A debate has arisen in the past few weeks about Kentucky's ability to beat an NBA team, more specifically the Washington Wizards with a precise set of parameters. The game would be played at Rupp Arena, and the Wizards would be playing their third game in three nights.
Gary Williams recently went on the radio and made a bold claim.
"I'll tell you, you walk into some gyms, and that would be one of them, Rupp Arena, and you better be tough," Williams said. "Regardless of how good you are, you can get taken right out of the game with the crowd. You just don't feel right. You can't play your game.
"I think one game, Kentucky couldn't play in the NBA or anything like that, but one game at Rupp Arena, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kentucky win one game. Because you're gonna have five players off that team playing in the NBA, and probably playing significant roles in the NBA. And that's why I say that, for one game."
"In terms of being able to run the court and find the open people, you know, Kentucky runs good stuff. They get their best players shots. And unless you play great defense against that, I don't care if you're an NBA team or a college team, they're going to be very difficult to stop. Now it's one game. It's one game."
Gary Williams emphasized that one game...However my rookie year in the D-League, Williams had that "one game" to prove that an elite college team could play with a professional team.
It was November of 2003, and I was a rookie on the Roanoke Dazzle, a D-League team based out of Roanoke, VA. Our team had been together for a little over a week and a half before squaring off with the 25th ranked, Gary Williams led Maryland Terrapins.
Maryland, notorious for its crowds, spent the night warming up for the season. Insults rained down upon us, as the crowd honed in on the fact that we were in the D-League and not the NBA. One particular student spent the entire pregame berating me for my long hair, telling me, "Cut your hair soldier! It's war time!" every time I passed.
Our inexperience together became noticeable as we dropped into a twenty five point hole. We had sixteen first half turnovers and went into the locker room with a consensus theme...We would not let a bunch of college kids embarrass us. The second half showed why we were the professionals, and they were still student athletes. We ended up winning by ten, ending Maryland's 10 year streak of preseason victories.
Now Maryland may not have been Kentucky, but we were also not the Wizards. We were a team filled with guys dreaming of that fourteenth roster spot on an NBA team. And we beat a talented, ranked college basketball team with only twelve days to acclimate our playing styles.
I'm not sure if this dispels the myth, but it certainly shows this competition has been tested...and the outcome was not a favorable one for college basketball.
Last game of three in a row, Rupp Arena...none of these factors mean a thing. It is professionals against amateurs. Put the last five roster spots for the Wizards in against Kentucky and the fact remains they still win. It has been proven, and Gary Williams should know better.