It’s happened time and time again this season: just when you get comfortable with Kentucky, →
By Freddie Maggard on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
On Tuesday, Kentucky Sports Radio allowed me to cover my first Kentucky basketball game. When I say cover, realize that term is used loosely. I primarily had periphery observations and football comparisons struck my interest. Since the Unforgettables, the Georgia game marked my second UK Basketball experience in twenty-five years.
Here are observations from a rookie basketball quasi-media type:
— I arrived at Rupp Arena around 6:00 for the 9:00 tip-off. Periscoped in the parking lot. Oscar Combs parked alongside me to make a cameo appearance. After rolling down the window, Oscar looked like he had just seen a ghost. While periscoping he asked who I was speaking with on my phone. Parallel technology-minds think alike. Mr. Combs then reached into his trunk and presented me with a 1990 Cats Pause with yours truly on the cover. Being media savvy, I used the picture to illustrate that during my less than distinguishable career, UK’s uniforms and logo changed three times within five years, bringing relevance to today’s conversation.
— Then I went through Rupp Arena security gate and immediately got lost. Found the media table, and consistent with Commonwealth Stadium, UK hosts were professional and were overly nice. They probably could tell that I was nervous.
— On media row, Jerry Tipton and I were the first on the scene. I observed him going over notes and wearing out what I later learned was free popcorn. I tried to mimic but was more amazed at the new ribbon boards. Rupp has changed over the years. As other media hacks began to arrive, the ongoing joke was, “Are you lost?” and “You do realize this isn’t a football game?” All in good fun, but the nerves were still present.
— Pregame warmups started well before the 60-minute countdown clock started. Basketball pregame is vastly different than football. While on the gridiron, team is the primary focus. On the court, individual shooting took precedent. At this point, I became infatuated with Derrick Willis’ focus and routine. He must have taken two hundred three point shots. There is no way a quarterback could warm up in the same manner. The arm only has so many passes in it before tiring. Another interesting tidbit is how “position groups” dialed in on specific game-like drills. At this point, similarities between football and basketball took shape. Wildcat big men, or as I related to on Twitter, the O and D linemen worked on specific, close to basket fundamental moves. This correlates with linemen working “fits” or close-quarter blocking and shedding. On the basketball court, pregame is much more lengthy than in football. It can be argued that players exert as much energy before tip-off as they do after. Fascinating.
— As the media hoard trekked towards a top-secret, behind curtain room in Rupp’s bowels, I followed. Popcorn, cookies, water, coffee, and sodas were free. That still baffles me, you know the whole feeding the media deal. Reverting back to initial check-in, a concession stand gift card was presented to me. One thing is certain, you’ll never read or hear complaining about free chow from me. I gave my card to Nick Roush, he’s still a growing boy and all. In the media room, I noticed that conversations about basketball were technical (X’s and O’s) by nature. CWS media pregame discussions revolve around non-UK games on the big screen and other chatty topics. At times, I forget just how procedural football can be and how difficult it is to describe. Basketball is a simpler game with fewer moving players and moving parts. I will give the UK-based media credit, they know their basketball. Sitting around circular tables draped with blue tablecloths, I eavesdropped on Mike Pratt and others. A casual conversation for them translated into a classroom for me.
— Game started. Other than the obvious greatness of Jamal Murray, the most striking observation was Tyler Ulis’ eyes. As one of, if not THE best point guards in the game — yes Mr. Danwich I said that — Tyler’s court vision amazed me. He senses and envisions two plays ahead. That innate trait reminded me of Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota perfected the RPO, or Run/Pass/Option football play in which the quarterback has the choice to hand the football off to a running back, run himself, or attempt a forward pass. All three of these decisions are executed within one play call. Ulis has the same quick thinking ability and an incredibly high basketball IQ. In essence, every basketball play is a RPO.
— The size of the players is not well represented on television. Neither is the elite athletic movements of which are mandatory in virtually all basketball action. On a side note, sneaker squeaks are louder on television than in person. The Network must have sneaker speakers secretly hidden, much like football’s pylon camera.
