Julius Randle is averaging a team-high 17.8 points and 12.0 rebounds 10 games into his college career. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the 2013-14 season, UKathletics.com and CoachCal.com will be here to serve as your primary source for Kentucky basketball coverage. From feature stories to game coverage, video and more, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things UK basketball. However, nobody can paint the picture quite like the people who create the artwork. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the players who make the stories will share in writing a season-long blog to share with the Big Blue Nation their experiences, their thoughts and how the year develops in their own eyes. This week, Julius Randle talks about his trip back home to Dallas, the visit to New York and more.
What's up, Big Blue Nation? I've done this kind of thing before for USA Today back in high school, so I'm glad to be doing it again.
We've had a lot going on lately, so I'll start by talking about our trip to New York to play Providence. I enjoyed it a lot. My first time there was last year for the Jordan game but we didn't get to spend a lot of time in the city. I told my mom we have to come back on vacation or something one day, so to be able to go back there and have a day to walk around the city and enjoy it was a cool and neat experience.
Since we flew up there a day early, we had a little bit on that Saturday to ourselves to explore the city. We walked around to a couple stores. We all wanted to shop but we're college kids so we don't really have money like that. We just walked around the city with each other and that was just a neat experience in itself. It was kind of like team bonding.
We got to do some sightseeing while we were there too with Coach Cal guiding the tour from the front of our bus. I'm pretty sure he's been to New York a lot and has a lot of experience with it, so it's kind of cool to get the tour from him even when there were so many buildings. That's Coach Cal for you.
One of the landmarks he pointed out was the 9/11 Memorial and the World Trade Center, which was pretty eye-opening for all of us. I remember exactly where I was on Sept. 11. We didn't hear about it much at school, but I remember coming home and watching the news with my mom. I was only 6 at the time, so I just thought somebody had lost control of the planes and they had crashed into the building. I didn't really know what was going on. But I do remember exactly the day and where I was.
I think the big thing with Coach Cal is he's not just trying to make us basketball players. He's trying to make us mature and make us better people and better men. He's not only going to show us the basketball aspect of life. He's going to show us everything. He's a well-rounded person, so he's definitely helping us out.
Once we got ready to play Providence, the Barclays Center kind of had a different feel from the Jordan game, but it was still pretty cool just to play in a New York atmosphere in Brooklyn and to play in that new arena. We saw Marcus' picture from the Jordan game in the hallway and got the win too, so it was a good night.
I keep getting asked about the ice storm in my hometown last week, so let me just tell you, that was not normal. Dallas in the summer had about 20-something days of 100-plus degrees, so that's not normal. It will snow every year, but that was terrible. I don't know what that was. That's what kind of made me feel like, "I know I'm home, but am I back home?"
What did make it feel like home was getting to see all my family. The place where we were staying was a 45-minute drive without the ice from my house because Dallas is so spread out it's ridiculous, but a lot of my immediate family and my god-family and my mom, they stayed at the hotel. I got to spend a lot of time with my mom and hang out with all of them. After the game, I got to see them a lot. So it was pretty fun even though the ice kind of ruined the mood a little bit.
Randle and his teammates met President George W. Bush while in Dallas. (Photo by Grant Miller/Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center)
Even though we had some delays, we made it in time for dinner at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. I got to hand a jersey to President Bush and meet him. He doesn't act stuck-up or anything. He's just a normal guy. To meet him was kind of a surreal thing to know that that guy had so much power, but he's just a normal person. It says a lot about the person he is.
It was fun making that trip with the women's team, but four overtimes? Oh my goodness. They showed a lot of heart and I was happy that they won, but I wish it would have ended a lot sooner. At the end of regulation, we went out there and I was all excited to play in front of my family. Then it's overtime. Then we go back into the locker room. Then we go back out and Baylor hits a 3. Finally I just decided to put on my headphones and wait until someone told me it was over because I thought I might be bad luck.
Pregame for Baylor was a lot different from what we're used to, but I still thought you might be interested to hear how I get ready for a normal game. We have a pregame shoot-around five or six hours before the game and then we eat a pregame meal together four hours before the game.
Depending on whether it's a home game, I go to the team chapel. That's just something that's important to me that I spend time hearing God's Word before I go out and play. Then we get there at least two hours before the game. It's my time to listen to my music, warm up, get a good stretch in, meet with Coach twice before the game and then go out and play.
