So, you knew this was comin'. One of the FTS team just watched her school...her alma mater take it all the way to victory. The 8th national championship and the first since 1998. Let me get this out and then I promise I'm done. Until November, anyway.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Marquis Teague (assisted by Darius Miller and Kyle Wiltjer) brought #8 home from New Orleans on Monday night. In a vicious game against Kansas, where, although Kansas was behind by double digits for most of the game, they fought back in the second half and managed to tie it up. The Big Blue Nation chewed on nails and paced the floor as Lamb sunk his 3's (which is what he and Wiltjer are most known for) and Davis made gravity-defying leaps for rebounds on the Kansas end of the court. Steals, rebounds on the first shot attempt, and forcing turn-overs...this game was won with defense. Anthony Davis, also known as "The Brow" due to his unwillingness to separate the right brow from the left, is known for his dunks made from a teammate's lob of the ball towards the basket. But he did very little on the offensive side of the game Monday night. He told his teammates, "you make the baskets and let me defend on the other end." And it worked. It also showed a generosity that is most uncommon among college freshmen. But he knew, with the Naismith Award in his back pocket, that his ticket to the pros is already written...why not give other players, like senior Miller, the chance to shine in a national championship game? Unselfish. The University of Kentucky 2011-2012 basketball team is comprised of a bench of unselfish players and that is how they took it all the way to #8.
But we have a few FTS readers who don't like or get or watch basketball. The terms are foreign and the strategy behind a well-played game is confusing. So let me go beyond that and simply introduce you to our starting five. As you will quickly see, they are just kids who love the game.
#23 Anthony Davis (AKA The Brow)
Kentucky.com (Lexington newspaper)
Even our mascot got into the act...
Our #1 fan is Ashley Judd. She's been following the Wildcats and attending games for as long as I can remember. It has endeared her to us and even if she stars in a flop, we'll still pay the money to go...because that girl bleeds blue, for sure!
Davis is a Chicago native, which means that he's played on courts way rougher than those in the NCAA. He's been smacked in the face with an elbow, pushed, shoved, and tripped. Never once has he lost his temper or even scowled. He's never visibly dropped the "f" bomb on the court, which is usually caught by TV cameras after a foul has been called. And he always give a 2-arm pat on the back to opposing players, regardless of whether the game was a "W" or a "L." He finished his freshman year in high school at 6' even. When he began his junior year in high school, he measured 6'8"...pushing him out of the point guard position and something closer to a forward. Also? 8 inches in like 14 months is insane. Davis has a twin sister (who they showed in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament and is gorgeous) and his mother is 6'1" while dad is 6'3". His older sister plays basketball at Daley College. The Big Blue Nation adores #23. He desperately needs braces and a good waxing, but it's easy to forget about all of that focus on the game when you watch him. His enthusiasm is infectious, his talent is unreal.
#14 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Kidd-Gilchrist came out in his first game wearing the UK blue as a man on fire against Marist. The very first time we saw him play, we all thought the same thing, "This is going to be a great year." He has been quieter in some games than others. He can rebound, steal, score, and assist. He works hard and loves the game. And during a press conference a couple of months ago, vowed to play all 4 years at U.K. and graduate with a degree. We'll see.
His father died on August 11, 1996 from multiple gunshot wounds. And he still watches The Lion King once a week because he watched it with his father almost everyday until he was three. In July, 2011 he adopted "Kidd" to honor the other important man in his life, his uncle Darrin Kidd, who passed away on the day he was set to sign his letter of intent to UK.
#3 Terrence Jones
This is a pretty typical look for Jones. He was an McDonald's All-American in 2010 and selected this year for the SEC all-tournament team. In 2011, he announced that he was going to enter the NBA draft, expecting to be a first-round selection. But not signing with an agent left him an out, which allowed him to return to U.K for his sophomore season. More interestingly, though, is Ashley Judd's interest in Jones. She has mentioned him specifically during game interviews and "accidentally" took Jones' cell phone after a locker room visit during the Louisville game in December. She left this note:
Someone had to drive to Elizabethtown, KY, 45 minutes away to retrieve it. After the phone was returned to Jones, he tweeted this picture of the note. I guess your son isn't the only thing "missing"...huh, Ashley?
