Will Kariya Rejoin the Flock?

With good friend and long time teammate Teemu Selanne re-upping with Anaheim for one more season, rumor has it Paul Kariya is seriously considering making his own prodigal return to Anaheim.

Kariya, who first played for the Ducks in 1994-1995, with great sticks in hand he spent his first 9 NHL season in Anaheim, during 7 of which he served as the team’s captain.

In 2004, Kariya promised to bring a Stanley Cup to Anaheim, though he has yet to play a game with Ducks since making the proclamation. At the end of his 9 year tenure in Anaheim, Kariya and former GM Byran Murray allegedly reached a verbal agreement in which Kariya would take a pay cut in order for more high-caliber acquisitions to help the team better chase the Cup.

However, during the ensuing off-season, Kariya chose to sign with the Colorado Avalanche, who also signed Selanne, re-uniting the friends and line mates for the first time since 2000-2001. Ultimately the Avalanche fell short in their Stanley Cup quest. After his one year stint in Colorado, Kariya signed with Nashville where he spent two years with the Predators before leaving town for St. Louis via free agency.

For the past three seasons, Kariya has struggled to live up to his lofty career benchmarks with the Blues, though perhaps were he to re-sign with Anaheim and once again play alongside Selanne, the one-time Duck captain could be rejuvenated towards a late career statistical resurgence.

At 35 years old, it is difficult to tell how much Kariya has left in the tank. Selanne, on one hand, has strung together productive seasons well past Kariya’s current age, having turned 40 this July and already committed to at least one more season with Anaheim. If nothing else, seeing Kariya and Selanne skate together once more under the Ducks banner would be a welcome sight to Anaheim eyes.

Anaheim Selects Hometown Hockey Player

Emerson Etem was born in Long Beach, CA, so when he finally gets around to getting those “professional athlete” business cards printed up, he might want to be extra specific.

It’s not that Long Beach hasn’t produced its share of athletically gifted residents over the past few decades (including tennis legend Billie Jean King, NFL linebacker Willie McGinest and safeties Mark Carrier and Jeff Severson, MLB outfielder Tony Gwynn, Olympic volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, just to name a few), but all those sports stars upbringings were aided by their warm weather surroundings.

Etem, on the other hand, is recent first round selection of the Ducks, Anaheim’s ice hockey team, which may bring joy to thousands of Los Angeles area fans every year, but is rarely composed of any LA-area residents.

Etem actually got his start playing roller hockey, following in the footsteps of his older brother Martin, later transitioning into ice skates. He grew up watching Martin play for the Long Beach Jr. Ice Dogs, though soon it will be Martin’s turn to watch his younger brother take the NHL stage.

The two brothers are not the only athletes in the family as their mother Patricia made the US Olympic rowing team, taking part in the 1984 Olympic Games in LA.Sidney Crosby also had an effect on Etem’s hockey trajectory.

Inspired by a Crosby-led team Shattuck St. Mary’s squad, Emerson chose to take his hockey talents to Minnesota at the age of 14 where he would later help the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabers, a prominent prep team in Faribault, MN, to their second consecutive Tier I 17&Under Title.In Etem, the Ducks get not only a hometown kid but a left-handed scorer from the right wing position.

Playing last season for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, Emerson lit the lamp 37 times to go with 28 assists, notching a total of 65 points in 72 games. In 12 post season contests, he added additional 7 goals and 3 assists.

Pick 3: Which 3 UK basketball recruits are most essential??

Judging from the results of yesterday’s poll where I asked you would be the Cat’s MVP this year…. it appears that you like Patrick Patterson. You REALLY like Patrick Patterson. Patterson took a whopping 82% in the poll as YOUR choice for MVP, outdistancing John Wall’s 12%, Darius Miller with 5%, and Orton and Cousins sharing 1%. As some people messaged, Wall may actually have better stats, but PPatt will have the heart and the leadership to make this year special. Plus Patterson deserves the adoration for turning down the NBA money to take a shot at number #8.

Now today’s poll concerns the 2019 recruiting class and which three players are essential to the 2019 season. Let’s assume that Kentucky has the season we all dream of and Patterson, Wall, and Cousins all bolt to the pros and Harris and Perry graduate. This would leave UK with the following roster and bout 5-6 spots to fill:

PG – Bledsoe
SG – Dodson
SF – Miller
PF – Harrelson
C – Orton
B – Hood
B – Liggins

Currently UK is pursuing about 9 pretty big names to fill the void in 2019. Let’s assume that Calipari has the batting average of an All Star outfielder and can close three of these players. Personally, I think he can close more, but for the sake of argument, which three of the following recruits would you realistically expect to see on the UK roster in 2019?


