I often get asked….why in the world do you like the Woo as much as you do? (some people speak to me in Dr. Seuss-esque rhymes). I have thought about this from time to time, and I dont think its an easy answer. It could be that it is simply because he is foreign…..I have always had an affinity for foreign players, ranging from Uwe Blab to Vlade Divac….they are exotic, represent the American Dream and usually sweat at uncontrollable amounts. It might be that I have an affinity for big tall, goofy white people. Being one myself, I have always had a soft spot for the Neil Fingletons, the Joel Pryzbillas, the Shawn Bradleys, the Gheorge Muresans, etc. In a world that exists mostly to mock them, these brave souls go on, knowing full well that they will never be able to buy a dress shirt in the store. Or it could be that he has a quick wit about him, a la Charles Barkley and the Big Baby…..guys whose mere presence lights up a room by saying something that makes otherwise jaded reporters put down their complimentary bag of potato chips and actually crack a smile on their weather-beaten faces.
But then I realized it was none of these things. No, my affection for the Wooster harkens back to a simpler day….a time when I was a child, and there were no message boards, no nameless posters who cursed my name, no Alan Cutl….actually he was on the air, but you get my drift. Yes, back in this simpler time, one person stood out for me….the immortal Gimel Martinez.
Prior to Gimel, my top UK players followed the normal path. I liked Sam Bowie, Kenny Walker, Rex Chapman and then Eastern Kentucky Idol Richie Farmer. But along the time that every one else fell for Jamal Mashburn, I began liking the goofy guy with the moustache that caused Rick Pitino to hide in a bathroom. Gimel was everything that a basketball player is not. He was awkward looking, his play a deadly combination of elbows and broken noses. He had a moustache, and then later a goatee, that was either way ahead or behind his time…..but definitely not a part of it. He was tall, but demanded to only shoot three pointers, a habit that drove my grandfather crazy, but was the envy of this 6’1′ 12 year old who was never allowed to take his game out to the perimeter. Yes Gimel had it all, and his Gloria Estefan style delighted my Middlesboro abode.
After Gimel, the goofiness faded a bit for UK. Sure there was a Todd Svoboda flat top here, a Matt Heisenhoooootal weight gain there…..but in general, Kentucky basketball didnt have the character that I so needed. But in the same way that a former military hero named Kennedy would produce three sons that would all have a dramatic impact on American life…..a sparkling 2007 recruiting class upped the goofy quotient out the door with a deadly twosome that may never be topped….the Shagari/Woo combo (“Shaggy and Scooby Woo”). We have now lost Shagari thanks to the deadly combination of the lure of Manhattan and the Kryptonite-like repellant of the inside of a classroom. But Woo remains for a few more weeks. Maybe goofiness will come in other forms…..a 7 foot British center whose myspace name is “Big Black Member” has potential…..but I worry. In the world of goofy UK players, are we heading for an ending like the Merle Haggard song…..
“Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?”