UK Notebook: Junction students will watch UK practice

December 14, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Getting a ticket to a University of Kentucky basketball game can be difficult. Getting into a UK practice is even harder, because coach Tubby Smith closes his practice sessions to the public.

Still, on Monday 47 students from Junction City Elementary School are going to be watching the Wildcats practice and prepare for next week's game against Indiana thanks to Smith's generosity.

John Lockhart of Danville made a winning bid at a charity auction following the Arby's Challenge, a golf tournament in Lexington that raises money for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Smith had donated a limousine ride with him to school for a child and a couple of his or her friends and then he would stay and speak to the child's class. Lockhart bid $600 to win the prize.

Lockhart's daughter, Susan Taylor, teaches at Junction City. He also knew Big Brothers/Big Sisters was starting to reach into that area to help children.


"I thought it would be a good chance to let some kids who would never get this chance to go with Tubby. But I was trying to figure out which two or three kids to pick up," Lockhart said.

Smith had expected someone in Lexington to make the winning bid. When he found out he would need to come to Boyle County, he made a counter offer. He volunteered to let Lockhart bring a "busload" of youngsters to watch his team practice and that's why the Junction City youngsters will be at Memorial Coliseum on Monday to watch the Cats and then obtain autographs from their favorite players and coaches.

Lockhart won't be going because he didn't want to take a spot on the bus that another child could use.

"He's more than a good coach. He has a human side to him, and he gave these kids a once in a lifetime opportunity. I love Kentucky basketball and Tubby Smith, but I couldn't imagine going and taking a spot a kid could use because I could imagine what it would have been like all those years ago for me to have met Adolph Rupp."

When the youngsters leave practice, they'll get another treat. Alan Burns of Danarb Inc. in Danville will provide dinner for the group at a Lexington Arby's.

"Alan does a lot of good things people don't know a lot about,"Lockhart said. "It's really nice what he's doing and should be a perfect ending to a day these children will remember the rest of their lives."

Critical game: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo openly admitted that Saturday's game against Kentucky was a "critical" game for his Spartans because of their 3-3 start.

Smith has a slightly different take on critical games.

"Every game is critical at Kentucky," Smith said. "I look at every game and say that we must do certain things in order to have a chance to win. That means it is a must-win. Every game we play is a must-win game as far as I'm concerned as a coach."

Former UK player J.P. Blevins says that philosophy is why Smith sometimes has trouble going to his bench early in the season.

"He'll talk about wanting to get young players experience, but he never wants to sacrifice a game," Blevins said. "He's so competitive that he just has a hard time not going with players who know what he wants and expects. Of course, that intensity is also what makes him such a great coach because he never takes anything for granted."

Europe-bound: Former Kentucky wide receiver Aaron Boone is spending almost three months in Peru visiting with families he met during his two-year Mormon mission trip before he started his collegiate football career.

"I have been here a week and will be here until the 22nd," Boone said. "Most of my time has been spent visiting all the families I met while on my mission trip here. I am having a great time catching up with everybody."

However, that won't be the end of his travels.

"I am supposed to sign a contract with the Chicago Bears on Dec. 27," Boone said. "I'm really excited. They are going to send me over to the Euro NFL in February where I will probably live in Germany for three or four months. From there I will come back and get ready for next year's NFL season with them."

Boone was one of the last cuts by the Dallas Cowboys before this season started and might have made the team if he had not injured his shoulder midway through training camp. He says his shoulder now feels fine.

"It has been a long, frustrating year not playing, but I can't wait for this next year to get started," Boone said.

Begley No. 1: Former Boyle County placekicker Taylor Begley tied for first in the Southeastern Conference in extra point percentage last season at 100 percent. Begley was 40-for-40 on extra points. He was also 6-for-10 on field goals.

Honored: Freshman nose tackle Lamar Mills was named first-team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News last week, while linebacker Durrrell White was named third-team Freshman All-America by the same publication.

Those two, along with receiver Keenan Burton, were also named to the Freshman All-SEC team picked by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Returning: Freshman defensive lineman Ricky Abren has been cleared to resume workouts with the UK football team.

"After extensive testing and consultation with medical specialists, Ricky has been cleared to participate with our team," UK coach Rich Brooks said Saturday. "Obviously, I'm very happy with getting Ricky back. He is extremely happy, as are the coaches and his teammates."

The UK medical staff became aware of a medical concern in September and he was held out of practices and physical conditioning while the situation the rest of the season.

Abren has resumed strength and conditioning workouts with the team and he will be able to participate in spring practice. Abren and his family issued no additional comment on the medical problem that sidelined him.

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