All it takes is the slightest glimmer of hope.
Ever since roaming around campus (along with some sporadic studying) for four years in the mid-2000s, I’ve adamantly defended Kentucky football fans.
Honestly, and the recent spring game-goers will attest to this, I think Cats fans are some of the best in the nation in both major college sports (football and basketball).
They’re easy to please, for one. Five consecutive seasons resulting in bowl games, jumpstarted by three straight wins, instilled a bright and positive aura around Commonwealth Stadium previously unseen in such a span.
Sure, all the big-time programs would view Music City and Liberty Bowls as no remarkable feat, but it doesn’t take a great deal of success for Kentucky football fans to be happy.
If there’s a buzz flying about in the fall air, fans will pack the 67,000-seat venue parked just a hop, skip and a jump away from South Campus.
They sure filled it up last Saturday, when a whopping 50,831 blue-and-white-clad crazies plopped onto the bleachers for a simple spring scrimmage game.
Remember, the Wildcats went an utterly atrocious 2-10 last season. But, Kentucky football fans yearn so badly to cheer about something, all it took for them to get fully back on board with this team was a new leader (Mark Stoops), a coaching staff overhaul and a few top-notch recruits.
So, for those that think Kentucky fans only care about their basketball, you’re absolutely wrong.
I don’t even have to defend the fans, though. The numbers do it themselves.
So far, Kentucky’s spring game attendance ranks second among all schools in the country. Nebraska is first, at 60,174. The Wildcats’ spring support sits thousands of fans better than Ohio State, Georgia, Louisville, Texas and many more.
Break Out Brackets?
Believe it or not, ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi has already released his NCAA Tournament projections for 2014.
He has Kentucky as the No. 1 overall seed despite having just lost in the first round of the NIT this past March.
Well, I guess there are a few good reasons for that, most notably the fact that John Calipari’s Wildcats are bringing in what most are labeling the best recruiting class of all-time.
Other notable projections are defending champion Louisville as a 2-seed, Ohio State a No. 2 and Indiana a No. 4.
Not Enough Mayo
A season that started off smoking for O.J. Mayo may have just gone down in flames.
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made it no secret that he wanted the 6-foot-5 Huntington native to play with more fire down the stretch.
A two-point, four-turnover performance during Monday’s loss to Memphis was just the latest in a string of subpar efforts for Mayo — the former Rose Hill standout reached double figures in scoring in just two of seven games heading into Wednesday’s season finale. The Mavericks needed just one more win to solidify a winning season.
Carlisle was audibly agitated with Mayo during, and after, the game.
According to ESPN Dallas’s Tim McMahon, Carlisle screamed at Mayo in a huddle, “I called that timeout just to get you out of the game!”
Later, Carlisle said this of Mayo: “I just want to see him show up. I just want to see him show up and compete. He didn’t compete tonight …
“And I tell you,” he added, “with all the time we’ve put into helping him develop and bringing him along, in the biggest game of the year — an opportunity to be a winning team — for him to show up like he did tonight, I was shocked.”
In his only season with Dallas, Mayo averaged 15.4 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game. The 25-year-old had 40 points against Houston on Dec. 8.
Barnard a Bear
Rowan County senior Josh Barnard signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Pikeville on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-5 forward was the team’s leading rebounder at 8.4 boards per game and also averaged 5.5 points per contest.
Barnard helped lead them to the state quarterfinals as a junior and the 16th Region semifinals as a senior.
After missing most of his junior campaign with a foot injury, Barnard didn’t miss a game as a senior.
Boyd County finished second to Johnson Central in the inaugural 4th Region bass fishing tournament at Yatesville Lake in Louisa.
Joshua Caleb Rodgers and Gaje Ayres are the two Lions’ anglers who fared well enough to move on to the state tournament.
Johnson Central advanced Donovan Ferguson, Keegan Clevinger, Trent Arrowood, Chris Harless, James Rowland and Josh Mullins to the state tournament, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, at Kentucky Lake in Hardin.
Burke gets Hardware
Fairview senior Jonathan Burke was selected as the 16th Region winner of the Sportsmanship Recognition Award by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Each regional winner, including Burke, receives an award and a $350 scholarship.
Burke, Fairview baseball’s catcher, will be recognized at a dinner banquet on Sunday, April 28, in Lexington.
For the second straight year, the National High School Sports Publication Awards has given the gold to Boyd County in the Public Schools (501-999 students) category.
The spiral-bound publication designed by art teacher Mike Spears features an all-color layout that includes both the boys and girls teams. The program consisted of player profiles, action shots, senior group photos and much more.
Rod Williamson was the main contributing photographer for the publication.
Former Russell baseball player Andrew Feltrop started a blog site at www.kentuckysportstalk.com. The forum focuses primarily on University of Kentucky sports news items with some high school recruiting tidbits sprinkled throughout.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
All it takes is the slightest glimmer of hope.
- Local Sports
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights