Put on your yellow and blue, it’s Leap Day!
Leap Day has always been one of those cultural oddities that I’ve found very easy to ignore. The only time you ever hear about it is when it happens or someone you know was born on Leap Day. Actually, if there are any “leap babies” out there, I’d like to know how they feel about leap years…do they get tired of the jokes about how they’re really only a fourth of their actual age or does it make them feel special? For those of you who don’t already have your Leap Day party wear out, here’s a quick refresher: Leap Year occurs every four years and is our way of synchronizing the calendar year with the astronomical/seasonal year. Sometimes it just seems like a trick. For example, come to the Land of Make Believe with me for a moment (where every year is Leap Year!): if Kentucky played a game tonight, and it was Cal’s 600th win, ten bucks says the NCAA would find a way to vacate the win on account of it being on Leap Day.
The only thing odder than Leap Day is its traditions. You “30 Rock” fans will know the legend of Leap Day William, the fictional folk hero who emerges every four years to encourage people to do things they normally wouldn’t (“Real life starts in March!”–a mantra I fully support). In Ireland, legend says that on Leap Day, women are supposed to propose to men as a way to “balance the traditional roles of men and women,” and any man who receives a proposal must accept it. So ladies, throw caution to the wind and go propose to your beloved…just realize that Kentucky is not Utah, so Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can only have one wife.
Leap Day News and Views!
— On Tuesday evening, Coach Cal felt it was time to touch base with the fans after a recent wave of media backlash over his comments about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming back to school. Cal said that he felt his remarks about Michael having to convince him it was a good idea for him to return and not enter the draft were misunderstood, and wanted to clear the air that had been kicked up by certain, most assuredly local, media members. Drew touched on this earlier, but Cal’s piece is essentially a critique of the current one-and-done rule (which he reminds everyone he doesn’t believe in), a defense of his “players-first” program, and what he suggests Billy Hunter and the NBA Players Association do to fix the system. To anyone who’s been listening, Cal has been adamant about the pitfalls of the one-and-done system, and insists he is only helping his players reach their dream with all the options in front of them, something he has preached for years. The fact is, some members of the media are lazy, and instead of doing their job and letting go of their preconceived notions that Cal and Kentucky are an “one-and-done factory,” they linger in stereotypes and snobbery. Cal is many things–boastful, bold, and yes, sometimes maybe a little too full of swagger–but he does his job and he does it well. Sometimes I wish people would just focus on that.
— Thursday is fast approaching, which means it’s time for Eloy Vargas and Darius Miller to burst through their paper hula hoops and try not to cry during “My Old Kentucky Home” (a task at which I will fail miserably). Both Vargas and Miller have become fan favorites, Eloy for his centaur-like posture and gait, and Miller for being a homegrown Kentucky boy that survived the program’s dark days of Billy Gillispie. Miller in particular has become absolutely clutch late in games this season, hitting a stone-cold 15-20 field goals and 13-14 free throws when an opponent is within five with ten minutes left (h/t to Kyle Tucker for that fun fact). Miller’s career has never been easy; the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball came onto the team as a highly-regarded recruit, only to play for a coach with, shall we say, questionable coaching techniques that almost broke several players’ spirits. After Billy was fired and Coach Cal swept in with his number-one-ranked class of recruits, Darius could have easily transferred and gotten a fresh start elsewhere, but instead he stood firm in his commitment to the Cats, choosing to take his chances and learn from Cal, even if it meant fighting freshmen for playing time. In fact, Darius started for each of Cal’s teams at Kentucky, and has only more recently embraced the role as “sixth-man,” although I would argue he is much, MUCH more clutch than that term implies. Unfortunately, that progression has not always been smooth, with Darius occasionally drawing ire from fans for his tendency to slip into passive play during games (“Disappearius” if you will), but on his Senior Night, it’s hard to think of a player more loyal than Darius Miller.
— Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Eloy. We’ve already posted a tribute to the beloved transfer, written by KSR College’s Kristen Geil, and I’m sure more will come in over the next few days. Centaur jokes aside, Eloy has put together a decent career at Kentucky, providing a presence in the middle off the bench and giving Davis a breather when need be. Although Cal says he has received interest from NBA scouts who see him as a Josh Harrellson-type backup, Eloy will have to step it up in the postseason and UK’s “Pro Day” to find a home in the big league, or at the very least, abroad. Maybe he’ll end up playing pro-ball in Greece, where he can spend time looking at ruins, drinking olive oil, and trotting around with the other centaurs.
