Last year left a lingering bad taste in the mouths of anybody and everybody who had anything to do with Kentucky basketball. It was a miserable experience for the fans, coaches and the players — especially the players.
When reflecting on last season, John Calipari has often shared his sympathy for the players who did not get to enjoy a true Kentucky basketball experience. Keion Brooks is one of the few that actually knew what it was like before the pandemic. He’s tried to explain what it’s like to play in a packed Rupp Arena to his teammates, but words can’t do it justice.
“You don’t really know until you experience it for yourself,” Brooks said Friday afternoon. ““I felt bad for them because it sucked. They didn’t get to really realize what it was like to play Kentucky basketball.”
Words also can’t properly describe the injustice the players experienced while shuttered in with COVID-19 restrictions. In order to play, they could not spend time together off the court. That time spent bonding is invaluable, which is why the players are relishing every moment they’ve spent together so far this summer.
“It means a lot. Not being around your teammates, especially here when you get four, five, six new guys every year, it’s tough to try to get everybody together in that short time span that we had last year. 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. Last year we missed out on that. You can see that. It didn’t work out too well for us.”
John Calipari mastered the art of building teams from scratch each year. When COVID changed the game, his recipe was ruined. Now a big piece of that puzzle has been found. Even though we won’t see it now, the time the team spends together over the next few months will play dividends next season.