Posted on: May 26, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 11:58 am

Shabazz Muhammad continues to protect his turf


Posted by Jeff Borzello

Rankings of the top prospects in the country have different impacts on different players. Some don’t pay attention to them; some live and die by their ranking. Others are cognizant of where they stand and know opponents are gunning for them.

Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top three players in the class of 2012, is in the latter group.

“I think everyone thinks they’re the number one player, but I don’t worry about that,” Muhammad said in a phone interview. “But it affects the way I play, big-time. Having a target on my back, it’s a great opportunity for me.”

The 6-foot-5 swingman from Bishop Gorman (Nev.) has been ranked near the top of his class since he was a freshman in high school. Every game, camp or tournament, Muhammad has had to stand his ground to retain his stature.

Unlike many players who drop in the rankings as their high school careers progress, Muhammad is still in the mix for the top spot.

“That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” he said. “I’m the best player on the court and I have to prove it.”

Muhammad is a lefty scoring machine, using his strength to simply overpower most of his opponents when driving to the rim. He is an excellent finisher in the paint and is deadly in the mid-range. Once he improves his outside shooting, Muhammad could be unstoppable on the wing.

At the high school level, Muhammad can get away with playing inside the arc, but he knows he has to improve his guard skill set at the next level.

“Schools are recruiting me as a shooting guard,” he said. “So I’m working on handling the ball. Schools like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, they have their shooting guards handle the ball a lot. And the most important thing is my perimeter shooting. The athleticism is already there.”

Muhammad has offers from dozens of schools, but he has trimmed some of the fat and is focusing on seven schools: Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UNLV, Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

While he says he has no favorites, he did go through each school to discuss what he liked about each one.

Many people think UCLA is the frontrunner for Muhammad, but he denied it.

“It was a great experience,” he said about UCLA. “I’ve been to California and I love the weather. Coach [Ben] Howland is a great guy; I talked to him for a couple of hours. I got to see how it is to be a Bruin.”

Not surprisingly, Kentucky is also on Muhammad’s list. He said it’s different than the other schools on his list because of the location.

“I can be very focused there, since it’s not a city,” Muhammad said. “It’s a good place for a person who is serious about basketball. There are no distractions.”

UNLV is the closest school to Muhammad’s Las Vegas home and high school, and is therefore still in the mix. Proximity could play a factor.

“It’s a local school, and they have really good match-ups every year,” he said. “It’s only 10 minutes away.”

Early in May, Muhammad and his Dream Vision AAU team took a trip to the Jayhawk Invitational in Kansas. While there, he got a chance to check out the Kansas campus.

“Coach [Bill] Self is a nice guy,” Muhammad said. “I took a visit up there a couple weeks ago.”

What impressed Muhammad the most about Duke was head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it wasn’t his charm or recruiting pitch that opened Muhammad’s eyes.

“Coach K, I talked to him a lot,” he said. “He’s very intellectual, he know what he’s doing. The guy is just smart. It’s a great place to be at.”

The most recent trip Muhammad took was to Arizona, ironically taking place the day after head coach Sean Miller spurned Maryland to stay in Tucson.

“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” Muhammad said. “They have a great coach and a great team. And their system is running, getting up and down.”

He plans on taking a trip to Texas sometime in June; at that point, Muhammad will have taken unofficial visits to all seven schools.

Still, no particular school is standing out.

“Everyone I named is coming at me the hardest,” Muhammad said. “They’re all great [coaches]. I can’t really compare one, two, three.”

Nearly every school on his list is a perennial Final Four contender, making Muhammad’s decision even harder. The main factor in his decision will be program success, both past and future.

“The school’s tradition,” Muhammad said. “I’m looking for the school that has the best opportunity for me to win a national championship.”

Despite going on plenty of unofficial visits and knowing exactly what he is looking for in a school, he has no plans to make a decision anytime soon.

Muhammad doesn’t want to rush into anything.

“I’m taking the process slowly. I probably will take all five of my visits,” he said. “I want to make sure I make the right choice.”

Photos: Wildcat Blue Nation, Lawrence Journal-World

Posted on: May 25, 2011 11:07 pm

Kentucky goes transfer route, gets Ryan Harrow

Posted by Jeff Borzello

John Calipari has been dominating the recruiting trail with high school players for several years. On Wednesday, he changed course a little bit, nabbing perhaps the most sought-after transfer in the country.

As first reported by Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com, North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow announced he was heading to Kentucky.

“I just felt like they had everything I needed as far as me getting better and me reaching my ultimate goals,” Harrow told Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Harrow, a 6-0 point guard from Georgia, chose the Wildcats over Texas, Louisville and Georgia.

Calipari has recruited arguably the best point guard in each of the last three classes, from John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague. That doesn’t count Derrick Rose back in 2007.

