Who knew that the University of Kentucky was essentially the “Berklee of the Midwest” in the mid-90s (as it pertains to basketball players who would eventually land in the NBA)?

Of course, virtually everyone knows of Walter McCarty’s groove-laden, debut album, “Moment For Love,” which was released in 2003.  I was a junior in college at the time, and it became my ultimate “closer,” if you will.  Example scenario:

Girl:  Do we have to watch basketball again?
Wes:  Yes.  Basketball is the smoothest game on the planet.  Such athleticism combined with intelligent design, grit, and wit.  They weave together so seemlessly sometimes…
Girl:  What?
Wes:  THE SCHEMES, woman.  The talent and the organization.  Take the Kentucky Wildcats of ’95-’96.  Elite coaching.  Next-level talent.  A beauty to watch.  Athletes.  Ball players.  Guys like Walter McCarty.  Speaking of which…

(presses play on video below)

… of course, this led to a decisive, love-making endeavor.

I revisited the album the other day (naturally, I own several copies) and decided to do a little research.  What started as a fun trip down “McCarty Lane” turned into an entirely different beast.  I unearthed several gems.  Unreleased or little-known albums by other members of that Kentucky squad, following suit not only by going to the NBA like Walter did, but also by laying down assorted melodies for all to cherish.  First up was Antoine Walker’s contribution:

Walker’s “Spendin’ Cheese” was apparently released in 2004 and sold over 80,000 copies.  Suspiciously, they were all shipped to Walker’s home in Miami, but I suppose that was likely part of some unique distribution strategy.  I couldn’t locate any of the tracks, but the production was described by multiple sources as “big.”  I can only imagine.

Next was Tony Delk’s offering:

I expected a workman-like performance from Delk.  What I got was something else.  Delk is all over the brass from start to finish.  Trumpet… sax… bassoon… all Delk.  I listened carefully and heard shades of Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and even a taste of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.  Pure jazz.

Surprisingly, I also found the rare album from big man, Mark Pope:

Simply under the name “POPE,” the songs on “Jams For That Ass” are largely diss tracks, dished out towards other big men in the league.  Brad Lohaus (“Bullet to the Dome”), Will Perdue (“Ain’t Sh*t To Me”), and even Orlando Woolridge (“Ya Never Had It”) feel the wrath of Pope.  Worth seeking out.

There were others, like Ron Mercer’s “Fadeaway” and Nazr Mohammed’s “Let’s Try Music Now.”  However, I concluded that none of the aforementioned collections had the power of McCarty’s first effort (or subsequent efforts – yes, there are more).  I leave you with some more Walter:

– Wes Lilliman specializes in the study of crossover attempts by NBA players, on and off the court.  Of course he made all of the above up, except for McCarty.  Contact him at weslilliman@aol.com for more McCarty links.

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