The Kentucky basketball team’s annual visit to Lexington’s Picadome Elementary School came during Pride Spirit Week on Friday. In this case, Pride was an acronym for Purpose, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Excellence.
Principal Jennifer Hutchison said she hoped the appearance by UK players would help make those attributes more real for the children. “We want quality work and we want the kids to attack each day with determination,” she said.
UK players brought lunches for the children. They also brought a spirit of fun to the school’s gym.
Children in kindergarten and first grade dominated the UK players in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Freshman Tyrese Maxey committed a turnover by not returning to the place where the child he tapped on the head had sat.
To which UK Director of Basketball Administration Will Barton, who served as the event’s ring master, teased Maxey by saying, “I hope you can play basketball better than Duck, Duck, Goose.”
Another freshman, Kahlil Whitney, capped the event by jumping over Hutchison to complete a running dunk. Why was Whitney chosen to jump over the principal, who is 5-foot-5?
“He’s the most athletic dude on the team,” said graduate transfer Nate Sestina, who Barton had introduced as the “old guy” on the UK team.
The children, who sat against the walls of the gym, oohed and aahed more than once when a UK player dunked. Rims only 8 feet above the court made dunking easy.
When he wasn’t involved in a game, Sestina sat with children along a sideline. He high-fived more than a few and spun a ball on his finger.
“Oh, they were loving it,” he said of the children’s reaction. “Like Immanuel (Quickley) said, it’s a lot better than us. Take a little time out of your day to put a smile on a kid’s face, and to see their face light up when they get to talk to us or hang out with us for 15 or 20 minutes means a lot more to me than people get to see. It’s really cool to kind of give back.”
For Quickley, the hour or so spent at Picadome Elementary School brought back memories.
“For me, I can remember being in elementary school, and the Harlem Globetrotters coming to my school,” he said. “One of them had picked me up to do something. So that’s something that always stuck out to me. For us to be able to come back here and do this for these kids is really special. . . . I’m sure these kids will never forget us coming here.”
The visit also delivered a lesson to UK players, Quickley said.
“That life’s a lot bigger than basketball,” he said. “About being a great person, helping people out. Life’s bigger than yourself.”
Kentucky’s annual Pro Day, which gives representatives of NBA teams an up-close look at the Wildcats players, is set for Oct. 6, UK announced Friday.
As usual, the event will be televised nationally by the SEC Network. Seth Greenberg and Jimmy Dykes will call the action, which takes place between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Joe Craft Center.
Coaches and staff will direct the players through various agility and shooting drills in addition to 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 scrimmaging.
Important upcoming dates
Sept. 25: Big Blue Madness campout begins
Sept. 27: Big Blue Madness ticket distribution
Oct. 1: Media Day
Oct. 6: Pro Day
Oct. 11: Big Blue Madness
Oct. 16: SEC Media Day
Oct. 18: Blue-White Scrimmage
Oct. 27: Exhibition opener vs. Georgetown College
Nov. 1: Exhibition vs. Kentucky State
Nov. 5: Season opener vs. Michigan State