UK basketball team delivers packed lunches to Picadome Elementary School


Tai Wynyard visits Picadome Elementary school with other members of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. The visit is part of UK Athletics’ God’s Pantry program providing food-filled grocery bags to kids across Fayette County. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Curtis Franklin

With their season starting next month, the Kentucky basketball team has its focus turned to assisting in the community, not just on the court.

Fresh off of a telethon that helped raise $1 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, the team visited students at Picadome Elementary School in Lexington Friday afternoon to deliver packed lunches as part of the UK Athletics’ God’s Pantry program.

The team entertained a gym full of ecstatic elementary school students after delivering the lunches, wowing them simply by being in their presence. A few rounds of Duck-Duck-Goose with students ensued, followed by a brief 5-on-5 pick-up game and a dunk contest between the players.

One dunk, arguably the winner of the contest, included redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo leaping over a seated Jennifer Hutchison, the principal at Picadome. Needless to say, the crowd went wild.

The screams and cheers from the students made it easy to see how special of a moment it was for them, but the impact reached further than just the students; it provided a new perspective on life for a select group of blue chip basketball players.

“Seeing how excited they got about being around us was really great for us and great for them, both ways,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said.

“My favorite part was just seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces,” freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt said. “We had a great time, had a lot of fun, and just like that, we had the opportunity to do something like this.”

Vanderbilt, who is from Houston, visited his hometown earlier this week with Coach Calipari and assistant coach Kenny Payne along with former Cats Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who are also Houston natives.

With Big Blue Madness just over a month away and the pressure of the usual lofty expectations only growing, the team is utilizing Coach Calipari’s “Servant Leadership” mentality in a special way this season: to forget all about the stress. After all, they all were kids at one point, too.