Charity at the heart of alumni game

John Calipari is excited for the UK Alumni Charity Game for a number of reasons.

One, he wants to bring his former players back to campus. Two, he wants to help Kentucky fans honor the tradition of the program. And three, he wants to cap the inaugural John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience with a grand finale.

More than anything, though, he wants to hand out big checks for charity in the middle of Rupp Arena.

“All of it’s for charity,” Coach Cal said on Tuesday in a roundtable discussion with a group full of reporters. “The money that’s generated will be given that night and will be given out by the players directly to somebody.”

The donation will be based on ticket sales, which were opened to the public last week. Although the donation amounts are to be determined, the majority of the funds will go to Samaritan’s Feet, 4 Paws for Ability, West Liberty Recovery Fund and Everfi Financial Literacy.

“The best thing will be in the game, if we have three, four, five families from West Liberty that get grants directly from a player,” Calipari said. “(For example) John Wall gives this family a grant whose house was wiped out (from the tornado) and they had no insurance. Think about that.

“Or here’s a veteran that has lost his limbs and this dog is going to be his new way to a new life, and it’s a $20,000 dog, and you give it to three or four vets from the state of Kentucky. Some of the stuff we do, I want to know what other state we could do it in.”

The alumni game will take place Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. in Rupp Arena. Although the NBA prohibits Kentucky from naming active NBA players who will participate, Calipari said the “majority” of UK’s current pros will be back.

“What happened last year when we did this – that sellout and people went crazy – was just a neat thing,” Calipari said. “I think that every year we’ll do something. We just want to get this thing started and then we can figure out each year what are we doing.”

One group UK can confirm will be there that Saturday is the 1996 national championship team, the majority of which is no longer playing in the NBA. Nine guys, including Derek Anderson, Anthony Epps, Walter McCarty, Jared Prickett, Jeff Sheppard, Tony Delk, Wayne Turner, Oliver Simmons and Antoine Walker, have confirmed their participation in an exhibition game against the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience participants.

“We were stunned; nine of them are coming back,” Calipari said. “The guys that I saw, to be honest, looked really good physically. Now I imagine the wheels are slower than they were, but physically they look good.”

That game will take place prior to the alumni game on Sept. 15. With doors open at 11 a.m. that day, fans will have the opportunity to watch that game as well.

“The ’96 team, they said, ‘Can we have Nazr (Mohammed)?’ ” Calipari said. “I said, ‘No, you wouldn’t let him play when he was here. He didn’t play with you.’ So he’s playing with the other guys.”

Tickets for the alumni game can only be purchased at the Rupp Arena box office, online at, at any Ticketmaster Outlet or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. All seats are reserved and priced at $100 (premium lower level), $40 (lower level) and $20 (upper level). There is a four-ticket limit per person. Online orders and phone orders will have additional fees attached.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Calipari said.