Kentucky mens basketball open practice and telethon raises over $2 million for Eastern Kentucky flood victims


Isabel McSwain

Fans cheer during an open practice and telethon benefitting flood victims in Eastern Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

The Kentucky mens basketball team raised over $2.4 million during its telethon and open practice event in collaboration with the American Red Cross for the victims of the flash flooding in Eastern Kentucky.

The event was put on by the players and head coach John Calipari after the team also hosted a telethon for the victims of the Western Kentucky tornadoes eight months prior.

A U-shaped table with about 25 phones was set up behind the basket where the eRUPPtion zone usually resides and allowed fans to call in and speak to a player and donate money towards flood relief. 

All players began the event set up at the tables answering the initial wave of calls.

After just 30 minutes of open lines it was reported that $481,698 had been raised, though that number was already unofficially over $500,000.

Nearing the one hour mark, point guard Sahvir Wheeler took the court to announce that the 2022 Blue-White game will take place in Eastern Kentucky as part of the team’s ongoing efforts to support the people there. While no official details were given, Pikeville was named as a potential location for the game.

Just over half an hour later, the total amount raised was $553,773, though this would quickly be upended as CI St Joseph’s Health and the American Red Cross added a combined $55,000.

As the reigning SEC Championship-winning womens basketball team walked onto the court, senior guard Emma King announced that the womens team would be hosting a basketball camp at North Laurel High School on Saturday, Aug. 6, with all of the proceeds of that event also going towards the relief efforts.

With the womens team taking over the phones, the mens team prepared to take the court for an open practice as the lower bowl of Rupp Arena continued to become more populated with members of the Big Blue Nation.

Throughout the open practice, Wildcats from several other UK teams such as the women’s soccer team also took turns answering calls.

The mens basketball team then began their scrimmage and had all players but junior forward Lance Ware available. Calipari announced fans would be treated to a scrimmage, dunk contest and 3-point contest.

After a brief warm-up scrimmage, Calipari took the court with a major announcement, bringing Gonzaga mens basketball head coach Mark Few on to the video board to announce a home-and-home series against the Bulldogs, with UK first traveling to Spokane, Washington, on Nov. 20, 2022. 

The relief telethon continued on with the televised scrimmage and another massive $25,000 donation courtesy of Delta Dental, bringing the total to over $1.2 million by 7:30 p.m.

By the time the dust cleared at 8 p.m. and the open practice had come to an end, the total number was estimated to be around $2.41 million with the other fundraising and relief effort events still to come.