Calipari says Collins is set to return to the team after the funeral for the player’s father on Saturday

Daimion Collins and his Kentucky basketball family continue the grieving process following the sudden death of the player’s father, Ben, at age 43. On Friday, when Britain defeated Duquesne 77-52, Collins was home in Texas for the start of the memorial service.

Calipari and freshman Cason Wallacea cousin leaving saturday.

We’re going to the funeral tomorrow,” Calipari said on Friday night. “I wanted to take the whole team, but we have to go to Indianapolis, come back, go to Spokane, come back, go to London. You don’t need another trip.

“But Cason is family, so he will go with us. And then we’ll come back with Daimion.”

As brutal as the loss was for Kentucky basketball, there was an interesting turn of events.

“He left when practice ended and all the guys hugged him,” Calipari said. “It’s what happened, he has family here and it’s these players.”

Collins had returned to Lexington Monday after Kentucky’s season-opening win over Howard and knew he had to return to Texas this weekend.

“He didn’t come in until 11:50 and they were all waiting for him at the lodge to just tell him and hang out,” Calipari said. “It will be good to get him back.”

But that doesn’t mean the work ends.

“It was a tough deal,” Calipari said. “Everyone grieves differently. And there is nothing you can say to change this grief. We are only here for you, we love you.

“But I think if he goes to the gym, gets around the boys, he’ll start moving up,” the coach said. “But it’s just awful. I’ll say it again, it’s nothing Ben did to himself and nothing anyone did to Ben. God just said it’s your time. And that can happen to any of us. But he was here with his son. He phoned his wife. But that doesn’t make it easier for the family.”

Prior to Collins’ return, Calipari had the entire team at his home on Sunday night. The players have been frequent visitors since the death of Collins’ father on Tuesday.

“I’m just trying to keep track of everyone because everyone will say they’re fine, but I just want to make sure we’re all together,” Calipari said.

Calipari expressed concern for Collins two days after his father’s death.

“I feel for Daimion. I’m worried about him,” Calipari said. “He’s very calm, and I told him grief and depression, you’re going to go to a dark place. And my only thing for him was, if you’re just sleeping and looking at the phone, you’re in this dark place. And if you need to talk to players, talk to your teammates. Even if you cry, you need to talk to someone. And the other thing is you need to exercise or do something to get going.

“But the only thing I said to Kim and Daimion was, ‘God is good.’ He spent his last hours with his son, whom he loved and was very, very close to. And he was on the phone with his wife. But in such situations you can’t really say anything. I just listened and was there for them and how can we help, what can we do.”

Ben Collins had recently sold his trucking business in Atlanta, Texas, and moved into an apartment in Lexington so he could watch his son play more and so his wife and other children could have a place to stay when they were in town.

“He was with Daimion the night before. They were in the gym for an hour and a half,” Calipari said. “When he got back to the apartment, he called his wife. They talked on the phone for 20 minutes.”

The next day, however, brought an ominous feeling.

“Mom was in Texas, hadn’t heard from her husband,” Calipari began. “Can you check?”

Two basketball employees from Kentucky went to Collin’s apartment, where they discovered the body.

“Daimion is in the office. Mom is in Texas. Have to talk to both of them. Then I have to go back and tell the team. I was good until I walked into the room and saw their faces. And you try to stay strong for her. But it took me some time to compose myself.”

Collins has lost his father, but the amazing news just slipped down the list.

“We had six guys at my house the first night,” Calipari said. “Then his mother and his sister and his aunt came in and his cousins. They stayed in the house.”

“At the end of the day, I’m dealing with people’s children,” Calipari said. “A parent on that team called me and said, ‘Please take care of my son. He’s never seen anything like it.” And he’s one of the guys who stayed in the house. And he stayed again last night for the same reason.

“It puts things in perspective,” Calipari said. “And it’s not fair. I told the team. Things are not fair.”

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