(UK Athletics, Chet White)
A total of four teams and 18 individuals were awarded Monday night in Memorial Coliseum, with co-winners in some categories. Gymnastics and Rifle were awarded the Team of the Year CATSPY for their achievements. The gymnastics team earned the programs highest ever NCAA Regional team score while competing in the toughest conference in the nation. The rifle team posted its second consecutive national runner-up finished, and also earned a record-setting victory over Army. That’s right; Kentucky is better than the U.S. Army.
While the rifle team may have some of the best shooters, the basketball team does not. A season ago the 2012 Championship team took home nearly half-a-dozen CATSPY Awards. This year, after University of Kentucky Athletics presented its 25 winners, the men’s basketball team would be left empty handed. No praise for departing freshman Archie Goodwin or Nerlens Noel, no cheers for returning players Alex Poythress or Willie Cauley-Stein, and no recognition for Coach Calipari.
On and on the awards went; The Community Service Award, presented to Megan Moir (Woman’s Golf). The Male Scholar Athlete of the Year, presented to Jon Keltner (Swimming). The Male Rookie of the Year, presented to Connor Davis (Rifle). The Male Performance of the Year, presented to Greg Ferrucci (Diving). The Blue Heart Award, presented to Arin Gilliland (Woman’s Soccer). And the prestigious Mr. Wildcat Award, presented to Luis Orta (Men’s Cross Country/Track).
It may seem trivial, but perhaps this was just enough to get under the skin of the team. We have heard the story a thousand times — the top-ranked recruiting class came to Lexington with too much hype, not enough leadership, and thought the road to No. 9 would be easy — they were sorely mistaken. Maybe this end-of-the-year awards ceremony just twisted the knife. Just when Poythress, Cauley-Stein, Wiltjer and the rest of the crew thought the NIT season had escaped them, they are reminded of the failed campaign for back-to-back titles.
Poythress and Cauley-Stein both have a new focus for next season and seem to understand the drive that was lacking. Playing with passion and determination; it seemed so evident to the observer but so misunderstood by the players. Maybe the humiliation of not accomplishing anything in two years will be enough, maybe the desire to be more than just potential will do it, or maybe we will be talking about the CATSPY snub next April as a reason the Kentucky Wildcats are raising another banner.
UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart spoke at the awards and touched on many themes, including leadership, tough love, sacrifice, emotion, training, passion, and legacy. All ideas that any athlete can appreciate. He closed with a word, however, that surely struck a nerve with any team or individual that fell short of its goals: almost.
Almost is not good enough.