The buzz has shifted a lot to UK’s favor for the #1 PG (and arguably #1 player) in the 2019 class. Some people cite UK’s reputation as “Point Guard U” as the reason that Knight is a virtual lock for UK, but he has remained tight lipped about a leader. I think he will be tough to pry away from Florida but he seems to be the sure thing averaging 31.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game last year.

The other player who would challenge Knight for number 1 overall is Barnes and from recent news, he seems to be very high on Cal and UK as well. There is a buzz that Duke is the leader, but then weren’t they the leader for John Wall as well? Barnes can step in at SG or SF right away and averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds last year. He also has a 84″ wingspan.

Irving is pretty much the number 2 PG after Knight and his Godfather is UK assistant coach Rod Strickland. While some people say that makes Irving a sure shot for UK, he has not publicly stated so and will be naming his top 5 schools by the end of the summer. Irving has fantastic range from beyond the 3 point line and can definitely score, averaging 26.7 points as a sophomore. Some reports have Tom Crean and IU making up ground on Irving.

UK is trying to make up ground in the recruitment of Kendrick and have offered the 6’6 Junior from Atlanta. Kendrick would appear to be a natural for the DDMO as he excels in an up tempo situation and knows when to pull up or attack the rim. UK’s main competition appears to be Georgia and Georgia Tech.

John Walls Word of God teammate is reportedly showing great interest in UK and Cal has been recruiting him for a while. Calipari took advantage of the John Wall visits to see Leslie as well and now John Wall is acting as chief recruiter, telling Leslie how great UK is. Leslie has been described as “an athletic freak” and would fill a huge void with both Patterson and Cousins leaving. UK will have to break Gator and Tar Heel hearts (again) to land him.

This flirtation has been going on for a while and it looks like it may take a little longer to land this one. Lamb recently stated he would not decide until the middle of his basketball season but UK has been in a good position for a while. From some accounts, he is Cal’s number one target and the interest seems to be mutual. He is one of the best scoring guards in the the class and will also be visiting Kansas soon.

Payne is another of the top PF’s but you are not hearing a lot of UK buzz with him. He has been offered, but apparently is a mystery where UK stands with him. Some scouting reports show he may have problems with motivation but he has the ability to be the best big man and especially the best shot blocker in the draft. He made a visit to UK on 5/16 but not a lot of news about him.

Parker is kind a mystery as well. He recently visited UK, the same time as Doron Lamb, but has not received an offer yet. He gets a lot of points moving toward the basket and can make things happen but from some accounts needs to work on his defense. Parker would be a nice grab but one wonders if Cal is waiting on Lamb or others before offering.

I hesitated putting him on the list because I fully expect him to commit to Memphis … however you keep hearing reports that he still likes Calipari and UK. He is a super scoring point guard and may be the best at creating scoring opportunities for himself. Only drawback I would see with him is that he and Bledsoe would give us a pair of smaller PG’s and we know that Cal like big PG’s. But then, from what we hear, Bledsoe’s talent has superseded his size and you would expect the same is true with Jackson.

So Wildcat fans, who do YOU like if we can have just three of the above list. Once again, with what Cal has done, I would not be shocked at him pulling 4 or 5, but to keep it interesting, let’s keep the list at 3. Personally, I like Doron Lamb, Kyrie Irving, and CJ Leslie. I am looking forward to see what the BBN thinks.

The Next Christian Cook’s Questions

Q: I am a Middie/Attackman and I am trying to improve my crease offence game. I have been watching films with Bobby Benson, BJ Prager, and Buggs Combs and have learned a lot. But, I want to ask you what could help throw defenders off and get myself open and get a second or two to rip a
shot. So, from a defensive standpoint what do you hate to see crease attackmen do?
Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Dallas. I find that as I’m playing on the crease and trying to cover a crease attackman that the most difficult thing for me to defend against is a player who can find the seams and move around.

There is nothing more frustrating than an offensive player who is constantly moving because it forces his defensive counterpart to concentrate on both his man (the most dangerous person) and the ball (in case he is the slide man or part of the slide package). As an offensive player, you should always concentrate on overloading your defenseman and making him work as hard as possible – giving him more opportunities to make a mistake. In addition if you play a high crease it is more difficult to cover as a defensive player because you are spreading out the field.

