McDonald says Leek won’t qualify at Lexington tour stop

Cole Claybourn

LEXINGTON — WKU’s Toppers on Tour continued on Saturday with its second stop of the summer in Lexington.

Several coaches were on hand — men’s basketball coach Ken McDonald, football coach Willie Taggart, and women’s basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles — as well as Athletics Director Ross Bjork.

For the most part, it was a chance for WKU coaches to meet with fans in an area dominated by Kentucky fans.

But McDonald also brought with him some WKU basketball news.

As most of the players are scheduled to arrive on campus this weekend, they’ll be doing so without Deng Leek, a 6-foot-11 center from Greensboro, N.C., who signed with WKU in November.

McDonald confirmed that Leek hasn’t qualified academically, meaning Leek will have to either attend prep school for a year or opt to play at a junior college. When McDonald spoke about the 2011 recruiting class, he said it would be a seven-player class – including six freshmen.

To make up for losing Leek, WKU received a verbal commitment last week from 6-foot-7 forward O’Karo Akamune, a transfer from Eastern Oklahoma State College.

McDonald said Kevin Kaspar, a point guard from Istanbul, Turkey, is visiting family back home and will arrive on campus in July. Everyone else, though, will be there this weekend.

McDonald also took the time to acknowledge the problems last year’s team faced.

“We had some things missing this year,” he said. “There were times when there was too much selfishness, not enough chemistry, not enough teamwork.

“Pride was also a big missing factor in last year’s team. You’ve got to have pride in the uniform and you’ve got to have pride for the people who came before you. We tried to really break down what we’re going to attack with this new group.”

Cowles introduces new assistant coach

Cowles on Friday introduced her two new assistant coaches to the media – former player Camryn Whitaker and former Warren Central High School boys’ basketball coach Tim Riley.

Whitaker joined Cowles in Lexington on Saturday and was introduced to fans.

She graduated from nearby Harrison County High School and played for WKU under Cowles before coaching two years at Austin Peay and three years at Missouri State.

“When I knew I was going to make some changes, there really wasn’t a question as to who I was going to go after,” Cowles said. “I knew she was going to bring some things Ross (Bjork) and I spent a lot of time talking about: passion, energy, enthusiasm.”

Lady Toppers’ season opener about more than women’s basketball

The Lady Toppers are set to open their season on Nov. 12 against Towson at Diddle Arena – the same day that WKU is scheduled to play Louisiana State in football.

Cowles said she’s working with Bjork to try and schedule the game to start at 3 or 4 p.m.

She said the plan is for fans to stick around after the game and watch the football game on the jumbo screens in Diddle Arena.