UK players have their moments as champions



By Aaron Smith

As UK’s players walked off the floor toward their families in the stands, they decided handshakes and high-fives and hugs weren’t enough to celebrate what had just happened.

They climbed the railing and went into the stands. Darius Miller led the way, climbing farther and farther as he celebrated. Terrence Jones took a picture with the championship trophy in his right arm and a baby in his left.

A security guard ran toward them, screaming that they needed to get out of the crowd.

Another security guard cut him off.

“They just won the whole thing,” he said. “Let them have their moment.”

And so they did, the UK players immersed in UK fans, jointly celebrating a national championship.

It’s the eighth championship for the program, and the first in 14 years, and that matters for the fans.

“They were keeping track for a while,” athletics director Mitch Barnhart said, “so they kept telling me.”

But it’s the first championship for the players, and that’s what matters to

It was what they dreamed of all season, a fully attainable goal then and a fully realized goal now.

UK achieved it by playing the way — well, the same way that made them clear-cut national title favorites all year: the best collection of talent playing as the best team in the nation.

“I wanted this one to be one for the ages,” Calipari said. “Go out there and show everyone what type of team you are.”

That type of team would be a complete one, a rotation filled top to bottom with unselfish players who remained unselfish on the biggest stage.

Anthony Davis, whose offense remained stagnant, made up for it in other ways, grabbing 16 rebounds with six blocks and five assists.

Darius Miller went from missing the NCAA tournament his freshman season to winning the NCAA tournament as a senior.

“I didn’t even think this was possible after my first year,” said Miller, the net draped around his neck and championship trophy sitting in front of him.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 11 points with six rebounds, and his customary energy and passion showed through again at the end. He could feel a national championship closing in, just 53 seconds and six points away, and as he came to the bench he couldn’t help himself. “Oh, yeah!” he said, smiling and then pounding the floor with his fist in excitement.

He had felt it earlier in the day, too. He woke up at 5:30 a.m., screaming, playing music, reminding his teammates that they were finally here.

“It was going to be a great day,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “And guess what happened? We won.”