UK Men's Basketball

Fox, Monk exceeding UK’s high standard for freshman productivity

Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked with De’Aaron Fox (0) and Malik Monk during the Cats’ game against Valparaiso on Dec. 7.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari talked with De’Aaron Fox (0) and Malik Monk during the Cats’ game against Valparaiso on Dec. 7. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

When it comes to productive freshmen, Kentucky is a standard unto itself. So, let’s see how the current freshmen compare to earlier UK one-and-one players after nine games.

Guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk surpass their UK predecessors. Bam Adebayo has some catching up to do.

Here are the numbers:

Going into Sunday’s game against Hofstra, Fox has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 67-22. That’s slightly better than Tyler Ulis’ 49-17 after nine games last season. (Yes, Ulis was not a freshman, but it was his first season at the helm of a Kentucky team.)

Other ratios after nine games are John Wall’s 64-39, Andrew Harrison’s 33-20, Marquis Teague’s 38-26 and Brandon Knight’s 33-36.

Monk has made 26 of 68 three-point shots. That’s more attempts and made shots from three-point range than such celebrated UK shooters as Knight (20 of 59), Jamal Murray (18 of 54), Devin Booker (14 of 39), Aaron Harrison (14 of 42) and Eric Bledsoe (12 of 25).

Monk’s 38.2-percent shooting accuracy on threes trails only Bledsoe’s 48 percent.

By the way, Jodie Meeks had made 25 (of 69) shots from beyond the arc after nine games in 2008-09, the season in which he set a UK record with 117 three-point baskets.

Adebayo has grabbed 73 rebounds. After nine games, Julius Randle had 109, Terrence Jones 92, Anthony Davis 82, Nerlens Noel 81 and DeMarcus Cousins 75. Adebayo does have more rebounds than Skal Labissiere (35).

And if UK fans grumble about how a current freshman plays in a particular game, they should keep in mind that former one-and-done players had some early-season clunkers, too.

For example, Wall had a game in which he had two assists and seven turnovers. Knight had a game with no assists and eight turnovers. Knight had back-to-back games in which he shot 1-for-6 and 0-for-8 from three-point range.

Not convinced? Murray made one of 10 three-point shots in his second college game. Booker, whose shooting motion was basketball poetry, made one of six three-point shots in a game and none of six in another.

Meeks, who was a junior in his record-setting season, had games when he shot 1-for-8 and 2-for-12 from three-point range.

129

When UCLA beat Kentucky last weekend, UK fan Tony Stallard’s mind went back to another loss 61 years earlier.

“The thing that caught me was the number 129,” he said. “And I thought, well, that’s an interesting coincidence.”

UCLA beat Kentucky in John Calipari’s 129th home game as UK coach.

On Jan. 8, 1955, Georgia Tech beat Kentucky to end UK’s home winning streak at 129 games.

Stallard, who grew up in Lexington, attended the game in Memorial Coliseum in which Georgia Tech snapped a UK home winning streak that covered 12 years. He was 14 and had never experienced Kentucky losing a home game.

The reaction of the crowd in Memorial Coliseum?

“Silence, silence,” he said. “It was absolute ‘unbelief.’ You could not believe that Kentucky got beat.”

Stallard, 75, could believe UCLA beat Kentucky last weekend. He thought the Bruins outplayed UK.

Stallard, who hasn’t attended a Kentucky home game since Joe B. Hall was coach, graduated from UK in 1970 with a degree in architecture. That field played to his attraction to creativity. He worked his way through college, in part, by playing guitar and organ in a band.

Apples and oranges

In his new book, John Calipari says, “The longer a player stays in college, the less attractive he is to (NBA) executives.”

Valparaiso Coach Matt Lottich said that some programs must have a different philosophy.

“That can be the case for players going to Kentucky,” Lottich said. “To stay around longer, (NBA scouts) have more time to identify your weaknesses.”

Valpo hopes its star, Alec Peters, can be an example of how a player enhances his game and his stock over multiple college seasons.

