UK picked to win SEC…again

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Kentucky men’s basketball program finds itself in familiar territory under the direction of ninth-year head coach John Calipari. UK is faced with replacing more than 90 percent of its scoring and 85 percent of its rebounding, yet a select panel of media voted the Wildcats to win their fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. Should Kentucky achieve that standard, it would mark the sixth regular-season title under Calipari and the program’s 49th overall.

It’s the 13th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats are the overall preseason favorite. UK was picked to win the title a season ago and did not disappoint, winning both the regular-season and tournament title. Calipari has directed his teams to regular-season SEC crowns in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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Each school selected media members that cover their team and additional media from across the nation were selected by the conference office to comprise the voting panel. Points were compiled on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each media member also voted for two All-SEC teams.

In addition to the preseason poll release, two players were selected to the preseason All-SEC squads. Freshman Hamidou Diallo was picked to the first team, while freshman Kevin Knox was tabbed to the second team. Diallo also received at least one vote for the league’s player of the year pick.

Diallo is joined by Florida’s junior guard KeVaughn Allen, Georgia’s senior forward Yante Maten, Missouri’s freshman forward Michael Porter, Jr. and Texas A&M’s sophomore forward Robert Williams. Maten, Porter and Williams were voted in a three-way tie for the pick for SEC Player of the Year.

Knox was selected to the second team along with freshman guard Collin Sexton from Alabama, junior guard Terence Davis and senior guard Deandre Burnett from Ole Miss, junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon from Mississippi State, junior center Tyler Davis from Texas A&M and senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis from Vanderbilt.

Diallo will enter his first full season with the Wildcats after spending the spring semester on the Cats’ roster. Although he did not see game action, he has experience in UK’s system. Hailed as a top-10 prospect by many national pundits, Diallo averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game during his senior season at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut. He was a two-time all-state honoree. This summer he played for Calipari and Team USA at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup. He averaged 10.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.4 minutes a game for the United States in seven games.

Knox was tabbed the 2017 Mr. Florida Basketball recipient after averaging 28.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game for Tampa Catholic in Tampa, Florida. He finished his career with 2,760 career points and led the Crusaders to a runner-up finish in the state tournament. A consensus top-10 prospect, Knox averaged 30.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as a junior. He owns Tampa Catholic’s school record with 55 points in a game. A 2017 McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic participant, Knox helped lead Team USA to two gold medals at the 2015 FIBA Americans U16 Championship and the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup. A minor hamstring injury forced him to miss the U19 FIBA World Cup alongside Diallo and classmate PJ Washington.

Kentucky begins its season Friday in the annual Blue-White Game at Rupp Arena at 7 p.m. Tickets for the Blue-White Game are still available. 200-level tickets are $5. The game will also air live on the SEC Network.

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Alex Risen joined the ABC 36 News team in October of 2011 as ABC 36’s Weekend Sports Anchor/ Sports Reporter. Alex can also be seen Friday nights co-anchoring the Highschool Highlight Reel. Alex started out in the broadcast business while still in college at the University of Kentucky, heading up the school’s daily student news network as the Sports Director. He made his commercial televsion debut in May of 2011 while at WYMT in Hazard, Kentucky as co-host of a weekly, half-hour high school sports program previewing area schools’ games on Friday nights and as a morning sports anchor. Alex has also spent time as an intern at ESPN in the Statistics and Analysis department, as a production assistant for NBC Sports horse racing and Sunday Night Football productions, and as an intern for WLKY in his hometown of Louisville, KY. Alex graduated from Saint Xavier High School in 2007 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 2010 where he graduated magna cum laude from the Honors Program. He’s excited to be covering his passion in his home state and make Central Kentucky his home for years to come. Alex can be reached at ARisen@wtvq.com