Sidelines with John Clay

NBA scouts review Kentucky basketball practice; more Big Blue Links

Freshman Kentucky Wildcats L-R: Brad Calipari (20), Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (3), Malik Monk (5), Sacha Killeya-Jones (1), De’Aaron Fox (0), Wenyen Gabriel (32) during the University of Kentucky's men’s basketball photo day held in Memorial Coliseum.
Freshman Kentucky Wildcats L-R: Brad Calipari (20), Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (3), Malik Monk (5), Sacha Killeya-Jones (1), De’Aaron Fox (0), Wenyen Gabriel (32) during the University of Kentucky's men’s basketball photo day held in Memorial Coliseum. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

▪ Gary Parrish of CBS Sports talks to NBA scouts who break down Kentucky’s open basketball practice last Sunday.

“1. Who looked like the best prospect the past two days? Scout’s answer: “De’Aaron Fox was the best. This is one of the best NBA Draft classes in recent memory -- in terms of point guards. And he is a big part of the reason why.”

“My thoughts: Kentucky will possibly have three freshmen -- Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk and Fox -- selected somewhere in the lottery, and any of them could reasonably end up going ahead of the other two. All three are special talents who established themselves as elite prospects years ago. But it wasn’t surprising to hear that Fox outperformed everybody during Kentucky’s Pro Days because, as Matt Norlander pointed out earlier this week, the Houston native has a chance to be one of the best point guards John Calipari has ever coached -- right there with Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Tyler Ulis.”

Going to Big Blue Madness? Here’s what you need to know.

▪ Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader reports that Derek Willis is continuing his journey of self-discovery after his offseason arrest for public intoxication.

“Willis put the arrest in the context of self-discovery. “I already knew I had let people down,” he said. In the aftermath, the June arrest reminded him of how being a UK basketball player alters reality.

“’I learned to understand more of who I am and what I represent,” he said, “because, like, I don’t look at myself as a Kentucky basketball player. I look at myself as being a normal person. I have normal ideas.’”

▪ Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports that Kentucky wide receiver Dorian Baker is ready to make up for lost time.

“One of the Cats’ top playmakers on offense the last two seasons has been a no-show this season thanks to some untimely hamstring issues.

“And even though Baker didn’t have a catch on Saturday, he was happy to get the overall team victory and the small personal victory of not feeling that familiar ache in his hamstring afterward.

He’d tried to go before, like against New Mexico State three weeks ago, only to feel the strain and pain again.”

Q&A with offensive coordinator Eddie Gran

▪ Joe Mussatto of SEC Country reports that the off-week comes at a good time for Kentucky football.

“It’s a good thing for Kentucky that it’s off Saturday because coach Mark Stoops said the Wildcats are a little banged up, starting with QB Stephen Johnson. While neither Stoops nor Johnson said the wrist pain is a big deal, it was surprising to hear Johnson say it’s been bothering him since the Florida game. He’s getting treatment and should be good to go against Mississippi State in a week and a half.

“Johnson passed for just 49 yards Saturday against Vanderbilt and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw has been working with him this week to overcome the things he struggled with against Vanderbilt, such as reading coverages and his footwork. Asked if Johnson is being too hard on himself: ‘Well, sometimes. And sometimes I’m too hard on him,’ Hinshaw said. ‘But that’s a quarterback. The good ones are really hard on themselves, and he gets frustrated. And as a quarterback that’s still new to the SEC game, you have to — the past is the past. We can’t do anything about it. And again, if we’re gonna work to the future, we got to work today and let’s get today fixed to make a better future.’”

▪ John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel asks if Saturday will be Lane Kiffin’s farewell appearance at Tennessee?

“Lane Kiffin might be making his farewell appearance at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. So whether the Vols win or lose against Alabama, something positive from a UT perspective could come from the afternoon.

“You can’t expect the former Tennessee coach to hang around Alabama much longer as an offensive coordinator. Surely, some program will dismiss Kiffin’s high-profile departures from the Oakland Raiders, Vols and Trojans, and find him irresistible as a head coach.

“And as much as Kiffin might enjoy designing plays for a program as talented as this one, a return to head coaching surely becomes more appealing every time his boss dresses him down over an offensive hiccup.”

▪ Josh Kendall of The State reports that, yes, Steve Spurrier admits he’s a little bored not coaching. He writes:

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Steve Spurrier walks into a bar.

“Of course, you haven’t heard this one. It’s absurd, the idea that a Hall of Fame college football player, a soon-to-be Hall of Fame college football coach, the winningest football coach in history at two SEC schools would stroll into a bar by himself on a Sunday afternoon.

“But there was Steve Spurrier was Sunday, looking for a place to watch the South Carolina-Georgia game. The former Gamecocks head coach had driven from Gainesville, Fla., to Crescent Beach to check on his beach home after Hurricane Matthew. He was pleased to see almost no significant damage. In fact, he still had power. He just didn’t have cable.”

▪ Ava Wallace of the Washington Post reports that several members of the Virginia basketball team posted a protest photo, which UVA coach Tony Bennett says opened up a good dialogue.

“The night before the Virginia men’s basketball team began practice for the 2016-17 season, several players posted a photo of the team kneeling as a sign of unity against social injustice. The photo, which featured Virginia players dressed in all black with their arms interlocked over the “V” at midcourt on the floor of John Paul Jones Arena, was posted to several players’ individual social-media accounts on Sept. 29, hours before the first practice of the season.

“The photo was coordinated and put online without Coach Tony Bennett’s knowledge. Since then, the picture has sparked dialogue between players and coaches and led to a planned meeting between the team and members of the Charlottesville Police Department.”

A look at John Calipari’s recruiting success and guest list at Big Blue Madness.

▪ Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reports Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason is still working through his freshman mistakes.

“Jacob Eason is still a work in progress.

“Coming off of a game in which Eason, the five-star quarterback who has started five of Georgia’s six games this year, completed only 5-of-17 passes for 29 yards, head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged there’s a lot more that needs to be done in practice each week to ensure his signal-caller can be more comfortable in game situations.

“’I think the biggest thing with Jacob is getting him more reps and allowing him to develop,’ Smart said. ‘South Carolina didn’t do anything outside of what they always do. It was more a matter of him not being comfortable with the protection, so he got a little rattled at times and started looking around. It wasn’t anything they did to confuse him. I think the best thing we can do is give him a better picture in practice of what he’s going to see in the game and try to simulate that, and throw and catch the ball more.’”

SEC football this weekend

Friday, Oct. 14

10:15 - Mississippi State at BYU (ESPN)

Saturday, Oct. 15

12:00 - Vanderbilt at Georgia (SEC)

3:30 - Alabama at Tennessee (CBS)

4:00 - Missouri at Florida (SEC)

7:00 - Ole Miss at Arkansas (ESPN)

7:30 - Southern Miss at LSU (SEC)

SEC football standings
















South Carolina












Texas A&M












Ole Miss



Miss State






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