Once he decided he was going to leave Michigan State, receiver Tre’Von Morgan had some schools reach out to him and he reached out to a few others, including Kentucky.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Morgan was the No. 1 receiver in Ohio in the 2019 recruiting class and a four-star prospect who caught 37 passes for 691 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season. He also had offers from Ole Miss, Iowa, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Missouri, Pittsburgh and others. He picked Michigan State and redshirted in 2019 and played only sparingly in 2020.
“My cousin, Brandon Jackson, had played at Kentucky and was always telling me how nice it was and how he enjoyed it,” said Morgan. “There really was not any interest from Kentucky when I was in high school other than maybe a few texts about me. But my (Michigan State) teammate (Luke Fulton) went there, I knew a lot of the coaching staff was from Youngstown and they had people I could connect with.”
One of those was recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, so Morgan sent a text indicating he was interested in transferring to UK.
“I knew coach Marrow was a good dude and Kentucky was at a good spot in the SEC. I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I reached out to UK and some others,” Morgan said. “I definitely had really strong interest from some other schools. If there was not any interest, I would never have left Michigan State. But schools like Pittsburgh, Virginia, Northwestern, Ole Miss and a couple of others had interest.”
Morgan believes it was his versatility that UK liked more than anything else.
“I know I can play and I know they needed a big receiver. I knew they had some 6-2 and 6-1 guys. I am 6-6 and go up and can catch the ball,” Morgan said. “I can play inside or out, match up with a linebacker or whoever. I played inside in high school and outside in college. My role will be just to make plays downfield, inside, outside, block or whatever they tell me to do.”
Morgan said describing him as a “big dude who can go catch the ball” is accurate description.
“But I also work my tail off,” he said.
He had to rehabilitate a knee injury suffered in preseason practice his first year at Michigan State. He said it was a cartilage injury, not a more serious torn tendon.
“It probably came from growing too much,” Morgan said. “It was nagging more than anything else. I am fine now, stronger than ever. Lifting is also all I can really do now so I should be even stronger when I get to Kentucky. I know I have to get tougher and get prepared for the SEC.”
He’s never been to Lexington or UK but feels like he knows plenty about what awaits him when he does arrive.
“I couldn’t tell Kentucky I didn’t want to come. I had no choice but to take that offer,” he said. “Hey, my guy Lynn Bowden came in (from Ohio) and went nuts there. I have been watching plenty of UK games looking at the environment there and other little things. It’s been great to see the growth in the program. I am ready to hop in and join that train ride upwards.”
He didn’t know Liam Coen was coming from the Los Angeles Rams to be UK’s new offensive coordinator when he first reached out to UK. He says the Rams had a “creative offense” he liked and is excited about playing for Coen even if players on campus will have a bit of a head start on him since he won’t be at UK until June.
Former UK all-SEC running back Anthony White says Morgan will be behind other players when he arrives on campus.
“I would rather he have a full year to learn the new offense and it will hurt him not getting mental reps this spring and his hands on the playbook will set him back some,” White said. “However, he’s also a big guy you can just put outside and let him go up and get the ball and he sure looks like he can do that.”
One of the state’s premier boys high school basketball matchups will be shown on The CW Lexington Saturday at 2 p.m. when North Laurel and Lexington Catholic — both unbeaten going into play this week — play at Lexington Catholic.
Jeff Anderson, WKYT-TV vice-president and general manager, said this would be the “debut of airing” games on CW Lexington. They have been having high school games on WKYT.com in conjunction with PrepSpin and are hoping eventually to have a game of the week each Saturday.
Reed Sheppard, the son of former UK standouts Stacey Reed and Jeff Sheppard, is a statewide sensation for North Laurel. He’s averaging 33.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season and is shooting 55% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 87.3% at the foul line.
In his career he has already scored 1,804 points and grabbed 436 rebounds. He’s made 362 of 442 free throws, an 82% mark. He’s also made 124 3-pointers in 85 career games.
Lexington Catholic counters with Bellarmine commit Ben Johnson, a 6-3 guard who is Lexington Catholic’s all-time leading scorer with 2,145 points. He ranks eighth in all-time scoring in Lexington.
Johnson is averaging 27.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season and shooting 56% from the field, 47% from 3-point range and 82.4% at the foul line.
You can go to https://www.cwtv.com/thecw/stations/ to see if the CW in your area will have Saturday’s game.
Olivier Sarr admits that not a lot of people in his native France know a lot about Kentucky basketball.
“But they definitely know about Kentucky. They know it’s one of the biggest programs in college basketball, one of the best programs in college basketball,” Sarr said.
Even though this season has not been a typical successful season for UK, Sarr says it has been “amazing” despite the 8-14 record. That’s why he tells those in France it has been a “blessing” to play at UK this year after spending his first three seasons at Wake Forest.
“It’s amazing to put on that jersey that, four years ago, I would have never thought I would be in this position today,” Sarr said. “Not a lot of kids in France get a chance to play for Kentucky or a school like that.
“I mean, I’m blessed honestly. All I can tell them is I’m trying to take as much as I can while I’m here and keep moving forward. It’s an amazing experience.”
I asked Sarr if he was considered a role model in France, a notion he downplayed.
“I know a lot of people follow what I’m doing here. I don’t know if I’m a role model or not. I’m trying to behave myself as best I can,” he said. “I’ve got a little brother (Alexandre), so I’m trying to set the example for him even though he doesn’t really need me right now. He plays for Real Madrid.
“That’s who I’m trying to, not impress but lead, and hopefully and it inspires a lot of younger kids to pursue their dreams too.”
