It's Recruiting Time, All-Star Hoops
The NCAA Final Four is still warm, but the big news is still on the recruiting front where Kentucky may or may not have signed some blue-chip talent by the time you read this column.
As this issue went to press earlier in the week, Coach Eddie Sutton and assistant James Dickey were hot on the recruiting trails, hoping to land a couple more prep players to go with those — Rex Chapman and Reggie Hanson — already in the bag.
The best bets to sign with UK appeared to be juco star Harvey Grant of Independence, Kansas and guard Derrick Miller, a prep senior out of Savannah, Georgia.
One of UK's recruits, Oklahoma's Kevin Pritchard, announced last week he would sign with Kansas on national signing day.
Kentucky is also beating the bushes in Texas, Oregon, and on the juco circuit.
At latest report, some of those still on the UK want list included juco 6-7 SF Gerald Paddio of Oklahoma, and juco 6-6 guard Ledell Eackles of Texas among others.
Several others are still being contacted, but Sutton has indicated he'd rather leave a scholarship open unless he can fill it with quality.
Coaching honors have been mounting for Eddie Sutton as a result of the super job he did this past season, taking the Wildcats to the NCAA final'eight and compiling a 32-4 mark along the way.
During the Final Four in Dallas, Sutton was named the winner of both the Associated Press and National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I coaching honors.
It was the first time a Southeastern Conference coach had won either honor.
Sutton, who accepted the awards in Dallas, no doubt would have traded both honors for a spot in the Final Four.
Nevertheless, Sutton turned in one heckuva job at the Wildcat post and the future looks even brighter.
Speaking of the Final Four, congratual-tions to Denny Crum and his Louisville Cardinals who won all the marbles after a slow start back in December.
Crum's teams in recent years have become known for getting their act together in February and being a very tough team down the stretch run. They certainly were in Dallas.
For Crum, it was his second national title and his fourth trip to the Final Four in the last seven years, a feat no other coach or school can match.
The Cards lose Billy Thompson, Jeff Hall and Milt Wagner, but probably have better returning talent than anyone in America next season.
With freshman Purvis Ellison having a full year under his belt, the Georgia plum will no doubt make life tougher next season. The Cards also will get seven-foot Fehon Spencer and big Barry Sumpter will be returning after
a year's leave of absence due to academic difficulties.
Then there are Keith Williams, Tony Kim-bro, Herbert Crook, Mike Abrams, Kevin Walls and Mark McSwairi, not to mention others. To say Louisville is loaded for the future would be an understatement.
When the season opens next November, everyone will be looking up to the Cards who most likely will be ranked No. 1 preseason.
How long has it been that one state has enjoyed two coaches who earned Coach of the Year honors in the same season?
You'd have to go back a long ways, perhaps never, but Kentucky turned the trick this season as Eddie Sutton collected two such awards and Denny Crum was named coach of the year this week by The Sporting News.
Sutton's two awards were selected on the basis of regular season play only while the TSN's honor was awarded after the Final
One of the very few first-team All-American squads Kenny Walker failed to make was The Sporting News which instead named Len Bias of Maryland and Walter Berry of St. John's as forwards to the first team.
It's interesting because this publication waited to see post season action before selecting their teams, hence Cram's selection as coach of the year (and certainly a legitimate criteria).
But how did Walker get left off the first team when he led the Cats to the final eight after both St. John's and Maryland were knocked out in the second round?
There are some who insist that TSN is still holding an old grudge against the UK program because former UK coach Joe B. Hall refused to allow one of his players to appear in a cover photo with a Louisville player several years ago.
That's hard for me to believe, knowing some of the people at TSN, but I have to admit that TSN appears to have its own list of untouchables and its own hate list.
Throughout the season, TSN was the one major publication which consistently ranked Kentucky lower than other major publications.
For years, Notre Dame's Gerry Faust was TSN's whipping boy. He was a narrow winner over Joe B. Hall. Better watch out Ed-
die, you could be a candidate for yet a No. 1.
Speaking of high school recruiting, this is the season for all-star games and two big ones are on tap this weekend and next weekend.
In Detroit this weekend, the annual East-West McDonald's All-Star game will be staged and among the players will be Owensboro's Rex Chapman.
