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November 9, 2012Dez Wells, whom the NCAA ruled on Wednesday is immediately eligible at Maryland after transferring from Xavier, could provide the Terrapins a big boost when they meet Kentucky on Friday in the teams' season opener.
But Wildcats coach John Calipari had no qualms with the NCAA's ruling on Wells, who visited Kentucky before opting for Maryland after he was dismissed from the team at Xavier.
"I'm happy for him, I'm happy," Calipari said. "I hate it when I see kids being held out, you know, give the benefit of the doubt to the kid. If you care about kids, if we're all in this for them, then give the benefit of the doubt."
Wells averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during his freshman season at Xavier.
Calipari said Wells was the Terrapins missing piece, making Maryland a dangerous team.
"He will make Maryland now, legitimately one of those teams," Calipari said. "They were good enough and they needed that one guy, he's the guy. He's that good."
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard is expect to being one of the Terps' top scorers, along with sophomore guard Nick Faust.
Back to the big city
As Calipari kicks off his fourth season as head coach at UK, the Cats will start the season in New York, a home away from home for UK under Calipari.
Counting Friday's game, UK will have played in New York three of the past four years.
The Cats will play one of the first basketball games ever in the Barclays Center, the brand-new, $1 billion home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.
Calipari says UK keeps getting invited back to New York because the Cats always draw a crowd.
"They've asked us to (come back)," Calipari said. "(Madison Square) Garden is mad that we're playing in the Barclays. They're mad. I think they would like us in there every day. They told us yesterday they sold out the building."
Calipari has never lost in New York City as UK's head coach, defeating Connecticut in 2009 and eventual national runner-up Kansas last season.
Calipari usually tries to take his team sightseeing when visiting, but with all the recent storms in the area - Superstorm Sandy last week followed by a short but intense snowfall on Thursday - and unorthodox travel schedule, he isn't sure if there will be enough time.
"I'm not going to drag them around the city because I don't know what the transportation is like," Calipari said. "I may take a trek tomorrow morning to go to either Queens or Staten Island if I think I can get there and not waste a whole day because obviously we play that night and have a shoot around that day."
The Cats can only cross their fingers for some time in the city.
"I hope we get a chance to sightsee," freshman Alex Poythress said. "I've never been to New York before."
Instead of prepping for the season opener Wednesday night, Calipari and the UK basketball team spent the evening on the phones, raising money for the victims of Superstorm Sandy with a telethon.
The storm ravaged the east coast last week, and affected parts of New York City.
The telethon and online fundraising efforts generated $500,000, with more to come based on a promotion by Papa John's owner John Schnatter, who pledged $1 from each pizza sold at every one of the chain's U.S. locations on Wednesday night.
Schnatter estimated a donation close to $400,000, pushing the total to just less than $1 million.
"I just can't thank the people in this state, how they give money, how they give up their time," Calipari said.
Calipari said he wasn't sure if his players would enjoy raising money, but was impressed with how they handled it.
"Our players had fun with it," Calipari said. "I think going into it they weren't sure what it was but I think by the time they left they were good with it."
Sophomore Sam Malone is from Boston, which was also hit by Superstorm Sandy.
He's happy to report no damage to his house back home or his neighborhood.
"My family has been OK and my neighborhood has been all right," Malone said.
But he sympathizes for the victims that weren't so fortunate.
"I know what it's like to see the storm surge rising and feeling helpless," Malone said. "I've seen homes in my neighborhood burn down because of big storms in the past. I know what (Sandy victims) are going through and I feel for them."
Calipari said New Yorkers need a hand, so he was willing to rally Kentuckians to help.
"There's no way (New Yorkers) can do this alone," Calipari said. "They need everyone's hand."