Going For Two
Recapping Kentucky’s Midnight Madness.
“You people are crazy.”
Those were the four words that John Calipari used to embrace a sold out crowd at Rupp Arena. Only at Kentucky will you find fans passionate enough to sell out 20,000-plus tickets to Big Blue Madness in 35 minutes. And only at Kentucky can you call 20,000 people crazy, and they’ll love you even more for it.
The passion that the Big Blue Nation has for their Wildcats is unbelievable and it showed last night when over 6,000 showed up three hours early for a volleyball game. An entertaining women’s basketball introduction and light scrimmage followed. It appears like the lady Wildcats are also doing their own thing on the recruiting trail, with having the nation’s No. 1 junior Kelsey Mitchell in attendance for the festivities. After that, it was time for the main event.
A absolutely breath-taking introduction got things started. UK legends such as Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, and Co. came out to a standing ovation and helped raise the Championship banner with a light scrimmage to follow. When the UK players were warming up, damn near half of the team threw down between the legs dunks. The scrimmage itself was a bit laissez faire, but it provided plenty of highlights and got the fans going. The white team walked away with a 56-55 W and the night was capped off with the playing of UK’s 2012 One Shining Moment video, which got the crowd going as if they were watching the plays live.
Here’s a look at some of the top Wildcats who stood out at Big Blue Madness:
Kyle Wilter, 6-9, Power Forward, Sophomore
After a solid freshman season for UK’s National Championship team, Wiltjer appears to be turning the corner with the impact that he’ll provide for the Wildcats. Leading everyone with 19 points, Wiltjer was a nasty pick and pop threat, had a reverse dunk in transition, and busted out a filthy behind the back fake that brought the crowd to their feet. Pencil Wiltjer in as the starting power forward this year, as well as a guy who could really surprise NBA scouts.
Ryan Harrow, 6-2, Point Guard, Sophomore
A YouTube sensation, Ryan Harrow gave UK fans their first glimpse of his electric style of play after sitting out last season following a transfer from North Carolina State. Noticeably bulked up, the sophomore did a great job getting in the lane and quickly getting the ball up on the glass before shot-blockers had a chance to rotate. Many feel that Harrow has no choice but to enter the NBA Draft at the conclusion of this season with the arrival of Andrew Harrison. Regardless if he stays or leaves, the keys to the Wildcats will be Harrow’s for this year.
Nerlens Noel, 6-11, Center, Freshman
The top player in the Class of 2012 definitely got the biggest pop out of the crowd. With the UK logo etched in the back of his high top, it was evident that Noel is going to be the next fan favorite for the Wildcats. He didn’t do much offensively, but had an outstanding block on a Willie Cauley-Stein jumper that showed everyone why he is on the conversation for top pick of next year’s NBA Draft.
Willie Cauley-Stein, 7-1, Center, Freshman
The 7-1 center has been a work in progress since he was a 6-11 freshman in high school, but has made some serious strides in the right direction since we last saw him at adidas Nations. His dunk on Nerlens Noel was the play of the night, and he showed off an improved offensive game. With the combination of size and mobility that the Kansas native offers, expect him to see some nice burn this season.
Alex Poythress, 6-8, Small Forward/Power Forward, Freshman
A top-10 recruit in the country, Alex Poythress came into Kentucky as a guy who many feel could bounce to the League after one season. At 6-8 and 230 pounds with freakish athleticism, he certainly fits the bill physically and showed that last night. During Big Blue Madness, Poythress had a number of crazy tip dunks and showed the emerging perimeter skills that he has that make many feel that he could ultimately become a small forward at the next level.