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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

NBA executives feel John Calipari is among the best in preparing players for the league

Throughout the John Calipari era at Kentucky, there have obviously been numerous big-name recruits come through the program and make a massive impact on the floor in their lone season with the team before making a jump to the NBA.

Recently, though, Calipari has established a reputation for building the draft stock of solid four-stars and anticipated multi-year prospects into legitimate one-and-done talents.

On June 17, though, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas made headlines by tweeting that the idea of college programs and coaches developing players into NBA talent simply isn’t accurate.

“One thing: college programs “don’t “produce” pros, they recruit them,” he said. “Good coaches at every level help players improve but [they] don’t “produce” pros.”

When asked about Bilas’ comments during his post-NBA Draft press conference, Calipari said he didn’t agree with the ESPN analyst in the slightest.

“He’s said it before. I don’t agree,” Caliapri said. “What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something. Everybody must have missed on those kids. They just didn’t evaluate them right and we did.

“I think that there are two things that have come out of this. How are our kids, 75% of them, getting to second and third contracts? We just evaluated better? There are other schools that are evaluating just like us and their kids don’t seem to make it. When they do make it, it’s about 20% of the kids, 15%. So, I don’t agree with him.”

In ten NBA Drafts as Kentucky’s head coach, Calipari has turned perceived multi-year players Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Tyler Herro, among others, into legitimate first-round talent after just one season with the program.

And while Bilas might not see it, apparently NBA executives do.

In response to Bilas (and several others in his mentions) on Twitter, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic went out of his way to note that during his regular conversations with NBA executives each year, Calipari is “always” brought up when asked about specific coaches who prepare players for the NBA the best.

“Professionalism, typically good culture guys, body [development],” Vecenie said. “UK does a good job.”

Bilas’ argument is obviously correct to an extent when it comes to can’t-miss prospects out of high school such as Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, and John Wall, among others. Yes, there are players that are good enough to be drafted right out of high school and make an impact in the NBA right away.

But when you look at that next tier of recruits, it’s fairly obvious that development at the collegiate level is make-or-break for them in terms of their draft stock, especially if the goal is to go pro after just one season.

If Herro stuck with his original commitment to Wisconsin out of high school, would he have gotten the coaching and exposure necessary to be a lottery pick after one season? Or Booker if he went elsewhere to be utilized as a four-star role player? Gilgeous-Alexander?

Even the anticipated one-and-done guys out of high school just a tier below the cant-miss superstars such as Karl-Anthony Towns, De’Aaron Fox, and Jamal Murray, among others, all learned the ins and outs of the league and how to carry themselves as professionals during their time at Kentucky. Now, they are seen as leaders and cornerstones of their respective franchises going forward.

There have been some misses over the years, but in terms of overall track record from top-to-bottom, it’s tough to argue with Kentucky’s success over the years. Vecenie’s report only confirms that.


@UKAthletics

WATCH: Kentucky Basketball’s 2019 NBA Draft Recap

@UKAthletics

Now that we’re a few days removed from the NBA Draft, the folks behind the Kentucky Men’s Basketball Twitter account have provided us with a nice recap of the entire night. From Coach Cal heading to New York on his private plane, through each of the draft picks, and ending with Cal’s post-draft comments, this video is a perfect behind the scenes look at what PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson went through on Thursday night.

People wonder why Coach Cal makes such a big deal about the NBA Draft and there’s one specific quote that sticks out as showing that John Calipari truly understands how life changing draft night is for these families.

Seeing Chris Herro cry, seeing PJ’s mom, and then seeing Keldon’s mom and dad hug like, ‘He’s made it’. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

For all the keyboard warriors out there who want to rip on Calipari for “caring about the draft too much”, if you don’t see how big of a deal it is for the personal lives of those kids, I honestly feel bad for you.

Who wants to be next?

@BrettBibbinsKSR


Reid Travis to play in the NBA Summer League for the Atlanta Hawks

After spending his grad transfer season in Lexington, Reid Travis didn’t make the jump to NBA Draft Pick that he had hoped for when he left Stanford. However, we all knew that he’d have plenty of opportunities to sign on with a team after the draft like we’ve seen players do in the past. After a few days of relative silence from Travis’ camp, news broke this evening that Reid will be playing in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League for the Atlanta Hawks.

After averaging 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Cats this past season, Travis will need to showcase an ability to hang with the more athletic players at the next level, as well as prove how consistent his game away from the basket can be.

Of note in Darren Wolfson’s tweet is the mention of Travis’ knee injury that he came back from at the end of the season. It appears it was a bigger issue than most knew of in these last few weeks. Regardless, Reid will get his shot and that’s all anyone can ask for at this stage in the game.

