By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky opens NCAA Tournament play in Jacksonville against Abilene Christian Thursday, it is a given that Immanuel Quickley’s aunt, Demetria Caldwell, will be there supporting the Wildcats. Actually, no matter where the Cats would have been playing, she was going to come.
“I did not miss any UK home games, including Big Blue Madness and the Blue/White game,” said Caldwell. “I am going to be there no matter where UK plays here on out. I will just figure it out as I go. Even in high school there was never a question if I was going somewhere to watch him play. The only question was who was going with me and I could always find somebody.”
Caldwell was at the SEC Tournament in Nashville along with her mother, Quickley’s 10-year-old sister, Shiloh, and other family members. Nitrease Quickley, the UK freshman’s mother, is an educator in Baltimore where they live and didn’t make the SEC so she could hopefully attend NCAA Tournament games.
“She is very passionate about her job,” Caldwell said. “I am a business analyst, so I can work from anywhere. But his little sister has said she is not missing anything from here on out. She loves BBN and watching her brother play.”
Immanuel Quickley was glad to have his sister in Nashville watching him play.
“I hadn’t seen my sister in a couple of weeks, so it was great to see her. She is playing basketball, too, and doing really well. I am proud of her and love when she gets to see me play,” Immanuel Quickley said.
The Quickley family travels well. When he played in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta last year, about 40 family members came on a bus from Baltimore to the game. When he played for Team USA in Egypt on a team coached by John Calipari, the freshman’s mother and grandmother were there. When he played for Team USA in Spain, his mother, grandmother and Caldwell all were there. His grandmother had to miss some games this year because she slipped on ice in Maryland and fractured her ankle.
“I have loved watching him play since he was 4 years old, and he was not supposed to be playing on a team then,” Caldwell laughed and said.
Turns out she was coaching a rec league team for players ages 5-6 but was a player short at a game.
“Immanuel was always with me, so I said, ‘Here we go. Just play. Don’t tell your mom,’” Caldwell said. “He made every shot. I got to keep him (on the team) and he’s been playing ever since.”
“When I played for her, I just shot every single play every time I could. That was the best part about playing for her,” the Kentucky freshman said.
Caldwell has liked what she has seen from her nephew this year. He started seven games early in the season but has settled smoothly into his role coming off the bench and playing either guard position. He’s averaging 5.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 18.6 minutes per game. He’s one of the team’s top foul shooters at 82.8 percent.
“He has been kind of what I thought he would be this year,” Caldwell said. “He has been gradually excelling more and more. He loves being in the gym. He’s a gym rat and goes from his dorm room to the gym. Instead of a 30-minute trip like it was at home to get to the gym, he has a 30-step walk now. He’s a team player. He’s very content to determine what the team needs to win and then do that.”
Caldwell interacts with all Kentucky fans that she can. She says her experience with the fans has been “amazing” all season, including the SEC Tournament.
You can normally spot her in the crowd because she wears a pink UK baseball hat.
“I was in Kentucky and I needed a hat. We went to the store at the mall and I saw this pink hat,” Caldwell said. “My mom puts No. 5 on all my hats, but I wear that pink one every game to just throw something in there with that sea of blue. Plus, Immanuel also has a good idea where I am at then because he knows I am there.”
The UK freshman says he can “definitely hear her” and sometimes can make eye contact with her.
“She loves me a lot. We have had a bond pretty much since I was born. She has been like a mother to me along with my mom. Great people, love them to death. She is not exactly my age but she gets the younger generation. We are kind of close and she kind of spoils me while my mom is more of the disciplinarian type, so it balances out,” Quickley said.
Caldwell won’t deny spoiling him — but in the right way.
“It’s not like spoiled milk because that is bad. It’s more like Christmas morning because you are overflowing with emotion and the expectations of doing well. As long as he remains a good kid and a humble kid, I’ll keep spoiling him, too.”