“Kentucky lost to Mississippi State in New Orleans the first year we came and Rick Pitino was the coach,” said Kay Davis. “We keep coming back because of all the UK¿fans. We always meet someone new and become great friends.”
In recent years, though, many of those “great friends” have come with them. This year, they are part of a group of area fans who once again rented a suite and have enjoyed the tournament. They already have a suite reserved for the 2013 SEC tourney in Nashville as well as one for Atlanta in November when UK¿will play Duke in a regular-season game in the Georgia Dome.
“We like to plan ahead,” Debbie Demrow of Stanford said. “For some of us, we’ve been coming the last 15 years. We always plan at least a year in advance.”
“She does an excellent job organizing the trip,”¿Kay Davis said.
Tommy Davis said this is “one of Kentucky’s best teams” ever and Demrow said, “Best looking coach (John Calipari) ever.”
The women in the group had special “Cal’s Gals” shirts made and wore the shirts at Friday’s game when Kentucky beat LSU. Bill Demrow, Debbie’s husband and a retired funeral director, surprised the group with his own T-shirt that said, “I¿am Cal” and unveiled it after the women put on their shirts.
“I just thought it would be a nice surprise,” he said, laughing.
As much fun as they have had here, they agreed Nashville still ranks as their favorite tournament experience.
“Nashville was the most exciting. We love Atlanta,” Debbie Demrow said.
They came to New Orleans expecting UK to win, too.
“We Kentucky fans expect to win every game,” Kay Davis said.
They have spent time in the French Quarter and on Bourbon Street between games, as well as making sure they sample some of the New Orleans food specialities.
“Most of all, we like watching the games with friends in our suite,” Debbie Demrow said.
Others in the group this year are Scott Graham, David Qualls, Mark Taylor, Jason Hurt, Dan and Jane Barnett, Pat Gabbert, Bill and Betty Grimes, Mia and Patrick Knight, Sterling and Wendy Skipper, Robin and Joe Crain, James Turpin and Eric King.
“We follow the Cats from coast to coast and will keep following them,” Debbie Demrow said.
Zumba and SEC basketball
Carrie Cornelius Wilson set up a Zumba clinic at Tulane University Saturday for one reason — so she could be in New Orleans for the SEC Tournament. She drove from Henderson to New Orleans after finishing a clinic there Wednesday to be part of the UK fan base here at the tourney.
“As soon as I¿knew the tournament was in New Orleans, I knew I¿had to figure out a reason to go,” Wilson said. “It was just a matter of making a few phone calls to get it set up.”
She travels to different states holding workshops for Zumba instructors to show them how to choreograph the workouts. “I basically teach instructors,” Wilson said. “I teach them about five new dances and material they take back and teach.”
Her clinic Saturday was scheduled at the same time as UK’s SEC tourney semifinal game, but she plans to be at Sunday’s championship game. “For some reason, I was just thinking they would be playing Saturday night when I set up the clinic,” Wilson admitted Friday. “But I will be wearing my UK¿shirt to teach in.”
Wilson’s parents, Jessica and David Cornelius, took her to the SEC Tournament when she was young and she’s been several times. She planned to make the Final Four in Houston last year, but UK’s loss in the semifinals to Connecticut changed those plans.
“My parents took my little boy and I was going to meet them on Sunday, but then UK¿lost and that ended that,” she said.
Wilson, 36, who is an insurance adjustor instructor in Lincoln County, knows she has a long drive home Sunday after the title game, but it’s a minor inconvenience.
“I will just hop in the car and be back at work Monday,” Wilson said.
She would like to come back to the Final Four here if UK¿makes it, but knows that might not be possible.
“I will probably have to sit out the Final Four, but you never know. I¿am a spur-of-the-moment-type person, so I could easily end up back here if UK makes it, and I think they will,” she said.