By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari understands the value of having one-day youth camps at various locations across the state to give youngsters a chance to meet him and his players — but also understands it’s a chance for his players to also see what UK basketball means to so many Kentuckians.
Recently 14-year-old Trey Ferguson, who will be a freshman at Walton-Verona High School this year, attended Calipari’s camp at Ryle High School in northern Kentucky.
He said attending the camp was an easy decision for him.
“I wanted to get better at basketball and I thought the UK staff would be able to help me with that,” said Ferguson. “I recently started playing basketball again and it is my favorite sport. I hope to be able to go to UK one day to play football or basketball.”
Ferguson, who says Malik Monk is his favorite UK player, has always been a Kentucky fan for reasons most Kentuckians can easily understand.
“I am a UK fan because it is my home state and because they are the best basketball team. I am an even bigger fan after going to the basketball camp,” he said.
That’s what Calipari envisioned. He knows fans cannot always get to Lexington to see UK play — or get tickets. The camps take the coach and his players to the fans.
No surprise that Ferguson thought the interaction with the Kentucky players was the best part of the camp.
“We were able to have pictures taken with everyone and have basketballs signed. We also were able to play different shooting games with the team,” he said.
Having a chance to play against 7-foot Nick Richards made a big impression on the 5-11 Ferguson.
“It was fun to play against someone so tall. I was able to score a 3-pointer against him,” Ferguson said.
That’s a memory that won’t fade away soon and one he’ll certainly share with friends and family when he watches UK and Richards play this season.
What impressed him about Calipari?
“I liked listening to the speech he gave the campers. He told us that we need to be working to improve our game even at our age to be able to go to UK,” Ferguson said. “I think they will be a very good team. They seemed like they were having fun together and with all of us campers. They seem like they will be a fun team to watch.”
Calipari said the satellite camps, 2012 national championship tour and book tour were the “best things” he’s done in his time at Kentucky.
“After we finish doing this, it will probably be five years before I do it again,” Calipari said. “But this whole summer experience is good for these kids to get to know one another and really good for young kids across the state to get a chance to be around our players.”
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