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McCoughtry is Kentucky hoops queen

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By Bob Watkins

Basketball queen of Kentucky is Angel McCoughtry. Her coronation was mostly lost last week between things-Calipari, Baseball openers and The Masters.

A man’s world.

Yet, McCoughtry’s is a prime story - Good things do come to those who wait ... and grow up. She has. Best No. 35 at Louisville since No. 35 in 1980.

The Seacasus, New Jersey native had an angel on her shoulder and a voice in her ear (coach Jeff Walz) that drove her to Big East best, consensus All-American and first overall pick in the WBA’s draft, by Atlanta. First first pick in Kentucky hoops since Sam Bowie in 1984.

Fans watched her elevate her game, and elevate her team. We saw McCoughtry morph from a me-first, sometimes whiny referee-baiting underclassman into a skilled player with college degree and 15 pounds shy of being ready to make a living playing a game.

“I just feel so blessed by everything that has happened to me. I’m humbled,” she told reporters following the draft.

McCoughtry should be humble because no climb to lofty places is done alone. Her rise may have started when Walz sat her down to watch a video of her on-court antics. 

She stopped officiating (mostly) and became a sinewy glider who rounded her game, did not settle for perimeter shots, found ways to score and pass, rebound and slide into passing lanes on defense.

Today, McCoughtry has an education and within her grasp, the American dream.

Her No. 35 image stays on as role model for little girls with big dreams.

MICHAEL PORTER

A starter in all 36 games last season, Michael Porter will not play his senior season at University of Kentucky.

Reaction around Big Blue Nation was somewhere between Shrug and “Good! A freed-up scholarship.”

From Tubby recruit to Billy Clyde Gillispie harangue to a point where Big Blue Nation actually boo-ed one of its own, Porter endured much, kept his poise and played on.

A man’s man. Heart of a lion and skin thick as a rhino, he did not whine or complain publically.

If there were such a thing, this week a Dangerfield/Saul Lamont Smith Award would go to Man from Modesto, Michael James Porter.

Soon to be a family man, Porter celebrates his 22nd birthday, May 10. A birthday card from the betters of Big Blue Nation would be right thing to do.

Send to Michael Porter, c/o UK Basketball offices, Lexington, Ky. 40503.

MIKE CASEY

Mike Casey’s heart gave out last week. A warrior to the end, Casey battled recurring infection, pneumonia and faltering organs for months before succumbing last Thursday evening.

Casey’s battle was extended by loving family, friends and prayer groups across three states. Daughter Laura Casey Lake was unrelenting trying to pull back the man of whom she would say, “... He’s in Heaven. Daddy is now my Guardian Angel.”

From Mr. Basketball in 1966 onward, Casey was a teamster reminiscent of Ralph Beard, Frank Ramsey and Vernon Hatton. A native son acquainted with th eir passion, what it meant to wear a Kentucky uniform all four years.

Fitting that pall bearers taking Casey to his resting place were his Mr. Basketball brethren - Randy Embry, Jim McDaniels, Steve Miller, Jimmy Dan Connor, Robert Brooks and Harry Todd.

Legacy? A father with a son who has a basketball dream, find a video of Casey playing days. See how warriors make dreams come true.

Casey will be inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame April 29. On May 26 he would have been 61.

ANTI-KENTUCKY?

About a column on University of Kentucky and John Calipari, a number of e-mailers have asked, “why so anti-UK?

I am not anti-anything, but am for common sense and what’s best for student-athletics at University of Kentucky.

I am for ...

√ An athletics department being part of, not separate, from the university budget process. Vanderbilt University successfully merged its athletics department into Student Life and its programs flourish.

√ An administration courageous enough to break out, find alternatives to hiring coaches at rates the media herd calls  “... today’s market price.”

√ Recruit best and brightest student-athletes who realize four years at college is the last great freebie before a job. Including the NBA.

I am for ...

√ No coach bonus for graduating players. Period.

√ Coaches recruiting one-and-done pseudo-students is a farce. Young men with such attitudes short change themselves, waste university’s scholarship investment and devalue fan devotion.

√ Reward those who effectively emphasize value the college experience, and a degree.

√ Well-prepared and best behaved teams that expect to win instead of go-to guys and “I’m here to build my NBA resume`.

COACHES OF YEAR

Kentucky’s finest, Tim Mudd at=2 0E’town and Jason Booher at Shelby Valley  were voted high school coaches of the year last week by their colleagues. Both have Hardin County roots.

√ Elizabethtown native Mudd coached Elizabethtown High’s girls team to the championship game in Bowling Green last month. The coach of the year honor is Mudd’s second.

√ North Hardin High graduate Booher coached Shelby Valley High to quarter-finals of the Boys Sweet 16. Booher played at North, was an assistant at the Radcliff school as well as Corbin High School.

Mudd and Booher, best at what they do, teach and coach.

WORTH REPEATING

High s chool coach of the year Tim Mudd at Elizabethtown told the Courier-Journal last week that State champion Iroquois was well-deserving to be state champion. “But I felt like our team was just the essence of a true team in how they cared for each other and how well they played together.”

What a concept. Essence of a true team.

And so it goes.

You can reach bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com