Kentucky and Connecticut will meet for the first time Sunday with a berth in the Sweet Sixteen at stake. For one player on each team, this game will truly be a friendly rivalry.
Kentucky's Rajon Rondo and Connecticut's Rudy Gay were teammates on the USA under 21 national team last summer. They have been teammates in the McDonald's All-American All-Star Game, but they became friends last summer.
"We still talk all the time," said Gay. "He is one of my best friends."
Rondo smiles when asked what it will be like to finally play against Gay, especially when he was told that Gay said he wouldn't take it "easy" on his friend. "That sounds like him. He's really a great player and a good guy. But my job will be to beat him. It's not me against him, but for us to win, we can't let him have a great game," Rondo said.
Gay said the two would "basically hang together all the time" while playing on the USA team last summer. "He's kind of quiet until he warms up to you, but he is the kind of person that would do anything for you if you asked him," Gay said. "I heard from him after the (NCAA) pairings came out, but we don't talk that much basketball."
So is he glad to finally have a chance to play against his friend? "It will be fun. I am glad to have a chance to play against him. I know he's a great player. He is the type of player that loves his teammates and will do whatever it takes to take care of his teammates. He will get them open and get them baskets. If they are not open, he takes over. But he usually likes being the last option."
Both players could have options this summer to leave school early for the NBA. Both insist their only focus today is on winning a national championship. "Me and Rondo talk about our future a little bit. But we talk about a lot of other stuff like shoes and clothes, too. We don't talk that much about basketball, but we both know we have some things to consider this summer."
UK-UConn, a friendly rivalry for Gay & Rondo
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