By LARRY VAUGHT
Long before he started getting postseason recognitio it was obvious that Kentucky sophomore Immanuel Quickley not only had become a fan favorite but also a role model for many youngsters.
Quickley was UK’s best 3-point and free-throw shooter and was amazing in clutch situations, one reason many fans liked him. But even more impressive to some was his honesty about his faith and the power of daily Bible reading. He revealed before the season started that he had been reading his Bible even more and fans of all ages appreciated that.
“I picked up on that,” said Demetria Caldwell, Quickley’s aunt who attends almost every UK game.
She remembers a female fan mistaking her for Immanuel’s mother after a February game (his mother, Nitrease, is a high school educator in Maryland and normally only makes weekend games).
“She told me she had a story to share and said she would not cry. She just wanted to let us know how much she appreciated Immanuel as a person and said that makes being a fan even easier,” Caldwell said.
She told Quickley’s aunt she had an 11-year-old son who “goes and runs to his Bible” every time the UK sophomore posts a scripture on social media.
“She told me her son would highlight it to help him get a better understanding of God’s word,” Caldwell said. “I teared up. That is the kind of impact we want to have on others and he can deliver that to others in the position he’s in now.”
She has another story from practice the day before UK’s Senior Day game when senior Nate Sestina’s father came over to Quickley.
“Nate’s dad thanked Immanuel for always encouraging Nick and being such a good impact on Nate, who is a senior,” Caldwell said. “That’s powerful, or it was to me. There really are no words for how that made me feel when you impact somebody without even knowing it.”
She definitely believes in the power of prayer and has no doubt Quickley’s improvement this season was due in part of his focus on his spiritual life.
“You can always do something better than what you have been doing and Immanuel knows that,” Caldwell said. “He got more focused this year and that is directly related to why he played better. You have to be grounded and focused to get your blessing. He knows God guides us and isn’t afraid to share that.
“As a Kentucky basketball player, he’s on a big stage where a lot of people see what he does and I couldn’t be prouder not only of the way he plays but the way he also leads his life and others saw that, too.”