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Who are you the most excited for?

 

When the final seconds ticked away last night in the Superdome, I had trouble choosing which player I wanted to watch. My eyes were drawn to a leaping Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But then I wanted to find Darius Miller, our hometown Kentucky boy, our beloved senior. Then I had had to find Coach Cal. Where was he? What was his reaction? And how about Terrence Jones? A player who has had his ups and downs at Kentucky. A player who decided to return in part to chase a national championship that escaped him just twelve months earlier. And then another part of me just wanted to personally soak up the moment, trying to put it into perspective as a lifelong, die-hard Kentucky fan.

 

When the dust settled upon an evening for the ages, I started to debate who exactly I felt the most excited for following Kentucky’s 8th national championship. In a season full of stories, on a team full of likable personalities, with a fan base oozing with passion and love for their program, who are you the most excited for?

 

John Calipari?

Talk about a coach who has, for lack of a better term, had a monkey on his back for years now. Calipari has continually pieced together teams with enough talent to find themselves squarely in the conversation for a national title. He has had one team a few made free throws away from a title in Memphis. He’s had a team one off shooting night away from a Final Four and potential national championship. And he’s had one team a Kemba Walker away from a national title birth. Add to all of those near misses a slew of national writers seemingly hung up on the fact that Calipari had yet to win a national title doing it “his way.”

 

Even more so than proving any doubters wrong, Calipari has done so much for so many young men who have come through his program. The love, mixed with structure, stability and opportunity that he offers to his players often gets overlooked. He promises very little to them in the way of playing time guarantees before they arrive on campus, but he does promise them that he will always put them first. And he does. Time and time again. He has helped players reach their dreams of playing in the NBA. He has changed the lives of, and opened doors for players such as Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins, that very few ever thought possible. He has been coaching for over 20 years now. For the coach who says he doesn’t need these type of things, he got his championship. He will deflect all of it on his players, to his athletic department, to his coaching staff, to the fans. But if you saw his face when he walked into Rupp Arena and stood in front of that crowd, after driving through the city from the airport being greeted by thousands of fans, it meant something to him.

 

Or Darius Miller?

Darius Miller has been through as much as any Kentucky player I can remember. He came in during a time of great turmoil, experiencing some of the lowest lows since the program’s probation. He adjusted to a new coach, a coach he did not get recruited by to come to Kentucky. He surpassed many people’s expectations by carving out a role for himself on each and every loaded John Calipari team in his final 3 years at Kentucky. And in perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all, Darius Miller, essentially a 3-year starter, came off the bench for the majority of his senior year. Granted, he played starter minutes, but he sacrificed one of the things every player aims for: a spot in the starting line-up.

 

He could have found himself resenting some of the younger players who were starting over him, such as freshman phenom Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Instead, according to every player interview I’ve heard in the past month, Darius Miller took on the role of big brother to these young players. They all gush about him. They look up to him. They value him. They love him. For a guy who grew up in Kentucky, chose to stay home and wear a Kentucky jersey–during a time when it wasn’t the most popular choice, the culmination of a career ending with a national title is about as picture perfect as it comes.

 

Or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?

We’re talking about a kid who lost his father at an extremely young age. We’re talking about a kid whose uncle passed away on the day he signed his letter of intent for the University of Kentucky. That was supposed to be one of the happiest days of his life. Instead, it was marked by tragedy. We’re talking about the kid who added his uncle’s last name to the back of his jersey to honor him when he got to the University of Kentucky. We’re talking about a kid who played harder every single minute of every single game and practice than any player to ever don the Kentucky uniform before him. We’re talking about a player who wanted to do more for his team when he didn’t have the ball in his hand than when he did. We’re talking about a teammate who re-defined what being a good teammate meant, by starting a Breakfast Club to bond the team, who asked his coach to let his teammate start over him in the SEC Championship game. We’re talking about a player who lit up an entire state with a simple smile. Who isn’t happy for that kid, who played and acts like more of a man than many people years older than him?