It is awesome to see Reid get the opportunity to play for a spot on an NBA or G-League roster rather than going straight to international basketball without any offers. I’m sure all of Big Blue Nation will be sending congratulatory message to the new-age one and done on Twitter this evening and making sure he feels the love.

Go prove yourself to the doubters, Reid!

@BrettBibbinsKSR


Alvin Gentry Trolls Anthony Davis’ Looney Toons Shirt

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The NBA offseason is something to cherish. With Twitter feuds, petty kings, free agency, and this year even rap battles, the NBA offseason has become one of the most drama-filled and entertaining parts of summer.

Most Kentucky players have usually dodged all the drama, but with no player making more drama this season than Anthony Davis, that was likely to change.

On Saturday, Davis’ former coach Alvin Gentry took a dig at the newest Laker. When Gentry was asked his thoughts on all the Pelicans received for Anthony Davis (Which was A LOT), his response was simple.

“That’s a haul, folks.”

His response was a dig at the shirt Davis wore during his final game as a Pelican, which read “That’s All Folks!” AD’s shirt referenced a famous quote from the Looney Toons to signal that he was done with the Pelicans after the game.

It’s safe to say Pelicans fans weren’t too happy about the wardrobe choice, but Davis claimed he had nothing to do with it.

“I didn’t choose it,” Davis told ESPN. “I actually didn’t choose it. It was hanging for me already when I put my clothes on.”

Image result for yeah right gif

Davis would eventually get traded to the Lakers, and it was announced he would star in the upcoming Space Jam sequel alongside LeBron James.

Subliminals never go unnoticed.


@BrentW_KSR


John Calipari Responds to Jay Bilas’ NBA Draft Comments

As we near the unfortunate reality that the one and done rule may be coming to an end in the next few years, talking heads from both sides always have their opinion, and if there’s ever an opinion to be had in college basketball, of course, Jay Bilas has one too.

To Bilas’ credit, he has been one of the most prominent advocates for college athletes to get at least some compensation for their contributions to the university through athletics for as long as it has been a topic of discussion.

So in what seems to be Bilas’ anti-college stance until athletes get paid, it was almost no surprise when at Thursday’s NBA Draft, Bilas suggested that no college basketball program produces an NBA talent. Essentially, without college, the players you see in the NBA would be unaffected.

Coach Cal, who has prided himself and the UK basketball program on the success of their players in the NBA over the last ten years obviously didn’t take Bilas’ comments lightly.

“I don’t agree,” said Coach Cal at yesterday’s press conference. “What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don’t know; maybe I’m missing something.”

Cal honestly could’ve added Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to that list as well.

Before last season started, everyone had the idea that Herro would play a six man role, who could make an outside jumper to spark a team. Being only ranked four stars and ranked at No. 37 in 247Sports’ composite ranking of high school senior, nobody predicted Herro to go in the lottery a year later.

Same can be said for Shai. Once a four-star Florida commit ranked 31st, people thought he would back up Quade Green in the 2017-18 season, and be a steady two to three year player at Kentucky, but now he is a centerpiece on a rising Clippers team that made the playoffs this season after he was also selected in the lottery.

That doesn’t happen if he doesn’t come to Kentucky, and Cal backed up that claim.

“Everybody must have missed on those kids, and we just evaluated them right,” Cal sarcastically said. “I think there’s two things that come out of this: How are our kids, 75% of them, get second and third contracts? There are other schools who are evaluating just like us, and their kids don’t seem to make it, and when they do make it, it’s about 15% or 20%.”

“I don’t agree with him,” Cal addressed Bilas’ statement head-on. “I think there’s a culture that we have, a system, a process that we have in developing them with an idea of what the end result will be.”

Cal emphasized that during the season it’s about trying to win, but he’s still giving each player the tools to be successful at the next level.

“How many of our guys have gone in the NBA and not known how to defend?” Cal continued. “How many players in the NBA draft as rooking are going in as volume shooters? None. They went to a school to be the volume shooter; now you’re on a team where you’re not the volume shooter. You got to know how to play, and our kids can do both.

And he’s right, did you know Anthony Davis took the fourth most shots on the 2012 National Championship team?

“I want you to hear: It doesn’t matter what school you go to. You’re going to make it if you’re supposed to. Do you believe that’s true? Does anybody believe that’s true?” Cal said.

“That’s not what I say,” he said. “But to say it doesn’t matter, I don’t know.”

Tyler Herro seemed to agree with his coach, as well.

