Davion Mintz is ready to return to Madison Square Garden


Kentucky Wildcats guard Davion Mintz (10) dribbles up the court during the Kentucky men’s basketball Blue-White game on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jackson Dunavant

Cole Parke

No. 10 Kentucky is just days away from their season opener against No. 9 Duke, in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, an early season invitational for four of the largest programs in college basketball. 

Kentucky has only played at The Garden 18 times in program history, but a few players on the roster are less green to the experience. No one is more familiar with playing at MSG than sixth-year UK guard Davion Mintz.

Mintz played four years at Creighton before transferring to Kentucky. Following a redshirted senior season, Mintz made the decision to transfer to Lexington. Following the season, Mintz  declared for the 2021 NBA Draft but decided to return, taking advantage of the extra year of athletic eligibility granted to all players by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been playing in The Garden for a while,” Mintz said. “In the Big East, that was our conference tournament.”

MSG hosts the Big East conference tournament, providing Mintz with experience not just playing in the arena, but playing in pivotal marquee matchups.

“My freshman year we played Villanova in the Big East Championship,” Mintz referenced. “It’s like one of the highest of highs. It’s one of the best arenas to play in.”

The Garden has a reputation for being one of the most historically significant stadiums still in use today. Despite his experience, the awe of playing in such an arena has not been lost on Mintz.

“It’s the stuff of legends,” Mintz said. “Even recently, guys like Carmelo Anthony played there, and you’ve got old greats like Patrick Ewing and guys like that. I actually had an opportunity to go against Ewing in the Garden with him as a coach [of Georgetown]. It’s crazy.”

Mintz grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina before committing to Creighton, so the significance of the Cats matchup against Duke is not unfamiliar to the veteran guard. Mintz expressed an appreciation for the matchup as well as an eagerness to challenge the Blue Devils in The Garden to open the season.

“Growing up I was always asked who I’d rather play for: North Carolina or Duke. I would always pick Duke,” Mintz said. “Just to be part of Coach K’s last game against Kentucky, that’s super cool. I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to going out there and having fun on Tuesday.”

Kentucky’s Champions Classic matchup with Duke is set to tip off at 9:30 p.m. E.T and can be viewed on ESPN.