UK Men's Basketball

Shooting, dribbling and, yes, tweeting part of player evaluation for NBA Draft

Changing UK football’s social media policy would be ‘like asking somebody not to talk’

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops on if changing the football program's social media policy is an option.
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Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops on if changing the football program's social media policy is an option.

In appraising a player, what counts is not just what he does on the court. Also important is what he does on the keyboard.

NBA teams and college programs monitor the social media accounts of players. Every NBA team does this, said Bobby Marks, a former Nets assistant general manager and now ESPN’s front office insider. College athletics departments, including at the University of Kentucky, do likewise.

It gives new meaning to the term postgame.

During the recent NBA Combine, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated asked players about any concerns they might have regarding their internet activity.

“I don’t have that many posts,” Keldon Johnson said. “I only have Instagram. I only have about five or six posts. I know there’s nothing up there that’s bad. So I’m fine.”

Likewise, Tyler Herro said a pre-Combine review meant his postings would pose no problem.

“I had someone do that for me,” he said. “I didn’t know what was deleted. I just know my Twitter is clean now.”

The kind of postings that cause concern for NBA teams include racial insensitivity and bullying, Marks said. “It’s an extension of the background check,” he said. “I think you can learn a lot about players (through) their social media posts.”

Sometimes the nature of the checks surprise players.

“Players didn’t realize when you re-tweet something, it’s almost like an endorsement,” Marks said. “Just because they didn’t say it doesn’t mean you’re not now linked to that.”

Chris Douglas-Roberts, who played for John Calipari at Memphis, had to be schooled on this point when he played for the Nets. Twitter was relatively new a decade ago when Douglas-Roberts re-tweeted criticism of the Nets’ coach.

“I explained to him that re-tweeting is an endorsement,” Marks said. “He just couldn’t understand it.”

Twitter links can endure. Guy Ramsey, UK’s director of strategic communications, said in an email that the school checks postings and activities as far back as when a player begins an Internet account. Sally Mobley, manager of athletics social media for the University of South Carolina, said she or someone on her staff of five interns may check activity going back to a player’s middle school days.

On the college level, the checks of internet activity serve as a teaching tool. They can help a player avoid damaging his or her “personal brand.” They can help protect the brand of the program and/or school. Ramsey said the monitoring can help strengthen the bond with fans that could pay future dividends for the player. UK is watchful about postings that include offensive language or that might raise questions about compliance issues, Ramsey said.

Mobley, who has monitored the internet activity of South Carolina athletes for two years, recalled a player posting updates on drinking escapades during a spring break.

“We knew he was of age, and you can do that legally,” Mobley said. “But where I drew the line was he was drinking and driving. For us, we’re saying, you’ve got eyes of the youth on you. … You want to know you can have a 5-year-old or 10-year-old look at your account and not see things they can’t unsee.”

Marks suggested that the monitoring of internet activity will not end anytime soon.

“You’d be amazed at how many players use social media to give themselves an edge,” he said, meaning players use criticism they read on social media as motivation.

“Which I don’t think is healthy,” Marks said. “But to each his own. That’s a question teams ask: How much do you rely on social media? And the response is overwhelmingly, ‘a lot.’”

Growth

Players might soon have the option to again go directly from high school to the NBA. Would Tyler Herro have exercised that option if it had been available last year?

“Nah,” he said. “I don’t think I was ready. The year at Kentucky made a huge difference. … Learning, going through different things and being able to grow. I think I’ve grown up a lot.”

Herro described in a memorable way how John Calipari, Kenny Payne and the UK staff transformed him.

“They pretty much turned a four-star into a one-and-done,” he said. “Coach Cal and K.P., all credit to them.”

Time travel

When asked how long ago UK’s August trip to the Bahamas seemed, Tyler Herro repeated the question.

“How long ago does it feel?” he said. Then he added, “it feels like yesterday, honestly. Everything went by so fast.”

Positionless

Reporter at Combine: What position will you play in the NBA?

PJ Washington: “I’m just a basketball player. I feel whatever the coach wants me to do, I feel I can go out there and do it.”

‘I’ll be fine’

Among the unknowns a player faces going into an NBA Draft is what team he’ll be on and what role he will have.

“I definitely want to play my first year,” Keldon Johnson said. But he said he could deal with not playing as much as he’d like.

As for NBA questions about his shooting ability, Johnson said, “I can really shoot the ball. I mean, I can handle the ball a lot better than what they think. I think once I get in the workouts, I’ll be fine.”

‘Hey, Ja!’

Ja Morant acknowledged the change in his life that came this past season when he became a full-blown basketball celebrity as a star for Murray State.

“Like going to the grocery store or a restaurant,” he said, “and somebody will say, ‘Hey, Ja!’ And before, I could go and sit in there 30 minutes or an hour, and nobody would know me.”

Interview tip

Ryan Blake, a draft consultant for the NBA, offered a tip for prospects going into interviews with teams.

“I think one of the best things to do that will open up doors for you is to ask for advice,” he said. “Teams want that. You want that type of person that’s going to show up at their job and (work on) anything they can do to improve themselves.”

Escape

Although coaches demand more-more-more, can less be more? In The New York Times on Wednesday, sportswriter Marc Stein wrote about how Steph Curry and teammate Andre Iguodala regularly play golf on off days.

“Some people say we play too much,” Iguodala told Stein. “But there’s no such thing. We’ve actually found something that we can get mentally engaged in away from what causes all the stress.”

Starstruck?

A reporter at the NBA Combine asked Tennessee forward Grant Williams about having to perform with a basketball luminary such as Larry Bird watching.

“You can’t really focus on it,” Williams said. “Because if you’re not ready for that, you’re not ready for the league.”

Michigan men

With the hiring of Juwan Howard as its men’s basketball coach, Michigan might be the only school in a Power five conference — or any conference? — with alumni coaching both its basketball and football teams. Of course, Jim Harbaugh is Michigan’s football coach. Incidentally, the athletics director that hired Howard, Warde Manuel, is also a Michigan graduate.

Columnist Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News pointed out that Howard will be a first-time head coach. He replaces John Beilein, who was a head coach in 1,297 college games before moving to the Cleveland Cavaliers this spring.

“Matching Beilein’s tactical acumen is highly unlikely,” Wojnowski wrote, “but collecting top players can be an antidote.”

Sutton honored

Arkansas announced Thursday that it is naming its basketball practice gym for Eddie Sutton. In 11 seasons as coach at Arkansas, he had a record of 260-75. He left in 1985 to begin a four-season run as UK coach.

“Coach Sutton is an integral part of the history of Razorback basketball …,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “Coach Sutton helped transform the way our state thought about college basketball, and provided Razorback fans with countless memories. His legacy is not only shaped by his many victories and championships, but also by the immeasurable impact he made in the lives of the young men who called him ‘Coach.’”

Celebration of Life

A Celebration of Life will be held for former UK player Dale Barnstable next Saturday. It will be at the Hurstbourne Christian Church in Louisville (601 Nottingham Parkway). It is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on June 1.

Happy birthday

To Cedric Jenkins. He turned 53 on Saturday. … To Adam Delph. He turns 29 on Tuesday. … To Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland. He turns 62 on Tuesday.

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