The night full of festivities started off with the UK Hoops team showcasing their stuff. The team was introduced, including returning SEC Player of the Year A’dia Mathies and returning SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Gross. ‘Cats fans also got their first look at incoming freshman Janee Thompson who was named a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.
After the team was introduced, here comes the always entertaining head coach Matthew Mitchell. Coach has always been known for his dance moves. Showcasing some sweet black parachute pants, Mitchell started busting out the moves to MC Hammer and “Can’t Touch This”. The UK Dance team appeared behind Mitchell for a rendition of “Too Legit to Quit” before the coach changed from parachute pants to basketball shorts. After leading some blue/white cheers, the UK Hoops team had a three point competition and threw out a few shirts to the crowd. The ladies looked as organized as a October team could look, and shot the ball very well in their scrimmage. Immediately from the end of scrimmage, the Hoops team busted out in random dances of their own. It was a very fun team to watch, and should compete for another SEC Championship and a National Title.
After the women saluted the crowd and exited stage right, it was time for the men to be formally introduced to the Big Blue Nation. All of a sudden, the lights go dark and a huge white cover was placed over the Rupp Arena floor. Using the white floor as a projection screen, the video highlights were shot onto the white covering. This created an amazing spectacle that turned the entire floor into one huge big screen television. The crowd was in awe, and so was I.
With the men being introduced, the players came out with their signature dance moves and waves to the crowd. Kyle Wiltjer came out with a little jive of his own to get the dancing game started. Archie Goodwin was by far the best dancer of the night. Well, except for maybe Matthew Mitchell.
The most elaborate display of the night may have come from head coach John Calipari. The coach started introducing former players and former head coach Joe B. Hall onto the floor. Championship winning players such as Jeff Sheppard, Derek Anderson, Goose Givens, and Kyle Macy were introduced to the crowd. After Cliff Hagan, Calipari announced the greatest athlete to ever wear a UK uniform. He played basketball, football, and baseball. When asked his favorite sport, his answer was “Whatever is in season.” He is none other than the great “Wah-Wah” Jones. Jones merited the loudest ovation as he was helped onto the court.
With all the former players and Coach Hall on the court, Calipari revealed in the rafters of Rupp all of the national championship banners on one beam out of place below the rest of the banners. A huge rope hung from the sky as each individual approached the rope. The former players, Coach Hall, and Calipari re-raised all 8 national championship banners back into place. This was one of the most symbolic displays of tradition I have ever seen.
With all the visual effects and displays winding down, the BBN was finally able to see their new ‘Cats take the floor for the very first time. In warm-ups, Nerlens Noel and Ryan Harrow threw down some hard dunks to wow the crowd. Harrow can jump out of the gym! Kyle Wiltjer has not lost any of his touch from last season, and looks to have developed his lower body exceptionally well. As we prepared for the first stanza of scrimmage, we were notified that guard Twany Beckham would not participate due to a back injury. He’s listed day-to-day.
The scrimmage showcased a ton of offense, and a minimal display of defense. Thunderous dunks galore from Noel, Harrow, and getting our first glimpses of Alex Poythress. Poythress displayed his sweet shooting stroke and driving ability. Jarrod Polson and Kyle Wiltjer impressed early with their shooting and driving ability. Nerlens Noel showcased his defensive prowess a few times, breaking up plays and blocking shots that nobody could touch. NC State transfer PG Ryan Harrow looked very explosive to the rim and has a sick handle on the basketball. The other transfer, Julius Mays displayed a sweet shooting stroke and stability a senior should. He will be the “Darius Miller” of this team. He won’t wow you, but he’ll be consistent.
After a while of sprinting up and down the court, things got really sloppy. Not saying that the scrimmage was supposed to be perfect, but it was obvious this team is just in “October” shape. The schedule was also mentioned, talking about UK’s games with Maryland and Duke. This team will not be able to play a lot at Rupp and become as comfortable with their surroundings as other teams have. They will have to hit the road early and often.
Overall, the night was spectacular for Kentucky basketball. The winning tradition, the appreciation of history, and the prospects of a bright future were on display in full force. Nobody, and I mean nobody, does it like Kentucky. Only UK can have the ingenuity and funds to pull off such a fantastic display of the greatest tradition in college basketball. Go Big Blue!
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP