Saturday, May 30, 2009

ZagsBlog Questions the UK Background Check

An article on ZagsBlog.com sarcastically wonders about the Kentucky background check into John Calipari and Memphis:

KENTUCKY’S BACKGROUND CHECK ON CAL

Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Memphis AD RC Johnson and Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart never discussed the NCAA report that came out in January indicating someone else took Derrick Rose’s SAT.

“I’m trying to remember. I don’t know. The only one I talked to at Kentucky was [Barnhart], and I don’t think that we talked about it,” Johnson said.

So in the process of Kentucky’s hiring of Calipari, Memphis is under investigation and Kentucky didn’t speak with anyone from the NCAA or Memphis about it?

Sounds like quite the background check.

Landon Slone to Morehead State?

It appears that Landon Slone will be a Morehead State Eagle. It is not official yet, but it is going to happen according to a good friend at Morehead.

Slone was a walk-on at Kentucky last season and recently asked for his release after speaking with a Kentucky assistant.

Morehead State is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and has the majority of their talent returning.

Bilal Batley Joins Kentucky Basketball Staff


Bilal Batley joins head coach John Calipari's staff as Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager for the 2009-10 season. This was announced on several sites several weeks ago, but has not been officially announced until now.

Batley was the Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager at Memphis for the 2008-09 season.

A 2007 University of Oklahoma graduate, Batley came to Memphis after a year as a graduate manager at Indiana University. During his one season in Bloomington, Batley organized the program's recruiting information and mentored student-athletes. He took graduate courses in Indiana's sport management program.

The Hoosiers had an outstanding year in Batley's one season. Indiana posted a 25-8 record, finished third in the Big Ten and earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

Prior to Indiana, the Houston, Texas, native served as a student manager at Oklahoma for two seasons from 2004-06. In his stint with the Sooner program, Batley assisted with practice preparations and pre-game setup and organized recruiting mailouts.

In his two seasons in Norman, the Sooners had a combined mark of 45-17 (25-8 in 2004-05; 20-9 in 2005-06) and posted double-digit league wins both years (12-4 in 2004-05; 11-5 in 2005-06). Oklahoma earned NCAA Tournament bids both seasons.

Batley served as an undergraduate assistant coach at Navarro College in Corsican, Texas, from 2001-04. In addition to his coaching duties, he managed study hall for the players and helped arrange promotional events for the team.

Since 2001, Batley has worked as an assistant coach/personal assistant at the John Lucas Pre-Draft Camp in Houston.

High Schools News, Notes and Signings

- Blake Prewitt of Menifee County has signed to play college basketball at Spalding University

- Defending state champions Holmes will play Princeton (OH) next season on Jan. 6th; Princeton were runners-up in Ohio Division I last season

- Leavitt Morrison of Rowan County has signed to play at Transylvania University; Morrison not only excels on the basketball court, he also obtained a perfect score on the ACT exam

- Tentative lineup for Joe B. Hall Prep Classic:

Knott Central vs. Tates Creek
Holmes vs. Christian County
Covington Catholic vs. Montgomery County
North Hardin vs. Franklin County

Brescia Signs Houston Area Guard Phillip Ethridge


Brescia has signed Phillip Ethridge from Chavez High School in Houston, Texas.

Brescia assistant Shane Howard made the announcement on his website:

"I have signed my newest recruit. He is a blue-collar hard working guard that will be a big part of our success this year. We are proud to have Phillip and his family apart of our family and look forward to watching him get better every day. Like I always say today we must get better, and signing Phillip we got better!!!!!"

Friday, May 29, 2009

John Calipari to Call Into NCAA Hearing from China


I hope John Calipari has a good long distance plan. A letter from the NCAA states that Calipari must participate in next week's hearing on allege major violations at Memphis, even though he isn't considered "at risk" in the probe.

Calipari explained to the NCAA that he would be on a previously scheduled trip to China during the hearing, but the NCAA replied that he must participate in some manner.

"After reviewing the information in this case, the committee now, more strongly than ever, believes that you should make yourself available to participate in the hearing in some manner," wrote Paul T. Dee, the chairman.

Calipari responded Wednesday that he would join the hearing by phone.

"I am very willing to cooperate with the committee and provide my views on the issues involved in this case," Calipari said.

Memphis could lose its 38 wins that season. Kentucky officials, who hired Calipari away from the program in March with an eight-year, $31.65 million contract, have stressed the coach himself is not a target of the investigation. The first letter from the NCAA, dated April 27, also makes that point.

"The committee wishes to make it clear that you are not considered to be 'at risk' in these proceedings," wrote Shepard Cooper, director of the Committee on Infractions. "However, because you were the head men's basketball coach at Memphis during the time alleged NCAA violations occurred, the committee believes that you can provide helpful information and useful context that would assist the committee in better understanding this case."

Calipari said the June 3-10 trip to China had been planned for months.

Source: Jeffrey McMurray, The Associated Press

Williams, Padgett Offer Advice to Jodie Meeks

Jodie Meeks is currently in Chicago participating in the NBA combine. He has not announced a decision as to whether he will return to Kentucky for his senior season or stay in the draft. He has stated that if he is not solidly in the first round, he will withdraw his name from the draft before the June 15th deadline.

Former Kentucky Wildcat Scott Padgett told Larry Vaught at the Advocate Messenger that he hopes Meeks understands just how hard it is to get into the league.

"It's about more than just talent. You have to be picked by the right team and get the right opportunity," said Padgett, a starter on UK's 1998 national championship team and a seven-year NBA veteran. "I've had a friend stay in the league for 13 years. He does all the right things, does great things in the community and he's a veteran player a coach can trust.

"Watch Antoine (Walker) know. He's working his tail off in Las Vegas and doing community stuff to try and get back in the league any way he can."

Padgett offered some valuable advice for Meeks:

"He can do a survey of general managers in the league and they will be honest with him," Padgett said. "If they say first round and he goes, fine. But if they don't say first round, he shouldn't listen to what anyone else says.

"Don't listen or read mock drafts. They told me and Nazr (Mohammed) we would both be in the top 15 (of the first round) and that didn't happen. The only thing that matters is if a GM is ready to call your name out in that first round."