— For those that think that John Calipari merely throws a basketball on the court and says, “go” you are truly the crazy ones. While dialing-in on the Wildcat leader I became exhausted. Working referees, calling plays, being vocal on corrections and so forth, started at the tip and ended just before the postgame handshakes.
— During Kentucky scoring spurts, the house got loud. Really loud. Rupp Arena’s sheer size and brand is intimidating. Another football/basketball difference was that I counted maybe eight or nine Georgia fans in the stands. The Dawgs football traveling party is much, much greater. Other than UK, I assume that’s the norm in SEC basketball. Sticking with that comparison, the two team’s skill and talent level were noticeably dissimilar. Georgia basketball obviously doesn’t recruit on the same level as its football counterparts.
— The pageantry and show that entails UK basketball is second to none. During the game, I tried to put myself in the Georgia player’s enormous shoes. To the best of memory, it is similar to traveling to Bryant-Denny in Tuscaloosa or Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. While crowd noise impacts football games, it does more so in basketball. Football teams are versed in running silent. Basketball is different in the manner of coach to player communication. When the Rupp crowd erupted, the Cats also got a little extra bounce in their step. That little extra bounce was well above the rim by the way.
— Much, much respect to the media for being able to keep up with the pace of action. After actually trying for the first three possessions, I quickly surrendered a futile attempt in applicability. Action is fast. Possessions change rapidly.
— Could go on with more, but reaching the realm of complaints due to word count. One more. UK is a Nike school. In basketball, the game ball is dictated by the home team’s brand. Thus, players are forced to use a different variation of basketball due to game’s location. Football is much different. Regardless of Nike, Under Armor, Adidas, or Pro Ked; the team with possession of the football uses their own product. An unbranded, universal basketball seems as if it would make sense.
Overall I had an absolute blast. However, throughout the experience I felt a sense of responsibility to honor the tradition that is Kentucky Basketball and Rupp Arena. For Kentuckians, both are considered holy.
By Kelsey Mattingly on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 10:45pm
We’ve partnered with Wendy’s for the Pic & Roll at Rupp Sweepstake! Visit a participating Wendy’s in the Lexington, KY area, take a pic with the in-store Pic & Roll At Rupp sign, and post to Instagram or Twitter using #WendysRuppVIP for your chance to win!
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Sweepstakes open only to legal residents of Kentucky, 18 years of age & older. Sweepstakes begins at 9:00:00 am EST on February 5, 2016, and ends at 11:59:59 pm EST on March 7, 2016. Void where prohibited. For full prize details, go to http://bit.ly/WendysRupp
You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:
#10 Cross Section
— Cross Section (@CrossSectionLGC) February 11, 2016
— holly (@kyholmarie) February 11, 2016
I think we can all take a guess…
#8 Jackie Watson
— Jackie Watson (@JcWatson810) February 11, 2016
Could he also revise my English paper while he’s busy saving lives and winning games or??
#7 Travis Workman
— Travis Workman (@rtworkman) February 11, 2016
And the ads keep on coming!
— Billy (@OneSideDone) February 10, 2016
#5 John Calipari
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 10, 2016
Happy birthday Cal, still swaggy even then!
#4 John Newton
— John Newton (@jnewton56) February 10, 2016
I don’t think anyone in BBN thought they would end the night that way.
#3 Doron Lamb
Ok coach I got you 😭😭😭😭pic.twitter.com/DFT2umSq6q
— Doron Lamb (@DLamb20) February 10, 2016
Always missing you Lamby!!
#2 Corey Burkhead
— Corey Burkhead (@CoreyBurkhead) February 10, 2016
#1 Billy Crutcher
— Billy Crutcher (@BillyCrutcher) February 10, 2016
I vote yes, happy Ash Wednesday and good luck on all that everyone is giving up!
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 10:30pm
Shannon Spake is an excellent ESPN sideline reporter. Last night, she proved that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the story is covered, even if it means climbing to the top of Rupp Arena in these shoes:
Apparently, it’s nothing new for her. Spake actually has a stair-running routine.
