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CJ Fredrick Says He Is “Living Every Kid’s Dream” Playing in the NCAA Tournament With Kentucky Across His Chest

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When growing up in the state of Kentucky, it is many kids’ dream to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, and the same can be said for CJ Fredrick who was born in raised in Covington. Fredrick played his first three years of college basketball at Iowa, where he became one of the best three-point shooters in the country, but elected to transfer back home and play for Kentucky as a redshirt junior.

Yet, it didn’t go as expected. After suffering a foot injury in the summer, followed by a hamstring injury in the fall, Fredrick did not play a single minute at Kentucky in his first year. To end the season, he had to watch the Saint Peter’s loss from the sidelines.

Rather than looking at the situation as a negative, he turned it into an opportunity to get into the best shape of his life, which he did. Fredrick’s hard work has paid off as he is now a key player for the Kentucky Wildcats amidst their 2023 NCAA Tournament run.

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“I am living every kid’s dream right now,” CJ Fredrick said after Friday night’s win over Providence. “To play in this Tournament and have Kentucky across my chest, and get a win for this program. It’s awesome.”

That dream hasn’t come easy. This Kentucky Wildcat team has been one of the most criticized teams in recent memory, and as an individual, Fredrick has continued to battle injuries, currently dealing with two cracked ribs that he suffered against Florida in early February.

On Saturday, John Calipari talked about CJ Fredrick and cited his approach to adversity.

“This poor kid [Fredrick] can’t catch a break. Every time I turn around it’s an ankle, it’s a rib, it’s — and his hamstring. What is going on? You know what, he has never changed his attitude. He is always upbeat.”

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The season is not over for Kentucky, and the players say they are “still writing their story.” On Sunday, the Wildcats will look to keep that story open as they face the Kansas State Wildcats for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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