Meeks has also received some valuable advice from a seemingly unlikely source - former Louisville Cardinal Terrence Williams. Williams, speaking to Brett Dawson at the Courier-Journal, advises Meeks to be patient:

"I told him to be patient," Williams said. "I told him, 'You don't have to rush anything or force anything. You still could go back to school. You're going to have a great team if you do go back, with a great coach. Don't make your decision by rushing and saying, 'I need to be in the NBA right now.' I just told him that everybody knows he's a scorer, he shoots the ball well. If there are things that teams say he needs to work on, go back to school and work on them. You can come back even better next year."

Meeks was officially measured at the NBA combine and his measurements were as follows:

Height w/o Shoes: 6'3"
Height w/ Shoes: 6'4"
Weight: 211
Wingspan: 6' 4.5"
Standing Reach: 8' 2"

His listed strengths and weaknesses:

STRENGTHS:

- Excellent skill-level
- Role-player potential
- High-level productivity
- Solid frame
- 3-point shooting
- 3-point shooting percentages
- Ability to come off screens
- Free throw shooting
- Pull-up jumper

WEAKNESSES:

- Scoring instincts
- Average ball-handler
- Ability to defend position at next level?
- Defensive awareness
- Did not win in college
- Limited upside?
- Average athleticism
- Undersized
- Ability to create separation from defender

Meeks' NBA Combine Interview:





Larry Vaught's Article

Brett Dawson's Article

NBA Draft Express Profile

Chris Lofton Completes Successful Season Overseas


Former Mason County and Tennessee star Chris Lofton had a successful rookie season in the Beko Turkish Basketball League.

Lofton averaged 20 points for Mersin Municipality, and set a modern-day record with 61 points in a game in which he hit 17-22 three-pointers. He also scored 47 points in a game earlier in the season.

Erin Calipari is Done with ESPN.com and Pat Forde


John Calipari's daughter, Erin, has gone on the offensive against ESPN's Pat Forde via the social networking tool Facebook. An article on Deadspin.com discusses Erin's Forde assault:

Her father's former program is under NCAA investigation, but Erin Calipari knows who to blame and how to do it: call out ESPN's Pat Forde on Facebook.

Just like the rest of Kentucky's fan base and her father — who called out "this Pat Ford guy" in a tweet last month — Erin Calipari has taken umbrage with Forde's reporting on Kentucky's basketball program. The Kentucky resident has rained on the Calipari-to-Kentucky parade since the opening press conference, presciently warning of past transgressions and shady alliances, but his criticisms have been consistently dismissed by the Wildcat commentariat because he co-wrote a book with Rick Pitino and, consequently, must just hate the Widcats.

So in the last two days, Erin Calipari has been on the offensive, dissing Forde through Facebook for more than 3,000 of her closest friends. A collection of status updates (Photoshopped for consolidation), sent in from astute readers (see image).
Perhaps she should heed the advice her father gave her other sister after she scooped the news that Josh Pastner would be Memphis' new head coach: "I told them that they have to get off Facebook. This stuff is crazy."

Source: Deadspin.com

UPDATE: Coach Calipari just posted these messages on everyone's other favorite social network tool, Twitter:

"I love my children dearly as u all know. But my daughter Erin has gotten a little over-zealous in defending her daddy's honor."

"We both want to apologize. We all have our jobs to do and none of them are easy and none are black and white."

"My family has the same passion and commitment I do and sometimes it overflows a bit. We're all learning together as we strive for our goals."

John Calipari Interview on ESPN Today

From Jerry Tipton's blog at the Herald-Leader:

ESPN trumpeting that it will air a “FRESH” interview with Kentucky Coach John Calipari at 3 p.m. on Friday.

“About recruiting practices and facing charges of bending and breaking th . . .”

Rules, presumably.

UPDATE: Nothing to see here...this interview was taped on Wednesday - before the craziness at Memphis was announced.

Video: 2008-09 Bellarmine Knights Basketball

Here is a nice highlight video that illustrates the success of the 2008-09 Bellarmine Knights basketball program:

Memphis Officials Were Keeping a Secret

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports this morning that Memphis officials knew about the impending NCAA allegations for months and had no intentions of releasing the report. New Memphis coach Josh Pastner says he had no idea that there were major violations being investigated before he took the job. It is not clear that Kentucky officials knew the extent of the allegations.

Here are some comments from several people that are involved with Memphis and Kentucky.

Memphis AD R.C. Johnson:

“We hadn’t really talked about it honestly, we really hadn’t,” Johnson said. “Our main focus was to get ready for June 6, and we really hadn’t spent much time. In fact, I don’t know that we would have. If anything — and we really didn’t talk much about it — it would have been after the June 6 (hearing), probably.”

“Talking about it publicly, I don’t know that that really gains anything. We’re not trying to hide anything. We’re trying to be as efficient as possible.”

Daniel E. Reidy (Derrick Rose's attorney):

“Mr. Rose cooperated fully with the University of Memphis’ athletic and legal departments’ investigation of this (SAT) issue when he was a student and that investigation uncovered no wrongdoing on his part.”

New Memphis coach Josh Pastner:

“The headline on ESPN just said Memphis and major violations,” Pastner said. “So of course we were on the defense, damage control, making sure we were doing our part and trying to be as proactive as we could because we wanted to get as much as we could out to as many people.

“From what I’ve been told from legal counsel and the athletic director, this will not affect anything with the current team or the future of the program.”

UK President Lee Todd and AD Mitch Barnhart:

“He was very forthright in the interview process,” Kentucky president Dr. Lee Todd Todd said of Calipari. “We’re fine with him.”

In a written statement, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Kentucky had “talked with several people and thoroughly exercised due diligence during the process of hiring coach Calipari.”

Article from Memphis Commercial Appeal

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ex-Cat Kenny Walker Comments on Memphis Investigation

Kentucky has tried to keep allegations of rule breaking in John Calipari's Memphis program at arm's length. But UK All-American Kenny Walker found it difficult to believe that the Wildcats can avoid the issue.

"You're crazy if you think (that)," Walker said on Thursday. "Because of guilt by association."

Walker likened UK basketball to the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys: magnets for opinion.

Source: imctv.com

Katz Catches Up With Jodie Meeks at the Combine

Andy Katz talked to Jodie Meeks at the NBA Combine in Chicago today. Here is the Meeks' portion of the article:

Jodie Meeks isn't a lock for the first round, and unless he can get some sort of guarantee in the first 30 picks, he'll probably return to Kentucky for his senior season.

