John Calipari is arguably the top recruiter in college basketball, but his emphasis on signing high-character athletes at Kentucky year in and year out is just as impressive. If there are major red flags with a prospect’s character or personality, the Wildcat head coach will cut off contact immediately and let another coach deal with the baggage, no matter how talented they may be.
This afternoon, Coach Cal proved yet again he signed a class of stellar recruits both on and off the floor.
I’ve been coaching at a Special Olympics basketball camp this week, where athletes have been working each day to prepare for a final championship game held this afternoon. To start the day, we warmed up and began our morning drill session, the same schedule we had gone through all week long. Nothing different.
And in walked Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus with his two prized signees, Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, to surprise the campers.
Almost immediately, they jumped in and asked what they could do to help. We introduced them to the campers, who then welcomed the Wildcats with hugs and high-fives. They followed it up with some individual attention in the drills, several fun games and activities, and some on-court help during a small walkthrough scrimmage to prepare for the big game scheduled after lunch.
During the exhibition game, they helped direct traffic on the court, assisted the campers with dribbling, passing, and shooting, and lifted their spirits on the sideline during timeouts. No matter the age of the camper or the challenges they faced, they did their best to make sure each individual had the time of their lives.
After the scrimmage, they took pictures, talked to campers, and shot around with them for as long as they wanted. They stayed for several hours, and probably would’ve stuck around longer if we asked them to.
“Our guys were super excited to come out and to be around the kids,” said UK assistant coach Joel Justus. “Immanuel and Keldon both jumped right at the opportunity to come out. They wanted to be involved and it was a lot of fun to watch them interact with the campers. We’re just so blessed here at Kentucky and they’re extremely blessed as individuals. It was a fun day all around.”
No television cameras or interviewers. No spotlight for attention. Just lending a hand to some awesome kids for the day.
Check out some of KSR’s highlights from the fun afternoon:
To put the icing on the cake, Kentucky legend Jack “Goose” Givens also came to help out this week, who gave the campers a motivational speech and worked with them on drills on Wednesday morning.
He talked about his time at Kentucky, playing in the NBA, and the keys to success in basketball.
Take a look:
This is a special, special program.