KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)— For the 12th consecutive year, the Tennessee basketball team participated in the annual "Hoops for Hope" event in West Knoxville. The Sexton family – along with help from sponsors and volunteers – has hosted the event each year, and for a dozen years now, the Vols have played a key role.
The Vols took the court at Knoxville Christian school on Saturday morning, sharing their love of basketball with those who live with Down Syndrome. The players spent the morning running drill stations and coordinating full-court games during which they helped to ensure that each participant was given the opportunity to make a basket and hear cheers loud enough to equal those in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"This is an event that we always look forward to in terms of community service," junior forward John Fulkerson said. "We know that this Saturday at the end of August and the beginning of the school year we're always going to do this, and we're always so excited for it. Not only do we get to hang out with these kids, but we each get to share something that we're passionate, about which is basketball. We like basketball, they really like basketball, and sharing something you're both passionate about together and having fun really means a lot."
It's an event that not only the UT players anticipate each year, but is one the participants circle, look forward to and even train for every time this day in August comes around.
"We have a lot of participants whose families tell us that more than any other holiday or special occasion, this is the day on the calendar they look forward to the most," event director David Sexton said. "Some of our participants even practice to make sure they're ready for today."
Following the dunks, fast breaks and 3-pointers from long-range, the traditional dance-off broke out at mid-court, followed by a rendition of Rocky Top by the Vols and participants to close the festivities.
Hoops for Hope has been a favorite community outreach event for Tennessee basketball for more than a decade, and it's likely that the Big Orange will return to West Knoxville for year No. 13 next August.