Sports

Georgia player's blog scoring big

He's a walk-on at Georgia. He's sitting out this season as a transfer from Furman. A younger brother draws recruiting interest from, among others, Duke and Stanford.

With that profile, Connor Nolte could be easily over-looked. Except he might be the Southeastern Conference's most accomplished blogger/player.

Nolte has made a name for himself as an online chronicler of his corner of the college basketball world. The signature feature on his blog is the trick shot. He made one from a reclining position near mid-court. Redshirt teammate Gerald Robinson made one off a wall.

But the star attraction so far has been Georgia football coach Mark Richt, who happened to be in camera range because his players are using the basketball practice facility this winter while their own weight room was being renovated.

"That generated the most buzz," Nolte said of Richt's trick shot. The Athens Banner-Herald and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted the video of Richt's shot on their Web sites. It's received about 35,000 hits on YouTube, the blogger/player said.

When asked how he got Richt to try a trick shot, Nolte said, "I just asked him. Do you mind shooting up a trick shot? I said, just try 10 times. If it doesn't work, then I know you're a busy man."

Richt made his shot — a backward free throw — on the first attempt.

Nolte did not have a forum for trick shots in mind when he launched his blog two years ago while at Furman. A self-described "technology-type person," he saw it as a way to bring fans closer to the program.

"I thought it was a pretty interesting way for a student-athlete to kind of share what we go through with the community, fans, family members and people you lose touch with," he said. "I thought it was a great way to generate interest in my team."

Georgia imposes no specific restrictions on what Nolte can post on his blog. "It's pretty much a self-regulated thing," he said.

But Nolte is mindful of not giving away secrets and not creating any embarrassment for Georgia Coach Mark Fox.

"That's definitely the No. 1 thing I think about when I'm blogging," Nolte said. "I'd never want to write anything to upset Coach Fox. I know coach probably would find out if something got on there that shouldn't be on there. I try to be respectful to all parties."

Nolte's blogging hero is Mark Titus, a senior player for Ohio State. "He's about to graduate," he said of Titus. "He really speaks his mind on his blog."

By contrast, Nolte tries to be careful. He declined to share his thoughts about Georgia playing No. 2 Kentucky on Wednesday. And when asked if he impersonated John Wall on the Bulldogs' scout team, he said, "I'm going to say no comment on that. I just don't want to get into the workings of the scout team."

The son of a college player (Kurt Nolte played for Carroll College), Nolte played two seasons for Furman. But the thought of how he'd do on the high Division I level nagged. He especially wondered about Georgia, which was little more than an hour's drive from his Alpharetta, Ga., home.

On a Tuesday last spring, Nolte told Furman Coach Jeff Jackson that he wanted to transfer.

"Georgia didn't even have a coach," Nolte said. "That was kind of a leap of faith. God came through for me there."

Three days later, Georgia hired Fox. On an off day for classes at Furman, Nolte drove to Athens and dropped off a letter of introduction and a video.

Fox agreed to let Nolte join the team as a walk-on.

Younger brother Evan Nolte, a high school sophomore, is being recruited by such schools as Duke, Oklahoma, Stanford and, of course, Georgia.

"Before Connor went there, Evan wasn't interested in Georgia at all," Kurt Nolte told the Georgia student newspaper. "I think Georgia did a phenomenal job in hiring Coach Fox, and I'm not just saying that. I think he's a phenomenal coach, and I think he's a wonderful human being."

Literary corner

A former Arkansas coach is the subject of a new book, Forty Minutes of Hell: the Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson.

In a telephone interview, Nolan Richardson said writers approached him over the years about doing a book. But he always resisted the offers because he was not done coaching.

Although he's now coaching a women's professional team based in Tulsa, Okla., Richardson felt the time was right. The author, Rus Bradburd is an assistant professor at New Mexico State and a former assistant coach for Don Haskins, Richardson's college coach at Texas Western.

"He knows about my background, my life," Richardson said of Bradburd. "I didn't have to tell him anything."

The book does not limit itself to Richardson's coaching career, which included the 1994 national championship. Nor does it explore any specific game.

Or as he put it, "Jump shot at the buzzer and we win.

"I said, 'Nah, nah. That ain't been my life."

The book details Richardson's life growing up in El Paso. Bradburd writes about the racism Richardson encountered as a child, as a player for Texas Western and during a long, successful coaching career.

When asked about the message he hopes readers get from the book, Richardson said, "There can be bumps and all kind of things on the road. But you can't stop. If I can do it, anyone can do it."

Richardson acknowledged that some might grow tired of hearing about racism.

"You're going to be challenged," he said. "Some of the challenges, people don't want to know about.

"I'm hoping the book can be a form of motivation."

Kentucky does not loom large in the book.

There's no mention of Arkansas' first game as an SEC member school at Kentucky in 1992. Over the years, many league teams seemed beaten before a game in Rupp Arena began. Not Arkansas, which took it to UK and won. This reflected Richardson's competitive spirit.

"We had something we were upset and angry about," Richardson said. The Razorbacks, who had advanced to the 1990 Final Four, felt slighted because the media questioned whether winning in the Southwest Conference would mean much in the mighty SEC.

"If Kentucky doesn't go to the Final Four, nobody else goes," Richardson said of the SEC at the time. "So let's just go whip Kentucky's ass and show we belong."

On Page 151, Bradburd writes about Richardson's irritation at the attention paid to former UK Coach Rick Pitino's up-tempo style. Richardson's teams were scrambling games with pressure while Pitino was still a player.

