LEXINGTON, Ky — Kentucky could be losing nine players this Spring and many fans are concerned that some could be leaving for what they assume to be the wrong reasons. For Darnell Dodson, one pivotal encounter with a teammate was the only reason he needed.
In big time college basketball programs the players are afforded every conceivable perk allowed by the NCAA. Unfortunately for some of the more fun-loving players, downtime isn’t one of them.
Josh Harrellson witnessed first hand how serious a little extra down-time could be when he witnessed Dusty Mill’s expulsion from the team in 2007. Billy Gillispie sent Mills back to Indiana on the turnip truck when he thought he overheard some bad mouthing of Buck Owens during a game.
(Ed note: To this day Mills claims he was merely joking about the “overrating” the Milwaukee Bucks on NBA Live but admits it was “not the right time to do so.” For his part, Gillispie’s claims to have no knowledge of the years 2003-2009, “among other times and matters of dates and such”.)
After the firing of Gillispie, Harrellson was thrilled with the hire of John Calipari. He knew the coach’s reputation as a “player’s coach” with ”work hard, play hard” and “team as family” philosophies. As the team’s resident practical joke artist and best “locker room guy,” Harrellson relished the opportunity to “play hard” and in the end, for better or worse he did just that.
With the slim odds of an NBA contract, Harrellson had more downtime than other players who were putting in extra practice in hopes of becoming a lottery picks. The 6′-10″ senior took it up on himself to act as what he dubbed the “Lodge’s Liaison of Leisure,” and even made up a sign saying so to hang on his door. He organized the Madden tournaments, ordered the stacks of Mad Mushroom, and kept the players up on the college basketball chatter about the team on Twitter and the message boards. He was also the first to discover Chatroulette and introduce it to the rest of the team.
“We thought it was pretty good, funny stuff,” said Freshman guard Eric Bledsoe. “But Josh thought it was real funny – like real real funny. He was always off watching it, and we just let him do his thing.” Eventually there were less ad-hoc ping-pong brackets on the dry erase boards and more novelty costumes on the laundry room floor.
Harrellson’s roommate, Perry Stevenson assuaged the fears of Josh’ motivations by assuring that it was, “Just clowning around – no sex or gay stuff.” He summed up Harrellson’s webcamming of strangers by saying, “He’s a goofball, that’s just what he does.” As the season progressed, Harrellson’s teammates spent more of their downtime in the gym as their draft stock rose. Josh Harrellson’s was left with more downtime, which he spent, “just looking for someone to clown on,” Stevenson said.
Last week, as Kentucky’s Elite Eight loss to West Virginia was embroiling the fans in a state of disbelief and sadness, and it was no different for its players. They had been working together for months, day in and day out, for a goal that was now unattainable and they had all the downtime they could imagine to think about it.
Some players went back to the gym to prepare for the draft, some spent time with girlfriends or family members, and a couple decided to surf the web. On a lark, to take his mind off the big loss and lingering pressures to play professionally, Darnell Dodson clicked on the bookmark that his goofball teammate had placed in his browser months ago.
It opened Chatroulette and against all odds, it matched him with a recognizable face. It was his teammate, from down the hall, and in the video frame he was wearing nothing but a hard hat and a smile. From that moment on, Dodson decided that maybe college wasn’t for him anymore and he should think about moving on his to career in basketball.
A few minutes later, Stevenson convinced him to stop shrieking and Harrellson offered to let Dodson wear the Richard Nixon mask and participate in that night’s session. Dodson confusedly and politely declined.
As of press time, Dodson is still undecided on future. He claims that the vision of his teammate’s character, whom is dubbed “Hard Hat Harrellson” by Stevenson and Harrellson, makes it difficult to spend time in the Wildcat Lodge without night terrors.
Harrellson seems unphased by the incident and spent the rest of the night of “the incident” break dancing on flattened Mad Mushroom boxes as his character “Poppin-Papa-Nixon.”
With even fewer teammates to entertain as some leave for pre-draft conditioning, he has been on a self-proclaimed binge as the “glue guy of Chatroulette,” he said. Throughout the world, an appreciative audience of various German penises and vehemently racist American middle school children have “made a lottery pick of their own,” said Harrellson. “I can hear the commissioner now:
“With the first pick in the 2010 Chatroulette draft, the Internet picks a 6′-10″ Shirtless Breakdancer from the University of Kentucky, ‘Jive-Alive Fifty-Five.’”