Kevin Massey loves the Kentucky Wildcats. Has all his young life. The only problem with Kevin's affinity for the the Big Blue is that he lives deep in the heart of IU country.
Kevin is a sophomore at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis, and recently, the coach of Kevin's favorite basketball team, John Calipari, turned the tables, becoming a fan of the three-sport athlete. Not because of Kevin's ability to turn a double-play or knock down a three-point shot, but because of Kevin's will to live.
A member of the cross country team, a second baseman on the Central baseball team and a guard on the JV basketball squad, Kevin has never shied from his love for the Cats, despite what his basketball coach says is constant good-natured ribbing from friends and classmates, most of whom are Hoosier fans.
Recently, in a span of a week, the Massey family's lives were shattered. And the Kentucky coach, three hours and an entire fan base away, took notice.
According to Mark James, coach of the Franklin Central boys basketball team, Kevin began experiencing pain in his leg during a practice last Thursday. The following day, Kevin complained about a tingling sensation in his hands.
By Sunday, Kevin couldn't move his right arm or right leg. Kevin's parents, Ruth and Dwain Massey, natives of the Bluegrass state, took their son to the hospital, where a battery of tests were performed.
James says Kevin initially was treated for meningitis and stroke, but those were ruled out. By Monday, Kevin couldn't swallow. An MRI revealed Kevin Massey had an inoperable brain tumor.
In just seven days, the Franklin Central guard had gone from happy-go-lucky kid, practicing with his team, to undergoing radiation treatments for the tumor. His family is devastated.
To lessen the load and bring joy to this young Wildcat fan, James called upon a friend and one-time Calipari assistant, Ed Schilling, to gage whether Calipari might autograph a few things and send them to Indianapolis. Perhaps, the coaches figured, it would allow Kevin one day of happiness, in what had otherwise been a gloomy week.
Schilling made the call. James says Calipari was happy to fulfill the request, even promised to fly to Indianapolis and surprise Kevin, hand-delivering the items.
Cal made good on his word. According to one family member, both player and coach were moved to tears when the two met for the first time. Kevin, lying in his hospital bed, cried as the Kentucky coach entered his room. Calipari, touched by the kid's love for the Cats and his dire situation, led the family in prayer at Kevin's bedside.
"The family was pretty overwhelmed," James said via phone. "It was an unbelievable experience for that family."
Calipari brought with him the game ball from UK's win over Alabama. It was covered in autographs from Wildcat players. When coach Cal left, Kevin never let the ball out of his sight.
"It was neat, because Cal did this out of his heart," James said. "There were no TV cameras. He got no ink. This is something this kid will never forget."
Franklin Central's cross country coach, Eric Kellison, is a lifelong Hoosier fan, "but he's (Calipari) making it hard to not like Kentucky."
"You can accuse him of alot of things, but put a big check mark right up there on his side for this one," James said of Calipari. "This is stuff you only read about."
The prognosis isn't good for Kevin Massey. Already, he's had two rounds of radiation treatments, in hopes of shrinking the tumor. But for the first time in nearly a week, a smile creeped across Kevin's face as he clutched the game ball.
To see pictures of Kevin and coach Calipari, go to http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kevinmassey
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