President Obama honors UK men’s basketball team



By Becca Clemons

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said when he filled out his bracket on ESPN, he had UK in the championship game, but was skeptical because so many freshmen were in the starting lineup.

“Michael Kidd-Gilchrist couldn’t even vote yet,” he said.

Obama chose North Carolina to win the title, but he redeemed himself before a Big Blue audience Friday at the White House, with jokes about freshman Anthony Davis’ height and the fact that senior Darius Miller could have a good chance at winning the Kentucky governor’s seat.

Obama said this year’s Cats were successful in winning the program’s eighth national title because they played as a team. He said Davis was a prime example of that cohesiveness, as he was named most valuable player without shooting a lot of field goals.

But, he said, that’s what happens when you grow 8 inches between your sophomore and senior years of high school.

“In fact, he has grown an inch since he got to the White House. … Just got a new suit.”

The president also added to head coach John Calipari’s joke that Miller — the first UK player to be named Mr. Basketball, win a high school state championship and win a national title with UK — would “do all right in Kentucky” if he decided to run for governor.

Obama recognized Miller and fellow senior Eloy Vargas for getting their diplomas Sunday and for participating in community service around Lexington and around the state.

A beaming Calipari said his players, immediately following their eighth championship win, weren’t saying, “We did it! We won!” but rather “We’re going to the White House!”

“Because they wanted to meet you,” Calipari told Obama.

Miller presented Obama with a No. 1 jersey — his for four years — that has the president’s name on the back. Senior Eloy Vargas gave Obama a ball signed by all the team’s members. Davis gave Obama a national championship ring.

About his ESPN bracket, Obama said: “And what I’ve learned is that if I make the right picks, I look like a genius. But if things go the other way, then a team like Kentucky gets to come to my house and remind me, in person, that I was wrong.”

As the team exited, the audience erupted into the familiar “C-A-T-S” chant. This year’s Cats temporarily made the White House their home.

See a video from the White House YouTube account below: