How about that, folks? The Kentucky Wildcats, a team that was left for dead and out of the National Championship contention a month ago, have found a way to make it back to the Elite 8. The young team that was supposed to fold under the first hint of pressure has now beaten two of last years Final Four teams. Last night, it was the defending National Champions and bitter rivals, the Louisville Cardinals. After the win by the Wildcats last night, one of the Louisville players made a class act gesture toward the team that just ended his college career.
Russ Smith made it a point after the game to make his way to the Wildcats locker room, congratulating every Kentucky player in the process. Despite the fact that he will never put on a Louisville uniform again after the loss to Kentucky, he spoke with nothing but deep respect and reverence for the young team. Here is what Russ Smith had to say about the in-state rivals after the game.
Those are a great group of guys. They show great love. You respect someone when you see a competitor out there on the court. From each class, from my sophomore year on, Kentucky’s guys have shown me the same love. And these are new waves of classes, not the same people. So I’ve gotten great respect from them, potential NBA guys, and that’s great. The twins are fantastic and they’re going to keep getting better. All those guys. (James) Young, (Julius) Randle. Dakari (Johnson), I’ve known him since he was little and I’m excited for what he’s becoming, and you have to love that. And for us, we have guys returning, a great freshman in Terry Rozier, and I can’t wait to see him explode next year…If my career had to end, I’m okay with it ending to Kentucky. Those boys play hard. They deserve everything that’s coming to them. I respect everything about their program and their coaching staff. For me, I just want people to remember me as a great competitor, a great sportsman, someone who respects the game a lot, and whatever it is, I just want it to be a positive legacy.
After his comments, it is evident that he does indeed respect the game and great players of the game. He recognizes talent and makes sure he acknowledges them. This kind of sportsmanship is something that transcends sports altogether. While he suited up for the rival team for his entire career, there is one thing that must be recognized by the Kentucky fan base. And that is the fact that Russ Smith is a class act and a star player. And after last nights victory, he might be a stepping stone to a ninth National Championship.