By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky football signee Jordan Dingle of Bowling Green was not his team’s leading scorer or rebounder but coach D.G. Sherrill knows what a factor he played in helping the Purples get to the state tournament at Rupp Arena last week. Bowling Green won one game before losing to Ballard in the state quarterfinals
“First of all he is a big, strong presence in there,” Sherrill said after Dingle had seven rebounds, four points and one assist in a win over University Heights. “He does a lot that does not show up on the stat sheet.
“He guards at the bucket, gets a lot of rebounds. Every possession he plays extremely hard. He is a tremendous leader.”
Sherill knows not every elite athlete would accept the role Dingle did this year.
“He is a high level Division I football player and he accepted this role on our team. He is a great defender and rebound guy,” Sherrill said. “He doesn’t look for shots.
“He does not care how much he scores or rebounds. He just wants to win. I am tickled to coach him. He is a special young man.”
* * *
Most Kentucky basketball fans I know were happy for the success Johnny Juzang had in the NCAA Tournament with UCLA, including 29 points and six rebounds in the heartbreaking overtime loss to Gonzaga in the Final Four. He had 137 points in six tourney games, including 15 3-point goals.
Juzang got in 28 games, including two starts, at Kentucky last season playing behind Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley. His best game probably was his final UK game when he played a season-high 33 minutes and scored 10 points in UK’s 18-point comeback win at Florida.
Juzang said he was homesick for California, so he went home to UCLA — one of close to 20 schools that offered him when he originally picked UK.
He started all but one game and averaged 16 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 35.3 percent from 3-point range and 87.7 percent at the foul line for coach Mick Cronin, a coach known for his hard-nosed approach and emphasis on defense.
Considering Juzang’s forte was his shooting, it seemed like a risk to play for Cronin when he left UK but it certainly worked out.
“I just felt something about Coach, just such a genuine guy, and it was first — something it was just intuition and I just felt it. I felt that he was just genuine, so that was the first thing. His reputation, I had no second thoughts (about coming to UCLA),” Juzang said.
“It is also what drew — I knew that he was hard. I knew that he was intense. I knew that he was defensive-minded, and those are things that drew me, I wanted that. I wanted to be pushed.
“I knew that he would push me and hold me accountable and challenge me, and I knew he — and I wanted to play for a program where obviously he does that for everybody. I want to be part of a winning program with winning standards, and a level of accountability to win games. Obviously it’s been incredible.”
Juzang didn’t change his perspective after the loss to Gonzaga.
“It was a phenomenal run. I think the best thing and what everybody just feels so good about is, I mean, we couldn’t be any prouder. Like, there was no — there was nothing that was going to stop us from fighting,” Juzang said. “I mean, literally to the last play and every single game to the last play, we were going to go out swinging.