Last night was Kentucky's annual Alumni Game and believe me, it DID NOT disappoint. But, before we get into the game, let me walk you through some things that happened before it all got started.
When we first arrived in the arena, the Calipari Fantasy Camp games were still going on so we took advantage of the free time and lack of crowd to walk around and take in our first experience as members of the media. Let me start by saying it was an experience that I will never forget and hopefully get to continue to do.
I'm going to be honest, it's hard not to get what they call "star-struck" when every time you turn around you see former players like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, John Wall, Kenny Walker and DeMarcus Cousins just to name a few. Everyone we came in contact with couldn't have been more pleasant to work with and just talk to. Never once did someone refuse an interview or act bothered by the fact that media was swarming them where ever they went. In all honesty, they genuinely seemed to enjoy the attention they received from the media right on down to the MANY autograph requests that they all received.
(Jared Prickett: Photo by Curtis Messer)
It was amazing to watch these guys take the time with kids and adults alike to interact with them on such a personal level. They would stand, laugh and talk with anyone who approached even posing with babies at different times throughout the night.
During our walk around the arena I ran into every Kentucky fans favorite sports writer, Jerry Tipton who I actually found pleasant to talk to. During our conversation I was surprised to see Kenny Walker casually walk up and join in. Now, I understand that Kenny knows Jerry and has for years, but Mr. Walker included us in the conversation just like he had known us for just as long; that goes to show you what type of guy he is, couldn't have been nicer.
(Photo by Curtis Messer)
During our talk, Kenny couldn't quit bragging on the incoming freshman, but specifically Julius Randle. Kenny said he loved the kids coach-ability and his work ethic which he compared to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He went on to talk about how Julius would be a banger down low and when I actually saw Julius up-close, I can see what Kenny meant. Julius looks as if he is chiseled out of granite, this kid is HUGE and that is an understatement.
As soon as we were finished chatting up Mr. Walker, we turn and see none other than Randolph Morris and he was kind enough to do an interview as well.
(Randolph Morris: Photo By Curtis Messer)
When I asked him what it meant to him to get to come back and take part in the Alumni Game he said "Well, you know, it's for a good cause and anytime I can be a part of something that's positive you know I don't hesitate. You know, they asked me to come out and play and I was like, why wouldn't I? I mean it's for a good cause and it just does good for everybody."
I also asked Randolph if he has had the chance to see this years team and what he thought and he said "I haven't had the chance to see them, but I've heard a lot of good things about them. I'm eager to see them but I'm pretty sure it's going to be like all his teams in the past. He does an amazing job of meshing different types of games and getting them to play well together and I don't think this team will be any different." When it came to John Calipari, Randolph had some very nice comments about him as well saying "His resume speaks for itself. He's been able to adjust with the game of college basketball and that's what's really important, keeping yourself relative."
Next up was Perry Stevenson who also was kind enough to give me his thoughts
(Perry Stevenson: Photo By Curtis Messer)
When I asked Perry what it meant for him to get the chance to comeback and take part in the Alumni Game he said "It's amazing. You think your senior day is the last time you'll see Rupp Arena and actually get to shoot a basket on this floor, but you get ample opportunities that's just the type of guy Cal is and that's what he want's this program to be. He went on to say that Cal was "a great guy, great guy. There's nothing bad to say about him."
Of course I couldn't let Perry slip away without asking what he thought of this years team... "I've only seen em from afar, I haven't really seen them practice, but I know what type of players they are. The only thing that will stand in their way is chemistry. I don't know if they have it or if they don't, but I think that'll be easy enough for them to get and they'll make a pretty good run at the championship this year."
After taking in the sights and sounds of Rupp Arena in way I've never had the chance to, it was time for the game to get started. During the player introductions the fans gave everyone of them the loudest standing ovation I have ever heard in my life and the players soaked it all in. John Wall scored the first basket of the game on a dunk that brought the fans to their feet after swiping the ball from Brandon Knight. Those two went at each other all night long which in turn, gave the fans one of the best battles at point guard Rupp Arena has ever seen. Nothing came easy for John or Brandon as their pride wouldn't allow it. After seeing them battle all night long, it was no surprise when they were selected as MVP of their respective teams.
John finished the night with a triple double 40pts, 10rbs and 10ast while Brandon finished with 30pts, 4rebs and 7asts. Both players had 2 steals to boot.
That wasn't the only exciting match-up of the night as two of the best defenders in the last ten years, DeAndre Liggins and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made each other earn every single point the other scored. It was amazing to watch these two give such effort in a Alumni Game, but that's just what they did. The hustle hasn't left either of them and the crowd loved every minute of it. At the end of the night, Liggins tallied 20pts 5rebs while MKG finished with 26pts, 14rebs and 4stls.
Anthony Davis had somewhat of an off night scoring just 12pts, but had the shot of the night when he sank a one handed heave from beyond half court that barley beat the buzzer signaling half-time. When the ball cleared the net, Rupp Arena exploded as if it was an actual game, the shot even made Calipari jump out of his seat in disbelief.
The second half saw more of the same, John Wall and Brandon Knight trying to prove who was the better point guard and MKG and Liggins trying to stop one another which neither could really do.
After the game John Wall and Brandon Knight was asked who was the best point guard Calipari has ever coached, to no surprise they both said their self.
(John Wall, Brandon Knight in post game interviews: Photos By Curtis Messer)
At the end of the night, every fan in the building left more than satisfied to say the least. They got to witness the greatest assembly of talent to be on the floor of Rupp at one time and despite technical difficulties on our part (leaving phone and computer charger at home, camera failure and voice recorder dying) it was an amazing experience and I can't wait do it again.
Bring on Big Blue Madness.......