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Fun in the sun

Daimion Collins sends two Dominican Republic defenders into witness protection (Dr. Michael Huang photo).

In a team meeting in his palatial suite at the Baha Mar Resort the other night, Kentucky head coach John Calipari scribbled four things he wanted his team to show during their opening exhibition game against the Dominion Republic Select Team.

  1. Play for each other
  2. Play hard
  3. Speed
  4. Have fun

In a 108 – 56 laugher over their hastily strewn together opponent, I’d say “Mission Accomplished.”

Within the confines of an eerily darkened resort conference room turned basketball court, Kentucky shot a sizzling 42-for-74 from the field (11-for-26 from behind the arc), tallied 28 assists, blocked 10 shots, and racked up 13 steals in a hard-nosed, unselfish, fast-paced team effort in front of several hundred enthusiastic Big Blue fans. Regardless of venue and competition, if you accumulate numbers like that, I’ll guarantee you’ll have fun.

No one had more fun than sophomore forward Daimion Collins. The former Texas Gatorade Player of the Year had two monster dunks that were not only plays of the game but might end up as plays of the year. In both cases, Collins ran the floor, swooped in along the baseline, levitated effortlessly above the rim, and slammed the ball violently over multiple hapless defenders.

“I just attacked the rim,” said Collins. “My posse always told me to play above the rim. It’s something I’m used to doing, so I was just sticking to the game plan.”

For the evening, Collins chipped in 15 points and added five rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. As promised, he showed a newfound affinity for pull-up jumpers that bodes well for the upcoming season.

“To Daimion’s credit, he put a lot of work in—a lot of time in,” said associate coach Orlando Antigua, who assumed the head coaching duties on the sidelines on opening night. “We’re happy for him to start seeing some of those results. This is just one game. But those are things we’re seeing. And that’s what we’re expecting.”

Returning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe led the team in scoring with a ho-hum 17 points and six rebounds. Freshman Cason Wallace and transfer Antonio Reeves contributed 15 and 12 points respectively. Wallace impressed everyone with his poise and defense while Reeves proved he can be the reliable three-point shooter Kentucky needs him to be.

For the four-game stretch, Calipari promised different starting lineups. Collins, Tshiebwe, Reeves, Jacob Toppin, and Sahvir Wheeler had the honors tonight.

We all know that a meaningless exhibition in the middle of August against suspect competition means nothing. Unless it’s being played under the watchful eye of a passionate Big Blue Nation. Then it means everything. Especially for a team looking to carve itself an early identity in a quest for an elusive national championship. Tonight was a good start.

Tomorrow night, it’ll be more fun in the sun as Kentucky takes on Tec De Monterrey (Mexico) at 7 pm on the SEC Network.

Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of 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.

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at

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