TIREY: Tubby looks outside the box for a big man

Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith has had a hard time nailing down a successor at the power forward spot for the departing Chuck Hayes. The Wildcats may be thinking outside the box, however, and there is one target that might bear fruit for the Cats.

Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith has had a hard time nailing down a successor at the power forward spot for the departing Chuck Hayes. Every target the Cats have been in with this recruiting year, has seemed to make Kentucky live the old wedding cliché, "Always a bride's maid and never a bride". So the coaching staff at UK has started dabbling a bit into the junior college ranks to see who might be available. And the College of Southern Idaho may have the best junior college PF available right now.

Mohamed Kone (pronounced Ko-nay) is a 6'11", 235 pound, African born power forward that is wrecking havoc in the Scenic West Athletic Conference in the western part of the United States. The SWAC has such teams as Dixie State and Snow College in Utah. Kone has led CSI to a 16-2 record in the conference and a number one seed in the SWAC tournament that starts Wednesday, March 9.

Head coach Gib Arnold of CSI said Kone's versatility has been a huge help to Golden Eagles. "He starts for us at the power forward slot, but he actually plays about six or seven minutes a game at the three, too." Kone has even been known to slide to the five, if needed. "He's very skilled," continued Arnold. "Hecan handle the ball, and he can shoot it a little bit from the outside. He's a phenomenal athlete…that can block shots, rebound, and score." Kone's stats are a testament to the words of Coach Arnold, as he leads the conference in rebounding, is second in blocked shots, and is eighth in the league in scoring. Just a couple of Saturdays ago, he scored 43 points in only 22 minutes of action. Does he do it with muscle? Not exactly, according to Arnold. "He's not a banger by any means, but he's a solid built athlete. He's really quick off the floor," said Arnold.

So how did Kentucky get involved and just how involved are the Cats? Arnold says the fact that UK struck out in the early signing period with a couple of targets, had the Kentucky coaching staff looking at different options. "I know that after the early signing period,…Coach [Scott] Rigot gave us a call and said they were going on a kid and didn't get him," stated the CSI head coach. "They were looking into, in the second half of the late period, trying to find the best junior college player out there, that fit that description. He said Mohamed Kone was the one name that came up from a lot of people he talked to." But, up to this point, the only contact between Kentucky and Kone, or his coaching staff for that matter, has been by phone. "They've called me a couple of times, they've begun mailing Mohamed, and talking with Mohamed on the phone. There has been contact, although they have yet to come out and see Mohamed live. They have maintained contact," said Coach Arnold.

Would Kone be interested in the Wildcats? Arnold seems to think so. "A type of program like Kentucky, he would have sincere interest," said Arnold. The head coach has spent some time in the SEC and has talked with Kone about the tradition at Kentucky. "I spent some time at Vanderbilt…so I've told him about the great tradition they have up there [at Kentucky] and obviously a great coach and great coaching staff. So he would have sincere interest, if it were to come to that." Arnold seems to believe that Kone's talents and game are perfectly suited for what Tubby Smith does at UK. "I think that system is the type of system where he would play best. If Coach Smith asked him to do numerous things within that system, he'd be more than happy to do the best he could. I'd have absolutely no problem at all seeing Mohamed end up there at Kentucky," said Coach Arnold.

Kone does have an impressive list of schools courting him right now. Arnold ran down a list that sounded like a roll call of top programs. From the western part of the country, UCLA, USC, and UNLV are in the mix. While from the Big 12, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas are taking a hard look (Kansas was in the gym watching Kone when I spoke to Coach Arnold). From the SEC, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina have shown a little curiosity, but Auburn has been very active, according to Arnold. But Kentucky does raise an eyebrow on Mohamed's face whenever they are mentioned. Arnold said, "When you say you've won more games than anyone else in the country, you normally listen. And even if you're from Africa, you realize what winning is. So he was very intrigued when they first started calling."

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