College Basketball Nation: The Kitten Whisperer

This weekend, the rapper Jay-Z (perhaps you've heard of him) presided over a rather momentous occasion. He began an eight-show run in which he is opening the Barclays Center, downtown Brooklyn's newest arena and home of the New Jersey Nets (in which Jigga has a small financial but large symbolic stake).

And, of course, on opening night, John Calipari was most definitely in the building. Two tweets announced his presence, where Calipari was backstage with the Jiggaman -- and "my good friend" Irv Gotti (!!) -- himself:



The fine remark is made in reference to the now-famous incident -- famous enough that Jay-Z has since made an incredibly catchy (and not safe for work) hook about it -- when Hov was fined by the NBA for being in the Kentucky locker room during the 2011 NCAA tournament. Calipari's well-worked connections with Jay-Z are nothing particularly new.

They are, however, well timed. Julius Randle, the third-ranked player in the class of 2013, is a Kentucky target. He is also a very big Jay-Z fan. And the hip-hop love doesn't stop there. Earlier this month, Randle visited UK's campus and chronicled that visit in a blog post for USA Today High School Sports. In it, he reveals his love for Drake, and his thrill at the chance to meet the Kitten Whisperer aka Young Garnier Fructis:
We went to the Alumni Game after that and it was really live. I was sitting behind the bench and then Drake walked in and the whole place went just crazy. I mean they just went wild for Drake. [...]

After the game my mom wanted to get a picture with Drake so he came over and took a pic with us. He wished me luck with my decision and he said that he was looking forward to seeing me play too. That was really cool because he’s definitely in my top three as far as favorite rappers. Jay Z is on top for me.

In case you needed another explanation of why Calipari is so good at recruiting -- and trust me, you really don't -- here you go. Of course, that doesn't mean other coaches are lying down. Apparently, after Calipari showed Randle his title ring, UNC coach Roy Williams pulled up to the kid's house with a full case of jewelry items won at various times throughout his career. Let Ol' Roy show you what his closet on; gems in the display case, call it a rockathon:
Well, after our report of Randle and his mother Carolyn Kyles being wildly impressed with Calipari's bling, North Carolina coach Roy Williams came prepared to one-up Calipari.

"More like 31-up," Randle said.

During his presentation Tuesday night, Williams opened a case of 30 rings -- everything from conference titles to Final Four berths to national titles -- that he'd collected over the years.

"When coach Williams opened the case you almost couldn't look directly in it for fear of going blind," Randle joked. "It was crazy."
Famous rappers (one a legend, the other Charmin-soft) versus a pantry full of jewelry. Tough call. Who you got?

Anyway, wherever Randle eventually chooses to play his college hoops, one thing's for sure: He'll have seen every last stop pulled out before doing so.

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