 

Or Terrence Jones? A player who re-wrote his legacy as a Kentucky basketball player throughout this season, going from a player who often left fans frustrated to a player who sacrificed individual accolades and shot attempts to make his team better. Or Doron Lamb? He didn’t have to come back. He didn’t have to agree to be an option on the offensive end of the court rather than a priority. Or Marquis Teague? He was chastised as hard as any freshman in recent memory during the first month of the season. He was questioned, analyzed, scrutinized, doubted, etc. He dug down deep. He changed the way he went about his business. He became coachable. He became the catalyst for the offense rather than the key cog. He became a leader. He became the first in Calipari’s long line of storied point guards to become a national champion. Re-read that. Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans. John Wall. Brandon Knight. All great point guards, some even brilliant. But Marquis Teague is the only national champion. Or how about Anthony Davis? I’m almost done with this blog entry and I haven’t even mentioned the National Player of the Year. Yeah, how about that guy?

 

Or the fans? How about the fans? What about the 90 year old fans who have lived through Adolp Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, John Calipari and a few other coaches? What about the fans who spend their last dime, saving for an entire year, to follow Kentucky to the SEC tournament or the Sweet 16 or the Final Four. What about the college students who sit in lines for hours to obtain student tickets for the Erupption Zone? What about the young fans, who are just now falling in love with Kentucky basketball? The ones who have only been told of the rich history, but have just now for the first time experienced the pinnacle.

 

What if it doesn’t really matter who you are most excited for? What if, just like with this team and who has the ball in their hands taking the last shot, it doesn’t really matter? What if, just like with this team, it’s about every single person? We’ve all made a sacrifice in our lives at some point for Kentucky basketball. Maybe we’ve called in sick for a Thursday afternoon NCAA first round tournament game. Maybe we’ve passed up a trip to Florida to go to Nashville for a SEC tournament instead. Maybe we’ve stood in lines for hours just to get a championship t-shirt, even if it’s a triple X-Large. Calipari said it time and time again in the wake of this national championship: “They’ve all sacrificed for each other.” We all have.

 

So really, we don’t have to decide who we are the most excited for following this national championship. It’s exciting for everyone involved. And that is exactly how it should be.

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

47 Comments for Who are you the most excited for?



  1. Voice of Reason
    8:05 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    First



  2. The Fake Bobby Knight
    8:05 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Darius Miller. It’s not even @#%&ing close.



  3. Skeps
    8:06 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    I’m most excited for me.



  4. SF10275
    8:09 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    #3 You said what I was thinking



  5. steve erwin
    8:10 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    darius, definitely



  6. majestic
    8:10 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    darius miller, duh. he’s such a great guy, can’t let him go that easily



  7. JimR
    8:12 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Team. Team! Team! That’s what this was.



  8. JP15
    8:13 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Jones is my choice. He was a lock to go in the lottery but came back this year. He took a lot less shots this year and did not seem to mind that Davis was getting most of the spotlight all year. He always defended the other teams strongest interior player, allowing Davis to roam around and block shots.



  9. NDCat
    8:16 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Did you seriously ask this question? It’s gotta be Darius, after all he’s been through. Plus, he’s the hometown boy. He’s the only one who grew up on the legends of the Comeback Cats, the Unbelievables, the Unforgettables, and the Untouchables. It’s -all- for Darius Miller. As number 2 said, “It’s not even @#%&ing close.



  10. Mike
    8:17 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Vargas is my choice…..he got a great education…..watched some great BB….and didn’t have to do much to indulge.Seriously, very happy for all of them but probably most for coach.



  11. NKY_UK_fan
    8:20 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Darius Miller because he had to put up with Gillispie. It was funny watching the post game presser when Matt Jones asked him about his Freshman year to now and you could hear the guys chuckling. Most likely because Darius told them how much it sucked.

    Second would be T. Jones. Not really sure why. It just seems like he’s had a big weight on his shoulders. Maybe, it’s because of all the stuff he’s got from Coach Cal even though it was most likely deserved.



  12. 00BBN00
    8:20 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Personally, when I realized KU wasn’t going to foul again I was jumping up and down and didn’t even notice the kids celebrating on TV. That being said, I’m probably happiest for BBN as a whole.



  13. Dent44
    8:21 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Happy for all the kids. They displayed great class and poise thoughout the season. Charles Barkley might not be a role model, but this group of young men ceratinly have been. Very proud to a member of the BBN today!



