David Leveridge- Kentucky Basketball Beat Reporter.
The excitement of Kentucky Basketball debuted tonight Friday, The Thirteenth 2017 @ the Historic Rupp Arena. Since Kentucky lost in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Basketball tournament in March of this year, this date has been anticipated for a long time. Big Blue Madness is the official start to the College Basketball season as this is the first time all year the public gets to see UK on the court. Other schools such as Duke, Kansas, North Carolina all hold similar events, but the hype and anticipation of Big Blue Madness is unique making Kentucky the gold Standard of College Basketball.
Although Big Blue Madness is a yearly tradition and on the bucket list for any UK fan, the recruiting edge the event offers to future prospects is phenomenal. The University of Kentucky puts on a show to the fans, recruits, and media that has become one of the most desired events to attend in all of sports. Last year UK introduced the Blue Carpet, allowing fans and media to view the CATS as they entered the Arena. The tradition has continued and only grows each year with Thousands of Spectators waiting for their first chance of seeing the team enter Rupp. The event has a legitimate feel of a Hollywood Red Carpet Movie Premiere. The projection of the Rupp Arena Court, combined with the pyrotechnic Fireworks inside, creates an unique atmosphere that is similar to major sporting events like the NBA all- star game, or the NCAA Final Four. Rapper Drake is a close friend of Coach John Calipari and has attended the event almost year of Calipari’s tenure @ UK, dating back to his first Big Blue Madness in the 2009- 2010 season.
Several of the Nation’s Top High School Recruits attended the event. The top recruit UK desperately wants, is Zion Williamson. Williamson is a U- tube sensation and is viewed as the best prospect entering College since John Wall took the helms of UK at the point guard position in the 2009- 2010 season. Former NBA players Shaquille O’Neal and Manute Bol both have sons playing in there last year of high School, and both are highly regarded prospects in the class of 2018. Bol Bol and Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal were both attending Big Blue Madness, and seemed to be enjoying the spectacle that is Big Blue Madness. When the Blue carpet was unveiled with the introductions of former UK players, the recruits were all lined up with a front row viewing. The fans and media coverage is un-duplicated by any other team in College Basketball. The recruits stayed until the current team entered the Arena, watching the passionate fan base, and players being treated as first class celebrities. Other highly regarded recruits in attendance included Darrius Garland 5 Star point guard class of 2018, James Wiseman #1 ranked prospect class of 2019, Tyreese Maxey 5 Star point guard class of 2019, D.J Jeffries Five- Star forward class of 2019, Keon Brooks Five Star forward class of 2019, Jaemyn Bakerfeild Five- Star #2 ranked player class of 2020, Jalen Johnson five star forward class of 2020, Zion Harmon Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball candidate class of 2021 from Bowling Green, KY. (Recruit information was found on a recent article of Cats Pause at https://kentucky.247sports.com)
Mathew Mitchell Head-Coach UK hoops Women’s team.
As enjoyable as Big Blue Madness is with the debut of this year’s Men’s Basketball team is the star of the Night with the most enjoyable moment of the event is UK Hoops Head- Coach Mathew Mitchell. Mitchell is a charismatic coach and when he enters the venue, spectators are treated to a great experience. UK produced a hype video with Coach Mithcell’s famous introductions from years past, all including the coach dancing as enters Rupp Arena. Once the video ended, Coach Mitchell was introduced to the Wildcat Faithful. As usual the Coach didn’t disappoint and continued the tradition of dancing at center court surrounded by cheerleaders and his current team. The Coach danced to segments of popular songs like Cupid Shuffle, Electric Slide, Get Low, and Cha – Cha slide. The video cn be found on Bluegrass Sports Nation Facebook page. LIKE our page and check out the dance craze and relive the unforgettable moment.
Coach Mitchell’s women’s team scrimmaged for two half’s with two four minute half’s. The scrimmage was a preview of this year’s team and although, there wasn’t much Defense played the UK Hoops team looks to continue building a great women’s program. The starters for the game were divided into two teams consisting of a white and blue team. White team starters included #22 Makenzie Cann, #21 Ogechi Anyagalibgo, # 15 Jessica Hardin, # 23 Kameron Roach, and #20 Dorie Harrsion. Blue Team starters #14 Tatyana Wyatt, # 3 Keke Mckinney, #45 Alyssa Rice, #4 Maci Morris, and # 32 Jaida Roper. The first half ended with the score White team 4, Blue team 2. The game concluded with the White team prevailing with an 11-9 victory over the Blue team.
