We're three-deep into football season, but basketball is always big in the Bluegrass. The University of Kentucky basketball program gave better than $350,000 to charity in events this weekend, or as The WDRB College Basketball Notebook calculates it -- more than double the amount UK spent on the facelift to its football team's Nutter Center training facility this past summer. Any way UK could classify its football program a charity? Some of that hoops money might go a long way over there. More, by the way, on the actual serious causes the charity will benefit, as the 'Book tips off for another week . . .
CARDS RING IN THE NEW SEASON AT FOOTBALL GAME
The University of Louisville men's basketball team was introduced to the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium crowd during the Cardinals' football victory over North Carolina on Saturday. It was the first time this season that the Final Four team had been honored, and the players had their rings to prove it.
Russ Smith offered a play by play of the new hardware.
"It's got my name right here. Smith, No. 2. Got the Big East (championship) on there, Final Four right there," Smith said. "It's got diamonds, it's got red, it's just immaculate. No other word to describe it. I want a bigger one."
That was a common theme among U of L players Saturday.
"We're really hungry to go out and win a bigger one," Behanan said. "We just have to swallow our pride, stay humble and go to work."
Added Smith: "We all want to get back there again, you get all this, you get rings, you get bling," Smith said. "We all want a bigger ring. We've got the feeling already."
U OF L'S HANCOCK UPDATES HIS INJURY STATUS
Luke Hancock says he's pain-free after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Hancock injured the shoulder at the beginning of the summer playing pick-up basketball, and U of L coach Rick Pitino said he'll take it cautiously when it comes to getting the transfer into the lineup.
"No pain," Hancock said. "Now if I went in and didn't get loose, then I'd have a problem. But everybody has to stretch and get their body right and get themselves together before they go play."
When asked if he's ready to end his long stint on the sideline, including a year out because of NCAA transfer rules, Hancock didn't sound like a guy who wants to take his time about returning to the court, "You have no idea," he said. "I feel like I've been sitting out forever. I cannot wait for this season to start."
CALIPARI SCORES AGAIN FOR CHARITY
University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari told fans at halftime of a star-studded alumni game at Rupp Arena on Saturday that the events surrounding the game -- including an auction and the first-ever John Calipari experience -- had raised upwards of $350,000 for charity.
In his three years in Kentucky, in addition to bringing a national title to the state, Calipari has become one of the state's champions of charity, headlined by the effort to raise more than $1 million in a Hoops 4 Haiti telethon after earthquakes ravaged that island.
Calipari's latest charity blitz will benefit victims of the West Liberty tornado recovery effort, 4 Paws For Ability, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, Everfi Financial Literacy, Samaritan's Feet and the Urban League of Lexington, among other causes. He told the crowd of 10,173 fans at Saturday's event that he hopes to raise more than $1 million with the same event next year.
He also thanked the national champion 1996 team for coming, but said he didn't think it could beat his 2012 champions, and put the issue to a poll of the crowd.
As usual, whatever the result, Calipari's approval rating in Big Blue Nation remains sky high.
FORDE'S LATEST: JIMMER-MANIA, THE BOOK
It's a big week for Louisville resident Pat Forde, now a columnist at Yahoo!Sports. For the last year and a half, Forde has been working on a book with former Brigham Young basketball star Jimmer Fredette, the 2011 college basketball player of the year. The book, titled "The Contract," is scheduled for release Monday – and Fredette is doing several signings in Utah.
The book, which is 208 pages and priced at $23.99 on Amazon.com, outlines Fredette's rise from a moderately recruited high school player in central New York to first-round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings.
"I am most proud of Jimmer for making good decisions in his life," Kay Fredette, Jimmer's mother, said in an interview with a Utah newspaper. "He never forgets the spiritual side and that probably is the most important part of his success. I'm proud of him for not being ashamed to admit that he goes to church every week and tries to live by its standards in a world that has gotten so cynical about that."
Forde, whose popular Forde Yard Dash for Yahoo! Sports is now the most popular sports notebook-type collection in the nation, told the 'Book (WDRB version): "Jimmer was a captivating player, but his relationship with older brother T.J. is the story behind the story. T.J. was Jimmer's guiding force as a young basketball player growing up in very modest upstate New York surroundings, pushing him to excel. Then the tables turned, and as a star at BYU Jimmer became the inspiration T.J. needed to deal with debilitating physical and mental issues. This is their story as much as it is a basketball story."
