This is my last year, and I have been extremely excited about the upcoming season. I remember walking into coach Charlie Schaef’s office one day before a workout and asking him, “Hey coach, who we playing for my last year?”
He looked up, smiled and responded with, “You will see.” I knew he had something up his sleeve. From that day forward, I tried to get it out of him, but every time I asked he would give me that coach Schaef smirk and respond with “Not yet.”

Many weeks later I was walking aimlessly to the gym getting ready for another workout. I was approached by a teammate, and he told me that coach was going to tell us who we were playing. I told myself I wouldn’t believe until it happens. As we were warming up and waiting for the girls to finish on the court, he told us to meet at the bleachers because he had something to tell us. My heart began to beat faster, but I kept telling myself it’s just a joke, it’s just a joke.

“Alright guys, this is not final yet, but we are going to tell you who we are trying to get,” coach Schaef said. My feet began to move frantically, while my heart began to beat even faster. “We are going to play Kentucky.”

My heart dropped. There is no way. I couldn’t believe it.

“It’s not for sure yet, but we think it’s going to work out.” Everyone was screaming, smiling from ear to ear and ready to play. We are going to play the Kentucky Wildcats.

After that day, I told everyone I knew that we were playing Kentucky. They didn’t believe me. Every time I said it, I still couldn’t believe it.

I have followed college basketball since I was a little kid, and I always wanted to play Division I basketball. When you think of college basketball, Kentucky is one of the first schools that come to mind — all the history, all the players and playing in Rupp Arena. This was a dream come true for me and most of my teammates.

As the game gets closer and closer, I think about all the hard work I put into becoming a college player, and I think about the unbelievable opportunity I have. There are only a select few who get to play in the historic Rupp Arena, and I am one of them.

I can’t wait until I hear 15,000 people screaming against me. I can’t wait until they call my name. I can’t wait until I get to touch that court. What a way to open my senior year with a chance of a lifetime.

41 Responses to “Playing Kentucky: A dream that’s coming true” Subscribe

  1. bobby henshaw November 6, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    Hey dude it will be more like 20,000+ and good luck to you hope it all goes well and you score 51pts or at least have the best game of your career

  2. Adam November 6, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    I speak for all Kentucky fans in saying “thanks” for a great piece. We sometimes forget how fortunate we are to root for a team like Kentucky. It truly is something that bonds us state-wide. While we certainly don’t hope you win, ;-), we do hope that you come in to Rupp Arena and enjoy your time and give your all.

    Thanks again for a nice piece.

  3. ukwildcatwildfan November 6, 2008 at 7:44 am #

    Good luck! The stadium holds about 23,000 people, and it is usually just about filed up no matter what game. I’m glad you’re team understands the history behind our program, it is always nice to see that.

  4. jeremypl2000 November 6, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    Very nice article, I hope you have a good time here in Rupp Arena. Good luck on firday and with your season. PS it will be 20K+

  5. Michael Clos November 6, 2008 at 7:57 am #

    It is special to playin Rupp that’s for sure, but for the record, there will be 23,000 people cheering against you… not 15,000.. lol

    Good luck, I am sure you will love the place.

  6. Tim November 6, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    It is great for this team of kids to play in Rupp,and I wish them the best on there season.Someone please tell this young man that there is 24,000 people that will be cheering for the Wildcats in Rupp not 15,000.

  7. Han November 6, 2008 at 8:03 am #

    Jaranimo,
    From a lifelong Kentucky fan, I hope your experience this week is everything you’re hoping for. Whether you prefer to call it the Mecca of College Basketball, Camelot, or just Rupp, you’re going to play beneath 7 National Title banners and a bunch of SEC title banners. There are a lot of us sitting in front of our TVs in Lexington and elsewhere that envy your position greatly.

    I’ll be rooting for my Cats, of course, and can’t even wish you luck scoring a lot, as Coach Gillispie would chew out whoever lets you do it, but it’s great to see your ethusiasm.

    I hope you have a fantastic senior year, but know that on Friday, if you take any cheap shots on our guys or anything, you’re going to get the booing of your lifetime.

    Good Luck, and have fun.

  8. Aaron November 6, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Best of luck to you all when you come up here to Kentucky. Play hard and play tough. I look forward to the game.

