Conspicuous by his absence at the NBA Draft was Kentucky sophomore-to-be Terrence Jones. For that, UK fans should give at least partial credit to former Arizona star and NBA player Damon Stoudamire.
Stoudamire, a relative through marriage, calls himself a "confidant" of Jones. When the UK player considered putting his name in this year's NBA Draft, he sought Stoudamire's advice.
"I think Terrence trusts me; he trusts my opinion," Stoudamire said in a recent telephone conversation. "He knew I had his best interests at heart. I told him, 'Terrence, if you were my son, I would say go back to school.' "
It's not that Stoudamire doubts Jones has NBA talent. In this case, the mentor simply approves of the budding professional maximizing his NBA potential by extending his preparation.
Never miss a local story.
"When you go to the pros, you'll be the best Terrence Jones you can be," Stoudamire said. "That's what I always preach to these kids. Don't worry about the next guy going pro. Be the best you can be so when you get there, you'll be the best player you can be."
Jones played well for UK as a freshman, at times exceedingly well. He led the Southeastern Conference in rebounding (8.8 rpg) and double-doubles (12).
"He could average 17 (points) and nine (rebounds) again, but it could look a lot better than the 17 and nine of last year, from the perspective of dominating games and leadership," Stoudamire said. "That's what I think Terrence needs to do this year."
What Stoudamire thinks means a lot to Jones. "I've known Terrence and been around Terrence since he was a baby," Stoudamire said.
Since he was a third-grader, Jones attended camps run by Stoudamire. UK fans might recall that Jones, a natural right-hander, insisted on shooting and dribbling a basketball left-handed because that's how Stoudamire played.
"He looks up and admires Damon," the UK player's mother, Linda Mashia-Jones, said, "and he values his opinion. I'm sure it had a little influence."
By returning to UK for his sophomore year, Jones followed Stoudamire's example. Stoudamire considered turning pro after his sophomore season for Arizona, then again after his junior season.
"I hadn't accomplished everything I felt I wanted to accomplish in college," said Stoudamire, who ultimately played four seasons for Arizona.
Stoudamire said he leaned on Terrell Brandon, an NBA player who grew up in Portland, for advice. "I might be with him all day trying to understand the NBA," he said. "Terrence is no different."
For the most part, he applauded the UK players who entered the NBA before completing their college eligibility. To enter the NBA when projected as a lottery pick was "a no-brainer," he said.
Stoudamire, now an assistant coach at the University of Memphis, heard draft projections for himself anywhere from No. 15 to No. 35. He stayed in college, in part, to be at his best as a pro.
"My theory was, I'd been broke my whole life," he said. "What would it hurt to be broke a little longer?
"Some people were telling me I'm dumb (to stay in college). I'm not trying to live for them."
Picked seventh by Toronto in the 1995 draft, he became NBA Rookie of the Year.
Now, along comes Jones.
"He tasted a little success," Stoudamire said of Jones' freshman season. "But I think he wants a little more than that. I was proud of him for staying."
Not everyone welcomed last week's news that Rupp Arena officials had budgeted about $200,000 to create extra space in the upper arena for wheelchair users. The move will keep Rupp Arena in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
One reader posted a sarcastic objection. "That's all we need. To take away more seats from a sellout crowd and put in older people (for the majority) who are not rowdy that complain about the volume of the announcements and the crowd cheering. Way to go fellas!"
This prompted a sarcastic retort.
"The nerve of those wheelchair-bound cripples!" Mel Kimble wrote. "With their ADA costing us dollar$. They should just stay in their homes where they don't bother anybody. It will free up those great parking spaces too."
Kimble, 55, lives in North Carolina. "The home of Dook," he wrote. He uses a wheelchair since breaking his neck in a motor vehicle accident 30 years ago.
"I did not think much about wheelchair parking nor accessibility 30 years ago," he wrote in an email. "Now, it is a primary concern when I am preparing for an outing, whether to the grocery store or to my favorite sporting event."
Lexington resident Tony Carmack, 46, has used a wheelchair after contracting a neurological disorder in the 1980s.
When asked about someone objecting to added space for wheelchair users because it might adversely affect UK's home-court advantage, he said, "I can kind of see their point. I never hoop and holler, but I'm a super, super fan. ... I can see how a rowdy person can feel that way."
Carmack suggested more space be created near the Rupp Arena court for wheelchair users. "We should not have preferential treatment," he said, "but should have equal treatment."
'20 percent bump?'
During his "satellite" camp in Bowling Green last week, UK Coach John Calipari's marketing/promotions side was in full flower. He said players get a "20 percent bump" because they play for Kentucky. This bump was reflected in a player's draft position and the value of his shoe contract, he said.
"We're on national television more than any team," Calipari said. " ... When we're on TV, people watch more than any team. That may not have been the case a few years ago, but it is now."
The ratings provided by ESPN and CBS suggest Kentucky games do not draw a markedly larger viewership.
