As the Kentucky men's basketball team took a conference call from President Barack Obama on Tuesday, it was hard to tell who was more awestruck: freshman phenom John Wall or Obama.
Wall and the rest of the Kentucky men's basketball team took part in a conference call with Obama on Tuesday for their contribution in helping with the relief efforts in Haiti. Obama called the team to thank them for the "Hoops for Haiti" telethon, which raised more than $1 million with matching funds.
"Everybody admires what a great team you have," Obama said. "Everybody admires the dedication on the court and athleticism on the court. It's just fun to watch you guys. But the main reason I'm calling, is for you in the middle of the season to take the time to do something like this for people you don't know but have seen and have touched you, I think it's just a great testament to each of you individually, it's a great testament to your program and it's a great testament to Kentucky."
The team, clad in its blue "Hoops for Haiti T-shirts, took the call from the media room at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C., where the Cats will take on South Carolina at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Obama placed the call around 1:30 p.m. from the Oval Office in Washington D.C. to express his gratitude for raising funds that will go directly to those in need in Haiti.
"I just want to let you guys know that I am very, very proud of what you guys do and that shows a lot of character and I hope that carries over," Obama said. "Some of you are going to be going to the NBA. Some of you are going to be doing other things in your lives. I hope that spirit of doing things for others continues because each of you have been given a lot, a lot of talent and a lot of opportunity. To those much is given, much is required."
Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler was with Obama during the call from the White House.
"Guys, congratulations," Chandler said. "You all are making all of us proud in Kentucky. You really are. Congratulations on a No. 1 ranking and congratulations on being great people. Congratulations on the 'Hoops for Haiti' thing. What a wonderful thing for those who are in desperate, desperate need."
Head coach John Calipari and three Kentucky players - Wall, junior forward Patrick Patterson and freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins - had a chance to personally thank the president for the call.
"On behalf of the Kentucky basketball team, we just want to thank you for everything you're doing for the country," Patterson said. "This 'Hoops for Haiti' means as much to us as winning a basketball game and your leadership has inspired us all."
Of course, it wasn't all about Haiti for Obama, who has long been a fan of college basketball.
"I'm honored to speak to the No. 1 team in the country a few days after it happens," Obama said.
After Wall introduced himself, Obama stopped him before he could issue a special invitation.
"What's going on all-star?" Obama said. "I've been watching you."
The freshman point guard then invited the 44th president of the United State for a game in Lexington. Wall said if he arrives early enough, they can play a game of HORSE."
"I'm not going to play HORSE with you," Obama said. "I don't want to lose."
Obama did tentatively agree to the offer.
"I'm going to make sure you're on my team," Obama said. "I'm going to hook it up so I've got a chance."
Chandler said the president assured him that he and Chandler are going to play ball with the team if the Cats "allow" them to. If they come, Chandler promised the players they would put on Kentucky jerseys.
Obama inquired the team about its next game. When Calipari informed him that they were playing South Carolina in a few hours, Obama felt confident they would take care of business and improve to 20-0.
"You should be alright," Obama said to the laughter of the players. "There is that tendency once you get to be No. 1 to start to let down a little bit. It's a tough place to play, so you guys stay focused. I expect to see you guys in the championship game at some point."
Who knows, maybe they'll get a chance to show the commander in chief some national championship hardware.
"What we really look forward to is seeing you at the end of this season," Cousins said.
"The way you guys are going, that may happen," Obama said.
(Special thanks to Marissa Hopkins at the Office fo the Press Secretary at the White House for the photo of Obama and Chandler).