Sports

Lucas notices UK needs a point guard

Former Florida point guard Jai Lucas watched Kentucky's game at North Carolina. "Oh yeah," he said. "I watched that game. That's just a big basketball game. You can't help but watch that."

Similarly, Lucas couldn't help but notice UK's 28 turnovers.

"You can obviously watch the game and see where a point guard would help a little bit," he said. "They're capable of being a good team. They're missing that, you know, piece right now."

Lucas did not speak in a disparaging tone. Nor was he boastful. He simply answered questions in his usual quiet, unemotional way.

Yes, he acknowledged, being a point guard and UK's need for a point guard plays on his mind.

"It makes you think," he said, "because that's exactly something I'm looking for."

Lucas spoke from his Houston area home, where he's returned for the Thanksgiving holiday. While home, he plans to visit Rice, Texas A&M and Texas.

But, he conceded, he doesn't really need to make any visits since he went through the recruiting process two years ago.

"I've pretty much seen everywhere," he said. "It doesn't come down to college life and stuff like that."

Unlike some transfers, Lucas and Florida seem to be parting on good terms. Lucas simply wants to direct a college team as its point guard. Florida had two good options and chose to go with Nick Calathes.

Lucas still works out in Florida's basketball facility. He still talks to the coaches. "Everything is fine," he said. "It's still like a love relationship."

As if to reinforce the point, Florida Coach Billy Donovan said recently that he doesn't intend to place any restrictions on where Lucas transfers, even if it's within the Southeastern Conference.

"I've never been a big believer of preventing somebody from going to whatever school," Donovan said in a blog by Gainesville Sun sportswriter Kevin Brockway. "Now if it was something I felt like that tampering was going on or maybe something to do with maybe the kid wanting to leave, then maybe I'd say that school was off limits. But Jai is free to go anywhere he wants to go to school. I think you only have so many years to play in college. He's a good kid. He worked hard for me. He represented the school the right way."

Donovan wasn't just talking. Two years ago, he did not complicate David Huertas' transfer to Ole Miss. Under NCAA Division I rules, a player that transfers within the conference can be held out of competition for up to two years unless he's granted a waiver from the former coach.

"If he happened to go to the SEC, would I be happy about that? Probably not," Donovan said of Lucas. "But at the same point, it's his life, it's his career. It's his future and, you know what, I was certainly happy when he chose Florida and if he chooses somewhere else in the SEC, that should be his prerogative."

Jay Bilas: expert?

Reader Steve Taylor read ESPN commentator Jay Bilas' opinion of Kentucky's team: No true point guard, understandably difficult transition in the second season for Coach Billy Gillispie.

This led Taylor to ask a question:

"Why did you seek Mr. Bilas's opinion on UK's obvious problems?" Taylor wrote. "For all I know, he might be right, but what gives him an expertise in diagnosing any team's poor play (or, even good play, I guess)?

"I assume he played college ball. Is that all it takes? Has he coached successfully anywhere? Or, has he just seen a lot of games since his college days? If it only takes the latter, you have my e-mail address in case you need an opinion quickly when no Bilististas are available. Give me enough notice and I can look GQ-ish, too."

Continuing to share his skeptical view of experts, Taylor wrote, "The public so often is presented with experts, yet we're never told why someone is an expert and why his views are given weight. Fill me in, please, so I can henceforth take Jay Bilas's word as gospel."

Bilas was a top 50 national high school prospect as an all-state player in California. He started four seasons at Duke (1982-86), where he scored more than 1,000 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds.

In his playing days, Duke played in three NCAA Tournaments, advancing to the 1986 national championshp game.

Bilas was drafted by Dallas Mavericks, and played three years professionally in Italy and Spain before working as a Duke assistant from 1990 through 1992.

As a head coach, Bilas worked with a U.S. service team in Kuwait for two summers. One year his team reached the semifinals by beating teams coached by Bobby Lutz, Rick Barnes and Tom Izzo before losing to Kelvin Sampson.

"And, I was once on (the television show) The White Shadow in high school ... ," he wrote in an e-mail message.

"None of that means I'm right, though. Your e-mailer may be smarter than me. My niece just graduated from UK, and my nephew is a Governor's Scholar in Louisville. They are the smart ones in the Bilas clan."

By the way, Bilas didn't ask, but you might: who is Steve Taylor?

Taylor, 54, lives in Lexington and works as an attorney. He grew up in Frankfort and attended UK as an undergraduate and for law school.

'Been there, done that'

Former UK public address announcer Doug Bruce empathized with North Carolina's P.A. man, Michael Patterson. Perhaps startled by a successful UK pass into the low post, Patterson announced to the crowd. "(Michael) Porter gets it into (Patrick) Patterson. ... "

In an e-mail message, Bruce wrote, "Been there, done that ... too many times.

"As hard as it is for me to come to the defense of anyone from Tar Heel nation, let me tell you that P.A. work happens in real time, with no color analyst to help you and no editor to catch your mistake before it gets printed. Once you speak the words, correctly or not, they are out there forever. Happily the fans are a forgiving lot if you don't do screw up too often.

"My only hope is that Michael Patterson — whoever he may be — enjoyed his moment in the spotlight."

