Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.
First of all, a brief word about Kobe Bryant. When a sports celebrity passes away in a tragic accident, it always prompts a lot of talk, reflection and tribute. My big Kobe memory was the 2000 NBA championship. We were vacationing in Annapolis for the first time that year, and we watched every game of the Finals. We were pulling for the Lakers, more because Shaquille O’Neal than Kobe, but I remember being struck by how good he was.
May he, his daughter Gigi, and all those lost in the helicopter accident rest in peace. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors.
Secondly, about Nick Richards. I worried about him a lot early in the season. His performances against weak teams was often very good, but almost without exception, the stronger teams got, the worse Nick performed. To be fair, many of those performances were driven by foul trouble, but that foul trouble was caused mostly by Nick either tiring too easily or settling for a reach rather than moving his feet.
That all changed with the Louisville game, where Richards was splended. He’s pretty much had an offensive rating in the low to mid triple-digits ever since, and his rebounding has been mostly what we’d expect for a player with his physical gifts.
Richards has done exactly what highly-ranked players from Terrence Jones to PJ Washington have done at Kentucky when they didn’t stand out early in their careers — come back and play their way into a high draft pick. Absent an injury or collapse, that’s what Nick has done as well. In the process, these players have proved the value of patience, even in today’s college basketball.
There are never enough 6-11 guys with stellar athleticism and a soft shooting touch for NBA GM’s available in the draft, I promise you that.
Well done, Nick.
Tweet of the Morning
Touching tribute by UConn women’s basketball. Well done.
- UK’s first 2021 commit is from the same school where the Wildcats hope to get their last 2020 player.
- Say it ain’t so! Vince Marrow could be a candidate for head coach at Youngstown State.
- Lynn Bowden one of the top ten finishers, along with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Mark Stoops, for the top sports figures in Kentucky this year.
- John Calipari opens up about his passing up Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA draft. He chose Villanova’s Kerry Kittles instead, but there were some pretty good reasons he didn’t. That connection will always be there, and I imagine Calipari’s career would’ve been different if he’d just stuck to his guns. I guess we owe Kobe a further debt of gratitude for dissing the Nets and Coach Cal.
- What does Kentucky need to do to earn a top 4 seed this year? Just spitballing, I’d say a top 2 finish in the regular season and making the SEC Tournament finals would just about seal the deal.
- How have Calipari’s outbound transfers fared? It’s a mixed bag, for sure, but the good overall outweighs the bad. I think the Kyle Wiltjer move belongs in the “good” rather than “decent” column.
- Auburn will draw ESPN College Gameday to campus for the first time in Basketball when Kentucky comes to the Plains.
Other Kentucky sports
- Gary Parrish highlights another AP voter’s insanity. As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon! What an imbessel!”
What if I told you an AP voter ranked Memphis 18th last week, then watched Memphis lose two games to a pair of unranked teams -- including one game by 40 points -- and then just decided to still rank Memphis 18th again this week?#PollAttackshttps://t.co/32WTNlPbTR— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) January 28, 2020
- College basketball stock up and stock down. UK’s is definitely up thanks in significant part to the stellar play of Nick Richards.
- Walter McCarty may not be the only ex-Wildcat to lose a college basketball coaching job this season.
Other sports news
- UConn was Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gigi’s favorite women’s basketball team, one she aspired to join one day. Last night, they honored her posthumously with her own jersey. Classy move.