Now that Kentucky failed to land Purdue graduate transfer Matt
Haarms to fill the void at center it has on the 2020-21 roster, one
name that keeps being mentioned as a possible solution is 6-11 Moussa
Cisse of Lausanne Collegiate School of Memphis.
He's currently a top 10 player in the 2021 recruiting class but
several national recruiting analyst keep anticipating he will
reclassify. His coach, Marvin Davis, still doesn't expect that to
happen even though his star player averaged 22.5 points, 14 rebounds
and 8.6 blocks per game last year and had 16 triple-doubles to earn
Mr. Basketball honors in Tennessee.
Davis readily admits Cisse made dramatic improvement in his first
year with Lausanne Collegiate.
"As the year went on his confidence started thriving. When he first
got to us most people thought of him just as a defensive player and a
guy who could maybe get a dunk or two," Davis said. "He did make a
significant impact on defense but offensively he got so much better
and so much more polished.
"He also plays with such passion and heart. He plays hard, too. He
wants to get better. He is a super competitor and wants to win every
thing he does. That is what drives him daily."
Cisse did recently cut his college list to 10 schools—Kentucky,
Memphis, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, USC, Alabama,
Georgetown and Illinois. LSU is the perceived leader by some
recruiting analysts but Kentucky coach John Calipari came to watch
Cisse play at the Marshall County Hoopfest in December to make sure
he knew he was wanted at UK either this year or next year.
Cisse has indicated he may trim his list to six schools some time
"Cal likes him a lot," Davis said. "His footwork around the rim got
so much better as our season went on. Early on some moves he tried to
make he would travel. He was always light on his feet but he was just
not sure when to make moves and turns and how to finish them. Now his
footwork is better and he can make all the moves.
"He can shoot the three. If you are on him, he can shoot over you.
If you sag off and let him have the 3-pointer, he can make it. His
free throws got a lot better, too. He ended up above 70 percent (at
the foul line) and for him to hit that percentage bodes well for the
future because he'll get fouled a lot. This way teams can't just hack
him and send him to the line."
Cisse benefitted from a similar practice approach at Lausanne
Collegiate to what colleges do with a lot of individual work daily
because Davis has enough assistant coaches to do that.
"We do an individual period each day of 20 minutes or more just
working on specific stuff a player needs to improve," Davis said.
"Moussa would go with our bigs coach and work on his individual
needs. Now while we legitimately work on a lot of stuff each day, he
still also put in a lot of time in the gym by himself. He's a gym rat
and that's why you know he's just going to keep getting better."
Davis says as driven as Cisse is, he maintains the proper perspective.
"Some guys play with too much of a chip on their shoulder and can
get out of control," Davis said. "He is not like that. He plays so
hard and is so passionate, but he's under control and he will still
have fun playing. He just has a great overall attitude"
Davis believes social media speculation has fueled rumors about
Cisse reclassifying and playing college basketball next season.
"I sincerely doubt he will be going to college next year. I
obviously talk to him and his family a lot and they are not saying
that to me," Davis said. "I think it is kind of late in the game for
Moussa to be jumping to the 2020 class. If he was going to do it, he
probably should have already done it. You can't wait until the last
minute to get everything done. I could be wrong but I just don't see
him playing in college next year."
Dupree signs contract with Steelers
Former Kentucky linebacker coach Chuck Smith couldn't help laughing
when he heard one of his former players, Bud Dupree, had signed a
contract worth almost $16 million for the 2020 season with the
"He has done good," Smith laughed and said.
The Steelers picked Dupree with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015
draft after his all-SEC career ended at UK. He had 247 career
tackles, including 37 tackles for loss. As a senior he had 74
tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Not only did he play
in 47 games, but he also graduated with a degree in community and
leadership development just a few weeks after the draft.
Not bad for a player that came to UK from Georgia to play for coach
Joker Phillips thinking he would be a tight end after having over
1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns his final high school season.
But before game one at UK he was moved to linebacker and became a star.
"He was a freak of an athlete," Smith, who coached Dupree his first
two years at UK, said. "He was a really smart player, too. He had
that athletic intelligence all the great ones have.
"But more than anything, he was just an incredible athlete as far as
movement, speed, agility, strength. He had the total package."
Dupree ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and had a 41-inch
vertical jump at UK's Pro Day in 2015 before the Steelers picked him.
"He was a really, really good person, too," Smith said. "Put that
with his athleticism and those are the ones who do really well in the
NFL. I am not a bit surprised he's done what he has."
He signed a $9 million, four-year contract in 2015 and the Steelers
picked up the fifth-year option for 2019 at another $9 million. They
offered Dupree a contract extension but he gambled his play in 2019
would earn him a bigger payday and it did. He goes into the 2020
season with 200 tackles, 31.5 quarterback sacks, nine pass
deflections, six forced fumbles and one interception in his five-year
"He was always a real humble person and part of that is just his
personality but he also had confidence in his ability," Smith said.
