By LARRY VAUGHT
Every journalist has to do his job the way he or she thinks is right. Just count me as one who never liked giving anyone a chance to comment anonymously with no restrictions, especially when it is just giving opinions.
So no, I would never do what Sam Vecenie of The Athletic did again this year and survey 60 college basketball coaches about UK’s NBA prospects. It’s something he has done a few times before but I just don’t remember coaches blasting the Cats like they did this time. Or at least some coaches did.
The worst was allowing a coach to call Ashton Hagans “trash.” If you want to do that, have the guts to use your name to do it. Instead, here is what the coach said and what Vecenie put in his online story:
“Don’t even get me started on Hagans. I think he’s trash (as a player). I just don’t think he’s very good. I think he thinks he’s a lot better than what he is. Defensively, everyone talks about him. And on film, he for sure disrupts. He has quick hands, he’s strong, he fights through dribble hand-offs, he puts a body on you. But like, it’s kind of overstated. I think he’s a selfish defender. He wants deflections and steals. And that has nothing to do with being a good defensive player. I think he’s a selfish defensive player,” the coach said.
Wait! There’s more.
“And offensively, he’s limited. I didn’t see that much athleticism and speed. We were begging him to shoot. I don’t know if he’s going to make it. What does he do? What does he do well? He got in trouble with turnovers this year. He was turning that thing over like crazy. He did not scare me at all. Preparing for them, he was the least of my worries. I think Saben Lee at Vanderbilt is way better than Ashton Hagans.”
Now some of his comments are ones I would agree with. Hagans is an offensive liability no matter how many times John Calipari tried to tell us he could shoot. And he did gamble on defense — but often that led to key plays, too. He did turn the ball over way too often as UK fans know.
But not much athleticism and speed? Come on now. But even if that is right, “trash” is just not a fair word to use when you don’t have the courage to put your name to the statement.
The reviews for EJ Montgomery were not good and one called him “soft.”
Reviews were evenly split on Tyrese Maxey with one calling him “overrated,” but I know some NBA scouts who really like him and some who are not quite as high.
“One of the more overrated guys in the draft. Personally, I don’t think he can shoot. I’d also question his basketball IQ. I think he’s more of a one dimensional player. It’s probably just a product of being brought up through AAU. He’s always been a prolific scorer with the ball in his hands, I just think the NBA is way more than that. And I don’t think think it’s a consistent jump shot. He’s a great athlete. Right-hand dominant more than anything in my opinion. But I didn’t fear him. He wasn’t the guy I feared,” one coach said in the story.
One coach referred to Nick Richards as a “flopper” who lacked physical toughness.
Then there was this that one coach said about Immanuel Quickley, the SEC player of the year: “Quickley, I don’t believe in. Despite all of his success this year and SEC player of the year, I just don’t believe in it. I think he benefitted from poor officiating in the way he got fouled and sent to the line. ”
Calipari expressed his thoughts about the coaches’ comments on Twitter:
“It always disappoints me when coaches talk anonymously about kids. I would hope that no coach would try to hurt a young person just to hurt a program. But I’ll just say it’s hard to bet against our guys because of the success we have had! And this particular group? If we would have been able to finish the season, I truly believe this would have been one of the last teams standing. Great group, wonderful and talented kids, and SEC champs! I would take every one of those kids to battle with me.”
Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus was a little more blunt with his feelings:
“Loved reading @Sam_Vecenie article today in the @TheAthletic / lots of ‘tough guy coaches’ and expert opinions…and very few W’s. #tgt #whowantstobenext #getinthering”
“I suggest these anonymous coaches spend more time worrying about their teams rather then being click bait for some writer. @KentuckyMBB and @UKCoachCalipari track record is pretty good.The funny thing is that no one promotes the league and other programs more. Embarrassing.”
I think embarrassing is a fair word, especially if you throw in gutless also.