If he does return, Meeks said, he fully expects the Wildcats to contend for the national title.

"If I do come back, with everybody back, we can compete for it," said Meeks at Chicago's Attack Athletics gym after Thursday's first session of drills at the NBA draft combine.

The junior guard, who torched Tennessee for 54 points in a game last season, said he would love to play next to high-profile point guard John Wall, who signed with Kentucky last week.

"He's an excellent talent, a one-year-and-done," Meeks said. "Everybody is saying he's going to be great for the program."

Having Wall next to him would also take the pressure off Meeks to constantly create with the basketball.

"John Wall could create for himself and for others," he said.

Meeks said he wasn't sure why Patrick Patterson withdrew from the draft before coming to the combine, but said Patterson told him he thought he could improve his stock by playing in college. Meeks said he has nothing to lose by staying in the draft until at least the June 15 deadline.

Meeks said he has workouts scheduled with Oklahoma City, Detroit, Washington and Atlanta.

"If I'm not first round, then I'll go back to school," Meeks said.

Meeks said he hadn't heard about the NCAA's notice of allegations to Memphis until late Wednesday night. But he said he understood that it had nothing to do with Kentucky and just added that coach Calipari "is a good guy," and didn't seem too worried about it for him or the Wildcats.

What about some of the other players still mulling whether to stay in the draft or return to school?

Complete Article

"Fore!" Memphis Women's Golf Goes Out of Bounds


Who would have thought that the first opportunity for the anti-Calipari army to sound off would come at the expense (no pun intended) of the Memphis women's golf program. The spark that led to an NCAA investigation into Memphis athletics seems to have been the women's golf team and former head coach Jenny Bruun. In fact, almost 7 pages of the NCAA letter sent to Memphis in January details possible infractions by Bruun and her program.

Some of the allegations directed at the women's golf program include:

- Bruun provide multiple benefits valued at approximately $3,115.70 to women's golf student athletes _______; Further, Bruun provided impermissible recruiting inducements valued at approximately $70 to ____ before ____ enrolled at the institution

- Bruun provided multiple women's golf student-athletes impermissible restaurant meals during prospective student-athletes' official paid visits

- Bruun failed to deport herself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for several reasons

So, the NCAA launched an investigation into Memphis sports and uncovered several potential violations associated with the men's basketball program, one of which is labelled as a major infraction. The major infraction, of course, is the allegation that a former player (presumably Derrick Rose) had a "stand-in" take his SAT exam. This happened before the player was a student at Memphis and the player was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse before he suited up at Memphis. The other infractions, which are generally considered minor, include an illicit phone call to Abdul Gaddy's mother, failure to monitor plane and hotel accommodations and providing benefits of $2,260 by way of free transportation to a student-athlete's relative.

John Calipari, the Memphis coach at the time of the issues in question, is not implicated or named in any way throughout the NCAA letter.

What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things?

Mike DeCourcy of SportingNews.com makes these statements:

"Under ordinary circumstances, the issues involving the basketball team would be disposed of fairly simply. The accusation that a player, reportedly star point guard Derrick Rose, did not take his own SAT is a huge deal. There's not much worse than academic fraud. But this customarily would not constitute a major violation against the program because no Memphis staff member is alleged to have facilitated it or known about it.

"A charge that a family member of a player received free travel, reportedly Rose's brother Reggie, would be disposed of with a check to reimburse the university for its expense."

I have several thoughts regarding this situation. First, one has to wonder if the former women's golf coach was even aware of an NCAA rulebook. Secondly, John Calipari will not and should not be penalized in any way. Likewise, the Memphis men's basketball program should escape penalty as a result of academic fraud. When it comes down to it, they took a player that the NCAA said was ready for competition and played him. The other issues can likely be resolved with paying some money back and settling some bills.

In the overall big picture, this is kind of a minor situation that has been blown out of proportion by those that are waiting in line to pin anything possible on John Calipari. He will not be named for any wrongdoing and he will not be penalized in any way. There is some bad news, however. Calipari's name will certainly be attacked by many around the nation and he will be falsely labelled as a cheater, but that is nothing new. He has carried a black mark on his resume ever since an incident with Marcus Camby at UMASS in 1996 - another incident, I might add, that Calipari was not implicated in.

Can we please see this as what it is and just get back to Tweeting?

NCAA's Letter to Memphis

DeCourcy's Article

Can the Kentucky Fans Sue Billy Gillispie?

He did make the following statement during his introductory press conference:

"I am here to cut down the nets."

When I heard that, I thought we had entered into a verbal contract. Therefore, I think we have a case!

Meeks: Back to UK if not in Top 25

Article from Brett Dawson, Courier-Journal:

His Facebook is filling up with messages. His Twitter is littered with private pleas.

Kentucky fans want Jodie Meeks to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return for his senior season, and they're letting him know it. But if Meeks is leaning either way, he wasn't tipping his hand today at the NBA Combine in Chicago.

This much Meeks did say: It's "not accurate" that his opinion has shifted lately more toward staying in the draft.

"I came in not really sure what I was going to do, and now it's the same thing," Meeks said. "If I'm second round, I'll go back to school. If I'm top 25, first round, I'll probably stay in."

Meeks spoke before participating in today's workouts at the Combine. He wasn't sure exactly what to expect out of those. So far, he's worked out for four teams (the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards) and hasn't yet lined up any workouts for after the Combine.

Meeks said that, like most basketball players, it's his dream to play in the NBA. That's his preference. But if he's not "really confident" that he'll be selected in the first round, Meeks said he'll return to UK. He's not willing to risk the draft, he said, if he's told that he's a probable second-round pick.

It's unlikely the flood of multimedia messaging he's getting will sway him either way.

"I have no problem coming back, but the people who want (me) to come back are just worried about Kentucky basketball," Meeks said. "I have no problem with that, no problem with the Kentucky fans, but I have to make a decision that's best for me."

UK Counter Sues Billy Gillispie

The University of Kentucky took little time in firing a counter suit back at Billy Gillispie and his legal team. The Courier-Journal is reporting that UK filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court on Thursday.

UK states that its memorandum of understanding with Gillispie was not a long-term contract.

