This week in Kentucky Basketball we’ve followed the ‘Cats all around the state where Coach Cal and the gang have held their annual basketball camps. Of course, this was something that last year’s team missed out on due to COVID-19, along with summer workouts and team bonding, but don’t underestimate the effect an offseason comradery can have on a group of 18-20-year-olds.
After a week of following the players around to each camp, it’s safe to say this has been nothing but a positive experience for everyone involved.
Seeing these players at these camps has been day and night from the players we saw on the court in 2020. Sure, in a 9-16 season the Kentucky Basketball team no one is having a good time. And even though the team appeared to be close on the sideline, throughout social media, and through other team events, there has been a stark difference seeing the pure joy on some of these guys’ faces this summer as opposed to the demeanor of last season.
Lance Ware has been overjoyed with a whistle in hand acting as a make-shift coach. The look on the player’s faces when they go out and do community service has been refreshing, and all around this group has had a blast this week.
“I think the biggest excitement is just them being able to be around each other,” Jai Lucas said after the Wildcats’ stop in Ashland on Thursday. “That’s the biggest excitement, them being able to do that. Going out in the state is a big part of them understanding how important they are to a lot of people, the joy and passion people have about them. That’s the thing they’re going to be able to take away from these camps we’re doing.”
Lucas emphasized the importance of being able to go out into the community, and actually getting to see how much this program means to the good citizens of Kentucky. That’s not to say last year’s team didn’t care about the program, the fans, or how the season went- I think it was more than evident the most of them did care. But, the ability for this basketball team to know how much their performance is valued and how much they’re loved around the state after a year full of negativity has to be an overwhelming change.
“It (being around the team this summer means a lot,” Keion Brooks said on Friday at Kentucky’s stop in Elizabethtown. “Not being able to be around your teammates, especially here when we get four-five-six new guys every year, it’s tough to get everyone together. Just being able to get us all together- not even doing much, just being around each other. Laughing, joking, telling stories- that really plays a big part in how successful we can be.”
It’s been absolutely stellar seeing the Wildcats out in the bluegrass community, interacting with fans and kids alike. Kentucky will continue their camps tomorrow when they stop in West Carter before making the trip to North Laurel and South Oldham this week.