“It was a fun moment,” said Spake, who regularly runs stadium and arena stairs at the sites of her assignements, a tradition she began last football season. “You don’t often times get to do things like that, but because of the score of the game, we took advantage of the opportunity.”
You can watch her perform the feat from last night’s game below, or read more about her stair-running hobby here, from ESPN Front Row.
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 10:06pm
The Suns are heading into the All-Star break on a sour note. During a timeout in tonight’s game against the Warriors, Markieff Morris shoved and choked former Wildcat Archie Goodwin while he was sitting on the bench.
It’s unknown what started the scuffle, but it’s clear that Morris initiated the argument. Both players remained in the game following the sideline fight.
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 9:30pm
I’ve spent many weekends wasting away at AAU tournaments. It’s kinda cool to see coaching legends fill bleacher seats to watch “the next best (insert NBA comparison),” but AAU ball is so disorganized and there are so many games, it’s tough to put a barometer on an individual’s talent.
This past Saturday was different. Pulaski County High School hosted a plethora of Prep School talent in the Thoroughbred Classic. With good coaching, these teams are unlike anything I’ve ever seen from amateur athletes. Now that I’ve witnessed it firsthand, I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Mustang Madness and Marshall County Hoopfest.
Here are scouting reports from the best of the best, beginning with prospective Juniors, all with Kentucky as possible future destinations.
They don’t make players like Ayton. The 7-foot Bahamian is built like the beasts that filled the paint in the 90’s, yet Ayton has a smooth 3-point shot. He can lower his shoulder and bang in the post, or take the ball from the top the key for a finesse finger-roll finish at the rim.
Ayton’s game was the nightcap, and about two hours behind schedule. I was tempted to leave after a lackluster first quarter, but once he got going, he had three or four “I can’t believe he just did that” moments. Like any big guy, the only thing holding him back is his ability to go 100% all of the time.
If Calipari can convince him to become a Wildcat, he will not be able to avoid DeMarcus Cousins comparisons. Not just because he’s an athletic, dominant post-player, it’s his personality. Keep a close eye on Ayton because frankly, they don’t make players like him.
DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot #1 player in ’17, makes windmills off the backboard look easy pic.twitter.com/HalzeyHQsQ
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) February 7, 2016
He’s the number one point guard in 2017 for good reason. Usually these point guards get their accolades by being flashy, but not Duval. He’s Mr. Fundamental, playing low and wide with exceptional ball control. His strength is unlike most 16-year olds, and his acceleration with the ball in his hands is unbelievable. He knifed through three defenders on a regular basis, whether it was in the open court or in the lane. Most importantly, when things got tight at the end of the game, he had the ball in his hands to put the game away with an And 1.
Duval visited UK before his Saturday night game, but he surprisingly hasn’t received an offer yet from Calipari. The only point guard he’s offered yet is ranked #3, Trae Young of Oklahoma. It will be interesting to see how the dynamics of this duo play out.
You know how if you go to any park to play pickup, there’s always one big guy that nobody messes with? On Savage Drive in Shively, it was Chauncey. You could score on him, but when he really tried, he would embarrass you and do something ridiculous, like tear down the rim so no one could play anymore. If you don’t have a similar experience, think Deebo from “Friday.”
Billy Preston is one of those guys. At 6’10” 240 pounds, when I watched API play, I only noticed his teammate Trevon Duval. Preston didn’t stand out because it looked like he was moving slow and lackadaisical. But by the time the game was over, he had 22 points and the the game’s MVP award. How did he do it?
He played a lot on the perimeter, handling the ball well, but when he wanted to score inside, he was automatic. Like the big bullies on the playground, Preston has strength that his opponents simply cannot handle, and the ability to be dynamic with the basketball in his hands from anywhere on the court.
The total package. Name a skill and this kid does it. You could watch less than half of a quarter and you could see him block a shot, lead the fast break, dunk on someone, pick his opponent’s pocket, and back down a bigger defender on an excellent post move. If he was playing baseball, this is what it would look like:
The only thing I don’t recall seeing Vanderbilt do — knock down a three, and that’s probably because the game was being played well passed my bedtime.