UPDATE: An updated article on WKYT.com contains some interesting information:

It is unfortunate that Mr. Gillispie has sued the UK Athletics Association, a nonprofit supporting foundation that was not his employer, in Federal Court in Texas. Mr. Gillispie was a university employee, and the volunteer Board of the UKAA serves the university in a valuable, but purely advisory capacity.

The decision to terminate Mr. Gillispie's employment was a university decision. UKAA will vigorously seek the dismissal of the Texas lawsuit. The university is the proper party to any suit, not UKAA, and the university will rely upon the allegations of its Franklin Circuit Court complaint as the true version of this contract dispute.

Memphis AD R.C. Johnson Issues Statement

The University of Memphis put out a public statement from the athletic director today:

University of Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson issued the following statement on Thursday in reference to the NCAA Notice of Allegation received by the institution in January of 2009.

“We obviously took the NCAA inquiry very seriously and have conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations,” Johnson stated. “We are currently preparing our final presentation to the NCAA Committee and will deliver those findings in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 6."

Johnson indicated that the University will have no further statement on the matter until after the hearing process, including the receipt of the final decision from the NCAA.

Keep in mind, this is the same R.C. Johnson that made this statement when Memphis was looking for a new coach: "I am the Athletic Director and it is my job to direct the athletic programs at the University of Memphis..."

Source: TheMemphisEdge.com

What Is Being Said About the Memphis Situation?

Here are some links to help you stay up-to-date with what is being said around the country about the Memphis Tigers cheating scandal and Kentucky coach John Calipari:

- UK president Lee Todd: "Yes. We knew about this."; Todd remains confident that Calipari is clean

- Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com says this scandal won’t stick to John Calipari, who is always a step ahead

- Jason Brubaker at collegehoopsnet.com writes that the allegations aren’t helping Calipari’s reputation

- Memphis Having a Little Deja UMass

- The Chicago Sun Times asks: "Did Derrick Rose cheat on his SAT?"

- Several more links listed on TheMemphisEdge.com

- MoonDogSports.com says that Calipari, UK, NCAA have some 'splainin' to do

- Former UK player Saul Smith gives his thoughts about the situation

- Memphis accused of "major" recruiting violation

- Yahoo Sports says there is a blue mood at UK

- Pat Forde looks like a little kid on Christmas morning

- Thoughts from USA Today

Louisville Commit Justin Martin Re-Opens Recruitment

Justin Martin, a 6-6 senior-to-be at Indianapolis Lawrence North, committed to Louisville last fall but has now decided to re-open the recruiting process.

Martin told Dave Telep of Scout.com that he "committed too fast." He said he has talked with U of L coach Rick Pitino who "said he wasn't mad at all."

Martin is ranked as one of the top 50 players in the Class of 2010. He will still consider Louisville, but will be looking at other destinations, as well.

Source: Louisville Courier-Journal

Watch the NBA Draft Combine Workout on ESPNU

You can watch Jodie Meeks, Terrence Williams and Earl Clark workout at the NBA Combine today at 2:00 p.m. on ESPNU. It will also be aired again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. on ESPNU.

Kentucky Wildcats:

Jodie Meeks 6'4" SG

Louisville Cardinals:

Terrence Williams 6'6" SG/SF
Earl Clark 6'9" SF/PF

Complete List of Participants

The Calipari Honeymoon is Officially Over


John Calipari's exquisite honeymoon in Lexington is likely over. The new Kentucky coach has done everything right in his first couple of months on the job - he has brought in the nation's top recruiting class, represented the University of Kentucky from coast-to-coast, excelled in positive PR, made the correct choice in every decision and generated more interest in Kentucky basketball than has been witnessed in over a decade.

What does it take to wipe out all of his good deeds?

It takes reports coming out of Memphis that the NCAA has charged the Memphis basketball program with major violations stemming from the 2007-08 season. The coach of that Memphis team, of course, was John Calipari. Memphis stands to potentially forfeit their 38-win season and Final Four appearance if the allegations are proven to be true.

Calipari was not named in the NCAA report and is not being investigated in any way. Somehow, that will not matter as you can guarantee that this will leave a black mark on Calipari's Kentucky tenure that will never be forgotten. Memphis supporters and anti-Calipari band wagoners are already out in full force. Sadly, even if Calipari is 100% innocent (you know, that whole innocent until proven guilty thing), every positive goal that he obtains at Kentucky will be met with constant reminders of how he is cheating, how the wins will be forfeited or how he won with ineligible players.

Calipari's UMASS team had its Final Four appearance stripped many years ago and that black mark still follows him today. Add that to the new Memphis allegations and it spells trouble, warranted or not, for everything good that Calipari does.

Sadly, John Calipari's honeymoon with the University of Kentucky is now over. How will the first year of marriage be?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

University of Kentucky's Official Statement

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY

First and foremost, there are no NCAA allegations against UK Head Men's Basketball Coach John Calipari. Coach Calipari was forthcoming with the University of Kentucky during the hiring process about any issues under investigation at the University of Memphis at that time.

It is normal procedure for the NCAA to ask a former coach to participate in a hearing. Therefore, Coach Calipari will participate as requested.

Coach John Calipari has received a letter from the NCAA stating that he is not at risk of being charged with any NCAA violations in this case.

This is a University of Memphis issue and the University of Kentucky will not comment any further.

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH JOHN CALIPARI

"Even though I'm not at risk, I will fully cooperate with the NCAA hearing. Beyond that, I concur with the statement from the University of Kentucky and will have no further comment."

The Sour Grapes Express Reports on Calipari/Memphis


Obviously, the basketball fans in Memphis (the ones that worshipped the ground John Calipari walked on just two months ago) are licking their chops at the opportunity to label Calipari as a cheating scumbag that will try to win at all costs. Keep in mind as you read through the rest of this blog that these are the same fans that supported Coach Calipari for years.

This is not directed at the city of Memphis, the majority of the Memphis fans and certainly not anyone personally. This is simply an attempt to point out the minority of negative folks in Memphis that I like to label the Sour Grapes Express.

