2-21-18 Edition on News Stands Wednesday!

2-21-18 Edition on News Stands Wednesday!



Pedestrian Causes Accident

Laurel County Sheriff John Root is reporting that: Laurel Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Mink along with Deputy Brandon Broughton and Deputy Charlie Johnson investigated a two vehicle serious injury traffic crash (caused by a pedestrian stepping into the road) which occurred on Hal Rogers Parkway approximately 3 miles west of London on Saturday morning February 24, 2018 at approximately 11:23 AM.

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Kentucky Basketball — Senior (less) Day Salute

Senior (less) Day Salute—By John Huang

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — As a lifelong University of Kentucky sports fan, some of my most lasting basketball memories have been of Senior Day. The emotions and pageantry of four-year lettermen together with their loving and supportive families–parading one final time before an adoring BBN–never fails to bring tears to my steadfast eyes. Throw in a stanza or two of My Old Kentucky Home, and I’ll be a blubbering basket case before the night is over.

Unfortunately, in this era of One-and-Done basketball players, meaningful Senior Days are few and far between. After all, you can’t have Senior Day without any seniors. That’s exactly what’s happening with this year’s Kentucky men’s basketball team—there are no seniors, so I’m getting my fix elsewhere. Fortunately, the Kentucky women’s team came to the rescue, with Alyssa Rice and Jessica Hardin providing the necessary fodder for another emotional ritual.

Coach Matthew Mitchell kicked off the festivities with a fitting tribute to both graduating seniors. “Jessica Hardin is really special to us,” he gushed at the pre-game press conference. “If it had not been for some really unusual circumstances, our paths would not have crossed, and I sure am happy that our paths did end up crossing because she has been an outstanding person that we will now count as an alum to the program. Her contribution has been outstanding in so many ways.”

“Alyssa just came to us as a real high character young woman,” Coach Mitchell continued. “She has always cared about other people and has always shown great work ethic. In the classroom, she’s been amazing. She’s been a leader for us in the community and given back to others. Her game has really improved from the day she walked in the door to the day she’ll walk out. She has applied herself in every area. She’s someone we’re real proud of. She’ll be a product of the program that we will share with others and this is what you can accomplish and this is what you can do.”

That’s high praise, indeed, from a coach who’s been through eleven different Senior Days in his tenure with the Wildcats. That’s eleven years of mentoring student athletes—many of them four-year graduates—who have matured through the program without transferring, defecting, or melting down. That means as fans, we’ve gotten to know every one of these Senior Day recipients as not only skilled players, but real live people, quirks and all. It’s a bit different from the men, where after four short months, it’s a quick sayonara on their way to glorious NBA careers. I’m not saying it’s better on the women’s side…well maybe I am. At least for fans of the team, there’s a heck of a lot more investment involved.

Prior to the game, Jessica and Alyssa stood pensively at mid-court one final time as the Memorial Coliseum home crowd gave them a well-deserved ovation. Joined by family, they were then presented framed jerseys by Coach Mitchell and staff. As predicted, a stirring rendition of My Old Kentucky Home opened the floodgates to Niagara Falls for the 6,014 or so in attendance.

As for the ballgame itself, it wasn’t nearly the storybook ending everyone was hoping for as Mississippi State (30-0, 16-0 SEC) pounded the Wildcats (14-16, 6-10 SEC) 85-63 in the season finale. Alyssa finished with two points and three rebounds while Jessica also scored two points in her four minutes on the floor.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through their minds. Seasons of hard work, fond memories, and lasting friendships culminating in a crescendo of tears, cheers, and years of the ultimate college experience. Unlike their male counterparts, there is no multi-million-dollar NBA contract waiting in the wings. But there is something, perhaps, with intangible residual value.

“What we are trying to do and what we are intentional about—it is very important—is we are trying to develop an experience for them that has some depth to it and value that they can draw upon after they leave here,” Coach Mitchell explained. “These two players, I am just telling you, these two have a really, really bright future ahead.”

For Jessica, that future is one of limitless possibilities. “I’m looking for jobs,” she said with her customary smile. “I am on the job search. I could possibly do grad school or end up with a career after this. I am in the pursuit of a job.” Any takers out there in the Big Blue network?

As for Alyssa, the self-proclaimed perfectionist plans to attend graduate school and obtain a master’s degree in sports administration or sports leadership. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her as a future athletics director at a major university. Neither should you.

