This has to be a common dream in the Big Blue Nation: Shooting around in the driveway on a basket once used by Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
Lexington Center Corporation is prepared to make that a reality. On Monday, LCC will begin accepting bids for the three baskets used in UK home games from the 2000-01 season through 2015-16. The auction ends on Feb. 27.
Three baskets? The two used in games, plus the backup.
Bill Owen, president and CEO of LCC, said that Kentucky had requested new baskets this season. UK wanted the same Spalding model basket it uses on the Craft Center practice court and Memorial Coliseum. Rupp had been using The Basketball Products International (BPI) Model 10,000.
Of course, the baskets to be auctioned have been in place during many memorable moments:
▪ Tayshaun Prince making five straight three-pointers on five straight possessions against North Carolina (Dec. 8, 2001). The final shot/heat check came from near the center court logo.
▪ Elston Turner scoring the 40 points that enabled Texas A&M to beat Kentucky 83-71 (Jan. 12, 2013). His performance was a model of efficiency. He took only 19 shots.
▪ Anthony Davis blocking John Henson’s shot in the final seconds to preserve UK’s 73-72 victory over North Carolina (Dec. 3, 2011).
A national championship UK team (2012) shot on the baskets. So did the 2014-15 Cats that won their first 38 games. Likewise for the only three UK players to be picked first overall in an NBA Draft: John Wall (2010), Davis (2012) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015).
There’s precedent for LCC staging such an auction. As part of a renovation in 2000, the old court was cut into souvenirs. “Everything from paperweights to coffee tables,” Owen said.
Brian Littrell of Backstreet Boys fame made a winning bid for a basket and a free-throw lane that year.
The baskets (along with backboards and support structures) will be available for inspection between 2 and 3 p.m. on the next two Fridays behind Rupp Arena at the service entrance.
“We can tell you which goal sat in front of the E-Rupp-tion Zone,” Owen said.
Bids must include a deposit equal to one-third of the bid. The balance on winning bids must be paid by March 10.
Proceeds will go into the Lexington Center Corporation operating budget.
More information will be available at www.lexingtoncenter.com.
With the Kentucky-Kansas game of last weekend still fresh in mind, so, too, is the question of what program has the greatest tradition in college basketball. Of course, UK claims this for itself, and proclaims it before every home game.
Sportswriter Marc Tracy of The New York Times wrote about the Kansas tradition after attending the Jayhawks’ home game against Baylor on Wednesday.
Larry Brown, a former Kansas coach and one of John Calipari’s mentors, was also in Allen Fieldhouse. He spoke to Tracy about tradition.
“It’s a different feeling here than any other place in terms of the history, the people that have come before, the people who have maintained this greatness,” said Brown, who also attended last weekend’s UK-Kansas game in Rupp Arena.
Bill Self, who has a 217-9 home record as Kansas coach, agreed. “I don’t know that anybody’s got as good as what we got,” he said.
Of course, Kentucky can cite the most victories as evidence of its preeminence. UCLA can cite its 11 national championships. Kansas has played in the last 27 NCAA tournaments, which is a record, and will make it 28 straight this year.
Brown likened the Kansas tradition to John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty, Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics and Geno Auriemma’s UConn program.
“I knew Coach Wooden, and Geno, but their situations are entirely different,” Brown told Tracy. “But what Bill’s done is remarkable.”
The Kansas tradition has been tarnished recently. Carlton Bragg Jr. was suspended, then charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. There is an ongoing police investigation of an alleged rape of a 16-year-old in the team dormitory, and The Kansas City Star reported Monday that a university investigation had concluded that sophomore Lagerald Vick most likely hit a female student multiple times in 2015.
Offense and defense
John Calipari recently lamented how his Kentucky players did not have “active hands” while playing defense.
He said that while on the defensive end of the court, “we were more concerned with what we were going to do on offense.”
Georgia Coach Mark Fox cited two reasons a player on any team might be thinking offense while on defense.
The first was the influence of television.
“The only thing they see growing up . . . are offensive highlights on (ESPN) ‘SportsCenter,’” Fox said.
The other factor the Georgia coach cited was the shot clock.
While on the defensive end of the court, “they know that eventually the offense has to do something with the ball,” he said. “They don’t have to play defense (for long).”
Said Fox: “It’s just how the game has evolved.”
Malik Monk is on pace to be the fourth freshman to lead the SEC in scoring, and the first since LSU’s Chris Jackson averaged 30.2 points in the 1988-89 season.
Monk averaged 22.4 points going into Saturday night’s game at Florida. Georgia’s Yante Maten was the SEC’s second-leading scorer at 19.8.
The other freshmen to lead the SEC in scoring were Jim Nolan of Georgia Tech (14.6 in 1945-46) and Bernard King of Tennessee (26.4 in 1974-75).
It was a noticeably slimmer South Carolina Coach Frank Martin who led his team at Rupp Arena two weekends ago.
Martin, 50, has been trying to lose weight. He said he was “touching 296” in April. This was part of what he called his “WWF days.”
Martin’s goal is to weigh 250 pounds.
“I haven’t been there in a long, long time,” he said. “I cut out two things I love: bread and rice.” He also no longer drinks beer or soda pop.
Martin said he works out regularly, lifting weights three days a week and doing cardio exercises like an elliptical machine and stationary bicycle another three days.
Seven knee surgeries in his lifetime made Martin all but eliminate jogging from his routine.
Of the walks he takes with his wife, Anya, Martin said, “When I walk at a faster pace on asphalt, next day my knees are shot.”
His children — Brandon, Amalia and Christian — motivate Martin.
“I have young children,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to stick around and see them grow up.”
It’s a gas
As a new feature accompanying the introduction of UK’s starting lineup, a white gas shoots out from the area above each basket.
Bob Stoops, the technical services manager for Rupp Arena, explained. Officials attached 100 pounds of carbon dioxide at each basket.
If left on continuously, the 100 pounds would shoot the gas into the air for about 2 1/2 minutes, Stoops said.
With the short bursts of about two seconds for each player introduction, Rupp Arena officials expect the 100 pounds to be enough to last throughout the season, Stoops said.
Taking the fifth
Former UK Coach Tubby Smith has led five different schools to the NCAA Tournament: Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas Tech.
Smith could make it a record six schools this year. His Memphis team had a 17-6 record (although only No. 82 in the RPI) going into this weekend.
The only other coach to lead five different schools to the NCAA Tournament is Lon Kruger: Kansas State, Illinois, Florida, UNLV and Oklahoma.
Among the coaches who have led four different schools to the NCAA Tournament are two former UK coaches: Rick Pitino (Boston U., Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) and Eddie Sutton (Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State).
Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland can get to four if the Bulldogs receive a bid this season or in the future. He previously led Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, John Calipari has led three teams to the NCAA Tournament: UMass, Memphis and Kentucky.
To C.M. Newton. He turned 87 on Thursday. . . . To Truman Claytor. He turned 60 on Thursday. . . . To Stan Key. He turned 67 on Thursday. . . . To Malik Monk. He turned 19 on Saturday. . . . To Tai Wynyard. He turns 19 on Sunday (today). . . . To Ramel Bradley. He turns 32 on Sunday (today). . . . To Henry Thomas. He turns 46 on Wednesday.