September 15, 2012

Alumni game brings back familiar faces for charity

It wasn't so different from any other family reunion.

The guys were a little taller. They played a littler higher above the rim - some of them, anyway - than your uncles in the driveway.

But the Kentucky Basketball Alumni Charity Game Saturday at Rupp Arena had familiar faces wearing wide smiles and some long-gone friends finding their way back to a home away from home in Lexington.

"It's like a big family," said NBA rookie Darius Miller. "We're all having fun with each other, just enjoying the moment. We came out here, we had a blast. Hope everybody else did too."

There were 10,173 fans in the stands to watch the White team beat the Blue 121-93 behind 42 points and 15 rebounds from the Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins and 40 points from Hornets rookie Anthony Davis, last season's NCAA Player of the Year.

That turnout didn't fill the house, but it was enough to generate $350,000 in charitable donations to the West Liberty Recovery Fund, 4 Paws for Ability, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, Everfi's financial literacy program, Samaritan's Feet, the Urban League of Lexington and the Jimmy V Foundation.

He doesn't expect the reunion to be a one-time affair. In addressing the crowd before the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari - who tied Saturday's festivities to the week of his Basketball Fantasy Experience Camp - said he wants to repeat the Alumni Game next year and to give away $1 million to charity.

The fans who turned out for good causes also got to have some fun. Defense was Saturday's big loser. Its big winner was rapper Drake, the coach of a White team that was stacked in the frontcourt with Cousins and Davis.

"We knew who the better team was," Davis said. "Clearly the White."

The White team had a significant size advantage, but it hardly mattered. Cousins was content to do most of his damage from long distance, shooting 5-for-10 from three-point range. Davis was 4-for-7 from behind the three-point line, which was at NBA distance.

"I had a decent game," Cousins said. "Decent game."

The Blue team was more perimeter-oriented. It got 32 points from Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and 20 each from 1990s stars Derek Anderson and Wayne Turner.

Tony Delk, who had 23 points in the day's matinee pitting members of Kentucky's 1996 NCAA championship team against All-Stars from Calipari's fantasy camp, turned facilitator in the Alumni Game, dishing out 12 assists for the White team, which also featured Perry Stevenson, Antoine Walker, Jared Prickett and Walter McCarty.

They rolled past a Blue team that also had Miller, Nazr Mohammed, Jeff Sheppard and Randolph Morris.

Though the week leading up to the game sparked a debate over which team was superior, Delk's 1996 NCAA champs, a team that ultimately saw nine of its players on NBA rosters, or this year's title winner sparked by Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1 and 2 picks in June's NBA Draft.

John Wall, who got the ball rolling on Kentucky's recruiting renaissance in 2009, cast his vote for the 2012 squad. But Wall - who coached the losing Blue team - said he'd first require that club to beat his 2010 Wildcats, who produced five first-round NBA Draft picks.

"We could take 'em," Wall said. "We'll take on any challenge."

But for all the debate, Saturday was mostly about coming together, bridging the gap from 1996 to 2012 and honoring Kentucky's basketball past. A number of former players including Wah Wah Jones, Mike Pratt and Sam Bowie were in attendance, and the current Wildcats watched from courtside, along with the nation's top high school prospect, forward Julius Randle.

"It's a changing generation, but we have good guys that carry the torch," Delk said. "And that's the most important thing."

On Saturday, those generations came together, like a family, with Calipari as the patriarch.

"What he's done a great job of is brining everybody back and making us one big family," Delk said. "That's the most important thing that Kentucky has got. They'd gotten away from it (at) one point in time, but now he's brought everybody back and we're family again."


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