UK Men’s team 2017- 2018 season.
The Moment the entire crowd waited for, the Debut and introductions of this year’s University of Kentucky Men’s team. Not an empty seat in the stands, with fans chanting C-A-T-S! C-A-T-S! C-A-T-S!. The moment is highly anticipated and a moment any UK fan looks forward to year after year. The Light’s go off and the Hype video begins. UK continues offering a first- class experience with laser lights projecting onto the court, all eight of UK National Championships were unveiled on the court. The video on big screen showed great moments and teams from UK’s past, including the 2009-2010 team being the first to reach 2000 wins, and confetti falling after the 2012 National Championship. Each player was introduced to the crowd, some being their first time meeting the Rupp Arena fans. Each player entered the Arena dancing with pyrotechnics exploding and their signatures portrayed at Center Court. Two players who are figured to be stars for this year’s team received the loudest ovations. Sophomore #32 Wenyen Gabriel, and Red- shirt Freshmen #3 Hamidou Diallo ovations stood out.
With the players being introduced, it was time for Coach Calipari’s introduction. UK produced another hype video of Calipari throughout his eight- year tenure as the Head- Coach of UK. Pyrotechnics exploded again and Coach Cal addressed the crowd. In typical Calipari fashion he talked about how crazy the UK Fan base is, and comparing UK to a family, and how UK isn’t for everyone only the most dedicated student athletes who are willing to sacrifice will succeed on his team. Coach Cal introduced Rap- icon Drake to the crowd, who served as a special guest coach. Drake coached the Blue team in the scrimmage. Drake addressed the crowd stating” other schools have asked me to come to their Madness events, but they wasn’t Kentucky.” “Kentucky makes me feel like family, and he is been a loyal to the Big Blue Nation through and through.” As, Drake left the stage he mentions having a free concert next spring to any student that goes to the University of Kentucky.
Like the Women’s game, the team was divided into two teams Blue and White competing in two four- minute half’s. The Blue team starters consisted of #0 Quade Green, #5 Kevin Knox, #3 Hamidou Diallo, # 4 Nick Richards, #2 Jared Vanderbilt. White Team started #1 Sacha Killa Jones, #12 Brad Calipari, #10 Johnny David, #32 Wenyen Gabriel, and #22 Shai- Gilgeous- Alexander.
At the end of the first half the White team led 17- 15 over the Blue team. Viewing the game and it only being the first scrimmage of the season it’s difficult to get a feel of how great this team may be come season’s end. Like Calipari’s former teams of years past it is obvious this team is deep, athletic, and well coached. Kentucky has nine out of seventeen players who are at least 6’5” tall. Returning player #32 Wenyen Gabriel has improved a lot being leaner, while building more muscle, and more aggressive with the ball. Freshmen #3 Hamidou Diallo takes over the prestigious shooting guard position. Diallo follows in the footsteps of Devin Booker, Andrew Harrison, Jamal Murray, and Malik Monk from last year’s team who have all gone on to NBA careers. Diallo will more than likely continue that tradition and may be the most athletic shooting guard to ever come to Kentucky. At Kentucky’s recent pro day, Diallo recorded a 43.5” vertical leap, one of the highest vertical leaps ever recorded in college or pro. Freshmen #5 Kevin Knox is as good as advertised. The freshmen is strong, and athletic and I believe will be a fan favorite by seasons end. The Blue team goes on to defeat the White team 32- 29.
Kentucky Basketball is back and the day all Kentucky fans have looked forward to is now here. Big Blue Madness was a great experience for everyone attending. The event is one of the most anticipated and publicized events of the year in all of Kentucky athletics. The event is a preview of this year’s Kentucky team. This is only the first open practice of the year, and by season’s end Kentucky will again be a major factor in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky’s next event will be the Blue-White Game on October 20, 2017.