“Terminator.” “Superhero.” “Cyclops.”
Playing with protective eyewear tinted to appear like sunglasses gained Kentucky guard Quade Green many nicknames. Surely, his play in UK’s 93-86 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday gave him more admirers.
“He can keep them on if he wants to,” teammate Kevin Knox said of Green’s glasses. “He’s knocking down shots. He can have them on the rest of the year. … I don’t mind it. If he can shoot the ball like he did today, I’m fine with it.”
Green made six of 12 shots while scoring 17 points. He also got credit for five assists while committing only one turnover in 27 minutes.
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And Green looked cool doing it. But he was aware of what would be said if he had played poorly.
“If I had played bad, it would have been, ‘Ahh, he’s got the goggles on,’” he said.
Green wore the Oakley brand glasses after an eye injury in Kentucky’s victory over Monmouth last Sunday. The eye had been swollen shut earlier in the week. It was partially open during postgame interviews.
Green said he had not watched a replay, so was not sure how the injury occurred.
“I think he poked me in my eye,” he said of a Monmouth player. “But some people say he hit me real hard. And he was strong, too.”
The lenses weren’t tinted to bring a jazzy feel to his on-court persona. Green said he needed them because his injured eye is sensitive to light.
Green perked up at the mention of the glasses evoking thoughts of hip-hop artist Kool Moe Dee.
“Oh yeah, back in the day I listened to a lot of Kool Moe Dee,” he said. “I got an old soul for music. So I listen to all of the back-in-the-day stuff.
“They said I looked like (rapper) Eazy-E with these on, too. That’s crazy.”
UK Coach John Calipari said he sympathized with Green having to wear the protective glasses. Calipari joked (?) about having considered wearing a pair at the game.
“But … it would have been a national story,” Calipari said. “And there (Calipari) is. He wears jeans on the plane. This bum. This guy. Who does he think he is? He thinks he’s at the beach. Who is this guy? But that’s why I didn’t do it.”
Hamidou Diallo said he would pass on wearing tinted glasses.
“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes,” he said.
Green suggested he might wear the glasses the rest of the season.
“I just can’t get poked in my eye again,” he said.
But he later sounded disinclined to wear then any longer than necessary.
“I can’t hoop in goggles for too long,” Green said.
Green joked about maybe becoming a trend-setter.
“I think I started a new wave with these sunglasses,” he said.
More seriously, Calipari said he would prefer to start Green, with or without the glasses, and bring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander off the bench. For the Virginia Tech game, Calipari did the opposite. With UK off to a slow start, Calipari put Green into the game 90 seconds after the tipoff.
“It’s just a better rotation with him starting and Shai coming off the bench,” Calipari said.
Knox said Green’s shooting ability spreads defenses, creating more driving space for himself and Diallo. Thus, a better chance for UK to get off to a good start.
Bring it on, UCLA
Knox sounded eager to delve deeper into an increasingly difficult schedule. Kentucky next plays UCLA in New Orleans on Saturday. Six days later, UK plays Louisville.
“We want that,” Knox said. “We want to keep proving to people in this world that we’re a really good team. And we’re starting to jell more and more as a team. And I love it.
“Those next two games we’re going to show people we’ve been working, and don’t underestimate us.”
Green had a gift idea sure to please every UK fan: a victory over Louisville on Dec. 29.
“That’s my Christmas gift to the fans …,” he said. “We’ve got to beat Louisville. There’s no (other) way. The biggest rivalry in the whole year. We’ve got to.”
But, Green made sure reporters knew he wasn’t looking beyond UCLA. He seemed to have an itinerary for the next two victories.
“We’ve got a whole week to worry about UCLA,” he said. “Beat them. Then next week worry about them (Louisville).”
Green said he played despite not practicing all week because of the eye injury. The eye still hurt, he said.
This led to an obvious tongue-in-cheek question sure to warm the heart of Allen Iverson: Did not his play against Virginia Tech suggest that practice is overrated, if not unnecessary?
“Oh man,” Green said. “We ain’t going to say that.”