By LARRY VAUGHT
Demetria Caldwell does prayers on Facebook Live each Wednesday and admits the thought of her nephew, Immanuel Quickley, becoming a first-round NBA draft pick was often in her prayers.
Mock drafts didn’t project Quickley, the 2019-20 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, as a likely first-round pick but his family thought the way he performed in pre-draft workouts would elevate his stock.
They also planned a normal draft night gala even though everything was virtual. They made the 2 1/2-hour trip from Maryland to New York City to watch the draft at Roc Nation, an entertainment agency representing Quickley.
“We were like, ‘Let’s have a ball. Let’s dress like we are going to a gala with great expectations,’” said Caldwell. “How you dress is how you feel and we all felt amazing. Everyone at the agency treated us like family. The Big Blue love extended to New York City.”
Quickley was drafted in the first round. Oklahoma City picked him 25th and immediately traded him to the New York Knicks. However, Quickley’s family did not know his name was getting to be called on ESPN.
“Immanuel didn’t want to know so his reaction would be authentic,” Caldwell said. “Myself, I was surprised he didn’t go first because he’s always No. 1 with me. But we knew he would be called in the first round. We had faith. Every once in a while the room would fill up with the Roc Nation family but they never said anything to us.”
Caldwell had brought a suitcase full of decorations for the event. The family even played UNO, a card game they all enjoy, watching the early picks in the draft.
“We tried to keep it as fun and stress free as possible,” Caldwell said. “Now we were not as focused on our UNO game as normal.”
Once Quickley was drafted, his family erupted in celebration and it got even better when they found out he was traded to the Knicks.
“Less than 30 seconds after he was picked they advised him he had been traded to the New York Knicks,” Caldwell said. “We are not like neighbors because home is so close. That 2 1/2 hour drive is nothing compared to nine hours to Kentucky.”
The idea of her nephew being a millionaire when he signs his first contract is something she says is mind-boggling but also something he can handle.
“The University of Kentucky prepares you for this. These kids are prepared for the NBA mission. He’s used to interviews before and after games. He’s been through Big Blue Madness. He’s had a ton of experiences,” Caldwell said.
“I am so proud of that kid. He is a grown man now. On FaceTime with coach Cal after the was drafted he told coach Cal that so many people said he couldn’t do it but he did. His work ethic has been unreal but he’s still hungry to go to work even harder now.”
She was a fixture at every UK home game — and numerous road games — during her nephew’s two years at UK. Most times she wore a pink UK hat that made it easy for fans to identify her.
“I do plan to be at every Knicks home game,” Caldwell said. “I have not purchased a pink hat yet but I am already working on my dress. I don’t know if they will have a pink Knicks hat but I hope so because I want to stick out and make it easy for him (Quickley) to find me.”
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