Cats won’t be able to erase memories of ‘09-10 team easily

People speculated that former UK freshman phenom and the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft, John Wall, might be a special guest at Big Blue Madness.

Wall made an appearance. Sort of. As did his ex-teammates and fellow NBA first-round draft picks, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson.

All five players made videos that played on the big screens at Rupp Arena during Friday’s Madness and each player expressed love for UK basketball and its fans; the very same fans that erupted into raucous cheers when the videos rolled.

However, receiving the same adoration afforded to last year’s players won’t come easy for the 2010-2011 edition of the UK men’s basketball team — a team that returns two key holdovers from last year’s roster, junior guards DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller, and, like last season, oodles of freshman talent, including guards Brandon Knight, Stacey Poole, Doron Lamb and forwards Terrence Jones and (maybe) Enes Kanter.

During an address to the crowd at Madness, UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said fans needed to “turn a page and focus on this team.”

It’s difficult to erase memories of last year’s team that helped UK get to the 2,000-win plateau before any other team in college hoops, won a Southeastern Conference championship, came within a game of the school’s first Final Four since 1998, revitalized a program that needed a jump start thanks to a 35-3 record and set a NBA-record with five first-round picks.

More importantly, last year’s team, starting at Madness, created entertainment and showcased its vivacious personalities for the fans.

Needless to say, the bar was set high for this year’s team.

At this year’s Madness, Kanter sported a hat like The Undertaker (of WWE fame and a personal favorite of the Turkish big man) when he was introduced. But the reception for Kanter wasn’t as loud as when Cousins’ video was shown and “Big Cuz” was wearing his trademark Peter Parker sunglasses.

Lamb promised at Thursday’s basketball media day that he was going to break out the “D-Lamb” dance. He made good on his promise and danced a Dougie-esque dance on the stage. But, fans sure got a lot more rowdy when Wall ended his video message with the “John Wall Dance,” which debuted at Madness 2009.

So this year’s squad might have its own dance moves and props, but they don’t hold the same significance for the time being. That will not — and cannot — be decided until the season begins and the opportunity for wins and maturation as a team begins.

With the unveiling at Madness in the books, this year’s team has so many questions to answer.

Calipari posed a few of these questions to the crowd before the team scrimmaged: “Will they be brothers? Will they sacrifice for each other? Will they be the best defensive team in the country? Will they run that dribble drive motion and attack, attack, attack? Will they understand that we will be the biggest game on an opponent’s schedule?”

Yet the biggest question of all is whether this team can distinguish itself from last year’s group.

You can speculate, but it certainly won’t make the task of blazing a new, and potentially better, trail any easier on the current group of Cats.