Because we are Kentucky, that’s why. Maybe I should back up a minute. “We” hasn’t always been a Kentuckian. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the change over happened. Up until the last couple of years, if you had asked me where home was, I would have said “I live in Kentucky but home is Texas.” I’m a transplant as my husband calls me, but at least I no longer feel like a foreigner- yup that’s what I was called when I first moved to this little slice of heaven sixteen years ago. What does any of that have to do with the NBA draft? Nothing except that three of the Kentucky freshman who will soon be making that decision, hail from The Lonestar State. In fact, Julius Randle is from Dallas and I was born there, so that makes us like brother and sister right? Um, except I’m technically old enough to be his mom…but that’s of no importance here.
So why have I chosen the NBA draft as my first blog? Because since the championship game, that’s all I’ve been hearing about. Plus I’m still reeling in from the loss. I wish I could say, just like the rest of the state; however there is this line drawn from about the Covington area straight down, dividing the Bluegrass into halves. Equal or not, I don’t know and honestly don’t care. I’m not a Louisville hater. Maybe it’s because I’m a “transplant” and just don’t get the whole Kentucky-Louisville rivalry. The way I see it, if the Wildcats aren’t going to win, by all means, I sure hope the Cardinals do. We all represent Kentucky in my book.
So who’s going? Who’s staying? And does it really matter? I’ve heard up to possibly seven Wildcats will enter the draft, all of which are freshman except Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. The public’s opinion varies across the state and nation about the ethics of Kentucky recruiting players that leave and go to the NBA after a year of college. While I’m all for them staying in school and finishing up, I know that’s not an easy decision to make. Do I want them back? Definitely! Not only because I want another chance to bring home a title either. I think some kind of pride comes from being able to say “Hey, I got a degree in…..,” but I also know that college isn’t everyone dream (I’m already seeing this from a 12 year old and hope that I can gear him back toward academics). Now I know this is where people pipe in and say that it’s wrong to commit to a college only to leave after the first year and that it’s equally wrong for the college to recruit these players for reason’s other than their combined athletic and academic skills. I see it as a business deal. They come to us to play (hopefully winning a championship) and we pay them by giving them a scholarship. It’s no different than someone taking a job that they really don’t want, hoping that it gives them a foot in the door for something else they want to do. I’ve done it…most people have. If these kids use it as a stepping stone to attain their ultimate goal, then fine by me.
Ultimately the choice is theirs and I wish they were allowed some breathing room to think about it, but that’s not going to happen. I’m glad Julius Randle addressed the rumors. He didn’t confirm or deny, just said it was a decision he hadn’t yet made. We all expect him to go and if he does, best of luck to him and all the others. They worked their asses off this season even through all the scrutiny they recieved. Coming in, they were Kentucky’s dream team. Everyone expected big things and then a few losses came (okay, maybe more than a few) and suddenly no one expected much. Then tournament time and they started winning. And winning. And winning. I’m proud of these guys. More so that most of them are so young. They are essentially kids and to have handled themselves they way they did, I couldn’t be prouder to be a Kentuckian. Which brings me to my point. Why do we care? Because we don’t look at these guys as college athletes or soon to be pro-ballers. We see them as our family-who doesn’t want to claim one of the Harrison twins, with their infectious smiles as their own? They are no different than John Wall and all the others. Our love of Kentucky basketball is lived through them. So to the ones that intend to enter into the draft, best of luck. It was a great season, but know if you decide to stay, we’ll gladly keep you around.