Don’t be fooled by the low recruiting ranking that 6-5, 195-pound Wisconsin shooting guard Brandin Podziemski has. Or at least that is what DJ Mlachnik, associated head basketball coach at St. John’s Northwestern Academies, believes.
“I have known him since seventh grade and was coaching him in AAU up until this year,” said Mlachnik. “The rankings truly do not reflect how good he is.”
Podziemski was a star baseball player — left-handed pitcher and speedy outfielder — and did not play AAU basketball until his freshman year.
“You could see then he was top five in state even though he was not ranked,” Mlachnik said.
He skyrocketed that first year. He’s not in the top 250 in the 2021 recruiting class in the 247Sports Composite and is only the 59th ranked shooting guard in his class. Yet he not only has a Kentucky scholarship offer but he also has one from Kansas to go with ones he already had before his national profile increased.
“He first came in as more of a shooter. He can shoot lights out. But some of the stuff you can’t see on film is that he’s an absolute competitor, one of the biggest I have been around,” his coach said. “You can’t see the little things he does on defense. His reactions are the best I have seen at this level. Offensively the kick and score, he can flat score it for you. He’s always working on his shot.”
Mlachnik said Podziemski is “professional” with his shot and always making adjustments to make it better.
“His sophomore year was his first year at St. John’s and he averaged 24.5 points (per game), made all-state and did a ton of damage from the 3-point line,” the coach said. “That summer after his sophomore year he really worked on creating off the dribble, improving his ball handling. Last year he averaged just under 28 a game and lot of that was off his playmaking. Teams knew he could shoot and his playmaking ability just took off.”
Podziemski has kept his recruiting “under tight wraps” but his coach does not think he will have a long timetable for making a college choice. The team’s first practice won’t be until Nov. 23 due to COVID-19 restrictions and the first game will be Dec. 1.
“I would not say I expected the Kentucky and Kansas offers for him but knowing and coaching him three-four years, I knew you don’t see what he has very often. His determination and passion for the game is not something you see in a lot of kids at that age. He is always the kid getting better and better, so I knew he was on a path for big things,” Mlachnik said.
Podziemski’s focus extends to his academics as well where he has a 4.0 grade-point average. His coach says he attacks academic goals just like he does athletic goals.
“We have kids here from all over the world. Asia, Mexico, all over the U.S. are in the boarding school here along with some local kids like Brandin,” Mlachnik said. “He is very disciplined. I couldn’t say enough good things about him and somebody is going to get a really good player and person when he makes his college choice.”
Even before Bruise Flint officially joined John Calipari’s coaching staff, the UK coach told him plenty about Terrence Clarke.
“(Calipari) would talk about him in the same way to me as the John Walls and the Anthony Davises and things like that. He has that type of talent, but he’s still got a lot to learn. But he’s a really, really talented player,” Flint said.
Clarke, a 6-7 wing player, knows Davis and Wall both were No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft. Davis just won his first NBA championship and was also on UK’s 2012 national title team
“Just knowing that guys like Anthony Davis and John Wall obviously had great years here and going on to the NBA and being great players that they are, being in that conversation, I’m blessed. That’s really all I can say,”
Clarke said about the comparison to the former UK stars.
“I’ve always had this confidence where I think I can be a good basketball player, a great one. For me, just hearing that, it kind of gives me even more confidence to keep working on my game and playing as hard as I can. That’s really it.”
Flint said Clarke is “extremely” talented and has versatility that few players can match.
“I think you can almost put him on any position on the floor to play. Now, I’m not going to lie, Cal has been all over him about some of his habits, but he’s unbelievably talented. Great size. Puts it on the floor. Shoots it. He’s a typical high school kid who has pretty much had his way. But you see it. Oozes with talent. Oozes with talent,” Flint said.
Flint said Clarke’s bad habits are just typical high school habits formed when a player can dominate a game.
“Got to take care of the small things. Anybody’s that’s been around Cal knows he sort of takes care of those types of things for you. He makes sure you look at those types of things. That’s why those guys become good players,” Flint said.
Clarke knows that and says Calipari is tough daily on him but that’s fine with him.
“Every practice, I feel like every day Coach has something to say to me. I just kind of take it in and work as hard as I can to understand what he’s saying, because obviously coach Cal is a great coach, one of the best college basketball coaches in the world,” Clarke said. “For him being on me every day, I just take it as him wanting me to be great and as good as possible. I just work as hard as I can every day.”
It’s hard to imagine there will be a more emotional moment for Kentucky football this season than after the streak-breaking win at Tennessee when coach Mark Stoops gave the game ball to offensive line coach John Schlarman. Sure, Kentucky’s offensive line played well in the second half of the 34-7 win but Schlarman’s game ball was more about his two-year battle with cancer than anything else.
