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Club Team Spotlight: Kentucky Chrome 2011 Simmons – Extra Inning Softball

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Club Team Spotlight: Kentucky Chrome 2011 Simmons – Extra Inning Softball


There are good club programs and then there is Kentucky Chrome 2011 Simmons.

In three short years, this team has risen to the top of the field in the softball community.

Kentucky Chrome 2011 Simmons was ranked eighth in the nation in the Class of 2029 Extra Elite 100 Team rankings and was the top-ranked team in Region Three (Midwest).

The team is based out of Owensboro, Ky.

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*****

Head coach Hillary Simmons provides an analysis of the team and highlights the outstanding players on the roster…

What is your primary focus or goal with this team?
 Our goal for this team is to take these girls and give them the best shot at wherever they foresee their future (D1, D2, NAIA). While teaching them all the aspects of the game we also bring light to life outside of softball.

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EIS Stands for MORE than Just Extra Inning Softball





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Jaxson Robinson eyeing a move to UK? Dallin Hall and Aly Khalifa are already in the transfer portal

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Jaxson Robinson eyeing a move to UK? Dallin Hall and Aly Khalifa are already in the transfer portal


Since the Kentucky Wildcats recently hired Kenny Brooks, we’ve seen a host of former Virginia Tech players join him in Lexington.

Look for something similar to happen with the men’s team now that former BYU Cougars head coach Mark Pope is leading the charge.

The big fish to watch for is Jaxson Robinson, a 6-foot-7 guard who would immediately become one of the best players in the transfer portal ‘if’ he decides to enter it.

Robinson is not currently in the portal, but the buzz for him entering has been building since Thursday night, and we now have this from KSR’s Matt Jones, who thinks this could move quickly.

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Robinson is actually very familiar with Kentucky and the SEC. He began his career as a class of 2020 signee of Texas A&M who transferred to Arkansas after one year before landing at BYU, where he’s spent the last two years.

This season, Robinson averaged 14.2 points on 42.6% shooting from the field and a 35.4% clip from 3-point range on 6.9 (nice) attempts per game. He hit 8/16 attempts from deep in a 90-74 win over Denver on December 13th, so he’s not afraid to let it rip from deep.

While Robinson is not yet in the portal, one of his teammates already is.

Per On3’s Jamie Shaw, BYU point guard Dallin Hall is in the portal.

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Originally a class of 2020 recruit, Hall served a two-year Mormon mission before officially joining the BYU program for the 2022-23 season. That year saw him average 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting 41.2% from the field and 36.7% from deep.

This season, the 6-foot-4 Hall averaged 9.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per outing while shooting 42.2% from the field and 35.9% from 3-point land.

In BYU’s win over the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, Robinson and Hall combined for 36 points on 11/23 shooting in the 76-68 victory.

In the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament loss to Duquesne, those two combined for 36 points on 11/21 shooting in the 71-67 defeat. Hall chipped in a game-high six assists and four steals.

Robinson would have one year of eligibility remaining, while Hall would have two.

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And just as I was about to post this, BYU had another player go portaling.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Cougars center Aly Khalifa is going into the portal with a ‘Do not contact’ tag, meaning he likely already knows where he’s going.

The 6-foot-11, 270-pound native of Egypt was originally a class of 2020 signee of Charlotte, where he spent three years while redshirting in his first year.

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After a limited role in 2021-22, Khalifa became one of the top players for a 49ers team that won the CBI in the 2022-23 season. He averaged 11.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on 51% shooting from the field and 38% shooting from 3-point range that season.

After going into the portal last offseason, Khalifa landed at BYU, where he averaged 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while shooting 38.6% from the field and 31.5% from 3-point land this season.

At first glance, Robinson and Hall look like two potentially solid additions for Kentucky if they come to pass. Not quite sold on Khalifa, but he still has some potential. If nothing else, he could be a quality big man off the bench who can also space the floor.

I would anticipate Kentucky adding at least a couple of players from BYU, not just to fill out the roster but also to help implement Pope’s system. I don’t think we’re going to see the entire BYU roster of eligible players in Lexington next season, but there are absolutely going to be multiple additions to help usher in the Mark Pope era of Kentucky Basketball.

What are your thoughts about Kentucky potentially adding one of these players to the roster for next season? Let us know in the comments section!

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Kentucky native Wynonna Judd to perform national anthem at 150th Kentucky Derby

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Kentucky native Wynonna Judd to perform national anthem at 150th Kentucky Derby


Five-time Grammy award-winner and Kentucky native Wynonna Judd will perform the national anthem at Churchill Downs Racetrack during the 150th Kentucky Derby, presented by Woodford Reserve on Saturday, May 4.

“I am so proud to represent my home state, taking part in one of the most storied and iconic traditions,” she said. “The Kentucky Derby is something I look forward to every year and being able to perform this year makes the momentous event even more special.”

The country music icon will help kick off the historic Run for the Roses with her performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” just after 5 p.m. As is tradition, the national anthem at Churchill Downs will be broadcast live as part of NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage, expected to reach millions of viewers worldwide. 

Wynonna rose to fame as one-half of “The Judds” with her mother Naomi, and the two are recognized as one of the greatest duos in country music history. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, Wynonna earned five Grammy Awards as one half of “The Judds.“ The Kentucky crooner has continued her success as a solo artist, releasing eight studio albums and recently embarked on a nationwide tour called “Back to Wy” to pay tribute to her first two solo albums. 

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“Wynonna Judd is a multigenerational talent who has helped shape country music over the years, and a Kentucky native, making her the perfect artist to set the stage for this once-in-a-lifetime Kentucky Derby,” Mike Anderson, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, said in a news release. “We’re excited for Wynonna to bring her powerful voice back to Louisville to convey the wide range of emotion for which this landmark occasion calls.” 

