Ex-Cats take Rupp Arena floor again in Wizards-Kings preseason game


Demarcus Cousins and John Wall shake hands before the Sacramento Kings game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday, October 15, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.

By Chris Leach

The NBA preseason is all about the players getting a chance to find their rhythm before the start of the regular season. Luckily for four former UK Wildcats, they got the chance to find their rhythm on a court they are very familiar with.

Former Wildcats Willie Cauley-Stein, and John Wall referred to Lexington as a home for them.

“It’s just a cool feeling, it’s like coming home and playing pickup,” Cauley-Stein said.

Along with Cauley-Stein and Wall, former Cats DeMarcus Cousins and Skal Labissiere also returned to Rupp Arena Saturday evening to play in a NBA preseason game a day after Big Blue Madness.

The game was between the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Wizards, and the Kings would go on to beat the Wizards 124-119. Each team’s defense did little to nothing to slow down their opponents offense.

“Offensively we were good, but defensively, not so good,” Scott Brooks, head coach of the Wizards said following the game. “We took a step back defensively.”

The only former Wildcat playing for the Wizards was Wall who finished the game with 11 points, four assists and four steals.

Wall is getting more and more comfortable playing basketball again following a summer with two knee surgeries.

“I’m great, just taking it one game at a time,” Wall said. “My body feels good, I’m doing a good job of stretching.”

Before the game, coach Brooks emphasized how pleased he was with Wall’s progression.

“He’s really been committed to getting back and getting his body right for an NBA season,” Brooks said.

Wall hopes he’ll get the chance to play in Lexington again in the future.

“I wish we could play a preseason game here every year, it’s amazing, especially with the fan base, how many people come out,” Wall said.

As for the victorious Kings, a couple of former Cats put together strong performances themselves. Cousins led all scorers with 22 points, and also had six assists. His teammate Cauley-Stein scored 12 points and recorded five rebounds and four steals.

Labissiere started alongside Cousins and Cauley-Stein for the Kings and finished the game with zero points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. Cauley-Stein had words of encouragement for Labissiere following the game.

“I think he [Labissiere] is coming along good,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s a rookie grind, you’ve got to try to catch up physically and mentally, and the try to establish yourself as a player all at the same time, and that’s hard to do.”

Cauley-Stein is also happy to add Labissiere to the Kentucky connection in the Kings’ locker room.

“When you have that on another team, you have a comfortable feeling when you come in,” Cauley-Stein said.

As for himself, Cauley-Stein enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of big blue fans again.

“I wish we were staying here another day,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s fun playing here, I miss playing in that atmosphere, it’s like coming home. I hope as long as I’m with the Kings we come back here to play.”

Before the game took place, Big Blue Madness set the tone for the basketball weekend at Rupp Arena. Many players and coaches from tonight’s game were in attendance for the Madness. Coach Brooks was impressed with the event.

“Last night, that was ridiculous, I’ve never seen anything like it, I want a do-over,” Brooks said. “It says a lot about the people here and the program they support.”

If the weekend got you excited for the basketball season, luckily you do not have to wait much longer for more action. On Friday, Oct. 21 the UK men’s basketball will host their blue-white scrimmage at Rupp Arena. The tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.