The Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team is visiting all regions of Kentucky right now and holding a basketball camp in cities across the state.
Last Wednesday afternoon, they stopped at Pikeville High School. The camp ran from 2:00-5:00 p.m. and kids from all over the area got to come to the gymnasium at the school and improve their basketball skills while getting to meet and work with their favorite Kentucky Lady Wildcats players.
Pikeville High School Lady Panthers head basketball coach Kristy Orem was also in attendance. She didn’t deny the impact the camp had on the high school and its feeder schools, but the community as well.
“It’s a win-win for both,” said Orem. “Our kids, our county, our county surrounding us, to get to meet the Kentucky Wildcats, that’s great for girls who want to be basketball players. I think it’s great for Kentucky’s staff and their program and players to get to meet our kids and get to see Eastern Kentucky because otherwise they may not get to see it. I don’t think there’s anything, but positives from this. Our kids are going to leave here and have some dreams and look up to some fabulous young ladies and great coaches.”
According to Orem, 71 kids came out to the camp on Wednesday. She praised the Pikeville community for working hard to get a sizable number of them registered despite COVID-19. Since these kids got to come to a local high school to a camp led by one of the most well-known women’s basketball programs in the nation, she thinks they will be better for it in the future.
“I think that these kids are definitely going to want to go home and get to work,” said Orem. “I think they’re going to see how hard it is, but they’re going to leave here with big dreams and that’s huge.”
She also had praise for the community in a different way.
“We’re very blessed to have some local people sponsor it,” she said. “Community Trust Bank helped us out big time. Slim Chickens, 123 Cafe and BSN helped us and without them, this isn’t possible.”
The camp was led by Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy, who just recently finished her first season as head coach in Lexington. Her biggest goal is to see kids across the Bluegrass hone their basketball skills.
“We want to demonstrate servant leadership,” said Elzy. “We wanted to make sure that we pay our blessings for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They are so supportive of us. Maybe not everyone can get out to a game, especially this area because it’s three hours away, but they are huge Kentucky fans. To have the opportunity to come back and inspire, impact and influence our future leaders was truly an honor for us.”
She had the entire state of Kentucky in mind while doing this and she wanted to make sure that the kids know that they care about them.
“I hope it means a lot to them and they really know how much we appreciate them,” said Elzy. “For the kids that participated in the camp today, it really melted my heart when several of them said, coach, I’m going to play for you one day. We do it to give them hope and inspire them for a brighter future.”
Not only does she care about the kids as people, but she also cares about helping them become the best basketball players they can be.
“I hope that we inspired them and left them with a foundation of things to work on,” said Elzy. “We worked on defense, shooting and ball-handling, and they can continue to develop their skills. Sometimes you just need that extra motivation to be like, I can see that representation matters and I can aspire to be who I want to be. I want to thank coach Orem and the Pikeville community. They have been an unbelievable resource for us and were so gracious to let us host here today.”
Elzy also says that developing relationships with Wildcat fans everywhere is crucial to her.
“We want to give back,” she said. “We want to show the appreciation to Big Blue Nation. We want to make sure that we hit all areas of the state that supports us. Our goal is to sell 5,000 season tickets this year. We want to pack Memorial Coliseum and I think it’s really important that we connect with people and they get to see us face-to-face. Then when you have a relationship, that makes them want to come out and support you.”