I mean, you saw the performance out there, and he put his heart out there on the floor,” Dominic James said. “So out of respect for him and his teammates, I just told him to keep his head up and keep playing the game that he loves.”
Boy how things change. Two years ago, most Kentucky fans saw Ramel Bradley as too cocky and Joe Crawford as not having enough heart to be embraced by the UK fanbase. Now, in a BW3s in the middle of Louisville, I saw more than one grown man cry as both young men’s careers came to an end. Today’s game in many ways symbolized the season….the Cats gave it their all against a quality opponent, but came up a little short due t0 a lack of players caused unfortunate injuries (how good is this team with Patterson and Meeks?). The Cats had too many turnovers, too many missed defensive rebounds and too many uninhibited drives to the basket allowed to beat a team of Marquette’s caliber in the NCAA Tournament. You cant be upset at the outcome, as the team gave it their all….but it doesnt make it any easier to swallow either.
However the game itself is not really the story tonight. In fact, in many ways the game is just a secondary notion to what we will all remember from NCAA Tournament 2008. That image at the end of the game of Joe Crawford crying into a towel will always be one that sticks in my Kentucky memory bank. A guy who many believed cared too little and who all too often was criticized by fans expecting too much, ended up putting together the game of his life…..35 points, carrying his team on his back and putting his entire body on the line to get the win. He fouled out as the clock ran out and was so taken with emotion that he began crying….a scene that apparently was repeated in the locker room. He left so much on the court that the OTHER TEAM’s players wanted to console him and show their appreciation. The kid who tried to transfer after his Freshman year brought about one of the greatest displays of emotion of any Kentucky player in recent years…..a fact none of us would have imagined, but we will all remember.
Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford….two players that will always be linked to each other in Kentucky lore. Their championship totals and overall team pedigree may fall a bit short. But there may never be two players who left more on the floor during their Senior season than these two young men did. Overcoming the weight of heavy expectations, a lack of supporting talent and a last season coaching change, these young men took their game to a higher level in their last year and gave effort that will set the foundation for the near future of the program. Ramon Harris at the SEC Tournament, and apparently again today, cried in the locker room because he wanted to “give a great finish to our Seniors.” The reason is simple. For the coaching staff, their fellow players and the UK fanbase, these two young men have represented what is good about Kentucky basketball. They will be missed.