For the biggest Kentucky Wildcat fans, the beginning of October is their favorite time of year. With tickets officially going on sale September 30th, Kentucky fanatics had to wait two more weeks until October 14th for the Main Event.
At 7:00 p.m. Friday night, Rupp Arena was rumbling.
With his performance arguably better than last year’s, the women’s basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell got the crowd fired up early with flashy dance moves. Then fans witnessed the announcement of the women’s team, which was followed by a scrimmage between the team and the practice squad. The starters won the scrimmage by a score of 23-7.
The cheerleading team performed multiple stunts after the women’s basketball team concluded their ceremony. They were succeeded by the dance team, who performed as well.
Then the real madness began.
With former Wildcats and now NBA all-stars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins in the building, Wildcat fans couldn’t get off their feet. Yet, the surprise of legendary announcer Michael Buffer brought the intensity to an even higher level.
Buffer then announced the team of freshman Edrice Adebayo, Brad Calipari, De’Aaron Fox, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Malik Monk, and redshirt freshman Tai Wynyard, sophomores Isaiah Briscoe, Johnny David, Isaac Humphries and redshirt sophomore Dillon Pulliam, and seniors Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder, and Derek Willis. Head coach John Calipari concluded the introduction.
Calipari then took the spotlight on stage to acknowledge the great history of the program, as well as ask all in the audience who had formerly played for Kentucky to join him and the current players on stage.
Over 70 players who had been a part of the program were in attendance joined Cal on stage, with the names of Kenny Walker, Joe B. Hall, Kyle Macy, John Wall, Willie Cauley-Stein, and DeMarcus Cousins among them. Each player was announced and then, if part of one of Kentucky’s eight NCAA championship teams, given recognition for the accomplishment.
Following the recognition, the current players began warmups for their annual Blue vs. White scrimmage. During the game, fans got a preview of their upcoming season.
The scrimmage started off with intense defense. As play loosened up, the athletic ability by both squads was shown off as multiple players converted ally-oops and highlight dunks. The Blue team defeated the White team, 25-21.
To wrap up a night of madness, Kentucky fans have plenty to be excited for this season. With an average height of 6’5”, Kentucky will have one of the taller, longer, and more athletic rosters in the country. Sophomores Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries return this year after being highlighted in last year’s freshman class. Seniors Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and Mychal Mulder will bring veteran leadership on and off the court.
However, Wildcat fanatics should be most excited to witness the young batch of talent Calipari has brought in, yet again. Guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, along with forward Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, headline many freshman who bring high expectations to Rupp Arena this season.
Monk, who has drawn comparisons to former Wildcat and Phoenix Sun guard Brandon Knight, stands 6’3 with a 6’3 wingspan. Though he doesn't have premiere shooting or court vision, the athletic guard has a high ceiling. His 22 points and CO-MVP honors in the Jordan Classic are a strong sign of potential against elite competition.
Fox has also drawn NBA comparisons. He, however, has been compared to this year’s NBA Finals clutch shot-maker Kyrie Irving. The elite high school scorer (31.3 PPG) will look to bring play-making and scoring to Kentucky’s lineup this season. His ball-handling skills, combined with his elite shooting ability at 6’3, are enough talent to be coached into a top-10 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Adebayo, the highest ranked prospect on Kentucky (predicted for the 10th selection in the 2017 NBA draft), stands 6’10 with a 7’1 wingspan and weighs 260 lbs. Kenneth Faried, known as “The Manimal” for his ferocious play on both sides of the ball, is who Adebayo reminds scouts of the most. His athletic ability, along with size and strength, are more than enough to make a strong case for a future in the NBA. Bam dominated high school opponents, averaging 32.3 PPG, 21 RPG, 3.3 SPG, and 4.5 BPG his junior year of high school. Calipari has done wonders with his point guards, but isn't given near the credit he deserves for his work with forwards. After a season with Calipari, Adebayo could potentially be a top-5 draft pick.
Kentucky will begin their season on November 11th at Rupp Arena against Stephen F. Austin. The starting lineup has yet to be released, but we expect Calipari to exercise his depth of both talented freshman and veterans in their first outing. The game is set to start at 7:00 p.m.