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Vaught’s note: This is the update from Chris Cruz about his experiences at the John Calipari Fantasy Camp. Enjoy.
By CHRIS CRUZ
September 14 11:50 p.m. — Today seemed to last for a week. It’s amazing how much cool stuff can be packed into a single day. The bus to the Kraft Center from the hotel left at 8:30AM. We played a team coached by Darin Horn. We came out of the gates flat. We were down 33-13 at the half. My teammates made a great charge in the second half, but we lost 61-60. I stunk it up. Zero for four from the field. Nothing would go down. But we learned as a team that we are NEVER out of a game.
We headed to lunch at the Wildcat Lodge. Another great meal surrounded by new friends, UK coaches, and UK players. We headed back to the Kraft Center where we watched the 17-minute videotape that all potential recruits are shown. It documented why WE ARE KENTUCKY – and left no doubt the UK is THE DESTINATION.
Coach Cal spoke to us a while, and then Dick Vitale was introduced. He is 73 years old, but he has the energy of a 23-year old. He talked of life, of basketball, but most of all about his passion and commitment to spend every ounce of energy he has left in his body to help eliminate cancer in children. His stories tore at our hearts and inspired us. After Dickie V’s talk, Coach Cal presented him with a $25,000 check towards the cause. He is a class act.
We then went to the film room to break down our previous games. Coach John Lucas was not shy about “teaching us” what we were doing wrong. In our afternoon game, we won 78-64. I had a couple of 3-point buckets and a couple of lay-ups to help the team build a 14-point halftime lead which we never relinquished. If only I had made one of those shots earlier in the day, we might have been sitting at 3-0 instead of 2-1. Oh well, such is the life of a Division I college basketball player (LOL).
After the 2nd game, we took the bus back to the hotel, took a quick shower, and the bus then took us to Coach Cal’s house for a wonderful meal. Dino Gaudio and Paul Biancardi, ESPN analysts and former (and future) Division I basketball coaches did their version of “Selection Sunday”. To close out the night, Coach Cal auctioned off several more UK-related basketball “experiences” and inside 30 minutes raised another $128,000 for charity.
Tomorrow will be another challenging day. On the way to the bus we were each handed a framed, matted, photograph taken of us (individually) with Coach Cal, Anthony Davis (he was wearing his Olympic Gold Medal) and the 2012 National Championship trophy – and Coach Cal and AD had both signed the photo – UNBELIEVABLE. Tomorrow, the bus will leave our hotel at 7:05AM.
In the NCAA Elite Eight, we will play the team we played in our first “regular season” game – that first game yesterday was intense and we ended up winning 64-62 on a buzzer-beater. IF we win the first game tomorrow, we jump on a bus to Rupp Arena to play in the semifinals. After that, we will either play against the 1996 UK team at noon, or will we be playing for the camp championship at 1:00PM – in any case we’ll get to play on the Rupp Arena floor.
From the waist up I feel great, but my legs have pretty much given out. Out of the 50 campers here, I only count 6 that are older than I am so I’m struggling keeping up with the younger bodies that continue to fly up and down the court. But the really important thing here is that we are here together raising over $400,000 for a variety of charities. Equally important are the new relationships that are being formed amongst the camp participants. I have found, to a man, that this group of campers are incredibly gracious people who feel blessed to be able to have this experience, and that they are “givers” — they have an innate drive to better the life of those that they meet.
It has been quite an experience. And tomorrow will be another great day – out of the hotel early and it may be after midnight by the time we get back (based on everything Coach Cal has on the schedule for us tomorrow). Until next time.