Talkin' hoops with ESPN's Jay Bilas

Big Blue Madness was in full swing last Friday evening. In the midst of the pyrotechnics, lights, glitz and glamour of Big Blue Madness KSR's Lonny Demaree caught up with ESPN's Jay Bilas. Chuck Hayes, Randolph Morris and the new NBA nineteen-year rule were all topics of their conversation.

A record crowd of 23,174 was entertained with a pyrotechnic show, explosions, confetti, and excellent athleticism from basketball players and cheerleaders.

Several ex-player faces were flashed up on the Rupp Arena big screen giving comments on the UK program. Almost surprisingly, Chuck Hayes extracted the largest ovation among the eight or so popular faces. Who said the UK fans were callous?

Bilas said that the last time he was here for Big Blue Madness was the 1998 -'99 season after the NCAA championship year when the theme was the Wrestler theme when the coaches dressed up like Pro Wrestlers. "I think a guy had waited out for 15 days to be the first in the building and I'm told that still happens," Bilas said. "That kind of delirium is hard to imagine and it at Rupp for the first time and selling 23,000 tickets in 35 minutes is hard to fathom. It shows that it is a near religion.

KSR: How many of these do you do a year?

Bilas: This year is the first time since 1997 that ESPN is putting it on the air and we are at five different locations because of the NCAA allowing for earlier starts to midnight madness, we're able to stagger it. There's going to be a crew at Oregon, one at Kansas, one at Michigan State, one here, and one at Memphis as well.

KSR: What are the challenges that Tubby Smith is going to have in attempting to replace the rebounding and power lost by Chuck Hayes' graduation?

Bilas: I think the biggest challenge in replacing Chuck Hayes is going to be his leadership because he was just a winner and to have his strength of character on the floor buoys the strength and confidence of everybody else. You could stand behind Chuck Hayes and you know he's going to take the blow for you and you weren't going to get touched. So that's going to be a big issue. Having a scorer like Azubuike out of there, to have 16 points right out of the gate, your best free throw shooter gone but they've got such a deep team and they defend so well and their guards are so good. I still think Rondo was the best freshman guard in the country last year and Sparks is as good a standstill shooter as there is in the country.

KSR: What is your take on this whole Morris fiasco?

Bilas: It is not the kid's fault. Every kid is responsible for his own actions but in my judgment, we have created the problem by allowing the kids to test the waters and to pretend they are Pros for a while and then we are allowing them to come back and then punishing them for trying to be a Pro. I've been consistent from the beginning that I don't think it's a good idea. I think it should be all in or all out. There should be some finality. A kid should know whether he want to go or not and that would eliminate whether a kid took a sandwich and did you reimburse everyone for the socks that you wore.

KSR: The nineteen-year old rule, how do you see it?

Bilas: It's part of the collective bargaining process. If I were running the NBA's player association, my whole campaign would be, the age limit protects jobs of our membership and we are not in the business of protecting jobs for high school kids.

AllWildcats Top Stories