Thursday night marks a very important, life-altering event for six young men. As was the case in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 NBA Draft will determine the beginning of a possible six former Kentucky basketball players' professional careers. And it could be potentially historic for the program.
In 2010, Kentucky sent five NBA first-round selections to the league. They have a chance to tie or break that record Thursday night and become the first school ever to have six players drafted in the first two rounds.
Since John Calipari set foot in Lexington, he's devoted his occupation to helping young men realize their dreams and play basketball at the highest level. In his first two seasons, Calipari has helped nine of his players reach their ultimate goal of playing in the NBA, including every starter to play under him at UK.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague are all likely and projected to join the ranks of those nine previous players to reach the pros under Calipari's tutelage. Seven of those players were drafted in the first round. Only one player, John Wall in 2010, was selected as the No. 1 pick of the draft. It is all-but guaranteed that Davis will join him as the first pick of Thursday night's draft. Davis would also become the third No. 1 overall pick to play for John Calipari in the last five years, which is tops in the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist could go as high as No. 2, right behind Davis, but it is likely to see him going somewhere in the top 10. If he becomes a top-five pick, he and Davis will become the just the fourth duo to be drafted in the top 10 and second to be drafted in the top 5 (John Wall - 1st and Demarcus Cousins - 5th).
Regardless of destination for these six players, they will proudly serve as representatives and ambassadors of and to the University of Kentucky. Though their jerseys will no longer read "KENTUCKY" across their chest, the notoriety and familiarity these six players gained in the basketball fan base will keep the Kentucky name a prominent one in the NBA for years to come. If all six players are drafted and make the roster, 2012-13 NBA rosters will boast 21 former Wildcats, topping Duke for most in the league.
Anthony Davis selected No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets
Consensus national player of the year Anthony Davis became just the second Kentucky basketball player to be chosen as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night. With the New Orleans Hornets' selection of Davis as the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Davis joins John Wall (2010) as the only two Kentucky basketball players to be selected with the first pick of the NBA Draft. He is also the Hornet's second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history (Larry Johnson in '91).
Kareem Abdul Jabar is the only other player to win AP National Player of the Year, a National Championship, and become the No. 1 overall pick.
Davis is the 101st University of Kentucky basketball player to be drafted in the NBA and is the 10th John Calipari-coached player at the University of Kentucky to be drafted. He becomes the fifth Kentucky player to be drafted by the Hornets franchise, joining Rex Chapman, Tony Delk, Jamaal Malgoire and Josh Harrellson.
On the same day that he was named SEC Male Athlete of the Year, Davis will join a Hornets team going through a deep transition phase. Between new ownership and player movement, Davis will instantly become the face of the franchise in a devoted, passionate sports city that is New Orleans. His new home will be the same city in which Davis was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, leading Kentucky to their eighth National Championship.
With the departure of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers last season, and a recent trade that sent Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to Washington, Davis will become the cornerstone in the Hornets' rebuilding efforts. The Hornets also held the 10th pick in the first round as well as the 46th pick in the draft. With the 10th pick, the Hornets grabbed Duke guard Austin Rivers, son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.
Davis hopes to just be able to come in and work hard to give his team the best chance to win right away even with a young team around him.
"Well I just want to come in and do the best I can," said Davis on the NBA Draft stage at the Prudential Center. "I know Coach (Monty) Williams is a great coach, and he has the best intentions for me. So when I go down there, I'm just going to do whatever he wants me to do and try to be a team leader."
Comparisons of Davis are numerous and wide-ranging, but the consensus is that Davis is far and away the surest thing in this year's draft. With some additional strength and weight on his wiry frame, as well as some fine-tuning to his jump shot, Davis will likely be making waves in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Though he was a shot blocking phenom at the college level, Davis knows it's going to be difficult and take some adjusting to be a great shot blocker in the NBA.
"It's going to be very difficult," said Davis. "Guys are very crafty and use a lot of ball fakes. They're professionals and they do this for a living. So I just have to try to get used to what guys' tendencies are and just try to block them then."
Kidd-Gilchrist follows Davis, Charlotte takes Kidd Gilchrist at No. 2
With the Charlotte Bobcats calling Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's name with No. 2 overall pick, Kidd-Gilchrist joins Davis to become just the second duo of Kentucky teammates to be selected in the first five picks of the NBA Draft. They also become the first pair of teammates to be taken in the first two picks of the draft in NBA history, marking yet another historic night for the University of Kentucky at the NBA Draft.