Furthermore, as I’m sure you’ve picked up in my other columns, it is a great idea to watch as much film as possible. In addition, watching film with a great crease player like BJ Prager is an even better idea. There are few players who can finish as well as BJ – he is one of the best pure crease attackmen I have ever seen.

It is clear that he also concentrates on his stick-skills with a focus on inside play. What I mean is that he can catch a pass and get it off quicker than any crease attackman I’ve played against. You should do the same. Unfortunately there are a number of attackmen who can get open but can’t finish because their stick skills aren’t up to par. Don’t let that happen to you. Get yourself in the right position and have the stick skills to finish and goals will come. Best of luck to you.

Q: Dear Coach Cook,
My name is Michael and I’m a Defenseman from San Francisco. I’ve been playing only for 13 months, yet was invited to a big time recruiting camp in Maryland and actually did very well. I’ve had a lot of coaches from top D1 schools talk to me about playing for them and it’s been a very fun couple of weeks hearing from coaches. However, how can I reach some schools that have not shown interest in me that I know I could play for? Are films and letters the only way?
Michael Abou Jaoude

Christian Cook: Thanks for the question Michael. If you don’t have the resources or time to make it to any other camps out east or at schools you are interested in, then I find that videos and letters are the best way to get in touch with coaches who haven’t seen you play.

Coaches get recruiting tapes all of the time, so they are used to it. You may also find it useful to try to find someone who can speak to the college coach on your behalf. Coaches are not just looking for good players, but they are looking for good people who can contribute to their program as individuals, not just as lacrosse players. In addition, I wouldn’t downplay the effect of you calling yourself to speak to a coach.

Just realize that you need to be completely professional, as you are essentially selling yourself. Many young players out there are far too informal when they speak to coaches, which is inappropriate. You should always put your best foot forward and in the recruiting cycle, that starts with presenting yourself in a professional manner.

You don’t want there to be any doubt that you are mature enough to handle both the rigors of school and the time commitment of year-round lacrosse. Remember, in college, lacrosse players are student-athletes, not the other way around. Best of luck to you.

Q: Dear Christian,
I switched from attack to middie and I am sometimes having trouble defending the middies up top. Most of the time I just go on athleticism. What are some drills or tips to help me improve body position and stick checks?

Christian Cook: Thanks for the question. This is a problem many new midfielders have – learning how to play defense. Although defense may seem quite daunting at this stage, realize that it is very very simple. As a defensive player your only job is to keep your player away from the goal – you DO NOT NEED TO TAKE AWAY THE BALL. I’d speak at length to your coach about his defensive philosophy so that you’re on the same page. Aside from the team aspect, the most important thing to work on is footwork.

Play as much basketball as you can – it is invaluable and teaches you the right technique in pushing a player down the side of the field. The reason we split the field in two and keep offensive players running down the side is that every step they take, their angle on the goal is smaller and it is an easier save for your goalie.

Footwork drills (football footwork drills are great), jumping rope, basketball, squash and racquetball are all great things you can do to help your footwork. However, that is only half the battle – the other half is understanding defense. Watch as much film as possible and if you can, watch film with your coach. I’m sure he has a sound philosophy that should make your job somewhat easier as a defensive player.

Last but not least, there is only one check you should ever throw as a short shaft midfielder (it isn’t really a check even): the “lift-check.” Watch film of Princeton and you’ll see it – it is the most under-utilized, most-effective check in lacrosse. Not only does it neutralize the offensive player by lifting his elbow so he can’t shoot or pass, but it allows you to keep moving your feet on defense. Learn it, love it, practice it. Best of luck.

Christian Cook’s Questions about Lacrosse

Q: Dear Mr. Cook,
I was just wondering how you balanced your lacrosse career as well as school at a top notch school like Princeton University. I was also wondering what the rewards of playing college lacrosse are.
A: Thanks for the question Peter. You have astutely asked a question that should be addressed far more often. The rewards of being a student-athlete stay with a person for the rest of their lives. I have found that balancing lacrosse at the highest level and working on my studies at a great institution taught me far more than I expected. It is difficult to dedicate yourself to a sport and to also tackle a rigorous academic course load.

There is far too much emphasis in this day and age on pure athletics. Athletics are only part of the package one brings to the table in life. I coach many clinics around the country and the world and try to instill in young players the importance of being a good person and developing a well rounded experience. While there will always be athletes, the student-athlete is a rare breed.

