If he’s going to play basketball, Derek Anderson wants to put on a show. That’s why the former Kentucky standout has been working out the last two weeks in preparation for Saturday’s alumni games at Rupp Arena.
He’ll be part of the 1996 national championship team that will play against players from the John Calipari Fantasy Experience at noon and then participate in a game at 2 p.m. filled with former UK players now playing in the NBA.
“I¿am very excited about it,” said Anderson. “Hopefully I can make it through both games. I’ve been working out a few weeks because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves.
“When you see up play, we are serious. It might be fun at first, but these games will get serious. When we played against the 1998 (UK¿championship team), it really got spirited toward the end. When we play with all those current pros, we certainly will be playing for real. Or at least my intention is to win.”
Even though Kentucky coach John Calipari has made a plea for fans to buy more tickets and even cut the $40 lower-arena seats to $20, Anderson says no other school could draw a crowd for a September alumni basketball game like Kentucky will.
“No one has done that. Not even (Michael) Jordan could go back to (North) Carolina and do that,” Anderson said. “We are the only people that could do it. Florida didn’t do it and they won back-to-back championships. We are the only school that can bring in a national championship team and celebrate like this.
“We have 30 players coming back from the NBA, and Louisville could not have a three-on-three game. I don’t know who is in the NBA from their team. We have a full roster.”
That playful smack talk is how Anderson is. Remember, he didn’t back off saying that his 1996 championship team that had him and Ron Mercer — both future NBA players — coming off the bench was better than UK’s 2012 championship team.
“They (the 2012 team) better hope we don’t get a man in there if they match up against us. That’s the only thing we are missing. Other than that, they would be in trouble,” Anderson said.
He says almost everyone from the 1996 team is coming back for the game except Mercer, who has a knee problem that would have prevented him from playing.
“Me, Tony (Delk), Ron and Walter are always talking or texting. We call each other. We always talk,” Anderson said.
Calipari will have at least one big-time recruit — power forward Julius Randle of Texas — on campus to see the fans welcome back UK’s stars.
“If I was a recruit and was there for something like this, I would sign on the dotted line right then,” Anderson said. “It’s one thing to help start a new program and leave a legacy, but if you have the opportunity to be part of a legacy that is already set, that is really great. We all love it here and that will be obvious to anyone at the games.”
There will be no designated media interview time or set time for fans to get autographs or pictures. However, Anderson says he’ll accommodate fans and he’s sure his teammates will, too.
“I am signing autographs. I am giving way a pair of my shoes each game to someone who has Victory Water (Anderson’s new water) in their hands. That’s a way to get a pair of shoes,” he said.
“But the fans do so much for us. We never really had a chance to give back as players the way we wanted. So many guys just want to take. We need to share, and we are going to do that and did even as players. We barnstormed the state (after the season). These guys (from last year) signed autographs but some fans said they were not cool and did not hang out with fans. We didn’t charge like they did for autographs. That is just crazy. My guys won’t do that Saturday.”
Anderson has been anxious to get his new product, Victory H20, into stores in Lexington and this week various Walgreens in Lexington started stocking the product.
“Other stores are coming, too. I have met with Rupp Arena, talked to Kroger. I want to make it the official water for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association,” said Anderson, a former high school standout in Louisville. “I am making progress. This is Gatorade without the sugar. You don’t have all the fat. You can drink it after working out or just from walking. It’s amazing. The guys (at the UK¿alumni game) will be drinking it Saturday.”
Anderson describes his product as “ultra premium water with electrolytes that enhance your mind and body” and says there’s no reason for anyone not to like it or benefit from it.
“I want to get it out in the whole state. This is more than an opportunity to support me. It’s good for you and you can support this movement. Where else could this be done,” Anderson said.
For more about the product, go to www.VictoryH2OKY.com.