UK Basketball: Former Wildcat Epps expects to have fun at alumni charity basketball game
Anthony Epps is still amazed with the way University of Kentucky fans remember his role on the 1996 national title team and is looking forward to having his daughter play for Matthew Mitchell next season. (Jesse Osbourne / September 11, 2012)
Some members of that 1996 championship team are coming back to play against a team from the John Calipari Fantasy Camp before an exhibition game matching former Wildcats now playing in the NBA. The 1996 team will play at noon with the NBA stars slated to tip off at 2 p.m. All proceeds from the event go to various charities.
“It will be lot of fun. The cause is the big thing about it. A lot of kentucky fans will get to see their favorite players and it is nice to be able to provide that enjoyment. I am really looking forward to it,” Epps said. “I¿am not in the greatest shape, but I can play at my own pace and still be productive.
“It will be great for everybody to come back and play and get on the court where we made so many great memories. But giving back to the fans is the biggest thing for all of us. That’s why we are playing.”
Epps has no desire to play in the second game against players expected to be there such as John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and more.
“I will stay around and watch. The fact those guys also came UK¿means we are one big happy family. Fans will love that, too. Getting the 96 guys taking pictures with those guys will be great for the fans,” Epps said.
However, there’s no need to bother asking Epps how his 1996 championship team would have fared against UK’s 2012 title team.
“We do not need to talk a lot of trash. I still think we were the better team better. In different spots they may have had an advantage, but what is great is that we will all be back at the same time and can share memories of UK,” Epps said.
Since Calipari’s arrival at Kentucky, the 1996 national championship team seems to have become more popular and team members have been much more visible around the UK campus, including having former Cats Tony Delk and Wayne Turner both on Calipari’s staff for one season.
“I have noticed that popularity a lot since coach Cal got to UK,” Epps said. “He has gone above and beyond for former players to welcome us back and make us involved. He understands former players paved the ground for the players and teams he is getting now. A lot of fans are happy to see Kentucky back where it was in the 90’s when coach (Rick) Pitino was here. I give him credit. He’s an ambassador not only for basketball, but for the whole university.”
Epps said like most fans, former players lost touch with the program during the two years Billy Gillispie was the head coach when they did not feel wanted on campus or around the program.
“During the Gillispie years it was all about him. He did not understand the magnitude of Kentucky basketball and did not care,” Epps said. “Nobody was welcomed back and not a lot of guys went back. Since Cal has taken over, former players coming back has picked up because you feel like you can go home and be welcomed back. It feels great and I think we all really appreciate what he has done for us.”