Reporters and fans expected a subplot to shake last week's EA Sports Maui Invitational much worse than the earthquake Tuesday night. As well chronicled, McDonald's All-American Terrence Jones committed to Washington last June before deciding to sign with Kentucky. The tournament bracket made a Kentucky-Washington game on Tuesday likely. When both teams won Monday, reporters had a juicy story line to chew.
Or so the knights of the keyboard thought.
Although Washington fans in Lahaina Civic Center booed early in the game each time Jones touched the ball, nothing really happened. When asked after UK's victory if his team sought retribution against Jones, Washington's Justin Holiday sighed and said his team merely wanted to win. The Huskies sought to make the same statement Connecticut made in Wednesday's finals: Beat Kentucky to signal the team's place among college basketball's elite this season.
When Jones called Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar last spring to tell him Kentucky was the choice, the conversation lasted more than an hour.
"He didn't try to get off the phone quick like I thought he would," Jones said. "He just talked to me and told me what I had to do in college. He really left it off as I could depend on him and trust him even if I wasn't attending his school."
Although fans get emotional (too high and too low in athletic world parlance), the players and coaches form fraternities that cross over program boundaries. Compete? Yes. Be inspired to do the C-A-T-S cheer at any given moment? Not so much.
"You develop a relationship (with recruits), and because someone doesn't come your way, you say, 'I don't want to talk to you anymore'?" said Romar, incredulous at being asked why he spoke to Jones for more than an hour after learning Kentucky won the prized recruit. "So, you never had a relationship to begin with.
"So I watched him play in Portland. I look at box scores. I follow him. I wish him the best."
But what about dealing with the disappointment of losing a recruit that committed to Washington?
"If it was documented out to the public every guy that you lost, you'd seem like the worst recruiter ever," Romar said. "You don't get everybody. You know that going in."
Question: When will Kentucky make its final appeal to have Enes Kanter's eligibility restored?
Answer: The appeal will be made this week.
Q: How quickly will a decision be announced?
A: A decision generally is rendered the same day. But it can take a day or two to fill out the necessary forms, alert all the interested parties and announce the decision. So UK fans can expect to know by next weekend if Kanter will ever play for the Cats. If not then, certainly by early the following week.
Q: What are Kentucky's chances of winning the appeal?
A: The smart money says UK and Kanter will lose the appeal. The rules (no pay for play) work against UK. So do the facts: UK agrees that Kanter or his family received $33,033 beyond the permitted necessary expenses his final season playing for a professional team in his native Turkey.
Q: Can Kanter keep his scholarship should the NCAA deny Kentucky's appeal and maintain the ruling of permanent ineligibility?
A: The NCAA does not control scholarships except for the overall limit (13 in men's basketball). So UK officials will decide if Kanter keeps his scholarship should he be ruled ineligible.
Q: If the NCAA denies the appeal, can Kanter continue to practice with the UK team?
A: No. Kanter returned to practice while the appeals process unfolded. During that time, UK players said he helped the big men by giving them good competition in practice. But ineligible players cannot participate in practice. That would be unfair to Kentucky's opponents who use only eligible players.
Freshman point guard Brandon Knight's uneven play at the EA Sports Maui Invitational led Kentucky Coach John Calipari to re-think how he's working with the team's floor leader.
"He's got to get better," Calipari said after Wednesday's loss to Connecticut. " ... I have to do a better job of coaching him, to be honest."
After noting that Tyreke Evans struggled early in his freshman season for Calipari at Memphis, the UK coach said it can take time to determine how to bring out the best in a player.
"I have to do a better job defining how he has to play and run this team," Calipari said of Knight. "Obviously, I haven't done as good a job as I need to because in the first half (against Connecticut) we were out of whack."
Knight had a noticeable drop in efficiency on Maui. Surely tougher competition had something to do with it.
In three games on Maui, Knight made 17 of 47 shots (36.1 percent) and just three of 22 three-point attempts (13.6 percent). He also committed 18 turnovers while getting credit for eight assists.
The Maui News and the Honolulu Star Advertiser gave the Maui Invitational wildly different coverage in Monday's newspapers.
On The Maui News front page was a three-column photo of John Calipari and his partner in Sunday's free-throw shooting contest. Another smaller photo accompanied a short story alerting readers of more coverage in the Sports section.
That coverage included a story and chart that took up the entire front page of the Sports section, plus a notes package and "Tourney planner" on page three.
Meanwhile, the Star Advertiser (Honolulu is on another island) had nothing on its front page. There was one story at the bottom of the Sports front page below a story and photo on a pro surfing contest at Haleiwa Alii Beach.
The last time Kentucky went to the Maui Invitational, DePaul Coach Jerry Wainwright's sense of humor stole the show. For instance, he noted that one of his Chicago-bred players took his first look at the Pacific Ocean and likened it to Lake Michigan.
"Lake Michigan hasn't been that blue since the 1500s," Wainwright quipped.
