John Calipari and Drake bring excitement to Big Blue Madness



By Kyle Arensdorf

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The lights dimmed on a packed house inside Rupp Arena Friday night as UK mascots Scratch and The Wildcat repelled from the rafters, stopping midway to take selfies with the UK faithful.

As the 20-time National Champion UK Cheerleading squad wrapped up its routine, a number of recruits made their way along the sideline to their seats, receiving a large round of applause from the crowd.

Their gaze shifted to one side of the court as two screens placed about 10 yards apart ran footage of past UK teams.

The most audible cheers came as video of former UK player Anthony Davis blocking a last-second attempt from former North Carolina star John Henson flashed on the screen.

Not to be outdone, the current UK team had a video of its own featuring a “we write our own story” motto that concluded with a quote from Aaron Harrison – “(The) story isn’t over yet.”

As the video drew to a close, the 16-man roster made its way onto an elevated stage one by one before a 17th member of the UK squad appeared.

“First of all, I’m happy to be here for what I think is going to be one of the most exciting years in Kentucky basketball history,” rapper Drake said as he gushed about a UK program he called “a family” to him.

As he introduced UK head coach John Calipari to the stage, Drake was adamant about what Calipari means to him and what he does for him despite his busy schedule.

“Tonight I want to introduce a man who is definitely one of the most important people in my life,” Drake said as he looked in the direction of the seated recruits.

Calipari didn’t have much to say this year, throwing the crowd’s attention to a video of his speech at Big Blue Madness in 2009.

After the video Calipari quipped, “Enough talking, let’s ball” – a welcomed reminder that there was still a scrimmage to be played.

The white team defeated the blue team 42-36 despite sophomore forward Marcus Lee’s 10 points in a losing stand.

Calipari wrapped Big Blue Madness with his annual effort to minimize fans’ expectations, explaining that this year and this team would be a process.

“We’re trying things that have never been tried before,” he said. “But I can promise you have a talented group or great young men that are representing you.”