CLEVELAND — Nearly seven hours before the Kentucky Wildcats hit the basketball court Wednesday afternoon, 11-year-old Kamrin Johnson was there to make sure she'd have a good view of her favorite player.
Kamrin — accompanied by her parents and little sister — endured an eight-hour, middle-of-the-night road trip and got little sleep before showing up at Quicken Loans Arena to see UK's only open practice at the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional.
Everyone in the family is a Kentucky fan, but Kamrin was there to see one player in particular.
"All we hear about is Devin Booker," said Kamrin's father, Nick Johnson. "If he's having a bad game, she's ready to fight the announcers because they're talking bad about him. She's absolutely in love with him."
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She's not shy about it either.
Kamrin wore a blue T-shirt that said "Future Mrs. Booker" on the front. The back of the shirt was in the style of a player's jersey, with "Mrs. Booker" above a "1" — the UK freshman's uniform number.
What's so great about Booker?
"He's cute, and he's a good shooter," Kamrin said.
While Kamrin waited with about 1,000 other fans for the Cats to show up on the court, word of her T-shirt made it back to the UK locker room.
Booker smiled when reporters informed him that his future wife was courtside. By the time one reporter showed him a picture of his 11-year-old admirer, the UK freshman was blushing.
"It means a lot. Just to know that I have an influence on people, it's a great feeling," Booker said, still smiling. "It's neat. It's really neat."
A few minutes later, Booker walked onto the court with his teammates, and it was Kamrin who was smiling. For the next 50 minutes, whether Booker was shooting, stretching or simply standing around, Kamrin's eyes were on him.
Though she's from Virginia, the young UK fan comes by her rooting interest honestly.
Nick Johnson was born and raised in Pike County and said he was 11 and "utterly devastated" when Christian Laettner's shot sunk the Wildcats in 1992.
"If you're born in Kentucky, you're a Kentucky fan," he said. "I've loved 'em since I can remember."
His wife, Kami, is a native Virginian, but the Tennessee Volunteers were the team of choice for most of the people she grew up with in the southwestern part of the state.
Kami decided at a young age that the Vols weren't for her.
"I told my mom, 'Everybody at school likes Tennessee, and I'm not going to be on the bandwagon,'" she said.
Kami bought her first UK shirt at a yard sale when she was in the fourth grade.
"And it's been Kentucky ever since," she said.
Six-year-old Kynlee is the youngest UK fan in the family. She proudly declared freshman point guard Tyler Ulis as her favorite Wildcat, and then excitedly waved her homemade sign when Ulis and his teammates finally arrived on the court.
The visit to Cleveland was a last-minute decision for a family that was looking forward to bigger things. They spent $1,500 on tickets to next week's Final Four in Indianapolis, but they won't be making that trip.
"It turned out to be a scam, so we lost our money," said Nick Johnson. "We figured this would be the only other opportunity we might have for her to potentially get to see Devin Booker.
"At the end of the day, the money can be replaced. It was just disappointing, because we were pretty excited about going to Indianapolis and watching the Cats win."
The Johnsons don't have tickets to this week's NCAA Tournament games, so they headed for the exits as soon as practice was over and planned to drive back to Virginia on Wednesday night.
Kamrin didn't get to meet Booker on this trip, but she beamed when she was shown a picture of her favorite Wildcat sitting in the UK locker room and looking at a picture of her and her T-shirt.
The thought of another seven or eight hours in the car couldn't stop the smiles from spreading to the rest of her family.
"It was absolutely worth it," her father said.