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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans who have never forgiven Duke’s Christian Laettner for his “stomp” of Aminu Timberlake during the historic 1992 UK-Duke NCAA Tournament game have a special opportunity Tuesday to stomp Laettner.
Kentucky’s Jeff Sheppard, Laettner and ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale are hosting a fund-raising event for the V Foundation to help fight cancer in conjuction with the Kentucky-Duke game in Atlanta that is part of the State Farm Champions Classic (Michigan State and Kansas play in the first game).
“It is a reception/fundraiser honoring Dick Vitale for the work he has done for cancer research and the V Foundation,” said Sheppard, a starter on UK’s 1998 NCAA championship team that beat Duke in the South Region final. “We are having it at a historic place (Ventanas) in a ballroom that has glass from the floor to the ceiling in the ballroom. It’s in downtown Atlanta, close to the Georgia Dome, and will be a lot of fun.
“We are going to have some silent auction items. We’ll have autographed basketball along with some personal items that from Christian and myself from both schools.”
Thanks to Big Blue Nation Cares, a group that provides tickets to UK basketball and football games for special recipients, one auction item will be a special ESPN Game-Day experience when the Cats host Missouri in February.
“There will be two front row tickets and two other lower arena seats along with lunch with me leading up to the game,” Sheppard said. “We are talking to (UK coach John) Calipari about maybe getting in UK’s walk-through (practice) before the game or maybe just going to the ESPN College Game Day for an insider’s experience with Dick.”
For Kentucky fans at the reception, they will also be able to have their picture taken with Laettner in a memorable way.
“Kentucky fans can put their foot on Christian’s chest. We’ll take the photo and both of us will sign it on the spot and all proceeds will go the V Foundation,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard said the idea to do something special was Laettner’s. Sheppard then came up with the idea to involve Vitale and his charity work. Vitale quickly agreed and even promoted the event on ESPN during the UK-Maryland game Friday in Brooklyn.
“One thing just let to another and the Greater Atlanta UK Alumni Club agreed to sponsor the event,” Sheppard said. “We originally wanted Dick to speak, but he only speaks when he is not calling a game. But he quickly agreed to be part of this. Everyone has been impacted directly or indirectly by cancer. It is an honor to be a part of a special event that pays tribute to a one of a kind legend, Dick Vitale, but more importantly raises money for the V Foundation for cancer research.”
Cost is $30 person and includes admission to the event and a T-shirt. Duke fans get a T-shirt saying “I Still Love Laettner” and UK fans get a shirt saying “I Hate Laettner.” To register for the event go to www.ukalumni.net/bluesalute.
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The reception runs from 4-6 p.m. at Ventanas at 275 Baker Street.