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A good breakfast is important, but is it more important than the opportunity to meet one of your basketball heroes? Seth Ousley is fortunate that he didnâ€™t have to answer that question.
Ousley and his father were on their way from their home in Lancaster to Danville to meet former Kentucky basketball standout Darius Miller during his appearance Saturday morning at Bob Allen Motor Mall. But the 9-year-old decided he would rather eat first, and their detour to Shoneyâ€™s left them near the back of a long line and in danger of being shut out. They arrived after their meal at about 10 a.m., and they were still outside the door of the auto dealership at 11 a.m., which is when Millerâ€™s 90-minute appearance was scheduled to end.
Miller stayed until about 11:25 a.m., signing autographs for as many fans as he could. But when those responsible for getting him to his next appearance decided it was time to cut off the line, Ousleyâ€™s father, Shawn, was close enough to the door to see inside â€” and close enough to know he and his son were on the bubble.
â€œWhen I saw them going like this,â€ Shawn Ousley said, making a throat-cutting gesture, â€œI started scooting up toward the door.â€
That was enough to make the Ousleys the last fans let inside. Those who were turned away were given glossy photos that Miller had signed previously, but Seth Ousley was glad he and his dad made the cut.
â€œRight when we got to the cutoff, I was afraid we werenâ€™t going to make it,â€ Seth Ousley said.
They turned out not to be the last ones in line, however. After those who were turned away had headed to their cars, Edith Mattingly came rushing toward the door, wondering whether she was just in time or too late.
â€œI had to leave from work to come here,â€ Mattingly said after she was let inside. â€œI had actually left work earlier and saw the long line and left, and I clocked out again and came back over here. It was worth it.â€
That was the consensus among fans of all ages who stood in a cold rain for 90 minutes or more. There were approximately 275 people in line when the event began, and that grew to about 410 by 11 a.m., and all but about 40 of them got to meet Miller, who also had appearance in Nicholasville and Hazard later in the day as part of a series of stops around the state in the wake of Kentuckyâ€™s national championship.
Mark Riley didnâ€™t have to worry about being shut out. The Harrodsburg man was first in line, having arrived at 7 a.m. after his shift at a Harrodsburg factory ended, which was nearly an hour before the first Bob Allen staffers showed up for work. Riley didnâ€™t plan to be first, but he didnâ€™t plan to miss out, either.
â€œI just got off work and came over here,â€ he said. â€œIâ€ˆknew I wouldnâ€™t get up if I went home and went to bed.â€
Right behind Riley were Debbie Murphy and Dora Bruner of Crab Orchard, who said they arrived at 7:15. â€œIâ€ˆwalked up and asked where the line was, and he said, â€˜Right here,â€™â€ Murphy said.
Bruner said they thought nothing of getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning to wait in the cold. â€œWeâ€™re UKâ€ˆbasketball fans,â€ she said. â€œWe live it and breathe it and bleed it.â€
Right behind them was 12-year-old Austin Ping of Junction City, who was enjoying himself but said he wasnâ€™t sure what to make of the fans around him. â€œThese people are crazy,â€ he said.
And right behind them were Terry Myers and her 16-year-old son, Elijah. They got up at 6 a.m. to drive from their home in Campbellsville, taking their place in line at 7:30. At the same time, Elijahâ€™s grandmother headed to Florence for an appearance Saturday night by Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb, and they were heading north to join them as soon as they were done in Danville.
â€œWe have grandma standing in line at Florence Mall,â€ Terry Myers said.
The line behind them wrapped around the building, then veered off across the lot of the dealership. The first 150 or so fans stood under the edge of the buildingâ€™s roof and stayed mostly dry, but those who came later were exposed to the elements. That included Mike and Dawn Semones of Danville and their son, Chase. They got in line at 9:30, just before Miller started to sign, and they found about 270 people already ahead of them.
Mike Semones said he had stood in line in 1996 at a Harrodsburg auto dealership for an appearance by Tony Delk, the leading scorer on Kentuckyâ€™s championship team that season. â€œThe crowd wasnâ€™t nothing like this,â€ he said.
This was the first time around for Chase Semones, who is celebrating his 8th birthday today. â€œHeâ€™s turning 8, and he said itâ€™s no coincidence that they won their eighth championship,â€ Dawn Semones said.
The family finally made it in to see Miller just after 11 a.m. Chase got Millerâ€™s signature on his cap, then was asked if it was worth the wait â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said, then added, â€˜OK, it was.â€
Kentucky fans are standing in line across the state this spring to meet many of the players who led the Wildcats to the national title less than three weeks ago. Many of those who waited to meet Miller on Saturday had been or were planning on going to other signings by other players, but a number of them said there was something special about Miller, a native Kentuckian who played more games with the Wildcats than anyone in school history.
â€œHe played four years, and heâ€™s a Kentucky boy,â€ Bruner said.
Mike Semones said Miller deserved to share the moment with the five underclassmen who announced last week they would enter the NBAâ€ˆdraft. â€œHe should have been with them on the podium when they all announced their intentions on going to the NBA,â€ he said.