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Ashley Scoby: Very superstitious, writing's on the wall, it's no wonder these Cats are 38-0


Devon Booker (left) likes to eat the same foods before games while Tyler Ulis wears only white shirts during shoot-arounds (UK Athletics Photo)

Devon Booker (left) likes to eat the same foods before games while Tyler Ulis wears only white shirts during shoot-arounds (UK Athletics Photo)

 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Since not a whole lot has been broken so far during Kentucky’s 38-0 season, which continues Saturday night against Wisconsin in the national semi-finals, several of the players have stuck to what’s worked when it comes to pregame routines.
 

As different as the Wildcats may be from the rest of college basketball, several of them stick to superstition and ritual just like so many other athletes do.
 

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“Some things you’ve got to keep on going,” said Tyler Ulis, who started wearing a white shooter’s shirt (instead of blue) during warm-ups this year, and hasn’t stopped during the win streak.
 

Wardrobe is a crucial part of several rituals, including with Marcus Lee. Lee is one of the more superstitious guys on the team, and he has to put his uniform on from bottom to top – something he’s done even since high school. And that’s only part of it.
 

“I wake up the same, go through all of my motions the same, from waking up to the game time, everything is in the same order,” he said.
 

But what does that ritual include? What does he do?
 

“I can’t tell you,” he said. With Lee, the secrecy is part of the superstition.
 

Others don’t play it so close to the vest. Devin Booker tries to eat the same foods – broccoli, chicken and pasta with a side salad – and if a certain routine yields a solid shooting night, he sticks with it. Booker also switches his shoes based on his shooting performances.
 

“If I shoot bad in some shoes, then I don’t wear them again,” he said. He picks up a pair of Jordan basketball shoes by his locker and continues: “I had a couple of good games in (these) when I went on my streak in the middle of the season, but I ended up having to take them off because I shot bad one game.”
 

Booker isn’t the only one with an obsession over his kicks. Dominique Hawkins always puts his right shoe on before his left one, although he can’t remember why he even started doing that.
 

He admitted that sometimes he forgot to put them on in the right order, so what happens then?
 

“Sometimes I forget, though, and I get mad that I have to take my shoes off and do it over,” he said. “It depends how I feel that day. If I feel too lazy I don’t do it, but sometimes I’m like, ‘Nah, I have to do it.’”
 

For others? It’s all about placement. Derek Willis always sits in the same seat in the locker room during pregame.
 

“Third row, second from last on the right,” he said. He, like Hawkins, can’t remember where it all started, but he subscribes to the “if something works, it works” theory.
 

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Dakari Johnson is the exception to the rule that players must have rules: He switches up his routine every game, shrugging off the possibility of superstitions. Jay-Z, Meek Mill and other rap music usually fills his headphones during pre-game preparation, but he doesn’t have a go-to song or routine.
 

And while some guys obsess over shoes or uniforms and eat their broccoli, a lot about the team is still fluid. Sometimes the pregame locker room remains quiet so that each player can slide into his own thoughts. Other times, the music of famed UK fan and rapper Drake fills the locker room.
 

“We listen to Drake so much,” Hawkins said. “Hopefully he’ll come and see us soon.”
 

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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