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Rondo leading crop of 15 former Cats in NBA's first month

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for NBA-Logo.png In the midst of yet another All-Star caliber season, Rajon Rondo is headlining a group of 15 former Wildcats in the NBA and is joined by a trio of rookies impressing in their rookie seasons.

Rondo's Boston Celtics are off to just a 4-8 start three weeks into the season, but the sixth-year point guard is averaging a career-best 14.5 points per game as the so-called "Big Three" continues to pass the mantle to the Louisville, Ky., native. Rondo is also dishing out a league-best 10.0 assists to go with 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He has had a handful of dominant performances season, including a 31-point, 15-assist effort in the season opener and a triple-double on New Year's Day.

Rondo is one of a growing group of former UK and John Calipari-coached point guards in the professional ranks, the latest of which is Brandon Knight. The Detroit Piston is ranked sixth on the latest edition of the NBA Rookie Ladder, averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists. With injuries in the backcourt, Knight has stepped in as a starter and has scored in double figures seven of his last eight games, including his first double-double on Jan. 13 in a win against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Knight's Final Four teammate from a year, Josh Harrellson, hasn't gotten playing time as consistently, but has proven the New York Knicks' draft night trade for him to be wise. Harrellson has scored in double figures four times, including a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds on New Year's Eve. "Jorts" has also shown an outside shot in his first 13 games, hitting 14 3-pointers and hitting multiple treys five times.

Harrellson's opportunity a season ago at UK came largely because highly touted big man Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible, but Kanter has finally gotten to take the floor with the Utah Jazz after being selected with the third pick. Kanter is playing in a deep frontcourt and improving each time out with averages of 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. On Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kanter posted career highs in minutes (22) and points (10).

That group of rookies is going through the same ups and downs that UK's 2009-10 crop did a year ago, including 2010 No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Wall's second season with the Washington Wizards hasn't always been easy as they are 1-12, but he is coming off one of his best games of his young career. In a loss to the Houston Rockets, Wall scored 38 points to go with eight assists, six rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers.

Wall faced off against his former teammate, Patrick Patterson, in his career-best scoring game. Patterson missed a couple games to start the season due to injury, but has worked his way back into the Rockets' rotation. On Tuesday, he scored a season-high 12 points against Knight's Pistons.

The third of UK's lottery picks in 2010, DeMarcus Cousins, is playing some of the best basketball of his young career over the last two weeks. He has scored in double figures seven times and posted five double-doubles. On the season, Cousins has improved his averages from his rookie year in rebounding (9.8), blocks (1.7), steals (1.1) and free throw percentage (77.9).

Also playing well is Jodie Meeks, who is a full-time starter for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are off to one of the best starts in the NBA and Meeks' outside shooting has been a key factor. Meeks has a pair of 20-point performances this month, and is shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range in January.

On to more veteran former Wildcats, Tayshaun Prince has been unsurprisingly steady for the Pistons this season. He's averaging 10.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists, including back-to-back 20-point outings in his last two games. Nazr Mohammed (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Jamaal Magloire (Toronto Raptors) are each veteran big men playing roles effectively for their team as well.

Out due to injury are Eric Bledsoe (Clippers) and Chuck Hayes (Kings), while DeAndre Liggins and Daniel Orton have yet to suit up for the Orlando Magic.

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