Cats salute past, welcome future at BBM

Alex Poythress

Kentucky ushered in the 2012-13 college basketball season on Friday with a Big Blue Madness spectacle that was equal parts a celebration of the past and an optimistic glance into the future.

Kentucky ushered in the 2012-13 college basketball season on Friday with a Big Blue Madness spectacle that was equal parts a celebration of the past and an optimistic glance into the future.

The Wildcats welcomed back former standouts Jeff Sheppard, Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Joe B. Hall, Cliff Hagan, Vernon Hatton, Adrian Smith and Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones to help honor the program's championship history.

Alongside current UK coach John Calipari, the group shared in a symbolic re-raising of the eight championship banners that now reside in Rupp Arena's rafters by tugging on a rope that hung from the catwalk over midcourt.

"We're here to celebrate the tradition of this program," said UK coach John Calipari, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

No one represented that more than Jones, a member of Adolph Rupp's first two championship squads in 1948 and 1949 and a player that Calipari called "the best athlete to put on a Kentucky jersey." Jones also played football for Paul "Bear" Bryant and was a member of the Wildcat baseball team.

Once the reminiscing was over, it was time to look forward. The Big Blue Nation got its first look at Calipari's fourth-consecutive No. 1 national recruiting class – Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein – as well as graduate student transfer Julius Mays from Wright State. The newcomers danced their way onto the stage with an assortment of moves that had the crowd roaring with approval, as did some nifty technology that made Cawood's Court look like a giant video screen with player images beamed down to the floor.

Although Goodwin may have won the overall dance crown, Noel drew rave reviews for his moves that accentuated his trademark "high-top fade" haircut.

"If we're in a dance contest, we're winning," Calipari told the crowd. "I don't know about a basketball game, but we'll win the dance contest."

Kentucky women's coach Matthew Mitchell also got in on the dance fun, doing a tribute to late-80s/early-90s hip-hop artist M.C. Hammer, complete with the flashy, gold jacket and baggy "genie" pants. Like Calipari's unit, his Wildcats are projected as a Top 10 team this season and a national championship contender.

The UK men were showcased in a 20-minute scrimmage that saw sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer lead all scorers with 19 points. Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow, who is now eligible to play after sitting out last season as a transfer from N.C. State, tallied 18 points. Poythress also had 18 points to lead the newcomers.

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