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Know Your Enemy: University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers

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So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles—The Art of War by Sun Tzu as read by Joe Mantegna (yes, that Joe Mantegna, seriously)

(Sigh) So, that was awful. Despite working for a company that has more IU grads that any other in the world, this week hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be–it’s been much worse. Worse in that I’m not even being ribbed or cajoled by the Hoosier Nation as much as I am being pitied for being the fan of what is shaping up to be the least successful Durham Bulls Kentucky Wildcats team in a quarter century. No, the Indianaans keep coming up to me saying things like, “Man, that sure was rough”, “Say, that Patrick Patterson is a good player, though”, and “Wow, your hair is amazingly shiny and full of volume. Do you use conditioner?” I accept the blame for this as perhaps Know Your Enemy hasn’t been as sharp as when we were focused on Oblongball season. So, you can stop blaming Coach G, Alex Legion’s mom, Tubby Smith, Al-Queda, and Al Gore for this season’s Joey Harrington-like start and place all the blame squarely on me. Oh and by the way, Al Gore, I decided to burnish my green credentials by NOT littering this morning for a change–where’s my parade?

Now we turn our attention to the University of Alabama-Birmingham–a team to which we owe quite a debt. Unfortunately, this is a year in which we will attempt to pay said debt with food stamps, some Confederate money, and a prize sheep. If you will recall, UAB (as its friends call it) upended the No. 1 seeded 2003-2004 edition of the Cats featuring such favorites as, “Jurrell Fitch”, “Erk Daniels”, “Cluff Hawkins”, and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, thereby ruining any hopes that an extremely successful regular season would translate into a Final Four appearance. This season UAB looks much different than in 2004, having finally gotten rid of all those annoying players that upset our precious Cats with the exception of the one with dreadlocks; he’s probably still playing. I think his name was Squeaky Fromme. Also, they let Mike Anderson get away and replace Quinn Snyder’s hair up at Missouri and decided to forsake experience, success, and sanity as qualifications for a new head coach in selecting Mike Davis. UAB comes into this game having recently lost to Big East basement-dweller South Florida by 12, so the Cats really need to re-locate their winning ways in order to “be the early bird that catches the worm” (Maybe that was the wrong cliché. Would “right the ship” have worked better there?) And now…Day-vid Letterman!

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Actually, Squeaky is a poor shooter

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Location

As it turns out, Birmingham was once a city in England that was the English “powerhouse” of the Industrial Revolution. No word on when it was moved to Alabama, although it apparently is both the second largest city in England and the largest in Alabama. The University of Alabama at Birmingham was founded in 1936 and has since maintained a reputation as a commuter school. UAB is to be disdained as yet another school whose mascot and nickname are not aligned. UAB claims to be the Blazers yet they have a dragon as their mascot. We would be OK with a dragon wearing a blazer (preferably twill) as the mascot, but Know Your Enemy has made it clear that we will not support the disjointment of mascot and nickname.

Notable Alumni

I expected this day would arrive at some point, but I didn’t think it would be with UAB. I mean, even Seattle University had Mary Kay Letourneau, right? What I’m alluding to is that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any of the UAB alums that I’ve researched. I’m sure some of them have done things for which the University should be proud, such as Vonetta Flowers becoming the first African-American woman to medal in the Winter Olympics (bobsled), but I struggled to find someone who would give UAB a name, let alone a bad one. Luckily, I found former WNBA player for the Chicago Sky and UAB alum Deanna Jackson. Deanna seems to have been arrested in Jerusalem, Israel (not Floyd County) earlier this year for having punched and broken the nose of Iva Gourevitch in the parking lot following a loss to Iva and her team in the league championship game (You have two punchlines to choose from here, neither of which are any good: 1) Sorry Ms. Jackson, I am for real. 2) Seems that it didn’t take her long to take up the Palestinian cause–OK, the votes are in and America has chosen option 1. Therefore, it will appear immediately following the closed parentheses meaning that there will be a smooth flow from the last non-parentheses sentence to it. You know, because things in parentheses are to be used as an aside, not actually read as part of the flow of the paragraph, right. Yeah, you know). Sorry Ms. Jackson, I am for real.

