Chants of “Bol Bol!” and “Zion!” and “We want you!” filled the air outside Rupp Arena a few minutes before the start of Friday night’s Big Blue Madness.
Kentucky basketball fans lined the “blue carpet” leading into the arena hoping to get a glimpse of their Wildcats as they walked into Rupp for the season-opening spectacle. Before the UK players showed up, a gaggle of five-star recruits appeared.
Wildcats assistant coach Joel Justus led the group of prospects — including top seniors Bol Bol, Darius Garland and Zion Williamson — to a spot behind the blue carpet that was set up for former and current players. The recruits watched — and the fans chanted their names — as they waited for this season’s team to show.
Williamson and Bol are the No. 2 and No. 3 overall recruits nationally in the class of 2018, respectively, and Garland is a top-10 player and one of the best point guards in the country. They’re all in town for their official visits this weekend.
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The trio posed for photos, signed basketballs and chatted with fans before the start of Madness.
UK’s guest list also included James Wiseman — the No. 1 player nationally in the class of 2019 — as well as five-star juniors Keion Brooks, D.J. Jeffries and Tyrese Maxey, top sophomores Jaemyn Brakefield, Jalen Johnson, and highly touted freshman Zion Harmon.
The 10 visiting recruits followed UK’s assistant coaches to the back entrance of Rupp Arena after the Kentucky players arrived and prepared to take in the Madness show.
UK commitment Immanuel Quickley was also expected to attend Big Blue Madness, but his AAU team director told the Herald-Leader on Friday morning that he would be unable to make the trip due to a conflict with his high school team’s schedule.