These Kentucky Wildcats are a competitive bunch.
The basketball team made its annual trip to Picadome Elementary on Friday afternoon, delivering packed lunches as a part of UK Athletics’ God’s Pantry program and sticking around for a little fun and games in the school gym.
Senior guard Jonny David started things off — by not letting one of the kids win in the opening game of duck-duck-goose. That theme continued with sophomore guard Quade Green, who clearly didn’t want to take any early season losses. Green picked up a couple of duck-duck-goose victories, both of them against children.
One boy did manage a win over 6-foot-11 freshman EJ Montgomery, and the game ended with a disputed result when a girl ran down freshman guard Immanuel Quickley from behind. Quickley lunged to the floor and declared himself safe. UK director of basketball operations Will Barton ruled him out. The crowd laughed, including all of the Wildcats.
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“I think we had just as much fun as the kids did, as you all could tell,” said freshman Keldon Johnson. “It was just a great experience.”
Up next: the relay races, where Green’s competitive streak continued. He jumped out to a head start before the official beginning of the race, getting about a half-court’s distance on the competition. Later on, he was eliminated from the game of knockout. He jumped back in after a few cycles, hoping no one would notice. At one point, he tried to sneak up on a boy and block his shot. The jumper was good, however, and the crowd squealed with delight again.
“That’s just Quade,” Johnson said with a grin. “If you all hang around Quade like we do, you all know that he’s going to find a way to win, regardless. And if that means cheating, he’s going to do it.”
Johnson did a little cheating toward the end of the relay race, for the record.
He also ultimately won the game of knockout, defeating fellow freshman Tyler Herro in the finals. By that time, both players were gassed — “I feel like I got my conditioning in for the day,” Herro quipped — and the contest was decided when Johnson sank a shot from half court.
The Cats then capped off the assembly with some freestyle dunking. Johnson went between the legs for a jam, much to the delight of the young crowd. He wanted one more though. On his final attempt, Johnson rose high, went in for the flush, and came up a little short, the ball rocketing back off the rim and hitting a girl in the crowd several feet away.
A Picadome teacher immediately checked to see if she was OK. The girl was already laughing.
“We love putting a smile on people’s faces,” Herro said. “When I was a little kid, if there was someone like a Kentucky basketball player that came to my school, that would be just a dream come true.”