Kentucky football players know that Corey Edmond, director of performance, is going to test their physical limits to enhance their performance on the field.
What they may not know is that he’s just as demanding with his daughter, UK sophomore volleyball standout Leah Edmond. She was Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year last season and a third-team All-American — only the 11th UK player ever to earn All-American honors — following a standout career at Dunbar High School in Lexington.
“He was the first person to train me and when we are off or have a break, he is still the first person to train me,” Leah Edmond said. “I can’t go home and not train. In our basement we have a bike and weights downstairs. There is never a day off with him.”
Has he ever made her cry during training?
“Yes he has. He will just make me do something I don’t want to do. I have no choice because he’s my father,” she said.
Her mother, Laurie, wisely does not take sides when her husband and daughter have training disputes.
“She is not part of that. When it comes to that stuff, she just lets us go at it and we do sometimes really go at it. He does want me to be my best, so I guess I can take it,” Leah said.
She knows she would likely not be the player she is without his training for years.
So when did she realize her father knew what he was doing?
“I haven’t made it to that point yet,” she quickly said. “It is my dad. I don’t want him to train me. I know he knows what he is doing but he thinks he can yell at me because he is my dad. So that’s how it is. But it has worked very well. I will give him that.”
The two are not alike when it comes to showing emotion, either. Leah describes her father as “very stoic” while she is cheering all the time whether she is playing or watching another sports.
“If they score a touchdown, you might get a fist pump from him on the sideline,” she said “But cheering is my thing. I love to show emotion. Not Dad. I could get a kill and it could be the best I’ve ever had and he would just stay straight. That is just his personality. Ask him about that. Just how he is. Maybe it’s because it is me. I don’t know,” the UK sophomore said.
Leah, who helped UK get off to a 5-1 start, does know that when UK plays football at Kroger Field, it’s easy to spot her. She admits she’s “emotional” and almost always making noise.
“If you ever see me at a game, I am screaming. Since I know all of them (football players), I am screaming their names. I know if they are not doing what they are supposed to and I will scream at them for not blocking or not tackling. I know everything. I rarely sit at football games. I can’t do it,” she said.
She’s hoping Kentucky volleyball fans will be just as excitable at matches in Memorial Coliseum this season. She doesn’t disagree with those saying the team is “loaded” with talented veterans and the highest rated recruiting class in UK volleyball history.
“There is so much depth. Every position has multiple people. It’s incredible. I have never played on a team that every single person can start and do their job,” she said. “Fans will see we are the real deal and can be really good. I love the freshmen. They are so eager to learn and play their hardest. They challenge us all to be our best and they are really, really good.”
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With R.J. Barrett reclassifying to the 2018 recruiting class, it would not be a huge step to see forward Charles Bassey become the consensus No. 1 player in the 2019 class.
He’s already a consensus top five pick in the 2019 class — and this season he will be playing in Kentucky.
He’s left St. Anthony Catholic High School in Texas along with three teammates to play at Aspire Academy, a new school in Louisville coached by Jeremy Kipness. Last year Aspire was located in Arizona but it is now in Louisville and affiliated with DeSales High School.
The 6-10, 220-pound Bassey is from Nigeria originally. He’s played for Adidas YES II Success along with several of his new Aspire teammates.
Bassey already has scholarship offers from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor, Tennessee, Washington, UCLA, T, Creighton, Western Kentucky and others. ESPN has him ranked No. 2 in the 2019 recruiting class. Rivals.com has him No. 1.
Kipness knows how good Bassey is now, and can be in the future.
“Right now he has such a solid foundation and skill set to go along with a God-given athleticism and physique,” Kipness, a former assistant coach at Louisville, said. “He embraces the grind. He is very coachable. There are a lot of talented players but they do not have the intangibles — but he does. He has God-given talent and a high ceiling for the future.”
Bassey made an unofficial visit to Kentucky last season but still has no scholarship offer. He’ll play in three Grind Session events in Kentucky — two in Marshall County and one in Paducah — this season along with other selected games.
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Kentucky's defensive line was a major concern going into the season. But so was punting.
After one game, punting worries seem to have been alleviated with the arrival of Columbia graduate transfer Matt Panton.
He had to kick nine times against Southern Miss and averaged 42 yards per try. But two of his kicks were downed at the 1-yard line. He had three other kicks inside the 20 and just one went into the end zone.
“I thought he really did a nice job, in particular with killing it inside the 20,” Stoops said. “We knew he was very accurate there but he just was consistent and gave us some good roll.
“You could see some of the things he did. He could roll out, he could hit it high and he could go opposite field, which was nice for us.”
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Kentucky hosts Eastern Kentucky University Saturday at noon and it has to be special for UK special teams/linebacker coach Dean Hood, the former head coach at Eastern.
