Now this is the matchup that I have been looking forward to. Out of all the matchups in the Adolph Rupp bracket, this is likely the tightest and one that involves two players that everyone knows and remembers. But before we get to it, the last matchup between Alex Groza and Dirk Minniefield was well…..the fan vote was close….
Matt Jones: Groza
Rob Gidel: Groza
Larry Vaught: Groza
Gregg Doyel: Groza
Thus the competition continues to advance and now we have Dan issel, Jim Master, Pat Riley, Melvin Turpin, Rick Robey and Alex Groza into the next round. Now it is time for a battle that we can all get excited about….
Arguably the best player on arguably the best team of all time. That is a pretty good introduction for a player wouldnt you say? Antoine Walker is one of the most talented players to ever put on a UK uniform and his short career at Kentucky found him part of two great teams. He came to Kentucky from Chi-town and was all attitude and basketball talent. Walker was one of the best at taking the ball to the basket and finding a way to score. On a team full of stars, Walker usually drew the other team’s best player and found a way to put up big points. Walker’s career started strong as he was the SEC Tournament MVP his Freshman season and he found himself playing crucial minutes down the stretch of the 95 Cats tournament runs. But he really found his groove on the special team in 96, scoring over 20 against rivals Indiana and Louisville and a career high 32 against LSU in the beating in Baton Rouge. He was First Team All SEC that season and made the All Regional Team as the Cats stormed through the NCAA Tournament. Walker was known for his aggression, confidence and moxy. When asked why he took so many threes in the NBA, he once said, “cause there arent any fours.” (at UK he did only shoot 25 percent on the long ball). The college Antoine loved being on the court and while he and Coach Pitino butted heads, he genuinely loved the UK uniform. Championship ring and key member of the best team ever…..pretty good I would say.
Here is Walker doing his shimmy….
Maybe the most beloved player of the last ten years, Chuck Hayes is to many the epitome of a hardnosed Kentucky player. Undersized (he is 6’5….maybe) and at times seemingly underskilled, Chuck Hayes worked himself into the position of being the player that every coach from another team wished he had on his team. Hayes was a workhorse underneath, getting every big rebound, making the smart pass and being in the odd position of being a team leader at the power forward position. Many thought he wasnt a great shooter, but he finished his career with a FG% over 50 percent. He was a starter on two straight #1 overall NCAA Tournament seeded teams and the heart and soul of another that lost one of the great Elite 8 games ever against Michigan State. Even at his height he finished his career 7th all time in rebounds, 35th all time in scoring and 16th all time in assists, the highest finish for any big man not named Larry Conley. Hayes also had the knack for playing big in big games, scoring in double digits in every NCAA Tournament game in his career but one. On and off the court, Chuck represented UK well and took his work ethic to the NBA where he is (unbelievably) a starting power forward. Below is one of Chuck’s classic moments…..a willed victory over LSU in the SEC Tournament his senior season.
So there you go…..Chuck and Toine. That is a good one. Who ya got? Give your picks and your thoughts on the two guys. This one should be close…..