What are the journalists at the Express saying about John Calipari (the man they loved for so long):

"Alright yall here we go… You knew it wouldn’t be long for some of Cals underhanded sneaky (expletive) began to surface. This is probably just the begining of the crap that’s probably gonna get dug up. And where is he gone? Gone to hilkbilly country and leaving us to take the hits for his slimey (expletive) . Cal you better hope you don’t have us falling into some Tim Floyd USC (expletive) !!"

"Whatever D.Rose did Cal was behind it!"

"Did yall notice the part that says Cals name isn’t mentioned in the report WHAT THE (expletive) are u kidding me."

"THIS IS ALL CAL!!!!"

"So Kentucky, if you think you are clean, look up the road to Bloomington, IN and ask how all that worked out with Kelvin Sampson.Cal–revenge is sweet. You have been tainted again."

"We knew this was coming!!!!"

"good luck, Kentucky....you're gonna need it"

"humm, didn't take long before the cat burglar got caught... Wait didn't this happen right after that coach left UMass err what's his name???....."

"Oh boy... here we go... Well I don't want to hear "After all Calipari did for Memphis" from Kentucky fans anymore. Well Cal destroys a program he really destroys it. He left Memphis with nothing but possible NCAA sanctions, jerk!"

"Maybe this was the main reason he wanted to leave the UofM for Kentucy!"

"Calipari is the devil"

"I love it. I absolutely love it. When I said, a couple of months ago, "People, he is just a basketball coach, and basketball is just a game," everyone booed me for being a naysayer. I am absolutely relishing seeing your idol get taken down a dozen notches. What a loser."

Thanks to the members of the Express that post on TheMemphisEdge.com and CommercialAppeal.com (I consider both to be excellent sites, by the way)!

NCAA Infractions at Memphis; Calipari Not Named


The Memphis Commercial Appeal has released a story indicating that the NCAA has charged the University of Memphis basketball program with major violations during the 2007-08 season under John Calipari.

The allegations include "knowing fraudulence or misconduct" on an SAT exam by a player on the 2007-08 team.

The Commercial Appeal website states:

"The wording of the report seems to indicate the player in question only competed during the 2007-08 season and specifically the 2008 NCAA tournament. The player’s name was redacted in the report, obtained by The Commercial Appeal through the Freedom of Information Act, due to privacy laws.

"The player has subsequently denied the charge, according to university personnel.

"The only player on the roster who competed only during that season was Derrick Rose, who subsequently was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft last June."

Implications for Memphis:

If the violations are proven to be true, Memphis could be forced to forfeit their NCAA-record 38 victories and Final Four appearance.

The report does not cite "lack of institutional control," which means Memphis would likely be spared of serious penalties that would damage the program moving forward.

Memphis, which received the notice of allegations Jan. 16, is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions June 6.

Implications for Calipari (and Kentucky):

New University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari was not named in the report, but the NCAA has requested his presence at the hearing.

Kentucky performed an extensive background search on Calipari before making a hire. It has not been stated yet as to whether these allegations were discovered during the Kentucky hiring process.

“We take it very seriously. We don’t condone it,” said athletic director R.C. Johnson, who declined to comment in detail about the allegations. “We’re doing a thorough investigation.”
Johnson said the university of “still working” on its response to the NCAA notice of allegations.

My Thoughts: First and perhaps most importantly, Calipari is not named in the report and not included in the allegations. The NCAA has requested his presence at the June 6th hearing, but he has not been charged with any infractions.

While that is the good news, there is plenty of bad news, as well. Even if Calipari is 100% innocent, there will be negativity coming from all angles during the next couple of weeks. I'm sure there are already hoards of people dying to shout, "I told you so..." in the general direction of Lexington. There will even be those in the Kentucky base of fans that will state that this is what they expected.

So, make no mistake about it, this is bad news for John Calipari and for the Kentucky Wildcats. He doesn't have to be guilty for it end the storybook honeymoon that he has enjoyed during the first two months on the job. We will have to see how it plays out during the next few weeks.

Article on CommercialAppeal.com

ESPN Article

The NCAA's Letter to Memphis

Big Blue Law 101: Memorandum of Understanding

Welcome to Big Blue Law 101

Today class, we try to figure out exactly what a memorandum of understanding is.This is an important lesson as we must decide whether or not the UKAA owes Billy Gillispie $6 million plus damages. So, pay attention:

What is a Memorandum of Understanding?

A memorandum of understanding is an agreement between two parties in the form of a legal document. It is not fully binding in the way that a contract is, but it is stronger and more formal than a traditional gentleman's agreement. Sometimes, a memorandum of understanding is used as a synonym for a letter of intent, particularly in private law. A letter of intent expresses an interest in performing a service or taking part in an activity, but does not legally obligate either party.

In international public law, a memorandum of understanding is used frequently. It has many practical advantages when compared with treaties. When dealing with sensitive or private issues, a memorandum of understanding can be kept confidential, while a treaty cannot.

A memorandum of understanding can also be put into effect in a timelier manner than a treaty, because it doesn't require ratification. In addition, a memorandum of understanding can be modified without lengthy negotiations. This is especially useful, except in multilateral situations. In fact, most transnational aviation agreements are a type of memorandum of understanding.

An example of an international memorandum of understanding is the Oil For Food Program, which was created by the United Nations in 1995 and lasted until 2003. This agreement allowed Iraq to sell its oil to the world in exchange for humanitarian help, such as food and medicine for Iraqi civilians. The memorandum of understanding did not, however, allow Iraq to rebuild its military.

A national memorandum of understanding is the Key West Agreement. The official name for this document is the Function of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was created in 1948 and outlined the division of air assets between the different branches of the military. While it has since been modified, this memorandum of understanding continues to be the guideline for the division of these assets today.

Source: Wisegeek.com

Billy Gillispie vs. UK's Athletics Association


"Manhattan Criminal Court, Part II is now in session. The honorable Harold T. Stone, presiding..."

Since I started this website, I have been waiting for an opportunity to quote that line on here. I have long been a fan of humorous 1980's sitcom "Night Court." Today is the perfect opportunity for me to talk about one of my favorite comedy shows and somehow tie it into basketball.

The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that former Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie has levied a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against UK's Athletics Association.

The 24-page lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accuses UKAA of breach of contract and fraud for firing Gillispie two years into an agreement for seven years.

"Throughout the entirety of Coach Gillispie's tenure, he treated it, correctly, as the binding, written contract between him and the defendant," the suit says.

