Commonwealth Journal

March 12, 2013

A Big Blue Dream to remember

By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — After three years of NCAA National Championship dreaming,  Kentucky basketball fans has been forced to lower their standards somewhat. After Coach John Calipari’s first three years at the Wildcats’ helm garnered an Elite Eight finish, a Final Four finish and a NCAA national title – Cal’s fourth season will hopefully end somewhere in the NCAA Tournament and not the ‘dreaded’ NIT.

Without doubt, Calipari has forever changed the dynamics of Kentucky basketball – and maybe the entire NCAA. In the past, Wildcat fans could always look at the previous year’s roster, look to see who was returning along with a couple of good recruits, and they could almost figure out what kind of a season was in store for the Wildcats in the season ahead.

Now, well, we look at YouTube videos of some Coach Cal recruited superstar high school prodigies and we imagine them in a Kentucky uniform. We see them dunk or drive the lane against much weaker high school opponents, and we imagine them doing the same thing against some bigger, stronger and more experienced Southeastern Conference opponents.

And in Calipari’s first three recruiting classes, those UK freshmen jumped right into the grind of Division 1 Southeastern Conference play and held their own, and in some cases they dominated their much more experienced opponents.

But this season, the ‘one bnd done’ freshman reality came crashing down on the Wildcat fans. Plus it didn’t help that our ‘Anthony Davis cloned’ Nerlens Noel tore his ACL. But even with Noel healthy, this still wasn’t the same level of freshman classes Wildcat fans had come to expect from Calipari.

Of course another factor in this season’s demise, was the Wildcats’ lack of returning quality upperclassmen. Last season, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb – albeit just sophomores – and senior Darius Miller turned out to be just the right mix to accompany Calipari’s super-talented freshman class of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

With that in mind, my ‘blue and white’ brain started to wonder and drift off into a Big Blue Nation Fantasyland. A magical place where the top freshman in the country came to Kentucky to play for Coach Cal, and they ended up loving the place so much they stayed in school for the entire four years to earn something called a ‘diploma’. In this delightful dream, the NCAA national championships piled up as our beloved four-year Wildcats defiantly snubbed the NBA scouts and the greedy agents who tried to lure them away from their great collegiate experience.

As my mind soared over the cotton candy clouds and rainbows made of sugary candy, I imagined what this year’s Wildcat Senior Night would have been like.

{Editor’s Note: the next five paragraphs is only a dream sequence and should not be taken seriously}

After four fantastic years and three NCAA championships, the Wildcat faithful sang a tearful ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ and said farewell to the great senior class of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.

Many Kentucky fans wondered how UK will ever replace such a talented senior  class, but juniors Brandon Knight, Terrance Jones, Doron Lamb and Enes Kanter told the Lexington media that they up for the challenge to step up and have a great senior season next year.

The upcoming senior class may need a little help next season and their hopes is that this year’s sophomore class of  Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague might provide some back up next season.

Kentucky freshmen Nerlens Noels, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein hope to see just a little playing time next season as Wildcat sophomores.

After the Senior Night game, Calipari announced his newest recruits –  Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and, possibly, Andrew Wiggens – for the futuristic 2018-2019 Senior Class. And while Cal vaunted this is one of his better recruiting classes, he warned Wildcat fans not to expect these young ball players to see much action over the next couple of seasons.

{Dream sequence

has now ended}

And just as my sleepy expression turned into a large grin, I was suddenly awakened by the constant message board chatter of Kentucky possibly playing in the NIT and the posterization play on Brandon Knight in the NBA... and not as a junior at UK, which I had dreamed about.

So, the reality is this season may be the lesser of Calipari’s four great recruiting classes while at Kentucky.

The reality is the chances of the Wildcats defending their 2012 National Championship is a huge long shot.

The reality is this young Wildcat team will have to go off into post-season play without their star big man – Nerlens Noel.

But we can only hope that some, if not all, of the Wildcats’ top players of this season will  stay in Lexington for another year...or two. And just like a snowball rolling down a big snow-covered hill, maybe more and more of the talented Kentucky freshmen will stay around for a couple more years in the future.

And then, my ‘Big Blue Dream’ will come true!