Kentucky will face the Wofford Terriers Saturday afternoon, so both teams’ coaches and players spent some time talking with the media in Jacksonville Friday. You’ve already seen what John Calipari had to say, but how is Coach Mike Young feeling heading into Saturday’s matchup with No. 2 Kentucky? Based on his comments from today, I’m guessing pretty good.
“We’re playing the Wildcats of Kentucky, and I can’t wait,” Young said. “I have such great admiration for Coach Calipari and what he’s done at UMass and Memphis and now here at Kentucky. It’ll be a wonderful day for our team and our players.”
His players are apparently also feeling pretty good, according to the head coach.
“I can’t imagine a team more confident, and that’s earned,” Young said of his Terriers. “We haven’t lost since December 19th, and of the four losses, they’re all playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.”
Nick Richards was pretty confident as well when he was asked about the matchup between UK and Wofford’s big men. Despite Kentucky’s national ranking, NBA prospects and long-standing reputation, Coach Young says the Terriers won’t be discouraged.
“We may get our ears pinned back tomorrow, but it will not be because my team is intimidated,” Young said.
Part of that lack of intimidation comes from Wofford’s strength of schedule this season. They feel prepared to face a “Blue Blood” like Kentucky, because they’ve played “Blue Bloods” like Kentucky.
“We went to Phog Allen Fieldhouse [at Kansas]. We had North Carolina at home, Oklahoma… You know, there is a method to the madness. Our non-league schedule is always really hard,” Coach Young said.
Wofford center Matthew Pegram agrees with Young regarding the benefits a strong regular-season schedule. How will that help him against Kentucky?
“I would say that our non-conference prepared us for that every year,” the senior said. “We play a pretty hard non-conference; we play against a lot of big schools. Go into it like any other game: get the game plan from the coaches, go out, play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
March gives smaller schools like Abilene Christian and Wofford the chance to promote their basketball program and promote the university itself. For Coach Young, he just hopes it helps spread the proper pronunciation of Wofford.
“Our name recognition has gotten better and better and better, and certainly this experience will help even more. I had to correct a gentleman out here in the hallway. If I hear one of you say “Woe-ford”, I’m going to come after you. It’s Wofford,” Young laughed. “It’s spelled W-o-f-f-o-r-d. It’s pronounced W-a-f-f-o-r-d… We’re making great progress, but still, work to be done.”
Then there’s senior forward Cameron Jackson, who’s just plain excited to play against UK.
“It doesn’t get much better than playing teams like Kentucky,” Jackson said. “You dream of that as a kid: being on that team [or] being at a smaller school, playing against that team. So all of this is just a dream come true.”
Jackson isn’t alone – Coach Young is excited for the opportunity to coach against John Calipari and Kentucky.
“Way back, I remember sitting and listening to that AM radio station… listening to Cawood Ledford and that ’78 team are great, great memories,” Young said. “To strap it on tomorrow and walk out there and face UK, I mean, that’s a highlight. That will be a highlight for my team. That’ll be something they’ll never forget.”
Wofford seems like a likable bunch of guys, but let’s not entertain any Cinderella-team fantasies. Hopefully, the Cats will come out hot against the Terriers and take care of business Saturday afternoon. They can’t come out sluggish, because Wofford will be ready to go.
“They may whip our tail, but it will not be because my kids are scared,” Young reiterated. “They’ll come out ready to fight.”