Delk knew he had to work to excel

Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer.com | geans@messenger-inquirer.com Former University of Kentucky and NBA basketball player Tony Delk, left, signs the book ‘Heart of Blue’ by former Kentucky play-by-play announcer Cawood Ledford for Donnie Ward of Whitesville, right, during a Meet and Greet Saturday at the Horn Community Center in Whitesville. Delk was speaking at Dinner at Our House, an event hosted by the Trinity High School Raider basketball team.

Tony Delk has spent some time around the Evansville-Owensboro area over the last few years.

Delk, a former star who did much to lead the University of Kentucky to the 1996 national championship, was three rows behind the bench in Rupp Arena on Nov.12 when good friend and '96 teammate Walter McCarty coached Evansville to a 67-64 upset of the then-No. 1Wildcats.

The standout guard who was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1996 was at the Horn Community Center in Whitesville on Saturday.

Delk was speaking at an event to benefit Whitesville Trinity's boys and girls basketball teams.

It was called Dinner at Our House and was going to be followed by a basketball clinic, the TD Basketball Academy, on Sunday at Trinity High School.

Delk talked with some fans before the Saturday event during a meet and greet atthe center.

A group with Trinity talked with Nicole Castoreno, Delk's partner and publicist.

He knew Trinity was close to Owensboro and Evansville, and has spent more time in the area with McCarty being head coach at UE.

"I go to practice every year, he does a charity golf tournament every year," Delk said. "It was a great victory for (McCarty), to come in with his players, they were not scared of the moment. I think it's really going to help Kentucky down the road because when you lose against a team like Evansville, coach (John Calipari) can really address that you can't overlook any opponent."

The bonds that Delk and McCarty formed during their careers at UK have lasted this long in part because of the work it took to reach that 1996national championship.

"It was about building relationships," Delk said. "We all came from different places, we all went through the same struggle, that's trying to be the best player you can possibly be, but also being taught by one of the better coaches in the game at that time, Coach (Rick) Pitino, then just building cohesiveness, chemistry, working as a unit.

"People sometimes say you can have one great player, but you need more than one great player."

As a senior Delk was also named to the All-American and All-SEC while also being named SEC Player of the Year honors.

In his junior season, Delk was named to the All-SEC and All-NCAA Regional Team.

Delk was picked 16th overall 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets and played in the league for 10 years.

He served as an assistant coach at UK and New Mexico State over a five year stretch.

Delk does some NBA TV work but it mainly involved with coaching younger teams on the AAU level, his basketball academy, and his wine making business, which produces Lorenz00's brands. He has also written a book, "Shooter: The story behind the Double 00s."

The topic for his public speeches is 'no excuses, do your job.'

"We all have a job to do, the sooner you learn it, the easier it is to navigate through life," Delk said. "That's something I love to share with people. It happened to me early, I knew what I had to do, every team I played for, every organization, coaches, they gave me a job, I knew I had to complete that job in order to get more."

Delk felt he had a good understanding of his audience, kids who were basketball players, their parents and fans, at a small school.

He was from a small place as well, Brownsville, Tennessee, a town of about 10,000 people near Memphis.

"You don't have as many opportunities, sometimes you have to create those opportunities and think outside the box," Delk said. "I did a lot of that as a kid."

Deciding between UK, Arkansas and Memphis was a big moment for Delk.

"I had to figure out what was best for me," Delk said.

Once in Lexington, Delk had to navigate a freshman season without much playing time.

"When I first got there, it was more of was I gonna stay," Delk said. "At that age you're trying to figure out who you are. Basketball had been a part of my life for more than half my life. When you're not competing, not on the court, that's all you know, so now it's like what else can I do? Then it's trying to figure out what do I have to do in order to get that playing time. First thing is don't make excuses, get your job done."

Delk led UK in scoring his last three years on the team.

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