900 miles later, I'm in the Big Apple and so are John Calipari and the Cats.
Kentucky's plane landed in New York City around 8pm Monday night, before the team arrived at the lavish Intercontinental Barclay Hotel, just a mile and a half away from Madison Square Garden. That's where the 2nd ranked Wildcats will face #12 Kansas Tuesday night at 9pm, for the most anticipated non-conference matchup thus far in the early college basketball season.
The Cats didn't take-off for the Big Apple though, before first practicing back in Lexington Monday afternoon. UK stuck to their normal practice schedule, considering the Garden was not available for a Monday shoot-around anyway (Josh Groban concert). As for whether Tuesday is a potential statement game for the Wildcats and Jayhawks, John Calipari said Monday it's as much of one for the other team as it is for his.
"I would tell you, he’s got a veteran team of good players and they’re trying to make a statement too.”
Kentucky does have a few players that have played on the big stage before at the "World's Most Famous Arena", most notable Queens, NY native Doron Lamb, returning to the same court where he committed to UK as a high school senior in the Jordan Classic.
“I am excited to go back home and play in front of my friends and family. I am going to go out there and play a big game in the (Madison Square) Garden and all of my family is going to be there. I just hope we win the game tomorrow.”
Lamb said his mom has been taking care of all the ticket requests. In attendance will be his AAU coach from the NY Gauchos in the Bronx Tommy Swinton.
"Doron Lamb is well known in New York City, well loved in New York City," said Swinton Monday, at the Gauchos gym on Gerard Ave.
That fame started early and moved closer to legend throughout the recruiting process during Lamb's multiple visits to the world famous street ball court in Harlem, Rucker Park. Hundreds of NBA players have journeyed to the Rucker to show off their street ball skills, but only a handful started their careers there. Lamb is part of that group, even earning a coveted Rucker Park nickname before his high school graduation - "Smooth Criminal".
"If you're a ballplayer, and you're in New York City, it's just somewhere you got to play," said Swinton.
Lamb has done plenty of that, following in the footsteps of other greats who started at Rucker before going to college and the pros - guys like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and Julius Erving. Ever hear of them?
Now ready to make yet another return to the Five Boroughs as a college sophomore, New York basketball fans can't help but smile to think Lamb will most likely be back home again in a few short months for the NBA Draft.
*****WDRB ROAD TRIP UPDATE******
I've been posting pictures along the way from our WDRB Road Trip, following UK, on Twitter. My handle is @steveandress >>> if you are in NYC for the game or have friends that are, tell them to share their pictures with us via Twitter, using the hash-tag #wdrbroadtrip
Highlights so far of the trip:
Best town names on the 900 mile drive so far: Salt Lick, KY...Ironton, OH...Big Otter, WV...Friendsville, MD
The Cats hotel at the Intercontinental Barclay...swanky, trust me.
Having a cab driver tell me he can't drive me less than a mile, because he's "going the other way". Apparently, he forgot I was going to pay him.
This is cheesy, but for a skinny white kid with no jump shot, it was still an unreal feeling just to walk around Rucker Park and think about all the unbelievable talent that has played there. Google "Skip to My Lou".
****Still to Come****
Preview from MSG tomorrow of the big game on WDRB News @ 4...highlights on WDRB News @ 10
Barclays Center making a "major college basketball announcement" Wednesday, with John Calipari to speak...hmm.
UK touring Ground Zero Wednesday
Thurs - Sat...Cats in Connecticut for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Saturday and Sunday