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John Calipari likes giving state schools a helping hand

John Calipari talked to Centre College coach Greg Mason after an exhibition game two years ago. This year UK plays Georgetown College and Kentucky State in exhibition games. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — John Calipari doesn’t mind giving state schools a helping hand.

The Wildcats will play Georgetown College on Sunday, followed by a second and final exhibition matchup against Kentucky State on Nov. 1 at Rupp Arena.

“Whoever we play we’re helping, the Kentucky coach said. “We’re helping that school. So part of what you’re doing is, who do you want to help? And with Georgetown and Kentucky State, two great programs with great histories, we have done other schools in state.”

In addition to exhibition games against state colleges, Calipari also has reached out beyond the Bluegrass and played other teams as well.

“We have also Clarion, where I went. I mean, Indiana Pennsylvania, who almost beat us. Was that last year?” He said. “That’s the greatest thing — it helps them. And I think that’s an important thing of what we do here and how we try to do it.”

Georgetown College coach Chris Briggs is looking forward to the contest.

“We are very grateful to have the opportunity to play Kentucky in Rupp Arena,” Briggs said. “Our players will be very excited to have this unique experience that they will always cherish. We are certainly appreciative of Coach Calipari, DeWayne Peevy and Mitch Barnhart for their generosity to our basketball program.”

GREAT OPENER

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo opens the season as the nation’s top-ranked team and will put that ranking on the line against No. 2 Kentucky on Nov. 5 in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

“(It’s) kind of an interesting opener, great opener to be honest with you,” he said earlier this week. “Great for us, great for college basketball.”

Kentucky defeated the Spartans 69-48 in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden two years ago and is 2-4 in the last six games against Izzo’s squad.

CHANGING COLORS

Nate Sestina’s parents have already switched their loyalties and most everyone else from his hometown of Emporium, Pennsylvania.

“I think everybody changed their Bucknell flags and their Bucknell T-shirts for Kentucky stuff,” I went and visited my parents at work when I went home in May and I had people asking for tickets to Madison Square Garden and Big Blue Madness and stuff like that. They are going to charter a bus to one of our home games this season. It’s really cool to see the support there.”

Sestina played four years at Bucknell before transferring to Kentucky as a graduate transfer last summer and will be counted on to give the Wildcats experience in the post. He scored 22 points in Kentucky’s Blue-White exhibition game last week at Rupp Arena.

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Gametracker: Georgetown College at Kentucky (exhibition), 5 p.m. Sunday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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