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Mike Lopresti | | January 14, 2014

Compliments of Calipari

John Calipari Kentucky

Spring term starts Wednesday at Kentucky. Know what that means?

When senior Josh Lawson sits down in his thermal dynamics class and Amanda Dowell walks into her chemistry lecture, it’ll be compliments of John Calipari.

Back in October at the Blue-White preseason scrimmage, Calipari offered to pay tuition this term for two students in a blind draw of those in attendance. Out came the names of senior mechanical engineering major Lawson and freshman biology major Dowell. Now the Wildcats are 12-3, and it’s time for the two winners to collect. Both are Kentucky residents, so it’s saving each about $5,000.

No. 13 Kentucky at Arkansas
“I’ve been a huge UK fan forever,” Lawson said over the phone. “I don’t know if it’s possible that I could become more of a fan, but if it was, I definitely am after this. Maybe more a fan of Calipari.”

“I’m excited. I’m anxious,” Dowell said.

This was no attendance gimmick. The Wildcats had already sold more than 14,000 tickets for their scrimmage before Calipari came up with the idea. He saw it as a tribute to the student body that makes the thunder in Rupp Arena. “They’re into it,” he said at the time. “So I’m glad we could do it.”

So are two certain Kentucky students. What would they be doing now without the Calipari grant-in-aid?

“Just taking out another loan and paying it back a few years from now,” Lawson said.

By his count, Lawson has missed maybe five home games in his career. He made his way to New Orleans for the 2012 Final Four. He was in line at 5 a.m. last month to get into the Louisville game. He hopes to be in Dallas for another Final Four in April, but that might be up to the Wildcats more than him.

Dowell is a fan but had not seen a game this season until the win against Louisville. She might have missed the Blue-White scrimmage had not her mother mentioned something about scholarships being handed out. Might as well show up and cheer the new freshmen.

And now the coach is picking up the tab of two students who grew up 15 miles from one another in central Kentucky, but had never met until the night their names were drawn. Since then, they’ve been living through their 15 minutes of fame,

“A lot of my family keeps bringing it up,” Dowell said. “People who didn’t know me at UK know me now.”

In Lawson’s case, fame comes with a price.

“I live in a house with four other guys, and they keep saying that I get to pay for cable the rest of the term,” he said. “Every time we go out to eat, I have to drive.”

But what’s that compared to free thermal dynamics?

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