BOZICH | Derby Classic Update for U of L, UK, IU, Russ Smith, Romeo Langford
Updating U of L's Tyler Sharpe, UK's Brad Calipari, IU's De'Ron Davis, New Albany's Romeo Langford and former U of L star Russ Smith.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) – Derby Classic Tidbits From Night of the Future Stars:
*Future Kentucky guard Brad Calipari was looking into five television cameras Thursday night at New Albany High School, when another questioner tapped him on the shoulder to interrupt.
It was Indiana recruit De’Ron Davis.
“Who’s your father, anyway?” Davis asked, working his iPhone while recording a video.
Calipari, the son of UK coach John Calipari, just shook his head and smiled.
Several players have teased Calipari since his arrival for the Derby Classic game from the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts. But one guy who has not given Calipari the business is Tyler Sharpe.
Sharpe earned an invitation to walk on to the Louisville program from Bullitt East High School. Calipari will walk on to his father’s powerful team at UK next season. They'll have that walk-on bond when the Derby Classic is played Friday at 7 p.m. in Freedom Hall.
“Brad’s pretty cool,” Sharpe said. “He’s a good guy.”
No Kentucky-Louisville trash talk?
“No, sir,” Sharpe said. “Just trying to have fun.”
Sharpe grew up a passionate Louisville fan, a kid who once asked former Card Terrence Williams for an autograph. He was happy to see former Cardinals Russ Smith, Damian Lee and Nate Johnson, as well as current Card Donovan Mitchell among the 1,000 or so fans at New Albany High School Thursday night.
Sharpe said he was likely bound for Pikeville, Marian College, Travecca or Southeast Missouri before U of L assistant coach David Padgett invited him to the KFC Yum! Practice facility for a private workout. He departed with an invitation as a preferred walk-on – like Tim Henderson or David Levitch.
“I was very nervous,” Sharpe said. “I’ve been a huge fan U of L fan all my life. I was trying to narrow down my decision and this popped up. I’m a consistent shooter and a hard defender.”
How has this played at Bullitt East, the school that produced Kentucky junior Derek Willis?
“It’s pretty split,” Sharpe said. “Everybody roots for Derek and wants him to do well but as far as fans, it’s pretty split. I had a lot of UK fans tell me they would wear red.”
*Brad Calipari did not advance to the finals of the three-point shooting contest but he did have a moment to celebrate. He won his first-round competition against Eron Gordon, the youngest brother of Pelicans’ guard Eric Gordon, 12-6.
“I don’t think I did too well,” Calipari said. “I could have done a lot better, to be honest with you.”
Calipari said his father would not be at Freedom Hall to watch him Friday night, but that that he appreciated the cheers he received from UK fans in a gymnasium where they were outnumbered by Indiana and Louisville fans.
“Big Blue Nation supports you everywhere, so it’s nice to have them around,” he said.
*Davis, a 6-10 forward, said he would not play Friday because he injured his right hand during a workout Wednesday in Denver before he flew to Louisville.
IU coach Tom Crean was the first coach to offer Davis a scholarship, four years ago when he was finishing the eighth grade and ranked as the top prospect in his class. Although Davis slid to 45th nationally in the 247 Sports consensus rankings for the 2016 Class, Crean’s interest in Davis never wavered.
“When I was number one in the country or people said that I wasn’t that good any more or I’m fat or this or that, he still said, ‘No, you’re this. You’re that.’ “ Davis said.
“I was Number One in the country and I started dropping. He said, ‘I really don’t see why you’re dropping. I don’t see what everybody else sees.' He sees something in me that I don’t even see. I doesn’t really matter, the rankings. He sees something that makes a team.
“Just because he stuck with me, I had to stick with him. I’m a big family guy. I’m a dude that once you have me, you got me.”
Davis said that last summer and fall several schools tried to convince him to spurn Indiana with negative recruiting.
“Oh yeah, a lot,” Davis said. “Especially coming down to that grind time. They were just saying this and that. Coach Crean was the only coach who was there from my eighth grade year. He sees stuff in people that other people don’t see.
“A lot of people were talking that Coach Crean was going to lose his job and all this other stuff. Then he turns out as the Coach of the Year (in the Big Ten) and all this other stuff and winning the Big Ten. Goal after goal.
“Coach Crean is a real good dude.”
*Add UCLA and Kansas to the schools in pursuit of New Albany High School sophomore Romeo Langford, who was ranked the top shooting guard nationally in the prep class of 2018 by Scout.com this week. Langford also jumped to the No. 4 player overall in the class.
Louisville, Indiana, Kentucky, Duke, Purdue, North Carolina and a cast of thousands have already expressed serious interest in Langford, who led New Albany to the Indiana 4A state title last month.
*Former University of Louisville star Russ Smith set the NBA Developmental League record by scoring 65 points for the Delaware 87ers on March 23, but that did not translate into another NBA contract.
Although he averaged 27.9 points and 7.9 assists per game, Smith’s D-League season ended that night. He served as a judge during the Slam Dunk contest. Smith said he plans to make another push toward the NBA next season.
“I hope to play in the Summer League and after that go to camp with a team next fall,” Smith said. “I haven’t given up.”
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