Back to Baylor, losing made the trip home feel a lot longer. At least I had my mom there, but it was tough to know that we lost a game that clearly we had no business losing. The good thing is we knew what the problem was. We know we didn't play hard enough. We know we didn't defend well enough. We didn't run the offense how we were supposed to. We didn't run the floor and get easy baskets. We know that they, at the end of the day, just played harder than us and that's just totally unacceptable.
We were just ready to attack practice the next day and get better from that. If we didn't know why we lost, then it would have sat on me a lot more. But we had the answers to why we lost right after and went back to work.
If we would have had a week after we lost, that would have sucked because I'm ready to play constantly, constantly, constantly. Having that Boise game pretty much right after and then Coach challenging me to play harder definitely was a big help.
It was good being back in Lexington because there's no better place than playing in Rupp, but I also love going on the road and having that feeling of everybody against you. Playing North Carolina this weekend especially, we're the two of winningest programs in the country. The greatest player of all time played there. Hall of Fame coach in Roy Williams, who constantly gets great players.
They're a great team and ultimately as a competitor you just look forward to that challenge. I can't wait to actually get there, get ready to play. I love big games like this and I think big games like this bring the best out of me.
You guys have gotten to know me pretty well as a basketball player, but I'm super laidback and a lot different off the court than I am on the court. I like to shop, eat and I don't really like doing much. If I'm away from the basketball floor, I like to recuperate, rest and hang out with my friends and teammates. I don't really like going out, running wild and stuff like that.
With practice, games, school and finals coming up soon, I haven't gotten much time to rest, so getting a break for the holidays will be nice. I hope everyone has a good Christmas and a great New Year's too.
UK has led the nation in men's basketball attendance each of the past eight seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Over the coming months, Cat Scratches will be providing a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of UK Athletics with an exclusive mini-series. For the first installment, we explore how attendance is measured for each men's basketball game in Rupp Arena.
For eight straight seasons, Kentucky has led the nation in men's basketball attendance. In each of those seasons, an average of at least 22,000 packed Rupp Arena.
So how do UK officials determine the announced attendance for any given game?
It starts with the number of tickets distributed for each game, which includes season tickets, student tickets and single-game tickets. That number -- calculated around halftime - for the last six years has been then communicated to DeWayne Peevy, UK's deputy director of athletics and men's basketball administrator.
Working in conjunction with the primary media contact, Associate Director of Media Relations John Hayden, and event manager, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Event Operations and Championships Kevin Saal, Peevy estimates attendance by combining the amount of tickets distributed with the more than 1,000 credentialed attendees at each game. That number includes players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, dance team members, staff, media and workers.
No NCAA guidelines are in place for calculating attendance, but most of UK's peers use tickets distributed when determining estimated attendance.
Playing a very limited role in UK's process is the actual amount of tickets scanned at entry.
The primary reason for scanning at entry is to ensure event security and that each patron has a valid ticket for the game, but many attendees are not counted in this process. Rupp Arena officials also use scan counts to determine when fans arrive for the purposes of stocking concessions and staffing the venue.
Because scan counts do not provide an accurate picture of how many are actually in attendance, UK does not record these counts from past games.
To provide an example, let's inspect how UK arrived at the estimated attendance for its last home game vs. Eastern Michigan. For that game, there were 21,721 total season, student and single-game tickets distributed. Adding in an estimated 1,000 credentialed attendees in Rupp, the attendance was announced as 22,721.
EJ Floreal is in his first season as a member of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the 2013-14 season, UKathletics.com and CoachCal.com will be here to serve as your primary source for Kentucky basketball coverage. From feature stories to game coverage, video and more, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things UK basketball. However, nobody can paint the picture quite like the people who create the artwork. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the players who make the stories will share in writing a season-long blog to share with the Big Blue Nation their experiences, their thoughts and how the year develops in their own eyes. This week, EJ Floreal writes about his Blue-White Scrimmage dunk that had everyone buzzing, accepting the challenge of playing at UK and learning one of his teammates is a distant relative.
I know I'm still hearing about it, so I have to start out talking about that dunk in the Blue-White Scrimmage. If you watched it, I actually stuttered. I was kind of nervous to back-cut because I thought that maybe Willie would make a good move and then I'd just be in the way, but I went and back-cut. He threw me the ball and by that time I was just thinking, "I'm going to dunk it at Rupp."
