Golden Age of UK Basketball?
Are Wildcat fans witnessing the “Golden Age” of UK basketball?
Some might argue that Adolph Rupp’s run from 1946-1957, during which the Cats won four national championships, would qualify.
Others might suggest the Rick Pitino era, coupled with Tubby Smith’s first season, when UK played in four Final Fours, including three straight national championship games. Of course, Pitino won a title in 1996; Smith a championship in 1998.
But the argument that the John Calipari era is the zenith of UK basketball is a strong one.
In this age of social media and 24-hour news cycles, Calipari has managed to keep the Kentucky brand on the front page 12 months out of the year and on the lips or fingertips of millions of followers 24/7. None of his predecessors did that.
It all starts with players and Calipari has managed to lure top-shelf talent to Lexington in the four years he’s been here. Some have called his back-to-back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes historic. Cal seemingly can pluck the best of the best at any point he desires.
While using mostly freshmen players, Calipari has led his teams to an Elite Eight in 2010, a Final Four in 2011 and finally his first national championship last season. It was UK’s eight title.
Cal has managed to send 15 Wildcats to the NBA Draft. The combination of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this year represents the first time a school has produced the first and second picks in the first round.
Pitino’s championship team in 1996 featured nine guys who would play in the NBA. But Calipari’s 15 in three seasons is unprecedented. UK’s six players this year alone is the most since UNLV had six drafted in 1977, none of whom were first-rounders.
Other notable supporting facts: Calipari is undefeated in Rupp Arena; John Wall was the first UK player ever to be taken No. 1 in the NBA Draft; Anthony Davis is the first Wildcat to be named college basketball’s Player of the Year; projections have three more Wildcats, possibly four, being selected in the first round of next year’s NBA Draft.
The Big Blue machine doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
$56 million worth of Wildcats
When the NBA season ended, 16 former Cats were on NBA rosters. With six players drafted in June, UK potentially could see as many as 22 former Wildcats playing in the NBA next season.
In 2012-13, ex-Wildcats are scheduled to make more than $55 million in salary. That includes Anthony Davis’ and Terrence Jones’ estimated salaries ($5.1 million and $1.48 million – Comcast Sports), but doesn't include second-round picks Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, or free agents Jodie Meeks, Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Nazr Mohammed and Jamal Magloire. Last season, Meeks made $854,000, Orton banked $1.02 million, Liggins made $473,000, Mohammed netted $3.75 million and Magloire pocketed $1.3 million for the Raptors.
Rajon Rondo leads the list of Wildcat earners, scheduled to make $11 million next year with the Celtics. Tayshaun Prince will make $6.76 million, John Wall $5.9 million and Chuck Hayes $5.3 million. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will make more than $4 million in his rookie year with the Bobcats.
Here is a list of what former the former Cats made last season or will make next season, according to Draft Express and Comcast Sports California:
Rajon Rondo - $11 million (2012-13)
Tayshaun Prince - $6.76 million (2012-13)
John Wall - $5.9 million (2012-13)
Chuck Hayes - $5.3 million (2012-13)
Anthony Davis - $5.1 million projected (2012-13)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - $4.6 million projected (2012-13)
Enes Kanter - $4.3 million (2012-13)
DeMarcus Cousins - $3.8 million (2012-13)
Nazr Mohammed - $3.75 million (2011-12) Free Agent
Brandon Knight - $2.6 million (2012-13)
Patrick Patterson - $2.09 million (2012-13)
Eric Bledsoe - $1.7 million (2012-13)
Terrence Jones - $1.48 million projected (2012-13)
Jamal Magloire - $1.3 million (2011-12) Free Agent
Marquis Teague - $1.09 million projected (2012-13)
Daniel Orton - $1.02 million (2011-12) Free Agent
Jodie Meeks - $854,000 (2011-12) Free Agent
Josh Harrellson - $762,000 (2012-13)
DeAndre Liggins - $473,000 (2011-12) Free Agent
Kelenna Azubuike - $285,000 (2011-12) Free Agent
Doron Lamb - ?
Darius Miller - ?