Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted February 26, 2013 at 7:22 pm

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Was astronomer Carl Sagan’s remark simplistic? Look again. In the internet age his was prophesy fulfilled.

Consider the intersect in lives of Jonathan Montanez and Mitchell Marcus in far off El Paso, Texas.

The internet, specifically a 2:42 minute YouTube clip by CBS reporter Steve Hartman, let us witness something incredibly heart warming a few days ago.

Senior Mitchell Marcus has a learning disability so his coach Peter Morales employs him as team manager for the Coronado High School Thunderbirds. In the last home game of the season Morales told the kid to suit up. Marcus was going to play.

Near game’s end, Marcus checked in. On three ensuing possessions teammates got him a chance to shoot and score. Didn’t happen.

Then, as Marcus wandered crestfallen at the other end of the floor, Franklin High’s Montanez stepped out to make an inbounds pass to a teammate. Instead, Montanez shouted at Marcus, got his attention, and committed the turnover of a lifetime … tossed him the ball. Marcus turned and scored, the crowd rushed the floor.

Afterwards Montanez told Hartman, “I was taught to treat others the way I would want to be treated. I wanted Marcus to have his chance.”

Carl Sagan was right.


Love a good blue collar scrum when necessary, don’t you? One of those hell-bent-for-leather dives into a pile of opponents to wrestle possession of a basketball at the eleventh hour. Or, take ownership of a crucial rebound, or make a pressure foul shot.

But Alex Poythress? Chance of seeing a get-on-the-floor loose ball from this one-and-done projector, looked dim. In fact, the light bulb above Poythress’ head has seemed a few wats short.

Then came the Missouri game. Number 22 was on the floor, running 94 feet and on the rebound boards too. Baseline drives, follow shots, foul shots. Poythress had numbers 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and five dives-on-the-floor.

Who knew?


Kentucky’s season-saver(?) win over Missouri last week was a gem. Gave added heft to John Calipari’s claim: “See, fellas, this is what you guys can do together!”

The Wildcats had their win over a quality opponent and quality numbers too. 90 points, 50.9 percent shooting, four double-figure scorers, 16 assists, nine blocked shots, and Archie Goodwin stopped pouting and Alex Poythress showed up.

Kentucky had its awful moments too – allowed run free lay-ups; Willie Cauley-Stein still can’t make foul shots; and Goodwin’s seven turnovers are still unacceptable.

For now, Kentucky climbed back into Big Dance conversation without the tiresome “last four out” baloney.

45 minutes spoiled?

How could a platinum performance at Rupp Arena have a spoil factor? Unless you were one of 24,380 fans inside, ESPN forced you to use the mute button.

Dick Vitale, even at a barely audible rasp, was as annoying as ever. Kentuckians had an entertaining blue collar game to watch, one at a brisk pace, with possession-by-possession drama and camera look-ins at Calipari on the sideline.

Alas, behind the microphone, flailing along behind the action and describing the obvious too late, was Vitale.

Was a good 45 minutes spoiled. Unless, you had a remote in hand.

Epilogue. Since Jim Valvano gave him a cause and ESPN gave him a microphone, Vitale has done noble things, used his bully pulpit to crusade for cancer research.

But fans deserve intelligible game analysis with sparkle. ESPN sentimental attachment to Vitale has no relevance out here.

Vitale should be retired.


In Louisville, Bowling Green and Murray it’s step up time.

√ The Cardinals are in ideal position to not only earn a Big Dance number one seed, but prime themselves for a big mo run – Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and the Big East Tournament.

√ The over .500 Hilltoppers (15-14) having South Alabama and Middle Tennessee at home this week, Western could roll into the Sun Belt Tournament much as it did last year. Topper fans know how that worked out.

√ Murray’s Racers are almost certainly headed to the NIT. Only if Belmont falls in the OVC Tournament, and Eastern Kentucky also, can the one-bid OVC send Murray to the Dance.


Never mind one-and-done, applause please for the graduate student?

At Kentucky, Julius Mays. His 24 points, six rebounds, three assists and eight of nine foul shots at crunch time sparkle well enough, but the real glitter is that Mays’ clutch shooting helps Archie Goodwin’s game and stretch defenses for Kyle Wiltjer.

Quite a life change. Mays gets a year at Kentucky which gets him a chance to play for pay. Before that, a Senior Day send-off by fans March 9, he will treasure all his life.

And so it goes.