Chad Ford, ESPN’s analyst of NBA drafts, can envision next season’s Kentucky team featuring a big man tandem of Bam Adebayo and Mohamed Bamba.
“That would be an unbelievable front line,” Ford said in a recent telephone conversation.
Of course, two big decisions must fall Kentucky’s way in order for the Wildcats to put a double “Bammy” on opponents.
Adebayo, who declared for this year’s NBA Draft but did not sign with an agent, must decide to return to Kentucky next season. Ford recommends just that.
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And Bamba, one of this recruiting year’s top prospects, must sign with UK. Recruiting analysts increasingly believe that will happen.
Depending on which of this year’s mock drafts you follow, Adebayo would be taken in the latter half of the first round (Ford, NBADraft.net) or early in the second round (DraftExpress.com).
Adebayo’s strong finish to this past season halted a perceived slide and moved his possible draft position into the “17-to-25 range,” Ford said. But with the 2018 NBA Draft considered not nearly as bountiful, and given the improvement a player can make in a year, Adebayo could be a top 10 pick next year.
Ford acknowledged the risk of injury or some other unforeseen problem associated with Adebayo returning to UK for a sophomore season.
“My general advice to him is if you can afford to take a little bit of a risk, I think coming back for another year could really solidify his stock,” Ford said.
Should Bamba sign with UK, Ford said Adebayo could play more forward next season. Not being anchored around the basket would enable Adebayo to show more of the face-up game UK Coach John Calipari said went untapped this past season.
Meanwhile, Bamba seems likely to follow the hello-I-must-be-going one-and-done formula. DraftExpress.com projects him being taken with the fourth pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. NBADraft.net has him being taken second.
(And if any fans think Kentucky basketball’s revolving door will stop spinning, please note that NBADraft.net has three other UK players among the top 15 picks next year: No. 8 Jarred Vanderbilt, No. 14 Hamidou Diallo and No. 15 Nick Richards.)
Ford likened Bamba to former UK All-American Anthony Davis: a player who combines height (6-foot-11) with fluid athleticism.
“He is a very unique physical specimen that has got NBA scouts drooling,” Ford said of Bamba.
Maybe, just maybe, UK fans will be drooling over the harmonic convergence of Bamba and Bam next season.
‘Boorish and boring’
In a recent essay, former Herald-Leader columnist Chuck Culpepper expressed exasperation with basketball fans who become preoccupied with yelling at referees.
“Look, loudmouths,” Culpepper wrote for The Washington Post, “why don’t you just stay home and close your doors so even your neighbors can’t hear your screeching? Why must you continue to go out and witness basketball in person when it obviously causes you serial misery?”
After attending games in each round of the NCAA Tournament, Culpepper concluded that some fans go to games not to watch basketball played skillfully. “You go to evaluate the officiating,” he wrote. Screaming at the refs, he wrote, was both “boorish and boring.”
Culpepper did not mention the (hopefully tiny percentage of) Kentucky fans who threatened the life of referee John Higgins after the Cats lost to North Carolina.
But he did note the example set by the North Carolina-Gonzaga championship game. That game was ripe for foul calls — and second-guessing — given its glut of “bigs:” Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley of UNC, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins of the Zags.
“I thought they did a fabulous job,” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said of the referees afterward. “And I’m on the losing end. And it’s just not an easy game to ref. And we’re throwing the ball inside. They’re throwing the ball inside. Our guards go downhill. Their guards go downhill. So I thought they were great.”
With this example of graciousness in mind, Culpepper asked fans, “If you prefer moaning at refs to basketball, why don’t you just quit basketball and go to some moaning-at-refs convention?”
In a casual conversation an hour or so before this year’s South Region finals, a national media person said he expected Kentucky to beat North Carolina. He based this opinion on UNC point guard Joel Berry II not being healthy.
