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Fired Kentucky coach: Team on verge of 'huge move'

Fired Kentucky coach: Team on verge of 'huge move'

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Joker Phillips regrets he won't see firsthand what his young Kentucky squad will look like next season.

The outgoing Wildcats coach spoke Tuesday for the first time since Kentucky fired him. He said he had stressed to his staff the need for the team to show improvement and get to '13, ``because I thought '13 would be the year we have an opportunity to make a huge move.''

It didn't happen. He was fired Sunday effective at the end of season.

But after the 49-year-old Phillips initially resisted the option to coach the last two games after this week's bye, players urged him to finish out the season and get a glimpse of what might have been in 2013.

Kentucky (1-9, 0-8 Southeastern Conference) hosts Samford next and then plays at Tennessee.

``It was hard because I didn't want to be a distraction,'' Phillips said of his decision to return. ``I want it to be about those seniors. I sat in many of those guys' homes and told them I wanted them. I wanted to watch them grow up. I heard that from them, and that's the reason why I'm back.''

Phillips is 12-23 overall in his third season with the Wildcats. The end came after Saturday's 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt, Kentucky's worst to the Commodores in 96 years.

The coach said he wasn't shocked or hurt by Barnhart's decision.

``I understand this,'' he said. ``We didn't get the necessary results. I understand that. I'm very appreciative of Mitch. I'm not bitter by any means, I appreciate the opportunity.''

Though Phillips took responsibility for Kentucky's record, he reiterated his belief that injuries set the team back in many areas. The injuries have forced the Wildcats to use 46 underclassmen including 26 freshmen against opponents with a combined record of 66-24 (.773).

Phillips said his hope was getting to next season and seeing if growth resulted from this year's struggles. That prospect became more difficult behind a string of blowout losses, including the last two games by a 73-10 margin.

He said the offense started the season well - before the injuries.

``In the first three games we showed improvement offensively and it's hard not to notice that,'' Phillips said. ``We made improvements on special teams and when we started showing improvement defensively, the injuries hit. And then it hit special teams. When (sophomore quarterback) Max (Smith) goes out, we go the other way offensively.

``Therefore, you don't get a chance to continue what you hope to do.''

Phillips said he had gotten everything he requested of Barnhart in regards to his players and didn't think more resources or better facilities would have helped. He believes his successor will be helped by getting a strong-armed quarterback and the deep upper class that he lacked.

In a letter on the Wildcats' web site announcing Phillips' dismissal, Barnhart said a nationwide search for his replacement would begin immediately.

Atlanta Falcons first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has been mentioned as a candidate, although Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday he didn't know Kentucky even had an opening and no one had contacted him.

Whoever succeeds Phillips will likely bring a new staff and philosophy. That has some Kentucky players concerned about their futures, but for now they are focused on closing out the present on a high note for Phillips and themselves.

``Seeing Coach go was definitely a heartbreaker,'' redshirt freshman guard Zach West said. ``This program means everything to him and it's meant a lot to me. This team's young, but we're just going to do what we've done all year and just come back to work.''

Junior linebacker Avery Williamson said it was important to the team for Phillips to finish the season.

``We definitely wanted him to coach'' the last two games, Williamson said. ``He's been coaching us all year and we didn't want him to go out on that note.''

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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