When I went up, I didn't know who was in front of me. I actually thought it was Dominique or something so I was like, "I'll be fine." But when I landed, it kind of seemed like everyone breathed in and then exhaled. Usually I scream after a dunk but I couldn't scream. I was just in shock when I saw it was Julius and Aaron was over there, eyes wide open. Alex couldn't believe it. KP (assistant coach Kenny Payne) looked right at me and he was just smiling. Hoody went crazy.
I've dunked on some people, but no one that big, not like a 6-9, 250-pound dude. I didn't expect that at all. When I came to the ground, I didn't know if I should mug or flex or something, so I just looked shocked. Just watching the video and seeing people's reactions on the court and on the sidelines and even the fans, you could just tell that everyone was really shocked.
After the game, we all talked to Julius about it except for me. I kept my mouth shut because I knew he would come back at me the first opportunity he got. Andrew was giving him the most. He was talking so much. He kept telling me, "You should be going crazy. Stop trying to act all humble." I kept saying, "It's just a play, it's just a play." They were all looking at Julius like, "Rise and shine, Ju." He kept smiling. He couldn't really do anything because it did happen, but he just smiled and shook his head a lot.
Just in the locker room, KP and the other coaches were giving him a lot of stuff because him and Coach Payne are really close. Coach Payne was just like, "How does it feel to be on the other end?" Julius brought up when Coach Payne got dunked on by Rex Chapman way back when. They kept going back and forth. Cal actually acknowledged it in the postgame meetings. He was just talking, saying, "You've been doing really well, you're going to get more opportunities. You've just got to wait your time." That was good to hear because I've been working hard.
I came here because I wanted to be challenged and so far that's what I'm getting. Something that I am really excited about doing every day is the one-on-ones before practice. If you watch, I don't back down from any of them. I've gone against Julius, Aaron, James, Marcus, Dakari, Willie and I haven't backed down against any of them. I go out there and compete and I've won a couple. Any opportunity they give me in practice, I try to make the most of it. Even in a game, like you saw when I got in against Transy, I immediately got a steal and got a bucket.
I need to talk about that play too, because I've heard a lot about it. I got the steal and I knew right when I got it, "I'm going to dunk, I'm going to dunk, I'm going to dunk." I tried to take off really hard so I could completely fly, but I guess I stepped wrong. I just stepped in a hole. I couldn't extend to dunk it, so I just had to lay it up and get the two points.
My phone was blowing up and everyone was just like, "Why didn't you dunk it? I know you could have dunked it. You could have freaked it, top 10. What were you doing?" I talked to Tod and I was like, "Should I make a public service announcement?" I asked Marcus too. They were like, "Just do it for the fun of it."
My knee buckled on the fast break or else I think everyone knows I woulda dunked that....if I culd of had that one back...still fun tho !
I made a general public statement of what happened on Twitter and then people started responding that we would rather have two points than a mistake anyway. It was all fun. I wish I could have dunked it. That would have been cool, my first dunk in a game uni, but I got the two points so I'm not really that worried. Hopefully I get another chance soon.
I'm excited for the regular season to get started on Friday, but at the same time it's kind of hard just knowing that I won't get as many opportunities with the better competition we play. But I'm excited. Even if I'm on the bench, I want to learn everything I can. Especially that Michigan State game, being able to watch Andrew and Aaron go at it with Keith Appling and Gary Harris and seeing our bigs battle, just gaining experience from everything. I'm excited just to be able to be a part of this and learn everything. Not many people get the opportunity to be around this many great elite players and this many great coaches, so I'm just trying to take advantage of it.
I came here to improve, so any chance I get that's what I'm doing, whether it's working out with Julius and Coach Payne or Dakari and Coach Payne or just by myself shooting with one of the managers. If I don't have like a night class or a lot of homework to do, I'll try to get in the gym and just work on stuff that I really have to work on. I try to get workouts from the coaches to do by myself. I try to have a manager come and do it with me.
Away from basketball, I think a lot of people know me and James are close. Something people don't know that I haven't really said yet because I don't think a lot of people would believe it is James is actually my distant cousin. People always thought we were related because my grandma's maiden name is Young, so we just looked it up last week and we happened to be distant cousins. It's a long, long way, but it's still pretty cool. It's a small world. I guess that might be a reason why we're so close and share so many interests. We kind of hit it off from the start.
