Wally Szczerbiak, the former Miami (Ohio) star who provides basketball analysis for CBS, expects Devin Booker to shoot better for an NBA team than he did at Kentucky. That's saying something given Booker's textbook shooting form, his 41.1-percent accuracy from three-point range for the Cats and, presumably, better defenders in the pros.
The reason Szczerbiak thinks Booker will shoot better in the future echoes something former UK All-American Tony Delk said in early December: UK's platoon system for substitutions last season made it more difficult for shooters to get into an optimal groove.
"He can be like a Klay Thompson," Szczerbiak said of Booker last week. "Coming off the bench in the way Kentucky was playing, he wasn't allowed to get into a rhythm on a nightly basis. But if you give him minutes, and consistent minutes, he is a guy who can score in bunches."
Delk, who holds the UK record for three-point baskets (283), said much the same thing. Shooting is "about rhythm," he said before working the SEC Network telecast of UK's game against Eastern Kentucky. "What gets guys going is being on the court for consecutive minutes."
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Of course, a UK roster bursting at the seams made platoons a necessity. How else could so many players get playing time? And UK Coach John Calipari made it work, as evidenced by a record 38 straight victories to start the season.
"It works for them," Delk said. "But, as a player, you have to have a lather going and get touches."
Calipari has said repeatedly that he wasn't trying to reinvent basketball, and that Kentucky will not use platoons in the future (You got that, recruits? You can get normal playing time at Kentucky).
Szczerbiak, who made 40.6 percent of his three-point shots in a 12-year NBA career, said good shooters feed off made baskets. One made shot can lead to another and then another. But UK's platoons limited that opportunity for Booker to get hot and stay hot.
"That kind of hurt Devin ... ," Szczerbiak said. "He wasn't able to get into much of a rhythm and start to feel the ball go through the basket."
Devin Booker and six of UK's other players this past season learn their basketball fates in Thursday's NBA Draft. Willie Cauley-Stein might be the most intriguing prospect.
"He's the best defender in the draft," analyst Wally Szczerbiak said of Cauley-Stein. "But he's probably the worst offensive player in the draft. ... I don't like a guy who just really can't play on the offensive end of the floor."
If Cauley-Stein can be dismissed an offensive threat, that creates the chance for opponents to guard four players with five defenders.
Szczerbiak likened Cauley-Stein to Tyson Chandler: an impactful player, but strictly on the defensive end.
When it was noted how Cauley-Stein improved as an offensive player in his three seasons for UK, Szczerbiak said, "But he was playing against college guys. Now, he's got to keep getting better against guys who are the same size."
UK's Final Four loss to Wisconsin was not reassuring. Against the Badgers' sizable front line, Cauley-Stein made little impact (two points, five rebounds and two blocks).
"That's the game that really gave me the uneasy feeling," Szczerbiak said.
Towns vs. Okafor
Much of the pre-draft hype has involved the first pick: Karl-Anthony Towns of UK or Jahlil Okafor of Duke?
"All season, I was all about Jahlil Okafor," Wally Szczerbiak said. "I thought he was the sure-fire No. 1 pick until I saw him in his last few games in the NCAA Tournament when he went up against other legit 7-foot bodies."
In Duke's last four NCAA Tournament games, Okafor averaged a nothing-special 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. He blocked five shots. In Final Four games against Michigan State and Wisconsin, he averaged 14 points, but only 4.5 rebounds and one block.
Szczerbiak shifted to Towns as the No. 1 pick after seeing him "play in the big games and be the alpha dog."
Not a fan
While a "big fan" of the versatile Trey Lyles, Wally Szczerbiak remains unconvinced about three former UK players widely projected as second-round picks, or possibly undrafted free agents:
■ Dakari Johnson.
"I'm not a huge fan," the CBS analyst said. "He looks a little overweight. He doesn't look very athletic. So how is he going to finish amongst guys at the next level? ... He's a little bit of a plodder."
■ Twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison.
"I don't see them as first-rounders. ... Why they were so good in college is because they were bigger, taller than other guards. They still didn't really dominate in college. Now, they're going to be matched up with guys at their same height (and) same speed, if not faster. So I don't see them having the skill to be as effective as they were in college."
Szczerbiak is previewing the NBA Draft on a series of shows for the CBS Sports Network this week. On Monday, he joins a panel analyzing the likely lottery picks. On Tuesday, the topic is the rest of the first round.
