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Brian Long, Sam Malone have enjoyed first-hand look at highs and lows of UK basketball


In their UK careers, junior walk-on guards Brian Long and Sam Malone have combined for eight points in 24 games, but they have had a first-hand look at some of the highest highs and lowest lows in recent UK basketball history.

 

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As freshmen, Malone and Long were along for the ride for UK’s 2012 national championship run. As sophomores, they were part of a team that struggled to a first-round NIT loss.

 

“It’s just two totally different experiences, different feelings, different emotions,” Malone said in a one-on-one interview with KyForward in September. “I think that it’s just something you keep with you for your whole life. Whether you’re great or you’re not doing so well, you learn a lot of stuff.”

 

“It kind of humbles you just from my first year until now,” Long said in a one-on-one interview with KyForward. “You see the ups to the downs real fast.”

 

Brian Long has scored two points in 15 career games. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Brian Long has scored two points in 15 career games. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Both players zeroed in on at least one factor that separated the two teams.

 

“A lot of it had to do with talent, health,” Malone said. “But a lot of it was chemistry too, how guys got along on and off the court.”

 

“We weren’t as close on the court it looked like,” Long said. “I don’t really know how to explain it. My first year everything kind of just clicked. Last year we had ups and downs, we had our chances, and we just couldn’t come through.”

 

Long and Malone are becoming experts about teaming with future NBA stars.

 

In two years, the duo has already played with eight NBA draft picks. The level of talent among their teammates may even reach a new high this season with an unprecedented seven McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster.

 

“Could end up being 20 (NBA players) when it’s all said and done,” Long said. “This year, it looks like we could have a lot, and then Coach Cal seems to have a pretty good history in stuff like that.”

 

Both players arrived at UK with a pre-existing relationship with head coach John Calipari as a longtime family friend.

 

Sam Malone has scored six points in nine career games. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Sam Malone has scored six points in nine career games. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Their unique relationship with Calipari offered a rare look at his struggles with the 2012-13 team.

 

“I think that he never backed down, he never called it quits,” Malone said. “From when we were in the NIT to the start of the season, he never really gave up on the team at all. He always just kept trying different stuff. It just was a tough year for all of us. It was a tough, long year, and it wasn’t always pleasant.”

 

“My first year, he kind of, he eventually got to the point where they almost coached themselves for the most part,” Long said. “He put it all together, he called the plays and whatnot, but everyone kind of knew where to go. Last year, he was kind of struggling to get the team to run themselves. He kind of had to call all the shots. It was just like an exhausting process, to be honest.”

 

Both players have sensed a return to normal from Calipari this summer.

 

“I think he’s definitely confident and has a sense of urgency this year because of what happened last year and everything else,” Long said. “Definitely don’t want to see a repeat of that, so I think his sense of urgency is real high, and I think he’s real confident in the players that he has this year.”

 

Neither Long nor Malone is ready to commit to a post-basketball career path yet. Both players are at least leaving the option of working in the basketball world in some capacity open.

 

Whatever the next step is for the diminutive guards, they are embracing their time as Wildcats, regardless of how much of it is spent on the court.

 

“The fan base is really unbelievable,” Long said. “Even last year when we weren’t doing as well, they were still at every game. They’re just real passionate no matter what and just stand behind the team for the most part no matter what. I’ve never been anywhere else, but I feel like there’s no other place like this.”

 

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In the weeks leading up to the 2013 UK men’s basketball media day KyForward is previewing the season with a series of stories about the Cats resulting from interviews with players and head coach John Calipari from September. You can see all the stories in the series here.


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