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Curses, Christian Laettner wins again as Villains beat ex-Cats

Villains outscore ex-Cats in OT

jtipton@herald-leader.comOctober 25, 2011 

Would-be Kentucky player Enes Kanter rose for a two-handed fast-break dunk. Former Morehead State star Kenneth Faried leaped even higher and blocked the shot.

Former Louisville player Terrence Williams delighted fans by taking his time to prepare a cherry-pick dunk — and then banging it off the rim.

A few minutes later, former UK star Jeff Sheppard took the Rupp Arena public address microphone to alert people that Christian Laettner would be signing "No. 1 Villain of all-time" wanted posters in the Rupp Arena concourse after the game.

When fans booed the mention of Laettner's name, Sheppard said, "That's right." Then Sheppard invited fans to "come by and share something with him" after the game.

Part pickup basketball game. Part trade show. Light-hearted fun. An old psychic wound re-opened.

That's what Monday's charity game — won by the Villains over the Big Blue All-Stars 152-149 in overtime — felt like.

Laettner, who will live in UK infamy after making the shot that eliminated the Unforgettables from the 1992 NCAA Tournament, enjoyed his villainy. He laid it on thick by going on all fours to theatrically wipe a wet spot with a towel, and then he got ejected with two ceremonial technical fouls.

"That's just part of my personality," he said. "And I think it's something that made me good. ... You have to feed off that a little bit."

Laettner suggested UK fans were justified in their disdain. "They should be mad at me for what I did to their team," he said. "... The average everyday person loved that (UK) team."

In addition to the booing for Laettner, UK fans got a belated chance to cheer Enes Kanter.

Before the game, Kanter said he was excited and nervous about finally getting to play in Rupp Arena. The NCAA ruled him permanently ineligible for his one UK season.

Kanter made a reference to that ruling when asked about the NBA lockout of players delaying the start of his pro career.

"I couldn't play in high school," he said. "I couldn't play in college. Now, I can't play in the NBA. I'm really frustrated."

Jodie Meeks led the Big Blue All-Stars with 42 points. When asked if the performance reminded him of the 50-plus point game he had at Tennessee, Meeks said, "It was kind of similar, but we won the Tennessee game."

The Villains were led by former Florida star Corey Brewer's 32 points.

The charity game marked a first for Bryan Station grad Shelvin Mack. He said he had attended "about 20" games in Rupp Arena, but he had never played there.

When asked if he hoped to put on a show in his hometown, Mack said, "Not really. I had a good opportunity to show people I can play."

That was a reference to helping lead Butler to back-to-back Final Fours.

Mack, who left college after his junior season, said he has been playing in the players' tour of Kentucky that preceded the Villains game. The reception had been "great," he said. "They cheered for me like I was one of the players for Kentucky."

Faried made for another illogical villain. He said he thought he earned good will from UK fans by helping Morehead State beat Louisville in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

"Here at Kentucky, everybody likes me," he said before the game. "They think I'm an all-star for Kentucky since we beat Louisville."

Sure enough, the crowd cheered Mack and Faried and booed every other player during introductions of the Villains.

Sheppard organized the game. He said paid attendance was 7,490. Another 2,000 tickets had been given to sponsors.

The game raised $50,000 for The V Foundation.

Sheppard acknowledged that all participants had received expense money plus "a little bit" of a cash payment. He declined to say how much each player was paid.

When asked if he would lose money on the deal, Sheppard said, "Everybody will be fine and covered. We had great corporate sponsors that helped us get through it."

Organizers hoped to get former Florida star Joakim Noah as the No. 1 villain. "But we got a good one," Sheppard said of Laettner, who "coached" the Villains team.

Judging by the boos and a female fan heard yelling, "Laettner, you suck" late in the game, this game did well in the villain department.

"Even though it's been 20 years, it's still a hurt in their hearts," former UK player Chuck Hayes said of Laettner's famous shot. "Just like every loss here."

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