Since the arrival of John Calipari at Kentucky, we have now seen 3 NBA draft nights unfold before our eyes. One thing can be certain as a Kentucky fan on draft night: we will have plenty to watch. Every starter, Turkish wrestling fan or sixth man who has played for John Calipari at Kentucky has heard their name called from the podium on draft night. The grand total of former Wildcats selected in the past three years for Kentucky has climbed to 15. The 2010 draft was all about the first round, and counting the remaining picks, cheering for Daniel Orton awfully hard as those last 5-6 picks flew off the board. The 2011 draft was all about the underdogs, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins. Even though Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight were guaranteed first rounders, neither was expected to be the top pick. So at that point, it became a waiting game to see if two guys who were hardly expected to be there just a year before, would reach their NBA dreams. And this year, 2012, was about a few things: the Anthony Davis show, the mystery of the #2 pick and breaking the record by having 6 guys drafted from one school.
With 15 picks to sort through, I found it impossible to list in a 1-15 format which draft moments were the most exciting or the most memorable. Instead, I just picked the top 3, in my opinion, in no particular order. And then I split up some of the rest into various categories based on what the moment seemed to mean.
The Top 3 Moments (in no particular order)
Josh Harrellson to the New Orleans Hornets (from Philadelphia, to New York) with the 45th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft
Sure, we knew there was a possibility that Josh Harrellson would be drafted. John Calipari told us not to be surprised. The red mark on Jared Sullinger’s chest told us not to ever count out Harrellson. No matter what sliver of possibility existed, when Harrellson’s name was called, and rather early when you think about Harrellson’s NBA stock just a year prior, I remember how genuinely happy I was for the guy. Harrellson went from an unused Gillispie recruit, to a seemingly out of place Calipari holdover, to a starter and x-factor in Kentucky’s surprising Final Four run. The blue-collar underdog story script could not have been written any better for “Jorts.”
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the Charlotte Bobcats with the 2nd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft
Essentially this moment was a culmination of two moments, including the Anthony Davis 1st overall pick that took place just minutes before. When Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s name was called by David Stern, shipping him into the hands of Michael Jordan, the look of shock and joy on Kidd-Gilchrist’s face was priceless. It seemed as if all week, the Michael/Michael partnership was becoming less and less likely. The mixture of surprise along with the making of history, with Kentucky becoming the first school to have both the #1 and #2 pick in one NBA draft, created a story book moment for Kentucky fans.
Darius Miller to the New Orleans Hornets with the 46th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft
A lot of factors were in play to make this one of the most memorable draft moments in the Calipari era. First and foremost, Darius Miller has become a beloved figure for Kentucky fans. The fact that a debate even exists on whether or not he should have a jersey hung in the historic rafters of Rupp Arena, proves just how highly Miller is regarded among the masses. Miller’s Kentucky career included more twists and turns than any mediocre movie plot that we’ve been exposed to this summer (seriously, Magic Mike? Don’t waste your
money $1 bills). We’ve watched him grow from a shaky freshman whose confidence was nearly bullied into submission, to a sophomore and junior trying to carve out his role while also reaching his potential, to a senior who set his pride in starting aside, while still answering the call anytime his team needed him in the biggest moments. And Thursday night, not only did his NBA dreams finally come true, but we found out that he would be joining another one of our favorite Wildcats–Anthony Davis. The overwhelming excitement of two teammates, self-proclaimed “brothers,” experiencing the trials and tribulations, as well as the excitement of starting an NBA journey together, was palpable across the bluegrass. I liked the idea proposed by one Kentucky fan, “BUNK BEDS!” Doubt it, but just allow yourself to picture it for a second. You’re welcome for the giggle.
And now, to categorize some of the rest…
John Wall, 2010 #1 pick to the Washington Wizards
This moment signified two things: the return (or arrival, depending on how you view UK’s history in the NBA) of Kentucky to prominence in the NBA, and the “we’re probably here to stay, too” moment.
Daniel Orton, 2010 #29 pick to the Orlando Magic
Even though Orton’s professional career has yet to his its stride, and his decision to leave Kentucky early was questionable at best, the moment was program-defining. Why? It made Kentucky the first program to have 5 players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. An underrated aspect of Orton’s drafting? Without Orton, Calipari’s recent claim that “every starter or sixth man to play at Kentucky has been drafted” would be inaccurate.
Patrick Patterson, 2010 #14 to the Houston Rockets
Has anything involving Patrick Patterson and his success not been slightly emotional for Kentucky fans? He picked Kentucky when picking Kentucky wasn’t popular. His parents became mother and father Wildcat, embracing and reaching out to fans during Patrick’s time at Kentucky. Patterson played with as much heart and passion as any Kentucky player we’ve seen put on the uniform. For that reason, seeing Patterson’s NBA dreams come true, and rather early in the first round, made for an emotional moment.
DeAndre Liggins, 2011 #53 to the Orlando Magic
DeAndre Liggins transformed so much in his time at the University of Kentucky. He had his embarrassing moment under Gillispie where he refused to take the court. He had his early issues with John Calipari, having to miss the beginning of the season and falling behind a bit compared to some of the uber-talented freshmen. And then during his junior season, he became a lock-down defender and the backbone of a surprising Final Four run. Liggins was able to salvage what at times looked like a floundering collegiate career. And we knew heading into the draft that Liggins finding a home in the NBA was important for personal and financial reasons as well.
CHIP ON THE SHOULDER MOMENTS:
Demarcus Cousins, 2010 #5 pick to the Sacramento Kings
Demarcus Cousins’ draft position was without question effected by swirling questions about his maturity, although he was the second best player in the draft behind John Wall. When three teams in a row passed on him, you couldn’t help but think that one day Philadelphia, New Jersey and Minnesota might regret their decision. Mark my words: all three will question that decision next season when Demarcus Cousins makes his first NBA all-star team.
Terrence Jones, 2012 #18 pick to the Houston Rockets
I actually have no idea if Terrence Jones feels like he should have a chip on his shoulder for falling outside of the lottery. The news wasn’t necessarily surprising. We knew heading into the night when he wasn’t invited to the
Green Room Blue Room that he was likely going to fall outside of the lottery. Again, I have no idea if Jones feels like he should have a chip on his shoulder. For his sake, I kind of hope that he does. I would love to see him use that motivation to propel him into a strong rookie campaign.
Do you agree with the top 3 moments? Would you remove or add any to the list?
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