Kentuckians across the commonwealth share a passion for UK basketball. They especially love championship teams, a point driven home time and time again Saturday during the Poke Sallet Festival as hundreds of Harlan Countians stopped by a table in the Harlan Center to greet three members of the 1996 championship team.
“I had a friend tell me that the fans will always remember someone who won a championship,” said former UK guard Anthony Epps, who was joined by former teammates Derek Anderson and Cameron Mills in Harlan on Saturday as they mark the 20th anniversary of their 1996 national championship with a statewide tour. “We were able to bring a championship back to Kentucky after 18 years, which meant a lot of great memories for a lot of people.”
Matt DiLorenzo, of Pro Players Solutions in Lexington, helped bring the players to Harlan for the Poke Sallet Festival by working with Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley.
“We take them from Pikeville to Paducah is what we like to say, and we work with people like Dan Mosley in festivals like this,” DiLorenzo said. “Players like Cameron, Derek and Anthony make this so much fun, because they enjoy this as much as the fans. They appreciate that even though it’s been 20 years since they won the championship people still show up and show them the love they do.”
“It was awesome to bring members of the 1996 national championship team to Harlan in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the championship,” Mosleys said. “As a teenager, watching that team go on that amazing run was unbelievable and unforgettable. It was great to connect them with Harlan and our signature festival.”
Mills, who also travels around the state as part of his ministry program, brought his Saturday radio show to Harlan and said part of the fun of festivals like the one in Harlan is the opportunity it provides to interact with fans from across Kentucky.
“I love meeting all the people around the state, like Mr. (Melvin) Hardy here, who worked 30 years in the coal mines,” Mills said. “I don’t think you really understand the state unless you get to the hollers and meet the people. I will sign some autographs after this, but then I plan to just hang out. It’s the best people watching in the world at these festivals. It’s fun to meet people.”
Epps, whose daughter Makayla now stars for the UK women’s team, agreed.
“The greatest part of this is getting out talking to the people and hearing their stories,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to know you brought a lot of great memories, not only to UK but to the whole state. It means a lot to Kentucky fans.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134