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Raucous crowd greets champs in return home

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Another championship banner has been unfurled at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky returned home to its adoring fans Tuesday, a day after defeating Kansas 67-59 to win the school's eighth NCAA championship.

Blue-clad fans erupted as the team pulled into the packed arena aboard a sleek blue bus emblazoned with "national champions."

It was a joyous curtain call for a team led by talented freshmen and sophomores. The NBA likely beckons for several of them.

Each team member was introduced to ovations as players and coaches took the stage in the middle of the arena. Senior Darius Miller, a basketball net draped around his neck, toted the NCAA championship trophy to a table. Coach John Calipari pumped his fist and raised his arms in triumph as he basked in the cheers.

"You know why we won the national title? Folks, we have the best players and we have the best team," he said as the crowd erupted.

Calipari reminded the crowd that his goal three seasons ago when he took the Kentucky job was to restore the Wildcats to the "gold standard" in college basketball and to raise more championship banners.

On cue, the 2012 title banner slowly unfurled from the rafters at Rupp as the Kentucky pep band played and fans cheered.

Calipari said about 5,000 fans welcomed the team at the airport, and more lined the streets en route to Rupp Arena. "You people never cease to amaze me," he told the crowd.

Calipari praised the chemistry of a team stocked with future NBA players.

"Just talent alone, folks, does not get it done," he said. "It doesn't. These young men sacrificed for each other. They respected one another."

INJURED FAN: Police said doctors amputated the foot of a man who was shot in the leg during raucous celebrations in Lexington of Kentucky's win. Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Harold Calloway, 31, remained hospitalized. No arrests have been made in the shooting, which occurred after an argument.

PRAISE FROM PRESIDENT: President Barack Obama called Calipari to congratulate his team.

BATTLESHIP MATCHUP: San Diego State and Syracuse will play in the inaugural Battle on the Midway game on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on Nov. 9. Last Nov. 11, North Carolina beat Michigan State in the Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson.

EARLY ENTREES: Washington guard Tony Wroten, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, announced he would declare for the NBA draft and hire an agent. … Weber State guard Damian Lillard, who finished second in the country with 24.5 points per game, will bypass his final year of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft.

MICHIGAN ST.: Center Derrick Nix was suspended indefinitely after his arrest early Tuesday on suspicion of operating a vehicle with any presence of drugs and possession of marijuana.

NEBRASKA: Northern Iowa assistant Ben Johnson is joining new coach Tim Miles' staff. … Miles announced that center Jorge Brian Diaz will not return for his senior season.

Raucous crowd greets champs in return home 04/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 11:29pm]
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