An emotional Kidd-Gilchrist struggled to put into words what it meant to be the second pick in the draft, saying that it meant "A lot" to be picked where he was and to play for Jordan.
A very proud Cindy Richardson, Kidd-Gilchrist's mother, said she's always told her son to just be himself.
"(I told him) Always to be comfortable in his own skin," said Richardson. "Accept who he is, in his strengths and his weaknesses, and it keep it moving."
The Somerdale, N.J. native averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds in his freshman campaign at Kentucky while starting 39 of 40 games. Kidd-Gilchrist was named the Eastern Region Most Outstanding Player in the 2012 NCAA Tournament after posting 19 points against Baylor in the Elite Eight.
Kidd-Gilchrist was considered one of the highest-working players available in this year's draft and is highly touted for his ability to finish at the rim. For Kentucky last season, he was a high-energy, high-motor guy that was considered the leader of the 2012 National Championship team, extremely high praise and a difficult task for a freshman. His defense was perhaps his most heralded and important skill for Kentucky last season, as he often drew the responsibility of guarding the opposition's best player, regardless of position.
The Charlotte Bobcats and owner Michael Jordan will look to Kidd-Gilchrist to be a more polished version of what he was in college. He needs to work on his jump shot and ball handling, but his ability to get second chance points and finish in transition will make him a valuable asset for the Bobcats. His defense will easily translate to the NBA, as he shut down some of the best talent in college basketball last year. While there are many players who can score in the NBA, there are few who are as talented on both ends of the floor as Kidd-Gilchrist.
For a team that needs just about everything on their roster after one of the worst seasons in NBA history, Kidd-Gilchrist is a good player to have on the roster. His relentless work ethic and never-say-die attitude will be the right attitude for a young, rebuilding franchise such as Charlotte.
Jones is third Wildcat drafted, goes No. 18 to the Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets finally called Terrence Jones' name with the No. 18 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Jones, who returned to Kentucky after his freshman year with a chance to improve his draft stock now finds himself in a good situation with a competitive team that hauled in three first round picks Thursday night.
Jones was considered one of the best players in all of college basketball at the beginning of his freshman season. He was the leading scorer for Calipari's second team at UK for a good portion of the season before he wore down towards the end of the season and his draft stock decreased.
After speaking with Calipari and NBA talent evaluators, they decided that Jones should come back for his sophomore season to try and win an NCAA Championship and improve his draft position. He accomplished his goal last season with a very successful sophomore year averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Jones improved in almost every aspect of his game from his freshman to sophomore seasons and will continue to blossom in the NBA.
While some say it was a mistake for Jones to stay at school one more year, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas believes it was the right choice.
"He's got a lot of talent," said Bilas. "People talk about, 'Well, if he had come out last year, he'd be a higher pick.' I don't know that that's necessarily true. Terrence Jones, by coming back to school and playing another year at Kentucky, I think became a much better player to put himself in a position to have some greater success in the NBA."
Many NBA evaluators have brought up Jones' attitude as a question mark, but his selflessness down the stretch during their championship run is something that can't be overlooked. He has become a more complete, team oriented player in his two years at Kentucky, becoming a better leader while working with younger players. It's very possible that the Rockets got a steal with Jones as he will be a great asset for Houston in the future.
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale says he loves Jones toughness and winning pedigree.
"Jones is just a rugged guy, I really like him," said McHale. "Another guy who just is a rebounder, runner, played at a high level at Kentucky. Just a guy who is just going to bring a toughness to our team."
Jones joins former Wildcat Patrick Patterson in Houston, who will be entering his third year in the NBA. He, Jeremy Lamb and Royce White, will form a nice young core group to join forces with Patterson, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons and the rest of a talented Rockets team. Houston was on the cusp of a playoff spot, finishing just two games out of the final slot with a 34-32 record last season.
Bulls select Teague at No. 28 to give Kentucky four first rounders
Marquis Teague became the third consecutive point guard to play under John Calipari - and fifth dating back to his time at Memphis - at Kentucky to be drafted in the first round when he was selected No. 28 by the Chicago Bulls. He also became the fourth Kentucky player to be drafted from the 2012 national championship team Thursday night, tied with North Carolina for the most players selected in the first round.
