UK basketball notebook: Ex-Cat Padgett endorses Cats' Twitter blackout

Herald-Leader Staff WriterDecember 8, 2012 

Samford head coach Bennie Seltzer talked with former Kentucky star Scott Padgett, now a Samford assistant, during Samford's game at Kentucky on Tuesday. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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As Scott Padgett recalled, Kentucky was rolling toward a 99-74 victory over Arkansas in the 1998 Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Cats had made, like, 10 shots in a row when he missed.

"Get him out of there," Padgett heard a fan yell from behind the UK bench.

Welcome to the kind of all-or-nothing rooting interest that led several current UK players to turn off their Twitter accounts last week. Willie Cauley-Stein noted "a bunch of negativity" produced by two straight losses.

Padgett could identify.

Of the uber UK fan (is there any other kind?) who called for his benching, Padgett said, "I think he was 100 percent serious."

Rather than get angry, the remarkably good-natured Padgett played along. He remembered turning to the fan and saying, "Yeah, you're right. Get him out of there."

The fan's reaction?

"He laughed," Padgett said.

There's no news in saying UK fans follow their favorite team passionately. Just ask any number of former players who drew the fans' ire: coaches' sons Sean Sutton and Saul Smith come immediately to mind. Big men Rob Lock and Randolph Morris failed to dominate. A Rick Pitino-coached UK team that ultimately won by 29 points got booed in Rupp Arena when Mississippi State threw long to beat the press one time too many.

"Sometimes they can be shortsighted and short-fused," Padgett said of UK fans with a chuckle. "But I think that comes with the passion. That's why they're such great fans in the first place. So you kind of have to take a couple of those bad moments. That definitely gets outweighed by all the good."

Big crowds. National television. "A neutral site is never a neutral site," Padgett said.

The new Wildcat Coal Lodge, which Padgett called a "mini palace." Tutorial services. Doctors. Lawyers. Rabbis.

"They run their organization like a pro team," Padgett said with perhaps a touch of envy in his voice. He's now an assistant at Samford, which rode a bus six hours to play at Kentucky last week. "It's run like a playoff NBA team where you get the best of everything."

Padgett endorsed the current players' decision to turn off their Twitter accounts. It's better not to read the newspapers or listen to call-in shows or follow Internet postings.

"Luckily for me and the guys I played with, we didn't have Twitter and Facebook and things like that," Padgett said.

In terms of Twitter, Ryan Harrow is a team leader. He wisely turned off his account before the season began.

When asked why, Harrow smiled knowingly and paused.

"Hmm (chuckle)," he said. "Just past experience."

Harrow learned the hard way at North Carolina State that interacting with fans can be distracting, at best.

"I felt like it was better not to have one," he said. "You can't listen to outside sources because they can make or break you sometimes."

Playboy believes

Playboy magazine still believes in UK. According to Playboy's predictions, the Cats will reach the national championship game next spring.

With UK off to a 6-3 start, Playboy college basketball analyst John Gasaway tried to make the most of that pre-season pick.

"I do have Kentucky losing in the finals (to Michigan State)," he said jokingly. "Another way to phrase it is Kentucky won't win the national championship. That looks good right now."

Kidding aside, Gasaway said it will be a while before we know what to make of Kentucky this season. "A solid month or more," he said.

Gasaway acknowledged surprise that UK dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 last week after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor.

"An overreaction," he called it.

In his Top 25 ballot for ESPN.com, Gasaway dropped Kentucky from No. 2 to No. 15.

Here's how Gasaway saw the NCAA Tournament unfolding:

Sweet 16: Indiana over Marquette; Kansas over Butler; Kentucky over Arizona; Duke over Pittsburgh; Florida over UCLA; Gonzaga over Louisville; Michigan State over Syracuse; N.C. State over Ohio State.

Elite 8: Indiana over Kansas; Kentucky over Duke; Florida over Gonzaga; Michigan State over N.C. State.

Final Four: Kentucky over Indiana; Michigan State over Florida.

Title game: Michigan State over Kentucky.

Next season

What must this season's UK players think of the anticipation for next season? Isn't that difficult to handle?

"It's kind of like John (Calipari) says all the time," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. "If you're not prepared for that, why do you go to Kentucky?"

Then Bilas made a pointed observation.

"Listen," he said. "If you're worried about the freshman class coming in behind you at Kentucky, what are you thinking about the NBA for? If you were worried about playing time, you wouldn't go to Kentucky. You better be able to perform. ... You're going to have to compete against guys like that in the NBA year after year. (Like Kentucky, the NBA has) a star class of talent coming in every year."

Missing Maymon

Losses to Georgetown (37-36) on Nov. 30 and Virginia (46-38) on Wednesday marked Tennessee's first back-to-back games scoring less than 40 points since 1946. Those losses also showed how much the Vols miss Jeronne Maymon.

