Humans of UK: James Croom hypes up UK


James Croom, a senior interning for the UK Athletics Marketing Department, poses for a portrait at the Gatton Student Center on Monday Jan. 17, 2022, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Maria Rauh | Staff

Sarah Michels

James Croom’s been told he’s a funny guy.

Students may have seen him on television at the front of the student section, on TikTok sharing Kentucky sports content or at the Johnson Center, slinging half-court shots.

Croom is Kentucky’s self-proclaimed hype man. He brings energy to every game, match or meet he attends — which is quite a few. Croom, a senior kinesiology major, said he’s lost count of how many UK sports events he’s been to over the past four years, but that it’s safely over 50, and probably closer to 100.

His obsession with Big Blue Nation began in sixth grade. Croom, who was born in Italy and raised in Nashville, became a fan like many others do — through Kentucky men’s basketball.

“It’s just basketball. I mean, that’s what everybody says. It’s cliché, but it’s true,” Croom said. “I was just watching and I was like, man, this is really cool.”

Croom played basketball himself in high school, but he didn’t take it seriously until junior year, he said. However, once he arrived on campus, he became part of the women’s basketball practice squad, where he spent much of his time his freshman and sophomore years helping out the team and perfecting his jump shot.

COVID ended Croom’s stint on the practice squad, but it’s still his favorite sport to watch. He said he likes analyzing basketball and the strategy behind plays. He also still spends a great deal of time working on his craft.

“I go to the [Johnson Center gym] for countless hours, just shooting from half court and the red line,” Croom said. “I just chuck up shots. Whenever I make them, everybody’s like, ‘What the crap is he doing?’ I mean, I’ll pull these without hesitation and I’ll make them most of the time, and people are just like, ‘What the crap?’”

After COVID sent everyone home in March 2020, Croom started a TikTok account out of boredom. He began posting about UK, reviewing food and doing a fair bit of trash talking. In addition to his kinesiology classes, his TikTok helped him stick it out at UK despite the monotony and loneliness of virtual learning.

Croom gained followers quickly with his humor — 74,000 followers as of January 2022, to be exact. Upon the return to in-person learning, Croom joined the UK Athletics department as a marketing intern, where he now uses his knack for social media to propose ideas, post videos and work closely with teams to increase fan engagement. For example, during the Cat Walk at football games, Croom would be in the thick of the crowd getting footage to capture the energy.

“The picture I want to put out is, ‘What is the student section like from my perspective, from the students’ perspective?’ And show people that want to come to UK, or people that just like the vibe of just getting hype and college football games and stuff like that,” Croom said. “We’re here for the fans.”

After he graduates, Croom thinks he’ll continue along the social media and sports marketing route. He’ll leave with fond memories, including the time he rushed the field against a ranked Florida team, his first game back in-person with a sold-out crowd and the dozens of other times he helped fuel the student section hype.

“It’s all in the heart,” Croom said. “Being here at UK is one thing, but you go into Kroger Field, you go into Rupp Arena, Memorial Coliseum, the Field House, you’re just like man, I love being here. That’s just heart.”