Madness bridges previous Cats with new Cats

Big Blue Madness was an introduction to the new players and a reminder that last year’s team is, in fact, gone.

Memories of the 35-3 team were seemingly everywhere. The introduction video mixed highlights from the 2009-10 edition of the Cats with video of this year’s players. The five first-round draft picks from last year all gave video messages.

But Madness served as a bridge between the two teams.

“We’re here to celebrate the start of another season and introduce this new team to the madness and passion that is the Big Blue Nation,” UK head coach John Calipari said.

Halfway through the practice, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall — the five first-round draft picks — gave video messages to the team.

Wall celebrated the one-year anniversary of his own dance in the video.

“I got one last dance for you all,” he said, before fittingly performing the familiar “John Wall Dance.”

In his address to the crowd, Calipari urged the fans to begin anew with the current roster.

“We must turn the page,” Calipari said. “Let’s focus on this team.”

A few fans in particular seemed ready to move on. In the student section were three fans, one dressed in a soapy costume (for Stacey Poole), one dressed as a lamb (for Doron Lamb) and another dressed as a medieval knight (for Brandon Knight).

The only man not represented in the fans’ costumes was freshman Enes Kanter.

He provided his own.

In his first appearance in Rupp Arena, Kanter donned an Undertaker hat in homage to the professional wrestler and methodically strolled across the stage, as if making up for lost time with the fans.

At the bottom of the ramp, Kanter paused and stretched his arms toward Rupp’s rafters, ringing with cheers of support for the player who has galvanized a fan base before even stepping on a court.

However, Kanter sat on the bench during the blue-white scrimmage, apparently unable to participate in basketball activities while his eligibility is still under review by the NCAA.

The other players made up for his absence by flashing an array of skills Friday.

The white team prevailed 55-51 before the players from both teams — or, rather, from this one team — embraced at midcourt.

After the practice concluded, Kanter quickly returned to prominence. Chants of “Free Enes” reverberated through the packed Rupp Arena.

The sentiment will have to linger on.

When the women’s squad played its video and referenced its own Elite Eight run, the crowd cheered. UK fans respect success.

When the video referenced UK fans as being “the best in the nation,” the crowd cheered even louder. UK fans respect themselves, too.

As does Calipari.

“UK has the greatest fans in all of sport,” Calipari said.

video courtesy of “Podgeman” on Youtube