UK Men's Basketball

‘Incredible week.’ Ex-Cat sees excitement at Kentucky State before trip to Rupp.

When asked how his team will get to play an exhibition game at Kentucky on Friday, Kentucky State Coach Jamaal Jackson credited persistence in asking. And, he added, it surely did not hurt to have a former UK player working at Kentucky State.

That player is Twany Beckham, the director of campus wellness at Kentucky State.

“That helps us out a little bit, too, with Twany having that great relationship with Coach Cal (John Calipari) and (Deputy Director of Athletics) DeWayne Peevy,” Jackson said.

Beckham, who on Friday will observe his one-year anniversary working for Kentucky State, recalled being at Keeneland with UK officials earlier this year.

“I kind of hinted that the game should be played . . . ,” he said. “Here we are. We’re playing the game.”

Beckham, who played for UK in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, downplayed his influence in getting the game scheduled. But he did not play down the impact of such a game on the Kentucky State campus.

“Oh, man,” he said. “Ever since the game was announced, it’s been awesome. It’s been an incredible week.”

Beckham’s job includes providing a wellness program for students, faculty and staff, plus organizing intramurals and other recreation activities.

Jackson said he began asking about a game at UK since becoming Kentucky State coach in 2016.

“Ever since that summer, I started emailing and calling DeWayne Peevy around March and April trying to get the game,” he said.

beckham.jpg
NBA legend Bill Walton, rear, posed for a picture with Jim DeMasters, of Berea, and former UK basketball player Twany Beckham at the Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East in Lexington in 2017. The group was on hand to discuss overcoming injuries. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Starting over

Kentucky State finds itself with a team makeup that might seem familiar to UK fans. Jackson is practically starting over with nine newcomers. Last season’s top four scorers are gone.

“So you know almost as much as me about my team,” Jackson quipped.

The addition of Jordan Little, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior transfer from Morgan State, suggests a more inside-oriented attack, Jackson said.

When asked about Kentucky’s concern this preseason about depth in the front court, an issue dramatized by Nick Richards turning an ankle against Georgetown College on Friday, Jackson said, “They talk about being thin by their standards. By (the standards of) any other team in America, they’re still pretty big.”

Kentucky State’s point guard is Henry Clay High School graduate Felix Wilson, one of the team’s relative few veterans.

“Just a solid guy,” Jackson said of Wilson. “Does what I need him to do on the floor. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”

Watched Cal’s practices

With the task of transforming a newcomer-filled roster into an effective unit, Jackson saluted Calipari as a master at that craft.

“I’ve always had an appreciation for what he does,” Jackson said, “and a respect for how great a coach he is. People say he just recruits talent and lets them play. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Jackson has first-hand knowledge of Calipari at work on the practice floor. He said he’s gone to four or five UK practices since becoming Kentucky State coach.

“Every time I’ve gone, their practices have been competitive,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to get 14 teenagers to bring their ‘A game’ every single day. A lot of times guys are up and down. You never know what you’re going to get.

“It’s way harder than people think to get guys who have those professional aspirations in their immediate futures, getting them to play together. Under one system. Quickly.”

Friday

Kentucky State at No 2 Kentucky

What: UK’s final preseason exhibition game

Where: Rupp Arena

When: 7 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

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Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball beginning with the 1981-82 season to the present. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.
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