Posted on: August 9, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 5:11 pm

SEC Offseason Roundup

By Jeff Goodman

SEC Offseason Roundup

Alabama – The Crimson Tide will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and also have non-conference games against Georgetown (12-1), vs. Kansas State (12-17) in Kansas City, vs. Oklahoma State (12-21) in Birmingham and at Georgia Tech (1-3). Jason Carter (Chipola JC) and Kendall Durant (NAIA in Texas) both transferred out of the program.

Arkansas – Mike Anderson brought his staff with him from Missouri: Melvin Watkins, Matt Zimmerman, T.J. Cleveland and Jeff Daniels (director of basketball operations). The Razorbacks will play at Uconn (12-3), at Oklahoma (12-10) and vs. Michigan (1-21). Rotnei Clarke (Butler), Jeff Peterson (Florida State) and Glenn Bryant (Eastern Michigan) all transferred out of the program.

Auburn – The Tigers will play in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii (12-22/25) and also have non-league contests at Seton Hall (12-2) and vs. South Florida (12-15). Earnest Ross (Missouri) and Ty Armstrong left the program while Varez Ward (Texas) and Noel Johnson (Clemson) are both eligible this season.

Florida – Billy Donovan had a major shake-up with his staff as Larry Shyatt took the head job at Wyoming, Richard Pitino returned to Louisville and Rob Lanier went back to Texas as the associate head coach. Donovan’s new staff consists of former Arkansas head man John Pelphrey, ex-St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts and Matt McCall – who was with the Gators in an administrative role. Florida will play in the five-team Global Sports Shootout, along with Ohio State, Jackson State, North Florida and Wright State. The Gators will play at Ohio State (11-15) and also have non-league games at Syracuse (12-2), vs. Arizona (12-7), vs. Texas A&M in Sunrise (12-17), vs. Florida State (12-22) and at Rutgers (12-29). Mike Rosario (Rutgers) is eligible this season after sitting out a year ago.

Georgia – The Bulldogs are in the CBE Classic (12-21/21) and also have non-conference contests at Xavier (11-25), at Colorado (11-28), vs. Cincinnati (12-2), vs. Georgia Tech (12-6) and at USC (12-17).

Kentucky – The Wildcats will play in the Hall of Fame event (11-19/20) and also will face Kansas in the Champions Classic (11-15) in NYC. John Calipari’s team’s non-conference slate includes contests vs. St. John’s (12-1), vs. UNC (12-3), at Indiana (12-10) and vs. Louisville (12-31). Ryan Harrow transferred in from N.C. State and Twany Beckham becomes eligible this season after transferring from Mississippi State last year.

LSU – The Tigers took a trip back in May to Italy. Lynn Nance retired and Nick Robinson slid over into his role as an assistant. LSU will play in the Charleston Classic (11-17/20) and also has non-league games at Rutgers (12-3), vs. Marquette (12-19) and against Virginia (1-2 or 3).  Three players – Aaron Dotson (Utah), Garrett Green (San Diego State) and Matt Derenbecker – left the program. Justin Hamilton is eligible this season after transferring in from Iowa State.

Mississippi – Andy Kennedy’s staff completely turned over. Mike White got the head gig at Louisiana Tech while Owen Miller and Torrey Ward are also gone. Kennedy replaced them with former FIU head coach Segrgio Ruoco, Al Pinkins and he also moved up Bill Armstrong. Robi Coker took Armstrong’s spot as the director of basketball operations. The Rebels will play Miami (11-25) at home, at DePaul (12-1), at Penn State (12-4), at Southern Miss (12-17) and at Dayton (12-30), Donald Williams, Will Bogan (Valparaiso), Trevor Gaskins (Louisiana Tech) and Isaiah Massey (Louisiana Tech) all left while Murphy Holloway (South Carolina) returned and may be eligible this year. Jelan Kendrick (Memphis) will be eligible after sitting out last season.

Mississippi State - The Bulldogs are currently on a trip to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris and will also play in the Coaches vs. Cancer event (11-17/18). Rick Stansbury’s team will face West Virginia (12-3), Baylor in Dallas (12-28) and Utah State at home (12-31). Arnett Moultrie is eligible after sitting out last season following a transfer from UTEP.

South Carolina – Orlando Early (N.C. State) left and Darrin Horn bumped up Cypheus Bunton and also promoted Justin Phelps to director of basketball operations. The Gamecocks will play in the Las Vegas Invitational (11-25/26) and also face Providence (12-1) at home, go to Clemson (12-4) and play Ohio State (12-17) at home. Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Murphy Holloway (Ole Miss) and Stephen Spinella transferred out.

