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From the Mailbag: First games, fave players and other Big Blue fun …

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Jorts goes deep

Evan Miller remembers it like it was yesterday.

It was Josh Harrellson’s senior year and it was Evan’s first trip to the Big Blue Madness campout.

“I was around 13 or 14 at the time,” Evan wrote. “This was when (Josh) wasn’t the star player he became later.”

Evan saw Harrellson and his girlfriend walking around the Blue Courts.

“I noticed who he was,” Evan wrote. “I had a football in my hand and he saw me and said throw it. So I threw it to him and he threw it back.”

Evan thought that was it, so he started to walk away.

“Then he yells at me and tells me to throw it back,” he wrote. “We then went on to throw football for about 30 minutes with little to no interruption. Then when we were done he asked me if I wanted a picture, and of course I said yes. Then before he walked off I asked for his autograph.

“I will truly never forget meeting Jorts!”

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I loved that story, which Evan Miller wrote in to share with you, the Big Blue Nation. I’ve been impressed with other comments and stories you all have written to me, too, so I decided to share some of the best. We’ll talk about favorite players, games, and a few comments that just made me laugh.

Ready? Let’s keep going …

The Admiral provided a memorable game

[email protected] wrote: “I was asked by a family friend to pick any game to go to. My father served in the Navy so I chose UK-Navy not knowing that The Admiral (David Robinson) played for the Midshipmen. He broke the Rupp scoring record that afternoon which still stands – he had 45, but UK still won.”

That would have been something to see.

Cal – younger, and pre-UK:

Josh Morris

Joshua Morris, of Harrisburg, Ill., shows us this pic of him and Cal, which he took at the Marshall County Hoopfest the year before Cal came to Kentucky.

Is it just me, or does Cal look a WHOLE lot younger?

Tubby shows his class

Greg Smith tells us why Tubby was so lovable:

“It’s 1999 and I’m managing a new restaurant in Lexington. We signed up to host a couple of coaches shows, one with Hal Mumme and the other with Tubby Smith. The corporate boys sent all manner of souvenirs to the store to be signed by the coaches. Problem was, it wasn’t set up in advance to sign all this stuff so it was left up to me to ask each coach. I hated asking people for autographs but corporate had given me my marching orders.

“First up was HM and we had a huge crowd. He does the show, gets up and leaves without greeting fans or signing autographs. A bigger disaster we could not imagine and it was with trepidation that we waited for Tubby’s turn. An even bigger crowd shows up and I was so nervous it made me sick. What a surprise we got when Tubby stayed after the show and signed autographs until the last customer left. My 10-year-old son was with me that night and could hardly contain himself.

“As Tubby was preparing to leave he came up and shook my hand to thank us for our hospitality, so I informed him of my dilemma regarding the souvenirs from corporate. “No problem,” he says and so I led him back to my office. He shook hands with all the crew on the way back and – putting my son on his lap – he preceded to sign everything. A more classy person I’ve never met.”

What a first game, thanks to Rena

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Carter Hendrickson of Harlan County saw a memorable first game in Rupp Arena:

“I saw your post on the site and thought that I would share my game. It isn’t crazy exceptional, but one that I would not trade for the world.

“I was brought up to be an insanely raging member of the BBN. I had absolutely no choice. It was passed down from my grandparents to my parents, and then on to me.

“In 1994 I was a freshman at Harlan High School. I had already been going to UK football games for a few years now, and I believe I had seen the Cayts play in Thompson Bowling Arena in Knoxville.

“However I had never made a visit to Rupp Arena. In December of ’94 the Cats played Boston University. My aunt was very close friends with Rena Vicini, assistant athletic director under C.M. at the time. Rena got us the hook up. She got tickets for me, my mom and dad, my aunt and uncle, and my cousins.

“We sat in section 15 about half way up from the floor. When we arrived we were brought in through the players’ entrance, which was unbelievable. The game was awesome and of course the Cats killed them by 41. It was honestly like marking something off of my bucket list.

“But it was not over. Rena came over with a couple minutes to play and told us not to leave. She had already come through in a huge way, and I could not figure how she could top it. She did. She came over and got my cousin and I and our fathers, and she took us down into the bowels of Rupp.

