Larry Vaught has been covering UK sports since 1975 for The Advocate in Danville, KY. He has been recognized as the National Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association 7 times.
WCN: What was your favorite moment in Kentucky sports as a fan? As a journalist?
Vaught: Since I have been covering UK since 1975, been a long time since I had a fan moment. Still [I] think one of my favorites as a journalist was the 1978 championship year. Player access was not nearly as limited then and [I] had a chance to get to know a group of players I really liked and they also were able to interact with fans a lot more. Believe a close second would be UK's first Music City Bowl trip under Rich Brooks because of the fan response and also Jacob Tamme, a player I had known since he was 6 years old, was one of the team starts. To watch the journey they [the 1978 UK Championship team] had with Joe Hall to the title was special. As a fan, would probably go back to 1966 and watching and listening to Rupp's Runts.
WCN: Who has been the most enjoyable to write about or interview on any current team?
Vaught: On the football side, I love interviewing or even just talking to Avery Williamson. He just is special and always offers insightful quotes. Feel the same about Larry Warford, a player you can't help but like. In basketball, it has to be Jarrod Polson. I have watched him play since he was a freshman in high school and this year's success at UK has not changed him one bit. Funny and articulate young man who loves playing basketball.
WCN: How awesome was it to interview Ashley Judd? Vaught: I've been fortunate enough to interview and talk to Ashley quite a few times. From the very beginning, she's always been very gracious with her time with me. She thoroughly enjoys talking about her Wildcats, but one of my best interviews with her came at the Final Four last year when she took the time to introduce me to her husband, Dario Franchitti, and I got to talk to each of them.
Vaught On Football
WCN: Do you believe Coach Stoops can break Kentucky football through the ceiling that Coach Brooks seemed to have found?
Vaught: History would say no, but do believe he was the best possible hire for Kentucky. The more I learn about him, the more I like him. I like the way he is putting together a relatively young staff and I love his enthusiasm. Problem is the SEC is brutal and next year's schedule is as difficult as it has been in years. However, I do believe he has already energized the fan base again and I wasn't sure any coach could do that.
WCN: Can Kentucky be a serious contender for an SEC Championship in the future and how does the new playoff system effect Kentucky if at all?
Vaught: Kentucky can't be immediately. It takes time to build a SEC championship-caliber program. I love that is the goal Stoops has set, but that climb is difficult. A nine-game SEC schedule would impact UK a lot more than any playoff system ever will.
WCN: Any guesses as to how many wins the team gets next year?
Vaught: Since I would anticipate the Cats only being favored in three games, I would think five wins would be a fairly optimistic outlook.
Vaught On Basketball
WCN: Do you believe this current team will be able to solve their backcourt issues?
Vaught: I do. Ryan Harrow is just getting into basketball shape both mentally and physically. Julius Mays has still played less than two months under Calipari. Archie Goodwin has had to learn a new position and still shoulder a big scoring role. Jarrod Polson is playing more than he ever has. And there is no go-to frontcourt player. Guard will continue to improve.
WCN: In my opinion this team’s success will reflect the progress Harrow is able to make throughout the season, what are your thoughts?
Vaught: Definitely having Harrow at point more will free Goodwin to play on the wing and that should help the offense. But more than anything, UK has to shoot the ball consistently better than it has against better competition.
WCN: What are your thoughts about the much debated ‘one and done’ rule? How much could Kentucky have benefited from Teague and/or Lamb staying on another year?
Vaught: Can't argue with one and done rule. That rule is a big reason why guys like Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Knight, Cousins and Noel came to Kentucky. Pluses outweigh minuses by a big margin for UK.
WCN: Who leaves and who stays this year?
Vaught: Hard to say. Still guessing Noel and probably Poythress. Also have to think there is great chance Goodwin fits that role as well. But no matter who leaves, UK should be loaded next year, especially if they add Wiggins as I expect.
You can read Larry Vaught's articles at VaughtsViews.com and be sure follow him on twitter @VaughtsViews.