Tennessee – New coach Cuonzo Martin brought Jon Harris and Kent Williams from Missouri State and added Tracy Webster. He also kept Houston Fancher as the director of basketball operations. The Vols will play in the Maui Invitational and also a non-conference schedule that includes games against Pittsburgh (12-3), at Memphis (1-4) and vs. UConn (12-21).

Vanderbilt – King Rice left for the head job at Monmouth and was replaced by David Cason (Tulsa). The Commodores will play in the Legends Classic in New Jersey and also have non-league games vs. Xavier (11-28), at Louisville (12-2) and at Marquette (12-29). Andre Walker (Xavier) and Darshaun McClellan (Louisiana-Lafayette) both transferred with one year left of eligibility.

Offseason reports: Big 12 Pac-12 | Big Ten | ACC | Big East

Posted on: August 5, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: August 5, 2011 12:15 pm

Top-50 recruit's father can't trust Cal, Pitino

By Jeff Borzello

The major story surrounding Derek Willis on Thursday was the news of his decommitment from Purdue.

The father of Willis, a top-50 junior from Bullitt East High School in Kentucky, later denied the commitment withdrawal, but said we would all know more on Sunday.

If this were solely a decommitment story, though, you would find it on the recruiting blog.

This is about a quote found at the bottom of an article at Rivals.com’s Purdue affiliate site, made by Del Willis, Derek’s father.

“I don’t know if I can trust a Coach [Rick] Pitino or Coach [John] Calipari,” Willis said. “Their agenda is more for their benefit than the kid’s. They’re more worried about themselves.”

Remember, Willis is a four-star recruit from the state of Kentucky – and his father is disparaging the two biggest coaches in the commonwealth, if not the country. Besides the implications that his father clearly doesn’t want him staying in-state for college, it’s very interesting that he would alienate two of the most successful programs.

What makes it even more interesting is the fact Willis’ high school coach said Kentucky and Louisville have already reached out since news of Willis’ decommitment leaked out on Thursday.

This will certainly be fun to follow in the next few weeks, especially if Willis has indeed decommitted. One can assume his father will fight to keep Calipari and Pitino far, far away from his son’s recruitment.

Posted on: August 4, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: August 4, 2011 11:59 am

Pitino, Calipari rivalry reaches a new level

By Matt Norlander

"It's a free country, and the KFC, last time I checked, was part of this country."

Oh, you bet, Rick Pitino. You bet your esteemed coif that KFC is part of this great, great country. Pitino was more specifically referring to the KFC Yum! Center, where Louisville plays its home games. It's also where John Calipari will coach the Dominican National Team against former Kentucky players on Aug. 16.

Calipari will scheme against former Kentucky players in an exhibition match that the state is eagerly anticipating. It's just another not-so-obfuscated way of Calipari milking whatever he can out of the system. It should be a blast for folks in Kentucky who will take any semblance of organized, Wildcats-infused basketball they can get.

But, yeah, the game's taking place at Louisville's digs. According to our former colleague Matt Jones, Louisville and Pitino were so anti-Kentucky when this new joint got built, they had it put into the contract that Kentucky could not play any games at the Yum! Center. And, technically, they're not -- it's former Kentucky players going up against the Dominican National Team. Still, Pitino is biting the inside of his cheeks as much as he can on this. Just (not really) grinning and (barely) bearing it. And I'm sure he hated having to address it to the media yesterday, when a press conference was scheduled so he could discuss his team's upcoming summer plans.

Pitino and the Cardinals will be just getting back from the Bahamas when this game is taking place. And then there's this, from the AP:
When an obviously irritated Pitino was asked why isn't the exhibition game being played at Freedom Hall, he said: "Why don't you ask them that?"
So we have another little drama inside the Bluegrass State. Amazing how much blogging material can be borne out of Kentucky and Louisville's programs, right? Think about it: Duke and North Carolina, two programs that collectively have more impact and history on college basketball than the aforementioned two, don't produce half the amount of news or conversation that UK and U of L do.

The rivalry extends beyond the maniacal fanbases. And with this thorn in Pitino's side, the feud between he and Calipari plunges to another depth.

Photo: AP
Posted on: July 29, 2011 11:03 am
Edited on: July 29, 2011 11:05 am

UK preparing for the pros to come back to campus

By Ben Golliver john-calipari

The University of Kentucky's basketball program is practically a professional program already, spitting out lottery picks in large quantities year after year.

But some of those lottery picks are coming back home and their presence could take the school's basketball program up another notch.

Kentucky coach John Calipari tweeted on Thursday night that three NBA point guards who played for Kentucky will head back to Lexington if the lockout continues. "John Wall, Rajon Rondo & Eric Bledsoe all plan to enroll in the fall if the lockout continues," Calipari tweeted. "Kaboom!"

Kaboom, indeed.

