Big Blue Bahamas rewind: Aaron Harrison


Our Big Blue Bahamas Tour review kicks back into gear with a look at the play of Aaron “Big Shot” Harrison.

When last we saw the sophomore from Texas, Harrison was winning white-knuckler NCAA Tournament games with long and dramatic shots. Aaron’s three-pointer from the deep corner helped send Rick Pitino and Louisville packing. Aaron’s dagger of a three knocked Michigan out of the Midwest Region final. Aaron’s last-second bomb wiped out Wisconsin the national semifinal.

No such stakes in the Bahamas, but Harrison showed he hasn’t lost his perimeter game as he hit nine of 20 shots from behind the arc. Aaron was three-of-four from three in the second game with Puerto Rico and three-of-seven from three in the second game with Chalon-Reims.

Harrison ended up scoring 62 points in the six games, for an average of 10.3 per game. He scored 15 points in 22 minutes in the tour’s first game, then 15 points in 24 minutes in the next-to-last game. Overall, he made 11 of 15 free throws (73.3 percent) and turned the ball over just twice in 126 minutes.

To answer NBA doubters about his athleticism, Aaron dropped some pounds over the winter and hit the weight room.

“I tried in the offseason to get stronger and be a better finisher,” Harrison said during the team’s pre-Bahamas practices. “I worked on my body.”

Many of the questions surrounding his game have to do with defense. To that end, Harrison had eight steals in the six games. Six of those steals came in the first three games, before the Cats obviously lost their legs down the stretch.

You could quibble with the fact that Aaron had just one offensive rebound in the Bahamas, but considering John Calipari’s ultra-deep stable of tall guys who can hit the boards, you don’t really need your shooting guard to crash the glass. Instead, if you are Cal, you might want Aaron (and others) to work harder on transition defense. That was a noticeable problem a year ago and stuck out like a sore thumb in the Bahamas.

All in all, it was a pretty decent trip for Aaron, not that he had a lot to prove. There will be plenty of time for that come the season.

Previously: Devin Booker

Related link: Charting UK’s individual stats in Bahamas

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BBL: It’s just the beginning for Patrick Towles


Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

Photo of Patrick Towles by Herald-Leader.

Related link: Videos of Patrick Towles and Neal Brown after Tuesday’s practice

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SEC: Alabama quarterback battle going down to wire


SEC links for Wednesday:

Related link: SEC football scouting reports 

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Videos: Patrick Towles and Neal Brown

After today’s practice, Patrick Towles and Neal Brown talked to the media about Towles being named Kentucky’s starting quarterback on Monday.

Related link: Jen Smith has Towles, Brown transcripts

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Big Blue Bahamas rewind: Devin Booker


In an idea we flat-out stole from our friends at the Inside the Hall, we’re starting a player-by-player recap of Kentucky’s six game Big Blue Bahamas Tour last week. We’ll start in alphabetical order with Devin Booker.

The true freshman came to UK with the reputation of being a knock-down shooter and certainly showed a shooter’s touch during the team’s open practices ahead of the Bahamas trip.

Once on the island, however, Booker never could quite find the range. He made just 11 of 32 shots overall. In three of the games, Booker was just two of 13 from the floor.

Despite his overall shooting woes, Booker did shoot the ball well from three-point range, hitting six of 14 from behind the arc. He showed that he is a talented spot-up shooter who can be deadly from the corners.

Booker also showed a somewhat surprising knack for coming up with steals. He had eight in the six games, highlighted by his four steals against Chalon-Reims in the tour’s second game.

Booker had just one double-figure game, scoring 10 points in the second meeting with Chalon-Riems, but the guess here is that he will be a major factor in 2014-15. John Calipari showed confidence in Booker’s skills by grouping him with the first platoon of the Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.

And even though Booker didn’t shoot all that well on this trip, I think that once he gets his bearings he’ll be knocking them down again.

