Kentucky’s recent five-star recruit, Chris Livingston, met with the media for the first time on Friday (Vicki Graff photo).
Say what you may about Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari, you simply can’t dispute the fact that he recruits high-character individuals. When he tells us that “these are good kids,” that’s not just lip service. Talking to Kentucky’s recent five-star recruit Chris Livingston for the very first time yesterday, I got the distinct sense that he’s another good kid on Calipari’s path to superstardom.
When I learned that Livingston hailed from Akron, Ohio, I immediately assumed he idolized LeBron James while growing up. After all, the strapping, muscular eighteen-year-old is already kind of built like LeBron. I figured, then, Livingston would have naturally patterned his game after his hometown hero.
Livingston didn’t actually bristle when asked about LeBron, but it was clear King James wasn’t his number one choice for crafting his on-court prowess. But he did go out of his way to give kudos to LeBron for all his altruism off the court. That was a bit unexpected—for even at this young age, it shows that Livingston already understands there’s more to success than just shooting or dribbling.
“There are some people who have their own opinions about LeBron,” Livingston said. “It’s like any other city [when] you have a big star from there. It definitely does play a big role in the kids’ lives there. Because he’s always giving back—whether it’s schools or camps or gyms. A lot of the camps that kids usually come out of are [the ones] LeBron put the money into. He does play a major role in youth kids’ sports in Akron.”
Who, then, does Livingston pattern his game after?
Paul George is at the top of Livingston’s list. He’s looked up to the seven-time NBA All-Star ever since he picked up a basketball. That’s the reason he wears No. 24. In addition to George, Livingston also enjoyed watching Derrick Rose in his heyday. He quickly fell in love with athletic players that could get up and down the court and make plays.
That’s exactly the type of player Kentucky fans should look for in Livingston. Picture a 6-foot-7, 220-pound skilled wing that plays hard and fast on both sides of the ball.
“I have wide variety of what I can do,” Livingston said confidently, when asked to summarize his game. “Obviously, versatility is how you describe it. I really can shoot it [and] get downhill. I can play make—whether that’s passing or beating someone off the dribble and kicking it out for a three. I play defense, and I have a really really really high motor.”
As impressive as he might be with his on-court skills, it was Livingston’s off-the-court persona that really stood out to me. As a high-profile athlete coming out of high school, he already understands the roles and responsibilities inherent in playing for an exalted program like Kentucky. He appears humbled by the honor and grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s always a blessing to just be playing a sport that you love,” he explained. “And you can always be inspiring without even knowing it—to little kids, to people in your community that look up to you. You’re representing something bigger than yourself. That’s why I’m glad to be a part of Kentucky because obviously the fan base here is crazy. It’s huge.”
Livingston isn’t the first person to call Kentucky fans “crazy.” But just like his coach, he means it in an endearing way. In a couple of short sentences, he managed to completely and accurately encapsulate why the BBN is totally different from any other fan base.
“Just how much they really support the team—and want to feel a part of it,” he said of Kentucky fans. “It’s not just rooting for a team whether they win or lose. They really would like to feel a part of what’s going on here. It’s just great, to be honest. I think it’s the best fan base in the country. Craziest fans that really love the game of basketball.”
Are you feeling what I’m feeling? But wait, there’s more. It’s not all about the love of the Big Blue that captures fans’ hearts. Livingston realizes that the most effective path to the NBA for many cuts directly through Lexington. Unlike the stock market, past performance is indeed a good indicator of future success.
“That’s really what attracted me to Kentucky,” said the recent McDonald’s All-American. “Seeing the history of what they’ve done to people to get them drafted. And not [just] drafted, they stay in the league. They stay because of the principles you learn here, the values you learn as a hard worker. Coach Cal really knows how to get the best out of people. I love the play style at Kentucky. It’s up and down, it’s real fast.”
Hmmm? Real fast? Not all the time. With Coach Cal, it really depends on the flow of the game. As good as he is, perhaps Chris Livingston still has a lot to learn.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669