Campout wraps up with player, coach visits



By Nick Gray

[email protected]

To say the Big Blue Madness ticket distribution lasted 35 minutes would not be a lie.

For logistics sake, Big Blue Madness did sell out in 35 minutes, according to UK Athletics.

But to the people who filled the 595 tents (the last official count when control cards were distributed at 2 p.m. Friday), the ticket distribution didn’t just start at 7 a.m. when the ticket booths opened.

The campout, in of itself, was just as much an event as getting the tickets. Three (or four) days of time, along with several more of planning, were built into it.

Kinesiology sophomore David Martin camped out for tickets for the first time and was the 100th person in line. Martin said he had been camping since Tuesday night.

“I love Kentucky basketball. There’s nothing else I would devote this much time to or care about so much. I love this team,” he said.

Pre-pharmacy sophomore Spencer Reed camped out with Martin and described their campout as a “four-day tailgate.”

“I think it’s something everyone should do before they graduate at UK. That’s why I did it. I wanted to do it one of these years, and this year was as good as any,” Reed said. “But I want to be better prepared and change some things before we do it again.”

Reed claimed classes didn’t faze his mindset on wanting to devote his week toward Big Blue Madness.

“Last week was common hour exams, so we had to work around that. We all had sports stuff and class and stuff, so we were pretty flexible,” Reed said.

Campers were periodically visited by players over the three-plus days, including touted freshmen Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin.

Many would stay around long into the night playing basketball and signing memorabilia. Noel scared some after a fall while dunking during a pickup game, but he got up fine.

“Most of them would come over and sign autographs and come chill for a little bit,” Martin said. “It was pretty cool. So many people wanted autographs and they signed them all unless they were going to class.”

The biggest star to greet campers was head coach John Calipari, who had not been in Lexington during the week because of recruiting. Calipari spoke to the crowd on Friday night in what many called the highlight of the week.

“I hope you enjoyed yourself here,” Calipari said. “I apologize. I just got back and picked up my wife and came on over. The flight took a little longer than I thought, but I did want to come over and say thank you all for doing this and being here and being a big part of what we do and being a big part of what we recruit.”

The crowd cheered.

“You have inspired them, no question,” Calipari said. “Because every team I’ve coached, think about it, if you’re them and you’re saying, ‘Six hundred tents and 3,000 people waiting on tickets to watch me practice. This must be serious.’ ”

No matter who was visiting or speaking or camping, it was clear what the three days represented.

A love affair.