It’s hard to really determine whether it seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago since you made your first appearance on the court. In a game against Lindsey Wilson, on the day after my 27th birthday, we got our first glimpse at who you were and what you were all about… and were very pleased with the results. That year you managed to blow away all expectations, become one of the premiere freshmen in the game and lay the foundation for a true legacy in the history of Kentucky basketball.
While your sophomore season may have been a bit of a disappointment, injuries are just a part of the game. Everyone knew that your heart was in it, but when your body won’t allow you the chance to prove it on the court, there’s just nothing more that can be done. Of course, I don’t have to remind you of the ways in which you redeemed yourself last season.
I could spend the next few minutes rattling off stats and telling you that your draft stock could only improve after a season under John Calipari. I could explain to you that the next season could be the thing that turns you from a “very good” NBA prospect to an “elite” NBA prospect. I could easily try to fill your head with such things, but you’ve heard them all before. In fact, as far as basketball goes, there is absolutely nothing that I can offer up in an attempt to keep you in Kentucky blue for one more season.
However, there is one voice that you may not have had the chance to hear as clearly, the voice of the fans.
I realize that asking you to forego a shot at the NBA is quite a request, especially considering the rather rocky run you’ve had here in Lexington. Asking you to return would put you in a very unique situation, having played at that point for three different head coaches while wearing a Kentucky uniform. No one in the modern era has any idea how that feels, and no one could expect it to be the kind of thing for which you signed on. Tubby Smith brought you here, and you were left helpless to watch the ne’er do wells of the state happily escort him to the airport. The athletic department replaced him with an arrogant, condescending prick, who quite understandably sucked the joy out of the sport not only for you, but for your teammates. In short, Jodie, the University of Kentucky and the UK fans haven’t lived up to your expectations.
Things can change. Things will change.
In John Calipari, the University of Kentucky and the fan base spread across the world seems to have found their soul-mate. In John Calipari, you may have found the mentor to lead you to the next level. I don’ want to sugar-coat anything, as I have too much respect for you to do so. It’s possible that you don’t click with Coach Calipari’s new offense (although I find that highly unlikely), it’s possible that you sustain a career-ending injury in the next season, it’s also possible that a tornado could fling a LexTran bus into your body while walking to the arena. Life is full of uncertainty, and while any number of bad things could happen, the positives seem far more likely.
Another year in Lexington may be good for you, but for those of us who have been in your corner since day one it would be heaven. Your presence and your leadership could elevate the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats to a level that we could never have imagined just a few short months ago. For all that you have endured, for all of the dedication you have shown to this program, the idea of watching you cut down the nets in Indianapolis would rank among the most spectacular basketball moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The thunderous applause during Senior Night, honoring your contribution to Wildcat history, would be unlike anything we’ve heard in years… echoing from one corner of the state to another.
Whether you decide to stay or decide to go, just know that you will eternally be regarded as one of the truly special players in Kentucky history, not just to me but to all of the Big Blue Nation. Your determination and will to win in the face of such adversity has made your career as a Wildcat the stuff of legend even now, and with one more season and one true shot at total redemption, it could become Kentucky’s greatest moment. Whether I next see you on the court at Rupp Arena or under the house lights of some glitzy NBA franchise, just know that you will always be among the truly great representatives of the Kentucky tradition. Not just in my lifetime, but in anyone’s.
Cory Graham, Jodie Meeks Fan