Barons men’s basketball to play Kentucky

STEUBENVILLE – University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari has agreed to play an exhibition game at Rupp Arena in November 2014 against Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Calipari, who was a guest speaker at the April 20 Baron Club fundraiser, extended the offer to Barons head coach John Lamana over dinner and then announced it to the audience at the Baron Club during his speech. Franciscan and Kentucky have been working out the details since.

“This is a huge opportunity, not only for the men’s basketball program, but for the university,” Lamanna said.

The 2012 national champions will provide the Barons with an opportunity to learn from one of the best basketball programs in the nation on any level, giving the Barons a once-in-a-lifetime team experience.

“We talk about a championship experience in mind, body and spirit here at Franciscan basketball.” Lamanna said. “This is speaking to that experience where we are playing a previous national champion at the DI level and a potential future national champion at the DI level.”

Exhibition games occur in the pre-season and allow each team to prepare for their regular season games by priming the players for competition. Typically, Division I schools host two exhibition games per year against non-DI opponents. Top DI schools such as Kentucky usually play top DII and DIII programs.

“It’s a program-changing opportunity that truly legitimizes us as a NCAA DIII men’s basketball program.” Lamanna said. “We’ll be able to take some real positives from this opportunity.”

With nine of their current 11 players freshman or sophomores, the Barons should field their most competitive team in recent history for the exhibition.

“It will be the best team we’ve had since I’ve been a coach here,” Lamanna said.

The program will benefit from a fundraising standpoint. Division I schools pay lower level opponents to play in exhibition games. In the case of FUS, playing Kentucky could be one of the biggest fundraising opportunities in its history.