PAGE 3 THE CATS' PAUSE, DECEMBER 9, 1978
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Cats Exciting, But Kansas May Be Too Good
Psst! Don't tell anybody, but those Kentucky Wildcats are absolutely going to drive their fans up the wall this season. If you don't believe me, then ask any of the 23,000 fans at Rupp Arena Saturday night or the thousands of others who watched the game on television.
They're going to lose their share of games this season, but oh, what a magnificent forty minute effort on defense. Efforts like the one against LaSalle and the Wildcats will definitely win some games they're not supposed to.
Coach Joe B. Hall was still in a daze the following day after the Wildcats responded with the 110 percent effort. "I don't know whether LaSalle was that bad or we're that good," said a puzzled Hall, "but, gosh, I saw a lot of good things out there."
That, he did.
Just a few of the surprises:
* UK's freshmen "Terrific Trio" combined for 34 points and 13 rebounds while hitting 11 of 21 from the field, and this was on opening night before the usual 23,000 faithful.
* Sophomore Freddie Cowan taking charge early, scoring 17 points and hauling down eight rebounds to lead UK in both categories.
* The super defensive play of junior La Von Williams and the always-heady floor leadership of junior guard Kyle Macy.
By the time you read this, the West Texas State game will also be reported elsewhere in this issue and the Cats will be preparing for highly ranked Kansas Saturday night at Rupp Arena.
In all probability, Kansas will be ranked high in the top five when Ted Owens brings his Jayhawks to Lexington. Leading the way will be sophomore guard sensation Darnell Valentine, senior 7-1 senior center Paul Mokeski and 6-1 Wilmore Fowler.
Valentine is on several pre-season Ail-American lists and should be a No. 1 challenge to the UK defense just as Mokeski will be. The Jayhawk center is probably the most improved player on the club and the 250 pound giant was terrific in the stretch run last season.
The big unknowns on the Kansas team are a trio of rookies recruited by Owens in what many term one of the best recruiting sweeps in the country. Expected to see plenty of action are Tony Guy, David Magley and Mark Snow, all prep All-Americans a year ago.
Of course, Kansas is still smarting from a four game losing streak at the hands of Kentucky, dating back to 1973 when the Jayhawks defeated UK
71-63 in Lawrence. Other than that loss, Kentucky has been victorious in the other nine meetings.
Kentucky will enter the game with a perfect 2-0 slate, but the Wildcats' opposition will be the toughest they will face until the Notre Dame battle late this month.
A week ago, no one figured Kentucky to have a chance against the tough Jayhawks. Now, many are over optimistic. As we said earlier, this will be a season of peaks and valleys, especially with the UK personnel so young.
Kansas probably will win a close one this week, but Kentucky won't be embarrassed because there's so much determination by the players to avoid such.
Kansas by three.
* * *
Why did Kentucky surprise so many people, including the coaching staff, with its play against LaSalle?
Two reasons according to my two cents. One, the UK players have heard so much about how this Kentucky team can lose twelve to fifteen games, _ they are determined to prove they actually have more talent than most people think.
The second reason is even more logical. Hall's staff recruited a bumper crop of freshmen in Clarence Tillman, Chuck Verderber and Dwight Anderson. All have the tools to play and play early.
Verderber, winner of the first sixth man award, is the new ''Charlie Hustle" in the hearts of Big Blue fans after the LaSalle game. Tillman has that silky-smooth shooting touch that will destroy many an opponent over the next four years and Anderson undoubtedly will become the most exciting player in UK history before he leaves the Lexington campus.
With those credentials, the trio has served notice to the veterans that they're here to play and play now. The veterans got the message early in fall practice and the end result is an exciting team from player No. 1 to No. 12.
Again, there'll be some losses (maybe more than any of us would like to imagine) but it won't be from lack of determination. Those Cats take the
NCAA championship trail seriously.
