By LARRY VAUGHT
Rachel Mason of Casey County always enjoys watching Kentucky play basketball. However, her trip to Rupp Arena last week when Kentucky beat Tennessee was even more special because she treated her father, Jimmy Brown, to the game as part of his birthday present.
“I wanted to take dad because as far back as I can remember he has been the person I’ve watched UK basketball with. It was one of the thing my dad, my three older brothers, and myself would all do together was cheer on the Cats,” Mason said.
“Also, my dad is by far my hero and my best friend. He’s always been there for a friend, a father, and as my pastor. It was by far the least I could do to take him to his first UK game in Rupp.”
Mason cannot remember if there was ever a time she was not a UK fan.
“I guess the first big memory was in 1996 when we played Syracuse in the national championship. My favorite player, Antoine Walker, played on that team and it was one of the best games at that time I had ever seen,” Mason said.
She’s so passionate about UK basketball in part because she has always loved basketball.
“Before I got married I played a pickup game with my brother when my make-up and my hair was already fixed,” she said.
That’s a hoops fanatic.
“I was really good at gymnastics ,so I chose to be a cheerleader in high school and was too short to play basketball. It’s still one of my biggest regrets, especially after watching Tyler Ulis play,” Brown said. “Some people get star struck over seeing singers and actors. I am this way with Kentucky basketball players and everyone who knows me knows I am their biggest fan.”
She was also bold enough to ask UK assistant coach Kenny Payne to pose for a picture during UK’s presume warmups. And he did it.
“I’ve liked him ever since he came in as assistant coach. He seems so calm most of the time during games and his role with big men like Anthony Davis and others has helped the team so much,” Mason said. “I was so happy when he took the picture with me. My husband is also a big fan of his, so he was shocked (with the picture).”
Mason admits she’s “all-in” with coach John Calipari and Ulis.
“Tyler is so quick and so smart with the game of basketball. Seeing him in person the other day I was still amazed at how someone so little compared to all the big guys in the game has such a big impact. He is an inspiration to all players, especially the ones that do not think they can make it due to their size,”Mason said.
“I think all the guys have such a talent it’s just getting it in sync with each other. Fans are so hateful towards them and they can’t realize they are just kids. They don’t understand the pressure and the atmosphere they have to play under.
“Coach Cal is just amazing and that’s all I can even say. He understands the fans’ love for UK basketball and embraces it. I hope he stays here forever.”