Kentucky basketball has decided to bury the hatchet with former center Daniel Orton.
After nearly ten years away from the program, Kentucky deputy director of athletics DeWayne Peevy brought Orton in to sign the hardwood floor they have featuring the signatures of former players that come back to visit.
“Always FAMILY!” Peevy said in the tweet.
— DeWayne Peevy (@UKDeWaynePeevy) July 20, 2019
Following the 2009-10 season, Orton declared for the NBA Draft and left school during the spring semester without finishing up his coursework.
As a result, Kentucky’s APR took a temporary hit.
“Okay there are some things that I’ve been needing to address, but I was trying to focus my attention elsewhere,” Orton said in a tweet not long after the NBA Draft in 2010. “As far as the classes, I want to apologize for not doing what I said I would. I messed up big time and hope I can be somewhat forgiven. I messed up on a few due dates on my online class and I just lost focus in school. I apologize.”
To this point, Orton is the only Kentucky player to have left in poor academic standing with the program, a note Calipari – without specifically naming names – has made on several occasions.
Back to play for DeMarcus Cousins’ Loyalty is Love team in The Basketball Tournament at Frederick Douglass High School this weekend, this is the first time he has returned to Lexington since his departure in 2010. And while he understands there may have been some hard feelings in the past, he felt it was the “perfect” opportunity to come back and catch up.
“It’s surreal honestly, it just seemed like everything was just coming back full circle. It seemed perfect,” Orton said in a media opportunity on Friday morning. “I just missed [seeing] Cal, so that was tough, but Coach [Robic] was in the office so I got to chat it up with him a little bit.”
He even added that he couldn’t help but be a little envious at the massive upgrades the Kentucky basketball facilities have seen since he left.
“You’re kind of envious because I wish we had these amenities, but at the same time, it’s good to see everything changing for guys behind us,” he said. “We started something and kind of turned it in to what it is now. It’s incredible to see.”
After his team’s 107-98 victory over the Illinois Hoopville Warriors, Orton said in the postgame press conference that he couldn’t be happier to finally be back in front of the Big Blue Nation again.
“It’s amazing. It’s phenomenal to be back,” he said. “Just to see the blue out there again, it’s incredible.”
And according to the 6-foot-10 center, there was no hesitancy when it came to his decision to suit up for Cousins’ team, knowing he’d be coming back to the city he once left on admittedly poor terms.
“[I told him that] he should have just told me I’m on the team, there’s no question at all,” Orton said. “He asked me if I would join, and I laughed and said, “Yeah, I’m with you.”‘
In Loyalty is Love’s victory on Friday night, Orton put up 11 points on 3-5 shooting to go with two rebounds and one blocked shot.
He will take the floor once again at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.