"He knew I can run faster than most and I am stronger than most. He
knew he could play. So for him to bet on himself like he did in 2019
did not surprise me. Bud knew what he was doing."
Frederick Douglas High turns out football prospects
Frederick Douglas High School in Lexington just keeps turning out
Division I football prospects.
Six players off its 2019 team that finished 14-1 and lost to
Covington Catholic in the Class 5A state title game had Kentucky
scholarship offers and five of them will be back this season — if
there is a season.
Kentucky made offers last week to 6-3, 175-pound freshman tight end
Thomas Howard and 5-9, 150-pound freshman defensive back Isaiah Kenney.
The Cats already had extended scholarship offers to Frederick
Douglas junior offensive lineman Jager Burton, sophomore athlete Dane
Key and sophomore defensive back Ty Bryant. Burton is the top-rated
player in Kentucky in the 2021 recruiting class and Bryant and Key
both had fathers play at UK. Senior offensive lineman Walker Parks
also had a UK offer but signed with Clemson.
Howard gave a verbal commitment to Louisville baseball before the
start of his 2019 football season. He had eight catches for 101 yards
last season but five of his receptions went for touchdowns. Kentucky
was his first Division I football offer but coach Nathan McPeek says
Louisville also has shown considerable interest.
"He's a really good pitcher. I know baseball is important to him but
he's a really good football player, too," McPeek said. "I would never
tell a kid what to do other than to play all the sports he wants.
He's blessed to be good in all of them, including basketball.
"He started every game for us as a true freshman. His role will
evolve this year. He was a pretty good blocker last year but he needs
to get bigger and stronger. But with him being a pitcher, he's not
going to get real big."
Kenney did not play as much as a freshman because of the players —
Baylor signee Devin Neal and Bryant — in front of him.
Kentucky secondary coach Steve Clinkscale first saw Kenney play in
middle school because he had a son at the same school. He had 24
tackles in 15 games last year in his limited duty and returned his
one interception 40 yards.
"He was really a good special teams players for us last year,"
McPeek said. "He played a lot in the state semifinals against
Owensboro because Devin had some cramping issues. He played pretty
much all year, just not at safety like he will this year. But he's a
playmaker and had a lot of big plays and tackles in the return game."
Howard will be nation's leading scorer
Kentucky sophomore Rhyne Howard will be the nation's leading
returning scorer at 24.1 points per game next season, one reason ESPN
has rated her as the top player going into the 2020-21 season.
"She is clearly one of the elite players in the country and now the
goal is to become the absolute best player in the entire country,"
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said.
Howard also average 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per
game last season. She shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range and made
84 3-pointers. She even blocked 29 shots.
Mitchell said Howard has to "pay attention to even the smallest
details and stay committed to even more hard work" going into next
season. Mitchell says she could raise her shooting percentage, cut
down turnovers or add a few more rebounds per game.
"The good thing is Rhyne is never satisfied. That's why she is great
and among the top players in the nation coming back next year and
rightfully a leading candidate for player of the year," Mitchell said.
"I love that she wants to keep getting better. She wants to help us
win SEC and national championships because she is very team driven.
She knows when you have team success, individual success has a way of
working itself out."
Barnes excited about next season
Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes admits he's already "excited"
about next season and the type of team he will have.
"I know the players are excited, they're all chomping at the bit to
get back," Barnes said on The Aaron Torres Podcast last week. "The
coaches are, too. We think we have a chance to possibly have the best
defensive team we've had since we've been here.
"We know we've got some good returning players that, this year they
got put into the fire. They got to learn a lot in high level,
"What we added, we know this recruiting class is going to make an
impact. And like I said we think we have a chance to be as good
defensively as maybe any team we've had."
Remember Tennessee won at Rupp Arena thanks to a dramatic second-
half comeback in what turned out to be UK's next to last game of the
Quote of the Week: "We can't be selfish at this time. We've got to
do the things that we are responsible to do, the things that our
leaders are telling us to do, and that's what we're trying to do,"
Mark Stoops on what it would be like if there is no college football
in 2020 because of COVID-19.
Quote of the Week 2: "It is far too early to place an absolute
planned schedule or dates out there. We remain optimistic about the
fall season, even if it isn't exactly per normal, but we will adhere
to the guidance of both federal and state health officials, as well
as our own Department of Education and the Governor's office in
planning our next steps," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett on high
school fall sports schedules.
Quote of the Week 3: "I spent the weekend on my parents' farm in
Tennessee. We have Charolais cattle. We have a herd of 40 of them,
and they sit on about 150 acres in south Tennessee. That's what my
father does now. We've been up here kind of isolated, just watching
the picks and waiting for my name to be called. I couldn't be happier
to be going to Detroit," UK offensive lineman Logan Stenberg on how
he spent last weekend before the Detroit Lions drafted him in the fourth round.