Mark Story: If Sean Woods was right about Cats, he's not gloating

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 23, 2013 

Since the end of the Kentucky men's basketball season, if I had a dollar for everyone I've heard say, 'You know, maybe Sean Woods was right,' the down payment for a summer home in Longboat Key would be mine.

Back in November, after interacting with UK players at a telethon to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims, Woods — the ex-Kentucky point guard and current Morehead State head coach — famously said he disliked "the vibe" he felt from the current Cats.

Woods decried what he saw as "a sense of entitlement" from the UK players.

After an adverse public reaction, Woods, a member of The Unforgettables whose retired jersey hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters, beat a retreat.

However, after UK hobbled through a disappointing 21-12 season that ended, stunningly, in an NIT loss to Robert Morris, John Calipari was asked whether Woods had been proven right.

"Maybe," the Kentucky coach said after the NIT defeat.

For his part, Woods wants no part of re-litigating his assessment of the 2012-13 Wildcats.

"I have no comment on Cal or his team," the Morehead State coach said last week.

So what did go wrong? For all the focus on Calipari's heavy utilization of one-and-done players, it still says here that what was mainly different for UK this season from the coach's first three highly successful years was — in an irony — a lack of experience.

There were no veteran and/or mature players with prior playing experience at UK like Patrick Patterson, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb to help out this season's freshman core.

It is true that the 2012-13 UK freshman class was not at the level of Calipari's first three, especially after the best frosh, Nerlens Noel, missed the last month of the season after tearing his ACL.

Yet the thing that was too often overlooked in harsh assessments of Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein is that they did not have the help from older players that the first three Calipari-era freshman classes enjoyed.

Rex returns to Madness

Providing a massive case of "where does the time go?" was the realization that it has been 25 years since Rex Chapman played his final game in a Kentucky uniform. The then-sophomore guard scored a career-high 30 points in an 80-74 upset loss to Villanova in the 1988 NCAA Tournament round of 16.

Chapman declared for the NBA Draft after the '88 season and became the original first-round pick of the then-expansion Charlotte Hornets.

Officially, Chapman's 30-point game for UK in the NCAA tourney has been stricken from the record books. The NCAA subsequently ruled that Eric Manuel was academically ineligible and ordered Kentucky to strike its 1988 tournament participation (two wins and the Villanova loss) from the record books.

Last week, Chapman was having a happier March Madness experience doing studio work for Turner Sports on its NCAA tourney coverage (which Turner shares with CBS). Over the week, Chapman got to trade insights and barbs with Charles Barkley, Sports Illustrated college basketball writer/CBS analyst Seth Davis and former Michigan State star Steve Smith, among others.

"It's fun," Chapman said Wednesday. "I've known Charles forever; I played against Smitty for years (in the NBA). It's fun to get to talk about something you enjoy and feel like you know a little bit about."

At one point during Chapman's stint, video of then-Auburn star Barkley crying after Kentucky's Kenny Walker hit a last-second jumper to beat the Tigers and win the 1984 SEC Tournament was shown. "Kenny broke his heart," Chapman said, laughing.

By Saturday night, after several Seth Davis NCAA predictions had fizzled, Chapman was referring on air to teams predicted to win by Davis as having received "the kiss of Seth."

For his part, Chapman said Wednesday he likes Louisville to win it all. "Only thing that worries me, after the way they played in the Big East Tournament, it seems like everybody is on them. That always makes me nervous," he said.

After his NBA career ended, Chapman, his wife and their four children settled in Arizona.

Which brings us back to the passage of time. Twenty-five years after King Rex left UK, he again has a direct tie to the university.

"My oldest daughter, Caley, is a freshman at UK," Chapman said. "She loves it. I'm not sure she's coming back (to Arizona)."

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230 Email: mstory@herald-leader.com Twitter: @markcstory Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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