Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

John Calipari: Comparing Kentucky to others was ‘my bad’

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari says he made a mistake comparing Kentucky’s athletic department to others and wants to make clear he will keep supporting the Wildcats’ football team.

Calipari wrote on social media Saturday that he heard what Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops said in response to his push for upgraded practice facilities for his basketball team. Calipari says he reached out to Stoops on Thursday and will keep trying.

“Comparing our athletic dept. to others was my bad. I have supported Mark & the football team through good and bad. I will continue to support them & cheer them on,” Calipari wrote.

The Kentucky coach then added: “Now I’ll do what I’ve done for 30 years: Coach my team and block out the clutter.”

The Hall of Fame coach referred to the university as a “basketball school” in an interview and noted recently approved upgrades for other Kentucky programs. Stoops responded to the remarks on Twitter and said, “Basketball school? I thought we competed in the SEC?” He ended with the hashtag “(hash)4straightpostseasonwins,” referencing the Wildcats’ recent success.

Calipari guided Kentucky to its eighth NCAA championship in 2012, but hasn’t reached the Final Four since 2015. The Wildcats were bounced by No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in its NCAA Tournament opener last spring. Kentucky football is coming off its second 10-win season in four years under Stoops and has earned the four wins among six consecutive postseason appearances.

Kentucky adds longtime assistant Turner to Wildcats staff

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has hired longtime basketball assistant coach K.T. Turner to round out head coach John Calipari’s staff.

Turner fills the opening created when Jai Lucas left to become an assistant at Duke. The nearly 20-year veteran spent last season as associate head coach at Oklahoma under Porter Moser and helped the Sooners reach the NIT second round. He worked the previous season in a similar role at Texas after seven seasons at SMU.

Calipari said in a release that Turner would be the guy he’d call on for the opening and added, “He’s an established coach and someone who has a passion for development. … K.T. has done an excellent job of recruiting Texas, which has always been good to us, and has a terrific ability to connect with young people.”

Turner’s coaching background includes stops at Wichita State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, where he was an all-conference player before finishing at Oklahoma City University. The Cincinnati native played professionally for three seasons in Italy before becoming a coach.

Kentucky guard Sharpe to enter NBA draft, keep eligibility

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe will enter the NBA draft and be evaluated while maintaining his collegiate eligibility after not playing last season with the Wildcats.

Several NBA mock drafts have projected the 6-foot-6 Sharpe as a possible top-10 selection this summer despite his absence of playing time with the Wildcats (26-8), who were upset 85-79 in overtime of the NCAA Tournament first round by tiny No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s.

Sharpe practiced with Kentucky and dressed for games after enrolling in January after originally being considered the consensus No. 1 overall prospect of the 2022 class. The NBA draft combine in May 16-22 with a June 1 deadline for the London, Ontario, native to return to school.

Sharpe stated in a release Thursday that while unsure of what lies ahead, he must test the waters and receive feedback. He added, “I pray you all will understand this is not a decision I’ve taken lightly.”

Coach John Calipari noted that Sharpe has already registered for summer and fall classes at Kentucky but said he supports Sharpe’s decision to explore every option about his future.

Sharpe’s decision comes a day after junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe, the consensus national player of the year, announced that he would return for his senior season. Wildcat forwards Keion Brooks Jr. and Jacob Toppin will also go through the evaluation process and maintain eligibility, leaving open the possibility of returning to Kentucky.

Guard TyTy Washington Jr. entered the draft and will forego his remaining eligibility.

Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe to return for senior season

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe says he will return for his senior season with the Wildcats after a breakout season in which he swept national player of the year awards.

The junior’s decision was the most anticipated from a Wildcats squad that rode his dominant performance, especially on the boards. Tshiebwe led the nation with 15.1 rebounds per game and averaged 17.4 points. He also had 60 steals and 55 blocks. He finished the season with 16 consecutive double-doubles on the way to a school-record 28 that surpassed Kentucky great Dan Issel (26).

The West Virginia transfer helped Kentucky return to the NCAA Tournament before collecting numerous individual honors from The Associated Press and others, including the Naismith and Wooden awards as the nation’s top player.

Tshiebwe, who is from the Congo, said on the broadcast that he prayed and consulted with his mother before deciding last week to return to school. Tshiebwe said it was his dream to be an NBA lottery pick, but draft projections had him going in the second round.

Tshiebwe’s affable personality on the court and accessibility off has made him extremely popular among Kentucky’s fan base as he fulfilled autograph and selfie requests. He spoke often about his faith in interviews, which put him in demand to speak at churches in Lexington and around the state.