Each time TV cameras panned to the crowd during Tuesday night's Kentucky-Vanderbilt game at Rupp Arena, viewers caught a glimpse of Wildcats fans sporting "Happy Jorts Day" T-shirts or waving "We ♥ Jorts" signs.
Anyone who has watched Kentucky this season probably knows that's a reference to Josh Harrellson playing his final home game. What some may not realize, however, is how the senior center earned that nickname.The story dates back to when Harrellson wore some snug jean shorts to Kentucky's spring football game during his official visit to the school three years ago. Someone snapped a photo of Harrellson, it got posted on the Kentucky Sports Radio blog and the "Jorts" nickname spread from there.
"Everywhere I go people call me that," Harrellson told reporters earlier this week. "I get a kick out of it. I don't mind the nickname at all. I actually like it because I think it identifies me."
Since Harrellson is the lone senior on Kentucky's roster, Tuesday night's 68-66 victory over Vanderbilt became a celebration of all things "Jorts."
Harellson's younger brother scrawled "Jorts Day" on his car in shoe polish. Harrellson's father wore a "Jorts Day, March 1, 2011" T-shirt to the game. And all throughout the crowd were fans wearing jean shorts, waving cardboard posters and cheering for his rebound or basket.
Whereas Harrellson was a fan favorite his first three years at Kentucky, he was also somewhat of a novelty act since he rarely got off the bench. This year, thanks to a combination of hard work and the departure of last year's top-three big men to the NBA, Harrellson has blossomed in a starting role, emerging as Kentucky's best low-post defender and rebounder.
Harrellson logged 36 minutes against Vanderbilt, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, grabbing nine rebounds, blocking four shots and getting three steals. He also made perhaps the game's most critical defensive play, blocking Jeffery Taylor's potential go-ahead layup attempt with 22 seconds remaining.
"Last year I wasn't playing much and nobody really thought I'd amount to much, but I came out and proved everybody wrong and persevered through all the struggles," Harrellson told Kentucky Sports Radio after the game. "Seeing everybody wearing Jorts shirts or wearing jean shorts, that just puts a smile on my face."