Kentucky basketball's connection to LeBron James grew tighter Wednesday with the news that one of the NBA superstar's high school teammates had joined the UK coaching staff.
Spokesman DeWayne Peevy confirmed a FoxSports.com report that UK hired Brandon Weems, who played with James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Weems became a graduate student manager for UK, Peevy said.
According to Jeff Young, who coached Weems at Walsh University, the player remains "extremely close" to James.
UK's first-year coach, John Calipari, has promoted his relationship with James, no doubt an asset to prospects on the recruiting trail. Calipari has sent out several tweets about being with James.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
James visited the UK campus earlier this summer. FoxSports.com said the hiring helped pave the way for that trip and further cemented a Calipari-James relationship fueled by a mutual friendship with William Wesley (aka Worldwide Wes), a man of unspecified influence in the recruiting world.
Weems and James are "pretty close friends," Young said. "They grew up together. ... LeBron would show up to watch Brandon play (for Walsh)."
But he noted that Weems should not be considered simply a recruiting tool.
"He was hired because of who he is," Young said, "not necessarily who he knows."
Weems excelled for Walsh on the court and in the classroom. He had a 3.6 grade-point average as a business major, the coach said.
As a player, Weems helped lead the North Canton, Ohio, Catholic school to an NAIA national championship as a freshman, led the nation in assists as a junior and was named an All-American as a senior in 2007-08.
"Very heady, very smart," Young said. "One of the best point guards we've had."
After graduation, Weems worked for the Walsh staff while exploring opportunities to continue playing. He came to UK rather than accept graduate assistant coaching positions at Walsh and Akron.
Calipari donatesto 9/11 memorial
Calipari will make a donation from proceeds of his book, Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Life and in Business to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, UK announced Wednesday.
Calipari will be in New York for a book-signing on Thursday and plans to visit the World Trade Center site afterward.
"Knowing that I will be signing books in a store adjacent to the World Trade Center site on the eve of 9/11 moved my wife, Ellen, and I to make this donation in hopes of honoring those who lost their lives on that solemn day eight years ago," said Calipari.