Once ESPN fought their way through another time warp in programming, causing all of us another absence and delay of live TV coverage with Kentucky basketball, we were finally entertained Saturday night down on the plains of Auburn, Alabama by the Commonwealth’s beloved Wildcats, and additionally by one of my favorite basketball personalities, former Auburn and NBA all-star Charles Barkley.
If you’re a sports fan you gotta love Sir Charles Barkley, sometimes controversial and many times very blunt, but always colorful and painfully honest in his opinions. Saturday night he was at it again when he sat in with the ESPN announcers at court side during the second half of the Auburn-UK game, and right at the exact time UK was playing arguably their best half of basketball to date for the 2012-13 season.
Please come back Charles, and often, especially if the Cats are on the road.
Barkley touched base in his remarks on this year’s freshman class of supposed one-and-done players at UK with which Coach Cal has built a quick modern day dynasty in college hoops, but Barkley had serious doubts about this year’s trio of Noel, Poythress, and Goodwin when he pointedly stated, “Look I consider Coach Cal a close personal friend, but none of his three freshmen or anyone else on this team needs to go into the draft this year. They aren’t ready for that level of play.”
I staunchly agree, Sir Charles, but others who will be much more involved in the decision making process don’t.
While the kiddie corps trio of Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Anthony Goodwin try to lead the struggling Kentucky Wildcats from a mediocre season into hopefully another deep run in March Madness, the questions keep popping up each game from Big Blue Nation concerning whether they will be the next possible crop of one-and-done players to exit the Joe Craft Center doors this coming June.
However, there is no question as stated above in Barkley’s eyes, and he followed that up with another suggestion, “They not only need to stay in school, Mom and Dad need to step up to the plate and take charge of the decision making process.” When questioned by the college basketball analyst working the game on how this one-and-done dilemma got started and has now raped the college game of a lot of talent and exciting basketball for several years, Barkley once again spoke the plain, honest truth.
While many believe the NBA Players Association is at the brunt of the problem, Barkley brought another side to the story, stating, “It’s the pro agent, they’re just leaches sucking these kids and their parents for every dollar they can get. They have no concern or interest in the players’ individual development or the college game either.”
The problem for Barkley, Coach Cal, and BBN is the NBA scouts have no questions or concerns about any of the three five-star college recruits turned freshman at UK. The NBA general managers and front office personnel all across professional basketball have already firmly stamped all three for solid first round picks, with Noel being heavily pushed for the No. 1 pick overall.
What concerns me is Barkley’s remarks on the character and morals of these professional basketball agents, and he’s dead on correct in his opinions, I’m sure.
Personally, I’m hoping those same leaches don’t get their fingers hooked into Willie Cauley-Stein after this season is over, and he can be salvaged for one more year at least because I think he and Kyle Wiltjer can be to the 2013-14 team what Darius Miller and Terrence Jones were to last year’s NCAA champions.
UK spring sports just around the corner
It may be bone chilling cold outside, but we are only just weeks away from spring football and another UK baseball season.
Mark your calendar on the date of April 13 for a spring sports double header with the Wildcats when the baseball team will entertain the UT Vols at Cliff Hagan Stadium at 2 p.m., then walk across Cooper Drive to Commonwealth Stadium for Mark Stoops’ first spring Blue-White football game that evening. This is a little early of a date compared to previous years when this particular event was normally played the third or fourth Saturday in April, so I’m not sure as to why it’s been moved up, but I’m sure there is a valid reason.
I’m assuming all those injuries to key players last fall have mended properly, or are expected to be mended or the 15 practices and spring game wouldn’t be moved up this early. It’s possible Coach Stoops is handling this scenario like a few other college football programs do, and that is the spring game is not the final practice of the 15 practices allotted by the NCAA; some are saved for post spring games.
Regardless of the reason for an earlier-than-usual spring football game, many are excited to get a look at Coach Mark Stoops’ first team and especially new OC Neal Brown’s air raid offense. While there are reports that Stoops and Brown are in several recruiting battles with some better-than-average wide receivers that obviously won’t be on campus this spring even if they opt for the Cats, you will be able to gauge the process of the quarterbacks from last November to this spring and who is in the lead to be the starting QB come this fall for the 2013 season opener.
The big prize in state still on the recruiting board is Ryan Timmons of Franklin County. Last week he canceled a previously scheduled trip to Ohio State to stay home and visit UK with some other recruits, which was encouraging. But now Joker Phillips has entered the picture, I’m told, offering immediate playing time in The Swamp and a realistic chance at winning an SEC and NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.
Rarely does losing one recruit make or break a college football program, but when you are as thin as UK is in the play making positions it makes Timmons a high priority to get Stoops and Brown’s air raid offense off the ground in the first year, and give them a puncher’s chance at fighting through what already is going to be a brutal schedule with the roster UK has at the present time. Timmons is one of those rare football players who can have an impact on a football game from several different positions.
More football coverage, especially on recruiting next week, when we will just be one and a half weeks away from national signing day.