By RENE CORNETTE
When I first caught a glimpse of the itinerary for Coach Cal’s women’s clinic the thing that peeked my interest the most was the chance to see our team practice for two hours. I couldn’t believe it. The basketball nerd in me was ready to pass out. My dream had come true. I was going to get a first glimpse at this years insanely talented team before anyone else. It was all I needed to know about the women’s clinic. Game over, Cal had once again pulled out all the stops or so I thought. More on that later.
Let’s start out with the stuff you really want to know, the stuff that happened at practice. For starters, I noticed five players wore blue jerseys. They were Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson. I know it’s early but as of now I think that’s who Cal sees as his starting five. The players in gray jerseys were pulled in and out but the five players in blue jerseys were a constant. Keep in mind Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein have been battling thru injuries. I think it’s safe to say the starting five could change. The truth remains no matter how you cut it this years team is stacked from top to bottom. That’s an undeniable fact.
Aaron Harrison is a complete beast. I know all the talk has been focused on Andrew but I’m here to tell Aaron is a phenomenal baller in his own right. The kid lives to penetrate the lane. You can’t keep him out of it. Driving the baseline is his comfort spot. Every single time that was his go to place and every single time he would get the easy lay up. He’s not scared. He’s quick and his passing skills and sight to find the open man and create plays is something of beauty. I cannot brag on him enough. I had a lot of wow moments tonight and a lot of them came from watching him play. Enjoy him, folks. He’s so special.
James Young is a kid that hasn’t been hyped enough. He does everything. Let me say that again, he does everything. He plays great defense. He hustles. He’s fast and his shot is a thing of beauty. It has an arc and spin on it that looks effortless. He is a joy to watch play. He’s the kind of player that you want to watch. You need to watch. He’s so dang good and he doesn’t even acknowledge it. He’s that kid and I’m so glad he’s a CAT. He’s going to do work this year. That’s for sure.
Dakari Johnson is a monster around the rim. That’s his spot and he knows it. Rebounds on rebounds on rebounds. He’s a garbage man. He’s doing the dirty work. The grunt work and it didn’t go unnoticed by me. He’s lost twenty pounds since arriving on campus and it shows. He is so much leaner and runs the court so much better. He’s a kid that’s going to have an unbelievable growth of play from the start of the season to the end. It’s already started. I love him. I love a kid that knows his role and does it to the tenth degree. That’s Dakari in all his glory. He’s the player that might not put up big numbers during a game but when you go and pull out the stat sheets later he’s the player that done all the little stuff to help you win. He’s going to be so fun to watch this year. I can’t say that enough.
Julius Randle is a beast and when he dunks the ball I expect the goal to break every time. He is a man amongst boys. He is everything we were told he would be and more. He’s the guy that’s going to give every opponent this season fits trying to match up and guard. I say good luck to everyone on our schedule. I have a feeling Julius will see your double teams and laugh. You can’t stop him. You can only pray to slow him down. He’s gong to wreak havoc this year and I’ll be cheering him on all the way. As he said tonight, he came to Kentucky to win a National Championship and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will. He bad.
Marcus Lee is quickly becoming one of my favorite CATS. He is freakishly athletic. He makes everything look easy. Jumping heads above the rim, no problem. Swatting a shot, that’s like taking candy from a baby. He’s still so raw around the edges but you can’t deny his athleticism. It pours out of him. You see it when he’s stretching. You see it when he’s jumping for a rebound and you can’t deny it when he blocks a shot. He has an attitude that immediately puts you at ease. You can tell he’s happy to be playing for Kentucky and he’s going to enjoy every minute of it. He’s such a great kid on and off the court. He’s the real deal.
As for the rest of our team, every single one of them are so talented. The height of our team is staggering this year and can only be appreciated when you see them all on the court at once. This team is so special. This season is going to be so special and I implore you to enjoy it. Don’t get caught up in nitpicking every single thing. Watch the games, cheer, throw up a three goggle when the shot calls for it but above everything smile and know the era we’re living in right now doesn’t come around often. Remember that, keep it in the back of your mind always and enjoy the ride. That’s what this season is about. Enjoying the journey of an unbelievable talented team the likes of we may not see again for a long time. We are UK and we’re living in an incredibly blessed time together. This is our time. I feel it and I know you do too. I think Rock Oliver said it best tonight, “Be patient with them (our team) early and they will reward you late.” I agree, Rock. I agree.
Now lets talk about Cal outdoing himself, again. Coach Cal gave every single woman at the clinic tonight a three inch piece of the 2012 National Championship floor. In my exact words upon hearing him say this I said, ” I cannot handle this. I think I’m going to pass out.” That was not a lie. I had a day that from start to finish was filled with moments I will never forget. Moments that growing up as a kid, I could only dream of. I got to participate in a drill tonight. A drill that took place on the court of Memorial. All I could do was look around at the banners, the history that surrounded me and dribble my basketball like I was playing in a real game. That’s Kentucky basketball. It’s a feeling that comes surging back to you no matter how old you are. A feeling that takes you right back to your days of pretending to be your favorite UK player on the court dreaming of wearing the blue someday. That’s what tonight was for me. It was a night that I’ll never forget. A night that now thanks to Cal, I have my own little piece of Big Blue Heaven to keep always. It may only be a three inch piece of court but to me when I hold it I relive every single moment of that glorious game. A game that ended with confetti falling and Kentucky winning their eighth national title.That was my night and I hope now yours too.