By: Morgan Sexton
Many Kentuckians think of Wildcats and Cardinals as opposites when it comes to basketball, but in Wayne County, everyone’s on the same team. Wayne County Schools was proud to host the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Satellite Camp on June 30. The gym was filled with 93 students, their parents, and plenty of community members who were eager to be a part of the basketball action.
The UK Satellite Camp completed its eight-stop tour in the Rodney Woods Gymnasium. Wayne County was fortunate that all the UK coaches and players were able to attend this camp. Coach John Calipari and a number of his players arrived in style, flying into Monticello in an RJ Corman helicopter. After landing on a patch of grass near the gymnasium, Wayne County School employees Jared Duncan and Kyle Troxell had the privilege of escorting the group into the building.
According to Wayne County Athletic Director Kevin Jones, the community was enthusiastic about the visit.
“There was so much excitement having one of the best programs in the nation in our gym. There were future NBA draft picks in there, working with our students.”
Of course, passionate Kentucky fans were stunned by their sports heroes at the beginning of the program. “The adults were more star-struck than the kids were. The players were very sincere, though. They just had fun working with the kids,” added Jones.
Ryker Parmley, son of Wayne County High School Vice Principal Jarrad Parmley, had an exciting day working on basketball drills with Coach Calipari and his players.
“It’s not every day kids get to interact with high profile athletes,” said Parmley, who is a former Wayne County girls’ basketball coach. Parmley and his son were impressed with the personal attention the coaches and players gave to each student. “It was a great experience for the kids in our community,” Parmley added.
Kendall Phillips, a sixth grader who is looking forward to playing basketball for the WCMS sixth grade team this school year, was excited to meet the UK Wildcat team. He has followed the Cats for his whole life and he recognized each player and of course Coach Cal. His parents, Angela and David Phillips, have taken him to Rupp Arena several times to see the Cats in action. “I was excited to see how tall they are in real life. I don’t think I’ll ever grow to be as tall as they are,” Kendall said. His dream is to play basketball, like his dad did, at the college level.
While the campers took turns running drills with the players, Coach Rodney Woods invited a group of seasoned Wildcat fans to a VIP section on the gym stage. Former Wayne County basketball coach and UK player Ray Mills had a seat on the stage, as well as sisters Juanita Coffey and Wanda Humble. Coffey and Humble are Wayne County basketball Dedicated Fan Hall of Famers who attend every Wayne County basketball home game. They are also passionate UK followers.
“We travelled to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, New York… Everywhere the Cats went, we were there,” said Humble.
“We flew on a plane to Maui with Tubby Smith’s team. We had Thanksgiving dinner with them,” added Coffey.
The pair has travelled with UK Basketball teams dating back to Coach Joe B. Hall in the 70’s and met every coach along the way. The sisters finally got their chance to meet Calipari during this satellite camp.
“It was unbelievable to have all those players in our gym. You can’t imagine the excitement,” said Coffey. “Those boys were tall, running around with those tiny kids!”
The training camp ended with a UK Basketball trivia contest and free-throw shootout. Jackson Upchurch, son of Kenneth and Melissa Upchurch, won UK player Kevin Knox’s signed size 18 basketball shoe during the contest.
These satellite camps are a learning experience not only for the young campers who participate, but also for the players who provide instruction. Coach Calipari uses these trips to show his players the Kentucky fans who cheer for them year-round. It is important to him that the team sees and experiences Kentucky. Assistant Coach John Robic had visited Wayne County before, so he was familiar with some eateries that are unique to the area. At his request, the Monticello Pool Hall and Lighthouse Café at Conley Bottom Marina provided lunch for the players and coaching staff.
According to Kevin Jones, Coach Calipari was grateful for the hospitality shown to the team by Wayne County Schools and the whole community.
Wayne County Schools Public Relations Coordinator Linda Jones would like to thank Ernie Hanley, owner of Double H BBQ in Lexington (who is the son-in-law of Jimmy and Dianne Frazer of Monticello), who encouraged Assistant Coach John Robic to include Wayne County as a satellite camp in the planning stages.
“Wayne County Schools appreciated the chance for our children to get to meet and play ball with the UK Wildcats on our home court,” said Jones. “They were so generous and kind to the group of kids who might never have an opportunity like this again. It was a great event for our community and we hope that the Wildcats and Coach Cal will return next summer.”
Sixth grader Kendall Phillips (left) and WCHS alumnus David Phillips (right) smiled with Coach John Calipari following the training clinic. Each camper was given a t-shirt and basketball at the end of the day. (Photo courtesy of Angela Phillips.)