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UK basketball fans unite in support of flood relief efforts

Kentucky basketball player Lance Ware works the phones during Tuesday night's telethon in Rupp Arena.  Ware also took to the floor for UK's open practice.

Kentucky basketball player Lance Ware works the phones during Tuesday night’s telethon in Rupp Arena. Ware also took to the floor for UK’s open practice.

swalker@herald-leader.com

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Flooding in Eastern Kentucky

“Catastrophic” flash flooding hit parts of Eastern Kentucky July 28, 2022.

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For the second time in nine months, the Kentucky men’s basketball program has helped put forth a significant fundraising effort to assist a part of the state devastated by a natural disaster.

In December, the “Kentucky United for Tornado Relief Telethon” raised more than $3 million in one night for the American Red Cross to benefit victims of tornadoes in Western Kentucky. UK Athletics and the UK men’s basketball program have continued efforts in recent months to support those in Western Kentucky affected by the tornadoes.

On Tuesday evening, another fundraising telethon took place, this time with the mission of raising money for those affected by flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

A three-hour telethon was held from 5-8 pm and broadcast on WLEX-18, and the UK men’s team held an open practice inside Rupp Arena.

The “Kentucky Flood Relief Telethon” raised more than $1.4 million during the three-hour window, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross to assist Eastern Kentuckians affected by the floods.

Joe Craft, a Hazard native, and his wife, former UN Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft, pledged to match up to $1 million in donations for the flood relief efforts.

As such, the total raised by the telethon as of 8 pm Tuesday was more than $2.4 million. Later Tuesday night, Kentucky Coach John Calipari tweeted that former Wildcat Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers had pledged an additional $350,000.

In addition to the funds raised from the telethon, basketballs signed by the UK men’s basketball team and special T-shirts with the net proceeds going to the American Red Cross were sold.

The telethon featured appearances by the UK women’s basketball team (and its 2022 SEC Tournament championship trophy) as well as Gonzaga men’s basketball head coach Mark Few via video call.

During Few’s appearance — which was broadcast to the crowd inside Rupp Arena — it was announced that Kentucky and Gonzaga have agreed to a home-and-home series over the next two seasons.

Kentucky will travel to Spokane, Washington, to play Gonzaga on Nov. 20, and Gonzaga will travel to Rupp Arena for a game during the 2023-24 season.

Prior to this, UK senior guard Sahvir Wheeler said UK’s annual Blue-White preseason scrimmage would be played in Eastern Kentucky this fall, with Pikeville as a possible location.

The open practice portion of the telethon featured a five-on-five scrimmage, a three-point contest and a question-and-answer session.

This marked the fifth telethon held by UK with Calipari as the men’s basketball coach to assist with natural disasters.

The others came in 2010 (Haiti earthquake), 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), 2017 (Hurricane Harvey) and 2021 (Western Kentucky tornadoes).

Notable guests during the telethon included former Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, country music star Garth Brooks and Kentucky basketball legend and current team radio announcer Jack “Goose” Givens.

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Kentucky guard CJ Fredrick (1) speaks to fans in Rupp Arena for Tuesday night’s open practice and telethon, which raised more than $2.4 million. silas walker swalker@herald-leader.com

UK athletes with Eastern Kentucky ties help at home

Incoming Kentucky women’s basketball freshman Cassidy Rowe is one of a number of UK athletes with ties to Eastern Kentucky.

Rowe is from Virgie (Pike County) and played high school basketball at Shelby Valley High School, with her father, Lonnie, serving as head coach.

Rowe returned home last weekend and helped with deliveries and donations that came to Valley Elementary School in Pikeville.

During the telethon, Rowe said cleaning supplies, clothes and water are among the items most needed in Eastern Kentucky.

“These people lost everything and so honestly, every little bit helps,” Rowe said. “My hometown and my community means everything to me and so it really just broke my heart to see people that I love hurting and facing loss.”

Rowe will be part of a group of current and former UK women’s basketball players looking to raise money for flood relief efforts via an upcoming basketball camp.

On Saturday, three current UK players (Blair Green, Emma King and Rowe) along with former Wildcat Maci Morris will be hosting a “606 Basketball Camp” to raise money for flood relief efforts.

The camp, which will also feature the North Laurel High School boys’ basketball team, will take place at North Laurel High School in London and be open to boys and girls from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The camp will run from 9 am to 12 pm Saturday and cost $40 per child or $60 for two children.

“It’s a tough time for them, to see their loved ones affected by the floods,” Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Kyra Elzy said Tuesday night about the trio of current Wildcats who are from Eastern Kentucky. “But they all love their community. . . they want to give back to help.”

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Kentucky basketball player Emma King works the phones during Tuesday night’s telethon. King and some of her teammates will also be conducting a camp at North Laurel High School this weekend to benefit flood relief efforts. silas walker swalker@herald-leader.com

During the telethon, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart stressed how athletes from several of UK’s 23 varsity sports came together to assist with raising funds for residents affected by the floods.

“It’s not surprising that our kids have stepped up, and I’m really, really proud of them,” Barnhart said. “It’s wonderful to see our women’s basketball team on the phones. Gymnastics was here, women’s soccer was here, I saw some rifle (athletes) here. Cheerleaders were here. It’s just an example of what they continue to do beyond the game and beyond their academics and education.”

How to donate to Eastern Kentucky flood relief

Donations can be made to the Kentucky flood relief effort here and checks can be mailed to:

American Red Cross Bluegrass Chapter, Attn: Kentucky Floods, 1450 Newtown Pike, Lexington, KY 40511.

U of L team also raising funds

The University of Louisville men’s basketball team planned to participate in a Red Cross telethon to collect funds for Eastern Kentucky flood victims on Wednesday night.

The event was to be televised live on WLKY-TV in Louisville from 5-6:30 pm

Those making a donation during the telethon were to be signed up for a drawing for a special U of L basketball package. Louisville Athletics was also planning to make a donation during the event.

Interested individuals who could not donate during the telethon may make a donation online at this link:

https://www.redcross.org/donate/cm/universityoflouisville-pub.html/

This story was originally published August 2, 2022 9:23 PM.

Cameron Drummond works as a sports reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader with a focus on the University of Kentucky women’s basketball program, in addition to other college, high school and professional sports in the area. Drummond is a first-generation American who was born and raised in Texas, before graduating from Indiana University in 2020. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who previously worked as a community news reporter for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Austin, Texas.

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