When he first came for media training, we were talking and bonding and laughing. Right after that I went to his room and we started playing video games, and ever since that we've been really close with each other. He might be my cousin, but James is terrible at the NBA game we play. I beat him three times in a row and then he wanted to play soccer and hockey games and he beat me, but nobody plays those games. So congrats to James. I'd have to say Dominique is the best at the basketball game because he's the smartest player. He just exploits your weaknesses.
It's been fun hanging out with all the guys, but me, Tod and Marcus, us three are really close. We've actually been to Tod's house to eat dinner, and we go to the movies too. We always like to be around each other. We'll always be joking around. We gave ourselves a nickname but I'm not going to say what the nickname is.
I guess I'm close with Marcus because of the Cali bond. I knew him before, not really as well as now, but we knew of each other. We played each other a couple times. We always go out and get food or we'll go watch movies. He won't go watch scary movies with me, which sucks because I love scary movies, but we'll go see like comedies and cartoon, kid-ish movies because everyone else thinks they're too grown to watch those.
Anyway, I can't wait for the season to start. I'm really excited. I hope I can dunk on some more people like Julius. Just kidding with you, Julius.
With the start of one of the most anticipated seasons in Kentucky basketball history just weeks away, three Wildcats will take some time out of their busy schedules to chat with fans.
On Friday, Andrew Harrison, Jon Hood and Alex Poythress will join Cat Scratches and CoachCal.com for a special interactive live blog. Beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET, Harrison, Hood and Poythress will take comments and questions from fans in a real-time format on UK's live blog application.
We expect a large audience for the live chat, so we ask that you be patient if your comment or question is not immediately approved by the moderator. The chat will last for approximately 30 minutes and we will try to get to as many fans as possible.
Harrison is a freshman and a preseason candidate for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard. Hood is one of two seniors on UK's 2013-14 roster and has played for John Calipari since his arrival in 2009. Poythress, a sophomore, returns to Kentucky after bypassing the NBA Draft. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds and was a Freshman All-Southeastern Conference performer last season.
Kentucky junior guard Tod Lanter. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the 2013-14 season, UKathletics.com and CoachCal.com will be here to serve as your primary source for Kentucky basketball coverage. From feature stories to game coverage, video and more, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things UK basketball. However, nobody can paint the picture quite like the people who create the artwork. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the players who make the stories will share in writing a season-long blog to share with the Big Blue Nation their experiences, their thoughts and how the year develops in their own eyes. This week Tod Lanter shares his thoughts about Big Blue Madness and bonding with his teammates with the Big Blue Nation. By Tod Lanter (Follow on Twitter)
What's going on, Big Blue Nation? Glad to get this opportunity to talk to you.
Since Big Blue Madness is fresh in everyone's mind, let's start with that. Although I was on the team last year, this was my first Big Blue Madness experience as a part of the team (more on that later). Growing up here, I had been to a couple as a fan, so it was obviously a special experience for me to actually be a part of it.
The build-up for it was pretty crazy. As all of you know, a lot of people were talking about what dances we were going to do, but we didn't know who was going to do what until we took the stage. The guys were joking around all week saying, "I should do this," but really they were just trying to see what everybody's reaction was to make sure it was good. The exception was Jarrod because he was the first guy who was going to be introduced and we wanted the lead person to do something different and get things started off right.
Honestly, we had no clue what to expect. The first time we saw the setup was Thursday night during our walkthrough. That was actually the first time we found out about those warm-ups with the lights on them. I was the first one to see them because my locker is at that first corner. I turned around and I was like, "Look at these sweat suits. Are those lights?" Right after that, one of the guys from our marketing department walked in and said, "Make sure your battery packs are working." He told us they would control the lighting and they would light up as we were coming up the lift and on to the stage. It was kind of relieving to us to wear those and see the setup because we didn't have to do much to make the whole thing exciting. (A big shout-out to the people in the marketing department for that because it was really exciting and made things easier for us.)
Anyway, when the night actually came, I thought I would be a lot more nervous then I was. I remember Jarrod telling us how he was still nervous even though he'd been through it three years already. He was the first to go, so it was understandable, but as I was standing there, I was expecting my hands to start sweating but it never happened. Julius was really nervous, but it was weird for me. I felt more excited than nervous when it came time to take the stage, and I'm glad I did. Otherwise, I don't know that I would have danced.
