As a lifelong University of Kentucky fan, Joey Lentz wanted to find a way to combine his love of basketball with his other passion: guitars.
The combination of the two came in the form of some discarded wood from the gym floor at Memorial Coliseum. Lentz, a Louisville native, was working at Winchester’s RS Guitarworks in 2007 when UK began renovating Memorial Coliseum in conjunction with the construction of the Joe Craft Center.
The old gym floor, put down in the 1950s, was replaced and fans began collecting the floor boards. Lentz was able to acquire several, but it wasn’t until the resurgence of the Kentucky program in 2009-2010 under the direction of John Calipari that he began to think about what to do with the boards.
“I knew I wanted to do something special because Memorial Coliseum was basically where (head basketball coach Adolph) Rupp built the program,” Lentz said.
After talking it over with RS Guitarworks owners Roy Bowen and Scott Leedy, he decided the boards could be used to create collectible guitars.
“Obviously, we work in a guitar shop, so it just made sense to make a guitar,” Lentz said.
All five Guitarworks employees — Lentz, Bowen, Leedy, Monti Weaver and Billy Compton — started working on the design and construction of three guitars.
“The input of everybody in here is really how it came together,” Lentz said.
The group agreed they wanted to incorporate as much UK history in the design as possible, including the likenesses of deceased equipment manager Bill Keightley and broadcaster Cawood Ledford engraved on the neck plate and the years of all seven of UK’s national championships on the sides.
“It seemed like a really good idea,” Bowen said. “We’re all UK fans and we like doing stuff out of the box anyway.”
While working on the project, Lentz and his coworkers agreed that, rather than trying to sell the guitars for a profit, any money raised would be donated to charity. Mutual acquaintances with former UK players like Antoine Barber allowed Lentz to get several players, 19 in all, to autograph the guitars, including fan favorites like Tayshaun Prince and members of the 2011 Final Four team.
Currently, he is in contact with the school’s athletic department and hopes to get an autograph from coach John Calipari when the season is over.
He also hopes to be able to add “12” to the side of the guitars. All three have space to commemorate an eighth national championship.
Lentz said the guitar makers will allow Calipari to choose a charity that is meaningful to him, or to those closely affiliated with the basketball program.
“We know Cal does a whole lot of fundraising work,” Lentz said.
Lentz said he is confident Calipari will help with the project, and would like to get former coach Joe B. Hall involved, as well.
“We want to get as many signatures as we can, and represent as many different eras as we can,” Lentz said.
Details for the guitar sale have not been arranged yet, and Lentz said no plans will be made until the Wildcats end the season.
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