By RENE CORNETTE
Our joy is back, Big Blue Nation. Last night in front of a record breaking crowd of 15,035 our 2013-2014 Kentucky Wildcats proved just why they are an early favorite to win it all this year. This team is stacked from top to bottom with athletic, long and all around killers on the court. I pity the teams they play this year except Louisville because you know they deserve to be rolled but Transylvania….don’t hurt em too bad, Wildcats. This year is going to be fun, full of did you just see that moments and loud screams after the inevitable dunks on dunks that are happening all season long. You get the point, now onto the highlights from last night.
Derek Willis is going to be a stud at UK. He can flat out shoot the ball with confidence and a follow thru that is perfection. No one told him he wasn’t supposed to get playing time. He’s lean, runs the court well and in a class filled with 6 McDonald’s All Americans he still stands out. He led the White team with 21 points making five of six three-point shots, the final one beyond NBA range. He’s not just that Kentucky boy anymore, instead he made his own impression last night that Kentucky fans will not soon forget. He’s going to contribute this year and the next and the next. Derek made it very obvious why Cal said he would have a long NBA career. We believe you, Cal. We believe you.
I think Oscar Combs said it best last night when he tweeted, ” Don’t want to get too carried away, but Julius Randle is much more dangerous than just being called a “beast.” After watching Julius performance last night, it would be hard to argue with Oscar on that. Randle scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds while displaying a range of play from throwing down nasty dunks to pulling up and draining a sweet jumper. He’s the real deal and the scary thing is he’s only going to get better. Good luck trying to guard him, college basketball. He put the power in power forward and he eats double teams for breakfast. He bad.
James Young has waited his whole life for his turn to wear Kentucky across the chest and it showed. He balled out last night scoring 25 points while making it look effortless. Young is the type of player you watch and can’t get enough of. He’s everywhere on the court and he doesn’t take plays off and if you’re looking for a lockdown defender on this team he’s your guy. He’s going to be a joy to watch this year. Enjoy him, Big Blue Nation.
Dakari Johnson is a monster around the rim. That’s his home and comfort spot and it shows. His timing is impeccable and he can beat and bang with the best of them. He had a double double last night getting 16 points and 11 rebounds. When I told you earlier after watching him practice at the Women’s clinic that he would do all the little things to help you win games, I meant it. You need a good, solid presence in the paint and he is just that. Whether he starts or not is still unknown but what is known is Dakari will contribute game after game.
Willie Cauley-Stein showed last night that he means business this year. Before the game started one of his quotes led off, The Wildcat Warm Up, “Losing is not an option this year.” and after watching him play last night you can see why. He plays like a man on a mission. Willie is so athletic. He dives for the ball, goes for the steal and can dribble the length of the court with ease. Willie will be an essential player to win 9 this year and let me just say sophomore Willie wants that title. Be scared, college basketball.
Oh, Alex. He is still over thinking everything. He makes a mistake and instead of shrugging it off he lets it get the best of him. That was still painfully obvious last night. He had moments of greatness and I remember screaming at my television after one dunk,”THAT’S THE ALEX WE NEED TO SEE EVERY PLAY.” Alex has it all but he has to realize that and wear that swag and pride every play, until then he’s going to fade away during games at times. I know we all want, Alex to succeed and here’s hoping he unleashes his inner beast soon. We’ll be patiently waiting till then.
Aaron Harrison is a stud and that get’s lost in all the hype for his brother. He’s a stone cold killer from the three point line, scoring 19 points, including making 3 of 4 three pointers. He never cracks a smile and plays like a machine. He’s so tough and with his brother Andrew on the bench for most of the game with a right knee contusion he showed that he’s a great player too. Keep shining, kid.
After last night’s Blue and White scrimmage, it’s easy to see we’re dealing with an entirely different team from last year. Team being the optimum word. Players worked seamlessly together and took joy in watching their teammates score. We saw the beginnings of Cal’s favorite line, “Be your brothers keeper.” We saw undeniable talent and when you have a walk on like, E.J. Floreal who can posterize your stud player, Julius Randle you know you’re in for a special season. Enjoy it, Big Blue Nation. Don’t spoil it with worrying about what’s to come next year. Just live in this glorious moment because one things for sure the hype is real and our dreams of 9 aren’t so crazy.