Playing lacrosse in college is a great deal of fun, although it requires dedication and discipline. You cannot forget that college is about academics. Playing on a top-notch lacrosse team, or competing in another sport while in college is an added benefit and privilege that can be revoked if your studies are not up to par.

Many student-athletes manage their time more effectively during season because they are naturally more focused during that time of the year. I was far more efficient in season than I was in the fall. However, it requires year-round dedication. While it is difficult – it is extremely rewarding to dedicate oneself fully to two noble pursuits, academics and athletics.

Q: Dear Christian,
I was just wondering what sort of weight training you do, I know you can’t outline your whole program, but if you could just give me a few exercises I could do. Mainly, to increase my shot velocity.
A: A lot of younger players ask me for specific weight training advice. To be honest with you, I know what exercises work for me, but I feel uncomfortable suggesting exercises to people with whom I have not worked directly in fear of pointing you in the wrong direction. The best thing you can do to increase your shot velocity is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. It will also clearly help with your accuracy.

Unfortunately there are no short cuts towards improving your shot – just lots of hard work. With that in mind, our coaches often promoted the incline bench press as a way to increase your functional strength (as an addition to our weight program, not in lieu of other exercises). However, with this in mind you can’t forget about your back strength. I would ask your lacrosse coach or the football coach at your school for a workout program – they can direct you in a specific direction given your personal needs. Best of luck to you and keep working hard.

Q: Dear Christian,
What type of personality makes up a field player vs. a indoor player?
A: That is a very interesting question Ralph. Clearly the indoor and outdoor games are quite different and have attracted different types of players. However, there are many characteristic common to both indoor and outdoor players: competitiveness, determined grit, love of the game, aggressiveness, leadership, etc. While all great players exhibit these personality traits, I don’t believe I can make any general statements about indoor vs. outdoor players.

I do know that the indoor game promotes a different type of aggressiveness than seen in the outdoor game and frankly that comes from the different styles of play needed to be successful at the different games. While they are both lacrosse, indoor players have a distinctly different style and I find are VERY good stick handlers and excellent at defense. At the same time, I don’t think they’re able to spread the field out as well as some outdoor players. Outdoor/Field players will use the expansive nature of the field to their advantage whereas indoor there is only a certain amount of ground and you can’t cede any if you’re going to be competitive.

Q: Hello Coach Cook,
I play goalie for a California club team, I have just come on as the new goalie and I wanted to implement zone defense instead of man to man, which is what they had last year. The man to man did not work so well for them last year. I wanted to know if there were any major factors you could point out that most lacrosse veterans like myself tend to forget while working a zone D. Specially with a team that’s used to going man to man.
Brigattoni, Anaheim, CA
A: Thank you for your question. I would suggest thinking twice about your decision to solely implement a zone defense. Zone defenses are good, but only in certain situations and against certain teams. I don’t know how your club team plays or your strengths and weaknesses as a team, but those should factor in to your decision. I remember playing in the national championship in 1996 against Virginia and we had to play a zone defense for the majority of the game to combat the vaunted Virginia offense that scored 10 goals in the first half in our first encounter earlier in the year.

The zone defense was perfect in that situation – playing against Whitely, Watson, Knight and a very deep, athletic midfield (including my current New Jersey Pride teammate Drew Melchionni). However, zones can easily be beaten by over-loading a side of the field and drawing slides more quickly than the defense can react. With that in mind it is important to have other defensive sets at your disposal.

A couple of the most important things to remember when playing zone defense are: communication; rotation; and resetting the defense. In addition, do not forget how important it is for the crease man to always play ball-side, especially when picking up cutters through the crease. If your team is excellent at communication and each player understands their individual responsibility, a zone defense can be very effective – but only as a supplement to a more robust man to man system. I wish you the best of luck.

Q: Hello,
I have been playing lacrosse for one season and it is the most fun I have ever I had. They put me at defense and I wasn’t the fastest defender on the field. I would like to improve this and I’m wondering if you have any tips or drills to help improve the quickness of my feet so I am able to be in position to stop whoever thinks they are going to score.
A: Thanks for your question. I would suggest you look at some of my past columns about drills and other things you can do to improve your quickness and overall athleticism. Furthermore, focus on your game sense. Being a great defenseman means being a smart defenseman and that comes with experience and serious study of the game. Good luck.

