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New Brunswick

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari treats miner’s family to tickets

Pikeville, Kentucky is a city of less than 8,000 people nestled in the eastern part of the state between the Appalachian Mountains. Despite being nearly 150 miles from the home of the Kentucky men’s basketball team at Lexington’s Rupp Arena, the Big Blue Nation remains strong in the area — especially with a loyal fan base.

When Kentucky announced it would play its annual Blue-White Intrasquad Scrimmage at the Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville as part of the fundraiser for victims of the area’s recent floods, Micheal McGuire made sure he was there with his young son. Even if it meant turning up covered in soot after a long day’s work in a mine shaft.

A picture of McGuire – still in his work clothes and with soot on his face and arms – sitting on the sidelines with his son during Saturday’s scrimmage quickly went viral on social media. The picture eventually caught the eye of the most prominent member of Kentucky’s basketball twitter: Wildcats head coach John Calipari.

The photo touched Calipari, whose grandfather once worked in a coal mine in West Virginia. The legendary college basketball coach soon reached out to McGuire and his wife, Mollie, sharing his family history with them and thanking them for their support.

According to The Athletic, Calipari not only offered the McGuire family tickets to a future game at Rupp Arena, but also that they would be his guests for dinner, a pregame shootaround, and a meet-and-greet with the Kentucky players.

McGuire was unaware of Caliparis’ offer on Monday until he emerged from another day’s work in the mines a few hours after the trainer’s first tweet. Mollie McGuire told The Athletic that the kindness she showed her husband in response to Caliparis’ tweet brought her to tears.

Prior to their scrimmage, Calipari and his team spent the first part of their Saturday with the local University of Pikesville men’s basketball team to help those displaced by the floods. They then raised $162,450 for the Team EKY Flood Relief Fund and presented a check to the charity during scrimmage in front of a crowded arena.

On the court, Kentucky is hoping to bounce back from a stunning loss to 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s in the first round of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Wildcats have high ambitions for the 2022-23 season, ranking 4th in the AP preseason poll. Wildcats star forward Oscar Tshiebwe returns for the upcoming season after winning the Wooden Award given to college basketball’s best player in 2021-22.

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