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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky sophomore Brian Long is from New Jersey and had family members impacted by the devastation that Hurricane Sandy did last week. For him, that makes the special fund-raising telethon that the UK basketball team is going to do Wednesday — two days before UK opens the season in Brooklyn, N.Y., against Maryland — for victims of that storm even more meaningful.
“It means a lot because it just shows that people all around the country care and that everyone is trying to help. It means a lot that so many people care and are showing their support,” said Long. “My family is alright. My family and friends made it out fine. Back north didn’t really get hit as bad as the south. My brother’s house down the shore took a hit pretty bad. As far as up north, everything turned out okay.”
“I heard about it the day before and I didn’t really look into it too much. I didn’t really think it was going to be as bad as it was. I’m always so busy here, so that helped keep my mind off of it. It kept me occupied, but every chance that I could get I was calling my parents to make sure everything was alright.”
The statewide telethon will air from 7-8 p.m. on WKYT and IMG Sports Network affiliates with Kentucky players taking phone calls and donations and continue for 24 hours. All proceeds will go toward storm victims. Kentucky also hopes to have former players now in the NBA involved in the telethon.
Coach John Calipari came up with the idea after talking with friends in affected areas in New Jersey and New York. In January 2010 he organized a Hoops for Haiti telethon benefiting victims of the Haitian earthquake.
“You sit there and you think what can you do and how can you help. A lot of times you need a nudge. A few years ago with Haiti, a guy called me and says we have to do something,” Calipari said Sunday. “This year Wayne Martin (WKYT-TV general manager) calls me. He said, ‘Cal, are you thinking of doing anything for the victims of this horrible storm?’ and I said we have been thinking and we have been trying to think (what to do).
“I said why don’t we do what we did (with Haiti). So we started the process yesterday. We are going to do it Wednesday. We are going to do it for an hour. The phone banks are going to be open for 24 hours. We’ve got some great ideas of either things to bid on, or you know if you give this amount of money we can give them different things. When we did this with Haiti, 70,000 calls came in. They couldn’t take them all. Two thousand got answered, so we are hopefully going to make it to where when you call in, somewhere it will get answered.
“We have matching funds. I don’t want to give you the total number, but it is well into six figures that I have made phone calls and received commitments from people, so that when people give money it will be matched by another donation.”