KentuckySportsRadio.com reported that the move could allow the trio -- point guards for the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively -- to get some court time in with the current Wildcats. "Calipari announces that John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Rajon Rondo will all enroll at UK in the fall if lockout proceeds," the site reported. "What does that mean? Well, Wall, Bledsoe and Rondo are all eligible to be "Student Assistant coaches", which means practice with the team... Wall, Rondo and Bledsoe would have to be full-time students to be Student Assistants, but rumor is that is the plan."

A Lex18.com report quotes free agent forward Tayshaun Prince saying other NBA players could be following suit.
"Whether it's mid to late August or early September, I think some guys will start to roll in," he said.

Prince said he plans to spend more time in Lexington later in the summer and in to the fall and winter, if the NBA remains locked out. Brandon Knight - Prince's teammate in Detroit who was at the camp Thursday - said he plans to return to Lexington in late August or September. The two don't figure to be the only pros around campus.

"I think you're going to see over the next few months here that guys are going to start rolling in, doing workouts and things like that just because the relationship [Calipari's] putting out there with guys that he didn't coach but at the same time is building relationships," Prince said.
There are a lot of winners in this unique situation.

First, any NBA player who goes back to complete work on his degree is automatically a winner. Kudos to Wall, Rondo and Bledsoe for considering that step even after each has banked millions of dollars. That these three have chosen to do that while finding a home to work on their game and stay fit is a no-brainer, win-win.

Calipari, of course, is a winner, as the presence of an All-Star point guard, a Rookie of the Year candidate and a promising future starter on campus and in the gym only raises his already insanely-high profile as a mover and shaker in the basketball world and provides his current roster, which sports four potential first round picks in the 2012 NBA draft, with elite leadership and competition. Kentucky freshman point guard Marquis Teague, in particular, wins here too with three new mentors. Who better to answer his freshman questions than Wall, Rondo and Bledsoe?

The losers here are anyone that still believes in the purity of amateurism as well as any coaches that have to compete with Calipari for NBA-ready recruits. His factory just gets more and more refined by the season. Love him or hate him, his innovations and ability to find a competitive advantage are remarkable.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 27, 2011 12:58 pm

Was Desmond Allison killed over a hat?

By Matt Norlander

Senseless doesn't even cover it.
A story in today's Columbus Dispatch details that the shooting and death of former Kentucky forward Desmond Allison was over ... a hat. Death over dumb, pointless stuff. Frustrating. Here's the scene:

Desmond "Dez" Allison, 31, was outside with friends, talking on his cellphone at the Nelson Park Apartments on the Near East Side, when an ex-girlfriend took a cap off his head, said Malcolm Goff, 36, who also was shot in the same incident.

Allison barely noticed and kept talking, his friend Goff said.

But his current girlfriend had given him the hat, said Tina Underwood, 31, a witness and longtime friend of Allison's. The current girlfriend saw the ex-girlfriend with the hat and the two women began arguing, Goff and Underwood said.

Allison apparently remained on the phone -- who was he talking to? There's a story -- and an argument began between Allison and a man in a posse of three, who began accusing Allison of "messing with his cousin."

"It was a hat he didn't care about," Goff said to the Dispatch. "He was just wearing it to wear it."

As of now, police are still trying to connect all the dots with this strange, stupid, unnecessary killing in the middle of the afternoon. The story also brings to light a sad state of affairs: Allison left behind five children.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 26, 2011 2:46 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 2:47 pm

Former Kentucky player Desmond Allison killed

By Matt Norlander

No matter the circumstances that lead to it, there's always a certain tone of sadness and regret that comes with the news of a former college athlete's death. It's different from a regular-person death, if you get what I mean -- especially if it happens at a young age.

Fair or not, right or wrong, doesn't it always feel like there was a helplessness attached to it? Maybe it's because so many of these players escape from an environment thanks to their abilities, and seeing them tumble back toward that later in life is saddening. I barely remember watching Desmond Allison play for Kentucky, yet today I'm hamstrung over the fact he was killed in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, the victim of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Police say he was shot in the chest along with another man at an apartment complex in Columbus. Allison was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other man was injured, but no word on his condition.
Who is this other man? We still don't know. The scenario that led to this shooting is still unknown, too. What a sad picture, though. An argument in the afternoon between who knows how many people led to the discharge of bullets.

The 31-year-old Allison was a two-year member of the UK team, from 1998-2000. He was kicked off the squad after an arrest for a DUI and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. He averaged 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game his sophomore year.

His public, athletic life, for all intents and purposes, ended then. Tampa Bay Online spoke with Allison's high school coach, Scott Wagers, Monday night.

"It’s another tragedy from Robinson," he said. "It’s unbelievable. ... Desmond was the ultimate competitor," Wagers said. "He competed at everything. If we did a drill, he tried to beat your butt at it. I remember a game when he had a 102 temperature. He would wink at me when he wanted to come out of the game. I had a trash can where he could throw up. Then he’d take some Gatorade and get back out there. He had a basketball I.Q. off the charts."