Vanderbilt has played in the state of Kentucky about five times. He’s visited campus and he has an offer from UK. The Junior won’t be deciding soon, but if I was going to put money on which kid would commit to UK first in the ’17 class, I’m putting my money on Vanderbilt.
Moving on to the current Senior class, Maker probably won’t be a Wildcat, but he is one of the most entertaining players I’ve ever seen.
Twice his opponents were going to bring the crowd into a frenzy with an authoritative slam dunk. Twice the crowd let out an audible, “OOOOOOHHHHHH” after he denied his opponent access to the rim. The wiry 7-footer took the ball up the court frequently. He actually might be better away from the rim, with a solid step-back jumper. His team nearly pulled off an unbelievable comeback, but he put the step-back to the test on a deep three with under a minute to go, and it fell just short.
Maker is an unbelievable talent, but the way he plays will not easily transition to college. One thing is certain — it’s hard for a UK fan to watch him play and not think of the similarities between him and Skal.
The UK signee had a bad game, yet he still had 19 points and 18 rebounds. SKJ’s biggest weakness? strength, but that doesn’t mean he avoids contact. In fact, nothing impressed me more than watching him attack the rim over and over, despite getting roughed up without any help from the officials. If he and Wenyen Gabriel are both considered “Stretch 4’s” Gabriel prefers the perimeter, whereas SKJ does his dirty work in the post.
I had the chance to speak with SKJ and his coach after the game, but you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out more about one of Kentucky’s Next Five.
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 9:00pm
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed the first four months of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He wasn’t expected to return to play at all this season.
Instead, he’s been spectacular, averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, even knocking down three-pointers. Then things turned South on this play.
Hornets PR has announced that MKG dislocated his right shoulder (even though in that video it appears to be his non0surgical left shoulder). Hopefully it’s just a slight setback for the Wildcat that never gives up. Prayers up from the BBN.
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 7:35pm
To no one’s surprise (except maybe that Danwich guy) Tyler Ulis has made the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 List. One of the nation’s best point guards is averaging 16.2 points per game, scoring more than 20 points in nine of his last 13 games. He’s also dishing it out like a true point guard, getting 6.4 assists per game, good enough for an SEC-best 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Others on the list:
Ben Simmons, LSU
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Damion Lee, Louisville
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
Gary Payton II, Oregon State
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Grayson Allen, Duke
Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Kay Felder, Oakland
Kris Dunn, Providence
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Nic Moore, SMU
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
The winner will be announced at ESPN’s College Basketball Awards Show on the weekend of April 7-9.
By Nick Roush on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 7:00pm
You might know Pablo Torre from his articles in ESPN the Magazine or ESPN.com. You also might know his face from Around the Horn. Now you can know him as a guest on The Matt Jones Podcast. Highlights from today’s episode:
— Where do all of the giants in the NBA get their clothes?
— Why Torre believers a 16-seed can beat a 1-seed.
— How politics and sports are intertwined with one another.
— Things in sports media that irk Matt.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” It doesn’t get much easier than that. If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 6:00pm
If you live in Lexington, you know the CentrePointe hole has become part of the downtown landscape. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2010, the CentrePointe project has struggled to get off the ground for several years, and there’s no more poignant reminder than the hole the size of a full city block that’s been sitting empty since 2014.
Today, the CentrePointe project was dealt another blow when the newest developers to get involved announced they are pulling out. A lawyer for the developers sent the Lexington Urban County Council a letter this afternoon withdrawing from the project, which was slated to include a hotel, apartment building, restaurant, and retail shops.
The move comes one day after city officials were given a report about possible sites for a new city hall and ruled the CentrePoint project area one of the top three possible sites. When the city sent the developers a letter proposing that the city rent space from CentrePointe for a new city hall, the developers decided to pull out. Mayor Jim Gray said in a statement that the proposal from the developers asked too much from taxpayers.
