What are they doing? Where are they now? What are they up to? These are the many questions that are twirling around in the minds of those loyal University of Kentucky fans about the very basketball players they had once admired, cheered on and watched play ball for many years. I had the chance to visit with one of those heroes, 1996 NCAA title winner, Tony Delk.
Once a member of the Big Blue Nation, always a member; whether as an athlete or a fan, your Wildcat blood always bleeds blue, and you are forever a part of the faithful family. The Big Blue Nation is always rooting for the success of Kentucky’s former athletes, hoping that these hoopers proudly represent the reputation of UK not only on the court but also across the journey we like to call life.
Some may say that curiosity killed the cat, but I believe this inquisitiveness only enriches and thoroughly enraptures the individual who fervently pursues what they are most passionately curious about.
So, for those interested b-ball fellows I would like to ease your curiosity by reacquainting you with Mr. Tony Lorenzo Delk, not just the former recipient of MVP honors for tying an NCAA record in Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship run, or the American professional basketball player who reached the pinnacle of his dreams by making it to the glorious NBA. But this Tony Delk is the formidable guy (forever Kentucky Blue) who was fortunate to gain invaluable experience as a pro-baller and is now gladly helping other aspiring NBA players at the collegiate level.
His latest career goals are to improve this new generation of basketball players not only on the court as technical aficionados but off it too by grooming them to be great human beings. Tony Delk (flash forward 16 years) is the current assistant coach for the New Mexico State Aggies men's basketball team. “ I just finished my first season at New Mexico State,” Delk says, “ It went well, we got to the first round of the tournament and lost to Indiana (66-79).”
The Aggies went 26 -10 overall in their 2011 -12 season, and 10 -4 in the Western Athletic Conference, a very nice feat. In his first season with the Aggies, Delk, along with assistant coach Keith Brown, associate head coach Paul Weir and head coach Marvin Menzies, helped to elevate the play of these Aggie men to the next level in the NCAA tournament.
The knowledge and experience Delk gained by being a top NCAA Men’s basketball athlete has not only aided his current players, but also the players at his alma mater, the University of Kentucky.
Recently, Tony Delk got the rare opportunity to spend some time and share some advice with the two young NBA players and the newest number one draftee.“I got a chance to talk to Anthony (Davis), Demarcus (Cousins) and John Wall, I was actually watching a practice for USA basketball,” Delk comments, “Some advice I gave was to compete, enjoy the game and love what you do and to know that you are blessed to be in the position that you are in and to never take it for granted.”
As these young men, (all former Kentucky stars) continue on with their life’s journey, words of wisdom from someone like the accomplished Delk, who once stepped before them in similar shoes, is quite helpful and very thoughtful.
Like anything however, times marches on, and the Wildcat fans must not ponder on the past, but set their sights to look forward into a bright future. Even with another young team arriving in the Kentucky bluegrass, Delk believes that under Coach John Calipari’s tutelage there is always a chance that new and inexperienced, yet extremely talented players can do the unthinkable.
“I think there is always a possibility with a young team to still do well. Especially with how Coach Cal teaches offense as well as defense,” Delk states, “Most of his emphasis is on defense and if you get a team to buy into that, anything is possible. That’s what he (Coach Cal) does a great job of.”
But, without a team oriented spirit, is it possible to effectively improve defensively or offensively? Is it fair to predict or even expect another winning season for the Kentucky Wildcats? Luckily, some believe that Coach Cal is able to work his magic again and again by creating a very cohesive mindset amongst his team. This is his winning recipe.
“(Coach Cal) does a good job of teaching young players that you can be successful but you have to work together,” Delk says, “So he is teaching cohesiveness as well as being accountable for the mistakes you make; while striving for the bigger things in life, which is winning a championship because that is something that could never be taken away.”
Many athletes strive for the amazing, have big goals in life within the sports they play. However, life has a way of injecting twists and turns that can set you on a different path than what you expected. Even if that is the case, no matter what pathway former UK basketball players have taken, one thing is for certain, the Big Blue Nation will be 100% supportive of them. It is great to see Tony Delk continue to strive for and achieve his life goals, all while still holding onto a patch of Kentucky bluegrass that he has once called “home”.