KSRâ€™s friend Aaron Torres was back in Lexington this week to take in an exciting few days in Kentucky sports. Aaron joined us at our remote show Friday at the Kentucky Branded store to talk about his new book â€œONE AND FUN: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.â€ While in town, Aaron had the chance to take in his first Big Blue Madness and took some time to reflect on the 2015-16 Kentucky basketball team.
Hello and good evening Big Blue Nation, this is Aaron Torres, and if youâ€™re not quite sure who I am, or why the hell Iâ€™m posting on KSR, well, itâ€™s ok. I completely understand, and please, donâ€™t feel bad. My own mom calls me by the wrong name once or twice a week.
To start answering your questions, Iâ€™m an old friend of KSR, a guy who has done guest posts here before, and also made the occasional radio appearances with Matt and Ryan and as well. As a matter of fact, you may have heard me on there this past Friday, talking about my new book, â€œOne and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.â€ For those of you who didnâ€™t listen to the show, well first off, shame on you.
As for the book, well the book is exactly what it sounds like; a detailed look at the 2010 team, through interviews with Coach Cal, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and others. The book is available on Amazon, and KentuckyBasketballBook.comâ€¦ a URL that is not only real, but made the KSR guys giggle when I said it. As Matt suggested, my next book might actually just be called â€œKentucky Basketball Book.â€
Anyway, with the weekend over, the team at KSR asked me if I was interested in doing a guest post similar to what I did last time I was in Lexington, giving an outsiderâ€™s look at Big Blue Madness, and a little bit on the NBA game Saturday night as well. Given that it was my first experience at each, the obvious correlation between Mr. Boogie Cousins and the book, and the fact that well, I once again had a blast during my time in Lexington, I figured it was an awesome idea. It was also an awesome way to wrap up a fun weekend.
So without further ado, here is â€œThe Outsiderâ€™s Impression of Big Blue Madness.â€
First off, Big Blue Madness is awesome. Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot:
So after arriving into town on Thursday I was surprised to learn that a lot people actually felt like the buzz for Big Blue Madness wasnâ€™t quite what it had been in yearâ€™s past. Yes, there was still excitement. But the combination of a Thursday football game, the fact that fans could watch at home on SEC Network, and the simple reality that itâ€™s really tough to top what the school has done in years past, left many feeling like the buzz was down compared to yearâ€™s past.
Well, all I can say is this: If that was a â€œquiet, downtrodden Big Blue Madness,â€ then I donâ€™t want to see what a lively one looked like. Frankly, it was one of the single most fun sporting events Iâ€™ve ever attended.
Now, did it have the feeling of a big, regular season game? Of course not, but crap, not everything has to be life or death, you know? For one night a year it seems perfectly fine to do something for the fans, have a little fun, blow up a few fireworks indoors (Iâ€™m sure the fire marshal was thrilled with that) and use a basketball court as a big projector screen to show old basketball film.
Speaking of which, that last part — the video which played on the court — was my single favorite part of the entire experience. It also left me wondering â€œhow the hell did they pull that off?â€ something that will likely leave me puzzled until the day I die. I will personally split an atom before I figure out how the hell UK athletics pulled that off.
Drakeâ€™s Introduction Was Really Creepy:
But itâ€™s ok, it was all in good fun. Not to mention that when Drake called Coach Cal â€œThe Silver Foxâ€ it might have been the single funniest thing Iâ€™ve ever heard.
It also might have inspired my next book.
When I write the story of the 2015-2016 Kentucky Wildcats, Iâ€™m thinking a title to the effect of â€œDrake, the Silver Fox and a Bunch of Wildcats: A Behind the Scenes Look at the 2016 Kentucky Wildcatsâ€ sounds pretty good, doesnâ€™t it?
How about that Coach Cal speech, huh?
Personally I loved Coach Calâ€™s speech, and loved him referencing all the past and present players. It also made me realize “Good lord this dude has coached a lot of great players at Kentucky.â€
More than that though, I can honestly say I was surprised by the reaction to the speech from others as well.
What am I talking about?
Well, as you may have read, as soon as Coach Cal ended the speech by asking â€œWhoâ€™s next?â€ the immediate response by just about everyone was, â€œWow, that was the most thinly veiled recruiting pitch Iâ€™ve ever heard.â€ And to a degree, of course it was. When you have Harry Giles, Deâ€™Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Gary Trent Jr. and others on campus, youâ€™re going to sell the program. And what is a better sales pitch for a 17-year-old kid than to say â€œCome play where John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony Towns did.â€
At the same time, I honestly didnâ€™t get the sense that the â€œWhoâ€™s nextâ€ quote was really aimed at the teamâ€™s future players, as the current ones.