What’s your take on Bilas’ comments?


@BrentW_KSR


Aaron Harrison signs with the Boston Celtics for NBA Summer League

(Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Kentucky shooting guard Aaron Harrison is taking another stab at the NBA.

After spending last season playing professionally in Turkey, Harrison is expected to return to the states to play for the Boston Celtics during NBA Summer League, per ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Last year with Galatasaray, the former Wildcat averaged 13.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per contest. He also shot 44.2% from three and 80.5% from the free-throw line.

In three years in the NBA, Harrison has played for both Charlotte and Dallas, but the 6-foot-6 guard never found his groove at either location. Playing just 35 games in three seasons, the former Wildcat has averaged 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.5 assists to go with an abysmal 26% shooting overall and 22% from three.

Playing for five different G-League teams in three years, Harrison has averaged 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on 41.4% shooting overall and 36.6% from three.


Photo by Quinton Wash

PJ Washington checked all the boxes for the Charlotte Hornets

Photo by Quinton Wash

While most NBA mock drafts had former Kentucky forward PJ Washington going No. 13 to the Miami Heat leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t help but slide in and snag him a pick before at No. 12.

Why? The 6-foot-7 power forward “checked all the boxes” for the franchise.

During Washington’s introductory press conference, Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak said the former Wildcat was a perfect candidate for their lottery selection both on and off the floor.

“We take into a lot of factors, besides just the ability to play, [we look at] their character, work habits and teammates. [PJ Washington] checked all the boxes,” he said.

In terms of Washington’s specific skill set, Kupchak said he loves his versatility on both ends of the floor.

“He is very versatile. He can be very athletic and skilled,” he said. “He can rebound, shoot the ball and he is long. He made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year. If he can continue to make that kind of jump, then he will be a good player in this league for a long time.”

During the press conference, Washington said he has leaned on his former Kentucky teammates Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for advice when he gets rolling in the league. And according to the newest Hornet, it has allowed him to get a solid idea of what he’ll have to prepare for both physically and mentally.

“I talked to some of my former teammates in the past in Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander,” he said. “They’ve been telling me how long the season and how I have to keep working on my body, and I’m listening to them. I’m ready to come in here focused and ready to learn.”

The former Wildcat couldn’t end the presser without acknowledging Kentucky head coach John Calipari in helping him grow over the two years he was in Lexington.

Without him, he says he wouldn’t be in the position he is in right now.

“He’s helped me grow so much as a person as so much as a player as well,” Washington said of Calipari. “On the court, he has helped me from the second I set foot in Kentucky. I really can’t thank him enough.”

Make us proud in the league, PJ.


© Brad Penner | USATSI

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year odds have been released

© Brad Penner | USATSI

The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone, and as expected, former Kentucky Wildcats PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson were all selected in the first round.

Selected No. 12 overall by the Charlotte Hornets, Washington was the first to come off the board, followed by Herro to the Heat at No. 13 and Johnson to the Spurs at No. 29.

Less than 24 hours after the draft, we now have our first look at the official 2019-2020 NBA Rookie of the Year odds, courtesy of our friends at BetOnline (www.BetOnline.ag).

Washington came in as the highest former Wildcat on the list at 33/1 odds (tied for No. 11 overall), followed by Johnson and Herro both with 50/1 odds (tied for No. 16 overall).

Former Duke star Zion Williamson was the overwhelming favorite at 1/2 odds, followed by former Murray State Racer Ja Morant at 4/1 and former Blue Devil RJ Barrett at 6/1.

Take a look at the entire list:

  • Zion Williamson – 1/2
  • Ja Morant – 4/1
  • RJ Barrett – 6/1
  • Darius Garland – 10/1
  • De’Andre Hunter – 14/1
  • Jarrett Culver – 16/1
  • Coby White – 20/1
  • Cam Reddish – 28/1
  • Jaxson Hayes – 28/1
  • Cam Johnson – 30/1
  • Nassir Little – 33/1
  • PJ Washington – 33/1
  • Rui Hachimura – 33/1
  • Sekou Doumbouya – 33/1
  • Ty Jerome – 40/1
  • Brandon Clarke – 50/1
  • Bruno Fernando – 50/1
  • Keldon Johnson – 50/1
  • Mfiondu Kabengele – 50/1
  • Romeo Langford – 50/1
  • Tyler Herro – 50/1
  • Bol Bol – 80/1
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker -80/1
  • Goga Bitadze – 100/1
  • Kevin Porter Jr. – 100/1
  • KZ Okpala – 100/1

What do you guys think? Fair?