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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Dominican team owns first UK scrimmage

By Eamonn Brennan

Though the result is beside the point, let's just get it out of the way: Monday night's scrimmage between a loose band of Kentucky's NBA alumni and the John Calipari-coached Dominican Republic national team did not go the Kentucky faithful's way, unless they're glad to see their coach's talent remains sharp. The Dominican Republic beat the former UK stars 106-88 Monday night.

There is a good reason for this. According to Kyle Tucker's report in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Dominican team played sharp, focused basketball, while the UK side "treated the event like an all-star game, trying to throw down crowd-pleasing dunks, shooting at will and playing half-hearted defense."

But as I said in the first sentence, the result of this game is not what matters. No, what matters is the attention it garnered from Big Blue Nation and what that attention will mean for Kentucky's recruiting efforts. In this regard, the game seemed to go quite well. According to Tucker, 24,000 UK fans packed a sold-out Rupp Arena to cheer loudly for former players, if not for Calipari himself:
The Cooks sat in the last row at the top of the upper deck in sold-out Rupp Arena for Monday night’s exhibition, which, it merits emphasizing, occurred nearly three months before UK’s real season opener.

“It’s amazing,” Duane Cook said. “Pretty incredible for a game that’s not even a game. This has to be a great recruiting vehicle.” [...] “I don’t think anybody’s here to cheer for [the Dominicans],” said Tim Cook, the nosebleed patron.

In fact, the crowd booed loudly during Dominican player introductions, especially when former University of Louisville stars Edgar Sosa and Francisco Garcia were announced. Then the lights went down, the spotlight came on and fireworks popped overhead as the UK alumni -- including Wall, Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins -- were introduced. The crowd roared as if North Carolina was in town for a real game.

Well said, Duane Cook. This event is really all about recruiting, about profile, about finding a way to pack fans into Rupp Arena in the middle of August, about giving young players the opportunity to see the Kentucky basketball community in full form. It's also about fun, and watching NBA players throw each other alley-oops while booing former hated rivals is something that sounds like quite a bit of fun.

Anyway, the fun isn't done yet: Tonight, Kentucky and the Dominican Republic will take their show on the road to Louisville's Yum! Center. Rick Pitino and Cardinals fans may not be thoroughly pleased with the idea of Kentucky staging a high-profile exhibition in their home arena, but you can bet Kentucky fans in the Louisville area won't mind a bit.