'Ridiculous'

UK's slow start caused a reader to review the Herald-Leader's preview section on college basketball.

That ominous development led to an embarrassing e-mail.

"A couple of salient points struck me immediately," reader James Spragens of Lebanon wrote. "A J Stewart most likely to have a breakthrough season, and UK picked first in the SEC East. A short time ago, these were reasonable conjectures. Now they are ridiculous."

Stewart may not break through if he continues to serve as a No. 4 post player. But as a wing, he's got a better chance to excel.

As for the SEC East, there's a long way to go until January. The point guard play could vastly improve.

You may recall all the way back in 2007-08 that Kentucky got off to a 6-7 start, then had the second-best record in the SEC.

Pitino on UK-VMI

On his weekly radio show, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino offered his thoughts on VMI's victory over Kentucky and how fans should view the upset.

"Billy Gillispie is a tremendous college basketball coach," he said. "I think he's fundamentally sound in all phases, I think he's a great recruiter and I think he's going to do a terrific job. So I'm very bullish on Billy Gillispie.

"The mistake that Kentucky made was in schedule. You don't schedule VMI (in the) first game of the season. Why? No. 1 three-point shooting team in the land, No. 1 scoring team in the land and you cannot teach your players how to play them as you get ready for the first game. Maybe the fifth game you can. But you can't simulate that style."

'T' time for Pelphrey

Former UK standout John Pelphrey continues to be a fiery competitor.

Pelphrey, now in his second year as Arkansas coach, picked up his first technical of the season in the Hogs' 68-59 victory over UC-Davis Thursday night.

Referees hit Pelphrey with six technicals last year.

Pelphrey picked up his first technical foul of the season — and seventh in 37 games with the Razorbacks — with 16:21 left in the second half when he protested a foul call against Michael Washington on a three-point attempt by Joe Harden.

UC-Davis made five consecutive free throws to reduce its deficit to 44-37.

Referee Mike Nance called a Class A technical on Pelphrey. This season the NCAA has divided technical fouls into Class A and B sub-groups, with "A" being of a more serious nature, such as a coach yelling at an official.

"That probably wasn't the best time to get a technical, but we were able to overcome it," Pelphrey said after the game. "I think I was being demonstrative again, but as technical fouls go, it was probably pretty harmless."

Pelphrey said his reaction that drew the technical foul actually stemmed from something earlier in the game, but he didn't specify what upset him.

Barkley enshrined today

Former Auburn All-American Charles Barkley will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Hall's third induction class will also include Kansas All-American Danny Manning, coaches Nolan Richardson and Jim Phelan, broadcasters Dick Vitale and Billy Packer and former collegiate player and executive Arnie Ferrin.

"Auburn gave me an opportunity to be successful," Auburn quoted Barkley as saying in a news release. "I will appreciate that always. ... I have never had a real job, and hopefully I will never have to get one."

Barkley, a native of Leeds, Ala., was a three-time All-SEC pick and the 1984 SEC Tournament MVP (that was the tournament that saw him slump to the floor and cry when Kentucky's Kenny Walker made the last-second winning shot in the championship game). He led the SEC in rebounding three straight years and still holds the Auburn career field-goal percentage record (.626).

Barkley was the fifth pick overall in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and is one of the NBA's All-Time 50 Greatest Players.

"I want to thank my college coach (Sonny Smith) and my teammates and in the NBA," Barkley said. "I would like to thank Moses Malone and Dr. J. (Julius Erving) because they were great. The two guys who taught me the most about basketball, playing, were Adrian Dantley and John Drew. They taught me how to play against bigger guys because when you are 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, you can't post big guys up."

Quote of the week

When asked about Tyler Zeller's injured wrist, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams noted that he was not a doctor.

Then Williams said, "You know what they call a guy who finishes last in medical school? Doctor. ... You know what they call a guy who finishes last in coaching? Ex-coach."

VMI rolls

In case you missed it, VMI beat Stevenson U. 133-72 on Thursday night. That marked the most points scored in a long, long time. Uh, no. Given Coach Duggar Baucom's high-octane style, it was only the most points since last November (156-91 over Columbia Union on Nov. 28, 2007).

Against Stevenson, the Keydets made 19 of 40 three-point shots (12 of 25 in the first half, seven of 15 in the second).

Baucom credits such inspirations as Rick Pitino's early Kentucky teams and Paul Westhead's Loyola Marymount teams in the 1990s for the high-scoring offense.

Through four games, VMI is averaging 114.8 points.

Freshman Michael Sparks, the Tates Creek High product, is averaging 8.8 points after four games. He had a career-high 18 points, including a team-high four three-pointers, in the victory over Stevenson.

Judd in S.I.

In its most recent issue, Sports Illustrated did a note on UK's most famous fan, actress and activist Ashley Judd.

She said that she uses TiVo when watching the games so she can listen to the radio call of Tom Leach and Mike Pratt.

Leach did a followup interview with Judd on what it was like sitting in the North Carolina student section for the UK-UNC game. You can find the interview at the Web site "www.tomleachKY.com."

Happy birthday

To Rupp Runt Louie Dampier. He turned 64 on Thursday.

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