Q: Hey Christian,
First of all I’m a very big fan of you and your style of play. I’ve been playing for about four years now at a high level. I really enjoy the game and spend at least 2 hours a day working on my stick skills or watching game tape. My other two sports are soccer and basketball. I know that I can still get better with my positioning because everyone can, but the main thing that I’m concerned with is my height.

I’m 14 and I’m big for my grade (8th) at about 5’8 and a half. I weight 150lbs, and both my parents are shorter than I am. I’m only predicted to be about 5’10 at the most but I don’t even know I’m if gonna make it there. I really enjoy defense and id like to stick with through college and hopefully the MLL but I’m afraid my lack of size will hinder me. People say that size doesn’t really matter but do you really think I could succeed in high school at only 5’9? Any help would be appreciated.

A: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, there is not that much you can do about your height, but know that it isn’t a requirement for being a good lacrosse player. There are plenty of great players who were not that tall or big. If you work on your overall athleticism, strength, game sense, stick skills and progress as a player, no coach will keep you off the field if you are the whole package. I absolutely think you can have success in high school and even at the highest levels in college at 5’ 9”. Go through some of the rosters of great teams and you’ll see there are plenty of small players. Understand that while you can succeed, it will take a great deal of work to put yourself in a position to succeed. Keep working hard. Best of luck to you.

Q: Christian,
You mentioned you need to always work on your basic skills, but does that mean working on the wall? I think it’s hard to work the wall with a defense stick and seems pointless. I can see why an attackman or middie would want to work on their quick sticks but not a defensemen. Also I watched the NCAA lacrosse championships this year and I never saw a defensemen play weak hand; it just seems like I shouldn’t be practicing my weak hand either. One last question: what do you think is a good drill to improve foot speed besides jumping rope and playing basketball?

A: Thanks for the question David. Working on the wall is a large part of working on your skills. Working on the wall with a long stick is NOT worthless. If you find it difficult, you can use a short stick. Some attackman handle a longstick better than many defenseman – case in point, Jesse Hubbard has the best short and longstick handling ability I’ve ever seen.

Work the wall with a short stick and it will help your skills. Furthermore, you may not have seen any defensemen play with their weak hands in the championship game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. You need to have that ability at the highest level and if you neglect to work your weak hand it will show and you will hurt yourself in the long run. YOU NEED TO WORK BOTH HANDS. It is naïve and lazy to think that you can progress to the next without that ability. Frankly, if you want to be the best, you have to work harder than everyone else. Good luck.

UK Football Preview: The WR’s

n regards to yesterday’s poll, it looks like I was pretty much in touch with the rest of the BBN as to what 3 recruits are the most essential. You said that CJ Leslie, Brandon Knight, and Doron Lamb were the must gets. I was a little conservative and figured Kyrie Irving may be more possible that Knight, but don’t get me wrong, I will take Knight anytime.

Just a quick note that there has been no more news on the supposed UK football player arrest and lots of bloggers have been looking at court records and arrest records and no name have popped up yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on this.

So today’s post is my review of the UK WR’s in my ongoing UK preview section. In case you missed it, here are the details on THE QB’s and my preview on THE RB’s is here. Now that you are up to date, lets take a look at …..


How can I say this and be um politically correct? Well, you know it’s a bad season when your leading receiver caught just 33 passes for just 264 yards. It’s even worse when that receiver, Dicky Lyon Jr, was lost for the season in game 6. I know a lot of fans like to blame Hartline for not being able to get the ball to the wide outs, but to be honest, the wide outs dropped A LOT of passes.

So to blame either Hartline or the WR’s for all the offensive woes is a “chicken or the egg” type situation. There was enough blame to go around equally. DeMoreo Ford, expected to be a leader, battled injuries and finished with 3 passes for 56 yards. Aaron Boyd, the Cat’s highest rated 2008 recruit, had mono in the fall and struggled to get into the rotation all season, finishing with just 5 catches for 46 yards. And ugh, those injuries. The Kentucky YPR stat dropped below 10 yards for the first time since the 2004 season.

It’s easy to be smug and say that this year’s receiving corps HAS to be better because, well, there is no way it can get much worse. That is partly true, but the WR class UK brought in for this year ranks as 23rd, so help is definitely on the way. Let’s take a look at the 2009 Wildcat receivers.


