Day 7: Kentucky | Traveling Violations
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Lukasz Obrzut is the 7-1 guy. Shagari Alleyne is the 7-3 one.
That's 14-feet, 4-inches of freshman center for the Kentucky Wildcats. Both players have plenty of potential and plenty of room for improvement, and both are causing a big stir at UK.
Getting one seven-footer is a big deal in college hoops (UK hadn't had once since Sam Bowie in the early 1980s). But two in the same class?
"They are big ," said junior Chuck Hayes.
But are they any good?
The Commonwealth has been abuzz with debate on this topic since the two signed national letter of intents last spring. Obrzut, originally from Poland, can really run. Alleyne, a native of the Bronx, N.Y. has a wingspan that could stretch across the Ohio River.
But then again, if they are so good why didn't more big-time schools recruit them – Obrzut originally committed to Fordham, Alleyne chose Rutgers. Or why aren't they already in the NBA?
Plenty of college coaches passed on both of them, believing neither will develop into major stars. There was plenty of head shaking when UK took them.
But Tubby Smith is more convinced now then ever.
"They are athletic big men," said UK coach Tubby Smith. "They can run the floor and have good hands. Alleyne, he is such a long guy that he's going to alter a lot of shots. We've just got to teach them to block shots without fouling."
That's the process. Some say neither will do anything this year, but maybe two or three seasons from now they will develop into big-time players. Smith says both will play right away.
"We're both pretty good basketball players," said Alleyne. "That is why Coach Smith selected us."
If nothing else, their development will be hard to miss.
• We know that it is juvenile and we should be more mature and refined and all of that, but when you make the drive on I-75 between Lexington and Cincinnati and pass the sign for "Big Bone Lick State Park," I don't care what your mood is or how many times you have seen the sign, how don't you crack up laughing?
We decided to do a little (very little) research to get to the origin of this rather unusual name for a state park. Apparently Big Bone Lick is "Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology" and the name derives from that. ("If they had any backbone," said Bret Bearup, "they would have named it something else.")
Or something like that.
Not that it matters. The name is here to stay and may Big Bone Lick continue to amuse bored motorists for generations to come.
• Then there is the water tower in Florence, Ky. which is supposed to alert motorists to the "Florence Mall." But in true Southern fashion someone climbed up and changed it to "Florence Y'All."
• Another thing that never gets old is the view of the Cincinnati skyline as you come over the hills of Covington, Ky.
• Checking in with the Tour Friday was Chicago Bulls scout Gar Foreman, Lamar assistant and future head coach of the program Steve Roccaforte and Memphis assistant Derek Kellogg among others.
• Thursday's fan gathering at the World Famous Two Keys in Lexington was again a good time even if the number of Louisville fans nearly outnumbered the UK backers. In Lexington? Unheard of.
• In keeping with tradition of this Tour - and the great tradition of Appalachia - we can attest that the moon was shining in Lexington Thursday night. A particularly potent moon too we might add. Friday morning we put some in the Lexus and got 40 miles to the gallon.
• At each Tour stop coaches and players ask us about the teams we have already seen on the trip. Everyone wants to find out who is doing well and who isn't. But it was with particular interest that Xavier grad assistant Brandon Miller asked about the Butler practice we took in on Tuesday. Miller, of course, was the starting point guard on the Bulldogs Sweet 16 team last year.
• Valued Reader Email of the day (concerning the puzzling plethora of "Adult Superstores" along I-70 in Western Missouri):
Thanks for all of the love for Western Missouri Adult Superstores! I live less than five minutes from the "ingenious" store that's playing the whole fun for the whole family angle.
You know what, those establishments are a fitting metaphor for college hoops. Why you ask? Well as soon as the Exit 84 establishment was built and billed itself as an "Adult Superstore", the Exit 71 establishment got creative and put up an "Adult Super Store" billboard too AND added the "Totally Nude Dancers" angle, just to outdo the other place.
It's a good ol' fashioned recruiting war for the business of weary truckers that all college hoops fans can relate to! But hey, at least there won't be any NCAA officials probing around for possible violations like they are up at Mizzou ... or will there?
• At a gas station on the outskirts of Lexington we spotted a man with a considerable mullet - or LPGA - haircut. This prompted Bret Bearup to surmise that the man's interest in being business up front and party in the back "created a Kentucky Conundrum when he visited the barber."
"If this had been earlier on the trip," said Bearup, "the man would have reached a Missouri Compromise."
• Stories on Cincinnati and Xavier will run on Sunday but we'd be amiss if we waited that long to mention the Friday Night scene at the Montgomery Inn, the city's famed rib joint and personal favorite haunt of Bob Huggins. There are a lot of places that can't live up to the hype. This isn't one of those places.
• Total Mileage Thus Far: 1,045.1 miles
- Tubby Smith