LOUISVILLE — When possible Kentucky recruit Trevor Lacey shot an air ball from three-point range late in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic Friday night, a fan sitting near courtside could be heard offering high-volume advice."Pick Kansas," the fan yelled. "Pick Kansas."
Lacey, who came here billed as a deluxe shooter, made his first two shots. But the promise of a stellar performance fizzled as he finished 2-for-8 (1-for-6 from three-point range).
"I couldn't get in the flow," he said. "I missed a couple shots I normally make."
When asked whether he heard the fan suggest he pick Kansas over Kentucky or Alabama, Lacey's high-voltage smile dimmed slightly.
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"It's just all fun,"
Fun marked this first Derby Festival Basketball Classic played in the KFC Yum Center. With the upper level seating curtained off, a crowd of 10,019 gave the game a fair approximation of atmosphere.
The fun began during the player introductions when Louisville signee Zach Price appeared on the court in a blue Kentucky T-shirt.
"At first, I heard, 'What?! What's going on?! What's the problem?!'" Price said. Then the Jeffersontown High big man ripped off the Kentucky T-shirt to reveal a red U of L shirt underneath.
"It fell together perfectly," he said of his contribution to UK-U of L theatre.
Future U of L teammate Chane Behanan made it a two-man show by stepping on the Kentucky T-shirt and kicking it away.
Behanan's double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) could not prevent a 126-122 loss by a White team that had three U of L signees. Not that he nor anyone else was too consumed with winning and losing.
Behanan, a 6-foot-7 strongman from Cincinnati by way of Bowling Green High School, set the tone before tipoff. After Miss Kentucky USA Kia Hampton sang a particularly soulful version of the national anthem, Behanan walked to center court and gave her a hug.
"I had to give her respect," he said. "That was the first time I heard the national anthem (sung) that good."
Behanan was busy after the game, too. Besides doing on-court interviews, he signed his shoes and threw them to souvenir hunters in the crowd. Then he flipped the sweatshirt into the stands.
When asked if he knew the people who got the shoes and sweatshirt, Behanan said, "I actually don't."
Standing in stocking feet, Behanan said of the generosity, "It's why I like Louisville as much as I do. The fan support. They really love their red."
Another of the future U of L players, Angel Nunez, was named Most Valuable Player for the White team. He had 16 points.
The honor for the winning Gold team went to Indiana signee Cody Zeller, younger brother of former Notre Dame player Luke Zeller and current North Carolina player Tyler Zeller. The youngest Zeller brother had 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
Ohio State-bound LaQuinton Ross led the Gold team with 26 points and 14 rebounds. That he wasn't named MVP was puzzling. Branden Dawson, who signed with Michigan State, added 23 points.
Behanan acknowledged the weight of expectation that he carried into the game and will take into next season for Louisville.
"They're expecting a lot from me," he said. "I have to do a job."
Rebounding, an area of relative weakness for Louisville this past season of accomplishment, will be an emphasis, Behanan said. "One thing I'll try to come in and establish, first and foremost."
Given the nature of the UK-U of L rivalry, the Derby Festival Basketball Classic also served as a venue for reporters to ask Behanan if he'd want to beat Kentucky next season.
"Real bad," he said before adding, "It's going to be tough. But that's one game I'm looking forward to."
During the recruiting season, Behanan made no secret of his desire to outplay UK's star recruit, Michael Gilchrist. That would-be rivalry within a rivalry doesn't figure to cool.
"We have the same good players they do," Behanan said of the incoming freshman classes for U of L and UK. "We're going to try to come out and outwork them."