As the big screen comes down and the popcorn gets swept up here in Rupp Arena, the KSR staff sits alone on press row, ready to reflect on all the fun that just transpired at Big Blue Madness.
For the most part, it was more of the same we see every year at the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball practice; although, this year we were introduced to seven new members of John Calipari’s basketball team. We also saw the return of the 3-point and dunk contests of a year ago, as well as Coach Matthew Mitchell, the mayor of Big Blue Madness, taking everyone to the Old Town Road.
I’m sure you have your favorite moments from the evening; below you will find all of ours (“ours” being me, Jack Pilgrim and Zack Geoghegan):
Coach Mitchell’s best dance routine yet
Finally, someone appreciates real country music. Old Town Road was Matthew Mitchell’s secret weapon for his ninth consecutive BBM intro-dance. Shoutout to Mitchell for pulling out the song of the century and killing every second of it. I will now dress as country Matthew Mitchell for Halloween.
— Zack Geoghegan
Kentucky’s slew of elite recruits had a great time
After staying in the back through the first few segments of Big Blue Madness, Kentucky’s ten high-profile recruiting targets made their way across the Rupp Arena floor seconds before the UK men’s basketball team was introduced. Sitting immediately behind the Kentucky bench, Cade Cunningham, Terrence Clarke, Paolo Banchero, and Lance Ware received quite a bit of screen time, most notably when John Calipari was interviewed (2012 National Championship ring exposed for the world to see).
Clarke jumped behind the television camera yelling, “I’m next! I’m next!”
Calipari casually flaunting that national championship ring in front of Terrence Clarke, Paolo Banchero, and Lance Ware, who seem amused. pic.twitter.com/PlYOpWMVpI
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 12, 2019
After the event came to a close, Ware wrapped his arm around Cunningham, with Clarke joking right alongside. Cunningham then stuck around and took pictures with fans for the next 20 minutes until a member of the Kentucky basketball staff ushered him to the back.
Kentucky has landed four prospects in the class of 2020 – top-five prospect Terrence Clarke, top-ten prospect BJ Boston, four-star forward Lance Ware, and four-star wing Cam’Ron Fletcher – and there are rumblings that the UK coaching staff is prepared to add at least two more by the time the fall signing period begins in November.
Will Cunningham be one of those additions?
— Jack Pilgrim
Calipari’s State of the Program address was directed at Cade Cunningham
Speaking of Cunningham, the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2020 got an earful from Calipari during his annual State of the Program Address. Every year, the Kentucky head coach has a “theme” in his speech, and this one was without a doubt intended for the 6-foot-7 point guard out of Arlington, TX.
In an interview with Corey Evans of Rivals.com earlier this month, Cunningham said a major factor in where he ultimately decides to commit is which coach can develop him into a max contract-level player in the NBA.
“I have just been very transparent with all of the coaches recruiting me and I don’t want to just make it to the league but rather, I want to be an all-star and a max contract guy,” he said. “I feel if you just shoot to make it in the league, that is how you sell yourself short, so just telling him that I want to be a max contract guy, that is a good goal to set.
On Friday evening, Calipari came out swinging during his speech, bringing up the seven former Kentucky players who have earned max deals and the $2-billion-plus all 38 of his drafted Wildcats have made as a collective unit.
Calipari wants the nation’s top guard to lead his team next season, and he sure said all the right things to make it happen.
Bruce Buffer announced the player intros because why not
Bruce Buffer announcing the players and coaches was so unnecessary that it was actually brilliant. Who better to yell and scream at 20,000 fans than him?
Junior Nick Richards, a long lost Splash Brother?
Drew here, big Nick Richards fan, as you know. I’m expecting big things for Richards in the rare junior season for a McDonald’s All-American, and tonight he showed off a new outside shot that has Naismith Player of the Year voters salivating.
Richards hit not one, but two long balls in the brief scrimmage to conclude Big Blue Madness. Previous Big Blue Madnesses taught us to never overreact to what we see on this night, but I am overreacting and naming Richards a real weapon from the perimeter this upcoming season. Remember Jimmer Fredette at BYU in like 2011? Imagine that shot but from a big man who can protect the rim and finish lobs.
I’m kidding. (Kind of.)
Kahlil Whitney’s outfit on the Blue Carpet
Brad Calipari will find comfort in knowing the team’s drip is in good hands without him.
The real dunk contest happened during the scrimmage
While the actual dunk contest had its impressive moments – Kahlil Whitney jumping over three humans – and not-so-impressive moments – Ashton Hagans on just about all of his attempts (bless his heart) – the most fun dunks came during the scrimmage.
Whitney and Keion Brooks traded dunks on opposite ends of the floor, ranging from lob throwdowns, self-alley-oops, and windmill jams. Nick Richards and Nate Sestina each threw down several powerful reverses and windmills. Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley shined on breakaway dunk attempts.
There was little-to-no organized basketball during the actual “scrimmage,” but the dunks were entertaining.
Rupp Arena debuts its “cafes”
Rupp Arena debuted its new catalogue of food options at Big Blue Madness, with the concession stands around the venue now officially being called “cafes.”
Some of the food – like the “Hunk A Pizza” from Hunt’s Pizza – remained the same, while other options such as the “Full Court Press,” “Kentucky Melt,” and “Hot Brown Nachos” made their debuts.
Drew described his Full Court Press selection – which included braised short rib, cheese, and toasted bread – as “a big piece of s**t between two slices of bread,” while my Hot Brown Nachos were incredibly delicious. Order with caution next weekend during the Blue-White Scrimmage. Eat the Hot Brown Nachos, avoid the Rupp Arena McRib.
Lob City in Memorial Coliseum?
Jaida Roper not only has the highest arching shot of any Wildcat, but she can also toss a pretty nice lob. Her floating pass to Rhyne Howard had Rupp Arena holding its collective breath for a slight second as shades of Candance Parker dunking shined onto the court. The 6-foot-2 Howard didn’t go up for the slam, but slipped in a slick reverse layup off the beauty from Roper.
Blair Green went all 606
Gotta love that mountain pride!
We got shooters on deck
Everyone knows that it’s more fun to shoot from as deep as possible, especially if it goes in. Nate Sestina drilled two threes from NBA range while Johnny Juzang also pulled one from Steph Curry’s land. If preseason scrimmages with zero signs of defense tell us anything, it’s that those shots will absolutely translate once November hits. We got some shooters.
The Kentucky cheerleaders are not human
The 24-time national champions make my muscles, brain, and organs hurt. How they manage to pull off some of the flips while being tossed directly towards the jumbotron is something I will never understand. I think I did a cartwheel once during my senior year of high school. The cheerleaders probably cartwheel out of bed every morning.
This team is going to be a lot of fun
I feel like we say this every year (because we do) and we are saying it once again: this is a fun group with great personalities. The new class on this team is especially fun, easily the best collection of personalities among true freshmen. They’re so outgoing and loving every single second of everything that is going on around them as they approach their first season at Kentucky. Tyrese Maxey hasn’t stopped smiling since he got to Lexington, Kahlil Whitney is living his best life at all times, and Johnny Juzang and Nate Sestina are right up there with them in personality. We still don’t know how this team will do on the basketball court, but it’s clear the fan base won’t need long to fall in love with this group off of it.