Totally out of character for me, I know. I'm not big on expressing lots of emotion per se, but gee oh, when the CATS are on I just can't help it. It's like I'm possessed.
For the past two years I've screamed at the TV out of frustration and for the most part, bitter disappointment...
"What the HECK are you doing Billy G?!?!"
"Porter, I hope you fall and break your leg!!!"
"GIVE THE BALL TO PATTERSON!!!!"
"I don't believe this. I don't freakin' believe it. Billy G. do you even realize you're coaching a basketball game right now??"
Stuff like that. I've yelled and cried and moaned and for the past two years it didn't do an ounce of good. Not one stinkin' iota. Games were, on the whole, painful and unenjoyable and left me feeling downright depressed by the state of our basketball program.
My, my, what a difference a year can make. Have you seen the CATS this year? Finally, for the first time in a long time, we are good again. In fact, we are really, really good. John Wall is unreal. I know I've never seen a player like him in all my years of watching college basketball (they compare him to Jason Kidd who was a little before my time). He's so darn fast! I don't believe once he makes up his mind to go to the basket there's another guy out there who can even keep up--much less stop him. Kentucky hasn't had a point guard worth his weight in salt in the past decade as far as I'm concerned, including Rondo--Yeah, I said it, so I'm personally a big time fan of John Wall.
(Side note: A lot of KY people may get mad here but I never liked Rondo. He got a lot of hype when he came to Kentucky too and yeah, he was quick and could handle the ball well and made some crazy good defensive plays. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it. But Rondo never cared about anyone but Rondo and regardless of his ball handling abilities, I think he absolutely sucked as a point guard. He couldn't run the offense! Granted, I didn't think Tubby's offense was worth running most of the time either but still, crappy or not, it was Rondo's job to run it and he didn't. He didn't make plays, he didn't make things happen, and he didn't get the ball where it needed to go. End of story).
Jonh Wall does all of those things. He pushes the ball, he moves it around on offense, he understands the game and he stays for the most part, composed. He is flashy and his speed does lend itself to letting him get a little sloppy and out of control sometimes. Seven turnovers per game is too many for a point guard for sure. But good grief, does he make up for it! And truthfully, even though I've never been a fan of the "flashy" player, I'd take that over what we've had the past twelve years any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I like John Wall because even with all the attention he's getting and all the hype surrounding him, he goes out and plays hard and from all appearances, has a really good attitude about it.
Jumping off the John Wall bandwagon for a second, can we just talk about Patrick Patterson? I love this guy. I think he's absolutely my favorite player to come along in a long, long time. He's so consistent. He is money in the paint and when he gets it under the basket there're not many who can stop him. I like his attitude, I like his style of play, I like that he loves his team and came back for his junior year instead of entering the draft so that he can graduate and have one more chance to lead Kentucky to a title. That's awesome. He's awesome.Now that I've slobbered all over myself to praise the Cats I do feel the need to bring things back to earth and be a little bit and be honest. Are the Cats without their problems? No way. They're young and they make way too many turnovers and silly fouls and as Coach Cal said last night, sometimes he looks out there and wonders if any of these guys have ever actually played basketball before. We lean way too heavily on Wall (its fine that he's our star but we need to get to the point where we don't fall apart at the seams if he leaves the game) and we don't utilize Patterson nearly enough still. We miss too many free throws and our defense is hit or miss at best. We don't have anyone who can shoot consistently from outside.
Those are all things though, I feel completely confident we will work out over the next few months. The young guys will get more confident and as such (hopefully) more consistent and less out-of-control. Coach Cal will work on the team's defense and free throw shooting, and the more time they play together, the better the Cats will get at not depending so heavily on Wall.
For the first time in a long time, Kentucky basketball is fun again. Those of us in the Big Blue Nation are just beside ourselves with excitement. We're 9-0 right now and you know, I'm sure we'll eventually lose our fair share of games and who knows what will happen come March...but I think I speak for all of us when I say Kentucky basketball is back and we're absolutely loving it.