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I saw shades of 1992 Friday night when watching the University of Kentucky basketball team in their season-opening nail-biting victory over Maryland in Brooklyn.
Long-time UK fans remember that team of Unforgettables, whose bloodlines were true Kentucky with players from places like Maysville, Paintsville and Manchester. None of those three players, nor Sean Woods who had spent much of his childhood in Kentucky, were McDonald’s All-Americans or were ever tagged with NBA lottery pick projections. Yet, they teamed with a top recruit named Jamal Mashburn and led Kentucky back to prominence.
These Cats grew up on Kentucky basketball, dreaming of the chance to put on that uniform, and when they got that chance — they gave it everything they had.
Jarrod Polson played that way Friday night. The little-used walk-on from Jessamine County was given an opportunity, and made the most of it. He’s not flashy and he won’t make highlight reel dunks and acrobatic plays, but he’s solid. A team as young and as raw as this season’s UK team needs solid. He played over 20 minutes of turnover-free ball, scored 10 points, dished out assists and made some hustle plays down that stretch that sealed the win for Kentucky.
I know Calipari took notice, but I hope it prompts him to look to Kentucky for more solid players who can step in and add a trait that’s often unpolished in these super-hyped freshmen recruits — desire. Most of Calipari’s recruits know they’re getting playing time. Playing time equals stats. Stats equals recognition. Recognition equals higher-draft picks. And Calipari has repeatedly admitted that’s the most important aspect of UK basketball today.
Polson’s effort Friday reminded long-time UK fans that it’s not really about NBA lottery picks. It’s about a kid with heart making the most of his opportunity, and loving that name on the front of his jersey more than on the one on the back.
Of course, by the time this is printed, UK and Polson will have played Duke and we’ll see how he handles a second opportunity.
Could the six-year reign over college football be over for the Southeastern Conference? Alabama’s upset loss to Texas A&M caused a monumental shake-up at the top of the polls this week and as of now, both Oregon and Kansas State seem to control their own destinies on their way to an early 2013 matchup in the National Title Game. In theory, voters and polls could still leapfrog the winner of the SEC Championship game back into either number one or number two in the nation, but I think the rest of the country is ready for a non-SEC champion. Bama probably is one of the top two teams in the country, but unless the Wildcats or Ducks stumble and lose in one of their few remaining games, their chances of repeating died last Saturday.
Is ‘Sam’ destined for the NFL?
Sam Gordon is the latest gridiron sensation. I first caught wind of Sam on a Youtube video that went viral. Then I started seeing internet stories about the player, and then on one of Sunday’s NFL pregame shows, the panel of NFL greats were discussing the long-term potential of Sam. Did Sam have a future in the NFL?
Sam is a nickname. The player’s real name is Samantha Gordon, a 9-year-old superstar from Utah. She’s churned out gaudy numbers in her pee-wee league, scoring dozens of touchdowns and gaining hundreds of yards. Of course, there are other young players across the country who put up insane numbers as well, but none of them are named Samantha, and few if any of them were matched with pink socks in the nursery.
Samantha’s become a star not just because of her ability, but because of her gender. Of course, we’re constantly told that gender doesn’t matter, except in cases like this, when apparently it does. I’m not knocking this young girl’s ability. When my daughter was younger, I coached soccer for girls Samantha’s age, and there’s little doubt that girls of 9 or 10 are more mentally and physically mature than boys the same age. But by the age of 12 or 13, the physical differences between boys and girls begin to become a bit more dominant.
I’m not trying to rain on Samantha’s parade. I’m glad she and her family are enjoying the moment. I just hope they don’t have any unrealistic dreams of seeing Sam playing for the Cowboys one Sunday afternoon. It’s not going to happen. I’m not a chauvinist, I’m a realist. If you take offense at this, then check back with me in about 10 years. If Sam is tearing up the Pac 10 the way she’s tearing up some Utah Pee-Wee league, then I’ll eat a plate of crow at midfield during the 2022 Bears football season.