Good-bye, Julius Randle, the Harrison Twin, No-the Other One, and James Young.
You’re NBA-bound as the latest prospects from the University of Kentucky one-and- done basketball factory.
It’s not like we won’t miss you, or that you’re not nice guys and talented basketball players who played hard this year.
It’s just that we barely knew you. You blew us a kiss hello, and now you’re already puckered up to kiss us good-bye.
I know that Coach Calipari doesn’t like it when people say that UK is a one-and-done program. He says that he doesn’t even believe in the one-and-done rule–that he’d rather see a rule change that would say that players had to go to college for two or three years before they could switch to the pros. But he says he won’t stand in the way of his players’ dreams to get a jumpstart on their NBA career.
Whatever. Kentucky is the face of the one-and-done movement. Since the Calipari era five years ago, we’ve been a pit stop for Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Orton, Knight, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Teague, Goodwin, and Noel in their one-and-done careers at UK on their way to the NBA
UK back to the Promised Land
Look. I’m a fan. Old school UK grad, who lived in the student ghetto on E. Maxwell St. in Lexington. Trust me, I’m for UK, Coach Cal, and you guys. Lots of us thought Coach Cal was like Moses, leading us back to the Promised Land of a national championship in 2012 after what seemed like 40 years in the wilderness of irrelevancy in the basketball world.
But if you live by the one-and-done, you die by the one-and-done. Last year’s hyped-up freshmen couldn’t lead us to The Big Dance. Didn’t get an invitation. Banished to the NIT, we get whipped in the first round of a nowhere tournament by a nowhere team from a school that no one had ever heard of. Coach Cal tells the story on himself that someone stopped him on the street of a big city and asked him if it were true that UK had gotten beat in the first round of the NIT. It was true, Cal said. By Robert Morris. “One guy?” the man asked.
You’re only freshmen
Look. You’re only freshmen, Julius, Twin, No- the Other One, and James. It’s not your fault that UK didn’t go 40-0 like some people were predicting for you. Pre-season No. 1? Please.
You gotta figure out what your role is. Julius, you’re not a three-point shooter, but you’re very good when you stick to your job. Playmakers? Pass the ball. Play hard. Play together. Relax a little bit. You’re only freshmen.
Some of you might not go pro right away. That’s okay. Get better. Your day will come. I don’t blame you for wanting to join the Millionaires’ Club as soon as you can. I probably would do the same thing. You’re free. But you are also free to stay for awhile.
A lesson in UK culture
If you do stay, here’s a little bit about the UK culture that might fill in your gaps:
- We still can’t abide Bobby Knight, the former Indiana University coach. Or Indiana.
- Don’t let Louisville beat you.
- Duke is the absolute worst. Goes back to when the Blue Devils beat Kentucky 104-103 in overtime in the East Region finals of March Madness in 1992, in what most people call the greatest college basketball game of all time. Christian Laettner, who hit the winning jumper at the buzzer, had stomped on a fallen Wildcat player earlier in the game. He got a technical-should have been thrown out of the game. There’s bad blood between UK and Duke.
- That classic UK-Duke game featured four senior Wildcats whose blood bled UK blue-not NBA green: Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey, and Sean Woods. These four-known as “The Unforgettables”-have their jerseys retired in the rafters of Rupp Arena. They came from little Kentucky towns-Woods from Indianapolis, IN. When UK got barred from tournament play their sophomore and junior seasons because of recruiting scandals during the Eddie Sutton regime, they didn’t jump ship. They stuck it out. Their blood bled blue.
Guys, that’s the way it is. If you’re one-and-done, there’s no shame in that. Maybe your dreams are starting to come true. Do what you feel is right. Thanks for giving it your best this year. It’s been a roller-coaster ride! We’ll tell you good-bye. And good luck. But we won’t shed a tear like we do when we sing “My Old Kentucky Home” at the Kentucky Derby. “Weep no more, my lady…” Boys, we hardly knew you…