The country music superstar joins a roster of accomplished artists who have performed the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Run for the Roses including Carly Pearce (2023), Brittney Spencer (2022), Tori Kelly (2021), Jennifer Nettles (2019), Pentatonix (2018), Harry Connick, Jr. (2017), Lady A (2016), Josh Groban (2015), Jo Dee Messina (2014), Martina McBride (2013), Mary J. Blige (2012), Jordin Sparks (2011), Rascal Flatts (2010), and Leann Rimes (2009). 

Continuing the celebration surrounding the 150th Kentucky Derby, this year’s Riders Up announcer will be lifestyle innovator and entrepreneur Martha Stewart. Stewart will issue the command to jockeys before the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.

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Churchill Downs Racetrack is also partnering with Stewart, to create the “Kentucky Derby At-Home” experience ahead of the 150th Kentucky Derby.

Reach features reporter Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com.



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Kentucky Settling for Mark Pope Proves Basketball Coaching Landscape Has Changed

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Kentucky Settling for Mark Pope Proves Basketball Coaching Landscape Has Changed


At least in the coaching carousel, the term “blue blood” has never meant less.

That’s the only logical conclusion one can draw from the Kentucky Wildcats’ rapid-fire search to replace John Calipari, who shocked the college basketball world earlier this week by fleeing Lexington for the Arkansas Razorbacks job. Big, bad Kentucky, one of the most tradition-rich teams and potentially the most financially rich program in big-time college basketball, swung and missed at its big targets and landed on a coach who has never won a men’s NCAA tournament game. 

There are many positive things that can be said about reported new Wildcats head coach Mark Pope. He’s without question a sharp basketball mind, building one of the more intricate offenses in the country with the BYU Cougars. He coached the Cougars to three top-20 KenPom finishes in five years, two more than Calipari coached Kentucky to in that period (though that may say more about Calipari than Pope, in this conversation). He has won at a place with as limited a recruiting pool as any in Division I, a feat even more impressive after BYU’s move to the Big 12 in 2023–24, He was an excellent player in Lexington, part of the 1996 national championship team that is royalty in town forever. Pope was likely due for a better job than the one he had at BYU. 

But Kentucky? The same Kentucky that, not 12 hours before news of this hire broke, was rumored to be throwing around $100 million to try to sway two-time defending national champion Dan Hurley from the UConn Huskies to Lexington? A program that essentially ran Calipari, a title-winning coach who has taken three schools to Final Fours and produced more pros than anyone in college basketball over the last decade, out of town? Kentucky prides itself on being bigger, better and more serious about basketball than anyone else and wants to hire … BYU’s coach, who has advanced in the NCAA tournament as many times as this writer has? 

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Each coach who deflected interest in this job (Hurley, Scott Drew and Nate Oats) may have had his own reasons for doing so. Hurley made clear Monday night after winning title No. 2 that his wife had no desire to leave the Northeast, and Drew’s family and roots in Waco, Texas, were reportedly the reasons he walked away from a potential deal. But if there’s ever an illustration that the gap between the purported elite jobs and the rest of the sport, it’s that coaches from Alabama, Baylor and a Big East program in UConn rebuffed KENTUCKY of all places to stay where they’re at. 

Kentucky had long seemed like the last bastion for a “name” hire in an era that has seen huge coaching jobs go to relatively inexperienced choices. The Louisville Cardinals, in three years, have hired one coach with no head coaching experience in Kenny Payne and another from a mid-major with no tournament wins in Pat Kelsey. The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels were forced into internal hires in Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, with the jury still out on both. The Villanova Wildcats hired Kyle Neptune off one season with the Fordham Rams, with results not promising so far. The Florida Gators hired Todd Golden, who went 23–22 in the WCC as the head coach with the San Francisco Dons. Even the flashier names, like the Georgetown Hoyas reeling in Ed Cooley or the Maryland Terrapins landing Kevin Willard, came with the caveat that neither had advanced past the Sweet 16 in their head coaching careers. Eric Musselman and Calipari set off dominos with their lateral-ish moves this cycle, but both seemed to be getting out ahead of disgruntled fan bases. 

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In the NIL era, where the primary barrier to entry to recruit top talent is “how big a check can you write?”, the advantage of being at a blue blood has dissipated some. Talent is more spread out, football powerhouses across the SEC can find a few bucks to throw at basketball and you can win almost as much as you would at Kentucky without living in the fishbowl that is Lexington. 

Does this mean Pope won’t win at Kentucky? Of course not. A good coach can be a “bad” hire. Perhaps the best way of putting this is to call it a risky hire. The “blue blood” label used to offer you a level of security that you’d be able to hire one of the premier candidates on the coaching market. That’s not a guarantee of success, but it’d be a lot easier to bet on Kentucky succeeding at the level its fans expect under a coach like Drew, who has won a title and consistently earned top-three NCAA tournament seeds, than it is with Pope. He may soar, using the strengths of the UK job to his advantage to build the elite teams he never could with the limitations of BYU and the Utah Valley Wolverines. But he also may fail, and there’s little doubt SEC coaches will sleep better tonight knowing the league’s top program is coached by Mark Pope, not Calipari, Drew, Oats or Hurley. 

If nothing else, the Pope hire won’t win the news conference for Kentucky. He could win over much of the Kentucky faithful early on by successfully coaxing star guard Reed Sheppard (whose father, Jeff, played with Pope on the 1996 title team) to return for his sophomore season. Even then, there will certainly be skeptics. 

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart is staking his legacy at the school on a largely unproven coach. A program of Kentucky’s stature should have landed a bigger name than Mark Pope, and the fact that it didn’t says everything about the coaching market in 2024. 



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