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Former Wildcats join Special Olympics and Unified sports at Rupp Arena

Jack Pilgrim02/24/17


Article written by:On3 imageJack Pilgrim


On Wednesday night, former Wildcats Jack "Goose" Givens, Jared Prickett, Jon Hood, Marquis Estill, and Anthony White joined Special Olympics at Rupp Arena for the night of a lifetime.

The former Kentucky greats worked hands-on with local Special Olympic athletes to improve their basketball skills, ranging from shooting, defense, ball handling, and sportsmanship drills.

For many of these athletes, the Kentucky Wildcats are their entire lives, and meeting these former players was an experience they will remember forever.

"Goose Givens was my favorite," athlete Ashley Cox said of her favorite Wildcat helping out with the event. "He was at a camp I was in this summer, so it was exciting to see him again."

For Cox, the event was more important to her than most realize.

Her favorite moment? "Too tough to decide," she said. "The whole night. I can't narrow it down. I loved every minute of it."

Givens and Hood worked on shooting drills, Prickett and White took control of the defense, and Estill gave some ball handling tips to the group of Special Olympians.

In one drill in particular, Goose lined up athletes at various points near the basket, comparing them to signature jumpers of a few Wildcat legends.

"This was John Wall's favorite shot at UK, so you guys have to unleash your inner John Wall here," Givens told athletes standing on the left baseline. He moved from the baseline to Anthony Davis' signature elbow jumper, Devin Booker's pull-up from the right elbow, and Patrick Patterson's favorite spot on the right baseline.

"I really felt like I was Patrick Patterson, standing on Rupp Arena at his favorite spot on the court and making that shot," athlete Ryan Hopkins said. That felt so cool."

Following the drills, the Special Olympic athletes teamed up with the former Kentucky stars to compete in a Blue-White scrimmage, where the Wildcats were split up between the two teams and helped orchestrate the game.

The back-and-forth contest ended in a 37-37 tie.

Best Buddies, a worldwide organization dedicated to the inclusion and friendship of those with and without disabilities, was heavily represented in the event, with over a dozen athletes representing their respective Special Olympic teams. In Best Buddies, an individual in the community is paired with a student to provide one-on-one friendships. Best Buddies UKY President Dylan Kissack said, "It was great to see so many incredible athletes and some of my best friends playing alongside other people without disabilities–not to mention UK greats like Jack Givens.  Best Buddies is a huge advocate for social inclusion, so seeing our members get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in Rupp Arena was very special." For Kissack, this event was the perfect opportunity to promote such incredible individuals and hopes to see more opportunities like this in the future. "I think this event has the power to show everyone that people with disabilities are still people first.  Each individual deserves to be included and embraced for his or her own strengths and abilities.  We were thankful to have so many of our members involved and hope to see more events like this in the future."

Check out some of the pictures and footage from the event below:

  https://twitter.com/JackPilgrimKSR/status/834543276271214592 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc6LVTbeHfs Though the game ended in a tie after a missed last-second attempt, the end result was much larger than wins and losses. These blue-blooded athletes got the chance to compete on the floor that Rupp built with some of the guys that helped build the Wildcat legacy. You can't get much better than that. With such a positive response from athletes and fans in attendance, expect to see more events like this in the future through Special Olympics and Unified sports. @JackPilgrimKSR

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