For all the gloom and doom heaped on the WR corps last year, this kid was truly the bright part of the season. Cobb is the leading WR coming back this year with 21 receptions for 197 yards. he showed the potential to be a game breaking receiver in the Arkansas game when he had 2 TD receptions in the final 4:30 to lead the Cats from a 20-6 deficit. Now that UK has upgraded the QB position, Cobb should see full time duty at WR and I can see him getting at least 60 catches for 75o yards or so as a full time WR. This number could actually be a good bit higher. The UK offense still needs to get Cobb about 10-12 touches a game to be effective, so he should be a regular target and he may get a few rushes a game or even see some time out of a “wildcat” formation.


Matthews, I assume will be the other starer opposite Cobb and I am very excited to see Chris in the Blue and White. Matthews is a JUCO transfer from Los Angeles Harbor College and he appears to be a true, go to WR. In his two seasons at LAHC, Matthews caught 124 passes for 1935 yards and 19 TD’s. Matthews has great size (6’5), great speed (4.5), and is a physical receiver. He was a top 10 JUCO prospect and the 2nd best WR in the JUCO ranks. Last year, he had 80 receptions in just 9 games, so it’s easy to see why I am excited about him. I think he is good for at least the same 60-750 yards I predicted for Cobb.


Kyrus is a tall (6’3) and solid receiver with good ball handling skills and has a nice explosive burst. The thing I like about Lanxter is that he can make the tough catch in traffic and has the ability to jump for a big grab. As a freshman, he has 23 grabs for 195 yards but finished the season strongly catching 5 balls for 46 yards and a TD in the bowl game against East Carolina. Lanxter can be a nice slot or a third option and should be a more reliable target with another year under his belt.


Coming off a 64 yard receiving performance vs East Carolina, McKaskill will compete for some time as a third option. He finished with 15 catches for 181 yards. He has pretty good hands and some elusiveness after catching the ball.


If he plays this year, AARON BOYD has a lot to prove. He has the talent and potential to be a 70 catch a season WR, but as of the Blue/White game, the talk was that he may redshirt and take a season to get to fully know the offense. ERIC ADEYEMI came from a college football factory in Miami Southside and caught 13 passes for 108 yards. Freshman LaRod King is a nice looking prospect at 6’6 but needs to add a lot of bulk and work on running patterns before he can be a factor in the SEC. Justin Bean is another good looking freshman, but there are rumors about his eligibility. Brian Adams, another freshman has great size and speed (6’4, 4.4) but played QB in HS and may need a year or two to adjust to a WR role.


The Cats definitely missed Jacob Tamme last year but UK’s top 3 TE’s all return this season and together may have a decent receiving season. TC Drake actually led the team on YPR last year with 17 yards every time he caught the ball and finished with 12-204. Maurice Grinter also showed a nice touch after the catch, going 12-162 with 2 TD’s. Ross Bogue caught a pass for 8 yards. While there may not be one main target here, ala Tamme, it is reasonable to expect a solid 500-600 yard with 4 or 5 TD’s from this group.

UK landed to top 40 TE’s in 2009 and had the 11th best TE class but alas, early indications are that both Anthony Kendrick or Terrell Mitchell may not be academically eligible. If they could play, I would throw either of them in the mix with Drake and Grinter. Boyle County’s Jordan Aumiller could see time this year if neither Kendrick or Mitchell qualify.


Once again the WR corps will be very young and mostly untested. Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews make a very nice pair of starting wide outs and could be a year from being a Keenan Burton/Stevie Johnson tandem. I think Lanxter will progress as a third option and while not sexy, UK can have a solid TE option. Locke and Smith are good options out of the backfield as pass targets so I am actually very optimistic about this group. If Chris Matthews is the real deal, this will be a very much improved unit. The QB will have to improve equally for this group to have that desired improvement, but I don’t think I am drinking the Big Blue Kool Aid to say the kids will be alright.

Cousins draws comparisons to Shaq as Cats prepare to face LSU

As Kentucky heads into it’s game Saturday against the LSU Tigers, it’s inevitable that the comparisions start between the Cat’s DeMarcus Cousins and the other big fella that used to roam the basketball court at Baton Rogue: Shaquille O’Neal.

“Beyond the Arc” on MSNBC.com started the debate earlier today when they suggested the Boogie/Shaq comparisons not because of the production, but because of the amount of attention Cousins is drawing from the opponents and the number of fouls that Cousins draws. Of course, Cousins is bringing the production as well.

Despite being double teamed by Vanderbilt most of the game, he managed 21 points and 10 boards. You can’t question the productivity of Cousins as he leads the SEC in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage … by a large margin.