Without Maymon, Tennessee's lack of consistent perimeter shooting allows opponents to swarm Jarnell Stokes every time he touches the ball.

It's easy to think of Maymon as a power player. But he also makes good passes, drives to the basket, works the offensive boards and gets to the foul line.

Complications from routine off-season knee surgery continue to sideline Maymon. A staph infection had delayed his expected return to early January. But there is some speculation he might sit out this season as a redshirt.

Meanwhile, Stokes got off only three shots at Georgetown, one of which was a putback and another an airball at the end of the 35-second shot clock. He took five shots at Virginia.

Rick Majerus

After considering his rotund physique, an observer of Rick Majerus next anticipated a flash of his famous sense of humor.

The first time I crossed paths with Majerus was in the 1993 NCAA Tournament's first- and second-round games in Nashville. He didn't seem in the mood to crack wise. He did his news conference duty, then departed for his Utah team's practice.

Thanks to the NCAA and the consistently solid job Majerus did as coach, Utah played Kentucky often. Beginning in 1993, UK played the Utes four times in the next six NCAA Tournaments, and seven of the next 11 seasons.

Kentucky won them all.

Majerus, who passed away on Dec. 1, could make the routine interesting. For instance, the word before one of those games (I don't remember which) was that Kentucky lacked its customary load of talent. This caused Majerus to quip, "Nobody's going to hold a telethon to help Kentucky get players."

As coach for Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis, Majerus compiled a record of 517-216.

Between coaching stints for Utah and Saint Louis, he worked for ESPN as a college basketball analyst. This led to a season working SEC games. His lack of polish gave his TV work authenticity. He gave the viewers a sense of watching a game with a coach.

As The New York Times obituary noted, Majerus named his memoir, My Life on a Napkin. This was a reference to devising plays at a restaurant before Utah's game against Kentucky in the 1998 NCAA Tournament finals.

"Majerus is by far the best coach I ever played for," Michael Doleac once told Sports Illustrated. "He's got an unbelievable ability to see the game. If you coach kids for a week, after a while you get tired of correcting them. But he never lets go."

Congrats

To Loyola Marymount Coach Max Good. His team's 92-86 win over Northern Arizona in overtime on Wednesday marked his 300th victory on the NCAA level. He improves to 300-302 in his fifth season at LMU and 21st season as an NCAA head coach.

Good's career record includes 58-79 at Loyola Marymount, 133-85 at Bryant, 13-9 at UNLV and 96-129 at Eastern Kentucky.

Loyola Marymount is in the midst of a two-week break for final exams. The Lions next play on Dec. 19 against Ole Miss. That game will be televised by ESPNU.

Final Four picks

Former Rupp Runt Larry Conley offered his picks for the 2013 Final Four: Florida, Indiana, Louisville and Arizona.

Conley said he liked the mix of veterans and freshmen on those teams.

Judd 1, Scribes 0

UK's most famous fan, actress Ashley Judd, impressed analyst John Gasaway with her insights into UK basketball.

Recalling how many wondered about UK's offense last season, Gasaway noted an interview in which Judd said the Cats were capable at both ends of the floor.

"That's Kentucky fans," he said. "She was more knowledgeable than 80 percent of the sportswriters I read."

Never mind the U.S. Senate, Ashley Judd should aspire to something grander like sportswriting.

Twin bill

Analyst Fran Fraschilla made no secret of his keen sense of anticipation for a high school game next week. He'll be working the Fort Bend Travis-Archbishop Mitty game Thursday.

That game pits future Cats Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Fort Bend Travis) against highly regarded prospect Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty).

With an approving tone, Fraschilla called the Harrison twins "killers" in terms of competitiveness.

"They've got a mean streak," he said. He likened the Harrisons to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the UK standard for competitiveness.

Gordon has been likened to Blake Griffin.

Silver linings

An 80-76 home loss to DePaul in the SEC-Big East Challenge dropped Auburn's record to 2-5.

"I think as frustrated as we all are as a group — players, coaches, as a team, as a family — we're getting closer," Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said. "We've just got to put it all together on the floor. There's a lot of positive out of this game. We just didn't come out with a win."

Among the positives against DePaul were Frankie Sullivan's career highs of 28 points and five assists. Center Rob Chubb scored a season-high 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

After the game, Auburn began a 10-day break for final exams. The Tigers play next on Tuesday against Grambling State.

Six of Auburn's next seven games are at home.

Happy birthday

To Eric Bledsoe. He turns 23 today. ... To Sam Malone. He turned 21 on Thursday. ... To Cliff Hagan. He turned 81 on Saturday. ... To Bob Fowler. He turned 56 on Thursday. ... To Randy Noll. He turned 63 on Wednesday. ... To Terry Mobley. He turns 69 today. ... To Cameron Mills. He turns 37 on Monday. ...

To former Auburn coach Cliff Ellis. He turned 67 on Wednesday. ... To Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson. He turns 53 on Wednesday.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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