The crowd filled the showroom at Bluegrass RV’s in Lexington on Saturday. The lined formed through the front door and down the sidewalk. They wore blue and white. In their arms were memorabilia and in their hearts were memories of the 1996 University of Kentucky National Championship Team.
The Cameron Mills Radio Show, Matt DiLorenzo of Pro Player Solutions and Bluegrass RV’s organized the makeshift reunion of the 1996 National Champions this past Saturday.
Cameron Mills, Wayne Turner, Jeff Sheppard, Jared Prickett and Derek Anderson took their seats on the far wall. They had in hand a variety of colored permanent markers, bottles of water and smiles on their faces.
The fans waited patiently to get autographs on their 1996 memories. There were newspaper clippings, posters, basketballs, programs and the usual game articles. There was also pieces of the championship floor, prints, christmas trees, kleenex boxes, shirts and what I believe was a small UK covered wagon. The fans shared memories with each player and posed for selfies. I can honestly say I have never seen as many Makers Mark bottles in one place, that wasn’t a liquor store.
There were young fans who were not even born when the 1996 team cut the nets down. There were wives sent by their husbands with specifics as to what color and where each item was to be signed.
There is nothing like Kentucky fans.
It has been twenty years since the Meadowlands. Some of the team members are now coaches, some are business owners and Nazr is still playing in the NBA. Although they have gone their separate ways they will always have that season and the banner hanging in Rupp as a reminder of their accomplishment.
Many fans will always consider them the “best team in Kentucky history.”
Watching the guys interact together you recognize the bond. Although they fought against each other in practice for starting positions and battled on the court, in the process of winning a championship they became not only a team but friends.
In August a yacht will be loaded and leave Miami for a day trip. The passengers will be all the members of the 1996 team. They will spend the day reliving their playing days, telling stories, catching up and making new memories.
After all…..once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.