Teague, as Calipari often says about his point guards, was a different type of player than his predecessors John Wall and Brandon Knight. Those two players were the superstars of their respective teams, where Teague was not expected to shine in the spotlight considering all the talented that surrounded him in the 2011-12 season. But Teague was just as crucial to this team, though he struggled at the beginning of the season, and came on strong late to help lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship, something Wall and Knight were never able to accomplish at Kentucky.
As Teague improved over the course of the season, he became a better distributor and scorer, as well a better overall point guard. He put his teammates in good situations to score and was a "pitbull" on the defensive end. Teague has some of the best speed in the draft and will become one of the fastest players in the NBA when it comes to getting to the basket.
"Marquis Teague has excellent speed and quickness," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "He's very good in transition. He excels in the open floor; he can really run. He's a good penetrator that can go either way off the dribble. He does a very good job of finishing at the rim, especially in transition."
Teague will join forces with former Calipari point guard Derrick Rose, who played under Calipari at Memphis. Though Rose was the No. 1 overall pick by Chicago, they share similar backgrounds, which should translate into a smooth relationship. With Rose, the Bulls are considered a strong contender in the East to try and unseat the Miami Heat as NBA Champions. Teague will get the opportunity to be Rose's understudy and earn valuable minutes as Rose continues to try and rehabilitate his knee.
Though Teague made a strong push towards the end of the season, there are still several areas for improvement under the coaching of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I think he needs to learn a little bit more how to stop short and throw up a floater in the lane," said Bilas. "And I think he needs to work on his shot. He did a better job off of pick and rolls later in the season, worked much harder on that."
The Bucks take a Lamb as Doron goes No. 42 to Milwaukee
Doron Lamb became the fifth Wildcat selected in the NBA Draft and the first in the second round after he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 42 overall pick. Lamb was the best shooter on both teams in his two seasons at Kentucky and was considered one of the best shooters in the entire 2012 draft class.
Lamb was a tweener in this draft, where many projections had him slotted at different spots. Some had him as a late first rounder, while others saw him as an early second round pick. Lamb slid a little bit further down than he surely would have liked, but he is a versatile guard who has great range, knocks down short-range jumpers, and can finish around the rim. He also filled in well at point guard in Marquis Teague's stead. He hit big shot after big shot all season for Kentucky and will see his range and big-play ability continue in the NBA. There's always room on NBA rosters for players who can knock down jump shots.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas calls Lamb a "sniper" with perfect form that does not take bad shots.
"He's an excellent shooter," said Bilas. "He's got a quick and smooth release. Really perfect form, and he's got deep range. What I like about him is he's so efficient. He doesn't take bad shots."
Bilas said he believes Lamb can play some point guard, noting that he backed up Teague this season, and that his versatility as a guard will help him stick in the league.
On a team that boasts one of the best young talents in the NBA in guard Brandon Jennings, Lamb will be joining a Milwaukee team looking for some firepower and scoring. He joins North Carolina's John Henson, who was their first round pick. They also recently acquired Samuel Dalembert from the Houston Rockets for some help on the interior. Milwaukee just missed the playoffs last season, finishing with a 31-35 record, which was four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Miller becomes 106th Kentucky player drafted in program history
Darius Miller became the sixth and final Wildcats drafted Thursday night from Kentucky's 2012 national championship team. Miller becomes just the second Kentucky high school graduate to be drafted out of UK since Scott Padgett (1999).
After waiting nearly four hours, Miller finally heard his name called when the New Orleans Hornets selected their second Wildcat of the night. Miller will join his Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis in New Orleans next season as they hope to rebuild that team in the same city in which they helped restore order in college basketball with Kentucky's eighth title.
Miller came off the bench almost exclusively in his senior season after starting for a majority of his career, but he served as a sixth starter, receiving plenty of playing time and using his experience to help lead a youthful bunch to new heights in program history. His role in the NBA will likely mirror the type of role he will play as a pro.
"He played in a role similar to really what he'll see in the NBA," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "He's got range to 22-23 feet. He drives and plays out. He can pull up off the dribble and hit his shot. He does is with good body balance. He's a good mature player that's going to come in and help you win."
And win is all he's done at Kentucky since his sophomore year. He's played in more games than any player ever to wear the Blue and White, passing Wayne Turner this season.
With Miller's selection, Kentucky broke a record for the most draft picks from one school over a three-year period with 15 draft picks. He is the 106th Wildcat to be drafted into the NBA, and it continues a streak that has seen every player to start full-time under John Calipari at Kentucky has been selected in the NBA Draft.