On Wednesday's show, the analysts predict how individual players will fare in the NBA. The "booms," the "busts" and the "blahs," CBS Sports publicists said.
More fanatical precincts of the Big Blue Nation stubbornly cling to the dream of UK constructing a new on-campus arena. These denizens covet their neighbor's Yum Center in Louisville. UK basketball not holding lordly dominion over its home arena also irritates.
Last week's Board of Trustees meeting offered no encouragement. The board approved paying for design plans for a new baseball stadium off Alumni Drive between Commonwealth Stadium and the soccer/softball complexes. The baseball project would seem to leave little room for a new arena, plus parking on that end of campus.
As for where the present baseball stadium stands, UK envisions a recreational green space and/or transportation hub.
UK President Eli Capilouto noted how the campus was becoming "cramped in some areas."
When asked about an on-campus arena, Capilouto said, "I have not discussed the on-campus basketball arena."
But is such a idea even plausible? "I haven't discussed it," he said with a case-closed tone in his voice.
Eric Monday, UK's Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, smiled when asked about the plausibility of an on-campus arena.
"The university continues to work with LCC (Lexington Center Corp) and other community leaders to extend our relationship to play in Rupp Arena," he said.
Remembering John Carroll
A memorial service will be held for the late John Carroll on Monday at First Presbyterian Church in Lexington. The former editor of The Herald-Leader died last weekend.
Wherever Carroll went in his distinguished career in journalism, Pulitzer Prizes were sure to follow. The Herald-Leader was no exception, as evidenced most notably by the 1985 series detailing how UK's basketball program paid off players. The term "hundred-dollar handshakes" became part of the lexicon.
Carroll liked to tell how his stepson reacted when given a preview of the series. "You're dead meat," the boy said.
Yes, irate readers accused the newspaper of treason. But David Roselle, who became UK president two years later, recalled Carroll fondly.
"I don't think there's any rational way of labeling them as being anti-University of Kentucky," he said of Carroll, The Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal. "Look, it's news. What happened there was really news. You expect newspapers to cover the news."
The Herald-Leader series resulted in the NCAA publicly reprimanding UK for conducting a halfhearted investigation of the basketball program. Barely a month later, an Emery Air Freight package sent by the UK basketball office to the father of a recruit popped open, revealing $1,000. Roselle decided to launch a thorough and honest internal investigation of the basketball program. He said he kept Carroll and David Hawpe of The Courier-Journal informed of its progress.
"He did not cross the line where he was the newspaper guy and we were the news," Roselle said of Carroll. "It was no advice given. Nothing like that. ...
"Among the many newspapermen that I've dealt with over the years, John stands out. He stands out for being intelligent and professional."
'Just straight up'
At the NBA Combine last month, Willie Cauley-Stein denied any interest in art. That seemed to be a deliberate attempt to counter NBA questions about his determination to improve as a player.
Similarly, Andrew and Aaron Harrison making a concerted effort at the Combine to show they were friendly and pleasant.
Ex-Cat Julius Randle said that he did not try to persuade NBA teams of anything prior to last year's Draft.
"Honestly and truly, I was just straight up," he said of his pre-draft interviews. "Most of the time, when you're dealing with those teams, when you lie, they're going to know you're lying. They've done their background checks and all that stuff on you. So they know how you are.
"They just want to see honesty, so be straight up."
Wally vs. Jamaal
Of course, Wally Szczerbiak played against UK in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. He scored a game-high 23 points, but committed six turnovers as Kentucky won 58-43.
When asked about that game, he said, "I remember getting into it with Jamaal Magloire. And we continued that through our NBA rivalry. We never really got along."
Szczerbiak had been the talk of the Midwest Regional in St. Louis. Magloire relished intimidation and the enforcer role.
"He came off the bench," he said of Magloire, "and right when he came into the game, he said, 'I got that dude. He's not that good.' He started talking trash. He kind of thought I was the poster child for the tournament and (got) all these accolades that weren't really deserved. That kind of motivated me to go at him and we got into it a little bit."
Kentucky's superior talent and depth wore down Miami.
The friction between Szczerbiak and Magloire continued in the NBA.
"That was all between the lines," Szczerbiak said. "Jamaal is a good guy off the court."
To Derek Willis. He turns 20 Sunday (today). ... To Ravi Moss. He turns 31 Sunday (today). ... To Dennis Felton. The former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach turns 52 Sunday (today).