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UK needs to win

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By Bob Watkins

This week, an opening glimpse at Governor’s Cup 23.

Kentucky is a slight favorite at Louisville.

Which team needs a win most? Kentucky.

Reasons.

1. Rookie head coach needs to establish Joker Ball and recruiting brag rights in Charlie Strong’s front yard in a year when Jefferson County high school talent is attracting big dogs including Alabama, Florida and Texas.

2. Higher expectations. Kentucky will finish behind only Florida and Georgia in the SEC East, says Sports Illustrated. Never mind the Wildcats have not beaten a Steve Spurrier team ever, nor outflanked the Vols since Pickett’s Charge.

3. To set sail to optimism, a projected 8-4 season, a win at Papa John’s has Must written on the wind. UK’s schedule is no BCS bear, but is a seize-the-day absent Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, all ranked teams. Big Mo building begins in Louisville, includes Western Kentucky and Akron at home before a trip to The Swamp. After a brutish six-game SEC stretch (no open dates), comes Charleston. Opportunity knocks.

4. A 5-1 start for Joker Phillips’ crew would keep Big Blue Madness at a low buzz when South Carolina visits October 16.

5. Having beaten Louisville three straight, 2007-09, a UK victory would match the Cards’ four-win run, 2003-06.

6. Win one for the Gipper Dept. – Rally cry for ‘10: Win one for The Pascal.

Honor Kentucky native Pascal Benson (1957-59).

Which team needs a win most? Louisville.

Reasons why.

1. Defend the house. Win first game in newly expanded stadium and who knows, might be enough to entice fickle Cardinal fans back next week. And, stave off nickname – Jurich’s Papa White Elephant.

2. Stop three-game losing streak to Kentucky.

3. Show ‘Em What-For-Dept. Big East coaches picked Louisville to finish last in league play.

4. Charlie Strong Era. Extend rookie coach’s honeymoon, create a media love-in, send an exclamation message to prize recruits in Jefferson County. Stay home!

5. Establish internet website bragging rights.

6. Win one for the Gipper Dept. – Rally cry: Win One for The Wally.

Honor Louisville graduate and quarterback, Wally Oyler (1966-68).

JUMP-START IN WINDSOR

Kentucky got a 10-practice, three-game, two month jump on national champion Duke and the rest, in Ontario. And pieces to John Calipari’s newest puzzle were most impressive.

Observations ...

Most impressive: returning players did what veterans should do. Lead.

Darius Miller played large and confident. DeAndre Liggins, no longer a precocious kid, directed traffic, played like a leader. And Jon Hood showed flashes of Jeff Sheppard, gathered his teammates, took charge.

 Projection: Josh Harrellson-Enes Kanter platoon will expand Calipari’s options and give UK tough minutes and 10 personal fouls.

New kids in town: Brandon Knight is no John Wall, but a first outing of no turnovers in 28 minutes, 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists made a statement – Johnny Ballgame was special, but there’s a new kid in town.

Q&A

Question. Why are you such an ardent critic of the National Basketball Association?

A. NBA is the plantation social activists Harry Edwards, Jesse Jackson and others have tried to pin on college athletics, alleging exploitation of young athletes but never heard is a critical word about the NBA by the preachers. Reason? Money.

Beyond the NBA’s inherent greed, agents and egos, the league is peopled by a disproportionate number of cocky, rich under-educated kids made savvy at exploiting owners, fan bases and women.

At root of college basketball’s decline to one-and-done-ism is, in order of blame – the NBA, NCAA bureaucrats counting billions from television, college administrators who have sold out and last, but not by no means least, vastly over-paid and glorified coaches whose mantra is “get you to the league ASAP, id.”  Educating 18-year-olds is far down the list.

Footnote. Like to share your point of view? You can reach bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com

RED BIRD RESCUE

Is anything more gratifying than rally to a good cause, a school? On our planet nowhere else does crisis bring out best of the best than in America?

Red Bird Mission School at Beverly in Bell County opened for the fall semester last week after alumni, friends and local folks rallied to save their community school.

Alumnus Leonard Lawson, roads contractor/philanthropist, made a major donation and $52,000 was raised at a conference of United Methodist Churches of Kentucky. Donations flowed.

The school opened for another fall term with streamlined everything. A budget, $756,521 is far below last year’s, enrollment is 150 down from 220, and staff was cut by 50 per cen. But Red Bird High School is open and its athletic programs are alive as well.

If you would like to join me, donate to preserve Red Bird Mission School, contact Tonya Asher, Development manager for Red Bird Mission. Address for donations: 70 Queendale Center, Beverly, KY 40913.

America. I love this place!

RECRUIT WHIRLWIND

In a six months span University of Kentucky basketball assembled a recruiting class to make it the NBA’s Halliburton; attracted another number one rated class for this season; and sealed verbal commits from three top ten rated recruits for next season. Chicago prize Anthony Davis chose UK over Ohio State and Syracuse, will join Marquis Teague and Michael Gilchrist signing in November.

Signal to John Calipari? Win a championship ... and soon. No excuses.

PARTING SHOT

Chicago high school star Anthony Davis Jr. committed to Kentucky last week. This week an attorney for the Davis family reportedly will file a law suit against the Chicago Sun-Times. Defamation of character. The newspaper reported Davis was shopping his son to colleges and Kentucky had bid $200,000.

Oops. I’m betting the newspaper will settle out of court and Davis will cash a check for, mmm, may double $200,000.

And so it goes.