Gillispie is seeking $6 million he says he is owed for "termination without cause," according to the agreement. The memorandum of understanding said Gillispie would be paid $1.5 million a year for up to four remaining years on the contract if fired.

In addition, the suit says UK lured Gillispie away from Texas A & M at a point when that university was negotiating to give him a contract extension through 2015. He also is seeking punitive damages and the cost of attorneys fees.

Let the games begin.

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

Mike DeCourcy: Former Wildcats "Will be happier"

Mike DeCourcy of SportingNews.com writes in an article today:

"The three players Kentucky announced would be leaving -- Jared Carter, A.J. Stewart and Donald Williams -- scored a combined 68 points last season. They couldn't play for the Wildcats before DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall arrived. "

He feels that athletes work extremely hard towards the reward of game night and "the three players moving on will be happier than if they were nailed to the UK bench another year."

I feel that DeCourcy has a good point. While it's tough to usher players out the door, it is a common occurrence - particularly during a coaching change. Many people feel that Kentucky has lacked high-level talent for several years now and it is John Calipari's job to rebuild the program.

DeCourcy's Article on SportingNews.com

Mid-Continent University Signs Two Forwards

Mid-Continent and head coach Winston Bennett have announced the signing of a pair of forwards for next season. Here is the release from MCU:

Mid-Continent University has signed a pair of forwards, George Garmon from South Fulton High School (Tenn.) and Romone Fisher from State Fair Community College (Missouri) to NAIA Letters of Intent to play men's basketball beginning with the 2009-10 school year.

The son of George and Sharon Garmon of South Fulton, Tennessee, Garmon averaged 10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.5 blocked shots per game for the Red Devils during his senior season. He was named South Fulton's Most Improved Player and led the team in rebounds. He joins 2008 South Fulton alumnus David Shepherd on next year's MCU squad.

Fisher, a 6-5 forward from East St. Louis, Missouri, and 2006 graduate of Hazelwood Central High School, played in 58 games in two seasons for State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri, and averaged 2.7 points and 1.8 rebounds with 23 blocked shots, 28 assists and 11 steals.

Landon Slone: Which Side of the Fence Are You On?


The news came yesterday that walk-on Landon Slone had asked for and been given his official release from the University of Kentucky. For one reason or another, this is the first decision by John Calipari that has earned negative criticism. There are basically two sides of believers on this issue. One group feels bad for Slone, but realizes that Calipari is doing what he feels is best for the program and the players. The other group thinks it is completely wrong to get rid of a Kentucky-born player that has given his all to the program.

I have researched the comments given on several sites and will present several from each side of the argument. Then, I will offer my personal opinion on the subject. What are your opinions?

Group A

"the loss of Slone is disgraceful. the new coach stinks. he and barnhart must go..."

"This is horrible! Coach Calipari is starting off on the wrong foot when he gets rid of a Kentucky boy. I know he wants to win, but with all the thugs he is bringing in he may wish he had kept one decent player. I hope he goes to Morehead...he will shine there! GO EAGLES!"

"One more reason to file this coach under 'Idiot'."

"Landon has tremendous heart! Hate this for him. The worse part is he at least earned the right to have Calipari talk to him personally. Tacky on Calipari's part!"

"This just in…Calipari to be featured on the cover of the next printing of Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Really, this is just inexcusable. Show the kid some respect."

Group B

"Do you want to win or not? I wish Landon well, but we're going to have to change the roster to become an elite program. Calipari is on his way to getting that done. Get ready to enjoy the ride!"

"What's wrong with you people? Slone was a walk-on at a school that is out of his league. He is a fine player and I love the effort he gives, but he is not a high-level division I player. He needs to look at the OVC, NAIA or JUCO."

"He doesn’t owe Slone an apology…like the man said they are still getting organized. He’s been very busy landing us the #1 recruiting class. Not to mention all the PR work he has been doing. Slone is a nice kid i’m sure, but he was never a UK caliber player. I wish him the best, but Cal has a job to do and he is doing it very well."

"I live in eastern Kentucky but what difference does it make if player is from eastern, northern or southern kentucky? Get off Cal’s back or quit posting!"

My Opinion: I feel bad for Landon Slone. He had the dream that many of us, including me, had growing up in Kentucky - we wanted to be Kentucky Wildcats someday. He was fortunate enough to live that dream for one season and he should be thankful for that opportunity. I would give anything to go back in time and play one season for UK.

That being said, it doesn't make it any easier for him because he was going on the dream of playing a more significant role in upcoming seasons. He even had talked with Gillispie about the possibility of earning a scholarship. It is easy to understand why Slone is upset after losing those dreams and being relegated to a transfer.

Even though the disappointment is there, Landon likely realizes that he would no longer receive any noteworthy minutes at Kentucky. Calipari only had a couple of walk-ons during his entire tenure in Memphis. Slone can transfer to a smaller school and have three seasons of basketball that will allow him to be a star. While it hurts to lose a dream, he will likely look back on this turning point someday and be thankful that things played out the way they have. My opinion is that in the long run, Slone will be much better off at a smaller school where he can shine. I wish him nothing but the best.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Courtney Lee is Making Western Kentucky Proud


There was a nice press release by Western Kentucky University today about the excellent play of former Hilltopper Courtney Lee. Here is the release:

Courtney Lee, who starred at WKU from 2005-08 and earned All-American honors as a senior, has helped the Orlando Magic to a 2-1 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. With two more wins over the Cavs, the Magic will then play the winner of the L.A. Lakers/Denver Nuggets series for the NBA title.

The Magic earlier defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs before knocking off defending NBA champion Boston 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The Magic last reached the NBA Finals in 1995, when they lost to the Houston Rockets.

Lee was the 22nd overall selection in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft. He has seen action in 13 playoff games, starting eight, and has averaged 28.5 minutes per game. While playing solid defense, Lee is also averaging 9.1 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game and 1.7 assists per game. He has converted 17 of his 18 free throw attempts. Lee saw action in 77 regular season games during his rookie season, and averaged 8.4 points per game along with 2.3 rebounds per game and 1.2 assists per game.

Lee earned Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year honors in 2008 and led WKU to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title and a “Sweet 16” appearance in the NCAA Tournament. His 2,238 career points as a Hilltopper tied him with Jim McDaniels for WKU’s all-time lead.

