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Reflections on a Season That Ended Too Soon

From left to right: EJ Montgomery (23), Keldon Johnson (3), Nick Richards (4), PJ Washington (25) and Ashton Hagans (2) celebrate Montgomery's first career double-double following the game against South Carolina on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 76-48. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

I’ll admit the drive home from Kansas City on Sunday night was not the most enjoyable journey I’ve ever taken.   As a matter of fact, the first half of the trip was somewhat sad.  So many “what ifs” were bouncing around in my mind.  What if we’d had one less turnover in regulation?  What if we’d made the front-end of a 1-and-1 free throw?  What if we’d made just one more 3-pointer?

But “what ifs” don’t solve anything and they don’t really do much to soothe the heartache when you watch your team fall just short of their 18th Final Four.  What did help, however, was reflecting on the season that was and how many joyous moments we experienced.   For the first time in my life, I had covered both the first and the last games of the season.  Both ended unpleasantly, but there was much to celebrate in between.

As I made my way past St. Louis, little snapshots of the season flowed through my mind:

  • The North Carolina game when Ashton Hagans first displayed what kind of defender he could be.
  • The boundless joy of Keldon Johnson after he made a clutch 3-pointer.
  • Watching PJ Washington embrace his role as a team leader and then promptly destroying anyone in his path for almost all of the SEC portion of the season.
  • Tyler Herro declaring he was “a bucket.”
  • Seeing Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery rise to the occasion when Reid Travis went down with an injury.
  • The emergence of Jemarl Baker in the Wofford game, proving he was more than a 3-point specialist.
  • Reid Travis – just everything about him.  He was the consensus among media members as the “best interview” and with good reason.  His answers were always thoughtful, he never failed to make eye contact, and he was so appreciative of his opportunity to play for Kentucky that he forever endeared himself to the Big Blue Nation.
  • Two College Game Days in Lexington.  Two!
  • Beating North Carolina, Louisville, and Kansas convincingly.
  • The complete and utter dismantling of Tennessee when they came into Rupp Arena as the #1 team in the country.
  • The odd, yet hilarious obsession with Brad Calipari’s fashion choices.  Why did that ever become a thing?
  • Most of all, watching this team interact with one another throughout the season.   John Calipari said countless times how much he enjoyed coaching this team and it’s easy to see why.  They had a great bond with one another and were eager to learn and grow as players and as men.

 

Sophomore forward PJ Washington (25) dunks the ball during the game against Arkansas on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Arkansas 70-66. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

Senior grad transfer Reid Travis (22) celebrates with freshman guard Ashton Hagans (2) after scoring a bucket during the game against No. 9 Kansas on Saturday, January 26, 2019, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Kansas 71-63. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

Yes, we always want to win a National Championship.  We always want to go to the Final Four.   But coming up short of those goals should not diminish the enjoyment of the ride that is the season.  We got to enjoy a lot of shining moments throughout the year even if they weren’t that one Shining Moment.

In a few weeks, we’ll learn of the decisions each player makes about their futures.  There will be fans who will feel it is their obligation to tell them if they should stay or if they should move on to the NBA Draft (by the way, it is not your obligation to weigh in with your opinion).  What we know for sure is we will not see this exact team take the floor again and that, even more than missing the Final Four, is what makes me sad.

So, thank you Cats for so many wonderful memories.  Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our basketball program and for always representing Kentucky with style and class.  Best wishes with whatever you choose to do next.

As for me, I’m ready to enjoy another ride next season!

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue

 

Michele Brown
Michele Brown
Writer at CameronMillsRadio.com since Feb. 2015 Co-host of Big Blue Views podcast. Mom, Christian, sports junkie, golf addict and speed typist. I can cook your mama's food better than she can.

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