With a weak class of point guards in the class of 2012, Harrow could be better than anyone at his position in the high school ranks. If Teague leaves after one season in Lexington, Harrow has the ability to immediately step into the starting lineup and be a factor in the SEC. 

Harrow averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 assists during his freshman season in Raleigh. He will sit out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but will have three years of eligibility at Kentucky.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:29 pm

Perry Ellis taking time with recruiting process

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Wichita Heights (Kan.) has won three consecutive state championships and currently own a 44-game winning streak.

It’s scary to think they could be even better next year given the way Perry Ellis is improving.

“Perry is getting stronger,” said his mother, Fonda. “His shooting has really improved, he is more explosive and more confident.”

Ellis is a 6-foot-8 forward who is ranked among the top-20 players in his class by most services. He can score in a variety of ways, with his back to the basket or in the mid-range while facing up. Ellis runs the floor effectively and knows how to finish at the rim.

He was receiving interest and offers from nearly every big-time school, but trimmed his list in early December. Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma and Wichita State made the finalists for Ellis, who has since heard from Minnesota and Duke.

“I would say that Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State have all shown the most [interest] this spring,” Fonda Ellis said. “We received a call from Duke’s new assistant Jeff Capel on Tuesday.”

Ellis said the perseverance and time each school put in has made them attractive to her son.

“They are all great programs and they all have been recruiting him for a while,” she said. “He has built strong relationships with most of the coaches since eighth and ninth grade.”

Perry visited Wichita State this week, but does not plan to make any other visits until the fall. He will be on the AAU circuit this spring and summer with the Kansas Pray and Play Players.

His mother said there are no favorites yet, but he is looking for a place where he will be “totally comfortable.”

“He is really not ready to do that yet,” Ellis said in terms of leaning one way or another. “He wants to see what happens this summer first.

“He would like to take his official visits this fall and hopefully commit or sign by early signing [period].”

By that time, Wichita Heights will be on the verge of starting a run at a fourth straight state title – led by Ellis, of course.

Photo: MaxPreps

Posted on: May 18, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 3:11 pm

Alabama native Trevor Lacey will stay home

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Arguably the best high school player in the history of Alabama has decided to stay home.

Trevor Lacey, the top guard left on the board, committed to Alabama on Wednesday afternoon during a press conference at his school. Word leaked out about an hour before the announcement that he would sign with the Crimson Tide.

"I just signed with the University of Alabama," Lacey said, putting on an Alabama hat. 

Lacey is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from S.R. Butler (Ala.) who led his high school team to three consecutive state championships. He averaged 31.4 points and 8.0 rebounds last season, putting up at least 40 points on 10 separate occasions. 

He chose the Crimson Tide over Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn. Despite being pursued by some of the biggest powers in the country, the pull of his home state was just too much in the end.

"I felt like it was home," Lacey said. "I had a great relationship with coach [Anthony] Grant and the players." 

Lacey was one of the best scorers at the prep level the past few years. He has outstanding range on his 3-point shot, and has shown the ability to make contested jumpers with defenders in his face. Lacey can take defenders off the dribble and knock down mid-range shots or get to the rim and finish. He’s far more effective when playing off the ball, but is difficult to stop when he gets going.

He joins a very solid recruiting class that also includes top-100 prospects Levi Randolph and Nick Jacobs, as well as Rodney Cooper and Moussa Gueye. 

Photo: Al.com  

Posted on: May 17, 2011 3:43 pm

Obama gives a shout out to Adolph Ruff

Posted by Matt Jones

President Barack Obama is soaring in the post-Osama world with a 60% approval rating and a legion of medicore Republican candidates seeking to replace him. But there are still pockets of America where the Obama magic does not translate well. One of those is Kentucky, where Obama did little to help himself recently after incorrectly pronouncing the name of its most famous coaching legend.

At the White House celebration honoring the UConn men's basketball team and its national championship, Obama suggested that Huskies' coach Jim Calhoun had entered into a legendary grouping of coaches. The president noted that Calhoun was now one of only five coaches to win three national championships during his career. He then referenced the other five, naming John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and "Adolph Ruff."

The slight has already gained attention in the Bluegrass state, where the natives are ready to be restless at the drop of a hat. For Obama, it is the second time he has messed with Kentucky mojo, as his call to the 2009-2010 Kentucky team to congratulate them for their work in the Haitian relief effort was followed by the Wildcats' first loss of the season at South Carolina. Some Kentucky fans wondered whether the team had been "distracted" by the President's call and thus unable to focus on the task at hand in Columbia. Now with this slight to the legendary coach in the brown suit, a third strike could make Obama permanently a persona non grata in the Big Blue Nation.

