It has been shaping up to be a huge night for the University of Kentucky for some time and on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York we will find out how big. Five Wildcats, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Patrick Patterson, have thrown their names into the proverbial hat as early entrants and all five have a chance to make history for themselves. Depending on what happens Thursday, they could make or add to the long, storied history of the University of Kentucky in the NBA Draft. Here is a by-the-numbers look at the past and present of Wildcats in the draft.
The University of Kentucky has seen 93 players taken in the NBA Draft since its inception in 1947. Only UCLA (106) and North Carolina (99) have seen more players drafted in that span. During the inaugural draft, the Washington Capitols chose Jack Tingle, making him the first UK player to ever be drafted. The first UK player selected in the first round was Pat Riley by the San Diego Rockets with the seventh pick in the 1967 draft. Jodie Meeks was the last UK player to be drafted. He was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 11th pick of the second round during last year's draft.
UK players have been selected 20 times in the first round of the NBA Draft. Eleven of these first round selections have come since the 1993 draft, the first full year UK was not on probation and the NBA Draft was in its current format. That number puts UK in a tie for fifth with Arizona, trailing Kansas (13), Connecticut (14), Duke (16) and North Carolina (16), but ahead of intrastate rival Louisville (seven) and conference rivals Tennessee (two) and Florida (eight).
No more than one Wildcat has been called in the last 12 NBA drafts, the longest period in UK history. The last time was the "Air Pair" made up of Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer, in the 1997 NBA Draft. They were the No. 6 and No. 13 picks respectively. It has been 10 drafts since Jamaal Magloire was taken with the No. 29 pick, the last time a UK post player was selected in the draft.
Most draft projections have five Wildcats going in the first round. If those projections were to hold true, it would be the most first-round selections from one school in NBA Draft history. Three schools have had four players go in the first round: Duke in 1999, North Carolina in 2005 and Connecticut in 2006. Three of the UK players, Wall, Cousins and Patterson, are predicted to be chosen in the NBA Lottery, the first 14 picks of the 30 overall, with a possibility of a fourth player joining them. The 2009 NBA Draft saw four freshmen taken overall in the first round, a number that alone could be matched by UK freshmen this year.
No UK player has ever been selected No. 1 overall. John Wall, the widely speculated number one pick, should change that. A Wildcat has been chosen second (Sam Bowie), third (Rick Robey), fourth (Jamal Mashburn), fifth (Kenny Walker), sixth (Melvin Turpin, Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer), seventh (Pat Riley) and eighth (Rex Chapman).