UK Men's Basketball

Madness goers set up camp

Rick Pasley and his son Brandon got up at 2 a.m. to drive from their home in Cincinnati.

Pasley wanted to be near the front of Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday, the first day University of Kentucky officials permit people to camp out for tickets to Big Blue Madness.

To pass the time until Saturday's ticket distribution, Pasley brought packets of photographs that show his 2007 white Mustang. More precisely, to show the $15,000 worth of customizing he's had done to make the car a UK basketball billboard on wheels.

"Seven time national champion" painted on the side. "Big Blue Nation" on the blue-tinted back windshield. UK logos on each seat. Blue interior lights. A wildcat baring his claws on the hood.

Pasley didn't drive the car to Lexington. It's in the shop for installation of a remote control device on the car's horn, which is — naturally — a cat's growl.

As he showed the photographs, Pasley said, "You can tell I'm a UK nut."

As regularly as dogwoods in the spring, it's the season when nuttiness blooms around Memorial Coliseum. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 77 tents covered the area near the front door.

"Wildcat" Wally Clark, whose desire to be first in line once drove him to camp out 39 days for Madness tickets, was there. Strapped to a wheelchair, he motored around the tents renewing acquaintances.

Clark, 57, has high hopes for the 2008-09 season.

"I'd say we're going to lose six games, no more than six," he said. "But he may surprise us."

Of course, "he" is UK Coach Billy Gillispie, who has not visited the campers. By the coaches' recruiting calendar, it's the time of year to make in-home visits.

But the campers have seen the UK players. Freshman Darius Miller made a winning impression on Linda Heagen, who came with her husband, Joe, from Middletown, Ohio.

"He personally came over and wanted to shake our hands rather than us shaking his hand," said Joe, a retired teacher who grew up in Morgan County. "So he's made a friend in my wife."

Rick Brizendine, 45, who runs the wildcatnation.net Web site, was first in one of the two lines snaking from the Coliseum doors.

He came from Owensboro with his twin sons Kyle and Derek, who were named for former UK players Kyle Macy and Derrick Hord. Brizendine's then wife agreed to a tribute to Hord but she did not like the spelling of his first name.

"I wanted Kyle and Rex," said Brizendine in reference to Rex Chapman. "She said she didn't want a son named after a dog."

Subsequently, the Brizendine's divorced, not necessarily because of the names but because the wife kept a secret from her husband. She was a closet Tennessee fan.

"That was a lot of it," Brizendine said of the split. "I never knew she was UT till after we married."

But marital strife contrasted with the scene outside Memorial Coliseum. Harmony, understanding, sympathy and trust in Big Blue basketball abounded.

Pasley, originally from Estill County, has been in this line every year except the one his wife insisted he take his then 4-year-old son trick-or-treating on Halloween.

When asked why he keeps coming back, Pasley, the self-described UK nut, gave a precise, poetic answer that cut to the heart of the matter.

He extended an arm toward the tents and said, "This is love of Kentucky basketball."

UK in hoops marathon

The Kentucky-North Carolina game will be part of a marathon of basketball ESPN plans to televise as a way to begin a new season.

The game between the Cats and Tar Heels (which tips off at 9 p.m. EST) will cap what ESPN is billing as its College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon for Nov. 18.

The coverage involves nine games beginning at midnight on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360.com.

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