However if John Calipari's team comes back as talented and successful as imagined next season, the President might have a chance to make amends when the Wildcats come visiting the White House at this time next season. Hopefully at that time he will avoid a mistake and avoid the biggest sin of all, mispronouncing the name of John Calipari.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky, Obama
Posted on: May 7, 2011 4:36 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 4:37 pm

Terrence Jones to return to Kentucky

Posted by Matt Jones

Continuing the surprising trend of potential top 10 NBA Draft picks returning to college, Kentucky's Terrence Jones announced via Twitter that he would be returning to college for his sophomore season. Jones was named SEC Freshman of the Year last season, after averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. He was projected in most NBA mock drafts as a certain lottery pick if he were to have remained in the draft.

Jones released a statement via the University of Kentucky that said, "“Last year was an unbelievable experience, but we left a lot on the table. I've decided to come back and help us get back to the Final Four and bring the Big Blue Nation a National Championship.”

From early in the season, most had suspected Jones was a virtual lock to enter the draft. After a tremendous showing in the Maui Invitational in late November, there was even talk that Jones could emerge as the top pick in June. However Jones's role on the Kentucky team changed a bit with the emergence of Brandon Knight as the team's leader and his stock on most NBA draft boards slipped. 

John Calipari eagerly welcomed Jones's decision with a statement on Twitter. "I'm very happy for Terrence and his family because he did the right thing for his future, but he had to come to that conclusion. He told me he wanted to continue to enjoy the college experience and I told him that was fine by me."

With Jones's return, Kentucky becomes loaded for next season and will field a team that could potentially have four lottery picks in the 2012 NBA draft. Jones will join four top 25 high school players in Kentucky's class of 2011 in Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer, along with sophomore Doron Lamb and three-year senior starter, Darius Miller. 

Kentucky's other player still determining his NBA draft future is Deandre Liggins, who is expected to make a final announcement on Sunday. 
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky
Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:52 am

Knight gone for good; Jones, Liggins coming back?

Posted by Matt Norlander

Just as I and pretty much everyone else assumed, the inevitable became the formal this morning, as Brandon Knight once and for all said he's staying in the NBA Draft.

Last week, the Kentucky freshman felt a shed of guilt about his future plans when talking to a group of youngins, opting to tell the wide-eyed youth of Kentucky he was still "50-50" on going back to school. But it was never that close, from what I understand. How could it have been for Knight? He was seen as a lottery pick for some time, and with the arrival of Marquis Teague this fall, there would've been a scenario that was less than optimal: Teague is seen as a much more natural point guard and better fit for John Calipari's dribble-drive offense.

"It was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up," Knight said at his press conference this morning. Knight's going because he got affirmation that he'll indeed be a top-10 pick. He also cited Kentucky's Final Four run and his accomplishments in one year under Calipari as evidence that he's ready to make the jump.

Most remarkable: this is the fourth consecutive year a starting point guard for John Calipari left for the NBA after his freshman year. Knight is preceded by John Wall, Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose.

Interestingly enough, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins were not sitting next to night at the table this morning. And Jones, in fact, used the same phrase on Twitter -- 50-50 -- in regard to his status (is "50-50" going to be the new "weighing my options"?) last night.

Can't help but wonder if Jones' 50-50 is truly that, and not only that, but perhaps even more slanted toward returning since he and teammate DeAndre Liggins did not join their teammate in a press conference this morning. Liggins is said to be in New Jersey this weekend, getting those last-minute workouts and evaluations in. We won't have to wait much longer to know; the deadline to withdraw and head back to campus is Sunday.

I think both will return, though I'd understand if Liggins left, even though he'd likely not get taken until the second round. There's yet another stacked class coming to Kentucky next season, so he could be fighting for more playing time, even though he'd be a senior. With that possibility, and with a weak draft this year, it's easy to see how he would want to take the leap now knowing, definitively, he'll be picked.

But if he came back I wouldn't be shocked. Calipari would love him back, certainly. It's not often he has such a reliable, long, veteran defensive specialist.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 5, 2011 3:22 pm

Video: Kentucky athletes lip dub "Dynamite"

Posted by Matt Norlander

When on video, what's the difference between a flash mob and a lip dub? I haven't the slightest idea, another sign I'm aging far too quickly. Regardless, below we've got video of hundreds of University of Kentucky student-athletes who put together a lip dub collaboration of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," a song that's already taken over clubs, birthday parties, sports arenas and mitzvahs across the nation. And will continue to do so for years to come. It's the pop song that hooks in people regardless of age, race, background or breakfast preference.

Many members of Kentucky's men's basketball team, including Terrence Jones (who may not be on campus much longer) and Josh Harrellson make an appearance around the 1:15 mark. The video was made as an introduction to the 2011 Catspy Awards, an annual on-campus event. All 22 Kentucky-sanctioned sports teams are featured, including the cheerleading and dance squads. It was done in one take, making it more impressive than the fact Harrellson didn't try to ham up more than 10 seconds of the video. (We love us some Jorts, of course.)

A reminder, yet again, that college is the greatest time of your life, and you'll never experience such a combination of happiness and freedom ever again.

(H/T, The Dagger)
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky, Video
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