Ok, so we all know what today is. Today is the final step on quite possibly the six greatest months of anticipation in UK basketball history. I have been covering the team for four years and a fan for 30. There has never been anything like this, ever. People were excited in Rick’s first year and there was great anticipation at the first year of NCAA Tournament play. But the sheer joy of the fanbase, combined with the saturation of news caused by the modern media has led to an outpouring of fan excitement unlike anything ever experienced in Big Blue Nation. It is truly unbelievable.
Really there are only two stories: The absurdity of Media Day and Midnight Madness. Thus let me give nine quick hitters on one and some rumors on the other:
As I have said before, the highlight of Media Day for me was talking with the players. Cal had a lot of comments and you can see them here, but most werent newsworthy. However I spoke to ten players today (all besides Hood, Miller, Stevenson and Patterson…all of whom I have spoken to many times), and came away with these thoughts:
Demarcus Cousins: We put the highlights of his interview up below, but it bears repeating how much of a character this young man is. But more importantly for most UK fans, he is the enforcer this team hasnt had since Magloire. His quote that on the floor he is “mean as sh*t” is classic. He also gave this quote to Matt May about Gillispie, when talking about Liggins:
‘He played for Gillispie didn’t he? I’m surprised they weren’t all hotheads. We’ve heard the stories in the locker room. Yeah. That guy was crazy.‘
John Wall: A pro’s pro with the media. But he also said some very interesting things. About the team he said the goal was national championship. About himself, he was surprised to know that people were picking him National Player of the year but said “thats pressure.” He also said the Freshman are here to “bring a lot of swagger back” to the UK program. He has it.
Daniel Orton: Daniel is probably the most intelligent and well-spoken kid I have seen for a Freshman since I have been doing this. He is thoughtful and gives real insight into the team dynamics. Cousins called him “strong as an ox” and he Orton said that he has to get even stronger to be the player he wants to be. He will be a fan-favorite during his time here.
Eric Bledsoe: No one had “wide eyes” like Bledsoe. You continue to be able to see that no one is having more fun with being a UK player than Bledsoe. He spoke of being close to Wall and Cousins and how much he looked up to Patterson. Most interesting to me were his comments that he would not have played for UK under Gillispie (many had thought he would) and that John Wall potentiall being here made Kentucky more attractive for him because he knew he would have to work to play.
Darnell Dodson: Probably the quietest of the players, Dodson was said to be the best shooter on the team by Calipari and “that means he will play.” Dodson said he knows that shooting is what he needs to do and he is ready. He also looks just like Ramel Bradley and when I asked if anyone had said that to him, he laughed and said, “yes all the time.” Since he is #3 this season, I expect it to continue.
Josh Harrellson: Josh spoke of how happy he was to still be on the team and the fact that Calipari wanted him to be here. He also spoke honestly about his time last year, saying he was “the coach’s whipping boy” and saying it was a tough year for him all around. But he said it is “night and day” this year and that he cant wait to get going. He also said he still likes the name “Jorts” and “when fans yell it at me at the game, I always smile.”
Ramon Harris: I had been told before Media Day that there had been some change in Ramon in recent weeks. A light had seemed to come on and he realized he would have to have more self-awareness this season as to his strengths and weaknesses. He showed that talking today saying that now “I know what he wants me to do and that makes me excited.” He also said, “I know we can be great this year and I want that before I leave.”
Mark Krebs: Best interview of the day? Mark Krebs easy. Right before I interviewed him, he was being talked to by Miss Kentucky and he was a bit distracted at first. But he talked about it being a “dream come true” to get a scholarship this year. Talking about the new players he said, “they are as talented as advertised. They are so fast, it is amazing. But off the court, we are all great friends and they are great guys.” He also talked a lot about the atmosphere around the program. He said:
Its night and day in terms of everyone’s attitude. We are all positive. Everyone is encouraging, even on your worst day. Its ncie to be able to work hard every day and when you mess up be told, ‘thats alright, get ’em next time.’ You come out of slumps really fast. You want to come to practice every day to help the team and get his confidence. It is great.
Deandre Liggins: All the media members that I spoke with agreed on one thing….no one seems more grown up than DeAndre Liggins. Whereas last year, Liggins looked like he never wanted to speak, now he was much more engaging and confident. He said, “this is where I want to be now. I love everything about these guys and I feel like I get to start over. I cant wait.” He could be the surprise.
Ok lets go with what we know:
(1): The event is on television all over the state and will be streaming live on UKAthletics.com for free. So you can watch it anywhere, if you have an internet connection.
(2): We will be doing a MADNESS LIVE BLOG, beginning at 7:30 pm right here on the site. The very first live blog we ever did was at Madness three years ago, so this is an Anniversary of where it all began.
(3): All indications are that Drake is a guest visitor for the event. No one will officially confirm it, but privately that is the expectation.
(4): There will be a dunk contest and scrimmage, but no three point contest…likely because Calipari knows he doesnt have the shooters.
(5): A good source tells me that Rajon Rondo and Tayshaun Prince may be in attendance and that Calipari personally invited both young men to come to the event and be “guest coaches” of the two teams. If true, that will be HUGE when they are announced.
All in all, the scene at Rupp will be unbelievable. We will be giving you info all day as we hear it via our Twitter feed (remember to turn your texts on) and here on the site. The live blog should be fun and we may even have some guests stop by during the event on the blog. It is going to be a great day and I cant wait. And oh yeah, Drew Franklin has a post coming at 11 am that you wont believe.
This is going to be one of those great days. I cant wait….