Through their Nashville church, former Vanderbilt standout Drew Maddux and his wife, Tara, were aware of the world-wide problem with orphans. They wanted to help.
"We knew we couldn't affect all 150 million orphans in the world," Maddux said last week. "But we knew we could at least make it one or two fewer orphans."
So it came to pass that Drew and Tara returned from Uganda 10 days before Christmas with two additions to their family. Patrick, 3, and Nicholas, 2, joined the Maddux's three daughters, Emma, 10, Ava, 7, and Sarah James, 5, in a Nashville home now bursting with human spirit.
"It's a circus," said Maddux, who noted how his two new sons are old enough to make their voices heard. "We felt God was stirring us out of our comfort zone. And we depend on Him for strength."
To adopt two children was not an easy decision to make nor an easy process to navigate. Maddux said he and Tara prayed about it for almost two years. At first, Tara was much more willing to adopt. Drew harbored reservations.
"I was strictly worried about the financial implications for our family," he wrote via e-mail, "and how could we afford not only the adoption process, which cost more than $30,000?
"When we got the boys home, how could we afford to add them to our household budget, and provide for all of us? Those fears are normal, and I began to pray that God would change my heart and that I would have faith that He would provide all things needed to make this possible."
Word spread of Drew and Tara considering an adoption. Enough contributions amassed to ease any financial concerns.
Before returning to the United States with their new sons on Dec. 15, Maddux and his wife spent 20 of the preceding 45 days in Africa. They made two trips, the first to arrange the adoptions with the Ugandan government and a second to do the necessary paperwork with the U.S. embassy in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.
"I'd never been to a third-world country," Maddux said. "That alone was an experience. Everything is so simple there because it's about survival."
The trips changed Maddux's perspective on life. A basketball coach and newly hired Director of Admissions for Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, he discovered a new way of living.
"The things I spent all my time with that seemed so important" became irrelevant, he said. "Hitting ESPN.com. All those different sports stories I would have thought important if I'd been here. It was just like it wasn't a big deal. It didn't affect my day whatsoever."
E-mail messages went unreturned. Texting could wait. No Twitter or Facebook page updates.
When not working on the adoptions, Drew and Tara spent their time in Uganda at an orphanage. "From sunup to sundown, we just loved kids," Maddux said. "We held them, played with them, just showed you cared."
Patrick, who turned 3 in August, had been found as an infant in a plastic bag near a dumpster, Maddux said. Nicholas, who turns 3 in January, had been abandoned in a park in Kampala when he was a year old.
"The discipline part of it all has been the biggest part," Tara said of the adjustment. "We need patience. Both the boys are strong-willed, and they've had to be. In the orphanage, you have to be a little scrappy."
Maddux and his wife wondered how their daughters would adjust. Drew and Tara spent time talking to their girls about the changes to come.
"They're doing great," Drew said. "What they got for Christmas was two toys in the form of brothers."
The adoption process proved to be a gift for Maddux, as well.
"It has been an amazing journey to conduct a self-inspection of my heart and realize that I need to trust God to provide," he wrote, "and trust others and allow them to help instead of always feeling like I have to control the situation."
During his radio call-in show last week, UK Coach John Calipari fielded a question about how a new arena might help recruiting.
Never mind what further help might be needed given the likelihood of Kentucky's third straight No. 1-rated recruiting class. But when it comes to UK basketball, enough is never enough.
In plugging the idea of a new playground, Calipari made Rupp Arena sound like a dilapidated building begging for the wrecking ball.
Host Tom Leach played straight man by noting that Rupp Arena opened in the 1976-77 season.
"The building is 33 years old," said Calipari, adding that such an age made it due for overhaul or replacement.
"What really has been done to it in 33 years?" the UK coach said. "Did they paint it?"
Lexington gave Rupp Arena a $20 million face lift earlier this decade. Bill Owen, the CEO and president of Lexington Center Corp., said that from 2001 to 2004, the city installed video screens, completely renovated the UK locker room and expanded the upper concourse.
The city also built a press box at the bottom of the upper arena, thus clearing space for high-roller seating at courtside, and created the E-Rupp-tion Zone section for students. The improvements included almost doubling the number of concession stands and almost tripling the number of women's restrooms.
All that doesn't include a new court (the old center court is in the lobby adjoining the Hyatt) and, as Leach pointed out, making all the seats blue.
"To say it hasn't been renovated is just not accurate," Owen said.
That said, Owen and city leaders welcome the idea of a new downtown arena as a piece of an expansion of the Lexington Convention Center.
Soon enough, the historic building that saw many UK victories and Villanova beat Georgetown in the 1985 national championship game will be no more.
Let's take another stab at where we are in the Enes Kanter case.
Since the NCAA has not reversed itself on the ruling of permanent ineligibility, it can be presumed that UK's efforts to get Kanter on the court have failed. The NCAA has rejected UK's request for Kanter to be ruled eligible and denied UK's initial appeal of that ruling.
