina but the Wildcats were able to sneak in and get the job done by securing a commitment from Knox.

Knox joins a class that includes five-star forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington, five-star big man Nick Richards, five-star point guard Quade Green and four-star guards Shai Alexander and Jemarl Baker. While it would be nearly impossible to call this John Calipari’s best class ever at Kentucky with how good some previous classes were, this group might be the deepest that Calipari has put together in Lexington, and the program is still in hot pursuit of five-star big man Mohamed Bamba.

Report: Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox heading to NBA Draft

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Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox is heading to the 2017 NBA Draft, according to a report from Jon Rothstein of Fan Rag Sports.

The 6-foot-3 Fox averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game as he should be firmly in the discussion as a potential top-5 pick.

Although Rothstein reported that Fox is entering the draft, Fox has yet to officially say that he’s leaving, as he tweeted this message out right after the report.

Fox has yet to officially declare, but it’s practically a formality that he’s going to the NBA Draft.

Kentucky’s legacy remains complicated after heartbreaking loss to North Carolina

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Just like everything during John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the legacy of the 2016-17 Wildcats is going to be complicated to figure out.

After Kentucky dropped a thrilling 75-73 game against No. 1 seed North Carolina in the South Regional final on Sunday, the college careers of freshmen Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are likely finished. All three freshmen are perhaps destined to be first-round NBA Draft picks in June. The trio also helped form one of the most important groups of freshmen to ever play for Calipari at Kentucky.

The Kentucky national-title winning group in 2012 is obviously No. 1 on that list and the 2014-15 team that started 38-0 comes in close second place. You could also make a solid case for the 2013-14 Kentucky team that rallied together and made the national championship game as a No. 8 seed or the John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins led-team that also made an Elite Eight. But the 2014 team was also dysfunctional enough that they lost to South Carolina in the regular season before the Gamecocks became nationally-relevant. Cousins remains a polarizing figure who wasn’t particularly popular outside of Big Blue Nation.

This 2016-17 Kentucky team was special because their freshmen somehow lived up to the immense hype while also being incredibly fun to watch. Winning the SEC regular season, conference tournament title and making an Elite Eight are great memories for Wildcat fans to have. Basketball fans in general get the individual memories of Monk’s white-hot scoring runs, Fox’s dazzling two-way play and Adebayo’s raw power around the rim.

Monk’s 47 points against North Carolina in the regular season and 30 points in the second half a home win over Florida are two of the most memorable individual scoring performances in college basketball over the last five years. Fox will be remembered for many things as well, but destroying Lonzo Ball and UCLA for 39 points to shatter the freshman NCAA Tournament single-game scoring record is about as special as it gets.

Adebayo doesn’t have the signature individual performance to match his fellow freshmen, but with over 100 dunks on the season, there were many times that he made his presence felt in the Kentucky lineup.

Replacing those three players is going to be tough but that is what Calipari is accustomed to doing. The McDonald’s All-American game tips this week and four more future Wildcats will take the floor. Five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo has already been practicing with Kentucky during the second semester while redshirting for next season.

Replacing the future NBA players is actually going to be the easy part for Kentucky.

Finding senior leadership like Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis is going be the difficult thing to replace. Those two in-state seniors provided the valuable experience of playing with so many gifted freshmen over the last four years while being selfless teammates who got better over time.

Both Hawkins and Willis have replaceable games and skill levels. But it seemed like Hawkins came off the bench countless times during his Kentucky career to give the perimeter a spark off the bench. After a slow start to his career, Willis developed into a capable rebounder and floor spacer at forward who knocked in a lot of big shots during the last two years.

Seeing a role player like Isaac Humphries step up in the Elite Eight is a positive sign for next season but Kentucky is going to miss the veteran presence of Hawkins and Willis more than they know.

While most Kentucky teams under Calipari have had a few veteran holdovers each year, the 2017-18 team might be seriously lacking in that department outside of Humphries.

If Isaiah Briscoe leaves to go pro as many assume, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard will all be back but they’ve barely played any meaningful minutes and none of them are guards.

Unless Calipari opts to bring in a graduate transfer — which he’s done in the past with Julius Mays — Kentucky is basically going to have to start from scratch with another ridiculous freshman core. Expectations will mean that Kentucky should be a top-15 team with a chance at an SEC title. The glaring lack of experience also means that Calipari will have to get a very young team to come together immediately.

This is the status quo for John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky. And while they’ve had disappointing results in individual seasons while falling short of the Final Four again this season, it’s hard to say the model is anything other than wildly successful.