“That was huge for me. I owe that man a debt of gratitude I can never repay,” UK senior offensive tackle Landon Young said. “He has not just got me ready for football but he leads me to be a man. He shows us the true definition of what a man is.
“There are no excuses. He is a man fighting for his life every single day. I know he is tired and hurt and this and that but every day he is giving us everything he has got even though he also has kids at home he wants to give everything to also. We are like his kids as well.”
Young says Schlarman is one of the hardest working coaching he’s ever had.
“But he’s also one of the best men. I have had some good coaches but John Schlarman is a different character. I will tell you that,” Young said.
Schlarman did not make the trip to Missouri last week — the first game he’s missed since his cancer diagnosis — when UK tanked and lost 20-10.
“He gives us so much more than any normal human being can,” Stoops said after the game. “Yes we missed him. But that is not an excuse.We need to respond and play great for him in honor of him and we did not do that today.”
Center Drake Jackson said the players “had faith” Schlarman had them coached well enough to handle his absence at Missouri and they just did not do the job.
“We continue to pray for coach Schlarman and know he is still fighting.”
With the way Kentucky had so many players shine in the NBA playoffs it had to be rewarding — and encouraging — for former UK assistant coach Kenny Payne as he joins the New York Knicks’ staff.
“I think that’s tremendous for him and his career coaching. KP was like a father figure to me as far as just mentoring me when I was at Kentucky, and we still talk to this day, almost every day,” former UK player Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat said.”
He’s a great leader in his own way, as well.
“Been around a lot of tremendous players, talented players who went to Kentucky who are obviously in the league now, but he’s what he is.” Herro emerged as a star for the Miami Heat in the playoffs despite being a rookie. He says lessons learned from Payne helped him.
“He’s going to get on you hard. He’s a tough coach, and he’s going to coach you. He’s going to try to bring the best out of you. I’m really happy for him and happy that he got that job,” Herro said.
One player Payne will be coaching — barring a trade — will be former Wildcat Kevin Knox, who will be in his third season with the Knicks.
Payne was the lead recruiter for Knox and became like “family” said Kevin Knox Sr.
“To this day we still talk quite a bit,” Knox Sr. said. “Through the whole draft process and then my son’s first two years in the NBA he was part of the support team that helped us through adversity and trying times when we had them. I have always leaned heavily on him and Cal.
“It’s just a blessing for us to have him in New York now. Kevin is always talking about how me and KP think alike in workouts and stuff. That’s one reason I wanted him to go to Kentucky so KP could take that baton and just continue that work with him.”
Who will Kentucky start at quarterback against Georgia Saturday? The Cats opened as a 13-point underdog against Georgia after losing 20-10 at Missouri last week when the offense had no consistent punch and ran just 36 plays compared to 92 for Missouri.
Former all-SEC running back Anthony White says the offense has more problems than whether Terry Wilson remains the starting quarterback or backup Joey Gatewood is elevated to No. 1. However, he says he would get the starting nod to Gatewood.
“When you decide a play if over and has not materialized the way you wanted, Gatewood is the one more aggressive pulling the ball down and running to get at least some yards,” White said. “Terry is the one more not sure if he should run or what.
“I expected Terry to make that read and if the pass is not there take off to the sidelines and get some yards. Gatewood seems younger and has not been hit enough so he is not afraid to run.”
However, White noted not to put the blame for UK’s offense — which ranks last in the SEC in passing — on the quarterback.
“Most of it is a complete offensive failure,” White said. “We have to start playing and something has to be done. Gatewood just seems to make the best of this (situation). No matter what happens on the field he makes something happen.”
AnthonyDavis says one of the best parts of his NBA championship season with the Los Angeles Lakers was his relationship with superstar LeBron James in their first season together after the Pelicans traded Davis to the Lakers.
“I got to L.A., he’s the first one to text me, congratulate me, invite me to his house. We kind of celebrated then. We’ve just grown over this past full kind of year, especially in the bubble, because we were around each other every day,” the former UK star said.
“So we were able to really connect off the floor [in a way] that you might not have a chance to do it when you’re in L.A. You’ve got families and other stuff going on. So we really got a chance to really connect off the floor and just learn more about each other.”
Davis said he learned plenty from James but wasn’t sure if James could have learned anything from him.
“He has kind of seen it all, been through it all. But just being around him, the way he acts and the way he leads and the way he enjoys life, being around his family and enjoying the game of basketball, it just pushed me to become a better person and a better player,” Davis said.