John Calipari Apologizes to Landon Slone

Kentucky coach John Calipari posted this via Twitter:

"Sorry to Landon Sloan. Heard he waited to speak to me in my office but I didn't know. Really sorry. We are still trying to get organized!!"

(Watch out for those homophones, Coach)

A correction has been made. The previous message was deleted and this was just posted by Coach Calipari on Twitter:

"Sorry to Landon Slone. Heard he waited to speak to me in my office but I didn't know. Really sorry. We are still trying to get organized!!"

Kudos to Calipari for admitting a mistake and handling it. I continue to be impressed with everything John Calipari is doing as the Kentucky coach.

Landon Slone to Morehead State? JUCO? Texas?

Landon Slone has talked to Morehead State officials several times and is scheduled to visit Morehead on Friday. He hopes to make a decision within a week or two.

For Slone, it has been a tumultuous couple of months. He came to the Kentucky basketball team as a walk-on and saw a surprising number of minutes under then-Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. There had even been discussions of Slone possibly obtaining a scholarship in his second season.

“When we got to the NIT, Coach Gillispie started talking to me” about a scholarship, Slone told the Herald-Leader's Jerry Tipton.

Then, Gillispie was removed as Kentucky's head coach and John Calipari was hired.

Now, Slone's promising future at Kentucky is over. Slone is now looking for a home to continue his basketball career. He will visit Morehead on Friday and hopes to make a decision in a week or two. He still speaks of his love for the Kentucky Wildcats.

“It was a dream to play there,” he said. “When you finally get there, you want it to work. It was kind of shot down. It bothers me. It really does. . . . I don’t think anybody could probably love Kentucky basketball as much as I do.”

As an Eastern Kentucky boy from the little town of Paintsville, Slone has likely been a Wildcat lover since he was in diapers. As a result of that passion, he will continue to cheer for the Wildcats.

“As long as Kentucky’s winning, I’ll cheer for them wherever I go,” he said.

Slone has also been mentioned as possibly looking at Georgetown College, the JUCO route or even landing with Billy Gillispie if he were to obtain a coaching position soon. Gillispie told Slone before he left that he would have a roster spot for him wherever he ended up.

Unfortunately for Slone, Gillispie didn't end up at the University of Kentucky.

Jerry Tipton's Article on Slone

Landon Slone Leaving Kentucky Wildcats

As expected, Landon Slone will be the leaving the Kentucky basketball team.

Slone has stated that he would be interested in Western Kentucky, Georgetown College, a couple of JUCO schools or possibly any school that hires Billy Gillispie.

UPDATE: LEX18 is reporting that Slone will visit Morehead State on Friday

UK To Announce Stewart, Williams and Carter Off Team

Kentucky will announce today that A.J. Stewart, Jared Carter and Donald Williams will no longer be members of the basketball team.

The original article from Tipton stated that it would be Stewart and Liggins. That has now been updated to say that it is Stewart, Carter and Williams.

Source: Jerry Tipton, Herald-Leader

My Thoughts:

- We already knew that these three players would be leaving, and there will be more

- We already knew that Stewart would be gone; rumors have him transferring to NKU (which is supposedly where his girlfriend attends school)

- Carter graduated and never had a significant impact during his career; he could have possibly been eligible for another season due to injuries, but that is no longer the case

- Donald Williams was a one-year scholarship player under Gillispie; no surprise that he is gone

- Originally, Tipton reported that Liggins would be leaving as well; this could mean that Liggins is next in line, that Tipton let the story out a little soon and was asked to retract it or that Tipton was incorrect; we'll have to wait and see

How Many People are Following Calipari on Twitter?


Kentucky coach John Calipari now has close to 95,000 followers on Twitter. As a comparison, here are some other well-known names and what they have:

Tom Crean 6,000+
Pete Carroll 21,000+
Lane Kiffin 6,000+
Bruce Pearl 2,400+
Urban Meyer 3,700+
Nick Saban 2,500+
Charlie Weis 4,200+

How many people are 95,000?

The picture shown here is Michigan Stadium, or "The Big House," in Ann Arbor, Michigan - the home of the Michigan Wolverines football team. Michigan Stadium has a capacity of roughly 108,000 people. By this time next week, Coach Calipari will likely have that many followers on Twitter. So, take a look at that picture and think about the number of folks that are following John Calipari's "tweets." Then, ask yourself, "are folks paying attention to Kentucky basketball once again or what?"

John Calipari has revived Big Blue Nation and returned Kentucky basketball to national prominence in about two months. He has delivered one of the all-time great recruiting classes and brought more energy to the Kentucky fans than I have seen in over decade.

The next time Coach Cal sends out one of his little inspirational messages, one of his travel updates or one his stories of hanging out with LeBron James; imagine yourself sitting at The Big House with 108,000 other people. That is how many people are receiving those updates and paying attention to the Kentucky Wildcats and their head coach.

Turn Back the Clock: 1973 Morehead State Defeats Austin Peay and the Legendary Fly Williams


Today, we turn back the clock to the 1972-73 season. In this week's game, Morehead State defeated Austin Peay and legendary OVC hoopster Fly Williams. Williams came into the game as the nation's leading scorer at more than 32 point per game. This game was the first Ohio Valley Conference television game of the week. Here is the article from The Morehead News:

Bubba Credited in 81-79 Victory Over Austin Peay

Reserve guard Bubba Abell sank a 5-foot jump shot with one second remaining here Saturday afternoon to give Morehead State University a come-from-behind 81-79 victory over Austin Peay in the first Ohio Valley Conference television game of the week.

Abell, a 6-2 senior from Lebanon, Ky., scored four of MSU's last five points as the Eagles overcame a nine-point deficit in the final six minutes and snapped a six-game losing streak.

An eight-station hookup in Kentucky and Tennessee carried the game from MSU's Wetherby Fieldhouse in the first of eight weekly telecasts.

The victory left Morehead State with a 5-6 record overall and a 1-1 slate in the league. Austin Peay dropped to 7-3 on the year and 0-1 in the OVC.

Austin Peay's Fly Williams entered the game as the nation's leading scorer but Eugene Lyons of MSU held him to 19 points, almost 14 under his average. Howard Jackson topped the Governors with 21 points. Jerry Wanstrath also had 19.

