By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky is playing basketball, Demetria Caldwell is going to be there to watch her nephew, Kentucky freshman Immanuel Quickley,.
She was in Nashville for the SEC Tournament and in Jacksonville for the NCAA Tournament. She’ll be in Kansas City Friday when UK plays in the Sweet Sixteen.
Even in high school there was never a question if I was going somewhere to watch him play. The only question was who was going with me and I could always find somebody,” Caldwell said.
The Quickley family travels well. When he played in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta last year, about 40 family members came on a bus from Baltimore to the game. When he played for Team USA in Egypt on a team coached by John Calipari, the freshman’s mother and grandmother were there. When he played for Team USA in Spain, his mother, grandmother and Caldwell all were there. His grandmother had to miss some games this year because she slipped on ice in Maryland and fractured her ankle.
“I have loved watching him play since he was 4 years old, and he was not supposed to be playing on a team then,” Caldwell laughed and said.
Turns out she was coaching a rec league team for players ages 5-6 but was a player short at a game.
“Immanuel was always with me, so I said, ‘Here we go. Just play. Don’t tell your mom,’” Caldwell said. “He made every shot. I got to keep him (on the team) and he’s been playing ever since.”
“When I played for her, I just shot every single play every time I could. That was the best part about playing for her,” the Kentucky freshman said.
You can normally spot her in the UK crowd because she wears a pink UK baseball hat.
“I was in Kentucky and I needed a hat. We went to the store at the mall and I saw this pink hat,” Caldwell said. “My mom puts No. 5 on all my hats, but I wear that pink one every game to just throw something in there with that sea of blue. Plus, Immanuel also has a good idea where I am at then because he knows I am there.”
The UK freshman says he can “definitely hear her” and sometimes can make eye contact with her.
“She loves me a lot. We have had a bond pretty much since I was born. She has been like a mother to me along with my mom. Great people, love them to death. She is not exactly my age but she gets the younger generation. We are kind of close and she kind of spoils me while my mom is more of the disciplinarian type, so it balances out,” Quickley said.
Caldwell won’t deny spoiling him — but in the right way.
“It’s not like spoiled milk because that is bad. It’s more like Christmas morning because you are overflowing with emotion and the expectations of doing well. As long as he remains a good kid and a humble kid, I’ll keep spoiling him, too.”