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Struggling for a holiday-gift idea for the Big Blue fan in your life? This might help.

·5 min read

With the supply chain disrupted by both the global pandemic and subsequent containment measures, many of us have vowed in 2021 to get our holiday gift shopping done early.

If you are like me, however, you are already behind on that goal.

Should you have a member of the Big Blue Nation on your gift list, there is good news. There are multiple new-to-newish books about UK sports figures that have recently come to market.

Below is a list of some of the titles available to stuff the stockings of the ardent Kentucky Wildcats sports fans in your life (books are listed alphabetically by title):

Title: “Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey.”

Publisher: Acclaim Press

Meet the author: Jamie Vaught is a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College who moonlights as a sportswriter. He is the author of four previous books on UK basketball.

Origin of this book: “All of my books are similar, as they all feature profiles of different people associated with (the) UK men’s basketball program,” Vaught writes in an email. “... I enjoy writing feature stories about UK basketball.”

What is unique about this book: In addition to stories about Kentucky basketball luminaries such as Cliff Hagan, Kevin Grevey, Jack Givens and Jeff Sheppard among others, Vaught also features ESPN analyst Dick Vitale and ex-LSU coach Dale Brown.

“I visited Coach Vitale at his Florida home near Tampa. He was great and very pleasant, and gave me almost one hour for the interview,” Vaught writes. “Also, I loved writing about Coach Brown. A very interesting man!”

For purchasing info: https://tinyurl.com/3r9nzesz

“Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey” is the fifth book written by longtime sportswriter Jamie Vaught.
“Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey” is the fifth book written by longtime sportswriter Jamie Vaught.

Title: “From the Rafters at Rupp — The Book: Legends of Kentucky Basketball”

Publisher: Acclaim Press

Meet the authors: Kyle Macy was a three-year starter (1977-80) at point guard for Kentucky and helped the Wildcats win their fifth NCAA championship in 1978.

John Huang is a retired orthodontist who currently serves as a sports reporter/columnist for the Nolan Media Group. Along with Alan Cutler, he is co-author of the book “Cut to the Chase,” which chronicled the colorful career of Cutler, the retired, longtime WLEX-TV sports anchor/reporter.

Origin of this book: “Kyle’s done a (television) series called “From the Rafters at Rupp” about all the (UK basketball) players who have had their jerseys retired,” says Huang. “We took that and wanted to make it into a commemorative, coffee-table edition (book). So we’ve done that.”

What is unique about this book: “In front of every section (about players with a UK retired jersey), Kyle writes a little vignette of maybe an encounter he had with that person or just how much in awe he is of some of these All-Americans,” says Huang. “It’s really neat.”

For purchasing info: https://tinyurl.com/53kkarjm

“From the Rafters at Rupp” by Kyle Macy and John Huang is a coffee-table book about the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball players who, like Macy, have had their jerseys retired to the rafters of Rupp Arena.
“From the Rafters at Rupp” by Kyle Macy and John Huang is a coffee-table book about the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball players who, like Macy, have had their jerseys retired to the rafters of Rupp Arena.

Title: “Kentucky Basketball: Two Decades Behind The Scenes”

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Meet the authors: Tom Leach is the radio play-by-play announcer for Kentucky Wildcats football and men’s basketball broadcasts; Mike Pratt is the color analyst on UK men’s hoops radio broadcasts and a former star forward (1967-70) for the Cats.

Origin of this book: “Was actually Mike’s idea,” says Leach. “He gave me a call last summer. Just said, ‘This is going to be 20 years (of working UK radio broadcasts together). Why don’t we do a book?’”

What is unique about this book: Told in an oral history format, the book contains behind-the-scenes Kentucky basketball anecdotes gleaned by Leach and Pratt in their two decades calling the Cats games.

One genuine shocker comes when Pratt, who was asked by UK administrators to help vet coaching candidates after the ouster of Billy Gillispie as Kentucky coach in 2009, reveals the Hall of Fame coach who made an unlikely bid for the Wildcats job before it went to John Calipari.

For purchasing info: https://tinyurl.com/y54uupxe

“Kentucky Basketball: Two Decades Behind The Scenes” contains UK anecdotes gleaned by radio broadcasters Tom Leach and Mike Pratt.
“Kentucky Basketball: Two Decades Behind The Scenes” contains UK anecdotes gleaned by radio broadcasters Tom Leach and Mike Pratt.

Title: “Kentucky Passion: Wildcat Wisdom and Inspiration”

Publisher: Red Lightning Books

Meet the authors: John Huang was introduced above. Del Duduit is a former sportswriter from Lucasville, Ohio, who has written previous books on the men’s basketball teams at Michigan and Indiana.

Origin of this book: “I’ve always loved to write and I’ve always been a huge Kentucky basketball fan,” says Huang. “I figured, why not combine my two passions?”

What is unique about this book: It recounts 52 memorable moments from UK basketball history (starting with “The Mardi Gras Miracle”) then supplies a motivational or inspirational lesson to be drawn from the event.

“The book is meant to be read as somewhat a devotional book,” Huang says.

For purchasing info: https://tinyurl.com/5n8v8r2b

The book “Kentucky Passion: Wildcat Wisdom and Inspiration” is “meant to be read as somewhat of a devotional book,” says co-author John Huang.
The book “Kentucky Passion: Wildcat Wisdom and Inspiration” is “meant to be read as somewhat of a devotional book,” says co-author John Huang.

Title: “Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting”

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Meet the authors: An architect by training, Alan Sullivan is the son of the late sports broadcaster, Claude Sullivan; Joe Cox is a Northern Kentucky attorney and author or co-author of 10 books.

Origin of this book: Originally published in 2014 and reissued this year in paperback, the book — 11 years in the writing — is an attempt to preserve the legacy of Claude Sullivan, whose illustrious career as play-by-play announcer for the Kentucky Wildcats and Cincinnati Reds was cut tragically short by his death from cancer in 1967 at age 42.

What is unique about this book: In the popular mind, Cawood Ledford is often thought of having succeeded Claude Sullivan as UK’s primary radio play-by-play voice.

“I think people probably don’t realize that (Claude Sullivan) was not only before Cawood, he was during Cawood,” says Alan Sullivan. “For about 14 years, their careers overlapped. I always correct people on that. They were friends and competitors.”

For purchase info: https://tinyurl.com/yckhssdw

Alan Sullivan, the son of Claude Sullivan, spent 11 years working on this book on the late radio broadcaster.
Alan Sullivan, the son of Claude Sullivan, spent 11 years working on this book on the late radio broadcaster.

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