    Also, Best of luck to you all for the rest of the season. Bring home a title. Hopefully this game will help prepare you all for the road ahead.

  9. Kevin M. November 6, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    Add about 10,000 more people to that number and then you got Rupp Arena. Hope you enjoy every minute of it there…it is my home and the CATS are awesome there. Good luck with your season and see you there!!

  10. blitzkrieg November 6, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    It’ll be more like 24,000 screaming against you……

  11. Lynn O'Connor November 6, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    Typically I don’t read to the end of sports stories, but I’m glad I did with “Playing KY”. Good story, from the heart. DARE TO DREAM!

  12. Catfan November 6, 2008 at 9:51 am #

    There will be 24,000 cheering against you. ;)

    Appreciate the article and good luck Friday.

  13. Doyle November 6, 2008 at 9:52 am #

    Mo-

    Great article. I am happy for you and your chance to live one of your dreams. I hope that you make the most of this opportunity, and that your team leaves the game healthy.

    With that being said, I am a Kentucky fan and there will be 23,000 fans, not 15,000.

    Best of luck!
    Doyle

  14. Ron Chilton November 6, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    Mr. Marks,
    How refreshing to read your reaction to playing the Kentucky Wildcats. I too, have been a fan of college basketball since I was a little kid and Kentucky IS the “Roman Empire” of collegiate roundball.
    The tradition is unsurpassed. I know you are in for a great thrill to play in Rupp Arena.
    By the way….there will be 24,000 fans there (not 15,000) to (respectfully, I hope) cheer against you on Friday night.

  15. Kentucky Fan November 6, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    As a Kentucky fan, your comments are greatly appreciated, and your reverance is very humbling.

    Best of luck to you and your team this year, and I hope you enjoy Rupp Arena as much as we do.

  16. Mike November 6, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    It’s 24,000 not 15. And we’re scouting you.

  17. Joe November 6, 2008 at 10:43 am #

    That’s pretty neat. Good luck, buddy. Hopefully we’ll be able to pack a few more than 15,000 in there for you. :-)
    Go Cats!

  18. Bill Brasky November 6, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    As a life-long UK fan, I really enjoyed this write-up. It’s great to read of opponents respecting history and tradition. I’m excited for you and your teammates to get to fulfill a dream and play at Rupp. Enjoy it, but be prepared for more than 15k, ha. Best of luck to you and your team in your senior season.

  19. Wes November 6, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Reading this is what makes me proud to be a Kentucky fan. Good luck tomorrow night, God bless.

    Wes
    Louisville, KY

  20. Todd November 6, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    Jaranimo,

    Nice story. I hope you enjoy your trip to Kentucky. Believe me there is NOTHING like the experience of Rupp Arena, the tradition of Kentucky, and fans of UK basketball. I hope you are able to take alot of memories out of your trip and can tell many a great stories for years to come.

    You might want to check out UK’s new basketball practice facility while you are in town too. It is the best in the country and that includes the NBA. BTW, Rupp holds 24,000++, so there will probably be a few more than 15,000 cheering fans. Take a look at this video on some of UK’s tradition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fR83VleoWQ

    Enjoy the experience and as always GO CATS!!!

  21. Brian November 6, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    If it wasn’t an exhibition, you’d get 24,000 screaming against you..

    You’re gonna have a lot of fun. Good luck guys.

  22. Byron November 6, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Great post. It’ll be at least 20,000 though. Good luck in the game glad to hear you’re so happy to play against UK.

  23. Derek November 6, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    sorry champ, but its more like 24,000 fans! I’m happy for you and your opportunity! looking forward to having you all visit us in Lexington tomorrow night!

  24. Kristopher November 6, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    As a Kentucky fan, it’s great to hear of the excitement and admiration you have for the University of Kentucky and the game of basketball in general. Just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for coming to play us and wish you all the best.

    Kris

    P.S.
    The seating capacity of Rupp Arena is around 24,000 so you should have substantially more than 15,000 people screaming against you!

  25. Ken Cravens November 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm #

    Hey Jaranimo, good luck tomorrow night against UK. Nice story. And, by the way, it’ll be more like 20,000 fans instead of 15,000! Soak it up, it’ll be something to tell your kids someday.

