UK Basketball: Kentucky's annual game in Louisville could be in doubt
Kentucky coach John Calipari hopes UK fans will turn out for tonight¿s game in Louisville to show that the Wildcats should continue to play an annual game in Freedom Hall. (Clay Jackson)
However, Calipari is also reminding fans, especially those without season tickets, that this is a chance to see No. 2 Kentucky play in person.
“We’re excited about going in to Louisville and having our fans there. I’m hearing there are tickets left but they are up top so I would just tell our fans it is your chance to see us in person, get out there and get to the game,” said Calipari Monday.
Kentucky annually plays a game in Louisville’s Freedom Hall because of the large contingent of Wildcat fans in the state’s largest city. In recent years, though, attendance at the game has dropped and could put the annual game in jeopardy.
“People have to come to it and make it something they want us to do. It’s hard to say, ‘Well, get us UCLA in there. Come on.’ You just can’t. I know this, (Arkansas) Little Rock at home would have 24,000 if it’s here in Lexington,” Calipari said.
“We want to continue to do it and we want to reach out to our fans and give everybody an opportunity. This is an opportunity for people that aren’t season ticket holders. Can’t get to a game? Here’s a game. Let’s go. Get in there and see it. A great thing about our fans is that they come to see us play. They are not just there to see the other team. They are there to see us play.”
Homecoming: Louisville native Twany Beckham, who became eligible in mid-December after transferring from Mississippi State a year ago, was hoping to get a little help from teammates to come up with the 20 or so tickets he needs for tonight’s game.
"Yeah, my whole family is going to be there and asking for tickets, but I am trying to put that to the side and focus on the main goal, which is going up there and getting a win,” Beckham said Monday. “I¿am hoping all my teammates will give me their tickets. Any ticket I¿can get I will be happy to take.”
Beckham made a quick trip home after UK beat Louisville on Saturday and got a different reception than he expected.
“I was surprised that a lot of people were happy for me and showed me a lot of love and nobody really said anything crazy to me. I figured going back to my hometown after we just beat Louisville that people would be mad at me and say stuff,” Beckham said. “But I did go home in neutral colors.”
Beckham said he grew up a Kentucky fan and knows how big UK basketball is in Louisville.
“It is a big deal. This is a basketball state and you have your ¿Louisville and Kentucky fans, but Kentucky basketball is a big deal to a lot of people,” Beckham said.
He went to prep school one year before going to Mississippi State. He was not offered a scholarship out of high school or prep school by Kentucky. Even though he admits UK¿is his “dream school,” he also said he was not offended that Kentucky did not offer a scholarship.
“A lot has happened. For me, I just have to stay focused no matter what has gone on in my life. I am happy where I am at right now.¿I am where I¿always wanted to be at my dream school. I believe everything happens for a reason and I¿am just happy here at the university,” Beckham said.
“I looked at a few places when I left Mississippi State, but Kentucky was my main goal and I¿am just happy and thank God that it worked out.¿I wanted to get back home and knew my family would back me up.¿I always grew up a Kentucky fan. Kentucky never recruited me but I was not disappointed. I¿took a year in prep school and had a lot of big-time programs recruiting me in prep school. I was not worried about Kentucky not recruiting me. Everything happens for a reason and whatever that reason was was fine with me.”
He talked a lot with UK assistant coach Kenny Payne when he left Mississippi State before he came to Kentucky knowing his playing time likely would be limited due to UK’s overall talent.
“He was telling me this is not the place for everybody and that you have to come in with the mindset that you want to achieve and coach Cal expects a lot. I wanted to come here and I¿got the chance. That’s all anyone can ask for or expect,” Beckham said.
Honored: Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week. Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds in wins over Lamar and fourth-ranked Louisville last week. He had 24 points and 19 rebounds against Louisville.
Kidd-Gilchrist downplayed the significance of the award Monday.
“I don’t really care. I just want to win. I’m just playing my game,” he said.
Another Kentucky freshman, center Anthony Davis, was named SEC Freshman of the Week. Davis averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the Wildcats’ two wins.