That enough got me curious enough to take a look and compare and contrast Shaq’s freshman year and DeMarcus Cousins’s season thus far and see how DeMarcus rates with O’Neal:

FG %
O’Neal 180/314 57.3%
Cousins 129/237 54.4%
FT %
Cousins 99/150 66.0%
O’Neal 85/153 55.6%
Cousins 16.3
O’Neal 13.9
O’Neal 12.0
Cousins 9.8
O’Neal 115
Cousins 42
O’Neal 38
Cousins 21
O’Neal 61
Cousins 18

Overall the numbers favor O’Neal pretty heavily, although it is interesting that Cousins has gotten to the line a lot more than Shaq and he is already a much better FT shooter. Cousins is pretty competitive in the glamor numbers, leading in scoring and trailing by 2 rebounds a game.

The recent mock draft lotteries have Cousins inching up as a lottery pick, but there are some that think he could use some more seasoning. Dime Magazine recently had a story that said “DeMarcus Cousins needs to stay at Kentucky”. Let it be said that I do not support the writer’s slant that DeMarcus is a thug and needs to grow up — along with his aspersions on John Wall — but I do like the idea of DeMarcus getting another year under Calipari and I do think that he could possibly be next year’s #1 pick if he stays.

And it is interesting to note the increase in O’Neals numbers from his freshman to his sophomore season. Most of his numbers increased dramatically (especially scoring) in that second year of college. Check out the differences in O’Neal’s two seasons:
FG %: 57.3 to 62.8%
FT % : 55.6 to 63.8%
PPG: 13.9 to 27.6
RPG: 12.0 to 14.7
BLOCKS: 115 to 140
STEALS: 38 to 41
ASSISTS: 61 to 45

Of course, no one expects Cousins to double his scoring his sophomore season, but you can see that all of O’Neal’s stats improved drastically except for assists, and you would think that Cousins would see improvement as well.

It’s Joker’s Day of Reckoning as Signing Day arrives

Even though Joker Phillips has been head coach of the Wildcats for about a month, in a way, today officially marks the beginning of the Joker Phillips era. Today is college football’s National Signing Day. To be fair, today’s list of commitments is not a fair way to judge Joker’s future success as a recruiter, it is safe to note that his handprints are all over this class.

There has been a flurry of activity the last week or so and tomorrow may be the busiest signing day at UK in a few years. There are quite a few higher profile player’s whose decisions have not been made public and there is always the possibility that the new coaches may have some recruits that are following them from their former schools. As with any signing day, there are going to be disappointments and pleasant surprises. Since I believe in being mostly positive, let’s get the disappointments out of the way first before moving on.

From all indications, Kentucky will lose a couple of their former commits. Kenarious Gates (*** OL) reported has de-committed from UK and will sign with the Georgia Bulldogs today. There is also rampant speculation that Ryan Smith (*** athlete) is on the verge of de-committing as well and he has a press conference planned at his school. This is not good news as it comes on the heels of Anterio Sloan’s (**** DB) dropping off UK’s list last week. To be fair, it appears that UK pulled Sloan’s offer due to concerns over a shoulder injury.

Now on the the good news. UK has gotten a commitment from 4 star TE Alex Smith. Smith has been a UK target for quite a while and had previously committed to Cincinnati and the North Carolina before eventually deciding on the Cats. He cited the fact that UK graduated three TE’s this year and Joker Phillips as decisions for his picking UK. Smith is a big, solid TE (6’5, 247) and has a chance to see lots of action next year.

And now we come to the section of indecision. As of right now, there a few prospects that can still end up with UK. Let’s take a look at a couple of possibilities:

Miles Simpson – RB – The rumors have been rampant lately as first Simpson was thought to be close to being a Hoosier but now the money is on Simpson being a Wildcat. Aaron’s UK Football Blog is reporting that he requested “The Cat’s Pause” to be at his press conference. D.J. Howard – RB – Howard was formerly a Auburn commit and it appears that Auburn has pulled their offer. From all indications, this will come down to UK or Clemson.Michael Thorton – DT – Thornton, a **** DT is probably the biggest fish UK can reel in tomorrow.

He is teammates with current UK commits Raymond Sanders, Jabari Johnson, and Ronnie Shields. Those three have been trying to get him to come to UK but Georgia will be tough to beat. Jerrell Priester – ATH – Jerrell is currently a “soft” Vanderbilt commit but it appears that UK could end up with a signing day surprise.Most of the information, did come from Aaron’s UK Football blog, to give credit. I am stuck in the office all day today so won’t be able to update as much as I want to … if at all, but Aaron has agreed to supply the readers of the Wildcat Blue Blog with updates and signing day updates. Make sure you bookmark his site as well as it is one of the best UK football blogs around.

