Monday, October 10, 2011
End to 2010-11 season leaves UK players
yearning for two more wins, eighth title
The 2010-11 University of Kentucky men’s basketball team ended the program’s 13-year final four drought, but the season’s end left a sour taste in several players’ mouth.
“It’s always hard to be disappointed when you make it to the final four, but you look at that title game: That was a very sloppy title game,” said junior guard Jon Hood. “You’re thinking, why couldn’t UCONN have played like this against us. We’d have beaten them by 40.”
“It hurt us a lot last year, knowing that we could have won the whole thing but we fell short the last two games of the season,” said sophomore guard Doron Lamb.
The taste of Final Four has helped motivate this year’s team entering the season, said senior guard Darius Miller.
“It was a tough feeling for all of us, that experience,” he said. “I think we still have the feeling in us a little bit. We’re really ready to get going and try to win it again.”
With a third consecutive No. 1 recruiting class on campus and the return of sophomore standouts Terrence Jones and Lamb, UK is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in several preseason top 25 polls.
While UK’s new crop of freshmen were not around for the Final Four run last season, but they have felt the ramifications of that finish as well. Several players said they’ve already grown accustomed to fans yelling ‘we want No. 8′ at them, referring to UK’s seven national championships.
“We want to win it all, so anything short of a national championship for us will be a disappointment,” said freshman point guard Marquis Teague.
“I don’t know if it’s the expectation, but our goal is to win a national championship,” said freshman forward Kyle Wiltjer. “Were going to strive for that and do everything we can in our power to do that.”
“Of course it adds pressure,” said freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the expectations. “I don’t want to settle for less. I just want to win it all.”
When UK built the Joe Craft Center, the school left an empty space on the wall next to the seven national championship banners. The UK players are growing tired of looking at that empty space, Hood said.
“I’m tired of coming in here and looking at the open spot we have over there,” he said. “Where are they going to put the next open spot, after we hang one over there?”
Photo by Mark Boxley.