This afternoon, the Kentucky basketball program announced it had officially scheduled a three-game series with the Michigan Wolverines, with the first game taking place in London, England in December of 2020. From there, both teams will participate in a home-and-home, with Kentucky heading to Ann Arbor to play in 2021, followed by Michigan heading to Lexington in 2022.
But how did the series come to fruition?
During his pre-Fairleigh Dickinson press conference on Thursday afternoon, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said he scheduled the three-game series with the Wolverines as a favor to first-year Michigan coach Juwan Howard.
“There’s a couple things, just so you know,” Calipari said. “When Juwan Howard was hired at Michigan, I called him and I just said, “Listen, if there’s any way I can help you or your program [let me know]. We can talk scheduling, and that’s something I don’t do lightly, but with you, I will.”
The reasoning? He wanted to thank Howard – a Miami Heat assistant from 2013-19 – for taking former Kentucky forward Bam Adebayo “under his wing” and helping him adjust to the NBA ranks after he was drafted by the franchise in 2017.
“The reason is, he took Bam [Adebayo] under his wing (as an assistant with the Miami Heat],” Calipari said. “[Adebayo] had Kenny [Payne] doing what he did, and he went right to that culture and had Juwan Howard take him under his wing. And look what [Adebayo] is doing now. He’s got a chance to be the [NBA] Defensive Player of the Year, he’s got a chance to be an [NBA] All-Star, I mean, it’s crazy.”
In short, Calipari told Howard that because he helped one of his former players find his footing in the league, he’ll help him out as he finds his footing in the college ranks.
And as a result, both sides agreed to a three-year series that they feel “should be good” for both programs.
“I said, “You took care of one of mine, so if I can help you in this [let me know],”‘ Calipari said. “Now, I didn’t know they’d be this good. But that’s where it started. Then we got together [to talk] about a neutral [court game], and then a home-and-home. It should be a good three-year thing for both programs. It should be good.”