Bunting a Softball with Softball Bat

Softball, like baseball, is all about getting on base. The team that can have productive innings by avoiding outs for as long as possible usually wins. As the old saying goes, “Get ‘em, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”

One weapon you can use to do just that is the bunt. A lot of players who those used the cool bats like demarini softball bats want to swing away, of course, and will scratch their heads when you ask them to lay down a bunt, but that strategy will keep the other team on its toes and will put the ball in play.

A surprise bunt often leads to confusion and even errors. At worst, the bunter is thrown out, but a runner on first should be able to move easily to second base. Make sure your team knows how to do it.

Here’s a video from playsportstv.com that demonstrates the basics of bunting and is accessible to all but the youngest levels. A couple of key points: The batter needs to square, with toes pointing to the pitcher. You’ll see some girls only square halfway, perhaps out of fear of offering such a wide, face-first target.

When they’ve squared, they need to be sure to follow the video’s instruction about how to hold the bat. They’ll be tempted to grip the lower barrel of the bat with their right hand (if they’re right-handed) rather than curl their fingers behind it. When you tell them this cupping positioning will protect their hand, they usually master it pretty quickly.

In the video, the batter doesn’t get quite enough push on the bunt, dribbling the ball just a foot or so in front of the plate. The host is right about trying to “catch” the ball with the bat rather than stabbing at it, but by getting a bit more oomph from her legs, the batter could strike the ball with a little more force.

Here’s a longer, more detailed video from an excellent softball-instruction series on monkeysee.com. The basic principles are the same as in the video linked earlier, but this one drills down a little deeper.

A few points worth repeating: “We only bunt at strikes.” You’ll see batters stabbing at pitches way out of the strike zone, maybe feeling like they should try to make contact no matter where the ball is thrown. Let them know that even though they’re bunting, they’re still looking for good pitches.

Also, you’ll notice that the batter isn’t fully squared. She takes sort of a runner position, with one leg bent forward, the other bent behind. Players at a higher level can take this position, which does offer more of that leg oomph I mentioned earlier, but I like to see batter a bit more squared than the one in this video.

I do like the parting comment by the coach in the second video, who says, “Bunting is all about attitude.” It’s a strategy that benefits the team. The batter is sacrificing herself to move up her teammates. And when those teammates score, the batter can feel very proud.


Could Brandon Knight be on the verge of committing?

Throughout the past few months, Brandon Knight has been rumored to be a Kentucky lean and has thought to have been close to committing.

Well the heat has been turned up in South Florida this week, and it seems as if Brandon Knight is close to sealing a deal with a school. Much of the local sources seemed to speculate that Florida and Miami were more in the mix for Knight.

But most national sources and scouts even in the state of Kentucky seemed to believe that the possibility of being a point guard under John Calipari and following in the footsteps of Rose, Evans, and Wall was just to much not to turn down.

The No. 1 rated player and PG in the 2010 class was expected to pick straight from six schools or so without narrowing down his list. So far, it seems that he has unofficially narrowed it down with Kentucky, Miami, Florida, and Connecticut being the only schools remaining with a strong chance. Syracuse and Kansas also remain in the running.

Many recruiting analysts say that according to their sources Knight was supposed to commit after his visit to Miami last week. Dustin Rumbaugh of Kentucky Sports Radio seems to think that Knight is ready to make a decision pretty soon as well. Jeff Drummond from Kentucky Ink recently spoke with Turgenia Knight, Brandon’s mother, regarding his recruitment process. “Things are going pretty good,” Turgenia Knight said. “I think he’s got things narrowed down, and hopefully he’ll be making a decision and an announcement pretty soon.

He’s done all of his visits, which is something he said he wanted to do from the beginning, and he’s done his homework on all the schools. I think he’s ready to sit down and make the decision.”

At this point, that might be a broad statement because we have heard twice since the AAU season that he was close to committing and still hasn’t pulled the trigger. But according to Mrs. Knight, she says the time is soon. All the signs point to UK being the primary decision but no one knows for sure now. On Friday, Knight’s Pine Crest Panthers (FL) play against 2011 Florida commit Austin Rivers’ Winter Park (FL) team at Florida Atlantic University on ESPN2