PUT AN 'X' THROUGH THE X-MEN
Another day, another blow to the Xavier basketball team. In fact, make that two more blows.
Half of coach Chris Mack's 2012 recruiting class has been declared academically ineligible to play this season. Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds can attend Xavier, but must pay their own tuition and are not allowed to practice with the team. According to the school's web site, tuition and fees at Xavier are a mere $15,570 per semester. Gotta love Xavier to bite that bullet.
That means Xavier has lost four players who could have been part of this team. Mark Lyons was dismissed at the end of last season, and forward Dez Wells was expelled by Xavier before he landed at Maryland earlier this month.
Sounds like a great year to schedule the X-men. Mack has only eight scholarship players on his roster.
But the case of Davis is receiving some extra scrutiny. Davis is ineligible because the NCAA is not accepting credits earned at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts. Sam Cassell Jr., son of the former NBA star and now NBA assistant, is another player caught up in that eligibility issue. And Cassell Sr. is not happy about it. The problem is that eight other students who take the same classes -- the same year -- are still cleared to play. Those eight had already enrolled in colleges before the classes were ruled invalid.
Cassell says his son and Davis had no chance to re-take the courses because they didn't find out they wouldn't be validated until too late.
"The NCAA just wants kids to fail," Cassell told CBS Sports this week. "It's not these kids' fault. The NCAA can't penalize Notre Dame Prep, so they are sqaushing these kids' dreams. What the NCAA has done isn't right."
JIM BOEHEIM GIVES JIM CALHOUN A BIG HUG
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun of Connecticut have been the two major gunslingers in the Big East Conference for a long time. Boeheim has one national title, Calhoun three. They're rivals – and friends, going into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame together in 2005.
Well, they're not going to get a chance to say goodbye on the basketball court because Calhoun decided he didn't want to do a victory tour with the Huskies, announcing his retirement last week.
Dozens of people rushed to put Calhoun's career into perspective. But considering how relentlessly Boeheim and Calhoun competed against each other for more than two decades, The 'Book thinks it's important to share what Boeheim had to say about Calhoun when the Syracuse coach appeared on The Dan Patrick Radio Show last week:
"Jim Calhoun retiring probably was more of a surprise (than Notre Dame leaving the Big East) because I thought he would coach until he was probably, maybe 80 at least. I think the thing with Jim Calhoun you have to look at when you take over Duke or Kentucky and you win, that's a good thing. That's a great coaching job.
"When you take over Connecticut and where they were 26 years ago and win three national championships, I think it's … to me it's the best building job in college basketball history. The only one I can compare it to would be Lute Olson at Arizona in terms of taking a program that was not heard of on the national scene and make it a national contender. I think he's an underrated program builder and a coach."
MORE CALHOUN: DID UCONN AIR-BALL AN OPPORTUNITY?
The Notebook thinks the most interesting take delivered on Calhoun's retirement was written by Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com. He wrote that Calhoun's three NCAA titles were a remarkable achievement, but they symbolize a blown opportunity for the Huskies.
Because even though UConn became one of the Top 10 programs on the court, the Huskies did not become one of the nation's Top 20 programs on the financial pages. According to U.S. Department of Education data in the five-year period that ended in 2010, UConn generated an aggregate profit of $4.6 million during that five-year period.
That's miles and miles behind Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and many other programs.
"From a financial standpoint, Calhoun was a wasted asset," Ozanian wrote. "UConn may have missed a golden opportunity."
Maybe so, but the 'Book would remind you that a lot of those programs would trade a lot of that cash for three of those trophies.
Top Five Frontcourts for 2012-12 (These are from Lindy's Yearbook -- but if you rank them differently, let us hear about it).
1. UCLA – Pending NCAA clearance of Shabazz Muhammad. 2. Indiana – With Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller off to the NBA, Cody Zeller become the nation's best center. 3. Kentucky – John Calipari is talking to Joe B. Hall about the best way to play two post players. 4. Louisville – Gorgui Dieng is a triple-double possibility every night. 5. Pittsburgh – Remember this name: Steven Adams, the mountainous center Jamie Dixon expects to turn the Panthers around.
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