By LARRY VAUGHT
Like a lot of Kentuckians, Sheena Wethington said she had no choice but to be a UK basketball fan.
“My love for UK basketball started probably before I was born. My dad was a huge UK fan, so I don’t think I really had a choice but to be one, too,” she said.
Wethington went to Western Kentucky University but refused to wear red, Western’s school color. She says she became an even bigger UK fan — if that was possible — when she moved to Lexington five years ago.
“I could attend more games and do more things UK related,” she said.
That has included attending the Women’s Clinic hosted by UK coach John Calipari and his players for the last five years. She was back Sunday along with 1,052 other women for the clinic that was held in Rupp Arena for the first time because of the increased number of participants.
“On a scale of 1-10, I would rank this years clinic as a 6,” Wethington said.
“The lack of food really didn’t sit well with me. They did have crackers and granola bars for us, but we want Rafferty’s like in years past,” she said.
She said there was a lot of “confusion” when women started lining up at Rupp Arena Sunday. Many were not quite sure what to expect food-wise.
“I knew the day prior to the clinic that Rafferty’s would not be catering the food. So we all wondered if we would even get food,”she said. “Upon asking a lady that works for Rupp, she said that they would have bottled water for us. Bottled water? That was it? Needless to say these women were not happy.
“When we got in the clinic there were crackers and granola bars in our goodie bags, but we still wanted a full meal like in years past. That ‘food’ didn’t hold me over.”
The problem was this. When the clinic was at Memorial Coliseum, UK could have food catered. At Rupp Arena, there is no outside catering. For a meal like what the clinic had served before, the registration fee would have gone up. Kentucky provided snacks and took the money normally spent on lunch to make a $10,000 donation to the Markey Cancer Center.
“I wonder in they could open concessions and let the ladies buy food next year? That would solve that issue,” Wethington said.
Sounds like a good idea to me or certainly one worth exploring.
Many women were also worried about not being allowed to get any player autographs at the clinic. For many, pictures with the players and their autographs is a clinic highlight. Wethington said the clinic itinerary said nothing about players’ autographs and that it wasn’t until assistant coach John Robic came through the line and said there would be autographs when he was asked.
“We did get autographed basketballs (that were purchased at the clinic) but the players signed them in the back and we got the basketball balls as we were leaving. However, they didn’t order enough basketballs and some women are going to have to have their ball mailed to them. Since I was there early, I was able to walk out with mine,” Wethington said.
“It was nice not having to stand in line to get our basketballs signed. However, the players weren’t as visible as much because of this. I miss being able to do strength and conditioning drills and shooting drills with the players like the first three years that I attended.”
While clinic participants did not get to see the players play that much Sunday, Wethington went to both Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White Game.
“I can tell you I am very excited about this year’s team,” Wethington said. “Bam Adebayo is going to be a monster. De’Aaron Fox is quick and Malik Monk has tremendous skill. Isaiah Briscoe has also improved so much from last year as well,” she said.
“I’ve always liked coach Cal. He’s very personable and honestly is a perfect fit to be UK’s coach. He was not going to leave until he signed all the women’s belongings they wanted signed by him. He was at the clinic the entire time.”
Wethington did like that former Cat Alex Poythress made a surprise appearance at the clinic and getting a small group photo with the entire team. The locker room tour also caught her eye and she actually tried out a shirt that was laying in Briscoe’s locker and then folded it and put it back.
“I will be back next year. I just hope they bring back food and being able to do drills with the team,” Wethington said.