  14. YIKES...
    8:23 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Hopefully I’m just reading too much into this, but…yesterday, the day the Cats played for (and won) a national championship, Nerlens Noel made no reference to the game on his Twitter account. However, He did ask if anyone has heard whether or not Fab Melo declared for the draft yet.



  15. Echo 1
    8:23 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Miller. Clyde put him through hell



  16. geteight
    8:24 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    who effin cares?! Be happy for all of em. #gr8ness



  17. Briar Gates
    8:28 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    This was as fun a team to watch as I can remember. Miller is my favorite. The only Clyde survivor. He deserves a state wide holiday named after him.



  18. TampaCat
    8:30 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Team, Cal, BBN, Lexington. In that order.



  19. jason
    8:30 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Question: Why does the championship tee with the 8 on it have an asterisk in the top right corner? Anyone?



  20. BrowingDown All Over The Place
    8:34 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    The fact these players will be making millions of dollars in their first two years (more money than their fans will make their lifetime) doesnt have me thinking they deserve the championship over anyone else. Its because of Calipari they are here and won. They are talented and could have went anywhere else, but Calipari is a good enough coach for one to think he would eventually get there and win one with any talented players. I feel for his legacy and for the state of KY its better for him to have won it than for Darius or any other player on this team. IF Calipari wasnt signed on as our coach 3 years ago, Darius may not have blossomed into the player he is now. He has played around future greats, like Wall, Cousins, Davis, MKG, etc. So for that I cant be happier for him than for anyone else.
    IF we lost the game, we would hear negative talks more about Calipari than about the players (and how the one and done system is flawed). The players still would go to the NBA but Calipari would still be here making significantly less. He now has no pressure and can coach without that. Players are leaving regardless of winning so I am happier for Calipari.



  21. esteban
    8:34 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    for bobby knight- SUCK IT!!!



  22. Legion
    8:37 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Retire Darius’s jersey! He has been amazing to this program, he and his family are amazing people who deserve to go down in Big Blue history with his name in the rafters.

    Here’s to you Darius! Thanks for being absolutely amazing all these years!



  23. JimR
    8:37 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Well, you don’t have to be 90 to remember the Rupp era. I’m merely pushing 70, and I cherish the memory, when I was a UK student, of sitting alone in his office with Coach Rupp and eating a slice of his birthday cake. Rupp is a legend, but Coach Cal is the real deal, too. Never, though, though all the years of following the Cats, do I recall more of a true team concept than shown this year. Most coaches ask players to step up and become a team player; Coach Cal persuaded prep standouts to step back and become team players — a masterful job of coaching.

    The beauty of this grand year is that we can feast on articles on TV, newspapers, magazines, but also stay up all night log visiting web sites like Kentucky Sport Radio. I can’t get enough of it. KSR’s immense bag of goodies for those of us who ravenously devour every scrap of information is a terrific team effort, too, and I am immensely grateful for the content and coverage. KSR is my first and last stop, before and after the games.

    Like the TV commercial, we extended March: It’s March 34th and we’re Won and Done! Thanks, Cal! Thanks, Cats! Thanks, KSR! Thanks, team! It’s been a wonderful ride.



  24. BrowingDown All Over The Place
    8:38 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    the 8 with asterisk signifies the words on the back that also have an asterisk. if there was just an 8 on the front it would look like a number on a jersey rather than signifying 8 championships. Though you can interpret it as a mock for cheating but thats because we have heard that rumor before.



  25. Yup
    8:41 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    This same team would have won with any other coach probably so I am happier for Cal



  26. Just wondering
    8:45 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    All of them.This was a true TEAM effort.One no more important than the other.I hear people say this one or that one was the key.I think they all were the key.They all played their role which allowed their other teammates to play theirs.I believe if one hadn’t have bought in last night wouldn’t have happened.Enjoy people we will win more but I don’t think we will ever see anther group like this one!



  27. Just wondering
    8:52 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    #25 I disagree I don’t think many coaches could have handled all those egos.The reason we got 8 was effort and defense.The first player who focused on me instead of we could have blown the whole thing.We need look no farther then team turmoil.That team was very talented and let egos and selfishness destroy it.Cal did a wonderful job maybe his best.



