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Image 3 of The Cats' Pause, April 2, 1988

Part of The Cats' Pause

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OSCAR L. COMBS After Loss In Birmingham, Recruiting Heats Up Again All you had to do was to take a peek inside the UK locker room after the game. Tears flowed freely. Bennett and Chapman couldn't hold back their emotions, even 10 minutes after the final horn. It was a bitter pill to swallow. They should take pride in a very successful season, one which produced a record of 27 victories and only six losses. Along the way, UK defeated such arch-rivals as Indiana, Louisville, Notre Dame, LSU three times and national power Syracuse. It will be a while before the Wildcats get over the loss. They'll feel the pain this weekend when Oklahoma, Duke, Kansas and Arizona meet in Kansas City for the Final Four. The players, as well as the coaching staff, will replay the game a thousand times, but the final outcome will be the same. Sure, this team probably should have beaten Villanova, but even if the UK had been successful against Villanova, they still would have been an underdog against Oklahoma. Perhaps a loss to Oklahoma would have, been easier to accept, but that's why the games are played. It wasn't the greatest season in UK history, but it certainly wasn't the worst. In fact, it was a fine season which included a regular-season Southeastern Conference championship, an SEC Tournament title and two NCAA victories enabling UK to join the field of the Sweet Sixteen. Thanks fellas, for some fond memories. ? ? ? Back to the Kentucky connection in Kansas City. Let's start with East Regional representative Duke. The Blue Devils have a senior Ail-American by the name of Danny Ferry who once was interested in being recruiting by Kentucky. At the time (prior to the Sutton era), Ferry and his DeMatha Catholic High team first played in Lexington's Hillbrook Festival when Ferry was a sophomore. There were some on the UK staff who thought Ferry was too slow and not big enough to play hoops on the big-time level. By the time the UK staff realized they had made a serious miscalcuation in Ferry's abilities, it was too late to get back in the recruiting. He didn't even make an official visit. To the Southeast where the Sooners are on a roll. There making a big contribution is senior Harvey Grant, who found his way to Norman by the junior college route. Most everyone around here knows he once signed a letter of intent with Kentucky out of junior college but the UK staff asked Grant to look elsewhere after he had a run-in with the law after a petty larcery incident in Kansas. The decision came right at the time of the controversial investigation of UK by the NCAA. In the Midwest you have the Kansas Jayhawks and would you believe that one of the main ingredients is a youngster by the name of Kevin Pritchard, who might While there's definitely a Big Blue flavor in the 50th NCAA Final Four this weekend in Kansas City, none of the current Kentucky Wildcats will be on the hardwoods as Kentucky's quest for a berth in the Final Four fell at the hands of Villanova last week. Coach Eddie Sutton and his Wildcats appeared to be on the right track to take a shot at the high-and-mighty Oklahoma Sooners only to get upset by another brand of Wildcats which put on a dazzling offensive show. Villanova itself had aspirations of 1985-revisited when the 'Cats surprised everyone by emerging as the national champions at Rupp Arena after winning the Southeast Region in, of all places, Birmingham. Kentucky, which had earlier dispatched Southern University and Maryland from the field, met the challenge early, but fell behind when senior Winston Bennett got in foul trouble twice. He first left the game with the score tied at 29-29 in the first half after a very questionable call. Villanova took advantage of Bennett's absence and soared to an 11-point halftime lead. Less than two minutes into the second half, Bennett picked up his fourth foul and Kentucky never caught up. Oh, the 'Cats made a couple runs at the Big East entry, but without Bennett, the 'Cats just couldn't get over the jump. When he returned to the lineup with just over six minutes remaining, it was too late. And, thus, a end to the Final Four dreams of the 1987 Wildcats, especially seniors Rob Lock, Ed Davender, Bennett, Cedric Jenkins and Richard Madison. Villanova ended the UK's season with an 80-74 decision. In the second game of the regional, Oklahoma raced by Louisville by a score of 108-98, eliminating both Kentucky's entries from the race. The loss overshadowed a great 30-point exhibition by sophomore Rex Chapman who kept the 'Cats in the game almost single-handedly. The lack of a consistent inside game, much the problem for UK throughout the season, against spelled doom for the 'Cats. Lock had a tough time the first