WASHINGTON — The Big Blue Nation invaded the East Room of the White House Friday afternoon as President Barack Obama honored the 2012 National Championship team in front of a packed room filled with cheering fans, family members and friends.
Obama especially commended the players' ability to play as a team and said because of that ability, they were able to "do something special right away."
"My understanding is when you recruited these players, Coach started off by asking them some simple questions: 'Do you want to win a national title?' The answer was 'yes.' 'Can you do it by yourself?' The answer was 'no,'" Obama said. "You took a roster with six former All Americans and got them to do something even more impressive, and that was share the ball.
"Nobody averaged more than nine shots a game. If you didn't play defense, you didn't play. And as a result, the Wildcats started winning. At one point they won 24 straight and spent the final eight weeks of the season rated No. 1, they cruised through the tournament, (and) trailed for less than 10 minutes total before beating Kansas in front of 70,000 fans at the Superdome."
Obama gave a shoutout to Anthony Davis as a prime example of a team player.
"Nobody's ever seen somebody who didn't have a lot of field goals and yet still controlled the game, still ended up being the most valuable player," Obama said.
He later poked fun at the Chicago native, saying he had "grown an inch since he got to the White House," and recalled crossing paths with the 6'10 forward a time before.
"I have to say that after the game, I called the team and I mentioned to Anthony that I had actually been to his school ... in Chicago when I was still a senator, and I spoke to kids there. And he told me 'Yea I was there,'" Obama said as the crowd laughed. "I didn't recognize him, he looked a little different."
Eloy Vargas and Darius Miller got official graduation congratulations from the president, and he commended them for their community service in the Lexington community as well.
"A whole bunch of these guys are going on to the NBA. Who knows, one of them might end up here in Washington," he said as the crowd cheered.
Coach John Calipari, speaking after the president, said the team was honored and humbled to be at the White House.
"This team, when they won that championship on that court in New Orleans, they were jumping up and down, not saying 'We did it, we won!' They were saying 'We're going to the White House! We're going to the White House!'" Calipari said, drawing laughs from the crowd. "Because they wanted to meet you.
"I'd like our seniors, Darius Miller, to give you his No. 1 jersey that he wore for four years, Eloy Vargas has a ball that the team has signed (Vargas tossed the ball to the president), and the guy from your home city would like to present you with a 2012 national championship ring, and I might say, it is the first."
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