Leonard Coulter led the Eagles with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Eugene Lyons added 15 markers and Howard Wallen had 15. Reserve center Mark Hudson contributed 10 points.

Jackson and Wanstrath each had nine rebounds for Austin Peay and Lyons grabbed nine for MSU.

The Eagles hit on seven of eight free throws while Austin Peay was sinking 19 of 23.

Some Notes:

- James "Fly" Williams is an OVC legend; he is listed as the #3 athlete on the "50 Greatest Streetballers of All Time" by Street Basketball Association; He was the reason for the chant "Fly is open, let's go Peay!"; Williams had a pro career in the ABA, CBA and overseas; there is a book about Williams titled Fly 35; check out Fly's Wikipedia page

- MSU's Wetherby Fieldhouse is now used by MSU's volleyball team and is often used for various city league and intramural contests; the Eagles now play in Johnson Arena

- Leonard Coulter was a 3-time OVC All-Conference selection; he made an OVC record 13 consecutive field goals vs. Oglethorpe; he was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in the 1974 draft

- Eugene Lyons was a 2-time OVC All-Conference selection for MSU

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pikeville College Assistant Riley Leaving for DII Job

Pikeville College assistant Richie Riley will be leaving the Bears to become the head assistant at Arkansas Fort Smith. Fort Smith is an NCAA Division II school with a proud winning tradition. The team won national championships in 1981 and 2006 and has a record of 822-214 since the 1974 season.

Pikeville College head coach Kelly Wells posted his thoughts about losing Riley:

"We are both thrilled and saddened as one of the PC Basketball family is heading to take an NCAA DII Assistant's job at Arkansas Fort Smith. Richie has been an invaluable resource and friend to both the college and me personally! We will all miss Coach Riley and wish him all the best there is to offer in his future endeavors!"

The Bears are currently accepting applications to replace Riley.

Kentucky Wildcats' Rumor Mill: Landon Slone


Let me start with a disclaimer: this is strictly a rumor and I have not confirmed it with any sources or UK officials.

That being said, there is a hot rumor circulating that Billy Gillispie will be hired as the next head coach at Texas-Pan American. It has been confirmed that Gillispie was in talks with UT-Pan American and would likely be the next coach if the two sides could agree on a contract (apparently, contracts are not exactly Gillispie's strong point).

The rumor gets hotter with the idea that Kentucky walk-on Landon Slone will follow Gillispie to Texas. Slone, who had recently been in talks with several NAIA schools, supposedly received a call from Gillispie and an invitation to continue his Division I career.

My Thoughts: I'm not even sure what to think about this one. I love the way that Slone plays the game, but I'm not sure it would be worth sitting out a season to play for Gillispie. I would advise Slone to transfer to an in-state NAIA school and have some fun. That being said, I wish him the best and will support him with whatever he chooses to do.

As for Gillispie, he needs to get out of the spotlight (and the neon lights) of Lexington. A lower-level school in Texas would be the perfect opportunity for him to resurrect his coaching career and get back to a high-level school. I wish Gillispie the best and I sincerely hope that portion of the rumor is accurate.

UPDATE: I asked around a little and found out more on Landon Slone. He would like to stay at UK as a walk-on, but that will be up to Calipari. If it doesn't work out at Kentucky, he would be interested in transferring to Western Kentucky. He has also talked to some JUCO schools and Georgetown College. He has confirmed that Gillispie told him he would have a spot on the roster for him if Gillispie finds a job.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Morehead State's Kenneth Faried on NBA Radar?

At least one site feels that Morehead State sophomore Kenneth Faried will have a good shot at an NBA career. If Faried continues to improve, he is going to get some great exposure during the next two seasons. He will be one of the OVC's top players and should be near the top of the NCAA's rebounding leader board. Here is an article that discusses Faried's NBA possibilities:

Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Faried is in a similar situation to (Ben) Woodside, in that he was a virtual unknown before a good tournament performance. Faried put up some great numbers this season, averaging 13.7 ppg and 13.0 rpg. He is an extremely active, high energy guy, and a capable defender (2 steals and 2 blocks per game). While he doesn't quite have ideal NBA size (he is only 6'8"), he has some serious hops and, as I said, plays with a ton of energy. Some people are comparing him to Louis Admunson, an energy guy that not many people had heard of outside of UNLV, but who has managed to latch on with the Pheonix Suns. Offensively, he is not much more than a dunker at this point (and may never be more than a dunker), but the 14 points and 21 boards he had in the play-in game, and the 14 points and 11 boards he had against Louisville, definitely put him on the NBA's radar. He is only a sophomore, so if he can continue to develop his strength (only 215 lb), you might be looking at a future pro.

Source

Persistence Paid Off for Orlando Mendez-Valdez

Western Kentucky's Orlando Mendez-Valdez has completed a great college career that saw him be named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, receive honorable mention on the Associated Press All-America team and named Sun Belt Male Student-Athlete of the Year.

The accolades are pretty remarkable for a player that was virtually ignored by college recruiters after a great high school senior season in 2004. Mendez-Valdez was coached by Rudy Bernal at Lanier High School.

"It's all about taking advantage of opportunities and that's what Orlando did," Lanier basketball coach Rudy Bernal said Thursday. "He worked and worked to make himself better, and did the little things so well."

Not only did Mendez-Valdez complete an excellent basketball career this year, he also earned his degree in physical education.

"I felt so much pride when I saw him graduate," Maria Guel, Mendez-Valdez's mother, said in Spanish on Thursday. "There were a lot of tears."

Mendez-Valdez faced many obstacles as a child. In fact, he never knew his biological father.

First-year WKU coach Ken McDonald is so taken by Mendez-Valdez's life story that he has established a scholarship in his name. McDonald, a former Texas assistant, surprised Mendez-Valdez when he announced at the basketball team's banquet recently that he will give $1,000 annually for the scholarship. Three other people have pledged to equal McDonald's contribution annually.

Every high school senior in San Antonio will be eligible to apply for the scholarship, Mendez-Valdez said.

Mendez-Valdez said he would like to be a high school basketball coach after he gives pro ball a shot. If he doesn't get a shot in the NBA, he'll try to play overseas or catch on with the Mexico national team.

Source: David Flores or KENS in San Antonio

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