Kentucky dealt with pressure all season long, pressure to be the best, pressure to win every game and, finally, pressure to win a national championship.
Shortly after the season came to a sudden halt, two wins short of the ultimate goal, the Wildcats found themselves dealing with a new kind of pressure. Pressure to get out of town.
The feel good story in April 2014 involved the surprising decisions by Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress to come back to Lexington to make a run for the championship that eluded them after an unexpected run to the Final Four.
Something about unfinished business and wanting to enjoy the life of a college sports celebrity for one more year before entering the world of play for pay.
That narrative changed this year. It wasn’t cool to stay in school. Not anymore.
No surprise that Cauley-Stein and the twins left. The former projects to be among the top 10 picks in the June 25 NBA Draft. The Harrisons probably saw their individual stock drop somewhat this season, although they gained points for their unselfish willingness to share playing time.
The announcement to turn pro from Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t a shock, either, not after his late-season and tournament success left him on the short list for the draft’s No. 1 pick. The same could be said for Devin Booker, whose 41 percent three-point shooting and improving defense projects him well within the top 20.
But the others? Trey Lyles played out of position this year and took time to gain traction. Sure, he’ll get drafted. But another year of college, playing his natural position at power forward, and he would likely have moved into the top five.
Dakari Johnson? Don’t get me started. He virtually disappeared from the lineup during post-season play and never has a 7-footer had so many shots blocked over the course of a year. Another year to work on his footwork and mesh offensively with Tyler Ulis would have greatly boosted his stock and his wallet.
Instead, they all left. All seven. Only Poythress, coming off a knee injury, ignored the NBA siren call. The importance of his return should not be under-estimated.
The departing seven ultimately wanted to be part of yet another record: the most players from one team selected in an NBA draft. Kentucky holds the current record, six, who left after the 2011-12 season (the Cats went to the NIT the following year, but that’s a different sports note). Five Wildcats went in the first round in 2010.
It will be interesting to see if all seven are picked. There are just two rounds, 30 players in each round. Only first round contracts are guaranteed, although some second-round choices do get guaranteed deals.
Currently, most experts have only Towns, Cauley-Stein, Booker and Lyles among the top 30. Johnson is somewhere around 40, Andrew Harrison in the high 50s and Aaron Harrison is not on the board at all.
The No. 1 pick will receive a contract of around $4.75 million for the first year with the No. 30 pick just under $950,000.
So the money is hard to ignore.
But more important to many players facing the decision about moving to the next level is the increasing stigma attached to those who remain in college, the idea that something’s wrong with the individual or his game, that he has regressed or not developed as he should have.
The era of players returning to school because they simply enjoy college life or want to stay together for one more championship run may well be just about over.
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Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell won the first Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award after averaging 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds a game for the Cardinals.
Harrell, who is also leaving school early, shot 56.6 percent from the field and helped Louisville to a 27-9 record and to the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.
The other four finalists for the award were Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, Iona’s David Laury, Iowa State’s Georges Niang,  and Kansas’ Perry Ellis.  The winner was determined by a combination of fan votes and input from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s selection committee.
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Kentucky volleyball junior setter Morgan Bergren was named to the 36-member U.S. Collegiate National Team program. The team will train in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships, June 21-29 in New Orleans, La.
Bergren played for the U.S. Collegiate National Team last summer during a 10-day trip to China and is one of six setters on the squad.
The teams compete in a round-robin event the final three days in New Orleans. Last season, senior Jackie Napper competed on the U.S. Collegiate National Team in Minneapolis. Her team went a perfect 3-0 against the other two squads in the round-robin tournament.
Bergren was one of 12 players selected to compete during a 10-day tour in China. Her U.S. Collegiate National Team played seven matches against the Chinese Junior National Team and Chinese professional teams.
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Sherrill G. Smith is the new head coach of Midway’s soccer team. He joins Midway’s athletics staff after 30 years coaching boys’ soccer at Frankfort High School, where he was one of the top-ten winningest coaches in Kentucky.
In 2014, he received several awards for his work, including Great Lakes Coach of the Year for small schools by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Kentucky High School Soccer Coaches Association (KHSSCA) Coach of the Year and the Central Kentucky Soccer Officials Association (CKSOA) Coach of the Year.
He has coached recreational and select soccer teams as well as high school boys and girls tennis, boys basketball, and baseball. Several of his players have received statewide awards and have gone on to successfully play soccer/tennis on the college level.
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Louisville junior righthander Kyle Funkhouser and freshman pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay are among 60 players chosen for the midseason USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award watch list.
A native of Oak Forest, Ill., Funkhouser is 4-2 with a 2.22 ERA and 54 strikeouts in eight starts and 52.2 innings pitched this season. Named to the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list and an All-American last season, Funkhouser is 22-6 with a 2.06 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 227.2 innings pitched during his collegiate career in Louisville.
McKay, from Darlington, Pa., is 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 40.0 innings and 11 appearances on the mound, including four straight weekend starts. At the plate, McKay has a .289 average with one home run, 14 RBI, 21 walks and 19 runs scored in 25 starts at first base, designated hitter and pitcher.



Courtesy of KyForward


Posted on 2015-04-14 by