According to Kentucky basketball lore, the mere fact of playing against UK inspires opponents. Surely no one can doubt that the Big Blue Nation saw an example of this in Bubba Parham’s inspiring performance in Rupp Arena last month.
Parham, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard for VMI, made 10 three-point shots. That was one shy of a Rupp Arena record. One UK player likened the 10-for-16 shooting from three-point range (and beyond) to Steph Curry.
Yes, Parham said on Thursday, playing Kentucky inspired what was a career-high 35 point performance.
“Playing a big school like that definitely, like, brought the hype to me,” he said, “It made me, like, motivated because I know I’ve been an underdog my entire life. So I’m (thinking) this is another opportunity to show the world on a big stage what I can do.”
When asked to explain what he meant by “brought the hype,” Parham said, “Your adrenaline is pumping so fast. When the game starts, you’re so anxious to see how this stage feels.”
Parham called it “a dream come true.” In this case, his performance against Kentucky made the long-held dream of playing someday in the NBA or in another league professionally seem realistic.
The reaction from family, friends and even UK fans was immediate. The latter flooded his social media accounts with well wishes.
According to another part of Kentucky lore, a player or team that does well against UK is supposed to come down off that high with a thud. But Parham, whose first name is Donald, scored 30 or more points in VMI’s next three games.
However, in the last two games, he’s made only seven of 28 shots (three of 19 from three-point range).
“Teams are keying in on me, figuring out my weaknesses,” he said. Now, he added, he must work with VMI coaches on a counter.
Parham’s performance against Kentucky caught the attention of Monmouth Coach King Rice. As a point guard for North Carolina, he played extraordinarily well against UK.
Rice scored 22 points and got credit for a career-high 13 assists in North Carolina’s 121-110 victory over Kentucky on Dec. 27, 1989. This game was played in Louisville, and came early in Rick Pitino’s first season as UK coach.
Rice recalled then UNC assistant coach Phil Ford’s reaction.
“After the game ..., he came up to me,” Rice said of Ford, who was an iconic UNC player in his day. “He used to call me Indigo. So he goes, ‘Indigo, man, you had Phil Ford numbers tonight.’ And he was, like, ‘But I’m sure you’ll go back to your six points a night next game.’ And he started laughing.”
Rice chuckled as he spoke of that exchange.
This led Rice to salute Parham’s performance against Kentucky.
“That kid had a crazy day,” he said. “That happens against a North Carolina or Kentucky or Duke. Because kids watched them play their whole lives. So they’re taking it as this is my one chance.”
Here’s a head-scratcher: UK fans began heading for the exits early in the second half of Duke’s 118-84 victory on opening night. Yet the game did well in the ratings.
ESPN’s Anna Negron said the UK-Duke game averaged 2,849,000 viewers, which was a five-percent increase from last year’s Game 2 of the Champions Classic: a much more competitive 65-61 Kansas victory over Kentucky.
To explain this seeming paradox, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas cited Duke freshman Zion Williamson. Williamson’s college debut made for compelling viewing, hence the higher ratings. And Bilas assumed UK fans were among those who oohed and aahed while watching Williamson in the first half. So with it getting late, why not go ahead and drive home?
But those watching on television apparently continued to watch the blowout, which surprised ESPN’s crew.
“We left the building in Indianapolis thinking, ‘Well, that’s kind of a bummer,’” Bilas said. “Like, ‘the game wasn’t competitive for most of the game, that’s probably going to affect the rating numbers ...’
“But the rating was huge. And it was huge because of him.”
The same thing happened with Duke’s game against Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Duke-Indiana drew 1,590,000 viewers, made it the most-watched game of this year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Negron said.
Again, Bilas cited Williamson as fueling ratings.
“I’ve been struck by the phenomenon this kid has been,” Bilas said. “Not just by how good he’s been — and he’s been very, very good. But just sort of how he has captured the imagination of so many people.
“I’ve had more requests for tickets from people I know to his games because they want to see him. People are so interested. He’s so different from what you normally see in a player that people want to see it up close.”
Because of space limitations, a story this past week about how human error is a part of sports and coaching did not include a famous example.
It involved the 2008 national championship game between Memphis and Kansas. Memphis, which led by nine points with barely two minutes left, was ahead 63-60 with 10 seconds to go.
As Pete Thamel, then of The New York Times reported, Memphis Coach John Calipari wanted Derrick Rose to foul Mario Chalmers before a three-point shot could be taken. But Rose did not bump Chalmers hard enough for a foul to be called.
Chalmers made a three-point shot, which sent the game into overtime. Kansas won 75-68.
“I take full responsibility,” Calipari said after the game. “You’re supposed to win that game. I’m disappointed in myself. I look at that and say, ‘We should have won that game.’”
During Thursday’s news conference, John Calipari expressed surprise that Kentucky rates 352th among 353 Division I teams in experience. That’s according to stats savant Ken Pomeroy.
“I don’t know how they do it because of Reid,” he said, referring to graduate transfer Reid Travis.
This prompted someone to suggest that only experience with the coach at that school counts. In other words, Travis would count as a freshman since this is his first season playing for Calipari.
Not true, Pomeroy said in an email.
“Reid counts as a senior,” Pomeroy wrote. “It has nothing to do with the coach.”
Earlier this year, Pomeroy explained that by Kentucky’s one-and-done standards, a team with three sophomores and a graduate transfer would seem blessed with a wealth of experience. But even with Travis, a UK team made up of only freshmen and sophomores rates next to last in experience.
Congratulations to Furman. Last week saw the Paladins cracked The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in program history. Furman was No. 25.
“That’s something the entire school and entire program are proud of,” assistant coach Dwight Perry said.
That name might ring a bell. He was a walk-on at Kentucky and is a cousin of former UK player Bobby Perry.
The ambition to be a coach led him to be a walk-on at UK. “If I wanted to coach, why wouldn’t I go to Kentucky?” he said. “What better place is there than that?”
And congratulations to Dwight Perry. He and his wife of two years, Brittany, are expecting their first child in March. Their son’s name will be Dwight Perry III. “We’ll call him Trey,” the father-to-be said.
Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall’s 90th birthday brought a flood of well wishes.
Said Hall’s longtime friend Terry McBrayer, “He had to take his phone off the hook.”
There were at least two people named James Dickey in Rupp Arena. Besides UNC Greensboro center James Dickey, there was a Committee of 101 usher named James Dickey.
The latter, who has been a Committee of 101 usher for 28 seasons, recalled that Eddie Sutton’s staff at UK included an assistant named James Dickey. Incidentally, both the usher and the coach are married to women named Betty.
To Sam Malone. He turned 27 on Thursday. ... To Eric Bledsoe. He turns 29 on Sunday (today). ... To Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan. He turns 87 on Sunday (today). ... To Cameron Mills. He turns 43 on Monday. ... To Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson. He turns 59 on Wednesday.