Jersey numbers at the University of Kentucky mean a lot. Any true fan can rattle off the various players throughout Kentucky history who’ve worn each number. From the stars all the way down to the bench warmers, no one is forgotten. John Calipari recently announced the numbers for the 2012-2013 squad, and though they’re just numbers and players right now, as the year wears on they will start to reveal the ever-reliable glimpse of history and heroes that Kentucky basketball represents.
To referees and the uninitiated, a number is just a tool for identification. But to fans, a number becomes a part of history. It becomes nostalgic. It becomes larger than life. The young men wearing it turn into heroes and legends. With each new batch of number assignments, it’s nice to look back over the stories and the characters of old.
Nerlens Noel will be taking over the #3 of Rex Chapman, Allen Edwards, and most recently Terrence Jones. It’s not hard to remember flashes of the number in the dazzling brilliance of Chapman. Terrence Jones rocked opponents and shook stadiums while bearing it, making it a symbol of fear to his opponents. Allen Edwards fought tooth and soul to carry it to a national championship before passing it on. Noel will certainly have a hard time living up to the legacy of the number’s past, but all signs seem to indicate he’ll wear it proudly and add to its memories before his tenure as a Wildcat is over.
Archie Goodwin will carry the #10 of Louie Dampier, Dirk Minniefield, and Keith Bogans. Dampier’s time with the number has already been immortalized in the rafters of Rupp, a constant reminder of his legacy. Picturing Minniefield weaving passes through history is as natural as breathing. And it was just yesterday that Bogans limped off the floor and revealed the lone fatal crack in a championship run. Goodwin has quite the lineage before him, but he appears well-suited to represent the fellow guards who preceded.
Willie Cauley-Stein is set to don the #15 of Alex Groza, Jeff Sheppard, and DeMarcus Cousins. The number has been through three championships, both on the back of Sheppard the comeback sharpshooter and Groza the now-ancient legend. The images might be faint, but the number stands strong on the back of Groza as he led the “Fabulous Five” to two championships. Even the personality of Cousins shines through the storied fabric of #15. Cauley-Stein may not have Shepperd’s shot, Groza’s history, or Cousins’ personality, but he will have a chance to wear a magical number proudly.
And finally, there’s Alex Poythress, who will bear the #22 of the admittedly-quaint trio of Patrick Sparks, Gene Stewart, and Larry Stamper. Though they may not be heroes of Kentucky basketball, the past wearers of the number have seen stories unfold and created unforgettable moments along the way. Gene Stewart was a part of Kentucky’s historic loss to Texas Western in the NCAA Championship. Larry Stamper was there for Adolph Rupp’s last game as head coach. And no one will ever forget Patrick Sparks’ eternal toe-on-the-line against Michigan State. Poythress may very well toe the line as the best Kentucky player to ever wear the #22. Only time, and a little history will tell.
Going over the numbers is usually considered a menial task for the nerds of the world. But Kentucky fans should go over the history of their numbers from time to time, and just remember the great moments, the heroes, and the legends of the past.
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Corey Tincher is a lifelong Kentucky fan and professional writer who couldn't keep the two worlds apart. He is the lead contributor for StraitCats.com and literally wrote the book on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Championship run, Big Blue Articles: Kentucky Basketball in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Follow @Corey_Tincher on Twitter for more Kentucky news and discussion.