Bradburd noted the instructional videos and self-help books Pitino produced while no one approached Richardson about such ventures.

Read 40 Minutes of Hell and you'll gain a greater appreciation for Richardson, the man and the coach.

'Believe in Blue'

The Kentucky Blood Center will be competing with the LifeSouth Community Blood Center of Gainesville, Fla., this week. Monday through Friday, the centers will seek the most donors in what's called the second annual Big Blue Slam.

Donations can strengthen the blood supply prior to spring break season, when blood collections typically slow due to school closings and vacations.

To spur donations, the Kentucky Blood Center will give donors a Big Blue Slam T-shirt, and everyone who registers to give blood will be automatically entered into a daily prize drawing for a Fan Fun Basket, as well as a trip for two to the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.

The Big Blue Slam will involve blood centers in Lexington, Somerset and Pike-ville. To make an appointment to donate blood or find the closest blood drive to you, log on to www.kybloodcenter.org or call 1-800-775-2522.

Donors must be at least 16 years old (with parental permission), weigh 110 pounds and be in general good health.

Foul shooters

In case you missed it, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated included a poll of NBA players. The question was: Whom do you least want on the line at game's end?

Shaquille O'Neal was the runaway winner with 48 percent of the vote.

Two former UK players made the top five: Chuck Hayes was third with 9 percent of the vote and Rajon Rondo was fifth with 4 percent.

Big Boo Nation

UK fans in Rupp Arena booed every time South Carolina guard Devan Downey touched the ball on Thursday night. That goes with the territory after leading his team to three straight victories over the Cats.

Downey, who made only nine of 25 shots, shrugged off the booing. "I don't pay that much attention," he said.

Downey agreed with a reporter who suggested the booing was a compliment.

"If they have to do that, that's a sign of respect," he said.

When Downey emerged onto the court after the game, the fans who stayed for John Calipari's radio show treated him to an ovation.

'JUST STUPID'

Learning about UK fans sending South Carolina guard Devan Downey derogatory messages irritated reader Al Reed. He also didn't like reading Downey said one fan threatened to show up at the team's Lexington hotel.

"I think it is a slap in the BIG BLUE NATION'S face that anybody — much less a so-called UK fan — would send e-mails of any of the stuff ... to this kid," Reed wrote. "There is no place in the sport for these kinds of actions. JUST STUPID.

"I was at the game in Columbia with my son and grandson. The kid played his heart out and Kentucky had nothing for him."

Reed described himself as a lifelong UK fan who was "ashamed to hear such stupidity."

Reed, 58, now lives in South Carolina and works for a trucking company in Charlotte, N.C. He was born in Irvine.

Outhouse/penthouse

Reader Cecil Murray sent a question.

"My friends and I have been wondering if there has ever been a men's NCAA basketball team that won the national championship that was not in the tournament the year before," Murray wrote in an e-mail message. "Of course being Kentucky fans we are hoping for another championship this year. If you cut it down to the time that there have been 64 teams I don't think it has happened, but I am not for sure."

It's happened twice since the NCAA Tournament expanded its field to 64 teams in 1985. In both cases, the addition of star freshmen made a critical difference.

Syracuse did not get a bid in 2002, then added freshman Carmelo Anthony and won the 2003 national title.

Louisville did not make the 1985 NCAA Tournament. Then the Cardinals added Pervis Ellison and won the 1986 national championship.

Murray, 49, said he was born in Paintsville and has lived in Winchester for almost 19 years. He works as an item processing manager for a company in Lexington that does processing for banks.

"I was born, raised, and will die a UK fan," he said.

Lesson learned

UK Coach John Calipari scoffed at a Web site report that said an NBA scout supposedly belittled DeMarcus Cousins as a pro prospect. Sounded like a trick in which the scout tried to throw his competitors off, Calipari said. "They all lie," the UK coach said.

According to Roland Lazenby's new book, Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, Calipari fell victim to such deception when he coached the New Jersey Nets.

Sportswriter Adam Flomenbaum of Dime magazine noted an anecdote on page 379 of Lazenby's book.

In rebuilding the Los Angeles Lakers, "(Jerry) West had to take the huge gamble of trading veteran center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for their thirteenth pick in the draft," Lazenby wrote.

"Then he learned that John Calipari, the coach of the New Jersey Nets, planned to take (Kobe) Bryant with the eighth pick before the Lakers could snare him at thirteen.

" 'Jerry wanted Kobe, so he basically called up and talked Cal out of drafting Kobe,' " explained Hal Wiseel, who was with the Nets at the time. West encouraged the Bryant family to talk to Calipari and explain that their son really wanted to play for the Lakers.

" 'He knew if we didn't take him at eight, he'd drop to Charlotte, and he could make the deal with Charlotte,' Wiseel recalled. 'Cal was young in the league and, hey, it's Jerry West on the phone.' "

'Wallcats' No. 1

Sportswriter Ron Higgins of The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper in Memphis, does a weekly ranking of the SEC's top teams. With an eye toward all the players that followed John Calipari from Memphis to UK, Higgins topped last week's rankings with this:

"1. University of Memphis at Lexington (26-1, 11-1, Last week No. 1): The Wallcats keep coming up big in the clutch and it doesn't hurt to keep getting friendly whistles with games on the line."

When Calipari dominated the landscape at Memphis, Higgins referred to the program as "Cal State-Memphis."

Happy birthday

To Tom Leach. UK's radio play-by-play man turns 49 on Wednesday.

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