#20 Doron (pronounced "door"-"on") Lamb
This is "3-point" hand sign. Neal thinks it's ridiculous. But it sure is fun to do!
(sometimes my cell takes the blurriest pictures. grrr...)
Lamb is so low-profile that the only thing Wikipedia says about him is that he's from Queens, NY and he was a McDonald's All-American. And other than the fact that he can sink a 3 without ever touching the rim, I got nothin', too. He was looking a little like Gumby/Kid'n'Play at the beginning of the season, but since I don't memorize jersey numbers, that was the only way I recognized him on TV. Once he shaved off all of his hair, I kept confusing him with Teague...especially when Teague started sinking his 3-pointers. He's low-key, calm, and an overall fantastic team player. I'm not sure I see him returning next year, but it would be a pleasant surprise.
#25 Marquis Teague
Teague gets a little head rub from Lamb
I would say that Teague and Jones run neck-and-neck for hottest heads in the starting 5 line-up. It seems to me like he fouls the most and then runs his mouth the most when he gets called for a foul. But that doesn't make him a "me player," it just makes him passionate. Sometimes that passion ends in a technical. Teague comes from basketball roots; his cousin played for Purdue and his brother for the Atlanta Hawks. As a freshman who has had hot and cold games, I can see him returning next year. But I also sort of see the dollar signs in his eyes.
#1 Darius Miller
Honorary mention goes to senior Darius Miller (pictured here with Eloy Vargus on the left, whose reigning achievement so far has been a couple of shots made at the tail end of the SEC championship game against Florida in 2011 - see above picture of me and my cousin at that game). Miller is not a starter, but he has come in at crucial times and made crucial plays. And in an extraordinary show of team spirit, Kidd-Gilchrist gave his starting position to Miller in (I think) the Louisville game, so that the senior could start. Because that's just how this team rolls. We'll miss you Darius!
Although I am borrowing this photo from the Washington Post, it could be seen everywhere on Tuesday morning. A moment in time, when a bunch of boys who loved the sport were brought together to play. Teams like the 2011-2012 Wildcats are rare. They're immortal and they're legend. People will talk about this team the same way they talk about Rex Chapman and Pitino's Comeback Cats. We may never see another team of this caliber, but WE ARE UK and we will have more national victories.
For those who were following the fan celebrations in Lexington on Monday night, there were some...incidents...although nothing like the post-game partying after the win against Louisville in the Final Four game. There were fewer couch burnings (it's so common people started making signs)
and fewer reports of the Lexington Police Department firing pepper spray bullets into the crowd. However, some guy fell off the roof of a moving car on Main St. and someone opened fire on State St., which resulted in one person losing their foot. Other than that, UK students and fans kept it classy, if not particularly sober, on Monday night. If you watch national news, it probably looked like the city was nothing but rubble on Tuesday morning, but I assure you that they did not burn down the town in celebration. You can't believe everything you see and read...even on the news.
I will leave you with this nugget of awesome from Monday night's WKYT broadcast, though. Just to give you a bit of back story, this young reporter was covering the celebrations from downtown Lexington on Monday night. For whatever reason, WKYT chose not to delay the newsfeed and instead let thousands of drunk college students air their victory comments live. But what is most priceless about the entire situation is the look on Sam Dick's face when they tossed it back to the studio. Sam Dick has been at WKYT for as long as I can remember and, in Lexington, he's basically a local celebrity. I can't imagine what was running through his head (or his ear piece) in that very pregnant 5 second pause between getting the feed back and actually speaking, but I'm pretty sure it was the state of his resume.
Warning...there is a brief dropping of the F bomb. If you're at work, put your headphones on and pretend to be on a conference call.
Classic like a Vlassic.
Thank you to the 2011-2012 University of Kentucky men's basketball team for a truly fantastic season. It has been a joy to watch from game 1. We, the Big Blue Nation, simply couldn't have asked for anything more. See you next year.
We now return to baseball season..which is supposedly starting soon??
MANY thanks to Kelly for graciously giving up her normal posting day to me so that I may strut and brag one last time.