A couple of hours before his basketball game was set to tip off on Saturday night, Sacha Killeya-Jones was sitting in the bleachers at Pulaski County High School when he was approached by a man requesting that he pose for a photo with his young kids.
The University of Kentcuky signee happily obliged, then did the same for a couple of others who saw what was happening and also wanted a snapshot with the future Wildcat.
“I’m starting to get used to it a little more every day,” he said when he sat back down. “It’s kind of weird at first, going from just being an average high school kid to grown men asking for pictures. But it’s fun. They’re crazy, but they’re crazy in a good way, like Coach Cal says.
“I was the same way when I was younger.”
Killeya-Jones knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the photo and autograph requests. The Chapel Hill, N.C., native often saw famous Tar Heels around his hometown get treated the same way.
One particular encounter with a larger-than-life sports figure still resonates.
Killeya-Jones recalled spotting a well-known NFL coach (who will remain nameless) in the stands at a high school game when he was an elementary school student, and, at that time a budding football star.
He waited until halftime of the game, then approached the coach for an autograph.
“And he said, ‘No, I’m trying to enjoy the game.’ I mean, it was halftime,” Killeya-Jones says, still perplexed. “I was like, ‘Dang, he’s kind of a jerk.’ So now I can’t say no to anybody.”
The 6-foot-11 power forward said John Calipari didn’t give him much warning on what to expect when he first visited Lexington as a recruit. “He just told me, ‘You know the fans are crazy, right?’ Then I come down here and everybody’s stopping me every three or four seconds.”
After UK’s victory over Boston University in Rupp Arena early in the season, Killeya-Jones, who was visiting for the game, said one man approached him for an autograph. That set off a chain reaction of requests, and 30 minutes later the 17-year-old was still signing and posing for pictures.
“A security guard came over and said, ‘Hey, we gotta go.’ It was almost midnight at that point,” he said with a laugh.
After Saturday’s game in Somerset — a frustrating, lopsided loss to Prolific Prep (Calif.) — Killeya-Jones stood patiently outside his team’s locker room, smiled and posed for photos with a few dozen kids.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be kind of crazy every now and then, but they’re the greatest fans. They’re really adamant and they love basketball, so you can’t blame them for that.”