The annual Big Blue Madness event at Rupp Arena on Friday night kicked off the Kentucky Wildcats' quest for a national championship during the 2017-18 season.
Head coach John Calipari has turned Kentucky's preseason event into a showcase for the program, with no less than 11 interested recruits in attendance to see what goes into being a part of the Big Blue family, per Ben Roberts of Kentucky.com.
One of those recruits, Zion Williamson, the top overall player in the 2018 class by 247Sports, was in attendance to see what Kentucky basketball is all about:
In fact, family was a big part of Calipari's opening speech to the fans and players in attendance at Rupp Arena.
"Do you want to be part of a lifelong family? I said it last year, it’s not just words here," Calipari said. "When you play at Kentucky, you’re committing to a family. ... At Kentucky, we embrace a winning tradition. We’ve also won more games and been to more Final Fours than any other program ever."
One part of the Wildcats family who made his return to Big Blue Madness this year was Drake:
Drake got to take part in the Wildcats' family photo that features current and former alumni, via Jeff Drummond of Rivals.com:
Along with Drake, this was also the official introduction for Wildcats fans to the team's eight freshman players who will play an integral role in its success this season.
Hamidou Diallo, who is arguably the best talent in the group as the No. 11 overall recruit in 247Sports' rankings, told KSTV Sports what draws players to Kentucky:
Just as Calipari always preaches family at this event every year, another annual tradition is Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell showing off his dance moves:
After the introductions and pictures were over, it was time for the Wildcats to take the floor to show what they are capable of doing when the games begin.
P.J. Washington, another of the highly touted freshmen who will be expected to shine for Kentucky, showed off his impressive dunking ability on this putback slam:
Calipari almost seemed stunned by Washington's physical dimensions when he measured in with a 7'3" wingspan on a 6'7" frame.
“Your arms are supposed to be the same as your height,” Calipari said, via SEC Country's Kyle Tucker. “Now, most of you in here, you have short arms. You [can’t even] reach in your pockets. Like alligators, you just can’t reach for anything. But P.J.’s are plus-eight inches. It is so ridiculous.”
Diallo proved he's no slouch when it comes to elevation above the rim on this windmill slam in warm-ups:
Fletcher Page of the Louisville Courier-Journal thinks the trio of Washington, Diallo and Kevin Knox will succeed in transition:
Because Kentucky often relies on so much first-year talent, it can take time for everything to jell. Two years ago, with Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labissiere leading the incoming class, the Wildcats went 27-9 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This year's team is replacing Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, so there will be a learning curve before anyone knows how good the Wildcats will be by the time the NCAA tournament begins in March.