UK Recruiting

Calipari helps create 'once-in-a-lifetime experience' for Kentucky fan

What was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill recruiting visit for John Calipari turned into a night that one University of Kentucky basketball fan living in Texas will never forget.

Seth Barnett — now a 16-year-old junior at Cypress Lakes High School — was born in Eastern Kentucky but moved to Texas when he was about one month old after his father got a job in the state.

Both of his parents grew up in Magoffin County, and Seth — who has cerebral palsy and is in the special needs program at his high school — grew up a fan of the Wildcats.

"I didn't even know — when he was younger — if he could even understand it," said his mother, Carol Barnett. "But he would always say that he wanted to watch the basketball games. And he's always liked Kentucky. ... He just loves to watch them."

Seth happens to be schoolmates with De'Aaron Fox — the No. 1 point guard in the country — and when Carol heard that someone from UK's coaching staff was expected to visit Fox at the school Monday, she knew it could be a special day for her son.

All she wanted was for Seth to have a chance to get a picture with someone affiliated with UK's program. It turned into so much more.

They arranged for Seth to meet UK assistant coach Kenny Payne and while they were posing for a photograph, Fox and Cypress Lakes Coach Emmanuel Olatunbosun came up with an idea.

"De'Aaron and the coach asked if we would like to come over to De'Aaron's house that night and have Seth meet Calipari," Carol said. "I was really nervous, but I said, 'Yeah, of course.'"

In-home visits are typically important milestones in a recruitment, and the guest list rarely extends beyond the college coaches, the recruit, his family and sometimes one of his own coaches.

This time, Seth and Carol were there, too.

Calipari was already in the house when they arrived.

"The first thing he did was walk over and start talking to Seth about the Kentucky Wildcat shirt he had on — just like he knew him forever," Carol said. "De'Aaron and his family — they just made us feel so welcome."

Calipari, Payne and Fox posed with Seth for pictures, and the coaches signed the blue leather UK jacket that Carol had purchased for her son back in Kentucky.

She said Seth sometimes gets to watch Fox and his high school team practice, but she had never met the five-star recruit or his family before Monday.

"I think that's awesome that he would invite Seth," she said. "He must be a really good kid. And I want to let Coach Cal know how thankful I am from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to meet Seth. He is an amazing guy.

"That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Seth. ... It's like a dream. It's like it's not really real."