Mark Stoops is glad he was able to add him to his staff this season.
“Dean is a great addition. A seasoned veteran, a guy that’s been around. He’s got a good demeanor about him. He’s a fun guy to work with, and he’s helping in a lot of ways I think with the input on defense and also with special teams and his ideas on special teams,” Stoops said. “He’s a guy that I have a lot of confidence in and a lot of trust in. He’s been wonderful to work with.”
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As good as Bunchy Stallings was for the Kentucky offensive line last season, I never got a chance to ask him a question I’ve wanted to for a long time.
How did he get the nickname Bunchy?
Granted, he’s 310 pounds now and a big, big guy. But how did he get that nickname and why did it stick?
“I had a babysitter who started calling me that when I was little. She just said, ‘I am going to call this kid Bunch.’ My family just liked it and it stuck,” the UK junior said. “I actually liked it better than telling everybody my real first name (Jervontius). It’s a nice name but Bunchy is so much simpler and I tell people that.”
He might also be the biggest, or one of the biggest, players you might see on a golf course. He became friends with former UK golfer Stephen Stallings in a bit of an unusual way.
“I met him when I was hanging out with the gymnastics girls. I used to go over and hang out. They invited me and that’s how I met him when he was with one of them,” Bunchy Stallings said. “It’s about making connections.”
He says he’s the best golfer in his family, but admits that is not a huge claim to fame.
“I can hit it pretty far but it may curve to the right a long way, too,” he laughed and said.
He had an emotional time when UK beat Southern Mississippi last week. He had about 50 family members and friends at the game since it was close to his home. It was also only about a month since the passing of his mother. If that wasn't enough, he injured his knee early in the game while making his first start at center after starting at guard last season.
“It looked like he was banged up, but he came back in when we really needed him,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “We’re not at our typical full strength right now on the offensive line, so we’ve got to get going with some guys. But Bunchy coming back in was big for him and us.”
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Sisters Kambri Bivins, age 12, and Aubry Bivins, age 10, of Gallatin, Tenn, wanted to do something to share their father's love for UK basketball with others and find a way to get him honored at a UK basketball game this season after he passed away earlier this summer after suffering PTSD during his service in the Army.
They decided to make a video in hopes someone at UK would see it. Kami Bivins, their mother, sent e-mails to numerous UK officials and is hopefully waiting on a reply. She did hear from former Miss Kentucky Maria Montgomery, the on-court game co-host at Rupp Arena for UK games, who said she would share the girls’ message.
“The video was something they wanted to work on. They want their dad to be honored and remembered for the man he was and not the man who died from PTSD,” Kami, a Colorado native who met her husband when he was stationed in Colorado, said. “Eric loved Kentucky basketball. He was not into football or professional sports. He was all about Kentucky Wildcat basketball. He had (newspaper) clippings of Patrick Sparks (a former high school classmate) all over his UK room and he had UK hats all around the room. I think he had been wearing UK basketball shirts since he was 3 or 4 years old.”
He had over 200 UK basketball hats. Most were given out to those who attended his funeral service.
Kami regrets that they did not go to a Kentucky home basketball game. They planned to last year, but could not. They had been to Nashville to watch UK play against Vanderbilt.
“He never got to experience being in Rupp Arena. It would have been like heaven to him. We wanted to last year but with all that happened, we couldn’t,” she said.
The girls ended their Facebook video with this: “Good luck this season. Go Big Blue.”
I hope someone at UK makes it possible for these two special girls to have a chance to honor their father in some small way at Kentucky and let other UK fans do the same.
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Quote of the Week: “He thought he was paralyzed. He lost feeling in his right leg. It was really a scary moment. Maybe he compensated for being hurt during the offseason and made it worse. But I know what he can do when he is feeling good. He will not just wilt away,” Terry Barker on how his son, UK quarterback Drew Barker, felt when he first got hurt last season.
Quote of the Week 2: “This thing was laying dead in the water for 50 years. I think the Lord works in mysterious ways. If this had been done 30 years ago, I am not sure it would have been this impactful. I am not sure it would be what it is,” former UK quarterback Paul Karem on the documentary “Black In Blue” about how UK football integrated the SEC 50 years ago.
Quote of the Week 3: “Rather than have a falling out with my dad, I told him if he wanted me to go to Kentucky that bad, I would do it for a year and see what happens. I get on campus and the first play we put in was the option. It was probably the worst year of my life,” former UK quarterback Tim Couch on playing his first year in college for coach Bill Curry.
Leah Edmond, the 2016 SEC Freshman of the Year, admits she's a bit excitable playing volleyball – or watching UK football. (UK Athletics Photo)