Redskins

Kentucky, fans revel in Big Blue Madness

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Kentucky, fans revel in Big Blue Madness

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Repeating his take that Kentucky fans are crazy during Big Blue Madness, Wildcats coach John Calipari also acknowledged their justification to go wild.

And as a group of Wildcats legends raised the school's eighth national championship banner to the Rupp Arena rafters Friday night, so did fans' enthusiasm.

Calipari marked the start of practice by recognizing the latest contribution to Kentucky's proud tradition, hoping it motivates this year's squad to continue it.

``I came here to win national titles for you,'' Calipari said as a capacity crowd at Rupp roared.

Kentucky's latest recruits appeared ready to do that.

A capacity crowd was introduced to much-heralded big men Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, forward Alex Poythress and guard Archie Goodwin. Transfers Julius Mays and Ryan Harrow also debuted.

Cauley-Stein's White squad held off Noel's Blue team 56-55 in the scrimmage.

Kentucky opens Nov. 9 against Maryland.

``This is about celebrating the start of the season, but we're still going to celebrate the 2012 national championship,'' Calipari said. ``We're here to celebrate the tradition of this program.''

The celebration of Calipari's first championship as Wildcats coach and expectations for this year's freshmen contributed to an electric atmosphere. Fans went crazy when the arena went dark at 7:30 p.m. and music blared to the entrance of Kentucky's women's team.

They were followed by T-shirt giveaways, 3-point shooting contests and a cheerleader performance that built anticipation for the Wildcats' first practice.

Calipari and his players delivered, whipping up the crowd by entering to smoke machines and hip-hip music, with Goodwin emerging as the team's best dancer so far.

``I will say this: if we were in a dance contest, we're winning,'' Calipari joked.

After introducing of group of Kentucky legends including Jack ``Goose'' Givens, Ron Mercer and Vernon Hatton - who raised the bar with all eight banners - the Wildcats played a tighter than expected scrimmage.

Noel and Cauley-Stein showed their athleticism on both ends, eliciting cheers with dunks and blocks. Poythress displayed his ability to play several spots, and Goodwin offered glimpses of his ball-handling skills.

It ended two hours later with a video recounting the Wildcats' path to the men's championship, Calipari's brief mission statement and players saluting a crowd that had been waiting for this night for a while.

Nearly 600 tents were pitched outside Memorial Coliseum for distribution of free tickets on Sept. 22, which were gone in half an hour.

Michael Gibson was among those camping out the previous four days, something he's done for ``about six, seven years'' by his count. It paid off: he was fourth in line, getting his four allotted freebies and giving them to friends despite a bunch of lucrative offers from Wildcats faithful.

``People were offering money right off the bat,'' said Sturgill, wearing a blue ``Tent City Starts Here'' T-shirt. ``I just wanted to see what they'll have. It's going to be a fun night.''

Jody Sturgill was a popular man walking around the concourse, mainly because of the blue Darth Vader costume. The padded outfit has served him well, getting him tickets to many games; several members of the Wildcats' women's basketball team even autographed it.

Rather than camp out like most fans, Sturgill got up in line at 2 a.m. that Saturday morning (without the costume) and got four tickets to his 15th Madness.

``I probably could've stood outside and gotten tickets because folks love the outfit and a lot of them are Star Wars fans,'' the 41-year-old said between posing for pictures. ``But I just decided to get tickets the normal way. I wasn't going to miss this.''

Others just used connections.

Tickets for Leslie Delk's two previous visits to Madness came from his uncle and former Wildcat Tony Delk, most recently in 2010. This time he tapped former Kentucky graduate assistant coach Brandon Weems, who hooked him up with a couple of lower bowl seats near the concourse.

``I could've called him (for tickets), but my friend Brandon came through,'' said Delk, who manages a local sportswear store. ``I had to be here for this one because they'll probably hang the (championship) banner.

``This is exciting and having it in the evening is more convenient. But even if they held it at noon, it would still be electric. We're UK. We're obnoxious.''

Seventh grader Morgan McDonald was planning a party before her father surprised her and friend Halle Cline with tickets to their first Madness.

``He just asked, `What are y'all doing tonight?' and gave us tickets,'' McDonald said. ``I changed my mind about the party.''

Women's volleyball opened the festivities, the first time a match was held at Rupp. About 8,000 saw Kentucky sweep Mississippi State by 25-18 scores.