— I promise I’m almost done with the sappy stuff (I’ll save the playing of Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” for later). Tywanna Patterson sat down with Larry Vaught to discuss her favorite memories from her son Patrick’s “senior day” (he graduated as a junior). Tywanna is a character, and has never shied away from sharing her opinions, so it’s a fun read. In fact, here’s my favorite snippet, in which Tywanna shares some advice for Darius and his parents:
“Enjoy each and every moment of Senior Night. It is Darius and their family’s night to be acknowledged and to stand before BBN and be recognized and honored. I am getting emotional just thinking about it. I know I will cry just as I did with Patrick. There is still much to do after UK basketball. The sky is the limit. Darius will have his degree and the NBA is waiting as well. So many more opportunities and they can always come back for games at UK as Buster and I do. Once UK … always UK … the door remains open and we are here for them whenever they need us. WOW! Time has flown by, but lots of good memories. Go CATS and Go BBN!!”
Once a Wildcat mamma, always a Wildcat mamma, Tywanna.
— I’m not going to say Georgia beating Kentucky on Senior Night would be impossible, but it would pretty darn difficult. Even a big win over Florida on Saturday couldn’t bolster Mark Fox’s hopes, as the Georgia head coach said on Monday that the Bulldogs would “have to play, extremely, extremely well to have a chance to win the game.” I expect the Cats to take care of business and fine tune everything before a big road trip to Gainesville on Sunday.
— The race for Player of the Year is essentially down to two players: Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson. The Dagger’s Jeff Eisenberg does a side-by-side comparison of the two, and on paper, it is still extremely close. However, stats don’t measure Davis’ ability to completely alter a game before it’s even begun, which I think has to give him the edge over Robinson.
— Our old buddy Pat Forde felt the need to stir things up on Tuesday and dedicated a good portion of his weekly Yahoo! column on the topic of whether or not Kentucky would benefit from a loss before the NCAA Tournament. Shockingly, he thinks they would, pointing to two prior teams (the ’96 Cats and the ’80 Cardinals) who were “toughened up” by late season losses. Also shockingly, I don’t agree with him. After the Indiana loss and the subsequent games in which Kentucky flailed around before finding their groove in late January, sure, one final “gimme” loss before the tournament wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal, but this team is on another level right now. Like many have argued, needing to lose implies that something needs to be corrected, but what exactly is so bad about how this team’s playing right now? They seems plenty focused to me, and as we’ve seen in road wins over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, it’s not exactly in their nature to give up when things get tough.
— The most outrageous part of Kyle Wiltjer and Jarrod Polson’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Joe Craft Center? The fact that Eloy Vargas dunked on Anthony Davis for the latest Helmet Award. Go, Eloy!
— Congratulations to KSR pal Josh Hopkins, who was cast in the upcoming NBC pilot, “Lady Friends,” which as you would expect, is about two lady friends who “are living very different lives but can’t live without each other.” Hopkins plays one of the ladies’ husbands. The role is basically insurance if “Cougar Town” isn’t renewed for a fourth season, which is still a possibility. I was really hoping we’d get to see Josh in a more “manly” named sitcom, but if it means we get to see him onscreen throwing up three goggles, I’m all for it.
— Recruiting news! According to Scout.com, Nerlens Noel has narrowed his list to Kentucky, Georgetown, Syracuse, UConn, and North Carolina; which means Florida and Providence have been dropped.
— Rumors are rumbling around the interwebs about the release of an expose of the UCLA Basketball program by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday morning. In fact, UCLA head coach Ben Howland confirmed the existence of an article, which SportsbyBrooks claims concerns alleged marijuana usage by at least three then-current players who have since departed the program. Needless to say, the article and allegations could play a major role in the Bruins’ recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad, and sources say UCLA has hired a crisis communication firm to help them with the situation.
That’ll do for now. Matt and company take the ‘waves at 10 a.m. See you then.