The tasks of a KSR blogger vary on a day-to-day basis, ranging from tedious podcast editing to scowling Twitter for content, but at the heart of my job is one simple task: ask teenagers questions.
Whether I’m talking to All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones or No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, I’m talking to kids that can’t legally sit at a bar and order a drink. It’s easy to sit at a bar and pick somebody’s brain, but the task becomes more challenging when you have to have a conversation with a 17-year old in front of a dozen cameras.
Earlier this month, I spent three days speaking to 17-year olds behind a camera at the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago. Still not yet versed in media training, questions must be crafted more carefully to receive exceptional content in a conversation set in circumstances the athletes are not accustomed to. When the questions weren’t carefully crafted, I usually heard a “B-B-N” from the future Wildcats, a ubiquitous crowd-pleasing soundbite. When discussing their basketball future with John Calipari, the following two words were uttered more than any other phrase:
The All-Americans didn’t use that phrase to describe college basketball, they were referring to the NBA. The ultimate goal for the best of the best of the best isn’t to receive a college scholarship, it’s to get paid to play professionally in the NBA.
When Quade Green was a kid shooting hoops in Philadelphia, I bet he was dreaming of hitting a big shot for the Sixers like Allen Iverson instead of being John Cheney’s point guard at Temple. When I first started writing, my goal wasn’t to be the best unpaid KSR College blogger, it was to get paid for my skills on the big stage.
Earlier this week fans were quick to pick up their torches and pitchforks when Hamidou Diallo and Bam Adebayo announced their intentions to pursue their dream of playing at the next level. “This isn’t what Kentucky basketball is supposed to be about,” was the generalized sentiment, even though that’s exactly what it is about.
At the heart of John Calipari’s Kentucky basketball program is helping players reach their ultimate goal of playing at the next level. Like me, you may have grown up dreaming about hitting that buzzer-beater at Rupp Arena. Most of us weren’t good enough to make that dream a reality. The best of the best of the best grew up dreaming about that buzzer-beater at the next level, the NBA.
John Calipari opened his first press conference as the Kentucky head coach by saying: “I’m here because I can recruit the best of the best here. That’s why I’m here.”
In eight years, Calipari has done exactly that. He’s won games, he’s been to Final Fours, he’s won a title and he’s helped dozens of players reach their dreams by playing at the next level. The best of the best come to Kentucky because Calipari can get them where they want to be.
Acceptance is the first step. I’ve accepted that my career will be defined on how well I can ask teenagers questions. The sooner the “B-B-N” accepts that the best players come to Kentucky to leave for the “next level,” the better.