For an interview session last month, Kentucky players wore matching white golf shirts with a prominent UK logo on the left breast. From the neck down, Julius Randle could be Jarrod Polson could be Dakari Johnson could be Tod Lanter.
But before changing into the antiseptic corporate colors, freshman James Young made a much more interesting fashion statement. He walked through the Joe Craft Center gym wearing a T-shirt bearing the likeness of Trayvon Martin.
Of course, Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.
That an unarmed black teenager was killed by a gun-toting neighborhood watch coordinator made the incident a cause celebre. Issues of racial profiling, the country's gun culture and Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground statute made Zimmerman's trial a natural for cable television's 24/7 mining of the liberal-conservative fault line. The verdict (acquittal of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges) only further fueled the combustion.
The likeness of Martin wearing a hoodie — an article of clothing that's come to symbolize a perceived threat in some quarters — was across the front of Young's T-shirt.
"My cousin actually gave that to me back when I was in Michigan," he said. "I always wear it."
When asked if he saw the T-shirt as a means of making a statement of support for Martin, Young said, "Definitely. That was crazy what happened. I pay my respects and dues and just wear (the T-shirt)."
The T-shirt suggested a statement of solidarity.
"Yeah, yeah, basically," Young said.
After the Zimmerman verdict, President Barack Obama said that the jury's decision should be respected. But he also noted that 35 years ago he could have been Martin, the victim of a chain of events sparked by questionable suspicions and capped by a tragic and unnecessary shooting.
Young identified with Obama's reading of the incident. "That could have been me," he said. "Any time."
Yet, Young said he would wear a hoodie if so inclined.
"But what happened that day was crazy," he said, "and I don't think it should have happened that way. So I just pay my respect."
Hall of Fame leftovers
Leftovers from the recent UK Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony:
■ Tubby Smith used his wife, Donna, as a comic foil.
For instance, he credited her for his decision to continue coaching this season (for Texas Tech) after being fired in the spring by Minnesota. She told him he had been a good husband and provider. The children and grandchildren were secure financially.
With that setup, Smith delivered the punch line. "Don't forget the great grandchildren," Donna supposedly told him. "Get your butt back to work."
■ Smith took time away from the rebuilding job at Texas Tech to attend the ceremony. "It'll be a good recruiting tool," he said of his place in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. He called recruiting "a never-ending saga."
■ Smith called UK the "greatest basketball program in the world. Really. They talk of the Celtics and the Lakers. It doesn't really compare."
■ Actor Josh Hopkins, who introduced Rex Chapman, noted the former UK star's celebrity. Hopkins said he and friends call each other on Oct. 5 "and wish each other Happy Rex Day."
■ After her playing career, Leslie Nichols worked briefly as the receptionist for the UK men's program then headed by Eddie Sutton.
"Eddie Sutton loved you," Nichols said to Chapman. "He loved some Rex Chapman."
■ Defensive tackle Oliver Barnhart said he was "pleasantly shocked" when Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart called to tell him he was one of this year's inductees. Of being told that Barnhart was on the phone, he said, "I thought maybe I did something wrong."
■ Press Whelan, track coach from 1967 to 1973, gave the program a boost by starting a post-season banquet. He said the first keynote speaker was Jesse Owens.
On Tuesday, UK Coach John Calipari helped promote a state Department of Agriculture program called Udderly Kentucky. The program encourages the use of milk produced in Kentucky.
Introduced as "the most popular guy in the state of Kentucky," Calipari called attention to how local Orange Leaf outlets will use 100 percent Kentucky milk in making their yogurt. "Let's be about Kentucky," he told a crowd of about 75 who attended the announcement. "Let's make sure with what we're doing, we're trying to give back."
Calipari noted the influence a UK basketball coach can wield. Then he added, "We have to win games so I can move people."
Commissioner of Agriculture James R. Comer also spoke at the ceremony. He noted that the number of dairy farmers had fallen from about 3,500 in 1980 to 760. Two factors are at play: 1. high cost of equipment, cows and land; 2. milk is a highly perishable commodity, so farmers can't wait for the market to bring a higher price.
Milk with the Udderly Kentucky brand costs $1 more. That translates into an additional $19,000 in revenue per farm per year, Comer told the crowd.
To which farmer H.H. Barlow shouted, "Amen!" Barlow and his wife, Kathy, came from their Barren County farm to the ceremony.
