John Clay: Media Day predicts crazy season for UK basketball

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 15, 2013 

I tried to get to Julius Randle first, I really did, but to avoid being crushed you have to wait until the first wave of cameras, iPads, digital recorders and old-fashioned notepads subside and there's an opening.

Just like that, of course, the daylight can close right up because, well, let's put it this way: They may refer to what is about to happen on Friday as Big Blue Madness, but what happened Tuesday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum was Big Blue Media Madness.

Welcome to Kentucky Basketball Media Day, 2013-14 version, the crazy annual event for the team with the crazy freshman class and the crazy expectations and the crazy fan base.

Answering questions before a packed media room, John Calipari said he felt like presidential press secretary Jay Carney, prompting a media member to jokingly identify himself as being from Fox News.

"The Republicans have shut down the government and the Democrats are trying to feed everybody," said Calipari jokingly — the press conference transcript posted afterward made sure to add in parentheses (jokingly).

Then, over inside the Craft Center during player interviews, sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein talked about zombies.

Freshman guard Andrew Harrison said it was crazy the way Calipari could see everything on every possession.

Senior Jon Hood, a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan, said he would hire Paul O'Neill as the new manager.

There was a full-blown controversy about whether Derek Willis did or did not dunk on both Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle at the same time.

Actually, Calipari started it in the press conference when the coach was asked whether there had been any surprises during practice. He cited the alleged Willis dunk.

"We just stopped practice, like, 'Oh my gosh!'" said the coach.

(No one says, "Oh my gosh!" like Calipari, by the way.)

"I'm not agreeing with that," said a head-shaking Randle when finally an opening presented itself and this intrepid reporter was able to squeeze within listening distance. "I blocked it off the backboard and it went into the goal."

"It was just a play," said Willis modestly, though he was quick to add, "I'm not trying to act like it's something I do all the time."

Dunk or non-dunk?

"It's been a long and heated debate," said the witness and wise senior named Jarrod Polson. "The ball went in, that's all I can say."

If it isn't evident by now, it should be, in terms of the cult of personality, this will be a much different Kentucky basketball team than the one from a year ago.

And from a performance standpoint, the fans are hoping this is a different basketball team, as well.

You know the fans. Actually, this group of eight freshmen doesn't know the fans, not yet, anyway, not to the degree they will know them starting Friday night.

"The (Big Blue Madness) campout," said Randle when someone asked when he first started to get the feeling it's crazy here. "I kind of noticed it before as far as when you go out, how people treat you and stuff like that; stand outside the Lodge to get autographs. That campout stuff was ridiculous. I've never ever seen anything like that."

You know what's going to be really ridiculous?

It's going to be ridiculous when this Kentucky basketball team is able to stop lining up against each other and instead lines up on the same side of the court and starts playing, not against each other in practice but against someone else in a real game.

"That's going to be pretty fun," said Randle at the mere mention of the subject. "That's the first time I've actually thought about that. That's going to be pretty fun."

No one knows for sure how that is going to look, only that it will be worth seeing.

"I don't even know how it's going to look," Randle said. "I guess we'll see when we play."

That will be crazy.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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