Given the amount of talent that’s made its way to Lexington, Kentucky, it comes as no surprise that the Kentucky Wildcats are one of the biggest stories in college basketball with the start of the season less than 24 hours away. The nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, which includes six McDonald’s All-Americans, is expected to get John Calipari’s program back where many believe it should be after last season ended with a first round loss in the Postseason NIT.
With the number of blue-chip talents Kentucky lands annually, assistants Orlando Antigua, Kenny Payne and John Robic have an important job ahead of them every spring given the ever-changing roster. Antigua’s role is of particular importance, as he can also serve as a “good cop” who explains to the youngsters why the head coach just ripped into them in either practice of a game.
And Antigua has an interesting story himself when it comes to how he reached this stage in his career, with many believing that it won’t be long before the former Pitt forward is running his own program. In a story written by Tim Keown of ESPN the Magazine readers get a look at the path Antigua took in getting from the Bronx to Lexington, which includes him being shot at the age of 15.
Fifteen, with a bullet in his head, listening to the paramedics radio ahead to the emergency room. The language of panic: “GSW near left eye. Entry, no exit.”
Don’t close your eyes.
He repeated those same four words to himself, over and over, like a prayer. A child’s logic: If you can see, you can’t die. A child’s fear: If you close your eyes, darkness wins.
The entire story is an interesting read, with hard work and the game of basketball taking Antigua across the world (he was also a Harlem Globetrotter) before he landed on Calipari’s staff at Memphis. He’s been with Calipari ever since, and his enthusiastic message being one that has captivated many recruits.
The story can be read here.