Mark Story: It's time to cut Rex Chapman some slack

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 14, 2014 

Fast-break points from the SC&P Los Angeles office:

21. Rex Chapman. I don't blame Kentucky fans for being upset with the ex-Wildcats star over the timing of his pre-NCAA championship game tweet claiming John Calipari was bound for the Los Angeles Lakers.

20. No impact on the game. King Rex's "done deal" tweet played zero role in Kentucky's 60-54 loss to Connecticut. Even if the UK players knew about it, many of the Cats who played against UConn are expected to leave soon for the NBA themselves.

19. Seen as good news. Those UK players who are turning pro could have been happy at the idea of their college coach being in a position of authority with an NBA glamour franchise.

18. Negative impact on fans. Even at Kentucky, appearances in an NCAA championship game cannot be taken for granted. I felt bad for Cats fans that the Rex tweet seemed to take away some of the good vibrations of having their team playing on the final Monday.

17. Time to forgive. Those fire breathers on Twitter who are trying to "excommunicate" Chapman from Kentucky Wildcats basketball need to give it up. Chapman has two years of sweat equity in the UK men's hoops program. He is one of the more accomplished basketball players ever produced in our state. You don't eradicate that legacy with one carelessly-timed tweet.

16. Willie Cauley-Stein. DraftExpress.com had the Kentucky sophomore going No. 12 in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft. If that projection proved accurate, the 7-foot center gave up $1.803 million in 2014-15 to come back to UK for his junior season.

15. Tall Cats. It's possible Kentucky could have a towering frontline next season with the 7-foot Cauley-Stein, 7-foot Dakari Johnson, 7-foot Karl Towns Jr., 6-10 Trey Lyles, 6-9 Marcus Lee, 6-9 Derek Willis and 6-8 Alex Poythress.

14. Quick quiz. Connecticut now has three men's NCAA tourney victories over UK. Can you name the other eight schools that have beaten Kentucky more than once in the Big Dance (answer at No. 1)?

13. Charging Kansas. In Bill Self's first 10 years as Kansas head coach, the Jayhawks gained an average of 3.8 wins a season on Kentucky in the men's college hoops all-time victories race.

12. The empire strikes back. This past season, Kentucky (29-11) turned the tide by gaining four games on Kansas (25-10).

11. The up-to-date, all-time win standings: 1. Kentucky 2,140; 2. Kansas 2,126; 3. North Carolina 2,114.

10. Dominique Hawkins the scorer. The Kentucky freshman guard left Madison Central as that school's all-time leading scorer (2,453 points). He averaged 27 points in the 2013 Sweet Sixteen. Hawkins scored 33 points in the second of last summer's Kentucky-Indiana All-Star Games.

9. Dominique's drought. At UK this season, a guy with all that scoring in his pedigree went from Jan. 8 (1-of-5 shooting vs. Mississippi State) until Kentucky's Final Four victory over Wisconsin (a layup) without making a field goal in a game.

8. Accepting a non-scoring role. "I feel like I should let the teammates who do all the scoring score before I do," Hawkins said.

7. The summer plan. Hawkins, who scored 25 points in his freshman season at UK, said his emphasis this summer will be on enhancing his ballhandling skills and his jump shot.

6. Montrezl Harrell. The Louisville power forward was projected to go No. 19 in the 2014 NBA draft by both DraftExpress.com and NBAdraft.net — so register me surprised that Harrell announced Monday he will return to U of L for his junior season in 2014-15.

5. Top 10 Cards? A nucleus of Harrell and guards Chris Jones (assuming he returns), Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear should keep Rick Pitino's program near the Top 10.

4. Matthew Mitchell. The big challenge for the Kentucky women's basketball coach next season will be replacing departing senior post players DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker.

3. Freshmen replacements? Kentucky is bringing in two highly-touted high school post players. Alyssa Rice, a 6-foot-3 Reynoldsburg, Ohio, product, was a McDonald's All-American. Alexis Jennings, a 6-2 Madison, Ala., forward, was a Women's Basketball Coaches Association High School All-American.

2. Mitchell's take: "We have two high school All-America post players I'm really excited about," the UK coach said. "Can they step in and immediately replicate Samarie and DeNesha? I don't know about that. That's hard to do. But by the end of the season, we might be something."

1. Quick quiz answer: Other than UConn, there are eight other men's teams who have beaten UK in the Big Dance more than once:

Marquette (six times), Ohio State (five), Michigan State (three), North Carolina, St. John's, Louisville, Duke and UAB (all two each).

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

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