Coach Mitchell ended his press conference with this. “I can’t think of many finer people that I’ve encountered on my coaching journey than Alyssa Rice.” For the ultimate modern-day student-athlete experience, I couldn’t agree more. I love Senior Day and the adventure it represents.

John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.


Kentucky Basketball — Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t Worry, Be Happy—By John Huang

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — The Kentucky versus Missouri basketball game tonight was played with a bit of uncertainty hanging over the Rupp Arena crowd. For the record, the Wildcats steamrolled the Tigers 87-66, but the looming shadows of an NCAA investigation regarding potential recruiting improprieties has rapidly put the brakes on what should have been an escalating BBN mood meter. Thoughts of high tournament seeds, Final Four runs, and additional glory for the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball have been painfully tempered by the discovery of free lunches, underhanded agents, and “bad loans” indicative of the seedy underbelly that has permanently infiltrated the landscape of the college game. Appropriately, Pat Forde, author of the Yahoo story, was on press row to witness Kentucky’s immediate response.

Ironically, the 1978 NCAA Championship team was honored during halftime of the Missouri game with a thunderous ovation, bringing fans back to a simpler and less vulnerable era where games were played sans the impending specter of another embarrassing scandal. “We did everything we could to stay above board and to do things the right way,” said Jack ‘Goose’ Givens, who poured in 41 points against Duke during that memorable championship game. “Our coaching staff demanded that.”

I’m not naïve enough to believe that twenty-dollar handshakes weren’t commonplace back in the day. However, it’s disappointing to discover forty years later that our beloved Wildcats under the watchful eye of Sandy Bell are still one of the programs linked with the cesspool of sleaze that surrounds the NCAA. The timing couldn’t be worse, for just as tournament fever hits the Bluegrass, this garbage hits the fan. During his meeting with the media, I was hoping for some “Pitino-esque” deniability from Coach Cal about the entire matter, but he shied away from questions under the guise of ignorance.

Suffice it to say that time will tell whether anything significant develops out of these initial allegations. It’s way too early to speculate about penalties, sanctions, and vacated wins. The timing of the payments to Bam appear somewhat incriminating, but why ruin the remainder of this season by worrying about water under the bridge? Let’s let Forde write his stories and the investigations run their course.

Meanwhile, with the victory tonight, Kentucky (20-9 overall, 9-7 SEC) drastically improves their positioning for the upcoming SEC tournament in St. Louis. A double bye vaults them directly into the quarterfinals—a scant two victories from the championship game. Plus, every additional win also improves their potential seeding in the Big Dance. If the Cats win out, it’s conceivable that a three or four seed is within reach—something completely out of the question during the four-game free fall just two short weeks ago.

At that time, remember that everyone questioned the team’s resolve—from their lack of heart to their stunted basketball IQ. “I don’t think the issue (with this team) has been basketball IQ,” Calipari quickly admonished. “I think the issue has been they didn’t realize until two weeks ago how bad they needed each other. The second thing is they’re still trying to figure out who they are, then we add Jarred (Vanderbilt) midseason. I mean, that all comes together and we look confused sometimes out there on the court, which would make you believe, ‘Man, their IQ–,’ It’s not, they’ve got a good basketball IQ, they have a good feel for the game.”

Those words seemed to ring especially true against the Tigers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with 14 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds, and Kevin Knox with a game-high 21 points certainly looked the part as basketball geniuses. Jarred Vanderbilt with his 15 rebounds in 27 minutes was Summa Cum Laude. Quade Green and PJ Washington with 12 points apiece were definitely Dean’s List worthy, while even Hamidou Diallo came off of probation to register 11 points on 3-3 three-point shooting in his 25 minutes on the court.

Off the court, Calipari frequently talks about minimizing distractions this time of the year. As chief cook, bottle washer, and team psychiatrist, it’s incumbent upon him to make sure his team is completely dialed in for the stretch run. An internal investigation into basketball wrongdoings while Facebook cameras are rolling may be as distracting as it gets for this vaunted program, but that’s why Calipari’s paid millions each year to properly steer the ship. If somehow the ship sinks due to any culpability on his part, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of unhappy campers eventually calling for his scalp. For sanity’s sake, please say it ain’t so, Coach.

My advice for BBN is this: Ignore any news about the investigative distractions for now. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. In his nine years as head coach, Calipari has kept his nose clean and has earned enough trust with the fan base to be given the benefit of the doubt. In other words, don’t worry, be happy, and continue watching him work his magic with this young team on the court. The rest of the basketball world best watch out–March Madness is on the horizon, and the Cats are on a roll!

John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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