Cheerleader Scouting Report

As you’re trying to make sense of exactly what the last part of the last paragraph was (was it supposed to be funny, ironic, what?) we now subject you to the best that the Blazers have to offer in the way of Spirit. You guys are lucky, today. For you see I have procured not just the Cheerleading Squad photograph, but also that of the dance team which goes by the name “The Golden Girls”. As you will see, UAB has a few cuties–but we should expect at least a modicum of talent considering Alabama is in the south. The only question I have about the cheerleading squad is, “Does the middle one serve as some sort of fulcrum?”

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Whether it’s baseball, flowers, or the Golden Girls, always pick Rose. Also, Blanche is a little forward for my taste.

Basketball History

Basketball actually began at UAB at the relatively late date of 1979 with the hiring of the school’s first athletics director and men’s basketball coach, Gene Bartow. Impressively, the Blazers made their first NCAA Tournament appearence in 1981 and defeated the Western Kentucky Red Blobs for their program’s first Tournament victory. 1982 was a great year in that in only its third year of existence, the program defeated Indiana and Virginia (who were led by Ralph Sampson) on its way to the Elite Eight. The downside to this was that the success of this team has never been duplicated…and it’s been 25 years. In total, the Blazers have managed 13 NCAA Tournament appearances and 8 NIT appearances in the course of the program’s 28 years of existence. This is impressive in the same way that a 2nd grader reading a Judy Blume book is impressive. I mean, it’s not like he’s reading “Ulysses” or anything, but it’s slightly more advanced than you probably would have expected.

Players

Surprisingly, I’ve actually interviewed one of UAB’s players once upon a time. That would be #1 Aaron Johnson and I caught up with him at the Nike All-America Camp last summer where my strategy was to interview the kids no one else was talking to. While Matthew Jones was busy interviewing the likes of Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas, I used my journalistic skills to walk up to and have meaningless conversations with the Aaron Johnson’s and Michael Auriemma’s of the world. Aaron was a great kid and very polite and I actually hope he scores 80 points on Saturday with the Cats winning 463-81–that would be a best case scenario. HOLY COW! Jeremy Mayfield plays for this team! I guess this is NASCAR’s offseason. I guess Jer-a-may doesn’t spend his off-season in his hometown of Owensboro, but decides to suit up for Mike Davis’ schizophrenic backside, instead. Davis’ son also plays for this team but I’m not quite sure if he’s a unhinged as dear old dad.

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There’s no witty remark here. His dog’s name really is “Ms. Vicki”.

Airtight Predictions

Patrick Pattington Patterson will have another stellar game by rebounding from his rebounding total of a week ago with 12 this Saturday. He will also score 43 points. Both Ramel and Joe are due for good games this week (although they’re generally streakier than Sam’s Club Window Cleaner) so expect this to be a game the Cats win in grand fashion. Coury attempts another three this week and draws ever closer to drawing some rim–he will accomplish this feat (drawing rim on a three) during his senior season. At halftime, Alex Legion decides to continue to play Ross to Gillispie’s Rachel by bursting into the locker room and lovingly saying, “It’s always been you, Coach”. He then scores 9 points in the second half. Jasper doesn’t return just yet, but expect to see him in the game following this one, although I don’t know when it is or who Kentucky is scheduled to play.

Summary

Folks, lower the expectations for this year. We were lulled into thinking this year was going to be better than it actually was supposed to be due to the excitement surrounding Coach G’s hiring and his immediate landing of big fish Patterson and Legion in a short amount of time. However, reality would argue that the Cats still lost its far and away best player in Randolph Morris from a team that lost 12 games and was an 8 seed. Throw in the fact that Meeks and Jasper’s health has been as reliable as that Frogger video game that was constantly blinking on and off at your local Wal-Mart as you were growing up and it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the Cats haven’t played especially well this year. What you need to look for this year is not neccessarily success, but progress. If Kentucky gives great effort this year and seems to get better as a team as the season continues, I will consider it a successfuly, albeit frustrating, year. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step”…also, “I am still living with you ghost, lonely and dreaming of the west coast”. Take all that for what it worth. Go Cats!

Article written by Mosley