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Kentucky Wildcats: USA U19, Mitch Barnhart, UK Baseball, And More Musings

A fresh batch of offseason musings on UK sports and other off-topic banter.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

USA U19 Update

With the Kentucky Wildcats basketball roster almost assuredly set, things are finally cooling off for John Calipari around Lexington. But the UK head coach won't get much time off as things will start to heat up in late June as Cal will be in Colorado Springs, Colorado hosting a training camp for his USA U19 roster. That camp will be held from June 18-25, and the FIBA U19 World Championships will be held in Cairo, Egypt from July 1-9.

Of course, there is a lot of expectations as to which Wildcats Cal will want try out for his 12 man roster. I think it is almost certain that Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green will be high on his list as players he wants to work with more before actual training camp at UK begins.

As his point guard, Cal will have to develop a strong bond with Green. Cal's coaching style allows a certain freedom for his point guards on the court in regards to offense, so extra time with Green will be essential.

Diallo is coming in as the most high-profile player on Kentucky's roster. He was the only player to crack ESPN's top players for 2017 coming in as the twenty-first best player out of twenty-five. Hami became a bit of a combine legend by breaking the vertical jump record and blowing NBA teams away with his freakish measurements. This is an important season for Diallo as he opted to return to Kentucky in lieu of going pro as his hype built. If Hami doesn't improve his draft stock from fringe first round to lottery pick, them many will question his decision to stay at UK. The more time he has to hone his team basketball skills the better.

Other UK guys that Calipari may consider would be Sacha Killeya-Jones, PJ Washington, or Kevin Knox. I don't think Cal takes more than three UK players with him to Egypt, but who knows. Other players that will be considered are Mohamed Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Colin Sexton, and Wendell Carter along with 2018 recruits Marvin Bagley and Romeo Langford.

This will give us something to follow as the long summer days progress.

Mitch Barnhart is getting it Done

One of the more baffling notions that I continue to come across with Kentucky fans is the idea that Mitch Barnhart is somehow a subpar athletic director. But if you look at the results and the trajectory of all of the programs at UK, then it’s easy to see that he has taken the athletics programs to heights that have never been reached.

Take this fact for instance:

The Learfield Directors Cup ranks universities based on all sports and right now Kentucky sits at #9 in the standings, the highest ranking in the history of the university.

Much of the dissenting opinions center around two factors: the hirings of Billy Gillispie and Joker Phillips and the comparison to Tom Jurich.

Factor 1: Yes, both Joker and Billy Clyde were monumentally bad hires that looked good at the time. Gillispie was fresh off of an unprecedented run at lowly Texas A&M, and he just ousted Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals from the NCAA tournament. Joker was a former Kentucky player that loved his alma mater and was Rich Brooks' hand-picked successor. They felt right in the beginning, but both ended up being disasters. Barnhart made up for the misfires by hiring John Calipari and Mark Stoops. With Cal, Kentucky is back on the map as the premier basketball team in the country and with Stoops, Kentucky football looks to be in its best position since the end of Brooks' tenure.

Factor 2: Tom Jurich is a great athletic director and he took Louisville straight to the ACC after years of being conference nomads. Jurich gets the local and national headlines because of his big mouth and his bluster while Barnhart quietly does his job. They are opposite personalities and there are some UK fans that would like Barnhart to be a little more vocal and braggadocious. But look at the two AD's right now: Barnhart is enjoying great success while Jurich is battling NCAA violations, the IRS, and his own Board of Trustees. The entire culture around UofL stinks at the moment, and the jury is still out on how much or how little Tom Jurich has to do with that. We will find out more information within the coming months.

While Jurich talked about Little Brother being all grown up and being Miles Ahead, Barnhart has rebuilt UK athletics from being basketball-centric to all encompassing.

Kentucky Baseball Fever

Yeah, I've got it. What coach Nick Mingione has done in his first year at UK has been magnificent. He received the SEC Coach of the Year Award and his team will be hosting a Regional in Lexington. UK baseball has always been a source of frustration with fans because Gary Henderson always had the talent, yet when it became late in the season, the team always folded.

Mingione is looking to reverse that trend even though he got off to a rough start in the SEC tournament. With the Regionals being in Lexington and the Super Regionals being in Louisville, Wildcats baseball will be primed for a big run. And the chance to end the season for the vaunted Louisville baseball team would be almost too good to be true.

NBA Playoff, De’Aaron Fox, and other Quick Hitters:

  • I can’t stand the Golden State Warriors and their fake tough guy attitude. Draymond Green is the dirtiest player in the NBA and Kevin Durant has turned into an insufferable diva since he joined the team. I hope Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat them for a second straight season.
  • NBA teams are starting to figure out what Kentucky fans have known for quite some time: De’Aaron Fox is as good of a person as he is a basketball player. He is taking teams by storm and his stock is rising. Fox to the Lakers at #2 is a real possibility.
  • I feel bad for Tiger Woods not because he got arrested but because he once was the biggest thing in all of sports and now his career is done due to a combination of injuries (something he can’t help) and terrible personal decisions (something that he can help). The fall of Tiger Woods will be 30 For 30 material down the road.
  • There is a lot of scuttlebutt around Kentucky football right now. Many experts are starting to put them as the second best team in the East and Benny Snell is viewed as one of the premier backs in the conference. It’s going to be a big season with expectations higher than ever.
  • Five-star wing Brian Bowen is a McDonald’s All American and the last uncommitted player of his caliber. He was supposed to be down to five schools- Arizona, Michigan State, Creighton, Texas, and North Carolina State. But then Oregon and DePaul, yes that Depaul, have emerged for him. And even more recently, he took an official visit to Louisville. With the NCAA ready to hand down penalties in a couple of weeks and the very real possibility that Rick Pitino will be suspended for a significant amount of time in 2017, one has to wonder the BS that was shoveled while Bowen was in the Ville. After the Diallo decision, I’m glad Kentucky isn’t a part of this.