Father, Legend, Coach, Friend
Many years ago, in 1995, a 13-year-old boy watched several UK Alums play in a barnstorming tour. Of the many faces, he recognized one face more than the rest. The boy was me, the face belonged to freshly graduated UK shot blocking phenomenon Andre Riddick. Twenty-one years later, the boy considers the legend a friend.
Me: Did you play multiple sports growing up?
Andre: I played multiple sports for fun. Football, basketball, and baseball but my high school didn't have a football team and I wasn't good at baseball. I just liked to play so I went with basketball and followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers
Me: Growing up, when did you realize basketball was something in which you excelled?
Andre: I recognized I was a good basketball player when I started playing AAU ball with the New York Gauchos, my junior year. The first tournament I played in I won MVP of the tourney.
I started getting letters from a lot of schools. The first one I got was from The University of Kentucky. I always remembered that.
Me: What schools, besides UK, did you visit and did you seriously consider any school besides UK?
Andre: I visited Pitt, Syracuse, UMass and Miami. I was scheduled to visit Temple after my UK visit but I canceled it because I knew I was choosing UK after my visit. Everyone had a legit chance to sign me.
Me: You probably knew I would have to ask this question. What happened in that Rasheed Wallace "fight"? I mean the videos are famous, but is there something we don't know.
Andre: What people don't know is their players were trying to intimidate us from the tip off. They kept taking cheap shots at other players, which I recognized. I wasn't one of the ones they did anything to initially. But the play or two before that Wallace did something to me. I can't recall what. But after the fight, you can see me talking the holding up two fingers and saying it was the second time he did something "extra".
Me: Awesome answer and definitely shines some light on an infamous moment in the UNC/UK rivalry.
After your UK playing days, you logged many years overseas. You spent a lot of time in Belgium. Take us through a little bit of the "Belgium years", which included a league MVP.
Andre: I left France to go play in Belgium for one of the top two teams there. They had a history of winning championships but another team had one the title two years in a row. They brought in a coach who led one of the top teams in France the season before. That coach brought me in because he saw the way I played in France and he felt I could help change things. The first preseason game I played was against the team that won it the previous year. I think I had like 7 blocks in the game. Over the years as I played with players who used to play on other teams in Belgium over the years they would share with me that that first year set the tone across the league. They had never seen a player intimidate and protect the basket like I was able to. That first year we were 35-1 I think. We wound up winning two championships in a row. I received the MVP award in in the 2003-2004 season. We would wind up not winning for three years then winning the championship 4 years straight 2008-2011.
Me: That's amazing! I recall very well your tenacity in protecting the basket. Congrats on all you were able to accomplish. Yet, I don't want to ignore what you have going on now. I know we share a love for coaching and our children. Tell us a bit about the kids, family, coaching, your private training work, or anything else that has your heart these days.
Andre: I improved a lot as a professional. It was playing for your check so it was a different approach. I thank God for the career I had and helping me learn how to play when the coaching I received over there was not up to par, total downgrade from coach Pitino. I had to use what coach P taught me.
Me: That's inspirational and a true testament to one of the great coaches in UK history. Regardless of his moving on to our rival, he is definitely responsible for a great Era in UK hoops!
Andre: Yeah people don't get it. They try to erase all he's done because he's at the rival school. At his HOF speech, look at all the former players who showed up. Many of which were college coaches then paid respect. You don't have that many people come out to say thank you if you aren't great at it.
Me: Thanks again, for your time. This is the last question. How will this year's team do? Are we going to cut down the nets?
Andre: I hope so. If Ulis stayed, I would say yes. But with no returning point guard with experience, it's going to be hard. Hopefully, the players learn the ropes over the course of the regular season then mature to make a huge run in the NCAA tournament like teams prior.
Me: Thanks for that answer and I know you will be posting a lot of your thoughts throughout the season. Honestly, you are insightful and very comedic on social media. Hope to see you soon! My daughter can certainly use a lesson or 2!
I certainly hope that you guys enjoyed that blast from the past interview with Andre. I know I enjoyed learning about one of our greats. Any questions or comments are appreciated and feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@kyfit). Who are some of your favorite Cats, of decades past?