Former Notre Dame standout Pat Connaughton's recent workout for the San Antonio Spurs had a telling moment.
"They say, 'Do a highlight reel dunk,'" Connaughton recalled. Which he proceeded to do with the requisite frills and flourishes.
"After I do it, guys I'm playing with are like, 'Wow, I didn't know you could jump like that; I was shocked,'" Connaughton said. "And it's not even an ooooh-type thing. It's a dead silence-type thing."
Connaughton explained the silence by describing himself as "a white basketball player." As such, he says, he's not expected to be, you know, athletic.
"The adjective everyone says is 'deceptively athletic,'" he said. "For me, I try to disprove that day in and day out."
Connaughton proved again on Thursday at the NBA Combine in Chicago that he is simply athletic. He had the highest vertical leap (44 inches), the second-best standing vertical leap (37.5 inches) and the fifth-best sprint time. The 44-inch vertical leap was 1.5 inches shy of the Combine record, set by Kenny Gregory of Kansas in 2001.
A bemused expression crossed Connaughton's face as he talked about basketball stereotypes and assumptions.
"Obviously, people try to compare me to Kyle Korver, right off the bat," he told a reporter Thursday, "Because I can shoot a little bit, and, like you said, I'm a white basketball player.
"It's just a matter of coming out and playing and showing I can be just as athletic."
A throwback two-sport athlete (drafted by the Baltimore Orioles), Connaughton is intent on trying to play both basketball and baseball. He pursues basketball first because, he said, it would be easier to return to baseball. Basketball's speed and athleticism, or what Connaughton called its "uptempo-ness," is the appeal.
Earlier this spring, Connaughton participated in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament, a first step for lower-profile prospects. He said he did not have to swallow his pride before going to Portsmouth.
"For me, it's just going out and playing," he said. "Any chance to compete, I want to be able to do it.
"I want to build up for basketball. It's never been a one-and-done thing for me. It was something I had to gradually improve at. And each year I tried to make the necessary adjustments to get me at the next level."
Connaughton saw the Combine as another chance to show, despite appearances, that he has NBA athleticism.
"It's just a matter of coming out and playing and showing I can be just as athletic," he said.
Last week brought reports that UK is negotiating a one-year, $8 million contract extension for John Calipari. He's also scheduled to receive a $1.6 million longevity bonus on July 1.
Sportswriter Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun compiled a list of salaries earned by SEC basketball coaches. All are millionaires. Calipari, whose successes dwarf his colleagues' accomplishments, also commands a salary that more than doubles the next highest-paid coach.
Here's the list of SEC coaches and annual salaries:
1. Calipari, Kentucky, $7.5 million per year.
2. Avery Johnson, Alabama, $2.83 million.
3. Bruce Pearl, Auburn, $2.75 million.
4. Rick Barnes, Tennessee, $2.25 million.
5. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt, $2.2 million.
5. Mike Anderson, Arkansas, $2.2 million.
7. Frank Martin, South Carolina, $2.1 million.
8. Ben Howland, Mississippi State, $2.05 million.
9. Michael White, Florida, $2 million.
10. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss, $1.925 million.
11. Mark Fox, Georgia, $1.7 million.
12. Johnny Jones, LSU, $1.5 million.
13. Kim Anderson, Missouri, $1.2 million.
14. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M, $1.1 million.
Note: Billy Donovan was the second-highest paid coach at $4 million. His salary rose from $1.7 million in 2003 to $3.5 million in 2007 (coming off back-to-back national championships) and topped out at $4 million this past season. Of course, he left Florida for the Oklahoma City Thunder this spring.
Tough act to follow
Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall says that Michael White faces a daunting challenge replacing Billy Donovan at Florida. Hall ought to know. He made history by successfully following an icon (Adolph Rupp) at Kentucky.
"Basketball ruled in Kentucky, and you had the support of the administration, the fans, the faculty, the community," Hall told The Gainesville Sun. "Everybody wanted to see Kentucky do well. And I don't think Billy had that kind of support at Florida. Two national championships back-to-back, he should have been king. And this was a school that hardly recognized the success they were having.
"And I think Billy Donovan is a super coach and a better person. He deserves whatever he got, and he'll keep on receiving whatever he does in life."
Sportswriter Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun wrote that White should stage a Midnight Madness (discontinued by Florida in 2007) and invite the public to a pre-season scrimmage in order to create greater interest.
Willie Cauley-Stein compared last week's NBA Combine to the Combine staged by UK last October.
