Senior night special for Carrier as well as Hayes

Josh Carrier came to Kentucky with the potential to live out the oft-repeated story of Kentucky school boy legend who becomes a college hero. While at Bowling Green, he put together one of the best high school careers in the past fifteen years, winning Mr. Basketball in his senior season and spurring the offers of schools such as UCLA to play for the home state Cats.

Wednesday night's game against Tennessee was a very emotional evening for all but the most hardened Kentucky fan, as we said goodbye to one of the most beloved players in Wildcat history, Chuck Hayes. Hayes embodies everything that a Kentucky fan holds dear, showcased by his astounding work ethic and his never-ending allegiance to the program.

Thus the focus on Wednesday night was as it should have been, on a special player (or if one wanted to use the ubiquitous term coined by every announcer in America when describing Hayes, a "warrior") who has been an integral part of one of the more amazing runs in this program's history. However there was another senior who said goodbye on Wednesday, one for whom success at Kentucky has never come easily, but one who has as strong a connection to the program as any of his fellow players.

Josh Carrier came to Kentucky with the potential to live out the oft-repeated story of Kentucky school boy legend who becomes a college hero. While at Bowling Green, he put together one of the best high school careers in the past fifteen years, winning Mr. Basketball in his senior season and spurring the offers of schools such as UCLA to play for the home state Cats.

Yet his career has never truly lived up to expectations. Frustrated by a seemingly inconceivable inability to consistently hit his three-point jump shot, Carrier has been the latest standard bearer of a Kentucky tradition, the guy who we hear is unstoppable in practice, but cannot seem to translate that success on the court.

This has led many Kentucky fans to become very frustrated with Carrier and he has often been the object of the fans' scorn, especially when the team has had the audacity to lose a game. Yet Carrier has not let any of the negativity change his outlook on the team or on life.

He has consistently put forth maximum effort, which has paid off on the court occasionally (such as during the key stretch run of the Louisville game this year) and off the court repeatedly (showcased by his multiple All SEC Academic accolades).

That is why watching Carrier's performance on Wednesday night was so special. Continuing the tradition of starting all seniors on Senior Day, Tubby Smith showcased his confidence in Carrier by leaving him in to run with the first team during their entire initial five minutes on the court.

Josh paid Tubby back for his support by draining his first three pointer, and helping key an initial run by the Wildcats to counter an early Tennessee spurt. Carrier became part of the rotation for the game, playing nineteen minutes, scoring a career high nine points, and truly looking as if he were in complete control of his game while on the court, a sight that brought a smile to all Kentucky fans' faces.

It is not surprising that in sports, we focus our praise primarily on those players who have an abundance of athletic talent, even those that lack in the more fundamental area of human goodness. We have been fortunate at Kentucky over the last four years to be blessed with a player in Chuck Hayes who has uniquely excelled in both areas. But in all the rush to praise Hayes, save a few cheers as well for Josh Carrier. He has lived the dream of numerous Kentucky kids, playing for the Big Blue, and he has done it while representing himself and the University to the highest degree.

Wednesday night's Senior Night was one of the most memorable in the program's long history of such ceremonies. Most will correctly, credit that to the state's love of Chuck Hayes. However equally as impressive was the state's embrace of one of its own and its appreciation of a solid citizen having a career night in his last home game. While he may never see his jersey hanging in the rafters, Josh Carrier has been a true benefit to the Kentucky basketball program, and for that he should be commended.


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