LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - New Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie will be
throwing one of college basketball's biggest parties Friday night,
but he's lowering expectations about what surprises might be in
"I'm not going to propose to anybody or anything," joked
Gillispie, a bachelor.
The Wildcats' Big Blue Madness, which almost always attracts a
capacity crowd of 24,000-plus to Rupp Arena, could be the maddest
Gillispie has replaced Tubby Smith as coach, and from his folksy
news conferences to his recruiting coups, excitement is high among
arguably the nation's most demanding fan base.
Although Gillispie is already well known in Lexington, where the
basketball coach is always the biggest celebrity, this is the first
time fans will get to see their new coach in a real basketball
No newcomer truly becomes a Wildcat until he goes through
Madness, center Jared Carter says.
"Whenever he's in Rupp Arena and it's packed, he hears the
fireworks go off and all the fans cheer, he'll know he's officially
Kentucky," Carter said.
Gillispie inherits a young team in his debut season, loaded with
guards - including lone seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford.
"I've been used to doing things one way for three years, but
it's a change for the better," Crawford said. "He's definitely
brought new ideas to the table, brought new life."
The frontcourt could be more of an issue as the Wildcats will
rely heavily on blue chip freshman recruit Patrick Patterson and
sophomore Perry Stevenson, a shot-blocking specialist last year who
is trying to become a scoring presence.
Gillispie says he isn't worried about how tall the majority of
his players are, provided they have quickness and athletic ability.
These Wildcats are in shape - an eight-day "boot camp"
conditioning program assured that, but Gillispie says they're not
nearly ready for prime time.
While Madness is always a great tool for recruiting - and
Kentucky has invited several to attend Friday - Gillispie cringes
about anyone drawing conclusions from what they see out of the
team's early exhibition performance.
"They're going to play some bad basketball," Gillispie said of
the scrimmage he has planned for Friday night. "Hopefully it'll be
the last time you see bad basketball."
The players see a different side of Gillispie during practices,
a more serious side. He jokes that he last cracked a smile in a
practice four years ago.
Still, the returning players insist Big Blue Madness is
contagious, and even the business-minded coach won't be able to
resist enjoying it.
"After tonight he's going to be like, 'Oh wow, 24,000 people.
This is crazy,"' sophomore guard Jodie Meeks said. "I don't think
he'll shy away from it. I think he'll experience it and love it."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)