Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and Dominque Hawkins.
By RENE CORNETTE
Growing up in Kentucky, basketball is second nature. Chances are your parents put a basketball in your hand before you even knew what to do with it and once you did, your days thereafter were spent on the basketball court dreaming of playing for the University of Kentucky. Only a lucky few grow up to actually wear Kentucky across the chest but those who do have a special place in our hearts because even if we’ve never met them, we know them. We’re one in the same. We know their heart because it’s just like ours. It’s filled with big blue dreams, pride and love for a tradition that’s so rich only life long Kentucky fans can truly understand it. This year Kentucky has three players like that on their team, seniors Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and freshman Dominique Hawkins.
Jon Hood is the quiet leader on this year’s team. He’s respectable, hard working and kind. Every game he’s the first one on the court putting up shots despite knowing he may never play a minute. It doesn’t matter to him because Kentucky basketball is more to Jon Hood than playing time and stats. Jon Hood does it for the love of the game and his team. He understands that no matter what your role is, you do it with pride. That’s who Jon Hood is and as a fifth year senior, we’re all hoping he goes out on top with a championship.
Jarrod Polson is the little Kentucky player that could. He joined the Kentucky Wildcats as a walk on but quickly earned a scholarship. Jarrod’s hard work and will to succeed paid off even more during his breakthrough game last season against Maryland. He had to step up and be the leader the young Wildcats desperately needed. He proceeded to take over that game while in the process leaving behind the player everyone yelled, shoot at while instead becoming a player everyone trusted and respected. In a disappointing season, Polson and Hood were bright spots. They showed the kind of will and determination it takes to play at Kentucky. It will never be forgotten nor will Polson’s growth as a player and as his career at the University of Kentucky comes to an end, we’re missing him already.
Dominique Hawkins endeared himself to Big Blue Nation by putting on one of the most impressive perfomances in the Sweet 16 ever. A performance which earned him a scholarship offer from John Calipari. Dominique Hawkins is the kind of player who makes his teammates better. He’s selfless, intense and he never gives up. That was never more evident than in the Sweet 16 when he forged his team’s comeback more than once. He’s wise beyond his years and that maturity combined with his level of play has earned him a spot in Calipari’s rotation. Before the season started, Hawkins was asked continuously about playing with six McDonald’s All Americans and every time he responded, he wasn’t scared and a few months into the season you can see why. He brings a level of intensity on the court that you can almost feel. He’s a defensive killer, playing on the tip of his toes, ready to turn whichever way his man takes him. It’s text book defense and one that he executes perfectly. He blends seamlessly onto the court with his teammates and when he smiles, everyone smiles. He’s so special and he’s averaging almost 10 minutes of play on a loaded basketball team. The sky’s the limit for him.
Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins are living the dream. The dream almost every kid growing up in Kentucky has at one point. The dream of someday growing up and wearing the blue and white and that’s what they bring to this team, a feeling of familiarity, pride and tradition. They know the journey behind the banners. The hard fought games it took to the get them and they recognize the names of the jerseys hanging from the rafters. It’s a part of them as much as it is a part of us and that’s what carves out a special place in our hearts for them.