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Friendships trump rivalry for Kentucky and Louisville players

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Baylor v Kentucky

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25: Terrence Jones #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates against the Baylor Bears in the first half during the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball South Regional Final at the Georgia Dome on March 25, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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The fans may not get along and the same goes for the two head coaches when it comes to Kentucky and Louisville, who will meet in the first semifinal on Saturday.

But the players? Not only do they get along but some have been friends for years. And that’s not something any of them seem willing to throw away just to spice up a rivalry.

Doron Lamb and Russ Smith both hail from the New York metropolitan area and were teammates for the famed New York Gauchos program.

And they found time this week to meet up for dinner, an occasion that would likely infuriate a partisan incapable of such an action.

“We talked about everything we miss from home, old friends that we used to play with, old coaches that we had,” Smith said. “Nothing about the game. That’s probably the last thing we wanted to talk about.”

Lamb did however provide the gem of a quote that summed up his feelings on being a teammate of Smith’s during their younger years.

“I didn’t want to play on his team because he didn’t pass the ball,” Lamb quipped. “Even when I played against him though, he shot the ball all the time.”

Also friendly are Kentucky forward Terrence Jones and Louisville guard Peyton Siva, as both hail from the Pacific Northwest. Jones is a Portland native while Siva hails from Seattle, and he would sleep over Jones’ house when playing in tournaments back in the day.

“We don’t ever talk about the Louisville and Kentucky rivalry. It’s not about basketball,” Siva said. “We’re from the West Coast and didn’t have anything to do with this rivalry until we got here.”

Chicago natives Wayne Blackshear (Louisville) and Anthony Davis (Kentucky) are close, as are their families, with the mothers planning to spend some time together in the Big Easy.

There are a number of friendships between members of both teams, which also includes Louisville’s Chane Behanan and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague.

And regardless of what happens on the Mercedes Benz Superdome floor that’s unlikely to change.

While fans and media alike will look for a game such as this one to provide an ample amount of vitriol both on and off the court, the players aren’t having any of that.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.