Berry had sprained his right ankle against Arkansas earlier in the tournament. He sprained his right ankle again in a practice the day before the Tar Heels played Kentucky (he stepped on Kennedy Meeks’ foot). He sprained his left ankle early in the game against UK.
Of course, Berry played 33 minutes against UK.
Berry went on to be named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
This is not intended to denigrate the national media person, who is knowledgeable and fair-minded. His opinion made sense (and, of course, North Carolina barely beat Kentucky thanks to Luke Maye’s shot in the final seconds).
It’s just something to keep in mind when the endless parade of pundits speak confidently about who’s going to win or what’s going to happen. As another Berry, the late Chuck Berry, once sang, “C’est la vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.”
The sometimes earthy nature of coach-to-player communication led to a playful question for former UK players arriving for the preview screening of ESPN’s 30 for 30 film on John Calipari: What rating should be given the film if it accurately portrays how the UK coach communicates?
“An honest portrayal would give it a PG-13,” Mark Krebs said with a smile.
Added Jarrod Polson: “I don’t even watch R-rated movies. So I’ll say PG-13.”
If you haven’t seen it, Calipari wears a microphone during sequences of games and practices. The infrequent curse words are bleeped.
One and not done
One viewing of the ESPN 30 for 30 film on UK Coach John Calipari wasn’t enough for UK fan Barry Britton. A Lexington native and UK graduate in the class of 1968, Britton wrote an email asking if and how the film could be purchased.
Britten said he wanted copies for two friends who forgot to tape the show. He also wants to add it to his library of UK tapes and books.
ESPN said that DVDs will be available at Amazon.com beginning on May 30. A digital version can be bought on iTunes.
Heshimu Evans, who played for Kentucky in 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99, attended the ESPN 30 for 30 preview.
Although Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith were his UK coaches, Evans said he had a connection to John Calipari.
“Cal coached me at the USA Olympic Festival in Denver after my freshman year,” Evans said.
Evans cited one other reason for coming to the Kentucky Theater.
“It’s Wildcat country,” he said, “so we have to be here.”
Son also rises
Shareef O’Neal, a four-star prospect and the son of Shaquille O’Neal, committed to Arizona last week. Listed as 6-9 and 204 pounds, the younger O’Neal isn’t nearly as physically imposing as his father.
Shareef O’Neal was not the only son of a former NBA player on his California-based AAU team. One of his teammates was Bol Bol, the son of Manute Bol. The younger Bol is ranked No. 16 by 247 Sports and has a scholarship offer from Arizona.
From the just-wondering file: Has Bol Bol spent any time in Walla Walla?
Dale Brown (the ex-UK player, not the former LSU coach) plans to stage a basketball camp in Lexington on June 9-10. The camp is for boys and girls ages 6 through 17.
Brown, a regular on the UK team that lost the Christian Laettner game and a starter on the 1993 Final Four team, will hold the camp at Calvary Baptist Church.
Entry fee is $70. Registration is at Calvary Baptist Church or by calling 404-998-2412 or at email@example.com.
Belated birthday wishes
To Isaiah Briscoe. He turned 21 on April 13. … To Derrick Jasper. He turned 29 on April 13. … To Mark Soderberg. He turned 67 on April 14. … To Dwane Casey. He turned 60 on April 17. … To Michael Bradley. He turned 38 on April 18. … To Derrick Millar. He turned 49 on April 18. … To Nate Knight. He turned 39 on April 18. … To former UK baseball player Doug Flynn. He turned 66 on April 18. … To Scott Padgett. He turned 41 on April 19. … To Ashley Judd. She turned 49 on April 19.
To Ryan Harrow. He turned 26 on Saturday. … To Fred Cowan. He turns 59 on Sunday (today). … To Father Ed Bradley. He turns 74 on Monday. … To Dillon Pulliam. He turns 22 on Tuesday. … To former UK assistant David Hobbs. He turns 68 on Tuesday. … To Bob Tallent. He turns 71 on Wednesday.