“We watched Pitino’s press conference, and when it was over she introduced us to him and we got his autograph on our 3s. It was too much. My cousin and I were almost in shock. And just when we thought it could not get any better, it did. She took us into the locker room where we got to meet every single player on that team.

“We got autographs from all of them (which I still have). It was like a dream. Unbelievable first trip to Rupp.

“Unfortunately Rena died in Arizona a month ago. Rest in peace.”

‘You can do it, baby!’

Jessica VanWinkle shares this laugher from her first UK game:

“I read your article on KSR about first game stories, and I thought I would send you mine. This is actually during the second game I ever attended, but it was pretty memorable. It was December of 1999, and Jamaal Magloire was at the free throw line. Rupp Arena was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Then, all of a sudden, a woman screams, ‘You can do it, baby!’

“Everyone in the arena burst out laughing. I have no idea if Magloire made the free throw or not, but I shared this with everyone.  My dad, who was at the game with me, and I still talk about it today.”

The Last Word

And here’s the last word, courtesy of Bill Robinson, who commented on seeing a great ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ performance:

“If you can watch the Happy Chandler rendition of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ at Senior Day and NOT cry you aren’t a true Kentuckian … and you’re probably a UL or Duke fan.”

Amen, brother.

*

We’ll be on NBA Draft watch here until next week – so I wonder: Who’s the biggest NBA overachiever from UK? Chuck Hayes?  Leave your comments below and let us know. Or email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rhinoKSR or my website: ForRyanOutLoud.com and maybe I’ll share them.

Go Big Blue!

Article written by Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark has spent most of his life avoiding real work. He has walked the back nine with Tiger Woods, partied with Lebron James in New York and watched Kentucky basketball with Ashley Judd. He's hunted for ghosts in Civil War mansions, screened a movie with Cameron Crowe and interviewed Klan members while eating fried Twinkies at the Mississippi State Fair. He's made bets at the Kentucky Derby with Gilbert Gottfried, shared bootcamp quarters with our nation's finest National Guardsmen and women, and was even named an honorable mention Academic All-American while on academic probation at WKU. It makes sense then that he's now an editor and an instructor at Northern Kentucky University.

5 Comments for From the Mailbag: First games, fave players and other Big Blue fun …



  1. Andy
    12:56 am June 19, 2015 Permalink

    Robinson also scored at least of his points on dunks. Considering Shaq didn’t even come close to matching the Admiral at rupp alwasy made we think Robinson was underappreciated in the NBA



  2. Wilfred Smith
    5:59 am June 19, 2015 Permalink

    When he retires I hope Tubby gets the “Joe B. Hall” treatment from the fanbase. Yes I know the warts and they don’t need to be rehashed here, but I also know the beauty.



  3. Great American
    7:42 am June 19, 2015 Permalink

    Did anybody else notice the dude that met Tubby wrote like Yoda talks? Sign my ball you will?



  4. Xander
    8:40 am June 19, 2015 Permalink

    I always liked Tubby. Somehow this story doesn’t surprise me at all. I think Tubby was a great coach, but his recruiting was not the best.



  5. thunder
    9:18 am June 19, 2015 Permalink

    My brother had surgery for a cancerous brain tumor the day the Wildcats played Stanford in the semi finals of the 98 tournament. He watched the game in intensive care after an 8 hour surgery, telling me later that night that he felt pretty rough because the 2OT game about “did him in.” When the Cats won the tourney, it lifted his spirits so much. So much that it inspired me to send a letter to Tubby the day after the tournament to share with him how much the Comeback Cats meant to this Comeback Kid. That it wasn’t just a tournament win, it was a motivation of life for a dying young man of 34 years old. Within a week, UPS delivered a National Championship shirt and cap signed by Tubby with Best Wishes and Get Well Soon. My brother framed the shirt and cased the cap. Even though my brother couldn’t beat the cancer, I still look at those mementos and remember the smile it put on my brother’s face and know that Tubby will always be number one to me, regardless of any wins or loses.