LEXINGTON — Based on what former Kentucky players thought of Monday’s exhibition game against the Dominican Republic, there likely will be similar type games in the future at Rupp Arena or maybe Memorial Coliseum.
“I am down with it as long as we don’t have the same refs,” joked DeMarcus Cousins, who just finished his first season with Sacramento, after scoring 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
“My agent is here in the back, so we will talk about contract negotiations,” said Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who had seven assists, seven rebounds and three points.
Keith Bogans, who now plays for Chicago, had not played in Rupp Arena since his senior day game eight years ago. He was 1-for-4 from the field and had three points, two assist and one rebound.
“I thought I would never play on that floor again. It was definitely a good experience,” Bogans said. “We’ve talked about if there were more games, we would come back. If he (UK¿coach John Calipari) does not (have games), we want to come back for a weekend, have fun and hang out with the new guys.”
Oklahoma City’s Nazr Mohammed said the players have already talked about doing some kind of game on their own each year to bring back even more former players than the eight who played in the 106-88 loss to the Dominican Republic national team in front of 23,509 fans.
“First, we want to check with coach Cal and see if he has anything planned,” Mohammed, who had 11 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes, said. “If he doesn’t, we’ll get something going, us coming back just kind of teaching the young guys, playing with the young guys or us doing something bigger or trying to have a weekend. But we’re going to sit and talk with him and figure it out.”
Philadelphia’s Jodie Meeks, who left UK after his junior season and did not get to play for Calipari, said he would also like to come back for some type of annual game.
“It was fun.¿I was looking forward to it. I¿have not played in a while and was just happy to be out there,” Meeks said after going 5-for-10 from the field and scoring 17 points. “This is just a fun place to be. I come back sometimes to work on classes in the summer. I love the great support fans show and like being around these guys and other alumni guys that are around.
Cousins said with the pending NBA lockout, he’s already talked with former UK teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe about making sure they help Calipari’s current team.
“When the team gets back, me, John and Eric have talked about committing to play pickup games (with the current Wildcats),” Cousins said. “You know me,¿I love being here. It’s always a place I will come back.”
Tayshaun Prince, now a free agent after spending his entire career with Detroit, had eight points and four rebounds. He likes what Calipari did putting together this game and the one tonight in Louisville where Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins will replace Prince, Bogans and Meeks.
“Calipari is special. He’s special in every sense of the word. These guys (Keith Bogans and Nazr Mohammed) up here with me, and myself, we’ve never had the opportunity to play for coach Cal. We’ve heard a lot about him and how much fun it is to play in his style of offense, and obviously we’ve seen that the last few years here at UK,” Prince said. “But he’s been in touch with us a lot which has been huge and I think that’s something every college in itself should do, to get the pros and all the alums back.
“Whether it’s just a game or whatever it is, something for a weekend or whatever it may be. I think Calipari will continue to do things like this, whether it’s a game or something else, and make it special for us. One thing he mentioned as well was, if there’s a lockout, he’d open the gym up for us so we can come in and work out. He’s doing some great things, and congratulations to him tonight with the Dominican team because those guys played well.”
Prince said he would “obviously look forward” to playing again in Rupp Arena with former Wildcats.
“If we had got earlier notice (about the game), we would have been in better shape and you guys would see what we can do,” Prince said. “UK fans have been great to us and myself. Obviously, we let them down tonight. It as fun, but they had practiced and we had not. We were out of shape. Hopefully in the future when we do something like this again we can get earlier notice and be in tip-top shape and put on a show like you know we can do.”