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Chris Herren and Kentucky: What Almost Was

As a part of my week-long blogging reprieve, I unleashed my A-game and scoreboarded Kemba Walker with a three books-in-three days. One of those books was the new memoir of former college star and NBA player Chris Herren, Basketball Junkie, and included a little blurb about the Cats and the 1993 flirtation between Rick Pitino and Herren, who was the #7 player and top overall shooting guard at the country at the time. 

Herren tells the story of receiving interest from schools all over the country for several years, but always wondering why the Cats hadn’t pursued him yet.  They were the hottest chick at the dance and they were the only ones not showing him any love.  Then, after a breakout showing in Las Vegas, the Cats came pushing hard with Billy Donovan and things looked promising until….well…here’s how Herren explained it through a conversation with his brother.

I was leaning more and more toward Kentucky.  It was the school I was the most curious about.  I liked Billy Donovan.  Why not go to the bigest stage there was?  That was the way I was beginning to think as summer wore on.

“Come on,” Michael said one day.  “Let’s jump into the car and drive to Kentucky right now.  Drive straight through and take a look at it when they don’t know we’re coming.  See for ourselves.”

“How far is it?”  I asked.

“Who cares how far it is?”  Michael said.  “We’ll get in the car and we’ll stop when we get there.”

“You’re crazy, bro.”

“Chrissie, this is the biggest decision of your life and you don’t care enough to go find out for yourself.”

“How far is it?”

“Who cares how far it is?”

“I do, Michael.”

“That’s your problem.”

“I don’t have a problem, Michael.”

“Keep it up, Chrissie, and you’ll have a problem.”

“Not from you, bro.”

“Chrissie, just remember who you’re talking to.  You’re still the little brother.  Just remember that.”

So we never went to Kentucky.

We went out for Grinder’s at Marzilli’s instead.

And that’s pretty much it.  Herren elaborates later saying he never visited the Cats and not too long after that evening, Donovan told him that Kentucky had offered a guard from Florida and would take whoever accepts their offer first.  Allen Edwards committed shortly after.  As I’m sure you know, Herren would go on to be a McDonald’s All American in 1994 and head to Boston College, where he would leave after a freshman year marred by alcohol abuse, before transferring to Fresno State and leaving as a second round draft pick.

The entire Herren book is pretty fascinating, but the tale of his almost Kentucky career is so oddly amusing and telling in terms of how fluky life can be sometimes.  If Herren gets in that car and ends up at Kentucky, does he still flame out after one year?  Does being away from his family help him break away from his bad habits or would the pressure amplify it?  Allen Edwards wasn’t a superstar, but he played a big role in that 1998 title run.  If he heads elsewhere, do the Cats get Tubby a title?  So many questions potentially decided by one goofy craving.

It’s a strange, strange world.

And grinders are delicious.

Article written by Thomas Beisner

17 Comments for Chris Herren and Kentucky: What Almost Was

  1. But Mamma, thats where the fun is!
    12:01 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    numbero uno

  2. kyeric
    12:04 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I, for one, am really happy that we didn’t have to root for a dude named “Chrissie”.

  3. jesco white
    12:15 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I loved Edwards. Kind of like Miller without the post game, but a glue guy for sure. With all of the players getting in alcohol related trouble during Tubbys tenure Herren would ha ve had a rough senior year and UK might not have won it.

  4. I-64 Deer Report
    12:17 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Somehow, this story reminds me of this classic:

  5. John Galt
    12:19 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Next time you post a pic of a guy in mesh shorts… make sure its one where there’s something between his junk and the shorts

  6. Grammar King
    12:21 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Who is John Galt?

  7. How Do You Like Them Apples?
    12:23 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Grinder = hot sub/hoagie/hero/wedge for those not from Southie.

  8. NBA league pass
    12:25 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Obviously I’m glad we got Allen Edwards instead. I always liked that guy.

  9. hmmmm
    12:30 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    who is the “Michael” in the excerpt?

  10. Buckets
    12:31 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Frosted Tips?

  11. bung
    12:33 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    The nc2a will not allow us to discuss what might have been.

  12. hangin#8
    12:36 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Is that the dude from Sugar Ray?

  13. Best recruiting miss ever
    1:10 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Yes, life is random, and it’s part of the reason you can’t rewrite history. Playing the “if” game is like geometric progression- like how, if you paid someone 1 cent and then doubled it every day for a month, they’d end up with over 10 million dollars by the end of that month. You can take theoretical ifs and spiral them off into infinity.

    Given that Herren was an alcoholic by the time he even got to college, and then expanded that into cocaine and heroin (thus the name of his book), I’m glad he didn’t make that trip.

  14. bigbluemist
    1:45 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Yeah-Cats got the better deal there. Edwards was/is smooth. Great passer. Loved that nasty jam against UCLA in 98 tourney run.

  15. theBizzzzz
    4:27 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I see a mushroom cap.

  16. crazycatfan
    4:42 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    2) Hilarious! LOL

  17. done
    6:01 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Michael is his older brother that pretty much the same thing happened by staying at home. Read Fall River Dreams, its about Chris’s senior year of high school and his thought process.. and better writing