Most Recent Posts
- Ohio twins will transfer from Pittsburgh to Kentucky
- Photo Gallery: Alex Poythress at Camp Cal
- Ohio RB Mikel Horton did all he could to help convince Georgia RB Boom Williams to commit to UK
- Boom Willams expects to make impact returning punts, kickoffs
- UK commit Stanley Williams ready to bring the “Boom” to Kentucky football
- Calipari uses Twitter to explain Kentucky’s recruiting success
- Longtime sports writer Joey Fosko dies from apparent heart attack
- Kentucky offers athletic 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman
Vaught’s note: Long-time Kentucky basketball follower David Downey volunteered to cover UK’s visit to the White House Friday and offers these views/insights on what he saw when John Calipari’s team got to the White House.
By DAVID DOWNEY
As the Commonwealth prepared for the 138th Run for the Roses in Saturdayâ€™s Kentucky Derby, University of Kentucky menâ€™s basketball coach John Calipari and his NCAA champion Wildcats took time out on Friday to stop and smell the roses.
In the Rose Garden no less.
President Barack Obama rolled out the Big Blue carpet for Calipari and the Cats at a White House reception in honor of the team capturing the schoolâ€™s eighth national championship.
With elements of the Marine Corps Band playing music in the halls of the West Wing, the Wildcats took a special tour of the Peopleâ€™s House given by the 44th President of the United States.
â€œThey did it as a teamâ€, remarked the President, as he congratulated the Kentucky players for coming together and overcoming their youth and inexperience to win it all.
That lack of experience was President Obamaâ€™s rationale for picking against Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. It was also a point of playful banter between the Commander in Chief and the Wildcats who remembered all too well how the President had picked archrival North Carolina to cut down the nets in New Orleans.
â€œKeep in mindâ€, explained the First Fan in his public mea culpa, â€œat this time last year, three of the Wildcatsâ€™ five starters were still in high school.Â Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldnâ€™t even vote yet.
That last comment drew a broad smile from Kidd-Gilchrist, the 18 year old freshman forward whose maturity and competitive drive set the tone for a Kentucky team that never lost its poise on the tournament trail.
It also drew laughter from the 200 or so lucky Kentucky fans that were in attendance to witness the celebration held in the East Room of the White House. Those members of the Big Blue Nation had somehow managed to secure tickets even more scarce than front row seats in the Superdome for the Final Four. For an afternoon those fans were kings and queens at the most exclusive victory party that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had witnessed in quite a while.
And as elated as the fans were to see their beloved Wildcats, the players themselves were even happier. This was the final road trip of the season and the Cats had arrived at the venue they had most wanted to visit.
Coach Calipari, shared his playersâ€™ collective reaction after winning the national championship to the crowd.
â€œ We did it!Â We won!â€Â They were saying, â€œWeâ€™re going to the White House!â€
Calipari paused for a moment and turning to the President, said, â€œBecause they wanted to meet you.â€
President Obama appeared genuinely moved by those words.
Praising the Wildcats for their accomplishments on and off the court, Mr. Obama singled out fellow Chicago native Anthony Davis for his incredible season that earned him not only the concensus national player of the year status but also the NCAA Tournamentâ€™s Most Oustanding Player award as well.
The President then went onto recognize Doron Lamb for his big game play that saw him score 22 points against Kansas.
The President had earlier in the day spoken to high school students in Arlington, Virginia about the value of a college education and he took this moment at the reception to applaud seniors Eloy Vargas and Darius Miller for earning their degrees.
On the court, in the classroom, and in the community, Calipariâ€™s â€œPlayer First Programâ€ has instilled the young men who wear the Blue and White a sense of duty to others. President Obama referenced the playersâ€™ work with youth and how the team helped raise money for tornado victims.
â€œThese guys do it allâ€, said the President.
As is customary at these events the Kentucky players presented gifts to Mr. Obama. Eloy Vargas brought the President an autographed basketball delivered via a chest pass. Darius Millerâ€™s gave the President a Kentucky jersey stitched with his own number â€œ1â€ and the name Obama on the back. While Anthony Davis presented Mr. Obama with a national championship ring.
The reception concluded with the President shaking hands with every player, assistant coach, and manager of the official UK travel party. It was a day the players had dreamed of since the start of practice. It did not disappoint.
Mr. Obama waved to the Kentucky fans and departed the East Room followed by Coach Cal and the players.
The Big Blue Nation rose in unison to applaud and they let loose with the familiar deafening roar of C-A-T-S.
The season was over. The Cats had taken their final curtain call. The quest for the ninth national championship would begin next year.
And next year, President Obama just might not underestimate the youth inexperience.
â€œIf the next group of Wildcats is anything like this one, then I might see them again sometime soon.â€
Indeed he might.