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Tennessee Baseball Gives Disrespectful Comments, UK Uses It as Motivation to Win Series Opener

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UT Sports

It is fair to say that Kentucky baseball has struggled this season. The Wildcats are tied for the worst overall record (24-2) and worst conference record (7-14) in the SEC.

While Kentucky has all but been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, with their only hope being the automatic bid from the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats still have the chance to win a big rivalry series against the No. 1 team in the country, the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Volunteers have been dominant this season, and could arguably be one of the best teams in modern baseball history, but could Nick Mingione and the Wildcats put up a fight?

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The Vols players and coaches didn’t believe so.

Ahead of the game, Sophomore outfielder Kyle Booker was asked about what he knew about Kentucky, to which he snarkily answered, “I don’t know anything, nor do I care”.

Volunteers’ head coach, Tony Vitello, was asked about the challenges Kentucky could provide, to which he threw a subtle jab and said, “their starters throw strikes,” an answer reminiscent of Steve Spurrier when he said, “Kentucky has a heck of a punter”.

These comments gave the Wildcats no shortage of motivation and on Thursday night they used it to their advantage winning in walk-off fashion after 13 innings, 3-2.

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The most impressive part of the performance is that the UK pitchers held the nation’s top offense to just one hit over its final 42 plate appearances and five total. This is less than half of Tennessee’s average hits per game (10.5).

Kentucky can clinch the series against the No. 1 team in the nation with a win on Friday or Saturday.

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Other Sports

Rhyne Howard Wins WNBA Rookie of the Year

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Atlanta Dream

Former Wildcat star, Rhyne Howard ends her record-breaking rookie season by being named WNBA Rookie of the Year, announced on Thursday as she received 53 of 56 votes.

After being selected No. 1 in the 2022 NBA Draft, Howard was tasked to be the star of the rebuilding Atlanta Dream team and she did not disappoint in her rookie season. Howard put up an impressive stat line for any WNBA player, let alone a rookie: 16.2 points (led all rookies, 11th in the WNBA), 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists (led all rookies), and 1.4 steals (led all rookies).

Not to mention, accomplished many other feats including:

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  • 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year 
  • 2022 Associated Press Rookie of the Year 
  • 2022 USA National Training Camp selection 
  • Swept the WNBA Rookie of the Month honors (May – August), to earn the most WNBA Rookie of the Month honors in Atlanta Dream history with four 
  • Invited to compete in the WNBA All-Star Game and 3-Point Contest 
  • Most three-pointers made (85) and attempted (248) in a rookie season in league history, and the most made and attempted by any Atlanta Dream player in franchise history 
  • Most points scored in a rookie season (552) in franchise history, making her the first Dream rookie to ever eclipse 500 points in one season 
  • Most 10+ point games (30), 15+ point games (20) and 20+ point games (11) of any rookie in Dream history 
  • Most defensive rebounds (127) in a season by any Dream rookie in franchise history 
  • Became the first rookie in league history to record four 3-point field goals and four blocks in their debut game 
  • Was named the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week and AP Player of the Week after her first week on the court in May, scoring the most points in a quarter by any rookie in the league against Indiana on May 15  

Despite missing the playoffs, Howard helped the Dream improve on their record, going from 8-24 last season to 14-22 this season.

Next season, Howard will look to build on an impressive rookie campaign and help the Dream reach the playoffs, in addition to being a star representative for the University of Kentucky.

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Football

Mark Stoops and Mitch Barnhart Voice Frustration at Calipari’s Comments

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UK Athletics

On Thursday, an interview with John Calipari caused quite a stir.

In the interview, Cal mentioned two things: One, that Kentucky is a “basketball school”, which Mark Stoops and Co took offense to; Second, that he is willing to go over Mitch Barnhart and raise the money himself to build a new practice facility.

Most of us expected a de-escalation in today’s press conference, but that was not the case. Stoops noted that he and Calipari have yet to talk since Calipari’s original comments and had some strong words to say.

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To follow, Barnhart expressed his frustration at the situation as well, seemingly taking some shots at Calipari and said that the practice facility is not on the agenda. However, he seemed even more frustrated at other schools in the SEC taking shots at Kentucky.

Let’s take a look at some of the quotes from today’s press conference.

