[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Quick poll. How many of you guys knew that Anthony Hickey, LSU’s sophomore guard, is from Kentucky? If ANYONE said no, you’re either lying or deaf, because that got mentioned pretty much any time Hicks had the ball in today’s game. Hickey hails from the humble Hopkinsville, Kentucky (I’m in an alliterative mood, okay?), and he was named Mr. Basketball in 2011 while leading Christian County to the Kentucky high school state basketball championship. The Rupp Arena crowd welcomed him warmly this afternoon, and so did the arena itself- Hickey played one of his best games to date in front of his home state fans.
This season, Hickey has averaged 11.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.7 APG- not too shabby, not too shabby at all. He improved on his already consistent play today in Rupp with 15 points on 5-10 shooting, including 4-7 from three-point range, and three steals and one assist. The three-point shooting was especially impressive, considering his usual shooting percentage isn’t even 32%. We know Kentucky is everyone’s Super Bowl, but does a game against Kentucky, in Rupp, have extra meaning and motivation for home-state players?
For the answer, I think all we have to do is point to Chris Lofton, The One That Got Away. A Mason County native and Mr. Basketball in 2004, Lofton didn’t receive the prized scholarship offer from Kentucky and instead chose to go the complete opposite direction by committing to play at Tennesseee. He succeeded almost immediately, making Third Team All-American as a freshman. However, Kentucky fans will remember him best for his Rupp Arena homecoming in February of 2006. Lofton scored 31 points on a career-high seven three-pointers to give the Vols their first win in Rupp since 1999. The game was a revelation for UK fans who had ignored Lofton in favor of Rajon Rondo and Joe Crawford, and it was Lofton’s perfect revenge scenario against the team he grew up with who snubbed him so rudely.
The Cats won’t face another Kentucky native in Rupp this season, but this potential phenomena may be worth keeping an eye on in years to come. As Calipari expands his recruiting empire, it’s an unfortunate consequence that there simply may not be room on the roster for high school players from Kentucky (Derek Willis may be the last one for awhile). If these players attend SEC schools or schools we face during the non-conference schedule, watch out- a “Super Bowl” game against Kentucky can easily turn into a Cinderella story for an opposing team.
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