Vaught's Views: Gentry grew up wanting to play in Rupp Arena

December 31, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Before he was even playing basketball at Henry Clay High School here, Troy Gentry was sure he would one day be playing in Rupp Arena.

"I dreamed of playing for the (Kentucky) Wildcats like we all do growing up in Kentucky," said Gentry. "But I wasn't talented enough. My aspirations turned to playing music, something I was more talented at. But I always dreamed of playing in Rupp Arena for the Wildcats."

Tonight he will be playing in Rupp Arena. It's just that it is with Eddie Montgomery for their second annual New Year's Eve concert in the same arena where Montgomery Gentry's beloved Wildcats also play.

"It was special last year and will be this year, too," Gentry said Thursday during a break in rehearsal. "Eddie is a Kentucky fanatic, especially in basketball season. We both try to keep up and enjoy Kentucky football and basketball, but when winter comes there is nothing better than Kentucky basketball."


Most country music fans would argue that there "is nothing better" than Montgomery Gentry. The duo has become so popular that they now enjoy the same kind of star treatment that Kentucky basketball players do - or maybe even more.

They already have a 20-city tour with Trace Adkins scheduled to begin Feb. 3 that will take them across the country again.

Never doubt they are Big Blue fans

But never doubt that they are Big Blue fans. They were approached here Thursday about possibly singing the national anthem when Kentucky hosts Kansas Jan. 9 in a national televised game.

Jennifer Lemaster, marketing and special events director at Kentucky, brought both singers a Kentucky jacket along with one for Adkins, who will also be part of tonight's show.

"There's nothing I would like more, especially because then I could stay and watch Kentucky kick Kansas," Montgomery said.

He also had one other request if his schedule permits him to be at the game. He asked if he could sit with actress Ashley Judd if she is also there.

"Who wouldn't want to do that?" Montgomery asked.

Gentry, like Judd, went to Kentucky. He played on the lacrosse team for about two years before a separated shoulder ended his sports career.

"That shoulder made it a little difficult to hold a guitar, so I have to give up lacrosse, which was a club sport, and get back on the stage," he said. "I can joke now that I was on the long plan at UK. I started at LCC (Lexington Community College) and got my two-year degree in science and then went to UK to finish up."

He never did finish at Kentucky, but his musical career sky rocketed after he teamed with Montgomery. However, as much as they love their music, they also share the same passion for sports.

"I went to as many Kentucky football and basketball games as I could when I was in school," Gentry said. "I enjoyed just how the people hung out and had a good time. I still wish I could go to games.

Montgomery's only regret was wearing Browns sweatshirt

Montgomery had on his Boyle County football hat and put on the UK jacket after receiving it Thursday. His only regret was that he was wearing his Cleveland Browns sweatshirt - which he had when his friend, Tim Couch, was still playing there - for a television interview.

"I should have put on my Bengals or Kentucky shirt," he said.

Gentry now lives in Tennessee, but he still checks the Kentucky scores as regularly as Montgomery. He also likes the occasional basketball game he gets to play on road trips against other singers such as Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.

"They are all big basketball fans and we just put up a goal and play," Gentry said. "I love the sport of basketball. I wish I could have been a little better and could have played in college and had a longer career. Still, even now it's a good way to get away from the back stage scene, release some energy, get some exercise and have fun."

Montgomery has a new tour bus, but he still has not been able to get the satellite TV system he wants installed that will allow him to pick up Kentucky games no matter where he is.

"I wish they had the high school games on, too," he said. "I miss not knowing how Boyle County and Danville are doing when I'm on the road."

Gentry says it is not unusual for the two to tape a game if it conflicts with a show so they can watch it later. "We've also been known to catch part of a game right before we go on stage or as soon as we get off," Gentry said.

Several UK athletes likely to attend

They don't have any conflicts tonight. There likely will be several UK athletes in the sold-out arena - Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd plans to keep a midseason promise to come to his first country concert - along with the thousands of Montgomery Gentry fans.

"We are going to make Rupp rock just like it does for the Wildcats," Montgomery said before rehearsal started.

Gentry agrees, but also knows his mind might temporarily think back to his childhood dream.

"I certainly can't complain about my career, but it's fun to get back to UK and Rupp Arena because it brings back a lot of memories from going to the games and also to the days when I was sure I would one day be a Wildcat myself," Gentry said.

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