University of Louisville

Delk household caught in middle of Blue-Red rivalry

The boiling cauldron of contention that is Kentucky vs. Louisville divides families around the commonwealth, especially in and around Jefferson County.

But when Rick Pitino's Cardinals invade Rupp Arena on Saturday to face John Calipari's Wildcats, no household anywhere in the United States will have more reason to feel conflicted than that of Rickie and Genevieve Delk in Jackson, Tenn.

Reginald Delk, one of Rickie and Genevieve's twin sons, has started eight games for U of L this season as a senior swingman.

On the other bench, Tony Delk, the youngest of Rickie's seven siblings, is back at UK where he starred on the 1996 NCAA championship team. Tony is working as an assistant strength coach for the men's basketball program.

"Very weird," says Rickie Delk of the situation his family faces. "Very weird."

To add a little more spice, Reginald Delk is at Louisville thanks to the connection between Tony Delk and Pitino, his UK coach.

Reginald and his twin brother, Richard, played their first two years of college basketball at Mississippi State. After their sophomore year (2006-07), the twins chose to transfer.

For the first time in their lives, they decided to go their separate ways.

"Being twins, if something happened to one of them, it affected the other," Rickie Delk said. "We thought it would be better for them to be on their own and handle their own situations."

At Mississippi State, Richard was more of a point guard than his brother. Reginald was more of a scorer — he averaged 9.5 points while starting 35 games at Mississippi State as a sophomore and was considered the more accomplished player of the twins.

After the transfer, Troy University was Richard's pick; he is averaging 13.8 points through 12 games this year.

With his Uncle Tony's help, Reginald wound up at Louisville.

"He told me to go here," Reginald Delk said Thursday of Tony. "He told me how much Coach Pitino had helped him develop and said he could do the same for me."

That, of course, was a couple of years before Calipari brought Tony Delk back to UK in what is perceived as a "get your foot in the door of college basketball coaching" opportunity.

(Tony Delk was not available for this story. It is the usual policy of Calipari that his staff members not do media interviews).

There will be at least one Louisville Cardinal in Rupp Arena who acknowledges growing up rooting for Kentucky. Which is not to say that Reginald Delk has ample memories of his Uncle's days wearing No. 00 for the Cats.

He doesn't even really recall that enchanted Monday night in 1996 when Tony Delk rifled in seven three-pointers and scored 24 points to lead the Cats over Syracuse and to their first NCAA title in 18 years.

"I've seen the highlights," Reginald Delk said. "I know what he did. But I was little and don't remember that much."

Reggie does recall the one time his parents brought Richard and him to Rupp to see their uncle play — he just can't name the opponent. Rickie thinks it was for Tony's 1996 Senior Day game against Vanderbilt.

"I just remember it was loud. The crowd was always standing up, and I couldn't see the game," Reginald says with a laugh.

The moment he best recalls of his uncle's basketball career, Reginald says, was gathering at his grandmother Florence Delk's house to watch the 1996 NBA Draft.

Tony was the No. 16 overall pick of the Hornets. He would go on to play for eight different NBA teams in a career that finished with the Pistons in 2006.

"I always had whatever jersey of the team he was on," Reginald Delk said. "I had a lot of jerseys."

As the twins grew and became promising basketball prospects themselves, "Tony was like a coach with them," says Rickie Delk. "In the summers, he worked with his nephews a lot."

At Louisville, Reginald saw sparse action last season as junior while playing behind Cardinals star Terrence Williams at small forward. This season, he is averaging 6.7 points, three rebounds and almost 20 minutes a game while shooting 47.2 percent from three-point range.

"It could get better," Reginald Delk says of his senior season. "I think it's going pretty good. My shot feels good. My rebounding needs to get better."

If U of L is going to have any chance at the upset against Kentucky, three-point shooting figures to be a key.

UK fans know very well what a Delk can do from behind the arc.

As for Rickie Delk and family, this most weird of Saturdays will yield an understandable rooting interest.

"We're really happy for Tony getting a chance in coaching. When he was playing there we were with the Big Blue," Rickie said. "But this time, we have to go with our son."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments