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Edgar Sosa came into Lexington to train for the Dominican Republic national team after a year playing in Italy, where soccer is supreme. He had forgotten what it felt like to be in a city where basketball was king, where basketball was everything.
“As soon as I drove here, it brought back memories of how the fans go crazy for the year of basketball,” Sosa said.
Of course, that place was the very same place that used to be the city of the opposition.
“When they told us the practice was here, and I came in and saw UK everywhere, blue everywhere, it was a little shocking,” said Sosa, who played for Louisville from 2006-2010 and hit a game-winning shot against UK in 2009. “I’ve been trying my best to just stay in my hotel. … There’s a couple of team managers here who still remember that shot.”
The connections between this Dominican team and the former UK players coming back to play in an exhibition game on Aug. 15 are extensive.
“Coach (Orlando) Antigua came and picked me up from the airport,” said Charlie Villanueva, who played for Connecticut from 2003-05 and is teammates with Tayshaun Prince. “I had to get on him real quick about that loss to UConn in the Final Four.”
Al Horford said he never would have expected to end up training in UK facilities after his time at Florida.
“I tweeted the other say saying I was going to be here,” Horford said. “I didn’t get very warm comments on that.”
Francisco Garcia played for Louisville and currently plays with DeMarcus Cousins on the Sacremento Kings.
“He talk a lot of trash when Kentucky beat Louisville. But I respect that. I was talking my trash too,” Garcia said. “It’s over with. All that rivalry and all that stuff, it’s over with. I don’t think it’s a big deal anymore.”
And, of course, there’s Calipari coaching on a sideline opposite three of his former players.
“I saw (DeMarcus Cousins) the other day and I said, ‘I miss fighting you every day,’” Calipari said. “I do miss him. He was the greatest. He’s a big baby. But talented young man who helped us win a lot of games. Did everything academically – did everything he needed to do around here.”
Sosa gets to play again against a player he said in his official player bio at Louisville was the best he’s ever played against: Rajon Rondo. Sosa, a point guard, said he was excited to play a team with three electric playmakers at the point guard position.
“Rondo is one of the best point guards in the NBA,” Sosa said. “And John Wall, he’s John Wall.”