Editor’s note: Jenny Jones is a Lincoln County and Centre College graduate now living in Washington. D.C., and a life-long UK fan.
Did I have the privilege of watching one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, Adolph Rupp, rule the sidelines for the Wildcats? The answer is No. Was I able to experience the exciting history of Tom Payne becoming the first African American player to sign with the University of Kentucky in 1969 after much racial controversy daunting the program? Unfortunately not. Do I remember watching Laettner’s shot rip through the net at the buzzer in the 1992 East Regional final? Can’t say I do.
One cannot deny that those who have lived through those historical moments in Wildcat history must be ecstatic about this year’s team. Because of the great history and tradition of Wildcat basketball, my generation is able to fully take pride and feel overwhelmed by this experience. That is what makes this year’s trip to the Final Four so special to all those in the great nation of basketball, the Big Blue Nation.
This Final Four is really the first time where the new generation is united with the old generation behind a team that is the favorite to win it all, where UK hoops is what it should be, the national powerhouse.
This Kentucky team is extra special because it is not fueled by a group of die hard fans mindlessly uniting behind a basketball powerhouse, but it is a group of fans uniting behind a team that makes them remember what is so special about the game to begin with. Those special moments that make the game what it is.
Those moments when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist lights up the arena with that smile that makes everyone watching feel like a kid again. When Anthony Davis wraps his impressive arms around Brian Long after a big shot and you can tell in his eyes that the first man loves the 12th man like his brother. Those moments when Darius Miller falls to the floor after stepping over to take a charge and when he “comes to” all he can see are the four other men in white jerseys standing above him with their arms out.
That moment when Marquis Teague passes up the drive to give Terrence Jones the open dunk. That selfless ball that every Cat plays in order to make the others on the court better. The fire in the players eyes when Coach Cal is teaching them, an intensity that assures Big Blue Nation that this team is following the leader and cares about nothing else but learning and getting better.
The same passion that Cal’s Cats have is what is “fueling” this year’s Cats fans. Our passion is just an overflow of the passion we see from the source itself, our team. As a competitor, one who truly loves the sport, and a bleeder of blue, this team reminds me of the simple joy of this game, and that transcends generations’ different experiences and unites us all back to the beginning.
This team is special. Kentucky basketball is special. I remember Tayshaun Prince draining five 3-pointers ina row against North Carolina to open the game at home, and the 2002-03 team going undefeated in the SEC, and I remember when Cats’ fans weren’t as excited about basketball because we didn’t have 30-win seasons. Of course, last year’s Final Four run was unbelievable to watch, but this year is my chance to really understand and embrace our long time tradition: what it means to be expected to win and achieve those expectations.
This weekend, I will leave my home in Washington, D.C., and I will come back to my true home, back to Big Blue Nation. I want to experience these special moments with those who love this team. I want to cheer this team on with the fans who grew up alongside me. And most importantly, I want to watch this game with my family. They are the ones who taught me what it means to be a Wildcat. Watching the national championship.