In May 9 Issue
By Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
Russell County’s most famous Kentucky Wildcat basketball fan, “Bob from Jamestown,” says he is looking forward to the program’s direction under new head coach John Calipari and said he believes UK will be back in the Final Four within two years.
Jamestown’s Robert Cumming, the man behind one of the state’s most recognizable voices, said he believes the University of Kentucky hit a proverbial grand slam with the hire of the men’s basketball team’s new head man.
Cumming, a regular caller on Wildcat radio pre-game broadcasts for nearly 15 years, first spoke with Coach Calipari several weeks ago during the coach’s first and only call-in show since formally taking the Wildcat head job on April 1.
“I tell you what, if you talk to the guy for five minutes it’s like you’ve know him your whole life,” Cumming said. “He’s the real deal, that’s for sure.”
Bob, whose been a Kentucky fan since 1963, said he was not surprised at former coach Billy Gillispie’s firing from the university after two tumultuous seasons off the court and a 40-27 record on the court.
“It’s like Mr. (Mitch) Barnhart (,UK athletics director) said, he just wasn’t really a good fit with the program,” he said. “I’d be surprised to see where he goes after this.”
But Cumming’s focus was clearly on that of Coach Calipari.
“I think they made a great choice,” he said. “He can recruit and if we get a good point guard in there we’ll have a great team on the court next year.”
Bob’s worries may have eased some since news broke that Kentucky secured its most important need on Wednesday when Eric Bledsoe, whom one recruiting service ranks as the third best point guard in the class of 2009, committed to UK over the Memphis Tigers. UK is also still actively recruiting another point guard, John Wall, who is rated as the number one high school recruit in the country.
Cumming said since taking the UK head job Calipari has been out promoting the program on numerous radio and television shows.
“He started at the bottom and he has worked his way to the top,” he said. “I don’t think it will be too long before we start hanging some more (championship) banners.”
Cumming especially said how he approved of Calipari giving former UK standouts Tony Delk and Scott Padgett entry level positions in the program in hopes of them one day becoming head coaches themselves.
He said he also anticipates some changes on the current Wildcat roster before next season begins.
As it stands now, senior-to-be Michael Porter left the team due to personal reasons, guard Jodie Meeks and forward Patrick Patterson have submitted their names for the NBA draft in June but have not hired agents, meaning that they can withdraw and return to school, and Internet rumors have players Donald Williams, A.J. Stewart and Josh Harrellson possibly leaving the team, among others.
UK currently has five new players signed to play next season in Mobile, Alabama’s 6-10 DeMarcus Cousins, 6-11 Daniel Orton of Oklahoma City, Ky. Mr. Basketball Jon Hood, 6-6, from Madisonville, 6-1 Eric Bledsoe from Birmingham, Alabama and junior college player Darnell Dodson, 6-7, from Maryland.
Cumming said he would also like to see a change in uniforms as he deemed this year’s shorts a tad too long for his taste.
“I guess I’m more old-school,” he said laughingly. Despite the uniforms, Bob said he would continue calling in each week and supporting the program.
“I’m a big fan,” he said. “I think we got us a good one (in Coach Calipari), everybody in the Big Blue Nation is excited.”
Cumming has been a Wildcat fan since his older sister was a student at UK. She brought him home a Wildcat sweatshirt. It was a Christmas present, for the then 9-year-old Cumming.
Growing up in southern Ohio, he went on to attend Hamilton Taft High School with one of UK’s all-time greats, Kevin Grevey.
That spurned his interest in the program even more.
Cumming mentioned to Calipari on the call-in show that the bar had been raised with North Carolina.
Both programs are battling to see which one will reach 2,000 total wins first.
Currently Kentucky has 1,988 wins while North Carolina, the 2009 NCAA champion, has 1,984 wins.
“We’ve got to get our share of glory back,” he said.