UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky adds exhibition vs. Morehead State to benefit hurricane victims

Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo was voted to the preseason All-SEC first team by media who cover the league.
Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo was voted to the preseason All-SEC first team by media who cover the league. AP

Kentucky will play Morehead State in an exhibition game designed to raise funds for hurricane relief, UK Coach John Calipari confirmed Wednesday.

The game — which has been dubbed the Kentucky Cares Classic — will be Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena.

“Hopefully we sell the place out,” said Calipari, who added that all proceeds must go to hurricane relief.

The goal is to raise $1 million, he said.

“Not sure we can do that much . . . ,” he said. “There might be matching funds involved. If there are matching funds, you might get to that.”

The game will not be televised and will afford fans the first chance to see Kentucky’s new-look team play a Division I opponent.

The NCAA waived a limit of two exhibition games in order for teams to play a third exhibition designed as a fund raiser. Earlier this fall, Missouri and Kansas announced that they will play such a game in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday. The game is a sellout.

Calipari cited two reasons for picking Morehead State as the opponent. The Eagles are only an hour away, thus reducing costs for bringing an opponent to Lexington. And Coach Preston Spradlin is a former UK staff member.

Tickets, which range in price from $100 to $10, go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at Ticketmaster.com and at Rupp Arena, UK announced.

UK students and season-ticket holders can buy tickets beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.

“People around our country are facing some trying and tragic circumstances,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a news release.

“I look forward to seeing the members of the Big Blue Nation unite behind their Wildcats, as they always do,” Barnhart said.

At SEC Basketball Media Day in Nashville on Wednesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said UK will play Morehead State in an exhibition game on Oct. 30. He also gave an injury update.

UK picked No. 1

For the 13th time since 1998-99, a preseason media poll tabbed Kentucky to win the Southeastern Conference championship.

The media also voted Hamidou Diallo as first-team All-SEC and Kevin Knox to the second team.

There was a three-way tie for preseason Player of the Year: Yante Maten of Georgia, freshman Michael Porter Jr., of Missouri and Robert Williams of Texas A&M.

Joining Diallo on the All-SEC first team were KeVaughn Allen (Florida), Maten, Porter and Williams.

Besides Knox, the second-team players were freshman Collin Sexton (Alabama), Terence Davis and Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State), Tyler Davis (Texas A&M) and Matthew Fisher-Davis (Vanderbilt).

After Kentucky, the order of finish was 2. Florida, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Alabama, 5. Missouri, 6. Arkansas, 7. Vanderbilt, 8. Georgia, 9. Auburn, 10. Ole Miss, 11. South Carolina, 12. Mississippi State, 13. Tennessee, 14. LSU.

His team picked to finish second behind Kentucky, Florida coach Mike White says SEC basketball is as good as he has seen it since he came into the conference as an 18-year-old at Ole Miss.

Insurance

UK players said Gordon Hayward’s ghastly ankle injury during the Boston Celtics’ season-opening game Tuesday night brought home the wisdom of taking out insurance policies to guard against the possibility of career-ending injury.

“Unfortunately, it happens to many players . . . ,” Hamidou Diallo said. “That’s great we have a plan like that. I don’t want to see a player go down and hurt himself, and then — boom — his career is over like that.”

Like Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel said he has an insurance policy to guard against injury. UK had the players attend a seminar on insurance, Diallo and Gabriel said.

All-SEC?

Largely sight unseen, the media voted Hamidou Diallo to its preseason All-SEC first team.

“Just my hard work paying off,” said Diallo, who did not play last season after joining the UK team at the semester break. “I feel like it’s a great accomplishment, and the season hasn’t even started yet. I take it with a grain of salt.”

Mutual understanding

UK Coach John Calipari said Gabriel was one of Kentucky’s three best players. “He’s the relentless guy I recruited,” Calipari said.

Gabriel, who made only one of his last 19 shots last season, cited a mutual understanding with Calipari for his improvement.

“I feel I understand him more,” Gabriel said, “and we both understand each other better.”

At SEC Basketball Media Day, Kentucky coach John Calipari said Wenyen Gabriel is one of the three best players on the team. Gabriel gives his reaction and Hamidou Diallo talks about the sophomore.

When asked what he understood about Calipari now that he didn’t last season, Gabriel noted how a coach’s personality can be different in the recruiting process.

“He’s a little more aggressive,” Gabriel said of Calipari in coach mode. “It became hard to understand. The year ended and, and it’s all love on the court. He wants you to get better.”

Gabriel said he was taking more responsibility for his improvement. “Not blaming anyone else,” he said.

More zone?

Diallo predicted that Kentucky will play zone defense at times this season. Of course, Calipari makes no secret of his aversion to any and all zones, but the wingspans of UK players has made an impression, Diallo said.

“He’s just been falling in love with it every time we do it in practice,” the player said. “You’ll definitely see some zone this year.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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