  26. Russell Montgomery November 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    Very good article…and as a die-hard UK fan myself, I can really appreciate where you’re coming from w/ a chance to play in what’s sure to be an unbelievable environment. I’ll be rooting for my beloved Wildcats as always, but I definitely wish you and everyone on your team the best! I know there’s a lot of UK fans who really have enjoyed reading your article as well. Good luck and by the way, there may be closer to 24,000 fans then 15,000….;)

  27. Scott November 6, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    Not to put any presser on you but it will be more closer to 24,000 fans in attendence

  28. Chris BigBlueSwami Bryan November 6, 2008 at 9:47 pm #

    Excellent post! Its neat to see a different perspective on what its like to play against UK. Just want to wish you all the best from here in Kentucky for you and your team on the season ahead and hope you make the most of your senior season!

  29. Sam November 7, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    More like 23,00 my friend

    And it is ‘Cawood’s Court’ after our beloved Cawood Ledford (Google that name)

    Finally, it’s our tradition to roundly cheer one player on the opposing team as they are introduced–maybe it will be you tonight

    Have a good time and enjoy yourself at Rupp–but not too much

    :)

  30. Sam November 7, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    23,000

  31. Tommy November 7, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    As a Kentucky fan that will be attending your game tonight in Rupp Arena, I want to wish you luck in this game and in your senior season. Here’s for a fun, injury-free game. I hope you do well.

  32. Jon November 7, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    15,000 fans? It will be more like 24,000 :-) Even more if the arena could hold it. Enjoy.

  33. Joe November 7, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    If you cant wait for 15,000 to scream against you, I hope you will be even more excited to hear the 22,000 that Rupp arena holds! You should enjoy a game from the stands sometime as well against a big Rival like UNC or UofL or Tennessee, its almost a religious experience! Enjoy your stay in Rupp and in Lexington, we are happy to have you, and welcome, to Big Blue Nation!

  34. Cat Fan November 7, 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    We welcome you to Rupp. It truly is a wonderful venue and I envy your position, you are definitely taking the right angle for this game. Cherish the moment because I know I would

  35. Eric November 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    I hope everyone of you all enojoy your visit to Rupp. There will be 24,000 screaming fans, and I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

  36. Chris Lee November 7, 2008 at 2:50 pm #

    Jaranimo,

    We look forward to having you guys up. I’m sure somebody else already informed you it will be more like 23,000 yelling at you than 15,000. But one thing about UK fans is we always respect good basketball especially when its hard nosed and passionate, so good luck to you guys and I hope you enjoy the trip t the fullest.

  37. Miranda November 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Kid, I hope you have a great game. And that Kentucky wins.

    Good luck tonight and enjoy the ride.

  38. Jenny November 7, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Jaranimo,

    It will be a pleasure to have you here in Lexington tonight. As a lifelong Cats fan, your words really mean a lot to me. While I can’t root for a win for you tonight against the Cats, I certainly wish you the best this season and beyond! Oh, and it’ll be about 24,000, not 15,000 :) See you tonight at Rupp!!

  39. Sarah November 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    Jaranimo,
    I hope this game was everything you had expected and dreamed of. As a Kentucky fan and a resident of Lexington, it was a pleasure to read this article. I think you probably found a few more than 15,000 fans in Rupp, but you and your team played well and held your own. You showed the weaknesses of our cats and I thank you for that. We know what we need to work on. I wish you and your team the best of luck throughout the rest of the year and a great senior season.

  40. Aaron Thomas November 8, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    You and your team played with a lot of heart. Very well played game. I loved your pressure defense. I’m just sorry the refs decided to make the game their own personal showcase.

    I have little doubt that you will have a very successful season. The experience and grittiness was evident on the court last night.

    I, and the rest of the Kentucky fanbase, salutes you and your teammates. Good luck with your season.

    And tell Ledbetter not to take it personally (-:

  41. Jennifer November 9, 2008 at 1:05 am #

    You team did awesome. Congrats and best wishes for you on a great year.

    One of my best friends is a Ouchita Baptist alum so I knew all about your school before you were even on our schedule.

    You all competed so hard I hope you go on to have an incredible year!

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