Prince and Rondo serving up Wildcat Stew

For most of America located outside an NBA city, and especially during the regular season, extremely high Neilson ratings are rare. But interest increases exponentially during the playoff season and for the Big Blue Nation, add a few more rating points.

In the case of said nation, they have the honor of watching two Wildcat standouts perform in the NBA playoffs. This is the sixth straight season Tayshun Prince, who is a Detroit Piston, has performed as a starter at a high level on a championship caliber team. Rajon Rondo is a part of resurgence by the once proud and storied Boston Celtic franchise. Rondo is a starter on that team and the two of them are paired against each other in the Eastern Conference Championship playoffs. When the Celtics are involved, there is always more interest from the casual NBA fan and in some cases indifferent Pro basketball fans.

Prince was always a cool, calm, collected character on the basketball court. One stark exception came in a game at Rupp Arena against the powerful North Carolina Tarheels. Prince canned five straight three-point shots the last of which, seemingly, was from thirty-feet.

Prince's explosive outburst stimulated a traveling companion and sometime press-row next-door neighbor in Rupp Arena, former UK great Kenny Walker. Everybody knows the heart and soul of Walker as it relates to Wildcat basketball. He is not held to the same press-row demeanor as most of the rest of the media. By the sinking of the fourth three-pointer, Walker was jumping around in his seat, had broken out in a sweat, and was cheerleader-type vocal and just overall out of sorts. When Prince knocked down the fifth shot, Walker almost jumped over backwards out of his chair. My next move was to kind of reel him in and try to calm him down.

Yours truly is a devout Los Angeles Lakers fan and during the draft of 2002, we were sitting there with the 25th pick in the draft and I had my fingers crossed that Prince would last until then. This because we knew what kind of NBA potential Prince possessed, and especially knowing the defensive prowess all Tubby Smith products possessed. Prince went as the twenty-third pick, however, and the rest is history.

Rondo possessed the over-all game that many thought was well suited for the NBA game and he has not disappointed. Like many players entering the NBA, his shooting is a work in progress but is getting progressively better and will continue to improve. Rondo left for the draft after his sophomore year and during that year it was the controversial Randolph Morris year in which he rejoined the team on January 10. Before that date, Rondo was leading the team in scoring, steals, assist, rebounding and the change in styles took him out of his game. His NBA coach Doc Rivers said Rondo is the best rebounding guard he's ever seen.

"He's one of these guys that's never too high or never too low," said Rondo's high school mentor and friend, Doug Bibby. "He's really taken it with a even keel and he approaches it the same way he did during the regular season. He has a strong mental approach – I can't express how proud I am of Rajon. He knows there are a lot of piranhas out there that are waiting to pick his game apart."

So if you don't have a particular rooting interest, the Cat fan can root for both and enjoy the match up.

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