Here are the five highest rated college basketball games on ESPN this past season: 1. Michigan State-Duke, Dec. 1, 2.3 rating; 1. Ohio State-Wisconsin, Feb. 12, 2.3 rating; 3. Miami (Fla.)-Memphis, Nov. 15, 2.10 rating; 4. Indiana-Kentucky, Dec. 11, 1.9 rating; 5. North Carolina-Duke, Feb. 9, 1.8 rating.
As for CBS ratings this past season, Kentucky appeared in only one of the top eight most-viewed games. The UK game at North Carolina on Dec. 4 tied for the fourth-most watched game on the network with a 1.7 rating.
The games on CBS with the three highest ratings were 1. Duke at North Carolina, March 5, 2.7 rating; 2. Ohio State-Penn State, March 13, 2.5 rating; 3. Wisconsin at Ohio State, March 5, 1.9 rating.
The four CBS games that tied UK-North Carolina's 1.7 rating were Ohio State at Purdue on Feb. 20, the Big Ten Tournament game between Ohio State and Michigan, the Pac 10 Tournament championship game between Washington and Arizona, and a split telecast on Jan. 22 featuring Tennessee at Connecticut and Stanford at UCLA.
Bilas on bias
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas scoffed at the notion that he showed anti-Brandon Knight bias during Thursday's NBA Draft telecast. Bilas' supposed bias? He noted perceived weaknesses in the former UK point guard's game.
"I really did a disservice to the kid," Bilas said sarcastically. "I ranked him fifth among prospects in the entire draft."
After pointing out that the Detroit Pistons took Knight with the eighth pick, Bilas said, "So, actually, the NBA values him less than I do."
Bilas defended any viewer's right to object to an analyst's commentary.
"It's kind of like when people complain about LeBron James being booed," he said. "They're not stalking him or threatening him. It's OK to boo."
While "absolutely fine" with viewers voicing their complaints, Bilas said he also mentioned questions about the talents of Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving.
Knight slipped to the eighth choice because Utah started a run on big men by taking Enes Kanter with the third pick, Bilas said.
"Who cares whether a guy goes third or ninth?" Bilas said. "Where he's drafted and what somebody says is not going to affect his game at all."
Nine players picked in the last two NBA Drafts says a lot about UK Coach John Calipari's abilities to recruit top-notch prospects and prepare them for professional basketball careers.
The 2012 draft figures to continue the trend. Various mock drafts for 2012 feature a heavy Kentucky presence.
As of last week, DraftExpress.com, NBADraft.net and ESPN's Chad Ford all projected UK freshman-to-be Anthony Davis as the No. 1 pick in 2012. All three mock drafts projected Terrence Jones and Michael Gilchrist as lottery picks in 2012. DraftExpress and Ford also included Marquis Teague as a lottery pick.
By the way, Ford also projected two Florida players as 2012 lottery picks: Freshman-to-be Brad Beal at No. 6 and sophomore-to-be Patric Young at No. 11.
Ford projected Ohio State man-child Jared Sullinger as only the eighth player picked.
UK Coach John Calipari scoffed at rivals who say a move to require players to stay two years in college might dilute Kentucky's success with so-called one-and-done players.
"Most coaches want it to go to two (years)," Calipari said last week. "Till they realize we'll have guys two years."First pitch
According to the Detroit Free Press, former UK point guard Brandon Knight was satisfied with his effort in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Detroit Tigers' game against Arizona on Friday night.
Knight, who was drafted by the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night, threw the first pitch from the mound to Andy Dirks.
"It feels great to be here in Detroit and be recognized by the fans," Knight said. "Throwing out the first pitch was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I didn't bounce it."
There was a rapid response to the New Orleans Hornets drafting former UK big man Josh Harrellson in the second round. The Hornets then sold Harrellson to the New York Knicks on draft night.
His high school coach, Gary Wacker, said he was told that Harrellson's cellphone filled with messages. "Seventy-five responses just like that," Wacker said.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany likes the idea. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive called for it to be discussed at the league's spring meeting in Destin, Fla.
The issue gaining momentum is to pay players.
Murray Sperber, a longtime observer of college athletics, said he finds paying players to be a surefire conversation starter when he speaks to civic groups. He found the responses to such an idea suggested a generation gap.
"If they were over 35, they thought paying players was a terrible idea," Sperber said. "If they were younger, they were much more cynical about the whole thing."
Sperber, a professor emeritus at Indiana University and now a visiting professor at University of California at Berkeley, questioned whether paying players was economically feasible.
Hopkinsville native Scotty Hopkins did not hear his name called in the NBA Draft. Teammate Tobias Harris became the first Tennessee player selected in the NBA Draft since 2002, when Marcus Haislip was the 13th overall pick and Vincent Yarbrough was taken 32nd. ... In her blog for the Sacramento Bee, Ailene Voisin wrote, "Two players the Kings were not enamored of: Brandon Knight and Kawhi Leonard."
To former UK Coach Tubby Smith. He turns 60 on Thursday.