The game will be televised on a tape delayed basis at 4 p.m. Saturday over ESPN.
On Saturday, April 19, the annual Derby Festival ClassicwiW be played at Louisville's Freedom Hall.
Among the stars in that game will be Chapman, Louisville Eastern's Felton Spencer, Highlands' Scott Draud, and Pulaski County's Reggie Hanson.
Ticket information can be obtained by contacting: Kentucky Derby Festival, Inc., KFEC Ticket Office, P. O. Box 37130, Louisville, Kentucky 40233.
Spring football drills are in full swing at the Shively Sports Center and early reports have it that winter conditioning saw a marked improvement over the past couple months.
In other words, it wasn't to difficult to get the players' attention after a disappointing 5-6 mark and a total collapse against Tennessee in the season finale last November.
Coach Jerry Claiborne promised UK fans they would not see a repeat of the 1986 campaign and that one little speech pretty much set the tone for winter workouts.
The 'Cats went to the practice field a couple weeks ago and Owensboro's Mark Higgs is again showing signs of brilliance after a year of recuperating.
It was this time a year ago when the sensational running back underwent the knife after suffering what could have been a career-ending knee injury.
His return to action in less than six months defied almost all odds, but it was clear in October than Higgs wasn't the same Higgs of a year earlier.
This spring, it's a different story. Mark is making cuts only the old Mark Higgs could make two years ago. And he's performing without a hint of fear. Mark Higgs is close to being back one hundred percent.
Important Notice To TCP Subscribers
The next issue of The Cats' Pause will be dated April 26 and subscribers should receive this issue by the last week of April.
Our regular weekly schedule concluded with the issue of March 29. There was no issue published for the week of April 5.
This issue and the one on April 26 will lead us into the regular monthly editions beginning with the May edition and continue through August for your full 35 issues. Our regular weekly issues will begin the weekend of the first 1986 football game, September 13.
Our next issue will include a wrap-up of basketball recruiting, the spring football drills and the annual UK basketball banquet.
While Kentucky's football recruiting class missed the nation's top forty for the fust time since Jerry Claiborne returned home four years ago, the 'Cats did enjoy the distinction of landing the South's top player.
In his just released final national rankings, superscout Max Emfinger awarded the national recruiting prize to Michigan with UCLA number two followed by Iowa, Southern Cal and Ohio State.
Alabama was the top SEC school at No. 6 while Florida (who says probation hurts?) was No. 12 and LSU No. 18. No other SEC school made the top twenty.
However, all but three SEC schools made the top forty. The only three missing out were Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Even Ole Miss ranked No. 38.
Kentucky's top recruit, of course, was Trigg County's Al Baker who also made Em-finger's first-team All American list. Nationally, Baker finished No. 6 of all prep senior football players.
While Kentucky's recruiting ^finitely suffered an off-year, Louisville and Howard Schnellenberger apparently didn't make the headway some had earlier predicted.
According to Emfinger, Louisville signed none of the Southeast's top 75 players and only two of the top 110 players in the region.
Lousiville's two big catches were Walker Wise, a 5-11, 170-pounder from Ft. Laud Aquinas, Florida who is listed as "athlete" and Daviess County's Colburn Clark who first verbally committed to UK than changed his mind and signed with U of L.
Louisville was hoping to make big inroads by going to junior college route, but not a single member of Emfinger's Top 90 jucos listed Louisville as a winner.
Emfinger's Top 90 Juco list was compiled by taking the top players at each position so the nation's fourth best juco quarterback, for instance, didn't make his squad since he listed only three quarterbacks.
Penn State's No. 13 finish nationally can be attributed to its success in signing two blue-chip players which Kentucky thought it would sign until the final week.
Joe Paterno's top two signees were offensive linemen Dave Szott of new Jersey and Eric Jonassen of Baltimore, Maryland.
Kentucky had a private verbal committment from Szott but the youngster was overwhelmed by the presence of Paterno in the latter recruiting stages.
HITS AND MISSES ... The Kentucky Wildcats will be going to Japan again this summer and the tour will cover a period from June 11 til July 4. Kentucky made the same tour four years ago. NCAA regulations allow college teams to make one foreign trip every four years.