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Ashley Scoby: Floreal’s dance moves have become part of Wildcats’ pregame ritual


Former UK walk-on EJ Floreal is not only the team's best dancer, he says he's the best dunker, too (UK Athletics Photo)

Former UK walk-on EJ Floreal is not only the team’s best dancer, he says he’s the best dunker, too (UK Athletics Photo)

 

Every team has its tics, its superstitions, its rituals. For the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, their’s is EJ Floreal.
 

No one remembers how it started, or which game it preceded. But somebody on the team pushed Floreal in the middle of the pregame huddle to dance. He obliged, and has been a hit ever since.
 

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“He was just always dancing,” said Aaron Harrison. “If we’re out or something, he’ll be the one dancing. It was only right if he was the one.”
 

“We’re just really loose and we just try to make sure that we’re always having fun in warm-ups,” said Trey Lyles. “We just like to make each other laugh and try to have a good time.”
 

Floreal has always had rhythm, even before he was called upon to use it in UK’s huddle. His mom loved old-school R&B music, so he started enjoying it as he grew up. And one of his favorite TV shows as a kid – “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” – has served as inspiration for Floreal’s dance moves, as he tries to add a little of Will Smith’s style into his repertoire.
 

“I add a little bit of my own flavor to it,” Floreal said. “They threw me in the circle and I started dancing and ever since then it’s been kind of a pregame ritual. It’s been a good little streak.”
 

It’s been a good streak for Floreal in basketball, too. He moved to Lexington, Ky., for his senior year of high school when his father – Edrick, for whom Floreal is named – got the job as Kentucky’s track and field coach. At Paul Laurence Dunbar, Floreal averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and a couple of spectacular dunks per game.
 

That talent caught the eye of John Calipari, who offered Floreal a walk-on spot on the 2013-14 team. That turned into a scholarship offer this season, and a spot, literally, right in the middle of the most-watched team in America.
 

It’s not undeserved: Floreal is a tremendous athlete in his own right. He was recruited by Division I schools for track and field, and his dunks during pregame warm-ups have drawn an insane amount of “oohs” and “aahs,” especially for a player who used to be a walk-on.
 

At 6-foot-4, 200-pounds (and with a Twitter handle that reads “BouncyE_24” that reflects his vertical leap), it’s no surprise that he has enough hops to hold his own against the tallest team in the country.
 

So best dunker: Floreal or…
 

“It doesn’t matter who you say,” Floreal said, already shaking his head at the question. “It’s me. Willie (Cauley-Stein), Marcus (Lee) – I’m the best dunker on the team. … Willie’s probably more powerful because he’s 7-foot but as far as tricks and flying and stuff like that, I’m the best dunker.”
 

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While that debate probably rages daily in the locker room, the players do know what Floreal was certainly best at, and that was getting them pumped up before a game. So as Kentucky’s winning streak continues, so too, does Floreal’s string of pregame huddle dances: He even tweeted earlier this month, “Keep hatin on my moves…We’re undefeated when I dance.”
 

That they are. And as far as Floreal goes, he’s just happy that he gets to be a part of history.
 

“It’s just been insane,” Floreal said of his journey. “If you had asked me back in high school if I thought this was gonna happen, I would have said no, just because this is historic. … Just being able to be a part of it is a blessing. Getting this experience and seeing everything is more than I could have asked for.”
 

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky and a KyForward sports writer. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow. She will begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York in June.


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