I still didn't know if I was going to dance until I went up the lift and finally got up there. Once I did, I decided to go with it. You know how they say when you're young, if they can't see you then they think you can't see them? That's how I felt. I couldn't see anybody's face because it was so dark out there. At that point, I was like, "I'm going to do it." My dance was alright, but I've got to give Jarrod and Sam some credit. I didn't get to see Jarrod's live since I was the fifth one up the lift, but Sam's was pretty awesome.
Looking back, it all happened so fast for me. We did all that preparation for it and were excited about it all week, but before I knew it we were in the locker room taking a picture with John Wall and Anthony Davis and it was all over. I guess that's because we were having fun. Hearing my name called and rising up to see all those cheering faces is something I dreamed about for a long time. It was something I'll never forget.
It was also extra special for me because of my dad. He was actually part of the first Big Blue Madness here, when they held it in Memorial. I obviously wasn't there for that one, but he said they just announced the players and they ran out onto the floor. Now it's evolved into this spectacle where we've got light-up warm-ups with a rising floor and smoke coming out of everything. It's crazy.
It's exciting for him to see me get to go through this because he told me when I was growing up and working in the gym late at night that nothing comes easy without hard work. He said, "If I could take my experiences and hand them over to you, I'd do it, but that work that gets you there is what makes it so sweet." The fact that I'm getting to experience it and do it on a whole 'nother level than he ever did with this team is just an unbelievable gift.
One of the things I'm really enjoying about this year is just knowing what to do and what to expect. At this point last year, my head was kind of spinning. I was cleared to play the day of Madness last year, and my first practice was that next morning with another practice in the afternoon. Two days earlier I wasn't even a part of the team and all of a sudden I'm in two-a-days and eating lunch at Coach Cal's house that afternoon during our break.
I can remember my first practice last year. I specifically remember Coach calling "Two Circle" and thinking, I have no idea what that is. I think it was JP who told him, "Coach he doesn't know that play. He wasn't there for that play." I'm usually pretty good at remembering things by doing them, but I'd only done them a few days last year by the time I was playing in the Blue-White Scrimmage. I was sitting in the locker room before the scrimmage trying to remember where the ball went for certain plays and where I was supposed to screen. I was over-thinking everything.
This year I'm a lot more comfortable. I know the plays better than just about anybody outside of Hoody, Jarrod, Alex and Willie because I was in there last year and played just about every position at some point in practice. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out there this year for the Blue-White Scrimmage and feeling comfortable with how to execute everything we've been working on.
One of my favorite things about this team is just how close we all are. Everybody got here in the middle of the summer and we went to a movie like six hours after meeting everyone for the first time. It was just like a random group of strangers at the time who had just met, but we all felt so comfortable with each other. And it doesn't matter who it is or what our role is on the team, we're all friends. Like the other day, Brian, Julius, Andrew and I all went out and ate together. We don't have a certain group of teammates that just hang out. We've literally done all kinds of different stuff with different kinds of people, and I think that's important.
The better relationships you build with your teammates off the court, the more you're going to be able to trust them on the court and mesh well with each other. The more that we can build those types of relationships, the more we can trust each other. Cal always says he wants to be able to hand the reins over to the team at some point during the season and run ourselves. A team that he trusts enough to be able to do that needs to start with trusting in ourselves, so that bonding stuff is important.
Things like going to the hockey and volleyball games together, going bowling and out to eat, it matters. We're having fun together. I know Marcus told you guys about the hockey game a few weeks back when we dropped the puck at center ice. Yes, I did almost fall. The first thing they told me was not to fall, but you don't realize how slick it is until you start sliding. I played it off with a move to act like I had it under control. (On a side note, I want to encourage everyone to go support them on Fridays at midnight. They're a lot of fun to watch).
It's things like that remind me we're just a bunch of kids getting to do something really special here. Before I got here last year, I didn't realize that all these guys I grew up looking up to and idolizing are kids just like me. Now that I get to be a part of this, I realize that we're all just a bunch of college-aged kids who enjoy the same things like everyone else. I strive to be a good influence for people who look up to me like I did to those players back then. I'm grateful for the opportunity
Alright, I've got to get out of here. I enjoyed sharing some thoughts with everyone. You stay classy, BBN.