The Sights and Sounds from the UK Legends Game


DeMarcus Cousins was the stand out Super Star for the UK Legends with 28 points and non-stop hustle. I, along with about 24,000 other fans, attended the UK Legends game last night in Rupp Arena. I wan’t sure what kind of experience I would get during a meaningless exhibition game in the middle of Auguts on a Monday night. I got more than I expected when it was all said and done. Here is a synopsis of that experience.

The Place was Packed- Rupp Arena was filled to the brim with spectators. I looked around and wondered, has there ever been this many people at a basketball exhibition game? I highly doubt it. The energy felt as if the crowd was there ready to cheer on the Cats during a very importantSEC match up. There were the cheers of “C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats” all though the game.

Enemies Booed, Old Friends Cheered-As expected, former Cardinals Edgar Sosa and Francisco Garcia were treated with a series of boos as was former Gator Al Horford. All three took the booing like good sports, smiled and waved at the crowd. John Calipari received a standing ovation, as did all of the UK Legends. Coach Joe B. Hall was given a hero’s welcome and his co-coach, Denny Crum, was treated with a mix of boos and cheers. I cheered Denny. It made the Cardinal fans back home squirm that much more. Current Wildcat Eloy Vargas was also cheered vehemently by the crowd when he was introduced for the Dominicans.

I’m not ashamed to say that I got chills when the UK Legends squad was introduced to the crowd. The lights were dimmed and the fireworks went off as each member was introduced. There was something special about seeing these players together one more time in the atmosphere of Rupp Arena. You could see in their faces that they loved every minute of the crowd love.

Tayshaun Opened the Show- The player I was most excited to see was Tayshaun Prince. He was the first to score for the Pros by scoring back to back three pointers. The crowd was going nuts at this point and we all thought the Dominican team was about to get destroyed. Boy were we wrong.

Well coached Machine vs. Thrown together Athletes- As we could have guessed the Louisville faithful are all on the message boards today crowing about the “Cardinal Victory” last night. The truth of the matter is that John Calipari’s Dominican team has been playing together for quite some time and he has them clicking together pretty well. The former Cats arrived on a plane in Lexington the day before and were coached by two retired coaches that haven’t done much on the sidelines in 20 years or more. The UK Legends were not in sync with each other through most of the game, despite the crowd urging them on like they were really the Kentucky Wildcats out there.

There were some bright spots for the UK Legends squad. Boogie was a Man Beast out there and really wanted to win. He had 28 points, bickered with the refs and talked trash to whoever tried to guard him. It was vintage Boogie. Rajon Rondo is a sight to behold in person. He is the smoothest basketball player I have ever seen on the court. The guy is constantly looking for the open man and scanning the court with a vision that I think few players possess.

John Wall tried to will his team back into the game like the old days but it just didn’t happen. He tried to resurrect “John Wall Time” by taking the game over, cutting to the basket and converting “And One” layups. His shot is still off and needs work, but he is still John Wall.

I’m not sure if Cal’s squad will make the olympics, but they looked very well coached and very good at times last night. Calipari was doing his usual stomping and shouting on the sidelines. He even came out on to the court during a time out in order to coach Sosa up a little bit.

Most Awkward Moment of the Night- I wasn’t sure how halftime was going to work since the NCAA decided to, in their infinite wisdom, not let the actual University of Kentucky have anything to do with the game. That meant no cheerleaders and no dance team for our viewing pleasure. Instead, Calipari came out with Brandon Knight and pretty much begged people to attend tonight’s game at the YUM! Center by offering nose bleed seats for $5 with the ticket stub from the Rupp Arena game. I love Caliapri and would have no other coach lead our team, but his salesman persona kind of works against him sometimes and it did at that moment. There were a few spattered boos going throughout the stadium as this was going on and it wasn’t the last time Cal would be booed that night, considering he was coaching the team the crowd was rooting against. I doubt we hear people boo Cal ever again, but that moment was awkward for everyone.

Eloy! Eloy! Eloy!- If you count out the UK Legends players, the star of the night was Eloy Vargas. Eloy is a member of the Dominican team and sat the bench for most of the game. With about two minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, and the game was pretty much decided by that point, the crowd started to chant “Eloy! Eloy! Eloy!”, urging Cal to put him in the game. Cal obliged and Eloy scored on the next possession. The crowd erupted and cheered the big guy as he ran back down the court. Eloy ended the night with four points in about two minutes and left the Big Blue Nation hopeful for a break out year.

All in All- The throngs of blue in Rupp reassured me of the passion that Kentucky fans have for the basketball program and all of the players that have come through. Rajon Rondo, a player that has not been back to Rupp since he left after his second season under Tubby Smith, was treated like he never left the Blue Grass. The crowd had a wonderful time cheering their old favorites on during a fun NBA style game.

Even though the two teams became testy during the game (things were especially heated between Cousins and Garcia at one point), all the players met at half court after the game and the fans were treated with a dance off between John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Then, the Pros and Dominican players huddled together and had an all player break down. They knew that at the end it was just for fun and for the fans.

Tonight in Louisville- What can we expect at the Yum! Center? I am a Louisvillian (by birth, not by choice) and I can tell you that Louisville fans are pissed off to no end around town about this game. They try to hide it and they try to pretend that this event at the Yum! Center is not happening. Tonight, reality will smack them right in the face as all of Big Blue Nation will descend upon the River City in order to take over their beloved new stadium and turn it into a UK love fest. If Louisville fans really didn’t care about this or feel any resentment, then why did they take to their message boards and blogs so quickly last night and this morning?

As we know the players will be a little different. Jodie Meeks, Tayshuan Prince and Keith Bogans will be replaced with Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson. Cal said there were about 5,000 tickets left, and with the offer of the $5 dollar deal, those seats may be gone tonight. The place might not be sold out, but it will be filled. I am certain that John Wall and company are stinging from last night’s loss and will come out with a renewed sense of urgency. Yes, it is just an exhibition game, but you have to remember that these are professional athletes that are uber-competitive. Don’t think that they don’t want to win at everything they do.

I will not be attending this game because of some business but I have many friends that will be overrunning downtown Louisville. In will get a full report from them and relay it back to all of you at a later time.

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