“Almost like a bicycle,” assistant coach Barry Rohrssen said of Booker. “You get knocked off the bike, you just have to get back up on that bike and start pedaling again.”

As Jerry Tipton wrote: “Stat most likely to be irrelevant and forgotten: Devin Booker made only 11 of 32 shots.”

Photo of Devin Booker by Timothy Clarke/Herald-Leader.

Related link: Charting UK’s individual stats in Bahamas

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Big Blue Links: Comeback quarterback


Big Blue Links for Tuesday:

In case you missed it, UK football coach Mark Stoops named Patrick Towles as the team’s starting quarterback. Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown said the decision wasn’t made just on fall practice, but on a body of work dating back to spring practice.

Mark Story of the Herald-Leader calls Towles “the comeback kid” after the Highlands star lost out on the starting job each of the last two seasons.

Herald-Leader also has a photo gallery tracking Towles from his days at Fort Thomas Highlands to becoming the starter at Kentucky.

Jonathan Palmer has a nice video from Monday’s practice.

Videos of Mark Stoops and Neal Brown talking about the decision. Stoops said he wasn’t ready to name a backup quarterback. Brown said that Towles looked himself in the mirror after being told last year he would be a redshirt.

Jen Smith of the H-L gives a rundown of who wasn’t participating in Monday’s open practice. And Ben Roberts gives his observations from Monday’s workout. He liked freshman linebacker Nico Firios, among others.

Kentucky’s most famous former quarterback, Tim Couch, has some advice for UK’s newest quarterback.

The SEC isn’t a warm and fuzzy league for newcomers, writes Rick Bozich of WDRB. That’s one of three reasons to doubt the Towles choice. He also gives three reasons why picking Patrick was the right move.

We have been told that we can interview Towles after practice Tuesday, by the way.

Adam Himmelsbach of the Courier-Journal is re-thinking the Kentucky-Louisville matchup as a November game.

Harold Dennis, Tim Couch, Shane Boyd and Jared Lorenzen took the “Ice Bucket Challenge” at practice Monday.

On the basketball front, after watching UK’s Bahamas Tour, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports was very impressed with Tyler Ulis. Gary quotes me, but it’s a good column regardless.

In his three-point shot, ESPN’s Andy Katz asks whether Kentucky can go undefeated in the SEC. You would have to think that is a reasonable possibility.

There are 11 days until UK opens its 2014 volleyball season. Here is a video that UK Athletics put together about the team’s trip to China this summer.

Former Vanderbilt basketball guard Kyle Fuller is writing a book on the sex, parties and drugs in college basketball. At Vanderbilt? Really?

Sports Illustrated says Bobby Petrino and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham aren’t seeing eye to eye at Louisville.

Houston Nutt and Gus Malzahn were not exactly close friends when Nutt was head coach at Arkansas and Malzahn was his quarterbacks coach. The two did reunite on a radio show, however.

The State has a story on my friend Tony Barnhart, king of the SEC multi-taskers.

Tough news in Columbus, where it appears star quarterback Braxton Miller might be lost for the season.

UK football position series

Related link: John Clay’s columns

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Patrick Towles won UK job on production


As we predicted Sunday, Patrick Towles will be Kentucky’s starting quarterback in the Aug. 30 opener against Tennessee-Martin. Head coach Mark Stoops made the announcement via Twitter before the team’s open practice this morning at the Nutter Training Facility.

Here we have videos of both Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown talking about the decision to go with Towles and what the red-shirt sophomore did to win the job.

Word around camp has been that Towles has played well enough to separate himself in the race and Brown indicated that when the staff added up all the factors, the former Highlands star had been the most productive.

Where does this leave Drew Barker? Stoops said he wasn’t ready to make a decision on whether to red-shirt the true freshman out of Conner High School. Barker played well enough during camp to extend the competition and make the staff consider the various options.

Red-shirt freshman Reese Phillips appeared to take the majority of the second-string snaps Monday, but Brown said no decision has been made about a backup just yet.