Call me crazy, but to me that statement wasnâ€™t so much a â€œHey, come to Kentuckyâ€ pitch to Harry Giles, as much as it was Cal telling Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere (yes, I Googled that before I typed it) and everyone else on this current team, â€œHey, this is ainâ€™t going to be easy. And if you think Iâ€™m ramping down the expectations because we lost so many good players, think again.â€
Again, itâ€™s just my opinion.
But I honestly believe that was the angle Coach Cal was going for.
And I think itâ€™s a message the players are going to learn the hard way in the coming weeks.
On the court, the biggest thing that stood out to me wasâ€¦
This is going to be a really, really fun team to watch.
No, they wonâ€™t be the physically freaky, overwhelming group of MonStars they were last year, but at the same time, what they will be fast, aggressive and very up-tempo. This might not be the most talented group to ever play at Kentucky, but they will be fun to watch.
In a lot of ways, their style of play actually reminds me a little of the 2010 team.
(Hey, not sure if you heard, but thereâ€™s a new book out about that team called â€œOne and Fun!â€
Woops, sorry for being that guy.
Back to your regularly scheduled recap post).
Speaking of this yearâ€™s team, Jamal Murray is a beast:
I know Matt Jones has already laid down the gauntlet on Murray, saying he will be the best perimeter player at Kentucky since John Wall, and frankly from what we saw on Friday night, itâ€™s hard to disagree. Watching him, I was amazed at how effortless everything looked; his ability to get to the rim, his shooting stroke, the way he finishes around the basket. Simply put, the guy doesnâ€™t play basketball, so much as much as he glides around the court.
Oh, and one additional thought on Murray.
While I was on campus I got to briefly watch practice, and I believe that as excited as we are as fans to watch Murray, Coach Cal knows how good he can be as well. In watching practice I was amazed at how little â€œcoachingâ€ Cal did with Murray. It was almost like he treated him as a veteran, a guy that he didnâ€™t need to go super tough on, and didnâ€™t micro-manage.
Point being, I think Murray is going to be really good.
Like, â€œpotential first team All-Americanâ€ good.
A few quick thoughts on the NBA game:Â
Iâ€™m just going to throw it out there: I didnâ€™t pay a whole, helluva lot of attention to the NBA game Saturday night. I had a book signing before the event, and when I got into Rupp Arena, I was more concerned with the cold pasta in the media room than anything that was going on, on the court.
(Seeing Drew Franklinâ€™s face as I scarfed down my fourth plate of tasteless, cold pasta may have been the highlight of my entire trip)
Of course with that said, I was impressed with a few different things.
First off, it was incredible the number of fans that were in attendance Saturday. Sure DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis were playing, but still, this was an NBA preseason game, following a long weekend for Kentucky fans after the football game and Big Blue Madness. Only there they were on Saturday night, out in full force. I donâ€™t know if the game technically â€œsold outâ€ but I can tell you that I didnâ€™t see all too many empty seats either.
Furthermore, I continue to be amazed by how much this fan-base loves DeMarcus Cousins.
Look, I know its common sense to everyone reading this post that Boogie is the most beloved â€˜Cat ever, but to me itâ€™s simply amazing. Sure I thought he was â€œamongst the most beloved everâ€ but I also figured that a guy like Anthony Davis, who led the 2012 team to a title would be in the conversation as well.
Only, with all due respect to Davis, itâ€™s not even close. When I walked through Rupp Arena Saturday I was surprised how many people were wearing Sacramento Kings gear, and in general just supported Boogie.
As a matter of fact, as I leave Lexington, that also reminds me of one of my single favorite memories of the entire trip.
While I was doing a signing on Saturday night, I was making small talk with one an older woman (she had to be in her 70â€™s) when I asked her who here favorite Wildcat of all-time was.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, she stopped browsing through the book, looked up, got a big smile on her face and saidâ€¦
â€œWell Boogie, of course!â€
To read more about DeMarcus Cousins, and the rest of his teammates at UK, pick up your copy of â€œOne and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats either on Amazon or at KentuckyBasketballBook.com.
To read an excerpt about DeMarcus and the team during their visit to New York, click here.Â