The Tennessee men's basketball team began the New Year by spreading some cheer. The team split into two groups Wednesday morning, visiting both the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and the East Tennessee Children's Hospital.
Half the team stopped by the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. Located at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, it is one of East Tennessee's leaders in rehabilitating stroke, spinal cord and brain injury patients. The facility has 73 beds and serves nearly 1,000 inpatients annually.
The other group of Volunteers visited the East Tennessee Children's Hospital. It is a private, independent, not-for-profit pediatric medical center that has served the East Tennessee region for more than 70 years and is certified by the state of Tennessee as a Comprehensive Regional Pediatric Center.
The players spent their morning visit sharing laughs, answering questions and playing games with patients in the children's hospital.
"My son Trey has been [in the hospital] for a week, and this made his day," said Marvin Daugherty.
One 2-year-old patient named Elijah led the Vol players from his room into the hospital's play room to show the guys what he does for fun during his stay at the facility. Some of the highlights included Elijah schooling big men Yemi Makanjuola and Jarnell Stokes on the billiards table and showing senior Kenny Hall how to put together a puzzle.
"It means a lot to be able to take time out of our day to do this and play with the children" junior point guard Trae Golden said. "We get to meet great kids. It's just a good time".
Both visits were a welcomed break from the practice court for the players. The Vols are preparing for Friday's game against in-state rival Memphis (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
"This shows how truly blessed we are to be healthy and play a sport in college," senior guard Skylar McBee said. "It gives you a good perspective on life."
For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee basketball program, visit UTsports.com/basketball and follow @Vol_Hoops on Twitter.