The staff is focused on Towles, who took the disappointment of being told last year that he would not be in the mix and turned it into a positive experience by using that time to improve.

By the way, Towles was not made available to the media Monday. We were told he would be available for interviews Tuesday.

So now only Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt have yet to pick a starting quarterback for the 2014 season. Texas A&M picked Kenny Hill over the weekend to succeed Johnny Manziel. Last week, Tennessee picked Justin Worley as the Vols’ starting quarterback for 2014.

Here’s a look at the SEC’s named 2014 starters, with their pass attempts in 2013.


Photo of Patrick Towles by Mark Cornelison | Herald-Leader.

Related link: Full transcript of Stoops and Brown on QB decision

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Charting UK’s individual stats in Bahamas


Kentucky wrapped up its Big Blue Bahamas Tour with a 5-1 record, the overworked Cats running on fumes in their 63-62 loss to Orlando Antigua and the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

Here’s a look at UK’s game-by-game individual stats for the six-game tour:


Photo of Tyler Ulis and Andrew Harrison executing a chest bump by Chet White/UK Athletics.

Related link: Bahamas box scores for all six games

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Big Blue Links: Back home again from Bahamas


Big Blue Links for Monday:

Kentucky loses 63-62 to Dominican Republic in final game of Big Blue Bahamas Tour, reports Jerry Tipton. “In six games against older and more seasoned players, Kentucky trailed in second halves for only 66 seconds. And then, on each of these two occasions, by only one point. Unfortunately for those addicted to bottom-line, win-or-lose considerations, about 2.5 of those seconds came at the end of Sunday’s windup to UK’s exhausting nine-day, six-game exhibition series in the Bahamas. Jack Michael Martinez’s fadeaway from the middle of the lane with 2.5 seconds left gave the Dominican Republic National Team a 63-62 victory.”

Tight ends get the hardest spot in Kentucky offense, reports Jennifer Smith of Herald-Leader. “You gotta learn the passing game; you’ve gotta learn the running game, you’ve gotta learn the protection,” tight ends coach Vince Marrow said. “So there’s a lot of things you’ve gotta learn. A lot of people don’t realize how important tight end is to the offense.”

John Calipari said he couldn’t leave UK, not even for LeBron, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. “They came back because it was good for them and their careers and they knew they needed more developing and coaching,” Calipari said. “That was by me. That’s what they wanted. So that made it a tough deal to say, ‘I’m just going to leave these guys here.’ With who? It may be somebody I don’t know that wouldn’t do the things for them that they needed to do.”

Top UK target Jaylen Brown hints at a spring decision, reports Ben Roberts of Next Cats. “Top UK basketball recruit Jaylen Brown told on Saturday that he was leaning toward waiting until after his senior season to make a college decision. Brown — a 6-foot-7 small forward from Georgia — has told the Herald-Leader and other media outlets over the past few months that he was planning to make a decision sooner rather than later. UK, UCLA, Kansas and Georgia are among the schools at the top of his list.”

More notes from the Bahamas, by Tipton. “Kentucky played back-to-back-to-back games twice here. That’s not what Calipari preferred. ‘What I wanted to do is two games, a day off, two games, a day off, two games and leave,’ the UK coach said. ‘But TV forced it to three and three, which I knew would be difficult. So we just left it and said, ‘OK, we’ll do that.’”

Herald-Leader photo gallery from Sunday’s UK-Dominican Republic game.

Anthony Davis crashes into the crowd to save a loose ball in Team USA’s win over Brazil on Friday night. Davis scored 20 points.

Related links

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Videos: John Calipari after loss in Bahamas finale

Click here for the box scores from Kentucky’s six games on the Big Blue Bahamas Tour.

Here is John Calipari’s post-game press conference after the loss.

Calipari laments format.

Related link: Herald-Leader photo gallery from Bahamas

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