Kentucky Basketball to host Southern in inaugural Unity Series
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Kentucky Basketball to host Southern in inaugural Unity Series

Article written by:Tyler ThompsonTyler Thompson


(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Add another game to Kentucky Basketball’s non-conference schedule. UK just announced that it will host Southern on Tuesday, December 7 at Rupp Arena as part of the inaugural Unity Series. The Unity Series will span five years and feature schools from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), a league of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Southern is coached by former Kentucky Basketball great Sean Woods.

“I am really proud of our leadership for identifying an opportunity to take what we do on the basketball court and leverage it into an annual weeklong event that will have a major impact on HBCUs and their students,” Head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “My hope is this event not only opens the door for opportunities for students at HBCUs, but that others at our school and across the country will take advantage of the educational opportunities that we will put together to continue the meaningful conversations and changes that have taken place over the last year.”

“Our philosophy in the diversity, equity and inclusion division of UK Athletics is opening up areas of opportunities, education, listening and learning,” added Rock Oliver, executive associate athletics director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Kentucky. “This series featuring HBCUs, starting with a great institution like Southern University, will provide those universities with a spotlight on the biggest stage in college basketball. This year’s matchup with Southern is even more special for me because I coached Southern head coach Sean Woods. We are honored to play a part in providing access to our powerful platform.

“We are committed to educational initiatives here at UK so the Unity Series’ educational and networking opportunities will play a part in one of our goals, which is adding to learning resources. We also believe in the power of community so we hope this series will increase awareness of the powerful history and ongoing missions of HBCUs as well as conferences like the SWAC. We look forward to strengthening bonds between our institutions.”

Unity Series Week

In the week leading up to the game each year, the Unity Series will feature educational and networking opportunities at UK and SWAC institutions. Campus leaders from Kentucky and SWAC schools will host virtual panels and leadership workshops available to students at all institutions that tackle current issues in multiple disciplines and highlight on-campus educational opportunities. In addition to these panels and workshops, the institutions will provide resources for students to learn more about internships, career planning, and networking.

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is extremely excited to partner with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program on unifying initiatives that will significantly raise the overall awareness of the missions of our 12 member institutions and HBCUs as a whole,” SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said. “The educational and networking opportunities this partnership will provide our students and student-athletes undoubtedly goes well beyond the game of basketball. We’re looking forward to doing our part to make this innovative strategic plan a success. We would like to thank the University of Kentucky Athletics department’s leadership along with Coach Calipari and his staff for making this very worthy initiative a reality.”

Sean Woods returning to Rupp

Woods is Kentucky Basketball’s all-time leader in career assists per game (5.3) and was the program leader in career steals per game (1.582) at the conclusion of his career (1989-92). In 1992, he helped Kentucky win the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and played a key role in the East Region finals, scoring 21 points vs. Duke, including a go-ahead basket with 2.1 seconds left. In 2005, he became a charter member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the Unforgettables.

Woods has been the head coach at Southern since April 2018. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Mississippi Valley State and Morehead State, where he also squared off against his alma mater. Last season, the Jaguars were 8-11, and this year, return two of their three leading scorers from a season ago in guards Jayden Saddler and Ahsante Shivers.

“It’s always nice to go back home and take your players to a place where you played at,” Woods said. “I’ve always wanted my guys to have the same kind of experience I had as a student-athlete and what better place to take them than to one of the most historic places in college basketball, Rupp Arena. Looking forward to being competitive and having a chance to win too, but not only that to have a chance to play in front of family and friends and take my guys to a place where it all started for me.”

Although the official series vs. Southern is 0-0, the two schools have met before. Kentucky defeated the Jaguars 99-84 in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, but the game was erased from the record books as a part of sanctions imposed upon the UK program in 1989.

Kentucky Basketball’s Non-Conference Schedule so far

In the press release, Kentucky says it hopes to release the full non-conference schedule soon. Here are the games we know so far:

  • Fri., Oct. 15: Big Blue Madness, Rupp Arena, Lexington KY
  • Fri., Oct. 22: Blue-White Game, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • Tues., Nov. 9: Duke (Champions Classic), Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
  • Fri., Nov. 12: Robert Morris*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • Mon., Nov. 29: Central Michigan*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • TBA: Ohio*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • TBA: Mount St. Mary’s*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • TBA: Albany*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • TBA: North Florida*, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • Sat., Dec. 4: at Michigan, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Tues., Dec. 7: Southern, Rupp Arena, Lexington KY
  • Sat., Dec. 11: Notre Dame, TBA
  • Sat., Dec. 18: Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic), T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
  • TBA: Louisville, Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
  • Sat., Jan. 29: at Kansas (Big 12-SEC Challenge), Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

*Unconfirmed games

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