UK Men's Basketball

Coach in state tourney or attend son’s Senior Day? Father of Kentucky player faced that choice.

Jonny David will experience UK’s Senior Day

Kentucky basketball walk-on Jonny David will play his final game at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 9, 2019, when the Wildcats take on Florida. UK assistant coach Kenny Payne talked Friday about how David has helped the team.
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Kentucky basketball walk-on Jonny David will play his final game at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 9, 2019, when the Wildcats take on Florida. UK assistant coach Kenny Payne talked Friday about how David has helped the team.

Kentucky’s game against Florida on Saturday brought Jonny David’s father to a fork in his basketball road. Attend UK’s Senior Day, which will feature his son’s farewell to Rupp Arena? Or coach his Mount Lebanon High School team in the Pennsylvania state championship tournament?

Joe David said it was not a difficult decision.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said of UK’s Senior Day ceremony. “And no regrets on my part. As far as missing the (high school) game, I have to be there for Jonny. And looking forward to a wonderful Saturday afternoon.”

The elder David has not previously missed a game in his 18-year high school coaching career. He tried to do both: attend UK Senior Day, then fly back to Pittsburgh for his team’s 6 p.m. game. But no flight was available.

“I’ll be watching the (high school) game on the phone or something,” he said. “I’m going to try to hook up with something so I can talk to my coaches.”

Jonny David said he appreciated his father’s decision.

“It just means a lot that he’d rather be here,” he said of his father, “and to be with me and my family than his high school game. They should win. I hope they win.”

During warm-ups, actor Morgan Freeman called UK’s PJ Washington over before Kentucky’s 80-76 win over Ole Miss on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. What did Freeman, an Ole Miss season-ticket holder, say to the sophomore forward?

Farewell performance?

PJ Washington was noncommittal when asked if Senior Day will be his farewell home performance for Kentucky.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve done a lot here. And I’ve grown a lot here. This place is really special to me. I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow. I’m just going to go (and play) with a happy heart.”

Associate coach Kenny Payne advised Washington to use the occasion to remember his UK career.

“If PJ decides this is it, reflect back on your career,” Payne said. “Reflect back on the two years you’ve had here. What did you learn? How did you learn it? What do you walk out of here with? Because whatever that is, it’s going to last for the rest of your life.”

Cal on Travis

Graduate transfer Reid Travis will be feted at Senior Day.

“He has meant so much to this team,” UK Coach John Calipari said. “We wouldn’t be the team we are today without him.”

Kentucky basketball assistant coach Kenny Payne talks about the status of forward Reid Travis. The graduate transfer from Stanford has missed four games with a knee sprain. UK plays host to Florida on Saturday, March 9, 2019.



Itchy trigger finger?

Despite (and maybe because of) playing time of only 36 minutes for UK, David has long been a fan favorite. A 1,000-point scorer in high school, the walk-on hasn’t made nor taken a shot since the 2016-17 season.

Might he have an itchy trigger finger Saturday?

“I’m not going to unnecessarily force anything up,” he said with a smile. “But I won’t pass up an opportunity, I’ll tell you that.”

David said he appreciated being a fan favorite. “It’s something that’s special about BBN,” he said. “There’s not really words to describe it. It makes my day.”

The last two games, Kentucky forward PJ Washington has missed a significant part of the first half after picking up two fouls. The sophomore talked Friday, March 8, 2019, about how he can avoid that in the future. UK plays Florida on Saturday.



Headband

Washington explained the headband he wore during the Ole Miss game on Tuesday. He wore it because he needed a haircut, he said. He got the haircut. No more headband.

Paying players

Actor Morgan Freeman is a season-ticket holder for Ole Miss basketball. He sat on the sideline opposite the Ole Miss bench.

As UK warmed up before the game, Freeman waved Washington over to his seat.

“He said, for every three-pointer I miss, he’ll give me 50 cents,” Washington said. “And then I told him, I’m not going to miss then. And then I didn’t shoot one. So I didn’t get paid.”

Desperate team?

Two weeks ago, Florida was riding a five-game winning streak and looking to remove any doubt about an NCAA Tournament bid. Then the Gators lost home games to lowly Georgia and highly LSU.

Heading to Kentucky, freshman Noah Locke said, “We’ve just got to play like it’s our last game, which it is . . . because it means a lot for us to win this game.”

Role reversal

Florida’s KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson have been part of a role reversal of late.

Hudson, who had been struggling much of his senior season, scored 33 points in Wednesday’s loss to LSU. Meanwhile, Allen made only one of six shots (none taken in the second half).

Hudson has averaged 14-plus points in the last eight games. Meanwhile, Allen has made four of 25 shots (two of 13 from three-point range) in the three most recent games.

Etc.

Spero Dedes and Jim Spanarkel will call the game for CBS.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball beginning with the 1981-82 season to the present. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.
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