It’s Official: Kentucky’s On Fire, and Babies Love DeMarcus CousinsPosted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010
Since you obviously love college basketball, you’re probably aware of some of the goings-on involving a few of the more storied programs in the game: Kansas lost their #1 ranking a couple of weekends ago and some players are said to be unsure of their roles on the team; North Carolina has dropped three straight and just barely managed to stay in the latest Top 25; Connecticut looks bewildered and is out of the rankings; despite having a brilliant coach, this is one of the worst UCLA teams in our lifetime; and just last night, Texas lost at Kansas State, and, after enjoying it for only two polls, will likely drop from the first #1-ranking they’ve ever had.
Meanwhile, in Lexington, John Calipari is defecating bars of gold. OK, I know — we can’t prove that. But would you be surprised? In the last several days, the University of Kentucky basketball team (and anything having to do with it) has enjoyed a tidal wave of positive energy of which there is no rival in recent memory. Let us relive the recent days of the Kentucky program, shall we?
First — and there’s only one place to start this list — there was the Hoops For Haiti telethon that Calipari came up with and threw together in a matter of just a few days. This past Sunday, on local Lexington television station WKYT (who donated their own studio time, eschewing commercials), Calipari and some personalities from the station emceed while members of the Kentucky squad sat behind them and took telephone pledges. Even after the players were relieved of their posts, the phones kept ringing and the pledges kept coming in, largely because part of the deal here was that every pledge would be matched, or doubled, by a group called Cal’s Pals For Haiti. Several names from the world of college hoops called in and donated, including Dick Vitale, Texas head coach Rick Barnes (the irony!), Jim Boeheim (who was reportedly pretty funny), and Cincinnati Bengals coach (and NFL Coach of the Year) Marvin Lewis. Ashley Judd, a UK alum — like you didn’t know that — made a taped appearance, but is responsible for a few things in the accompanying auction. In a textbook display of class, ex-UK coach Tubby Smith called in to the show and made a live donation. We at RTC don’t really get mushy over stuff, but this feat is impressive, to say the least. Kentucky is the 44th-wealthiest state in the country, and though it has all classes represented among its populace, it’s safe to say that in several cases people who called in and donated money could not afford to, but still did. With the matching funds, so far, the venture has raised over a million dollars.
I hesitate to use the word “was” in the opening line of this paragraph, because even though the cameras are off and the players are gone, the donations are still arriving. And, of course, people are still bidding on several of the items offered at auction — like the chance to have dinner at Calipari’s house with Ashley Judd in attendance. I’m not kidding. But I am checking my bank account. At last glance, that little gem had generated bids of over $20,000. How about a baseball cap signed by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Calipari? That’ll set you back over $300. Feel like meeting LeBron James and attending a Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game? Better get down your $6,000 bid now. The list of items proffered is astonishing, and the amounts they’re going for even more so. We didn’t ask permission, but we hope they don’t mind if we go ahead and mention that you can donate any amount of money to the cause at Calipari’s website if you want, and you can also access the list of auction items from there. Like many good deeds, this one started out as a small idea. It has snowballed into something incredible. As I type this, I’m even getting direct tweets that say some other local Lexington corporations are considering re-matching the money that is raised. Since John Calipari was hired in Lexington, there have been a slew of opinions about the man voiced by every level of basketball fan and media member. You’re entitled to your opinions, of course, positive or negative. We submit that, whatever your opinion — make sure this achievement gets thrown in as part of your evaluation.
As if that alone weren’t enough positivity for the UK program, we were tipped to a video that was aired on the local news in Lexington on Monday night, and we just couldn’t pass this up. At the Hoops For Haiti event, there was evidently a point where the players were back in the wings hanging out, when a camera picked up John Wall holding the child of one of the TV station’s employees. Eric Bledsoe is behind Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins — all 6’11 and 260 pounds of him — walks over and starts making noises to entertain the youngster. We’re going to forego any jokes regarding whether or not Billy Gillispie would have already offered a scholarhip to the child, because…well, that’s just too easy. But this kid evidently took a liking to Mr. Cousins. Check it out:
A second version of the video is also being shown on Lexington TV:
Now, being the BMOCs that these guys almost certainly are on the Kentucky campus, we doubt they have any problems snagging phone numbers from Lexington co-eds. Good Lord, this assures it. Enjoy it, fellas!
Want more? The Kentucky cheerleading squad just nabbed their 18th national title. That is not a misprint. Eighteen. That includes a streak of three straight…and 12 out of the last 14. Uh, yeah. That’s a dynasty, right?
And of course the most recent example of the Kentucky program’s recent charmed life comes from checking the scoreboard from last night and seeing that Kansas State knocked off a tired Texas squad, so they’ll play out the week as a lame-duck #1, while Kentucky — assuming it can get by a limping Arkansas team on Saturday at Rupp Arena — enjoys the role as Heir Apparent.
Quite a run, lately, if you’re a Wildcat fan.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but teams like UNC, UCLA, and Connecticut should take comfort in Kentucky’s good fortune. Why, you ask? Last March, Kentucky was playing in the NIT. Rumors were rampant as to the fate of Billy Gillispie after the season, and nobody seemingly wanted to come near the program even if Gillispie were removed. No high-profile recruits — not even the ones who ended up coming to Lexington — were considering Kentucky as an option. Big Blue didn’t describe the program such a short time ago — it described the prevailing mood. And all the while, Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals were doing just fine. What a difference a few months make, eh?
Just goes to show you — the college basketball gods? That’s a fickle crowd. But we’ve been to Vegas enough times to know that, when you’re in the middle of a good run, you don’t think about how your luck’s going to eventually change. You enjoy the run while it lasts. So enjoy this, you Kentucky fans. And, by the way, if you’re anywhere near the guy on a good run, you try to soak up all the positive vibes that you can. Speaking of which, I think I’ll get in my car, fill the tank, and drive over to Lexington so I can rub myself up against Rupp Arena and then go buy some lottery tickets. You in?