At what point does the city just fill it with water and make it part of the Town Branch Creek?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 5:00pm
The guy on the left is former Auburn basketball star and current ESPN analyst Daymeon Fishback, and right now, he’s the only one of ESPN’s 27 college basketball experts that thinks Kentucky can still make it to the Final Four. Today, ESPN revisited its preseason picks for the NCAA Tournament, and Fishback was the only one to stick to his pick that the Cats would make it to Houston. In fact, Fishback kept all of his picks the same, including Kevin Stallings as Coach of the Year, which honestly has me a little worried that he forgot to update them altogether:
Final Four: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Maryland
National champion: North Carolina
Player of the year: Ben Simmons, LSU
Coach of the year: Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Before the season started
Final Four: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Maryland
National champion: North Carolina
Player of the year: Ben Simmons, LSU
Coach of the year: Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Regardless, it’s good to see someone still has faith in the Cats…maybe. The rest of ESPN’s experts are split, six picking UNC to win it all, six picking Maryland to win it all, and six picking Michigan State to win it all, further proof that with this season, who knows.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 4:19pm
Today in “As the Cardinal Turns”: could UofL athletic director Tom Jurich be headed for sunnier shores? Tony Vanetti is reporting that Jurich has been offered the AD job at University of Southern California, and he’s considering it. Vanetti says that Jurich is reportedly upset with UofL president James Ramsey for not including him in the decision to self-impose a postseason ban and is unhappy with the current power struggle in the midst of the sex scandal.
Could Jurich, Ramsey, and Rick Pitino all be gone after this season? If so, will Floyd Street self-destruct upon their exits?
Meanwhile, which do you think would upset Louisville fans more: losing Pitino or losing Jurich?
Which would upset Louisville fans more?
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 10, 2016
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 3:45pm
Today’s WTF headline comes to us from Whitesburg, Kentucky, where a drunk man was caught trying to shoplift Legos and dolls from a Wal-Mart by an off-duty Kentucky State Trooper.
According to WYMT, KSP Trooper Scott Caudill caught James Penrod, a 51-year-old from North Dakota, stuffing Legos down his pants. After alerting Wal-Mart employees, Caudill caught Penrod putting pink dolls in his jacket pocket. Caudill wrote in his citation that Penrod smelled strongly of alcohol and Legos could be heard rattling around in his pants. After Penrod became hostile and spit in Caudill’s face, additional police officers were called in to help detain him.
Penrod was taken to the Letcher County Jail, where he faces charges of resisting arrest, assault of a police officer, criminal abuse 3rd degree, fleeing or evading police, tampering with physical evidence, shoplifting, alcohol intoxication, disorderly conduct and menacing. Also, stupidity (although that one’s not on the citation).
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 3:00pm
It’s been over a week since Lamar Thomas left Louisville to accept the wide receivers coaching position at Kentucky, and today, UK released his contract. Thomas will make $275,000 this upcoming season and $300,000 for the 2017-2018 season, quite a bump from his $200,000/year contract at Louisville.
Like the rest of UK’s coaches, Thomas will receive bonuses if Kentucky wins the SEC East, the SEC Championship, or makes it to a bowl. To read the specific breakdowns of those bonuses, check out his contract on UK’s website.
Meanwhile, nothing new to report on the defensive backs coaching job left vacant by Derrick Ansley. Stay tuned…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 2:10pm
Do you love the Lexington Legends? Do you love DeMarcus Cousins? (Of course you do!) Then circle April 22 in your calendar, because the Legends are hosting a DeMarcus Cousins bobblehead giveaway at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on April 22. (It probably won’t look like the one pictured above.)
Sounds like a great excuse to enjoy a night at the ballpark to me.
Speaking of Boogie, he and several former Cats will participate in the NBA All-Star festivities this weekend. Here’s a schedule of when you can see your favorite former Cats on TNT:
Friday’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge
- Karl-Anthony Towns – Team USA
- Nerlens Noel – Team USA
- Trey Lyles – Team World
Saturday’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
- Devin Booker
Saturday’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Anthony Davis
- DeMarcus Cousins
Sunday’s All Star Game
- John Wall – Eastern Conference
- DeMarcus Cousins – Western Conference
- Anthony Davis – Western Conference
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 10th, 2016 @ 1:45pm
[Ed. Note: Two years ago, my husband found himself with an extra ticket to the UK/Vandy game at Memorial Gymnasium, and instead of selling it, he decided to give it Dancing Guy, who came to Nashville without a ticket in hopes of going to the game. He wrote about the experience at the time, and given all the discussion about Dancing Guy today, I thought it was worth sharing again, as is Mark Story’s profile of him from 2009.]
