Has It Really Been 10 Years Ago?
Yep, But Given's 1978 Performance Still Shines
Ten years ago Jack Givens had one of those games no one will ever forget. Givens scored a career-high 41 points in Kentucky's 1978 NCAA Tournament championship game victory over Duke. It was an uncanny performance by Givens, who is UK's third all-time leading scorer.
Cats' Pause Columnist
"This time of year people always bring up that game," said Givens, who will be recognized in Kansas City at the Final Four along with other standout players from past championship games. "It's been 10 years since we won the title but it seems like no one has forgotten the game I had."
One person who hasn't forgotten the game is current UK assistant coach Dwane Casey, a reserve on the 1978 championship team.
"That was just an unbelievable game by Jack," said Casey. "I have not seen a better individual performance since then. He was unreal that night."
Fans and media members still remember the soft jumper the "Goose" had. Today he shakes hands and smiles just as he quick as he used to launch his jumper. It didn't even bother him when fans chanted "Goose, Goose" as he was doing his pregame show for ESPN before recent first round NCAA Tournament games.
"Really, it's nice that people still remember it," said Givens. "Sometimes it is even hard for me to believe it was 10 years ago that it happened. When March gets here, it seems like it was only yesterday that I had the blue and white uniform still on."
Givens has done color work on first-round NCAA games the last four years for ESPN. It has been a labor of love each time.
"The first-round games are not always some of your best games," said Givens. "Teams, especially ones not used to being in the NCAA, are nervous and it shows.
"The excitement is still there, though. Nothing a player experiences comes close to playing in the NCAA Tournament.
"Plus you always have a chance of having that tremendous upset the first round. The thrill-makers come the first round or two. After that I don't think any game is really a big upset because of the balance in college basketball today."
Kentucky has been to the Final Four only once since Givens helped the Cats claim the national title 10 years ago. He hoped Kentucky could make another trip to the Final Four this year.
Givens still occassionally finds time to test his skills against the current UK players. One thing he doesn't do, though, is offer any advice to players.
"I would never give out advice unless I was asked," said Givens. "This time of year a player just needs to be able to relax and play. You hear so many things that can distract you. I would never want to be part of that.
"If you get too many things on your mind, it causes problems. All I would ever tell a player is just to play. If Kentucky does that, it will be okay."
Just like Givens was 10 years ago when he had a game most players can only dream about having, especially in a national championship contest.
? ? ?
KENTUCKY, as usual, had more fans than any other team at last weekend's NCAA Southeast Region Tournament. That caused several media members and opposing coaches to talk about the unfair edge that gave UK.
Maybe that's why UK Coach Eddie Sutton took time to explain the drawbacks of all the fan and media attention the Wildcats receive.
"People just don't realize the amount of time that is required of the student-athlete at Kentucky," said Sutton. "I don't know of any program in the country where the players have to give 20 to 30 minutes daily to the media.
"Our guys can't go anyplace. They are hounded for autographs. That wears on you when you go to a shopping mall, out to eat or to a movie. We try to protect our players as best we can.
"Players at other schools see all that and say they would love it. It is pretty good for a while, too. Then it starts wearing thin. That's why we have to protect our players some. They have to have some time to relax."
That attention takes even more of a toll on Rex Chapman, UK's sophomore sensation. He was featured on the cover of numerous preseason magazines, played on the Pan-Am team and is idolized by fans of all ages in Kentucky.
"It gets tough," said Chapman. "I think playing on the court is the easiest part of playing at Kentucky. The job a lot of us have to do off the court is the hard part.
"You really have to watch what you do, watch what you say, watch who you hang around with and watch where you go.
"You have to keep a level head at all times. The program has a tendency to take
your head, if you let it."
Davender really didn't understand that when he arrived at Kentucky. He didn't take long for him to learn just how big basketball was in the Bluegrass.
"Kentucky basketball is weird in a lot of ways," said Davender. "You just have to learn to deal with things that come with the territory.
"I realized how big Kentucky basketball was when I went to my first intrasquad game. I must have signed 500 autographs and I had never played a minute in a real game."
? ? ?
REX CHAPMAN doesn't understand why national media members have trouble accepting that he and teammate Ed Davender had no problem adjusting their games to each other. Davender Erew up in Brooklvn, N.Y., while Chapman learned his skills in Owen-
soboro, Ky. But both picked up the same lessons.
Ed And Rex Come From Different Backgrounds, But They Get Along
"Eddie and I get along well together," said Chapman. "We both like to get the ball up and down the court, run and take the jump shot.
"We might be from two different parts of the country but we play the same way. When it came to basketball, we learned a lot of the same things. I just don't know why people have so much trouble understanding that."
? ? ?
UK COACH Eddie Sutton denied rumors that he would leave Kentucky for the NBA during the Southeastern Conference Tournament. During the opening round of NCAA play in Cincinnati, though, he left the door open to a possible exit to the professional ranks.
"I have no desire to go any place else," said the UK coach. "There is not a perfect job anywhere. This is a wonderful place and I am happy.
"I have no desire to go to the NBA. I have had opportunities and maybe one day I will want to do. Perhaps when my children are out of college I may look to go some place else. But not now."
Sutton's youngest son, Scott, is a sophomore at Henry Clay High School.