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By LARRY VAUGHT
Reese Kemp was excited enough when Kentucky freshmen basketball players Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison came to the hospital recently to visit him — Kemp has cystic fibrosis and diabetes — but he was even more thrilled after getting to shoot basketball with Johnson, Andrew Harrison and freshman walk-on E.J. Floreal at the Joe Craft Center Monday.
“I went yesterday and just hung out with them and today I went in the gym and played one-on-one and two-on-two with Dakari, Andrew and E.J.,” said Kemp Monday night. “It was awesome just to hang out with the new guys and see how they are in real life.
“Dakari is huge. He is going to be a man in the league. He’s going to be so good.”
Kemp, a student at West Jessamine High School, said Andrew Harrison was “cool” around him.
“He’s not used to big media, but he will get there. He need some time to come out of his shell with the media. Him and (twin brother) Aaron, he is the shy one. Once you know him, he is a funny dude. He was awesome to hang out with.”
Kemp, who had been befriended by many of John Calipari’s former stars, said the players “caught me by surprise” when they came to visit.
“They said they were coming and then they sent me a text saying sorry that they couldn’t make it,” Kemp said. “Then they came walking into my hospital room. Julius (Randle) came and I had no idea he was coming.
“I still definitely get a kick out of it when the players come to see me. It’s still pretty amazing and crazy to think they take time to come see me. They are not superstars to me any more. They are just like big brothers. They have my backs and I have their backs. I can’t wait to see them all play this year. I like them all and know I’ll like seeing them play.”
Nerlens Noel got him tickets to UK games last year. He’s hoping to get “hooked up again” so he can be at Rupp Arena to support the Cats this season.
“It makes me feel amazing to see these guys work out. But for them to meet me and take two to three hours to come hang out in the hospital with me, the last place anybody wants to be, when they don’t have to is amazing. They put a big smile on my face every time,” Kemp said. “I don’t even know what to think or say when they leave.”
Kemp likes to help others, too. He’s working on a Big Blue Madness ticket giveaway for the second straight year. He will be part of the Big Blue Madness campout to get tickets and he will let fans email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with why he should give them two tickets. One winner last year was a girl who had received a heart transplant.
Kemp, who also organizes a toy giveaway at Christmas for needy families, will share the winning entries on vaughtsviews.com this year, too.
“I just love helping people because so many people help me,” Kemp said. “It’s only fair.”