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Keith Taylor: Remembering that first Wildcat basketball love from 40 years ago

Growing up in rural Madison County, we didn’t lack for anything. We had clothes to wear, a roof over our heads and a garden that helped supply food on the table.

We didn’t have cable television, because it wasn’t offered in the rural areas back then, but we did have local channels. Those four to six channels at the time provided sports and entertainment. I fell in love with basketball at an early age and it was then I began following the Kentucky Wildcats.

Adolph Rupp was the coach when I was born, but retired a year later because of age stipulations and Joe B. Hall was the coach I grew up with. As my career unfolded, it was a treat to get to know coach Hall and have conversations with him about his former teams. I even had coach Hall’s cell phone number stored in my contacts list in case I ever needed a comment for a story or project I was working on at that time.

Keith Taylor expresses some excitement as Kenny Walker signs a drawing of himself in Taylor’s scrapbook from 40 years ago from the 1984 UK season. (Photo by Les Nicholson, Kentucky Today)

They were my heroes growing up and I now call some of them my friends.

During my early teens and teenage years, I watched nearly every game on tape delay, live or listened to the late Cawood Ledford on the radio call the game. I didn’t know it then, but just to have the opportunity to listen to a legend on the radio would turn into a lifetime memory.

During the 1983-84 season, Dad took me to my first Kentucky basketball game. We sat on the bleachers in the rafters and the “Twin Towers” looked more like the “Double Dwarfs” from our vantage point. I didn’t care, because there was something about simply being there for a 12-year-old boy from “Bucket Town.”

For some reason that year, I took one of mom’s photo albums with tulips on the front and back and started a scrapbook with photos from newspaper clippings. And I had a pencil drawing I made of Kenny Walker that I still had in the book. It also had a program from 1981 when the Wildcats visited Richmond as part of the “Champions for Home Meals” delivery program. I had my picture taken with the late Melvin Turpin and Fred Cowan.

I still have that scrapbook and showed it to Jim Master and Walker during a reunion of the 1983-84 Final Four team at Rupp Arena last Saturday. Both players were ecstatic to see it and I’m thrilled I kept it for 40 years. Walker signed the artwork I did more than 40 years ago and you won’t find a more humble person on the planet.

As Sam Bowie, Master and Walker addressed the media prior to the team’s game against Georgia, I sat there and listened to the stories from that season and their thoughts on this year’s squad. My mind flooded back to 237 Walnut Meadow Road and how I grew up watching those guys dominate the college basketball scene up until they lost to Georgetown in the Final Four.

At one point, I had to pinch myself and realize I was living in reality and not dreaming, Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are back in time at your current age? That’s what it felt like Saturday night.

Only I wasn’t dreaming. It was real time.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today.

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