Day one of the John Calipari Fantasy Experience is in full swing, and I’ve set up camp on the sidelines praying I won’t be hit by an errant ball. Here are some quick observations:
This place really is a fantasy
I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I got here. I walked in and all of my wildest dreams became reality–Jay Bilas in a UK shirt, DeMarcus Cousins goofing around with John Calipari, and the most talented team in college basketball history on the floor. So far, all of the talk has been legit, and just seeing them walk around the gym will make you giddy.
The Pro Camp experience is equally impressive. Campers have every luxury a Kentucky basketball player would–uniforms, gear, trainers, masseuses, you name it, it’s at their fingertips. Kudos to the Pro Camps staff for a job very well done. Everything is top notch, with the biggest perk being the accessibility of the players and coaching staff. The coaches this year are Jay Bilas, Butch Carter (former NBA coach), Bruiser Flint (Head Coach, Drexel), Dino Gaudio (former Wake Forrest head coach turned ESPN commentator), Seth Greenberg (ESPN analyst), Del Harris (former NBA Coach; GM, Texas Legends), Derek Kellogg (Head Coach, UMass), and Jim Stoll (former assistant coach, Miami (OH) and Wyoming). How’s that for a VIP staff?
While everyone here is clearly very wealthy, it is important to keep in mind that a huge portion of the proceeds from the camp and the Alumni Game go to charity. Cal said in his intro that they’re nearing their goal of raising $1 million for charity, which will be given away during the game Monday night. Wait, but Cal’s supposed to be a terrible person with no soul, right?
These campers aren’t just here for fun
At the beginning of camp, Cal encouraged the campers to pace themselves. That may seem like a joke, but it’s the truth. Most of these guys aren’t exactly in basketball shape, nor are they spring chickens anymore. Cal warned them that some players take the camp very seriously, and to bring their “A” games. Matt Jones was clearly listening–during one of the first team drills, he laid a guy on the other team out during a pick.
Jay Bilas is just as cool as you thought he would be
There were whispers that Bill Clinton may show up at some point this weekend, but so far, the biggest celebrity sighting I’ve had is Jay Bilas. Cal invited Bilas to take part in the camp as his “co-commissioner” because he likes the way he thinks (being a former lawyer and all), and because he hates the NCAA just as much as he does. He really said that. And everyone really laughed.
I got up the nerve to go talk to Jay, and he was just as wonderful as you would expect. He said that he’s done several of these camps at other schools, including Duke of course, and the Team USA Fantasy Camp earlier this summer. We chatted about the Cats (spoiler alert: he thinks they will be good), and how he randomly ran into his niece at Starbucks in Lexington this morning. I plan on picking his brain some more over the next few days on both topics. The swag is real.
John Robic’s hair is still glorious
Shine on, Robic. Shine on.
DeMarcus Cousins is wearing a hilarious hat
DeMarcus Cousins was the first alum to show up, and entered in true Boogie style–wearing a hilarious flowered bucket hat. No word yet on whether or not he’ll play Monday, but until then, I look forward to seeing more of his accessories. Terrence Jones showed up at the end of the day, and more alums are expected to participate tomorrow.
Matt Jones is on a team with Jason Taylor
I bet you never thought you’d read that line. Former Pro-Bowler Jason Taylor is by far the most impressive and random camper in the Joe Craft Center, and is already the MVP of the camp. As for Matt, he may have overexerted himself during stretching, but seems to be holding his own so far. He and Taylor are on Team Texas, which is coached by Del Harris.
That’s about it for this afternoon, but stay tuned for more updates all weekend.