  28. Bham
    8:53 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Love that pic. As I was watching that moment last night it really showed me how close those 2 are. They embraced for a long time. I’m equally happy for everyone including the bench which I would die to be a part of. #BBN forever



  29. GogoCats
    8:57 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    The whole team. Maybe Twany can compare rings with stansberry.



  30. Shannon
    9:03 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Darius has always been my favorite. Really gonna miss him



  31. Harlan, Ky
    9:07 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Im happiest for BBN. The fans sacrifice so much in their lives for the team. Cal is next.



  32. JP123
    9:21 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Awesome post. For me it is Darius, but everyone else is tied for a very, very close second. Congrats to OUR beloved Cats.



  33. Phs_Hound
    9:31 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Happiest for Darius Miller. He’s the type of home-grown Kentucky kid that Pitino always said was so important to the UK program. Who will be our next Darius Miller?



  34. the Big Dog
    9:44 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Cal deserves the credit for selling these players on the concept of being a team. Also, he was either brilliant or lucky enough to get the right individuals to accomplish this. However, it’s got to be our home state hero who stuck it out through the worst times in recent memory to lead us to #8— Darius Miller.



  35. CatFanInNashville
    9:48 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Cal because he made it about the kids and not him. Second is the team. Can’t pick a player because they are a unit. They operated as one all season and I am happy for them as one.



  36. New Tucker Fan
    9:50 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    ALLY TUCKER….. Very nice writing. I think you killed it. I am very impressed. You almost brought me to tears a couple of times. Just wanted you to know that this is one of the better pieces I have read on this site (which is a huge compliment).



  37. BigBlueSkyDog
    9:53 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Darius was the one I was looking for. He was already walking in high cotton before last night; now he is a legend.



  38. Matt Jones' virginity
    10:05 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    33, John Hood.



  39. Harlan, Ky
    10:06 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    19 – The asterisk represents a change that has taken place. (for example it would have been a 7 the other night but since that has been changed, the asterisk represents the update)



  40. dylan
    10:16 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    happy for the whole team, but especially happy for darius because he has been a true Kentucky boy the entire way



  41. I hate knight
    10:22 pm April 3, 2012 Permalink

    Good call #22, Darius is a Kentucky kid, Mr. Basketball, he stuck with the Big Blue thru good and bad, he is a true leader, and he always represented the University in the best way, retire his number and put his jersey up with there with the best !!



  42. Uk4life
    7:46 am April 4, 2012 Permalink

    Ally, your article was exceptional. I am happy for ALL of them and will miss this team terribly.



  43. Joe big blue
    11:06 am April 4, 2012 Permalink

    Clutcharius. he went from john g and the nit to playing with one and done freshman over shadowing his role on the team. He scored over 1000 points and he finally figured out what his role could be for the team



  44. WildcatFanNVaBeach
    11:12 am April 4, 2012 Permalink

    Darius Miller. Glad that Cal pointed out yesterday that Darius was the first KY boy to win Mr. Basketball, State, and National Championships. Plus having to endure BCG! Darius has become one of my all-time faves.



  45. Walter
    11:17 am April 4, 2012 Permalink

    John Calipari gets my vote above all, but when it comes to the players, how can you pick one above the other. Those preseason comments by Davis, Gilly, Teague and Wiltjer saying they are coming here to win a championship. How can that be topped? It can be equally stated by Miller, Lamb and Jones that they are staying at Kentucky to win it all.

    It’s a collective effort by all on this yeam to create the perfect recipe invented by John Calipari.



  46. CatBlue in LR
    11:59 am April 4, 2012 Permalink

    T.J.

    Kid grew up right before our eyes, and we wouldn’t have gotten there if he hadn’t come back. I’m so proud of him.



  47. Courtney
    11:20 pm April 4, 2012 Permalink

    I’m most excited for Miller. He was the leading senior. He grew up an hour from Lexington and it’s always been his dream to play for Kentucky. His freshman year, he had to deal with Gilespie and he still stuck with us for 4 years through thick and thin. This one was for him, he deserved it!!!!