Former Wildcats are introduced before a game in 2011. (Photo by Mark Boxley)
When former UK basketball players return to Lexington for an alumni game on Sept. 15, fans won’t be the only ones benefiting from the experience.
Proceeds from the game, which will match up former Wildcats currently playing in the NBA, will go to four charities: Samaritan’s Feet, 4 Paws for Ability, the West Liberty Recovery Fund and EverFi Financial Literacy.
“The money that’s generated will be given out that night,” said UK head coach John Calipari in an interview Tuesday. “It will be given out by the players, directly to somebody.”
Samaritan’s Feet is a non-profit humanitarian aid organization that works to give shoes to an estimated 4.5 million impoverished children and adults in more than 60 countries, according to the organization’s website.
4 Paws for Ability trains an places service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans wounded in recent conflicts. According to the group’s website, it costs $22,000 to train and place a service dog and an additional $1,500 to $2,000 in maintenance costs each year. Families are asked to participate in fundraising activities to qualify for a dog.
The West Liberty Recovery Fund works to support families who were affected by the tornados that ravaged West Liberty, Ky., this spring. Calipari pledged a matching $25,000 donation to the group during a recent visit to the town.
EverFi Financial Literacy partners with Fortune 500 companies to bring financial literacy programs to K-12 schools. In August 2001, Calipari announced his foundation was partnering with EverFi to implement a financial literacy program in Kentucky elementary schools.
The NBA does not allow UK to use its players to promote the game, so the school is letting participating players announce they will play in the game themselves.
“A majority of our guys will come back,” Calipari said. “Some of them have some things that they have to do, but the majority of them will be back.”
The alumni game is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Rupp Arena, but fans will have a chance to see members of the 1996 National Championship team match up against participants in Calipari’s Fantasy Camp earlier that day.
“They wanted to be involved, but they’re like, ‘I’m not playing against John Wall,’” Calipari said. “Nine of them are coming back.”
Calipari left the door open to any of the 1996 team members participating in the alumni game with NBA players, but he acknowledged many aren’t still in playing shape.
“The guys I saw, to be honest, look really good physically,” he said. “I imagine the wheels are slower than they were, but physically they look good. It’s going to be a fun day.”
One member of the 1996 team will participate in the alumni game: current Chicago Bulls center Nazr Mohammed. Mohammed was a freshman on the championship team but did not appear in the title game.
“The ’96 team, they said ‘Can we have Nazr?’” Calipari said. “No. You didn’t let him play when he was here. He didn’t play with you, so no.”
How much money UK raises for the charities depends on how many tickets are sold, Calipari said. Tickets remain available at Ticketmaster.com.
Calipari is hoping returning players will be treated to a similar spectacle as those who played his Dominican Republic National Team at Rupp Arena in 2011.
“The biggest thing is the introductions and all the other things,” he said. “What happened last year when we did this was just a neat thing.”