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Dream Game V May Be The Best One Yet
Sutherland & Hacker Give Views On UL-UK
Having played each other only once in 24 seasons prior to 1983, Louisville and Kentucky will hook up for the fifth time this Saturday afternoon. Ever since the contest in Knoxville, where the Cards and Cats battled in a wild, memorable overtime affair, state fans get easily reved up prior, during and after when these two play on the same court.
Two men. who actually have close ties to both schools — color commentators Jock Sutherland for U of L and UK's Ralph Hacker — recently had their brains picked by TCP about the upcoming showdown. (Sorry about using the needles, guys.)
First of all here's a little background on the two gentlemen.
Sutherland is the man Wildcat fans love to hate. On WHAS' weekly 'Sound-Off program, his quick and funny quipes toward UK stir up many a 'Blue' tornado throughout Kentucky and nearby states to Wildcat fans who listen to the show. But behind those snide and tedious remarks is a Kentucky Fan — a supporter of all Kentucky teams.
Cats' Pause Columnist
He just happens to cover the Louisville Cardinals. . .and it's something he is very proud of.
Scouting for the late Adolph Rupp was one of Sutherland's proudest moments. As well as scouting opposing talent off and on for UK up until 1978. Sutherland also worked as an assistant for CM Newton at Alabama, and coached Lexington Lafayette to the state title in 1979. After a stint at WVLK he ended up following the Cards for WHAS.
His only encounter with Eddie Sutton came when the UK coach was at Arkansas.
"I scouted Arkansas when Kentucky beat em in the NCAA," noted Sutherland about one of his UK assignments in 1978. "I went to Albuquerque (site of West Regional) and watched them play against Fullerton State. I saw him then and I remembered he had on two-tone shoes."
Though he is considered too comical at times on his and Van Vance's talk show, when it comes to announcing games Sutherland tells it like it is on both sides of the ledger.
Speaking of the other side. Hacker, who is Cawood Ledford's sidekick, has been covering UK sports since 1966. when he did play-by-play for the freshmen basketball team. Hacker, president and general manager for Lexington's WVLK radio station, is in his 14th season of doing 'color' for the UK hoopsters.
One would think that Hacker is Big Blue all the way, and in many cases he is. He almost has to be, because like Sutherland it's his job. He noted, however, "I think so much of the Louisville basketball program and have always admired it, especially the last 10 years because of (Denny) Crum. I think he's one of the great coaches in America. He does a super, super job. I'm really a Denny Crum fan."
Although a friend and admirer of Crum. many UK listeners probably expect him and Ledford to call the game strictly from a Big Blue angle. It doesn't work that way as Hacker sees this game as a 'professional' challenge for him to work.
"I try to make it in my mind, for the listener, another ballgame," conferred Hacker. "For me personally, inside I'm torn a little bit in pulling for Kentucky, because of following the Wildcats. And of course down deep I want Kentucky to win. but it's a challenge for me. professionally. Because of us (Kentucky Network) having WHAS and WAVG in Louisville, and having the loyalties in the city so divided, I want to play it right down the middle.
"I want to try and tell it as it happens, not what I really want to happen."
In trying to describe the upcoming roundball showdown. Hacker talked more on the lines of history, hoopla and what ever else may be a factor while Sutherland gave his views of both team's performers.
"The difference between me and Jock — I think I'm a 'color person' and he's an analyst," said Hacker. "There is a difference. I'm not qualified to rate players by position. I've never coached a basketball game in my life. I played but I was a high school player. . .1 don't feel like I'm an 'X' and 'O' person.
"I can give you the color surrounding it, tell you the history of the players; I can do all those sort of things. . .but I'm not an X and O person."
So now that we're familiar with the two announcers let's get the show underway.
In X's and O's fashion. Sutherland believed that Kentucky was playing a little better than the Cardinals of Louisville. But this was prior to Kentucky being soundly defeated by Kansas. . .and this was before Louisville narrowly escaped with wins over visiting Western Kentucky and Indiana ballclubs.
Here is the way the Louisville announcer sees it.
Sutherland was quick to point out the outstanding talents of "two great basketball players."
UK Forward Kenny Walker — "I personally think that Kenny Walker is the best 40-minute forward in the country. And by that I mean the guy comes in and plays as hard as he can play at both ends for 40 minutes. He's probably the toughest inside person in the country to defend because he moves so well without the ball. Therefore it's almost impossible to keep him from getting in position to receive the ball."
U of L Forward Billy Thompson — "He (Walker) doesn't have as many skills as Billy. Billy can bring the ball down the court real well, and is a good passer in the running game. As a two-footed straight up leaper Billy, believe it or not, is probably a better jumper than Walker. Walker is better on a one-step jump. Walker plays harder all the time. His (Walker) ability to concentrate for 40 minutes is better. I think you can then say that he can play with more intensity longer than Billy does."