UK's "new information" re-started the process. Presumably, the new information pertains to an NCAA ruling permitting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton to continue playing despite his father admitting he tried to sell his son's services to Mississippi State.
There is one big distinction to draw: the NCAA said it had insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion that Newton knew of his father's actions or profited by them. In Kanter's case, the pro team in his native Turkey provided housing and banking records to show he received pay for play. Even UK agreed with the NCAA that Kanter received $33,033 in excess of the permitted compensation for necessary expenses in the third of his three seasons on the team.
As eagle-eye readers correctly noted, it's that $33,033 that led to Kanter being ruled ineligible, not simply because he played for a pro team three seasons.
Since UK cited new information several weeks ago, it can be presumed that the NCAA again rejected the school's request for a ruling of eligibility. So now we're again at the point of an appeal hearing, which because of the holidays won't be heard before January.
Mehmet Kanter telling The Sporting News that his son would play for UK next season if the NCAA reduced the penalty to ineligibility in 2010-11 made for an attention-getting story. But NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said that comments by the player's father would be no factor in the case.
UK Coach John Calipari complicated matters last week by throwing out the possibility of the Kanter family seeking a court injunction temporarily nullifying the ruling of ineligibility. The Derrick Rose case came to mind. Memphis played the star point guard, who was ruled ineligible because of academic reasons after the season. The NCAA ordered Memphis to vacate its 38 victories and return revenue gained by a deep run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
If the NCAA won the court ruling upholding the permanent ineligibility, it would presumably order Kentucky to vacate any victory in which Kanter participated.
Salute to Joe B.
The best thing about the halftime salute to former coach Joe B. Hall last week was UK's minimal involvement. His former players arranged the tribute as a gesture of gratitude and warm-hearted sentiment.
Thirty-nine players participated with Scott Courts (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Bob Guyette (Paradise Valley, Ariz.) coming the greatest distance.
The players came "out of respect," said Kevin Grevey, an All-American for Hall in the mid-1970s. "We wanted to congratulate him and say hello and let him know how much we really care about his influence."
Hall's faith in his abilities changed Grevey's life. Grevey, who grew up in southwest Ohio, thought he might play college basketball for Xavier, Miami (Ohio) or Dayton.
"My dad was always saying, 'Kevin, these coaches from Kentucky wouldn't be calling if they didn't think you could play there,' " Grevey said.
Hall promised that playing with other great players would bring out the best in Grevey.
The conditioning program Hall introduced to UK basketball also had a lasting impact. Grevey said he put himself through that series of workouts before each of his 10 NBA seasons.
Bennett writes book
Former UK forward Winston Bennett has written a self-help book titled Fight for Your Life: From Tragedy to Triumph. The book, which becomes available this spring, chronicles his struggle to overcome self-inflicted adversity.
A 1,000-point scorer for Kentucky, Bennett lost his job with the Boston Celtics in 1998 because of a problem with sex addiction. He later became men's basketball coach at Kentucky State, a position he lost in 2003 after a physical altercation with a player.
"I feel like I failed my way to success," Bennett said. "I'm still striving for my goals and dreams. I want to help others. Let people know that no matter what you're facing, don't give up hope."
Reflecting upon his ejection from the Mississippi Valley State game last weekend, UK Coach John Calipari hoped the technical fouls did not signal an anti-Cat bias by referee Mike Stuart.
"Hopefully, it's not that the guy has a problem," Calipari said.
Stuart does have a history with Kentucky, but it's not one that suggests a bias against the Cats. He was the lead official in last season's controversial game at Mississippi State.
If memory serves, UK trailed by seven points with three minutes left in the second half. In the final three minutes of regulation and five-minute overtime, the referees called 10 fouls against Mississippi State and none against Kentucky. Plus, the refs missed a walk by UK's Patrick Patterson.
To Oak Hill Academy Coach Steve Smith. The Kentucky native notched his 800th victory last weekend. Remarkably, he reached the milestone in only 849 games.
The 800th victory came in the quarterfinals of the Iolani Prep Classic in Honolulu.
Smith, who doubles as Oak Hill's athletics director, attended Asbury College. He originally intended to coach at Oak Hill Academy for five seasons before moving to the college level. Now he hopes to continue making his mark as Oak Hill coach.
"I'm 55 years old; I'm not going anywhere now," he told sportswriter Susan Shan. "I'm going to keep coaching. When I retire, I'm heading to the golf course."
Sportswriter and television's poker maven Norman Chad ends his weekly syndicated column by answering readers' questions. He rewards those who ask good questions with $1.25.
This forum provided further proof last week that UK is becoming synonymous with one-and-done players.
Here's a question at the end of the column:
Q. Anonymous sources have reported that Kentucky's men's basketball program still has a senior on the team. Who has jurisdiction to investigate this allegation, the NBA or the NCAA? (Steve Wills; Carmel, Ind.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
To former UK big man Rodney Dent. He turned 40 on Christmas Day.
Jerry Tipton covers UK basketball for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.