Comer called this additional revenue "the first ray of hope" for Kentucky dairy farmers.
Evan Morris, a Lexington Christian Academy graduate and one of the owners of the Orange Leaf outlet near Hamburg, said that three gallons of yogurt are produced with every two gallons of skim milk.
The Department of Agriculture is planning to soon launch another program to help promote the use of Kentucky resources, Comer said. Consumers will be encouraged to buy Kentucky popcorn.
No catchy name like milk's Udderly Kentucky. The working title is Preferred Popcorn.
The Kernel/the credit
Sportswriter Nick Gray of the Kentucky Kernel (UK's student newspaper) deserves credit for being first to learn of Willie Cauley-Stein's hand injury. Subsequently, UK announced what it termed "a minor right hand injury" that would sideline Cauley-Stein for 10 to 14 days.
"I saw Willie walking to class on Thursday (Sept. 26) and there wasn't anything out of the ordinary," Gray said in an email. "No injury signs or anything.
"Fast forward to Friday night, and they were all at the midnight hockey game, and he was walking up the stairs, and I saw the soft cast. I knew that practice started formally on Friday and so I linked things together."
Gray sought confirmation by texting a UK Athletics media relations staffer.
UK announced the injury at 7:30 Saturday night.
Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, seniors in class and in terms of service, can be forgotten with all the freshman and sophomore star power.
"Look, they can give us stuff on the court," UK Coach John Calipari said when asked about Hood and Polson. "They're going to have an opportunity to play. It's a challenge, but they will have an opportunity."
The same applies to Derek Willis, the freshman forward from Mount Washington.
"The challenge for him is he's going against physical men," Calipari said of Julius Randle, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein. "... He's not playing a position where you can be physically not up to snuff."
'Deal with it'
Last month's Alumni Game marked the return of two former UK players who had embarrassing brushes with the law this past summer. Neither was made available to the media.
The website Ultimate Rockets noted that Terrence Jones would not comment on a July incident in which he was charged with misdemeanor harassment for allegedly stepping on a homeless man in Portland, Ore. Jones pleaded not guilty, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday. He is not required to attend.
DeAndre Liggins has been arraigned on felony domestic violence charges. He was arrested on Aug. 31, and subsequently released by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
UK Coach John Calipari said he had spoken with both players and offered to help them. When asked about the legal issues faced by Jones and Liggins, he sounded philosophical.
"They're grown men," Calipari said. "They're still considered, to me, children. But they're not. They're grown men. Guys makes choices. Then you have to deal with it."
Meeting of referees
SEC referees met in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday. On the first day, they heard former ref Don Rutledge discuss how to officiate high pick and rolls, then ref Doug Shows and national supervisor John Adams led discussions of rules changes.
On Saturday, other referees from the southeastern United States joined the SEC crew as NCAA staffers discussed 28 new rules changes for this coming season.
Not counting the Final Four, tickets to the 2014 NCAA Tournament go on sale Oct. 19 at each host city or at www.NCAA.com/mbbtickets.
The so-called First Four first-round games will be in Dayton on March 18-19. Second- and third-round sites are Buffalo, N.Y.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Orlando, Fla.; and Spokane, Wash., on March 20 and 22, while Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego and St. Louis will have second- and third-round games on March 21 and 23.
The regional sites are Anaheim (West), Memphis (South), Indianapolis (Midwest) and Madison Square Garden (East).
The Final Four will be held in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 5 and 7.
Big Blue notion
Next time someone mentions the number of followers UK basketball has on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, the mind will drift to this observation made Sept. 28 by op-ed columnist Gail Collins of The New York Times:
"A hundred thousand people cheering you on in the social media feels like a mass movement. But this is a gigantic country. You can find 100,000 people who believe in a secret plot by Belgium to corner the market on beetroot."
To former UK women's coach Mickie DeMoss. She turned 58 on Thursday. ... To former South Carolina coach Dave Odom. He turns 71 on Wednesday. ... To former Tennessee coach Wade Houston. He turns 69 on Wednesday. ... To Reggie Hanson. He turns 45 on Tuesday. ... To Sean Sutton. He turned 45 on Friday. ... To Rex Chapman. He turned 46 on Saturday. ... To Junior Braddy. He turned 42 on Friday. ... To Sheray Thomas. He turned 29 on Friday. ... To Preston LeMaster. He turned 30 on Saturday. ... To former Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. He turned 47 on Saturday.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.