"This is dudes' livelihoods," he said of the NBA Combine. "You see them out there. They're playing 5-on-5 and that's for their life. Like, that's the way they gotta play: You're playing for your job and you're playing for your livelihood. So it's different.
"At Kentucky, we were doing it to showcase our skills, but it wasn't like — I still have a whole season to show I improved. But here it's like the real deal. You either show up and you do really well, you look good and you get drafted. Or you show up and you don't do so well and now they're questioning can you really play. That's difficult to go into know that. It's tough."
During the NBA Combine, media types asked players about possible NBA destinations.
When asked about Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, Andrew Harrison said, "He's the exact opposite of Coach Cal. He's real calm and stuff, from what I've seen."
This led to some knowing glances from one media type to another. "Real calm" doesn't seem to fit UK Coach John Calipari.
"He's a great guy off the court," Harrison said of Calipari. "On the court, he's very intense. But I'm going to call him when I need him and I'm sure he'll text me every once in a while. So I'm excited."
Harrison did not seem to envision Calipari being a big part of his life going forward.
"Um, a big part?" he said repeating the question. "He's going to be there when I need him. That's it. I have my father and my grandfather for advice, but Coach knows so much about the next level — he coached there, he coached so many players there — I'm definitely going lean on him for advice in that situation."
Aaron Harrison echoed the sentiment.
"I know he yells a lot," he said of Calipari. "You all see that part of it. But he's really a great guy, honestly. He'll do whatever we ask of him."
Of course, it's never too early for meaningless speculation. Projections for the 2016 NBA Draft include:
■ UK incoming freshman Skal Labissiere as the first overall selection (DraftExpress) and second overall selection (NBADraft.net).
■ Alex Poythress will be taken in the second round (44th pick, according to NBADraft.net, and 52nd, according to DraftExpress).
■ DraftExpress has Marcus Lee taken with the 29th pick of the first round and ex-Cat Kyle Wiltjer in the second round (53rd pick).
Kentucky's loss to Wisconsin continues to sting.
"I hear the word 'Wisconsin,' it hits hard," Devin Booker said. "You have to credit them. They're a great team."
Booker said he needed time to get over the loss.
"A whole week after, maybe two weeks," he said. "It still sinks in my stomach. It's tough."
21st Century elites
The website College Spun recently compiled a list of the 25 most successful athletic departments of the 21st Century. In its listing, the website considered only the major revenue-generating sports of football and men's basketball.
The winner is ... Ohio State. Football national championships and nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2006.
Kentucky was placed at No. 15. That was the fourth-best position by a SEC program. Florida was No. 2, LSU No. 7 and Alabama tied for 12th.
The Tide was tied for 12th with Louisville. The website called U of L football "a staple in the Top 25" Of course, Louisville basketball is a known commodity, most recently with a Final Four appearance in 2012 and a national championship in 2013.
Here's College Spun's top 25: 1. Ohio State, 2. Florida, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Wisconsin, 5. Texas, 6. Michigan State, 7. LSU, 8, Kansas, 9. Duke, 10. Oregon, 11. Florida State, 12. Louisville and Alabama, 14. Southern Cal, 15. Kentucky, 16. North Carolina, 17. Connecticut, 18. Arizona, 19. Notre Dame, 20. Michigan, 21. Auburn, 22. UCLA, 23. West Virginia, 24. Oklahoma State, 25. Pittsburgh.
The annual Marshall University coaches' tour will be in Lexington on May 27. It will be held at the Greenbrier Golf & Country Club beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35.
Among the Marshall officials expected to attend are Athletics Director Mike Hamrick, football coach Doc Holliday and basketball coach Dan D'Antoni.
A story Saturday on Willie Cauley-Stein incorrectly referred to UK assistant coach Kenny Walker. Of course, that's Kenny Payne.
To Ron Mercer. He turns 39 on Monday. ... To Buzz Peterson. The former Tennessee coach turns 52 on Sunday (today). ... To Keith Bogans. He turned 35 on Tuesday. ... To Enes Kanter. He turns 23 on Wednesday. ... To Merion Haskins. He turned 60 on Wednesday. ... To Kevin Grevey. He turned 62 on Tuesday.
Here are a few birthdays from earlier this month: Heshimu Evans turned 40 on May 8. ... Jarrod Polson turned 24 on May 8. ... Jon Hood turned 24 on May 9. ... J.P. Blevins turned 36 on May 8.