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The Power of Kentucky Basketball – Baghdad to Euclid

I have tormented my followers and online connections the past few weeks trying to publicize The Team, a documentary on my 1996 Kentucky teammates.  You all have been very gracious and understanding that this is my first documentary, and I’m anxious for it to be seen, appreciated and bought.  Most people respond with a “like” or “retweet” or “favorite” and I’m grateful for everyone.

Spending four years, primarily as a glorified observer on the Kentucky Basketball team, I got to see the inner workings of Kentucky Basketball.  It’s not always glowing, spectacular, ego-enhancing and fun.  In fact, I easily got  jaded and let that effect my demeanor with fans in those years.  Seriously, try to find a photograph of me smiling from 1994-1998.  You can’t.

But occasionally, I meet a member of #BBN who reminds me of how important this team and this university is to so many people across the state, and in the case below, the world.  Meet Kays Kaysi, an Iraqi who now, because of the University of Kentucky, its medical school and our basketball team, practices emergency medicine in South Carolina.  Her wrote me in response to one of my many posts about the documentary and his story was one I thought you would like to hear.

From Iraq to the Bluegrass because of Kentucky Basketball.

A letter sent to me through Facebook


In 1995 I was living in Denmark and was learning Danish. In my class there were several people with different nationalities.  One of them was from LA, California and his name was John.  One day I approached him and told him I want to go to the USA to study medicine but I don’t know where to go as I do not know anyone there. He asked me to go to the USA embassy in Copenhagen, do a simple search about the schools in the USA , and to get him some 25 different universities that I might be interested to go there. I did, and UK was one of them. He and I then met inside the library of the US embassy in Copenhagen and he was asking me different questions about what the type of food I like, drink, people, weather, cost of living, hobbies, etc. As I was answering, John was crossing the names of the universities that I brought him one after the other. Then he looked at the three universities that were left.  UK was one of them and he finally asked: do you like basketball?
I said: I LOVE basketball ..He immediately crossed the other 2 schools and said: That is your school! The University of Kentucky, and basketball is a religion in KY!!

I arrived to the US on 01/01/1996, and made it to Lexington, KY the following day.  I remember the night when we played UMass in the semifinals and the night when we won the NCAA. The UK campus went CRAZY! John called me that night and it was an early morning in Copenhagen, he congratulated me as he was watching the celebration..He said: Do remember what I told you about basketball and the people in KY?!

At that time, we were watching the games with a bunch of students at the Christian Student Fellowship when Lynn Buckles and Rex Grahm were in ministry there. We went crazy when your 3’s during the 1998 NCAA vs Utah tied the game and kept us alive ..
My wife and I are settled in SC and I work for St. Frances as an urgent care physician. I’ve never left the states since I came first to KY. The unique thing about the KY basketball is that it brings people together no matter where they are, what they do, and what political party they are affiliated to.  During the past election season, many of us got very tense but once UK started playing we all became one family again. When my wife drives her car through downtown Greenville, S.C.. or on long drives from the South all the way to Maine to visit her family- she always hears, “GO CATS” and people give her thumbs up when they see UK flags flying high on the car.

I actually wrote a book, it’s a gathering of my autobiography. It shows how God, through semi-miracles, played a role of where I am right now. The book has not been published yet, but was written as a screenplay for a potential drama/adventure movie. That process is very complicated and I don’t have the time to put into that at the moment.

~God bless, Kays

Below is an excerpt from Kays’ forthcoming book and screenplay.

“In Nov of 1979, at the age of 17, I entered the College of Pharmacy at the University of Baghdad. I was voted student representative based on my grades and standing in school. I was asked to give a speech, mainly about leadership. Saddam Husain had just became the President of Iraq..
..As I stood before my fellow classmates and professors and began to give my speech, I began to talk about the leadership and the presidency in Iraq in comparison to the freedom and the democracy during the American election,
..All of a sudden, I was grabbed from behind and forced from the stage..
..They took me to a security building, which was only dimly lit. I was led to a barred cell, which only had light from the hallway, and locked in..
I was blindfolded and they put me in the back of the car.. They pulled me from the truck, shaken and stiff. They took off my blindfold…I wondered where I was. It seemed like some kind of a cave…My release was based on signing a paper upon the penalty of death had I spoke against the government again. I was told that I spent 10 days in that cave”
~ A Scream For Freedom
Copyright 1998,2002, 2015
A book based on my Autobiography

I’m blown away by stories like this.  And I know there are many more like it.  When we say Big Blue Nation, we aren’t exaggerating.  Truthfully we should change in to Big Blue World. #BBW

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