Competition off the court is just as fierce as on the court


The inside of the Wildcat Coal lodge when it opened in 2012. Photo by Latara Appleby | Staff

Anytime the UK men’s basketball team steps onto the court for practice or pick-up games, the competitive mindset inside them kicks in as they’ll do anything to prevent losing.

However, the basketball court isn’t the only location where this competitive mindset is present, as the off-the-court games can get pretty intense also.

“I just feel like we’re just a competitive team the whole way around, anything we do we’re just always trying to compete against one another,” freshman guard Hamidou Diallo said.

Whenever the Cats aren’t in the Joe Craft Center working on their skills, they can usually be found in the Wildcat Coal Lodge playing either one of two games, NBA 2K or ping-pong.

In terms of 2K, players mutually agree that PJ Washington and Kevin Knox are the two best players on the team. Lots of other players often challenge Knox and Washington, but the two freshmen forwards have gapped themselves from the rest of the team.

“There’s a lot of kids here that are not good at 2K, but when I play PJ it’s always a close game, coming down to overtime or something like buzzer beater, something like that,” Knox said.

However, both Knox and Washington believe they are the best 2K players on the team.

“I’m definitely the best 2K player on the team by far, don’t let anybody else tell you different,” Washington said. “Kevin, I already know he said that but I’m better than him.”

In terms of ping-pong, the competition pool is a little deeper, as many players consider themselves good enough to compete against anybody on the ping-pong table.

Jarred Vanderbilt is one of the players who claims he’s the best ping-pong player, but he recognizes that he has some competition.

“Ping-pong is my game,” Vanderbilt said. “Jemarl (Baker) challenges me, Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) sometimes depending if it’s a good day or not, Dillon’s (Pulliam) pretty good and Kevin (Knox) is getting a little better, but other than that, nobody. We’re really the only ones that really play.”

Since the competition is deeper in ping-pong, Pulliam notices that the games mean a lot since all the players hate losing.

“When we’re playing ping pong, we go at it,” Pulliam said. “It’s literally like we’re playing basketball. We all have extremely competitive spirits, we want to win at anything.”

The Cats play other games when not playing basketball, such as pool or card games, but it’s usually 2K and ping-pong that receives the most activity in the Cats’ down time.

No matter what the players are doing though, they are always competing against each other and doing whatever they can to avoid defeat. If the players can have that same mindset on the court this season and work collectively as a team, they could be tough to beat.