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Men's Basketball

John Calipari Willing to Go Over Mitch Barnhart, “Demands” New Practice Facility

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Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Since the start of the offseason, one of the major headlines has been John Calipari’s desire for a new practice facility and the resistance he has been met with from Mitch Barnhart

Kentucky basketball is one of the greatest brands in sports, but Calipari has cited on several occasions that the practice facility is no longer up to the gold standard, which he says is “unacceptable”.

In one such instance, Calipari talked about the Philadelphia Phillies visiting Lexington and taking a look at UK’s athletic facilities. Being impressed with the baseball, football, and soccer facilities, they had high expectations for the basketball facilities. However, they were let down.

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Then just last week, the ceiling began to leak during practice. While this is a minor repair, it doesn’t give the best optics of an elite facility and is something that other schools can use to recruit against the Wildcats.

Citing the improvement of facilities around campus and for other sports programs, Calipari says it’s time to do the same for basketball. According to Kyle Tucker of The Athletic, Cal is not going to wait any longer, and with or without the help of Mitch Barnhart, he hopes to have a new or upgraded facility done, “in a year, two years.”

“Everybody should be behind this. Our administration. Look, our baseball facility might be the nicest in the country, and I’m happy about that. Our football facility, we spent $200 million. Soccer, unbelievable. Now, the track — I love it. And now, I would say, the administration should be like, we’re doing this. How about the state? If this is the University for Kentucky, and it’s the basketball program for the state, which it is, how about the state says, ‘We’re in. We’re gonna invest.’ I’ll tell you right now, Anthony Davis gave $350,000 on a text to me (for flood relief). Do you know what our former players would do? They just gotta see it: What is it? So it’s the next challenge that we all have.”

As said in the quote, if Calipari is forced to raise the money on his own, he will, just as he did in 2012 with the locker rooms.

The biggest sources of money will come from former players, notably those from the Calipari era, who have earned over $2 billion in career earnings. In addition, Cal hopes that the state will invest as well and even believes that the Big Blue Nation would give saying, “I think you would have people give to it. That’s one thing people in this state will give to: men’s basketball. Oh, they’ll give.”

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Within the new facility, Calipari wants to include the history of Kentucky basketball, giving Big Blue Nation, college sports fans, and tourists, in general, an interactive experience and an opportunity to learn about the program’s storied past.

“How about (we build something) where people from east and west can come and there’s the history of this program. Interactive. How about players interviewed about their experiences here, their recollection of their time. Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins — there’s 50 of them! — where you could see them talking about their experience, where you go to the wall and press their picture and they talk. They will give to something like that. These kids will.”

Since the loss to Saint Peter’s, a fire has been reignited for Calipari, as he has been a man on a mission and proving that he has still got it by signing multiple five-star recruits, changing his recruiting approach, pushing to reignite Big Blue Madness, and reconnecting to the Big Blue Nation.

With that said, this new facility is the “next challenge”.

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Men's Basketball

Sahvir Wheeler Says “Sky Is the Limit” for This Kentucky Team

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UK Athletics

Sahvir Wheeler may be one of the more controversial Kentucky Wildcats amongst fans.

On one hand, Wheeler is a Bob Cousy award finalist and two-time SEC assist leader, proving himself as one of the best playmakers in the country. On the other, he is an undersized guard that can play out of control and is an inefficient shooter.

Wheeler hears both sides of the aisle but has looked toward the critics to find motivation and at himself to find areas for improvement.

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In an interview with Kentucky Sports Radio, Wheeler talked about his self-reflection and looked at what worked and what didn’t last season.

What worked?

“Playing fast. Playing fast worked. Being able to give it up sometimes and kind of run out, that worked. Just trusting myself, being confident, building relationships with teammates — because they want to see you succeed. All that worked.”

What didn’t work?

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“I think sometimes I got a little out of control. I think defensively I took a step back. I think most of it was just because of the injury. Now that I feel healthy, I feel stronger, faster, more explosive, I feel like I’m back to where I was at the beginning of the year.”

Physically, Wheeler is in better shape after losing weight and cleaning up his diet in the offseason. Even saying, “I’m as fast, even faster than I once was”.

In August, the Big Blue Nation got to see the Wildcats and new and improved Sahvir Wheeler in the Bahamas, albeit against lesser competition.

Wheeler averaged 14.5 points on 61.1 percent shooting from the field and 93.3 percent from the line, but did struggle mightily from three, going 0-9. The senior guard also displayed more control, which was evident with a 24-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, equating to 6.1 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game.

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Wheeler’s play on the court shouldn’t overshadow his importance off it, bringing toughness and his leadership to this team.

Five-star freshman, Cason Wallace talked about how great it is to have Wheeler to lead him. “It’s great having Sahvir right there. If I have a problem with anything, he’s always right there to help me.”

Coming back for a second year at Kentucky, Wheeler has all the confidence in this team and himself, citing the “sky is the limit and beyond” and that he is “coming back with a vengeance.” *cue the Batman music*

Read more of KSR’s interview here.

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Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky Basketball Unveils New Home Uniforms

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Twitter/Kentucky Men's Basketball

The Kentucky Wildcats have not been to the Final Four since 2015, which coincidentally is one of the last seasons that the checkerboard was used in moderation on the basketball uniforms. This was prior to the infamous pattern being featured very prominently on the sides of the jersey and shorts, which is what has been used for the past six seasons.

Over those six seasons, numerous players and many more fans have voiced their displeasure with the uniforms. The staff seems to have become pretty self-aware of this, with TJ Beisner making this trolling tweet in anticipation of the uniform unveiling.

Fortunately, the checkerboard is no more, at least on the home uniforms.

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On Tuesday, looks of the new home basketball uniforms were released with Oscar Tshiebwe donning the new threads.

The uniforms feature a much more classic look reminiscent of Kentucky’s classic uniforms of the past, specifically the early 2000s.

The away uniforms are sure to be released soon, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts on the new home uniforms?

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Kenny Payne Surprised at “Hatred” and Negative Recruiting at UofL

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Louisville Athletics

Over the past decade-plus, the Louisville Basketball program has been the country’s most reliable source of athletic-department salaciousness, ranging from affairs between the head coach and booster’s wife to an escort scandal to paying recruits.

It has been so frequent that the NCAA has not even provided consequences for all of the scandals yet. As of now, the NCAA has only issued consequences for the escort scandal, vacated their 2013 national title, and put them on four years of probation starting in 2017.

Five years later, NCAA has yet to issue any more consequences, but many believe it is just a matter of time before they are at least put back on probation.

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Given that, many teams have used this to their advantage, using the provided ammunition against Louisville in recruiting. Most people familiar will college athletics and/or the world of recruiting would not be surprised by this.

That is unless you are Kenny Payne.

On Sunday, Payne talked to the media about being unprepared to face the negative recruiting. “I wasn’t prepared for universities to say, ‘Louisville’s going on probation, why would you ever go there?’ to deter these kids from listening and especially from people that I’ve helped in the past. It’s a lesson for me.”

While Payne did not list any names, he went on to say, “my relationships with certain people that have been in my life for 30, 40 years have changed.”

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Could these comments be directed at another talented recruiter down the road, John Calipari? Calipari and Payne are battling for two top 10 prospects, Aaron Bradshaw and DJ Wagner. The latter of which, Payne hired his grandfather, Milt Wagner.

Whatever the case may be, Kenny Payne knows to recruit. During his time at Kentucky, he received commitments from a dozen five-star recruits and several four-star recruits.

For someone with that amount of recruiting success, it is difficult to believe that Payne wasn’t aware of the recruiting situation he was coming into.

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