JANUARY 12, 2014
As Tyler and I headed to Corner Pub to pregame with UK fans before the Vanderbilt game a few weeks ago, little did I know fate was going to deliver upon me the chance to share the experience with UK fan legend “Dancing Guy,” aka Darren Moscoe.
My friend who was originally going to the game with me came down with the stomach flu and had to cancel at last minute, so I was stuck with an extra ticket in hopes of finding another fan willing to pay $40 for some cheap seats. As usual, Tyler had a press credential and Aaron Flener already had a ticket, but I was optimistic someone would be willing to join me on the wooden bleachers of Memorial Gym. As we pulled into the parking lot, who did we spot coming out of Corner Pub but the ever-enthusiastic Dancing Guy! Tyler even joked that I should give him the extra ticket. Should I?
Now, Dancing Guy and I have some history. Tyler’s parents have season tickets in Section 18 of Rupp, and he usually sits one row behind them, waiting anxiously for the second half TV timeout and Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” to blast through the speakers. Whenever I sit in the Thompson family seats, I always capture his handrail sliding, stair-shimmying routine with my iPhone. He’s even hammed it up a bit more for me at times, knowing I am recording his, well, let’s say, “unique” dance routine. I was also lucky enough to be seated near him in the upper level during this year’s Big Blue Madness. The Big Blue gods clearly had a plan for us.
Back to Corner Pub. As we walked into the bar, we noticed Dancing Guy had already left, going from location to location, hoping to find a ticket to the game. He showed back up at Corner Pub in time for a quick interview with Jennifer Palumbo and to see if he won the raffle for free tickets. Knowing I couldn’t miss this opportunity, I approached Dancing Guy and asked if he was still looking for a ticket. He gave me some short blurb about not having enough money, being unemployed, or something to that effect. I told him I was a big fan, gave him my extra ticket with a handshake, and told him “See you at the game.”
From there, we split ways, but I eventually saw him walking to Vandy’s campus with a few of his friends, with whom I assume he traveled down to Nashville. A few minutes before game time, he showed up at his assigned seat, trying to catch his breath from the climb up the stairs to Section 3L. After he thanked me graciously for the ticket, we introduced ourselves since I never even knew what to call him other than “Dancing Guy.” From that point on, Darren and I were on a first-name basis and having a great time watching the Cats take on the Commodores. Just a few highlights from our conversations:
— He thought the game was going to be downtown at Bridgestone Arena, and wasn’t sure if he had ever been to Memorial Gym, although he did recognize the unique raised floor and bench seating from TV.
— Although he doesn’t have a favorite player on this team yet, his all-time favorite UK player is Kenny Walker.
— His favorite game time chant is “DE-FENSE” which he never stopped yelling when Cats didn’t have the ball, and he plays particularly close attention to post-ups and blocking out in the paint.
— He’s not afraid to take a few friendly jabs at the opposing team, albeit his creativity in name-calling is a little lacking.
— He knows of his popularity in the UK fanbase, and understands people expect him to have some bling in his attire and some soul in his steps.
After the game, Darren and I exchanged a victory high-five and C-A-T-S cheer, then headed our separate ways. As I was walking back to the parking lot, I couldn’t help but remember everyone being a bit worried I was sitting next to him during the game. I have heard people refer to him as “weird” or “creepy,” and how they were slightly disturbed by his crotch-riding handrail slides. And while he is certainly eccentric and maybe a bit socially awkward, he was no more strange than many other dedicated — in some cases obsessed — fans of the Big Blue Nation. I was more than happy to give him a ticket to the game, as he gave me a lifetime of memories I won’t soon forget. Thanks Darren! Hope to see you at a game sometime soon.