This evening’s game is an ode to Orlando Antiga, Calipari’s former right hand man that should be credited with much of the success at Kentucky over the last seven years.
During his time at Kentucky, Antigua was considered the master planner behind Calipari’s evil recruiting genius. Many loved Antigua’s styled hair, but other than “he’s the behind-the-scenes recruiting guy,” we didn’t know much about it him…other than he was once a Harlem Globetrotter.
Little did we all know the long road Antigua took to success. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he moved to the states at the age 5 without knowing a lick of English. On his way to becoming a McDonald’s All-American, he faced a setback that nearly cost him his life – a gunshot wound to the head on Halloween. The details from the NY Daily News are chilling:
“Officer, officer, I just got shot in the head.”
The officer paused just long enough to size up Antigua as a street kid up to no good, and belted him with his billy club, knocking Antigua into a storefront, breaking Antigua’s collarbone. “It was crazy,”Antigua says. He had no spare energy to waste on rage. He flagged down another cop, who radioed for an ambulance. By the time Antigua was loaded into the back of it, he thought of his mother and kept telling himself not to close his eyes.
“I’d seen too many movies where guys close their eyes and they never open them again,” he says.
Antigua would survive with the bullet lodged in his brain for years, with limited side effects until his Senior season at Pitt. The pain had become too terrible to bear any longer. A doctor removed the bullet from his ear canal. Now it’s a keepsake he has on his desk next to his National Championship Ring.
Antigua’s past has built a foundation of success that has led him to South Florida. He learned a lot from Coach Cal, even though his team hasn’t quite found his own winning way…yet.
Today’s game will likely not be a monumental program-builder for South Florida, but he hopes they don’t take it out on him too badly, especially his former player and friend, Alex Poythress. “I wish he would start his groove on Saturday instead of right now, but I’m happy for him.”