By Marcus Lee
What's up Big Blue Nation? I'm excited to start this blog off for UK Athletics and CoachCal.com and share a couple of things that are going on around here. It's been a busy start to the year, but I'm having a blast.
Luckily I was able to be here for the summer and kind of get used to the grind of everything. Being here over the summer allowed us to get used to going to classes, going to workouts, back to classes, to tutors and then more workouts. Having said that, I don't think there is anything that could really prepare us for going straight into five classes a week and then workouts and lifting all in one week. It can get pretty hectic pretty fast, and you don't really have a lot of time to adjust to it, but we knew what we were getting into when we decided to come here. We're having a ton of fun doing it.
One of the cool things about classes starting up is seeing everybody on campus. Over the summer it was just kind of us basketball players and other athletes with us. I don't want to say it was boring, but it wasn't what you know Kentucky for, the passion and the fans that I got to experience at Big Blue Madness when I visited here last year.
Now that everybody's back, I love it. You can't walk two steps without people being around you. As a basketball player, everybody is looking at you like, "Oh my god, this guy is so tall." They don't really know who you are yet, but they know you have to be a basketball player because of your height. It's pretty funny. So far it's still been pretty chill with all the fan stuff, but I like it all.
One of the cool things we got to experience one of the first few weeks when we got back was Coach's fantasy camp. We got to see basketball from the perspective of the managers, which was really different for me. I've never worked that hard and had to pay attention that much in my life. You had to prep your team, know who liked water, who liked Gatorade, what Gatorade they liked, have towels ready, and make sure there were no wet spots on the floor so no one got hurt. It was a lot more work than we thought actually went in to being a manager, so that was pretty cool.
Doing the work behind the scenes instead of being the people everyone was watching, and seeing those older guys walk around like they were being us for a week was awesome. I had no idea some of those guys could do some of the stuff they did. I don't know if we could do all of that at their age. It was hard work for them, but they loved every minute of it, and we had a ball just watching them.
My favorite moment of that weekend was probably the overtime game our team won. Me, Sam and James were the managers, and we were probably the most energetic managers in the camp. We were screaming and jumping up and down on every play. The overtime game, one of our guys made a big 3-point shot and we thought the game was over. We were going crazy. And then this other guy makes a half-court shot and we were just like, "Oh ..." But we still won that game, which was great.
Later that week, we met with Steve Shenbaum, a communications expert who helped us with some team-bonding exercises. I'll be honest, we weren't too excited at first about it. Coach Cal was like, "Don't worry, this meeting's going to be fun." We looked at each other like, "A meeting that's going to be fun? Those words don't go together." Hoody kind of looked at us like, "Don't worry, it's pretty cool," and Hoody usually knows what he's talking about.
We walked into the meeting and didn't really know what to expect. Steve came in here excited and energetic and he pulled a few of us up for an activity. We were like, "What did we do?" We did improv, and it was probably the funniest improv I've ever done anywhere. Just seeing all the energy coming out of people on my team that I had never seen before, seeing Julius and Derek do some random improv thing, and then switching up and then the twins are in the car with some random walker, it got intensely funny. It was probably the funniest thing I've done since I've been here.
The meeting definitely helped a lot, especially because we got to see parts of people that we don't normally see. We mostly see the basketball player or the strong lifter. We don't always get to see that other side of them. Like Derek being a random driver or Willie being a beat-boxer and not knowing he could actually beat-box, so he just comes out of nowhere and starts beat-boxing in an invisible car - we don't always get to see that side of our teammates.
Probably the biggest thing I took out of the meeting was a coin exercise he had us do. He told us that we all had coins that make us happy. He told us that we should learn each player's coins. Knowing their coins helps because if they are ever down, you know how to pick them up or how to make their day or how to make sure they don't get down because you know those things that make their day.
One of the things I really love about this place is there is always something to do when we're not playing basketball or going to class. Last week, me, Tod and E.J. went to a UK hockey game. I didn't even know we had a hockey team until Tod asked me to go with him. We got to drop the annual puck to start the season, which was really awesome. We walked out on the ice and were all freaking out because we thought we were going to fall. Tod almost fell, but he caught himself. Meeting all the hockey players and realizing they were all really chill people and cheering them on was really cool.
Of course, if you know me, you know I love volleyball, so I'm always at our girls' volleyball games. I haven't missed a home game yet and I'm always keeping track of the away games on my phone. Now that I go to the games, the other basketball players are starting to go, too. Like E.J. always goes with me. James will go with me. The twins will come with me sometimes, and Tod and Hoody are always there. We have slowly made it a team thing to go to the games and cheer them on.
It's funny because my teammates are always asking me what happened since I played in high school. I'll have to take most of that time to explain one thing that happened, but once I explain that, they'll ask another question about something different. They're like, "Marcus, this is difficult." And I'm like, "It's easier than basketball to explain."
The last thing I wanted to talk about before I get out of here is next week's campout for Big Blue Madness tickets. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Last year, being on the outside of the players looking in as a fan, I thought it was amazing how many people came to the campout and how they swarm each player over and over. I thought it was pretty awesome. The special effects they had during the actual Madness, it kind of just pulled me in really quick to come here.
Now that I get to finally be a part of it, I'm kind of excited and scared at the same because there are going to be so many people. I know how serious this is to our fans, but I'm excited to see how it all works out and to be able to interact with the Big Blue Nation before the season starts. If you see me out there, make sure you say what's up to me.
Alright, I've got to get out of here to get to class. Hasta luego, Big Blue Nation. I'll see you next week.
Follow Marcus on Twitter: @SuperKingMe