UK's trip to Maui last week prompted a check to see how Wainwright was doing. Not well, unfortunately.
DePaul fired him last season. In his last game, a player rolled into him along the sideline and broke the tibia in one of his legs. Major medical problems hit his wife's brother and mother. The economy forced a son to move his family to his parents' home in North Carolina.
If that wasn't enough trouble, doctors diagnosed Wainwright with prostate cancer. He had surgery recently.
"I'm regrouping," he said. "I'm fortunate. A lot of people are worse off than I am."
Wainwright has not lost his sense of humor. He said his wife, Debbie, reacted to the firing by suggesting a trip together.
"She said she wanted to go someplace she never has been," he said, "so I suggested the kitchen.'' That was a joke.
Wainwright also noted that friends sought to encourage him by saying his relationship with his wife would deepen because of more time together.
"You'll get really close and become good friends," he said before adding, "Your best friend is your dog. If you don't believe me, do this experiment. Put your dog and your wife in the trunk of the car for an hour. When you open the trunk, see which one is really happy to see you."
Wainwright keeps a hand in basketball by visiting practices and sharing his observations. He's gone to such schools as Duke, UK, Louisville, Wake Forest, Dayton and Cincinnati.
"I'm not a Hall of Fame coach," he said before adding, "but I've helped guys get into the Hall of Fame."
ESPN's All-Access show will feature former UK coach Tubby Smith's Minnesota program Wednesday. Other programs playing host to the All-Access program this season are Duke, Florida, Butler and perhaps others.
Dan Margulis, a director of programming for ESPNU, said the all-sports network tries to hit many conferences and regions of the country with the show. The concept evolved from an off-and-on feature for SportsCenter to a show on ESPNU.
"Trying to get a sense of the coach and the players," he said of the premise of the show. "Letting pictures tell the story."
There are ground rules, so all access is a slight misnomer. ESPN agrees to edit out profanity.
"We want it to be raw without violating people's trust," Margulis said before noting another ground rule. "We're not looking to break stories."
An All-Access show featuring UK is not in the works. But it's likely at some point.
"I think they'd be on our list if Coach (John) Calipari would be up for it," Margulis said. "We do so much with him.
"If you're talking basketball, Kentucky's always on the list."
No fan of UK fans
West Coast correspondent Chris Thompson came to Maui without game tickets. He hoped to find someone selling extra tickets.
As part of that effort, he checked the Web site Craigs-list, where he came upon this posting:
"I've got two reserved seats for the University of Washington vs. University of Virginia game on Monday, 11/22/10. Tickets are in the south grandstand, Row J. They are Washington booster seats. You'll be sitting next to me. No Virginia or Kentucky fans, please."
You might wonder how this Washington fan would know if the buyer rooted for Virginia or Kentucky.
"I'll ask to see your driver's license when you pick up the ticket," the seller said in his posting.
Big fan of UK fans
No one had a wider smile at this year's Maui Invitational than Tournament Chairman Dave Odom. The former coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina selects the participating teams. One of his aims is to make sure the stands are full of fans. Of course, UK fans could fill a dome given enough notice, so the Lahaina Civic Center is easy.
Although UK Coach John Calipari expressed reservations about coming to Maui, Odom hopes the fans' desire to go to Hawaii makes the critical difference.
After UK lost to Connecticut in Wednesday's finals, Odom said, "I had a dozen Kentucky fans come up and say, 'I hope you want us back in four years. We had the greatest time.' "
Rest assured, UK fans, Odom wants you back.
File away for future reference: Single-game tickets at a discounted price were available to see most of the action. Tickets were $100 per game if bought in advance. A booth set up outside the Lahaina Civic Center had tickets selling for as little as $25 for consolation games and no more than $70 for Wednesday's championship game.
Keep in mind, these tickets are for walk-up sale and are available in a limited number.
Aloha to 2011
Tournament Chairman Dave Odom did not want the stellar field set for 2011 to detract from last week's Maui Invitational. But that didn't stop the public address announcer from plugging next year's tournament during each day of play this year.
The teams in 2011 have won a combined 20 national championships: UCLA 11, Duke four, Kansas three, Georgetown one and Michigan one. Other teams set to play are Memphis, Tennessee and host Chaminade.
Teams in this year's Maui Invitational had won 11 national championships: Kentucky 7, Connecticut 2 and Michigan State 2.
The Maui Invitational held its customary news conference for coaches last Sunday morning. You only had to take a short walk along the paved path to come across a religious service, Hawaiian style. A restaurant fronting the beach played host to a church service.
Five hula dancers swayed to a recording of the hymn How Great Thou Art. Tourists, a large sampling wearing Kentucky clothing, sat at tables shooting video and taking photographs of the dancers.
The Pacific Ocean rippled and two other Hawaiian islands sat majestically in the distance. The November sunrise made the hills in the distance shine like new copper pennies. How great, indeed.
To former UK Coach Joe B. Hall. He turns 82 Sunday.