Friday, October 12, 2012
UK celebrates opening of 2012-13 season
with Big Blue Madness for basketball teams
John Calipari is introduced at Big Blue Madness. (Photo by Jon Hale)
In a night that was supposed to open the 2012-13 season, the UK men’s basketball program spent plenty of time honoring its past.
After the members of the newest Wildcat basketball team were introduced at Big Blue Madness Friday, head coach John Calipari elected to forgo his traditional “state of the program” speech to introduce members of the each of the UK championship teams in attendance.
“We’re here to celebrate the tradition of this program: eight national championships,” Calipari said. “This is a players first program.”
In addition to the six current players returning from the 2012 championship team, at least one member of each UK title team was in attendance.
Jeff Sheppard (1998), Derek Anderson (1996), Ron Mercer (1996), Kyle Macy (1978), Jack “Goose” Givens (1978), Adrian Smith (1958), Vernon Hatton (1958) and Wah Wah Jones (1948, 1949) were recognized on the court.
Jones received the loudest ovation of the night, even dwarfing those for Calipari and the current players.
The former Wildcat champions were then invited to pull a ceremonial rope at half court to “re-raise” their championship banners to the Rupp Arena rafters.
The night wasn’t all about tradition.
John Calipari. (Photo by Jon Hale)
The current players showcased their skills with a scrimmage incwhich fans saw their first glimpse of the six new players of Calipari’s latest team.
Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led his team to a 56-55 win in the scrimmage with 19 points. Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow added 18 points for the winning team.
The losing team was led by freshman Alex Poythress with 18 points, and senior Julius Mays with nine points.
UK took the introduction of players to new heights this year with a white sheet covering the court that transformed the playing floor into a video screen, which displayed highlights.
Several players, most notably Wiltjer and Archie Goodwin, took the chance to show off their dance moves when introduced.
While the men’s team may have showed some impressive moves, the dancing highlights of the night once again came from UK women’s basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell.
One year after wowing the Big Blue Madness crowd with his impersonation of Michael Jackson, Mitchell one upped himself with a tribute to MC Hammer, complete with backup support from the UK dance team.
After a brief shooting contest and scrimmage, Mitchell’s team tried to prove he wasn’t the only dancer in the program with a choreographed dance of their own to a mashup of several pop songs.
Big Blue Madness festivities were preceded by a volleyball match in which UK earned a 3-0 victory versus Mississippi State and set a new high for attendance in the Craig Skinner-era with 5,261 fans in attendance.
The night ended with a look back at a little more recent history: a highlight package of the three-year Calipari era.
Before the video rolled, Calipari had a message for his fans:
“If you start crying, don’t let the person next to you see you tearing up.”