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By LARRY VAUGHT
Dick Vitale said he enjoyed getting a chance to speak to the John Calipari fantasy campers during a recent trip to Lexington and was impressed with the way Calipari conducted the camp.
“Everything he does right now is done first class. I admire his generosity and the way he extends his hand to help people should be applauded,” Vitale said. “Critics always wil have something negative to say, but look at the positives. He’s been unbelievable. I’m not amazed at the recruiting job he’s done at Kentucky. I watched what he did at UMass. With what he has now, he will get his share of players.
“The thing that has impressed me and what means al ot to me is he is a friend and he hasn’t changed in terms of his passion and love for people. That’s unique and special. I had a great time at his camp.”
He said the campers “brought me to tears” with standing ovations during his talk.
Vitale had been to a Tampa fundraiser the night before for pediatric cancer and shared a story about a young girl who found out on Christmas Eve she had leukemia and a story about another girl getting ready to start her high school senior season when she learned her cancer had returned.
“It meant a lot to me to go anywhere I could raise money for pediatric cancer,” Vitale said after receiving a $25,000 check from the camp for pediatric cancer that will go toward his annual goal of raising $1 million — a goal he shattered last year by raising $2.1 million.
“I am 73 and the campers said I had the energy of a 12 year old,” Vitale laughed and said. “I take that as a big compliment. The last chapter of my life, I want to give back more. I’m in 11 hall of fames, but you can’t get in without people being good to you.
“I told the campers two things I learned from my mother and father, who had fifth-grade educations. Never believe in can’t and the second one is be good to people and they will be good to you,” Vitale said. “I cannot satisfy everybody, but I try not to hurt anybody. I get amazed when I read comments that ‘he hates Kentucky because he says they were wrong for firing Tubby (Smith).’ That is so ridiculous. I love basketball and how can you not love what transpires at Rupp Arena. Most UK fans are terrific.”