Sarr was moved before UK’s Senior Day game when his parents and brother back in France joined the pregame ceremony virtually on the Rupp Arena video board.
“A lot of feelings, man. It was just unbelievable to see them out there and see their faces right before my game. It’s been a long time, as a lot of people know, because of the pandemic,” Sarr said. “It was just an unbelievable feeling to see my brother and my parents out there watching the game. It was just fantastic.”
New Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen says the “quarterbacks have been great” to work with since his arrival at UK. He’s been watching film/video of UK’s returning offensive players and trying to get a feel for how those players might work with certain things the Los Angeles Rams did while he was on staff.
The Rams often had the quarterback under center, something that might not happen at UK based on what Coen told Tom Leach on the Leach Report last week.
“I would like to be (under center) here but a lot of the quarterbacks have never taken a snap under center in a game,” Coen said. “Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen have been doing it in practice and have reps at it. But do we have enough time to practice and is it worth enough time that we have in practice to get what we want out of it?
“There is a lot of time invested in taking a snap under center and handing the ball off. It sounds elementary but it is so much more natural to these kids to take a shotgun snap. There are other things we need to focus on and plenty of things we need to get better at, so it is all a matter of how do we allocate our time most efficiently.”
Since Coen has not been on the practice field with players yet, he cannot “truly judge” how difficult it might be for Gatewood, Allen or other UK quarterbacks to go under center. However, he told Leach he believes it something doable on at least a limited basis.
The new coordinator did emphasize verbiage the offense will use will not be nearly as complicated or lengthy as it is in the NFL.
“The whole point in the NFL is you need to tell people what to do. You might sign a wide receiver on Tuesday and need him to play on Sunday, so you have to be able to tell him what to do and tag things so he knows,” Coen said. “You have to do that to function with roster restraints.
“Our verbiage here will not be that lengthy. That’s the beauty of doing things from scratch. We are able to put our wrinkle on things and our best for the players here at Kentucky.”
She might have grown up in Louisville and graduated from the University of Georgia, but Anna Maria Tarullo says “my blood could not be bluer” and that’s why she calls it a dream come true to be the new co-anchor on BBN Tonight on WLEX-TV in Lexington. She will join co-host Keith Farmer for her LEX 18 debut on March 22.
“I graduated from Georgia in 2015 but can still remember working for the Georgia athletics department and wearing blue on the sideline for a game against Kentucky,” said Tarullo. “I am a Cat until I did and always have stayed true to the blue.”
She has been in West Virginia about 18 months working as sports director for WOWK in Charleston. She has a vast sports background in college football and basketball as well as professional sports.
She’s looking forward to interacting with Kentucky coach John Calipari because he reminds her of her father.
“I am Italian. My dad has family where Cal is from. They speak the same, have the same facial expressions,” Tarullo said. “My dad and Cal are the same person. It’s going to really be fun for me.”
Kentucky senior walk-on Riley Welch hopes to eventually be a college coach. That’s the main reason he wanted to play at UK so he could learn from coach John Calipari.
Welch, a point guard, has watched freshman point guard Devin Askew all season and often goes against him in practice, especially the last two months after Terrence Clarke went out with an injury.
He likes what he believes lies ahead for Askew.
“Good or bad, Devin’s in the gym working every off day. Sometimes when maybe he should give his body a rest, he’s still trying to improve, still trying to get better. That’s something I really respect about Devin,” Welch said.
“He’s a kid who should be a senior in high school, came to the most pressure-filled college basketball program in the country and under tough circumstances. No summer. No fall. Not being able to get into the locker room. That’s a lot.”
Welch said it has been a hard season for Askew not to have any veteran players to explain to him what Calipari is like.
“That’s something you only really get when, through experience. Dev has really improved through this season. I think he can still get a lot better, and he’s going to get a lot better because there’s things I see him do in practice day-to-day that I do think he will be able to translate to games sooner rather than later,” Welch said.
“I’m just happy for him. He’s a really mentally tough kid which is something that I really respect.”
Welch’s comments were the day before UK hosted Florida and Askew went 0-for-6 from the field with three turnovers, two rebounds and two assists in the loss.
First-year Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy wasn’t about to look ahead to the NCAA Tournament knowing that the Cats are playing in the SEC Tournament this week.
But UK is going to be in the NCAA Tournament and Elzy hopes her team has the right makeup to perform well in postseason play.
“As far as when you get to the NCAA Tournament, if you have the opportunity to play, at that time, anything can happen. It is all about matchups,” she said. “There’s not going to be a home court advantage, but in March, it’s survive and advance.
“You play the best basketball and you just hope that your team is peaking at the right time, and you get the right matchups. So March is a mix of luck with the draw, of peeking, playing well, so there’s a lot of variables that will go into it.”
Quote of the Week: “I think it is the most deadly floater in the NBA next to Mike Conley. It’s unguardable even in the NBA. The transformation he has made from two years ago is just unreal. I am so happy for him because he is a great kid,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst/writer Krysten Peek on New York Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley.
Quote of the Week 2: I understand it’s a business, but it’s very tough for me. Him being through injuries, me being through injuries, we’ve been going through the same thing. It was fun playing with him again, it was our first time playing together since college. He can still play in the NBA. He’s not written off,” John Wall on former UK teammate DeMarcus Cousins being released by the Houston Rockets.
Quote of the Week 3: “That’s what this team does. When you’re a team, you fly like geese (in formation). Or you can be buffalo. And when one jumps over the edge, they’ll all go with him,” Kentucky coach John Calipari on teammates compensating for each other.