* * *
'On the football scene, UK coach Fran Curci brought in a big group of prepsters for the weekend, treated them to the UK-LaSalle game and then met privately with them Sunday in his office, pointing out the good Kentucky life.
It was his last opportunity to show
off the UK campus to recruits as today (December 9) is the signing date for the SEC letter of intent. Most likely, several in-state signees will be announced prior to tonight's game with Kansas.
The conference letter prohibits an athlete from attending another school in the SEC, but the all-important national letter of intent isn't signed until mid-February.
The SEC letter also prevents an athlete from attending any school in the Alantic Coast Conference because schools in the two leagues honor the other league's letter.
The latest dope out of the UK camp is that Kentucky should come out of the recruidng season with: a very good punter, some excellent linemen, and possibly a very, very good quarterback from Florida. Those are just a few of the highlights because those close to the staff feel this might be Curci's best
recruiting year. Time will tell.
* * *
Louisville sports columnist Earl Cox wrote last week that UK football is down and about out. While Earl is a very close friend of ours, we beg his pardon to differ. We must remember he was the one who assured everyone that UK has flunked its test in Louisville recruiting last year about this time, only to have UK sign prized pupils Jim Campbell, Shawn Donigan and Jeff Fletcher.
UK has some problems to correct. That's easy to point out after a 4-6-1 year. And there'll probably be a couple or three changes on Curci's staff before next fall, especially since we spotted former UK coach Jon Mirilov-ich on campus last week. Jon was on the UK staff until two years ago when he accepted an assistant's job at North Carolina State.
The rumor windmill was full of talk about Jon's return last season, but it could be much more than talk this time around.
* * *
ERA 1, UK 0. That's the way the score stands in the Wildcats' locker room after the season opener Saturday night with LaSalle.
Prior to the game, UK sports information passed out a sheet to reporters detailing a new policy for conducting post game interviews with players.
No longer will reporters be permitted in the locker rooms after a game. The players will attend a post game press conference with Hall and reporters will interview the players at that time.
It's the only apparent way to head
off a confrontation with a female reporter who might otheiwise want to interview a player while he heads to or from the shower, ala the New York Yankees of last season.
Officials said the decision was reached in a meeting by UK athletics director Cliff Hagan and head coach Joe B. Hall.
The situation places a hardship on
both the players and the media
because players now have to wait
another thirty minutes before they can
shower. Reporters' valuable deadline
time is sometimes crowded or missed
if a player should leave the room
before he finishes with an interview
with another player.
* * *
HITS AND MISSES . . The
UK-LaSalle game was beamed back to the city of Brotherly Love Saturday night and according to one UK fan, the announcers were anything but objective. Of course, one must remember this is the city of the great "recruiting war" over Clarence Tillman. A few months ago we spoke of the great story of Tillman and that we'd pass it along. Here it is. A few years ago, the great Philadelphia media did a No. 1 job on Kentucky when Hall was recruiting a kid by the name of Dave Batton (signed with Notre Dame) and some feel it was the media's hatchet job on UK which turned Batton away. Then, ditto last year when UK made its interest in Tillman known. Article after article appeared in Philly on how bad Kentucky is, how vicious the fans are and how Kentucky is not a fun place to play. One article even took pot cracks at UK's staff and facilities. Nonetheless, Tillman decided to come to Bluegrass Country. After leaving the Big Five Country, one LaSalle official said it was appanent that Tillman was going to leave the Philly area all the time. No wonder! ... A special treat for Clarence Tillman Saturday night was wnen his father journeyed down from Philly to watch his son play in his first collegiate game as a Wildcat. "Yeah, I was a little nervous, knowing the game was being televised back home," said Tillman. And at the same time, all those Big Five schools were probably moaning of the loss of another great Philly prepster . . . Junior Jay Shidler is one of those who subscribe to the theory that the freshmen have contributed to the team's overall desire to play harder. "Nobody is assured of a starting job this year," said Shidler after the LaSalle game, "and I think that's good." "We can play, but we've got a
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