Spotlights and loud music followed to introduce Kentucky's women, coming off their second Elite Eight appearance in three years. And Wildcats coach Matt Mitchell again showed guts in his dance impersonation by channeling MC Hammer, working the baggy pants and sideways moves, albeit slowly and carefully.

``I just want to thank Hammer,'' said Mitchell, who mimicked Michael Jackson last year.

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After viral 2018 scuffle, Taylor Lewan offers to make peace with Josh Norman

After viral 2018 scuffle, Taylor Lewan offers to make peace with Josh Norman

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan got into a widely-discussed altercation after Washington's Week 16 loss to Tennesse last season.

But on Thursday, Lewan said he's finally ready to let bygones be bygones. 

Lewan tweeted he wants Norman to come on the "Bussin' With The Boys" podcast he co-hosts with former Redskins linebacker Will Compton to "settle our differences."

Judging by what happened last December, there are plenty of differences: Norman threw his helmet at Lewan after the latter approached him, Lewan later accusing Norman of trying to hurt Titans running back Derrick Henry.

"I'm not worried about Josh Norman, man," Lewan told reporters after the incident. "I'm an offensive lineman, he's a [defensive back]. I don't know who that is."

"I was pissed. He was trying to hurt Derrick [Henry]. That's BS. That’s not the way football’s supposed to be played, man. It’s not our fault you’re not relevant anymore."

"Why would you come to another man's sideline?" Norman said of the dust-up. "And then after you won a game, you pick fun at the player that is relevant. You go out of your way to come to his bench, his sideline, to go at him in that kind of way."

"We're not having it. We will not tolerate disrespect. That's zero tolerance for that. That was the ultimate disrespect. You just don't do that."

The incident happened months ago, so it's about time the pair made peace. And as an ex-Redskin and ex-Titan, perhaps Compton can help mend the fences. But if Norman does accept Lewan's invitation to come on the podcast, we might be in for even more verbal fireworks. 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Keldon Johnson

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Keldon Johnson

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Keldon Johnson

School: Kentucky
Position: Guard
Age: 19 (turns 21 in October)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 216
Wingspan: 6-9
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG% (4.6/10.1), 38.1 3PT% (1.2/3.2), 70.3 FT%

Player comparison: Gary Harris, Jerome Robinson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 15th, Bleacher Report 8th, Sports Illustrated 23rd, Ringer 21st

5 things to know:

*Johnson is considered the best NBA prospect in this year's class from the University of Kentucky. Though the Wildcats usually churn out top-10 picks, he is projected to go somewhere in the back end of the lottery or in the 20s. His teammates Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington are expected to go late in the first round.

*Johnson is an athletic, slashing wing who is quick up and down the floor. His highlights are filled with fastbreak dunks and agile plays around the basket. Johnson, though, didn't participate in the vertical leap measurement at the combine, so there is some mystery there.

*He has a solid outside shot. Johnson made 38.2 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts per game, which is impressive especially for a freshman. He appears to have smooth mechanics on his jumper and a quick release. Johnson, though, like most young players has to develop his ability to shoot off the dribble.

*Johnson plays with a lot of passion and is known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He brings tons of energy to both ends of the floor and that is a good sign for his potential at the next level.

*Johnson has a few local connections. He is from Chesterfield, VA, just south of Richmond. He went to high school at Oak Hill Academy in southwestern Virginia. His brother, Kaleb, plays basketball for Georgetown University. And his other brother, Kyle, played at Old Dominion.

Fit with Wizards: Johnson happens to play the one position the Wizards have solidified, at least in their starting lineup with Bradley Beal. However, they could use more guard depth in general and Beal needs some help behind him.

The Wizards thought they had solved that with Austin Rivers this past season and that didn't work out. The result was Beal leading the NBA in minutes played in the second straight year he appeared in all 82 games.

Iron Man streaks are great, but not ideal for a guy who has a history of leg injuries and a long career ahead of him. Johnson is the type of player who could take some pressure off of Beal and possibly play with him at the three-spot. He would also add shooting, which the Wizards need.

The question would be if he is good enough to pick ninth overall and if that need is enough to justify at that spot. The answer is probably not, but Johnson seems like a guy who could soar up draft boards once workouts begin.

Best highlight video:

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