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Wisconsin’s Chris Vogt fuels recovery in Kentucky hometown

Sportsnaut
Dec 8, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger sings "Varsity" with Wisconsin Badgers center Chris Vogt (33) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 8, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers mascot Bucky Badger sings “Varsity” with Wisconsin Badgers center Chris Vogt (33) and Wisconsin Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (5) at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

For a couple hours, Chris Vogt was able to focus on basketball.

The 7-foot-1 Badgers’ big man helped spark a second-half surge as Wisconsin rallied from 12 points down to avoid a homecourt upset against Nicholls on Wednesday night.

Immediately after, Vogt’s thoughts turned back to his tornado-ravaged hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky and continuing to assist in recovery efforts.

Vogt, a graduate transfer from Cincinnati, came off the bench to match his season-high of nine points, along with seven rebounds – including four crucial offensive boards – as the Badgers rallied for a 71-68 victory over Nicholls in Madison, Wis.

One day after President Joe Biden toured the destruction in the Bluegrass State, on Thursday morning Vogt was headed to Mayfield, a community of about 10,000 in the southwest corner of Kentucky.

The hamlet was devastated by the powerful tornadoes that ripped through several states last Friday, flattening entire communities and killing dozens of people.

“I feel like every time I’m not on the court, my mind is on Mayfield, thinking about what I can do, what I can do to promote the GoFundMe, how can I allocate the resources … everything,” Vogt said following Wednesday’s game. “Then when I’m in between the lines, I feel like it’s been very therapeutic and a great time for me to kind of clear my mind, get my mind off things and just play basketball.”

To help with the recovery, Vogt set up a GoFundMe a day after the storm with an initial goal of raising $50,000.

“I grew up in Mayfield, Kentucky and Mayfield is still where I call home today. I was speechless when I saw the pictures and videos of the damage,” Vogt wrote on the GoFundMe site. “I want to be able to help those that were affected in anyway possible. Every little bit you are able to donate helps. Even if you cannot help, just sharing the link could be just as impactful. Thank you and God bless.”

Donations poured in, and the goal was raised to $100,000.

Vogt was featured in a short video segment that was played on the scoreboard at the Kohl Center before the game against Nicholls. During the post-game media conference, Vogt was informed that the fund had grown during the game — by $40,000.

“I can’t believe it has gotten this much attention and this much support,” Vogt said. “Thank you to everyone who has shared the GoFundMe, send it out to anybody who has donated. Without people like you, none of this would have been possible.”

By Thursday morning, the fund had grown to more than $140,000 from more than 2,000 contributors. An update on Vogt’s GoFundMe said the money raised will be divided between the Red Cross and the Graves County and Mayfield high school resource offices.

“He’s got a lot on his plate,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, adding that Vogt also was in the midst of grad school finals. “He’s going to fly to Mayfield (Thursday) morning and tour the area and do some volunteer work and meet with some people.”

Wisconsin was at Ohio State on Saturday for a matchup of then nationally-ranked Big Ten teams when Vogt received a text from a former coach about the state of his hometown.

The internet was full of graphic photos and videos of the destruction. Vogt played 17 minutes in the 73-55 loss to the Buckeyes, with seven points and two rebounds.

Against Nicholls, the Badgers had erased most of the 12-point deficit, when Vogt turned a pair of offensive rebounds into consecutive baskets down low, bringing Wisconsin even with 13 minutes remaining.

“I just thought we were kind of dead in the water. We didn’t have very good energy the first half,” said Vogt, who also drew five fouls. “I just wanted to try to get some spark in the second half any way I could.”

Vogt, who started 21 games last season at Cincinnati, is averaging 2.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 13 minutes per game with the Badgers. He played a season-high 26 minutes on Wednesday.

“His GoFundMe thing is doing terrific,” Gard said. “I talked to his mom last night, she called me late last night, and I just can’t say enough about the kid. He’s a really good player, he’s an even better person.”

–By Jim Hoehn, Field Level Media