Concerning the other forwards, Sutherland has all the praise in the world for Winston Bennett. "I doubt if there is a forward in the country that is a more ferocious player than Winston
Bennett. He takes no prisoners. You could put Godzilla in there and Winston would go out there and call him a bad name just to get his attention.
"This year the guy is shooting his shot with a lot softer touch. He's become more of a threat on the outside. I think he's a much better player right now.
Six-foot-seven Herbert Crook is considered a very strong offensive rebounder. "but is not quite as hard-nosed as Winston."
As far as Kentucky's guards are concerned, he feels that Roger Harden and Ed Davender are helping the team in their own way, while James Blackmon has still not been able to come around. And if he was the Kentucky coach and had his pick of two guards from U of L and UK. one of them would be Harden.
"The Harden kid is really terrific right now in his role." "The other Kentucky players accept and appreciate what he does for them. He does the dirty work — he gets the ball down and feeds all the people and gets it to them in positions to capitalize. I think they love him for that and they accept him in a leadership role."
Though he's been slow coming around. 6-5 Milt Wagner could any time regain the outstanding form he showed two years ago. Sutherland remarked that physically he's completely recovered from his broken foot.
"He's had a lot of shots go in and out early and he's kind of lost his confidence." said Sutherland the day following the win over Purdue. "Instead of taking what he used to take, he'll put it on the floor and get in a crowd and take it. When he does these things. . .he just becomes another good guard but not a great guard."
During his junior season (two years ago) Wagner led the Cards in scoring (16.6 ppg), assists (3.9) and free throw percentage (84.9). With those figures he was named to the All-Metro team and was a preseason All-America selection before breaking his foot early last season.
"If Milt Wagner was Milt Wagner, oh my goodness, they would have the best set of guards in the country. . .Maybe by the December 28th he may have gotten closer back to being Milt."
Jeff Hall, a native of Ashland, is someone who gets the most out of his talents.
"Jeff Hall is as good a shooter as you'll ever find. The tougher the situation the better he shoots. He's not a a very quick guard but he has learned over the years now how to use a screen well.
"He's a very dedicated player."
While giving the edge to Louisville in having the most talent at hand in the guard slot. Sutherland considers the backcourt starters to be pretty even.
In the middle, he feels that "Kentucky has a gapping hole. So far (Cedric) Jenkins or (Robert) Lock have not been able to do it. Lock can't keep up with'em. . .and Jenkins every now
and then and shows signs of being able to come in there and do some things. But he still hasn't arrived."
Evidently, Louisville has found a 'keeper' in freshman Pervis Ellison. The 6-10 center is a star of the future if not already.
"Ellison will prove, when the year's over, that he is the best freshman pivot man in the country in Division I basketball. This guy has not only got the skill but he's got the longest arms in the world. He'd be a great thief. He works hard in practice.
"I don't think Kentucky has anyone who can touch him as far as his ability in the pivot is concerned.
On the bench, Louisville has the advantage with Kevin Walls, forward/guard Tony Kim-bro, last year's television MVP of the DePaul-U of L contest. Mike Abrams. Mark McSwain and Kenny Payne.
As for Richard Madison. Sutherland says he has the potential, but hasn't come anywhere near to showing it yet.
Sutherland contributed a lot of Kentucky's success to Sutton, who he called "a today's (type of) guy."
"I think Eddie is taking about seven players — the starters plus Madison and maybe Jenkins — and really concentrated on playing those seven. It's easy to take that many players and get them to do what you want them to do.
"Denny, on the other hand, is taking 15 players and for sure 11 of them are contenders for the eight spots that you need. So, he's trying to play 10 and 11 people. Louisville does more offensively and defensively, but require more learning. Everytime you make a change with 10 or 11 different people you've got a whole new look.
In regards to Crum and Sutton he said that "both coaches are certainly in the Top Ten in the country."
"I would say that Eddie has proven that he can prepare for a team as well as Denny. But I don't think anybody does the job on the bench, from the time they throw it up until the game's over, than Denny Crum.
"They're both very sound and recognize what they need to do to win. They're both heavyweights without a doubt."
Sutherland's prediction — Louisville. "It will be between two teams that are trying to establish themselves as bona fide, legitimate contenders for the Final Four."
A view from Kentucky's color announcer.
As far as looking at the color of this rivalry, Hacker talked about the pressure of Eddie Sutton's first UL-UK game, the outside involvement and about Denny Crum.
Coaching his first UL-UK game Sutton will feel less pressure than former coach Joe B. Hall did. according to Hacker.
"Joe was on record of having opposed the series. He fought the series from the beginning. Eddie was not in on that particular thing, so for him it is a game of lining up and playing against an in-state school.
"It's a school (where Sutton's) probably not even looking at as an in-state, but one of the top programs in America. It's a program that's fast approaching the University of Kentucky if not already there."
Overall, he feels that Sutton will prepare the Wildcats for this game like any other Top Twenty contest. For instance, if Georgetown or Kansas were coming to play UK the same principals would be used.
It's just another big game.
With Hall opposing the series, the UK announcer felt there was that extra pressure on
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