Allison graduated from Robinson in 1998 as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,280 career points, the fourth most in Hillsborough County history.

Tracy McGrady gave Allison high praise on Twitter Monday night, upon hearing the news.

He'd faced four arrests in the years after leaving Kentucky, but this story, from the St. Petersburg Times in 2005, showed the life Allison came to embrace. He was playing low-end professional football in Vermillion, S.D., five years removed from Kentucky hoops. Allison was recruited in hoops and football out of high school. He was an incredible athlete. But he could never find his way. The story linked above includes a coach asking this of Allison: "Desmond, am I going to your funeral next?"

Chilling, foreshadowing, foreboding and must-read material today.

Additionally, former colleague here at the blog, Matt Jones, has a good perspective post at Kentucky Sports Radio on who Allison was and what his time at Kentucky meant. Also: how he threw it away. An athlete gone too soon, and in such a sad, wasteful way. Gunfire on a Columbus afternoon. Thoughts and prayers to those who knew Allison well.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 20, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 6:33 pm

Jarnell Stokes plays with target on his back

By Jeff Borzello

As a five-star recruit with several of the top schools in the country on his tail, Jarnell Stokes knows he’s being watched on the AAU circuit.

The 6-foot-8 power forward from Memphis uses it as extra impetus to play his hardest every time out.

“First of all, you get a target on your back,” Stokes said. “People know who you are, so you have to bring it.”

Stokes, who will play at Oak Hill Academy (Va.) next season, was simply a dominant inside player for most of the past few years.

This spring and summer, though, he expanded his skill set and added a solid face-up game to his repertoire.

“I’m playing more outside, working on my versatility,” Stokes said.

It’s been working out well so far for Stokes, who ranked near the top of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in both points and rebounds, averaging 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds through 14 games. He also topped the Peach Jam in rebounding, grabbing 9.7 per game in South Carolina last week.

More on Recruiting

Stokes’ ability to outmuscle smaller defenders and get past slower opponents enables him to get to the free-throw line at an extremely good rate and score efficiently in the post, too.

“Most defenders can’t guard inside and out,” he said. “I’m trying to play my best, bring effort to the floor. But there’s a lot more to improve on.”

Stokes ranks No. 16 in CBSSports.com’s Top 100, and he has plenty of schools on his trial. Recently, though, he named his top six schools: Connecticut, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Memphis and Tennessee.

Out of that group, Arkansas and Memphis are standing out.

“I have a great relationship with the people there,” Stokes said.

Stokes had said in the past that he would likely have committed to Tennessee prior to Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers parting ways, but he is not ready to make a decision just yet.

“I’m looking at style of play,” Stokes said when asked about the factors in his final decision. “And I want to go to a winning program.”

Sounds like Stokes is looking forward to having a target on his back at the next level too.

Photo: Point Guard U

Posted on: July 19, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 10:33 pm

Kentucky's Jon Hood rips up ACL

By Matt Norlander

Here's an injury that won't mean much.

My condolences to Jon Hood, and well wishes to a fine young basketball player for a speedy recovery.

But have you looked at Kentucky's roster for next year? Hood, who tore his ACL in a pickup game Monday afternoon, probably wouldn't have been seeing much time as is. (Perma-counterargument: onetime pine-rider Josh Harrellson's 2010-11 season, which ended in him being drafted.) The talking point can -- and will, time and again -- be made that the 2011-12 Kentucky group John Calipari's assembled is the best team of 12 he's ever coached.

Hood didn't seem to factor much into that. He played in nearly every UK game last season but averaged just one point per game. The legitimate concern over his injury is the lack of leadership that can't make it onto the floor with a team that's particularly young -- even by Calipari standards. But the 'Cats have overcome that before; no reason to think it can't be hurdled yet again.

Hood, a junior, will have surgery on his right knee once the swelling goes down.

The Lexington Herlad-Leader's John Clay spoke to Hood's father Tuesday about the freakish happenstance.

“He wasn’t hit or anything,” said Brian Hood via phone. “It was a non-contact injury where he just came down wrong, apparently. It was just a freak thing.”

Brian Hood said his won was “a little frustrated and a little upset” but that, “We’ll just try to find something positive out of this and move forward.”

UK announced the injury on Tuesday saying that Jon Hood would undergo surgery once the swelling subsides.

“I think he has a pretty bad bone bruise, which you get from a torn ACL,” said Brian Hood. “I think they just want things to calm down before they do the surgery. There’s no real timetable right now.”

So he could very well be back in time for plenty of play this season. ACL tears can be a funny thing, and if the patient is persistent in rehab, they can return to action weeks or months before first estimates.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com