Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 18, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Getting a spring in their steps

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — 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.

Water Boys

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.

Gold Standard

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.

Talkin’ Sports

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 asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.