By LAURA WILLIAMS
Yet again, the University of Kentucky sets a NCAA record. This time it’s the ladies of the bluegrass celebrating our love of the Cats. With over 600 women in attendance, we set the NCAA record for largest attendance at a coach’s women’s clinic.
As always, Coach Cal’s clinic was the place to be in Lexington on this Wednesday night. I arrived about 3 PM and the line was already down Memorial Coliseum’s walkway.
Check-in was a breeze this year and we were quickly where we wanted to be — getting autographs and pictures with our favorite basketball players. All of the players were fun to hang out with, very friendly if shy at times, and always had a smile on their faces. I’ve always wanted to get a real answer from a player about what they think of 600+ screaming, cheering, clapping women there to just see them.
With my friends and I reasonably toward the front, we were able to snap our pictures and get our autographs with time left over. We got to sit down and enjoy a quick meal provided by Rafferty’s with time left to head over to the new Wildcat Coal Lodge to check out the first floor. Coach Cal’s rule no women above the first floor. We got to see our eight national championship trophies, sit in the big recliners, (And I do mean big; I felt like a child with my feet not touching the floor!) and simply walk around and check out all the new space they get to live in.
My “scare” of the night was looking at my basketball to notice I only had 11 players signatures. Who had skipped my ball? After careful looking, I figured out it was Nerlens Noel! As a big Blue Fan, that was a signature I had to have.
With my ball now signed, I had the opportunity to ask Nerlens if the fundraiser that we did for Haiti several years ago had any influence over his decision to ultimately choose the University of Kentucky. I asked this because recently I saw a media clip about Nerlens having a tattoo representing Haiti on his arm. I could tell he was surprised by my question but, after thinking about it for a second, still with a surprised look on his face, he answered that yeah he thought it did. I know that we did not do that fundraiser in anyway thinking about bringing a player to our school. (Shame on anyone in the media who may even begin to say differently.) However you never know how acts of kindness will play forward into our lives.
At this point, the real clinic began. We were divided into groups and taken into different rooms throughout the Joe Craft Center to watch demonstrations by players and coaches about different basketball topics. First up, was strength and conditioning with Rock Oliver. The guys were put through several exercises where they could show us how to stretch out, loosen up, and increase strength and stability. Alex Poytress worked on what have to be rock hard abs with the way he was able to balance on the exercise ball. Nerlens and Willie Cauley-Stein showed off their skill of being light on their feet and pretty darn fast.
Next up was Coach Robic running players through ballhandling drills. Trust me, some of those were a sight to see. All I can say is watch out for Archie Goodwin. Twany Beckham impressed as well.
Our last session was run by special guest Nancy Lieberman and John Hood. I’m sad to say I had never heard of Ms. Lieberman before tonight. Her career in basketball was fascinating to learn about and she was truly inspiring. She also has a great sense of humor and really had the crowd rolling with her. She and John were taking half-court shots over the shoulder, over their heads with the back turned to the basket, and pretty much any other way they could think to shoot. Lieberman 2, Hood 0.
I would like to tell you about the next part of the clinic, but we were sworn to secrecy by Coach Cal. Let’s just say, I think he definitely has an edge when visiting with moms and their sons when it comes to recruiting. Sorry folks that’s all I can say.
My guess is that with the extended time they needed to get in all of the autographs, we were unable to see the players actually practice. This is my one and only disappointment from the clinic. I love when Coach Cal saves some time for us to be the first people to see the new team play. But I understand. I wanted my autographs and pictures like everyone else. Luckily, I have season tickets and I’ll be in the stands at Rupp ready and waiting for that first game.
This was one of the better organized clinics. I know they put a lot of effort into making this the best experience possible. My thanks goes out to everyone and I will look forward to seeing you next year. Go Cats!