LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari has been visiting 5-star recruits all week and will host two of them on Kentucky’s campus this weekend, but one former McDonald’s All-American saw the Wildcats coach deliver his best pitch on Sunday in Houston, Texas.
Jarred Vanderbilt, a UK freshman forward, traveled back to his hometown with Calipari to oversee the distribution of more than $1 million the Cats raised with a telethon for Hurricane Harvey relief. The state of Texas had given Kentucky stars such as Vanderbilt, the Harrison twins, De’Aaron Fox and Julius Randle, and Calipari gave back in a big way.
“That’s one of the reasons why I came here,” Vanderbilt said Friday after the UK basketball team brought packed lunches for and played games with children at a Lexington elementary school. “To see how he genuinely cared and how proactive he was when he first heard about [the hurricane devastation], it was just a great feeling. I’m glad we have that platform to help out.”
Starting Friday evening, the Wildcats will host 5-star point guard Immanuel Quickley and 5-star shooting guard Keldon Johnson — two of their top targets in the Class of 2018 — but first the team stopped by Picadome Elementary to continue a tradition. For the eighth consecutive year, the Cats partnered with God’s Pantry to pack and deliver lunches to local schools.
This year, there was an intense game of duck-duck-goose, a relay race and high-flying freshman guard Hamidou Diallo jumped over the (seated) school principal for a dunk that delighted a gym full of squealing kids.
“One of the things Cal preaches is servant leadership,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said. “That’s one of the things he wants to teach us. Seeing how excited they got about being around us was great for us and great for them — both ways.”