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White board to video board: New intro gives Cats lift before possible season-turning win

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Before practice on Tuesday, players were summoned to individually read sets of lines in front of a camera.

" the biggest game on our schedule," Ryan Harrow said.

" the biggest game on our schedule," Willie Cauley-Stein repeated.

Each player had something to say based around that theme. Each player had to say something that would be shown at Rupp Arena to rally fans behind the Wildcats for Wednesday's game against Vanderbilt. What exactly the footage was to be used for, they weren't sure.

The only thing Cauley-Stein was sure of was that he felt "silly" doing it.

"I just got out of class an hour before that and I was fresh off a nap and I was just like, 'Man, are you serious?' " Cauley-Stein said. " 'I gotta try to do this with emotion? You can't catch me after I wake up?' I felt like I was goofy when I was doing it."

He felt a whole lot less goofy when he saw the finished product (see the video above) along with his teammates and 22,287 fans in Rupp just before UK's starters were introduced.

"Our video guys, they're good at what they do because, honestly, I got so excited after we saw it," Cauley-Stein said. "I started like tearing up I was so excited."

If Cauley-Stein knew how it came together, he would likely have an even greater appreciation for those responsible for creating the concept of the video, directing it, filming it and editing it.

Before Tuesday morning, not a single word had been spoken about changing the old intro video - the one that spliced highlights and footage of players in uniform over the Glitch Mob Remix of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. But in a meeting of athletic department staff at 10:30 a.m. ET, ideas for how to energize the home crowd during the season's stretch run were discussed. A new intro video became the goal before long, but time was of the essence because filming would have to take place in just three hours.

The concept of UK's new intro video began to take shape on this white board. (UK Athletics) The concept of UK's new intro video began to take shape on this white board. (UK Athletics)
Executive Associate Athletics Director for External Operations DeWayne Peevy and Assistant Athletics Director of Marketing and Licensing Nathan Schwake quickly shaped the message they wanted the video to send and spelled it out on a white board. Their goal was to spell out in no uncertain terms that every game left is the most important of the season, starting with Vandy. Schwake and Director of Sports Video Shane Fannin then refined the message and crafted lines for the players.

After Fannin and Part-Time Editor Derek Kirk filmed each Wildcat at 1:30 p.m., they had all the footage they would need and it was then turned over Production Coordinator Greg Gorham. With Kirk adding effects, the video took shape just after noon on game day but the work was far from finished. All the way up until 6:30 p.m. - just 90 minutes before tipoff - the sports video staff worked feverishly before handing the finished product off to Rupp personnel and eagerly awaiting fans' response.

After injured star Nerlens Noel closed the video by saying, "Let's fight - like Wildcats," they had their answer. The Rupp crowd - especially students in the eRUPPtion zone - roared in approval. It was the kind of reaction that those behind the video had hoped for, but what they didn't quite expect was the effect it had on the players.

"I think it got us boosted," said Cauley-Stein, who rode that boost to a career-high 20-point performance. "After talking to Julius (Mays) and stuff, that me hyped and the music was just--everything was just crazy."

Archie Goodwin - who scored in double figures for the first time in almost two weeks as UK notched a crucial 74-70 win - saw the video as a perfect illustration of the Cats' mentality over the season's final weeks.

"It was just, we're starting over," Goodwin said. "We're missing a key person, this is just another road block that was in our way and we feel like that was another way of us showing that we're turning over a new leaf, starting over like it was the beginning of the season for us. It was a great video, I actually liked it better than the last one, but it was just a video about motivation, and we all liked it."

In the days following a blowout loss at Tennessee, the Cats held team meetings, individual meetings with John Calipari and even a players-only meeting. On the eve of the Vanderbilt game, UK even played a game of dodgeball in an effort to inject some fun back into the season. But after all of that, it was an intro that went from a brainstormed idea in a meeting to a white board concept to the video boards in Rupp in less than a day and a half that helped give the Cats and their fans the edge they needed.

"Every game is our biggest game on the schedule, I think, because we need to finish the season off and make a statement against all the rest of the teams that we have," Harrow said.

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