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UK Makes The Cover Of SI, But Not In The Way Many Expected

When John Calipari was hired to lead Kentucky’s basketball program three years ago, many of us in the media believed the marriage made for a dangerous blend. 

Calipari had had a Final Four trip at UMass vacated.  His reputation ranked somewhere between the Prince of Darkness and scurvy in most circles, fair or not.  Within months of arriving at UK, that reputation took another hit when he had a second Final Four trip — this one while at Memphis — also vacated and stripped from the history books.  (In neither instance was Calipari found guilty of anything… other than being the captain of the boat that struck the iceberg.)

At Kentucky, Calipari would be taking over a program that had wound up in the NCAA hoosegow a number of times over a number of decades.  From a point-shaving scandal and impermissible financial aid troubles in the early-50s to an opened Emery Air Freight container — en route to a recruit — filled with cash in the late-80′s, UK had earned a reputation for often skirting the law.

For those reasons, many of us expected Cal + Cats to equal another “Kentucky’s Shame” Sports Illustrated cover at some point.

But not so fast.

Instead, UK has made the SI cover as national champions.  And in just three short years.  Calipari has turned Lexington back into the basketball capital of the world and despite the fact that everyone and his brother is dying to dig up dirt on the coach and his program, no one has.

Oh, there were questions about Eric Bledsoe’s grades in high school, but nothing came of them.  The Chicago Sun-Times ran with a rumor regarding Anthony Davis being paid by UK boosters, but again, nothing came of the speculation.

To date, there’s been a lot more diamond than dirt when it comes to UK and Calipari.  As far as dangerous blends go, a Maker’s Mark bottle bearing the coach’s name and likeness is about all that comes to mind.

Rival fans will taunt, heckle and, yes, pray that somebody in blue has broken some kind of rule somewhere.  But for now, Wildcat fans are reveling in their new Sports Illustrated cover.  And it sure beats the heck out of that cover from nearly 23 years ago.

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The Birmingham School System Will Change Policy Post Bledsoe Hubbub

Last summer, the high school transcripts of former Kentucky one-and-doner Eric Bledsoe drew national attention.  The simple summary:

* His grades were boosted which allowed him to be eligible to play college ball.

* The teacher who upped his grade said Bledsoe had done the work to earn the boost.

* Unfortunately, the records and grade books proving Bledsoe’s extra work were nowhere to be found.

In the end, the Birmingham, Alabama school system ruled that Bledsoe’s grade change was on the up-and-up.  That was good enough for the NCAA and Kentucky fans could breathe easy after briefly wondering whether or not John Calipari was about to have a third season erased from the NCAA’s recordbooks.

Following the Bledsoe dust-up, the Birmingham school system is changing the way it does business.  Grade books will be archived in a safer fashion.

This has no bearing on Kentucky’s program now, mind you.  But it does show that the folks in the Birmingham school system realize the Bledsoe situation exposed flaws in their procedures.

In other words: UK fans should consider themselves a bit lucky on the Bledsoe front.

(For the record — Calipari and UK had nothing to do with a high school teacher changing Bledsoe’s grade.  But had the Birmingham schools ruled in a different fashion, Calipari and UK might’ve been guilty of playing an ineligible player — a la Derrick Rose at Memphis — without even knowing it.)

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Davis in doghouse could be boon for Eric Bledsoe

Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Eric Bledsoe got his first start last night for the Los Angeles Clippers, the ex-UK guard contributing nine points and three assists in 39 minutes of the Clips’ loss to San Antonio.

Excerpt from Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times:

The Clippers bench was outscored, 32-7, and center DeAndre Jordan, who played well Sunday, was not much of a factor, not taking a shot but picking up five fouls in 14-plus minutes of action. Making his NBA debut was rookie Willie Warren, and rookie Eric Bledsoe made his first start at point guard, faced with the unenviable task of dealing with the Spurs’ Tony Parker.

“He was running all over the place and I was trying to keep up with him,” Bledsoe said, smiling.

But with Baron Davis injured and in coach Vinny Del Negro’s doghouse, it could mean more time for Bledsoe.

The Times’ T.J. Simers asked Del Negro before Monday’s game against the Spurs if Davis was a bad role model.

“No. I don’t think he’s a bad role model,” Del Negro said. “I just think Baron knows he was behind in his conditioning and he’s had to work so hard to get in condition that he put some extra strain on his knee. That causes a lot of problems for everybody, for Baron, for the team, for everyone involved. So he needs to be a leader and a catalyst for this team. By not preparing the right way, it’s hurting himself and more importantly, it’s hurting the group. He knows that.”

Simers: “You basically said yes.”

VDN: “Yeah, he knows that.


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Eric Bledsoe’s powder-blue Tuxedo

Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

I found it.

Or, should I say, @_teamcousins found it, and sent along the coveted picture of Eric Bledsoe in his powder-blue tuxedo, all part of the Los Angeles Clippers’ rookie hazing.

Click on the pic to see it full-size.

Looking good my man! @LAClippers rookie guards Willie Warren ... on Twitpic


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