So while Kentucky’s Blue-print works for Kentucky, “For Alec and a player at Valparaiso, a lot of times we’re trying to develop strengths,” Lottich said. “It’s kind of comparing apples to oranges in some regard.”

Best in gym?

Perhaps polishing his recruiting pitch, John Calipari touted the wealth of talent at Kentucky several times this fall. If, upon arrival on campus, a player is immediately the best in the gym, that player is probably at the wrong place, he said. Message: Kentucky’s abundance of talent creates better practice competition, which makes for greater improvement.

So did Alec Peters sense from the beginning that he was the best player in Valpo’s gym?

“That was an inch ago and 20 pounds lighter,” Peters said of his freshman year. “So I was a completely different player. I wasn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes. I was just wanting to do what I always do, and that is to play hard and rebound and do effort things the best I can. And the scoring would come.”

‘Props to him’

UCLA freshman TJ Leaf surprised Kentucky last weekend. The Cats did not expect him to do so much (17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists).

“He was a little more active than I thought,” said Wenyen Gabriel, one of the UK players that guarded Leaf. “I didn’t know he was crashing the boards the way he was.”

Gabriel was not the only UK player Leaf surprised.

“He surprised a lot of us,” Isaac Humphries said. “It almost looked like he came in with a mission to kind of prove to everyone he could play with the best players, and he did really well. So props to him.”

‘Great again’

A contest to name Rupp Arena’s new scoreboard/video boards over center court drew more than 3,800 responses.

One person suggested the name “Trump.” Obviously, this was inspired by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign this year.

Why name the scoreboard/video boards Trump?

“Making Rupp Arena great again!” the person said in the entry form.

Fastest to 600

Bill Self of Kansas became the ninth fastest to 600 college coaching victories last week. He got his 600th victory in his 789th game.

The eight coaches who got to 600 faster are all in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The eight are Adolph Rupp (704 games), Jerry Tarkanian (720), Roy Williams (739), John Wooden (755), Dean Smith (773), John Calipari (776), Henry Iba (777) and Phog Allen (780).

The list has plenty of Kansas connections. Williams, Calipari, Allen and Self coached at KU. Rupp and Smith played for the Jayhawks.

By the way, Western Kentucky coaching icon Ed Diddle is the 10th fastest to 600 victories (790 games).

‘Bracketology’

ESPN’s “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi updated his mock 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket last week.

Lunardi had Kentucky as a No. 2 seed in the East Region. Villanova was the No. 1 seed.

Other No. 1 seeds: Kansas (Midwest), Duke (South) and Baylor (West).

Five SEC teams made Lunardi’s updated bracket: South Carolina (six seed), Texas A&M (10 seed), Florida (four seed), Arkansas (play-in game) and UK.

Lunardi had 10 ACC teams in his bracket. There were eight from the Big Ten, six from the Big 12 and five each from the Big East and SEC.

Voter suppression

Unhappy UK fans — pardon the redundancy — volunteered feedback to a voter in The Associated Press media top 25 poll.

Jeff Goodman, a reporter for ESPN, drew the ire of UK fans two weeks ago when he voted Indiana No. 1 and Kentucky No. 2 on his ballot.

“I did it based on the fact Indiana had a win over Kansas,” he wrote in an email, “and UK had a win over a mediocre Michigan State team.”

This reason — or probably any reason not to vote Kentucky No. 1 — did not sit well with some in the Big Blue Nation. After all, UK had been No. 1 since Duke lost to Kansas.

“The Indiana win was more impressive to me,” Goodman wrote of his voting Indiana No. 1. “And I try and rank based on what happens on the court. The preseason rankings are solely based on paper.”

Happy birthday

To Eric Bledsoe. He turned 27 on Friday. … To Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan. He turned 85 on Friday. … To Terry Mobley. He turned 73 on Friday. … To Cameron Mills. He turned 41 on Saturday. … To Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson. He turns 57 on Monday.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

Sunday

No. 6 Kentucky vs. Hofstra

When: 3 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Records: UK 8-1; Hofstra 6-4

Series: First meeting

TV: ESPN

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

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