“I don’t care about anyone’s program or other’s that we compete against, I stay in my lane. But when you start talking about mine, and people I compete against, I’m going to defend my players… Don’t demean or distract from what we’ve done to get to this point. I don’t need to apologize for that and I won’t.”
– Mark Stoops

“No disrespect, I’m not concerned about anybody’s feelings outside of that building.”
– Mark Stoops

“Some may, but this program didn’t wake up on third base.”
– Mark Stoops

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“That’s in defense of my players, in defense of the work that we’ve done.”
– Mark Stoops on why he tweeted a response to Calipari’s quote.

“I’m done. I’ve addressed it. I will defend my players.”
– Mark Stoops on not talking to Calipari yet.

“This is my norm. I will keep the details of the family business and private conversations within the family. Comments in a new interview, created in my judgement an unproductive and unfortunate situation.”
– Mitch Barnhart

“I have talked to both coaches and they’re extremely competitive and that’s what I want them to be. I’m glad they’re competitive”
– Mitch Barnhart

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“Adults are supposed to teach the children”.
– Mitch Barnhart

“We are not a basketball school. We are not a football school… We are a school with an outstanding athletic department. We are an “all everything” school.”
– Mitch Barnhart

“The desire for more should be met with a sense of gratitude.”
– Mitch Barnhart

“The Craft Center continues to be a state of the art facility. There’s a process and we will work through that process… It’s not a project in our strategic plan.”
– Mitch Barnhart

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“They will talk at the appropriate time when Calipari gets back from the Bahamas… They are both iconic people at at our program and I will anticpate them to handle that like pros.”
– Mitch Barnhart

“We will be a grateful (athletic) department. We will not be entitled.”
– Mitch Barnhart seemingly directed at John Calipari

“I’m not real thrilled at where we are. Grown ups are going to have to figure this out and be a little better. Sometimes when you get a little bit of success, you get a little entitled. We will be a grateful (athletic) department. We will not be entitled… I will teach it that way in my end.
– Mitch Barnhart

“I hear a lot of our ‘friends’ in the conference talking about how “the Cats are fighting”. Awesome, thats really good. How many coaches have your turned over in your group? Let’s check their rosters. I will put our longevity and sucess against just about anybody’s.”
– Mitch Barnhart

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In the end, I am not sure today’s press conference was a net positive.

  • The Calipari – Stoops tension is very much still there.
  • Barnhart angered and put blame on the media for this situation by saying, “You look to create stories, and it becomes the fact.”
  • Barnhart indirectly calls Cal “entitled” and says a new practice facility is not on the agenda.
  • Takes shots at other schools in the SEC.

For what it’s worth, here’s Calipari’s response to what happened today.

Also published by Tristan Pharis on A Sea of Blue.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky Receives Prediction for 2024 No. 1 Recruit Ian Jackson

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Instagram/Ian Jackson

While John Calipari and Co are still working to put together the 2023 recruiting class – which is shaping up to be an old Calipari star-studded class – they are already putting in early work for the 2024 class.

On June 15th, NCAA rules permitted college basketball coaches to make unlimited calls and texts directly to recruits in the 2024 class. Kentucky wasted no time and reached out to more than 20 prospects and offered five of them, showing a change in approach by expressing interest earlier.

On Tuesday, Travis Graf of Rivals logged a FutureCast prediction for Kentucky to land one of the prospects they had offered, Ian Jackson. Graf has an all-time accuracy rate of 85.2 percent and is 36/40 in 2022.

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Standing 6-foot-5 and 180-pounds, Jackson is a consensus top-three prospect and is ranked as high as No. 1, according to Rivals. As an elite guard, Jackson is one of Kentucky’s top priorities and the interest is mutual.

When Jackson received a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky, he described it as “crazy” and “a dream come true”.

“It felt like a dream come true. Being on the phone with Coach Cal and him saying those words: ‘We’d like to offer you a scholarship,’ it was definitely something I dreamed about and had to been waiting to hear for a while,” Jackson had previously told Joe Tipton of On3.

Jackson would be a great first piece for Kentucky’s 2024 class.

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Scouting Report

While there is still plenty of room to develop his frame, Jackson is an explosive athlete and is one of the best two-way players in his class.

On the offensive side of the ball, Jackson is able to use his speed and ball-handling skills to get to the rim, and despite his aforementioned frame, is deceptively strong and able to finish through contact. This also makes him a slashing threat and dangerous in transition.

While he has improved his 3-point shot, both off the dribble and the catch, Jackson does need to continue that progression and become more consistent with his shot, in addition, to improving his overall shot selection.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson uses his length and athleticism to guard multiple positions and has the ability to use his defense to generate offense.

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Check out a deeper breakdown of Jackson here.

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