▪ John Welch could be just what Kentucky basketball needs.
John Calipari officially hired the former NBA assistant on Monday. Welch will be involved in opponent scouting, on-court player development and game planning, among other duties. Since Calipari parted ways with longtime aide John Robic, the Cats have needed improvement in those areas.
That’s no knock on Cal. With the expansion of NIL and the transfer portal, head coaches have a lot of balls in the air. And Calipari went all-in on recruiting the upcoming season’s freshman class. Having a coach who concentrates on Xs and Os and player development can only help.
▪ Don’t look now, but Kenny Payne has completed a top-five recruiting class at Louisville. Former Memphis commit Ty-Laur Johnson pledged to the Cardinals on Monday. Rivals ranks the 6-foot guard No. 65 in the class of 2023.
Remember former Kentucky quarterback Joey Gatewood? He transferred from Auburn to UK in 2020, then departed after one season for UCF. Gatewood is now transferring to Louisville, where he is expected to play tight end.
▪ The NBA Finals will be interesting matchup of the best player on the planet, Denver center Nikola Jokic, vs. the best coach in the NBA, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra.
▪ Jamal Murray’s not bad, either. The Denver guard, via Kentucky (2015-16), scored 31, 37, 37 and 25 points in the Nuggets’ sweep of LeBron and the Lakers.
Murray is a competitor. My lasting UK Murray memory is the Canadian sitting in the Cats’ locker room with a towel covering his head after the Cats’ 73-67 loss to Indiana in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Murray had missed eight of his nine three-point shots. He was devastated.
▪ The year Murray left Kentucky basketball, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo joined Kentucky basketball.
▪ I love Jeff Van Gundy, but ESPN’s NBA analyst complains about the officials way too much. Reminds me of the Celtics.
▪ ESPN’s Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson get all the hype, but TNT’s crew of Kevin Harlan, Stan Van Gundy and Reggie Miller are just as good, if not better.
▪ And guess what: The television crews doing NBA games actually talk about the game they are watching. Novel concept.
▪ Reds fans were waiting on former first-round draft pick Matt McLain to be called up from Louisville. Done. Now Reds fans are waiting for super prospect Elly De La Cruz to be called up from Louisville. Coming soon. They hope.
For those not in the know: De La Cruz is a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic who can run, throw and Monday hit a 465-foot homer out of Slugger Field. Completely out of Slugger Field.
▪ You remember John Higgins. NCAA basketball official who earned the eternal wrath of UK fans after the Cats’ loss to North Carolina in the 2017 South Regional finals. After working this year’s Final Four, Higgins is leaving the court to be the coordinator of Western Basketball Officiating Consortium, which includes the Big Sky, Big West, Mountain West, Pac-12, WCC and WAC.
▪ Another cause for BBN celebration: Tennessee center Uros Plavsic and his elbows won’t be returning to Knoxville next season. The Serbian will pursue a pro career.
▪ The June 10 Belmont Stakes could include: National Treasure, Forte, Tapit Trice and Angel of Empire. Worth watching.
▪ Kentucky’s Mark Stoops dropped from 16th to 18th in CBS Sports annual rankings of college football coaches from Power Five conferences. “It’s a sign of the respect Stoops has garnered for what he’s done at Kentucky that he only dropped two spots after a step back last season,” Tom Fornelli wrote.
▪ Kudos to Bengals owner Mike Brown for voting against the NFL flex plan for “Thursday Night Football.” The league did pass restrictions. Games can only be flexed between weeks 13-17. Two flexes are allowed all season. A 28-day notice is required. It’s still a bad idea for players and fans who actually attend the games.
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