half, but came alive early in the second half to give the Big Blue a new life. But he and Chapman were not enough to hold off Villanova. Scoring was the big problem. Bennett was hitting well when he was in the game, but he logged only 22 minutes with his foul problems. But the shooting eye abandoned both Ed Davender and Eric Manuel. The two combined for only five of 22 from the field. Meanwhile, Villanova was hitting just about everything it launched at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. From the free throw line, for instance, Villanova canned a perfect 17 of 17. It was that kind of a night. But give the UK Wildcats credit, they never gave up, right to the very end. And the end it was. It was disappointing to say the least. MacLean, Left, Farmer, Right, And Brittain Top Three On UK's List have been headed to UK at the same time as one Rex Chapman and one Harvey Grant. Pritchard is from Tulsa, Okla., was was being recruited as a junior by Sutton when he was at Arkansas. When Sutton arrived in Kentucky, Pritchard (who already had an interest in UK) became even more interested. There are some who say he lost interest in UK after the Wildcats signed Chapman. Pritchard, some say, would have signed early with UK had Chapman not signed in November of that year. Kevin did keep UK on his list for another couple months before finally deciding on Kansas. And from the West you have Arizona, the school which operates under the watchful eye of one Lute Olson. Lute was Kentucky's first choice to replace the retiring Joe B. Hall back in 1985. There are those who say Lute really was never interested in the UK job, that his appearance before the UK selection committee was just a public gesture to use as leverage to iron out some problems in Tucson. He, nevertheless, was led around Wildcat Lodge the day before the 1985 NCAA championship game in Lexington and was being introduced to some players as "most likely" the new coach of UK. At least two unnamed UK officials insist he was offered the UK job and even verbally accepted before the deal was called off by Olson later than afternoon. Less than 24 hours later, UK officials interviewed and hired Eddie Sutton. So, when you flick on the television screen this Saturday for the Final Four semifinals, you can take a little special interest in each of the four teams, knowing they've all got a little Kentucky connection. ? ? ? Recruiting. That's the top priority on coach Eddie Sutton's list between now and the middle of May. The three names you'll expect to hear a lot are Don MacLean, Maurice Brittain and Richie Farmer. Don't be surprised if Sutton signs all three. MacLean enjoyed a super year at Simi Valley and upclose observers believe five schools—Kentucky, Georgia Tech, UNLV, UCLA and Syracuse—remain. The more knowledgable sources who have a good track record believe it will come down to UK and Georgia Tech. MacLean reportedly wants to wait until after the all-star games before making his selection. Look for an announcement and signing near the end of April. Brittain, the 6-9 center out of Hutchinson Junior College, is called the nation's finest junior college center by super scout Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports. He's being sought by a host of big-time schools, including DePaul, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Minnesota, Kansas, and of course, UK. Gibbons said Brittain first signed with Mississippi State out of high school, but encountered grade problems and then changed his name from Maurice Ezzard after enrolling at Hutchinson. Gibbons said he dominated the recent junior college tournament in Kansas and says he'll be an impact player the first game he suits up next season on the Division I scene. Gibbons also told us last week that one report swirling around the junior college tournament two weeks ago that Brittain is headed to Kentucky and that UK signee Shawn Kemp will go to Hutchinson if he doesn't predict for UK. Kemp is the 6-11 senior from Elkhart, Ind., who signed with UK last November. More about him later. The story, according to Gibbons, is that UK may have gotten an inside tract with the Hutchinson coach (former Western assistant Dave Farrar) for Brittain's services, if the story of Kemp going to Hutchinson is true. The third prospect is Clay County's Farmer, who tore up the record books of the recent Kentucky State High School Basketball Tournament. Farmer scored a record 51 points in the title game in an 88-79 loss to Louisville Ballard. He hit 20 of 32 field goals, including nine of 14 from behind the three-point circle while winning MVP honors in the tourney for the second straight year. Although he had been courted only by Western Kentucky most of his senior year, several schools took notice of the state tournament and the fact that state university (UK) apparently had little or no in-[Continued On Page 26]