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.