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Ashley Scoby: Kentucky’s historical season provided highest of highs and lowest of lows


Kentucky's Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison apply defensive pressure to national Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky during Saturday's semifinal game (UK Athletics Photo / Chet White)

Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison apply defensive pressure to national Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky during Saturday’s semifinal game (UK Athletics Photo / Chet White)

 

As far as sports go, it’s always been all or nothing for me: either zero interest, or an all-consuming obsession.
 

The first time I remember even paying attention to the NCAA tournament was in 2005. Kentucky versus Michigan State in the Elite Eight. The Patrick Sparks bounce-five-times-around-the-rim overtime. A broken-hearted Chuck Hayes.
 

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Suddenly, I understood why people were infatuated by a game. Middle school was hard for the shy seventh-grader that I was, and sports suddenly gave me something I could always talk about (or argue about) with confidence.
 

For me, that 2005 Elite Eight matchup was probably the game that changed my career path into what it is today. What became obvious to me at a young age were the joys that basketball could bring, and the hollowness in your gut when those joys turn sour.
 

My love for sports kind of happened all at once, like an explosion, a dive into water, or a running back bursting through an offensive line. It started with 2005’s March Madness in general, and with Kentucky basketball in particular.
 

One decade later – making this a convenient, clean timeline of personal evolution – I’ve spent my senior year at UK covering one of the greatest men’s basketball teams to grace the campus.
 

I’m not sure that the basketball gods really care anything about the timing of my four years of college. But it worked out pretty spectacularly that I got to experience the 2012 national championship as a fan during my freshman year; then bookend my time at UK with my senior year’s professional journey of covering the first-ever 38-0 start in Division I men’s college basketball for KyForward.
 

And although the final two wins never materialized, the absence of them is what makes us keep coming back to sports, year after year. Kentucky initiated the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – a roller coaster that truly represents the reality of sports and why we love them. If perfection were constant, then the losses would feel far worse than the wins would feel enjoyable.
 

It’s been a very different ride for me this year, as opposed to 2012. When Anthony Davis and company were wreaking havoc on teams and cutting down nets, I was an unabashed fan. I had just arrived at UK and didn’t get the chance to cover the team at a professional level, so I ran to State Street and threw three-goggles with riot police.
 

I promise I didn’t set anything on fire.
 

But this year was my chance to get behind the scenes and try to tell the stories of this historical team, and it’s meant so much more. My fandom has faded as my love for the job has exploded. My overall interest in basketball has dissipated slightly as I came to enjoy football, and even boxing and soccer, more. But there’s a certain joy to be found, and sense of accomplishment to be had, in covering a basketball program that created your early love for sports.
 

The fact that this year’s team became what it became was just a 38-inch-thick pile of icing on the cake.
 

The great American poet Wale will tell you it’s easy to dream a dream, but harder to actually live one. And he’s right: Covering a perfect Kentucky basketball team for 38 games was unbelievably difficult. Maintaining creativity through a near-constant upward cruise challenged me beyond anything else professionally, and it’s hard for me to believe that anything but Kentucky basketball could have given me that experience.
 

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In two months, I’ll move to New York City to begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated. After those two months are over, I’m not sure where this crazy industry will take me. But I remain confident that covering this year’s Kentucky basketball team has been the most rewarding piece of my career, and the perfect (yes, perfect) ending to my college years.
 

Finding all the different angles of a 38-chapter story of perfection taught me far more than any class textbook ever could.
 

But above all else, the stories and characters behind this team captured me professionally in much the same way that the ’05 Elite Eight did so for me on a personal level. Thanks to both, I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring.
 

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


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