LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – “Can you imagine? They don’t put banners up here for anything else other than national championships.”
That statement was made by John Calipari when he was introduced at Kentucky Men’s Basketball newest head coach. Let’s just say the rest is history.
April 1, 2009 is a day Solid Blue fans remember well. John Calipari was named the head coach of Kentucky basketball. Not only was he coming in with pressure, but so was his team stacked of one and dones. The man leading the charge, John Wall. The top recruit in the nation. While these guys were used to being THE GUY in high school, Wall remembers how they came together as a team.
“We had great camaraderie,” said Wall. “We would all lift each other up and to be realistic bro, I tell everybody this today, me and Demarcus talk about it, that’s the funnest team and the funnest time I’ve had playing basketball. Even though we didn’t win the championship, I had a great time with a lot of freshman we came in with and a lot of veterans we had before us.”
While there were one and dones, there were also upperclassmen. Guys like Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs had to deal with a THIRD coaching change. Tubby smith, Billy G and now Coach Cal.
“At the end of the day, it was just sad to end,” said Krebs. “You didn’t want it to end. Every other year it was like, if it ends right now then it’s not that big of a deal. This is crazy. We’re not having any fun. For me, having those three years before you all got there, the freshman got there. And creating this team and whatever this movement has been since then, it’s just how quickly everyone came together, coaching staff included. I would out everyone together.”
Ramon Harris was right there with Krebs during those dark times, but was also there for Cal’s first season when things blew up.
“We were really were rock stars. That year for me because I had just had my daughter that summer so I was trying to figure out how to be a dad. We went to New York and we were about to play UConn,” said Harris. “To me that was the time when everything just kinda turned a corner. After us beating UConn, I feel like everybody on that trip kinda got used to each other. We kinda got used to everybody’s different personalities.”
It’s a sore subject, but the team would fall in the Elite Eight to West Virginia, but when guys like Daniel Orton look back, it’s not the games that come to his mind first.
“The thing is I remember the practices more so than the games even,” said Orton. “It was more fun in practice then once we got to the games it was challenging at first, but once we got in the road it felt good to finally get together and battle with one another, but at the same time you looked forward to practice.”