When it comes to memorable Memorial Day weekends, it would be hard to beat the one experienced by former Kentucky basketball assistant coach Joel Justus this year.
Justus married Hannah Brown on Saturday of last weekend.
Or as he put it in a text message, “Married my Kentucky (Corbin) sweetheart this weekend. So on Cloud Nine.”
On Friday of last weekend, Joel and Hannah had their wedding rehearsal dinner at a . . . rodeo.
No, he said, the soon-to-be bride and groom did not ride bulls or bucking broncos. “We were in a VIP section,” said Joel, who noted that Hannah’s family sits courtside at UK home basketball games and has a box at Kroger Field.
Hannah’s father is a lawyer with offices in Corbin and Colorado. Her mother was on the UK Board of Trustees when John Calipari was hired as coach, Joel said.
What Joel described as a “very intimate” wedding (10 guests) was at Mountain Shadows Resort, which is in Paradise Valley, Ariz., which is 8 miles north of Tempe. In April 2021, Justus left the UK program to join the Arizona State coaching staff.
“It was a destination wedding for everybody but us,” Joel said.
Joel’s father, John Justus, officiated the wedding, which began at 9 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time. “Because right now, it’s probably 100 degrees outside,” Joel said during the late afternoon EDT call.
“It’s just like winning the noon game on a Saturday,” Joel said. “You have the rest of the day to feel good about yourself.”
Joel and Hannah are planning an August honeymoon in either Hawaii or Cabo (a resort city at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.)
The newlyweds first met while Joel was on the Kentucky staff. Hannah worked at the Lululemon clothing store in Lexington. Joel was a noticeably frequent customer.
Love at first sight?
“It was for me,” Joel said. “I don’t know about her.”
Said Hannah: “I thought he was cute from Day One. But I didn’t know how he was.
“And then I saw him at a basketball game. And I was sitting across the floor. And I was, like, that’s the guy that keeps coming in the store.”
Joel suggested that his training as a basketball assistant coach came in handy in his wooing of Hannah.
“I was persistent in my pursuit,” he said. “Same as I was when I recruited Shai (Gilgeous-) Alexander.”
Congratulations and best wishes.
Kudos to BBN
Friends of UK basketball radio analyst Mike Pratt have appealed to the Big Blue Nation to donate to a fund-raiser set up to help with cancer treatment not paid for through insurance and travel expenses.
Dan Issel, Pratt’s UK teammate (1967-68 through 1969-70) and co-host of a sports talk show broadcast on Louisville’s ESPN station, lauded how the BBN responded.
“The UK fans really stepped up,” Issel said. “I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me and said what a good guy Mike is, and they’re praying for him.”
Pratt, who also does color commentary on radio broadcasts of Kentucky games, will be seeking holistic treatments, Issel said. He is scheduled to fly to Southern California on June 16. Pratt will be there for three weeks, and then the plan is to return every three months for checkups and more treatment, Issel said.
Pratt has been off the radio show for about three weeks.
“The plan is he will come back and do some (shows),” Issel said. “Hopefully, by November, he’ll feel good enough to come back and do the Cats, too.”
When asked to share a memory of Pratt as a UK teammate, Issel said, “If he didn’t pass it to me enough, Coach (Adolph) Rupp would get on him.” Then Issel laughed.
To support the fund-raising effort on Mike Pratt’s behalf, UK Coach John Calipari tweeted that he and his wife, Ellen, would match the first $50,000 donated.
This did not surprise Dan Issel.
“He has a special relationship with Mike,” Issel said of Calipari.
Pratt joined a group that included Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart and then UK president Lee Todd in traveling to Chicago in the spring of 2009 to offer Calipari the job as basketball coach, Issel said.
Calipari accepting the job offer was a big plus for Kentucky basketball, Issel said.
“There’s not a handful of people that could succeed at that job,” Issel said. “He’s certainly got the personality and everything that goes along with it. . . .
“I think he was the right choice for sure.”
‘He’s my guy’
At a youth camp in Danville on Thursday, Sahvir Wheeler spoke of having built a “really strong relationship” with John Calipari. That can benefit both the player and UK coach next season.
“I feel I can talk to Coach Cal about everything, whether it’s basketball-related or not,” Wheeler said. “He’s my guy. . . .
“He’s constantly pushing me to become the best player I can be. I’m grateful for that.”
When future turnovers occur, Wheeler said he would welcome a scolding from Calipari.
“If he wasn’t yelling at me for a turnover, to me that would show me he doesn’t care,” Wheeler said. “So, as long as he’s yelling at me for making a turnover, and also cheering me on when I do well, which he does, I’m all for it.”
Tom Balko, a 1975 UK graduate, shared a memory of the late Reggie Warford by sending an email.
“I’ve forgotten the name of the Geography professor who many felt missed his calling as an entertainer (people not even enrolled in the class often filled the large classroom),” Balko wrote. “In those days everyone knew if a basketball player was in the class. One Monday the classroom was already filled when Reggie showed up.
“The professor pointed at him, smiled, and started clapping. 400+ students, including Reggie, roared with laughter!
“At a game the weekend before, he had done something I’ve never seen done before or since. Taking the ball out of bounds after a made basket, he threw a pass the length of the floor and directly into the hoop!! Of course it didn’t count and the opponent got possession. True story!”
Adding to the historic nature of the moment, Warford’s length-of-the-court non-basket is believed to have occurred in UK’s final home game in Memorial Coliseum. UK beat Mississippi State 94-93 in overtime on March 8, 1976.
Assist to Ulis
Former UK standout Tyler Ulis continues to assist. He is planning to offer basketball instruction to boys and girls in Kentucky.
Teaming with Sports Center of Lexington, he will head the Tyler Ulis Skills Academy in sessions planned for June 29-July 1 and July 18-20.
According to a news release, the Academy will offer camps, clinics, semi-private instruction, leagues and tournaments.
“I am thrilled to be back in Lexington and to partner with Sports Center to build the best youth basketball program in the country,” Ulis said in the release.
Ulis was voted the SEC’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for 2015-16. He also won the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award that season.
To former UK big man (circa the 1970s) Rick Robey. He is expecting the arrival of a grandson in early September.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Maybe it’ll keep me young.”
Adam Williams, who began his college basketball career at UK, has been hired by Marshall as an assistant coach.
Williams played in eight games and averaged 0.5 points in 2005-06 as a freshman for Kentucky. A native of Charleston, W.Va., he transferred to Marshall and played for the Herd in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
To referee John Hampton. He turned 54 on Thursday. . . . To former Mississippi State player Dontae Jones. He turned 47 on Thursday. . . . To former Florida standout Al Horford. He turned 36 on Friday. . . . To former UK assistant coach Barry “Slice” Rohrssen. He turns 62 on Monday. . . . To Makayla Epps. She turns 27 on Monday.