By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
University of Kentucky student athletes Kastine Evans, a guard on the women’s basketball team, and Jon Hood, a guard on the men’s team, stopped by Waco Elementary School on Wednesday to talk about the benefits of working hard in school.
Every Waco student received a free School is Cool poster that features the UK players, while students also had the opportunity to purchase a basketball or poster to be signed by the players at the end of the program. Proceeds from these sales fund the school visits, said Principal Venessa Worley.
Former UK guard Jeff Sheppard (1993-1998) introduced the two young players, who are both in their senior years at the university. Sheppard said UK fans expect “maximum effort” from basketball players on the court just as students are expected to give the same effort in school.
Evans, 21, said her dad, who is a former New York Jets player, sends her a text often that says, “go hard, or go home.”
“He encouraged me to be successful. Don’t settle for anything less,” said the Salem, Conn., native.
Hood, 22, said if someone had told him in elementary school that he would one day play for UK, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“But if it’s worth it, you do it. You must give it your all,” said Hood, who is a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Madisonville.
Sheppard talked about his mother, an educator for many years, who retired for six months and returned to teaching. He said his friends told him later that his mom was one of the toughest teachers they had.
“The tough teachers are the best for you,” he said. “They push you hard because they care about you.”
Evans said the only teacher she remembers from sixth grade was “the mean teacher” who taught her the importance of respecting others and answering with “Yes ma’am or no ma’am.”
It also was the supposed “mean teacher” who made the greatest impact on Hood in third grade, he said.
“Some students said Ms. Turner was the absolute meanest teacher they ever had,” he said.
But one day, his teacher, who also was a soccer coach, took him aside during recess and kicked a soccer ball back and forth with him.
“I wasn’t any good, but for her to take the time to teach me how to play ― it meant a lot,” he said.
Sheppard said he had a teacher who taught him how to juggle.
Near the end of their presentation, Sheppard wove through the audience, many of which were wearing UK blue, and picked students to ask questions.
Some questions included: How high can you jump? Do you want to play in the NBA and WNBA? Do your parents support you? How does it feel to play a lot of basketball? How does it feel to win a game? What are the consequences if you don’t make good grades?
One student asked, “On a scale from one to 10, how much do you like UK basketball?”
“Ten,” Evans replied.
“Twelve,” said Hood.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.