Spring 2021 Magazine

Kentucky's Immanuel Quickley leading the Wildcats as he shares his faith

Marcellous Quickley, the father of Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley, has never seen his son play basketball in person, and only recently started watching Immanuel’s games on TV. As his son’s basketball career took off, Marcellous was concerned it would get in the way of his relationship with Christ.

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But recently, a friend sent Immanuel a video of his father watching him play. It was Kentucky’s Dec. 28 win over in-state rival Louisville, in which the sophomore set a new career-high with 18 points.

According to The Athletic:

[Immanuel] could hardly believe his eyes. When he sank those decisive free throws, his father had been on the phone with his grandfather, describing the action in jubilant wonder. “Immanuel about to ice ‘em here!” Marcellous Quickley yelped. “He’s about to take ‘em home! Easy cake! Easy cake!”

Immanuel sat there stunned. And smiling. Those who saw him in that moment — watching him watch his father watching him — say the happiness on his face is difficult to describe. Quickley’s ascendance and the reaction it has produced back home elicits another word. Joy.

“I always knew he loved me as a person,” Quickley says of his father. “But I will say, that was one of the cooler moments of my life, just seeing him proud of me on the basketball level. We weren’t always at this place. But for him to understand that I can be an upright Christian and still play basketball at the same time is really big.”

The night before Immanuel returned to Kentucky for his sophomore season, a guest speaker at an event hosted by his home church — someone who had never met Quickley — asked to pray for him. Quickley began doing devotionals twice a day when he got back to campus, largely as a result of the conversation he had with the guest speaker.

“And I decided to start showing who I was, that I’m not just a basketball player,” he told The Athletic. “That I’m a Christian who happens to play basketball. I wanted to get that out there. That’s part of the reason I probably wasn’t ready to blossom [freshman] year, because I really wasn’t showing my faith and showing who I was for Jesus.”

The numbers support Quickley’s theory. He is averaging 14.9 points per game in 2019-20, up from 5.2 last season. That Louisville game started a stretch of 13 straight games where Quickley finished in double figures and posted at least 20 points five times. He’s now the team’s leading scorer.

Kentucky, currently tied for first place in the SEC, returns to the court on Saturday at home against Ole Miss.

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