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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Wishing a Big Blue Birthday to former Cat Enes Kanter!

Wishing a Big Blue Birthday to former Cat Enes Kanter!

Everyone’s favorite zero-and-done player, Enes Kanter, is celebrating his 26th birthday today! After being ruled permanently ineligible prior to his first season at Kentucky, Kanter has remained loyal to the Kentucky program in his time in the NBA.

While he may be known for his ongoing social media feud with LeBron James, Kanter has quietly turned into a really solid NBA big man. This season was the best of his career, averaging 14.1 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting nearly 85% from the free throw line for the New York Knicks.

He had a coming out party on Christmas Day against the Philadelphia 76ers, as he totaled 31 points, 22 rebounds, and 7/8 from the charity stripe.

Big Blue Nation, go wish our favorite Turk a happy birthday on Twitter @Enes_Kanter!


Derek Willis Shines in G-League Mini-Camp

Derek Willis’ season is over, but he’s still playing for his professional future.

This week the G-League held an Elite Mini-Camp to showcase players’ talents in front of NBA talent evaluators.  Willis proved in a short amount of time he can be a consistent contributor.

After averaging 11.8 points (47 FG%) and 6.8 rebounds this season for the Grand Rapids Drive, Willis posted double figures in three of four games at the mini-camp.  His best game was a 15-point, nine-rebound performance in the opener.

Willis gave all the credit to Coach Cal.  “He’s helped me prepare for this camp,” Willis told the News-Sentinel. “I can’t thank him enough.”

Willis added: “Playing at Kentucky was about the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life,” he said in a positive sense. “Every practice, it takes a lot out of you and (Calipari) demands a lot because you have five or six months to get things right.”

Calipari helped transform Willis into a professional basketball player.  Now the Kentucky kid is inching closer to an NBA contract.


What we Learned about the Kentucky Wildcats at the NBA Combine

Stacy Revere | Getty Images

The action on the court at the NBA Combine has concluded.

Four Wildcats were in Chicago for the evaluation event — Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington.  The projected lottery picks, Knox and SGA, were only measured, while Washington and Diallo fought to raise their draft stock.  Where they stand now is still unknown, but we do know a little bit more about their basketball future.

Washington wants a Guarantee

“If I get a second round guarantee, I’m definitely going back to school,” Washington told reporters Thursday.  “Right now, if it’s a first round, I should take it.  If it’s a second round, I should come back (to school).”

Now it’s just a matter of what he hears from teams.  The deadline to withdraw from the draft is June 11 at 5:00 p.m.

Diallo met with Two Teams

The athletic phenom who stole the show a year ago has hired an agent and cannot return to Kentucky.  Now in the process of meeting with teams, the first two are the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Wizards’s pick at No. 44 overall fits Diallo’s stock.  The Sixers have more options with the 26th, 38th, 39th and 56th picks.

Money-Making Scrimmages

While Diallo declined to participate in the scrimmage portion of the combine, his teammate made the most of the opportunity.  Washington finished his first scrimmage with a double-double, and reached double figures on day two.  He combined for 24 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes of 5-on-5 action.  Few players were more consistent than Washington.

Bilas Believes

The ESPN analyst named Washington as one of the four top performers from day one at the combine.


Turning Heads

Bilas wasn’t the only impressed by Washington.  Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo said Washington’s stock is rising, although he’s unsure what it means for the Wildcat’s decision.

“Two strong combine days makes Washington’s draft decision a bit more interesting. He’s said publicly he wants to turn pro only if he’s a first-round pick, and while that deal is far from sealed, he at least gave teams more to think about this week.

Washington is a unique player, standing 6’7” but utilizing long arms and plus athletic ability to bang on the inside. He showed a good understanding of the floor, rebounded aggressively, and notably hit three midrange jumpers in a row early in Friday’s scrimmage. Washington’s unique skill set will only fit with certain lineups as a small-ball big, but he certainly does enough to get drafted. If he really wants to be a first-rounder it may help his case to go back, but he’s at least turned some heads.”

Dropping Verticals

Some people have bad days.  That might be what happened to Hamidou Diallo, who reached 40.5 inches at this year’s combine.  That number was good enough to tie for sixth, but it was four inches shorter than the record-setter at last year’s combine.

Washington can’t simply chalk it up as a bad day.  His vertical leap was nine inches shorter in Chicago than it was at UK last summer.  How that can happen, I do not know, but he recovered well enough in the scrimmages to put the poor leap in his past.

So. Much. Length.

The official measurements prove what we already knew — last year’s Kentucky team was LONG.

Player Body Fat Hand Length Hand Width Height w/o Shoes Height w/Shoes Standing Reach Weight Wingspan
Hamidou Diallo 4.45% 8.75 9 6’4.25 6’6″ 8’7″ 197 6’11.5
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 3% 9 9 6’4.5 6’6″ 8’8″ 180 6’11.5
Kevin Knox 4.95% 8.75 9.25 6’7.75 6’9″ 9″ 212.6 6’11.75
PJ Washington 6.85% 9 10.25 6’6.5 6’8″ 8’11” 223 7’2.5

An Interesting Comparison

After seeing Diallo run through drills all weekend, CBS’ Reid Forgrave walked away with an interesting NBA comparison — Zach Lavine.  How is Diallo like the former Slam Dunk Champion?  He’s an “incredible athlete who needs to learn to become a basketball player.”  Diallo can’t completely hate that comparison, especially if he is somehow picked as high as Lavine was at No. 13 overall.

Why Vanderbilt did not Attend

One Wildcat declined the NBA Combine invitation.  Many expected Jarred Vanderbilt stayed home because of an injury.  Calipari confirmed to reporters that Vanderbilt “physically could not participate.”

This weekend should have provided clarity on Vanderbilt and Washington’s status.  P.J. probably did enough to leave, but it’s still uncertain what he and Vanderbilt will do.  They have 23 days to make a decision.


Julius Randle Explains how Kentucky Basketball Prepared him for the Lakers

Julius Randle Explains how Kentucky Basketball Prepared him for the Lakers

Before he was a Los Angeles Laker, Julius Randle helped take Kentucky to a National Championship game.  Jumping from the college level to the NBA wasn’t so bad, thanks to Coach Cal’s system at Kentucky.

The former seventh-overall draft pick is in Chicago this week and stopped by ESPN’s desk at the NBA Combine to talk about upcoming free agency, his draft experience and much more.  Naturally, his time at Kentucky was a talking point.  Randle said the expectations at UK are not so different than the Lakers.

“It’s very similar, to where the fans expect a lot out of you.  It’s great.  You love to have a fanbase that’s passionate.”

The Lakers’ fans remain engaged, even though they have not had much success during Randle’s four-year tenure.  There have been more losses than wins, but he still managed to post some impressive numbers ahead of a restricted free agency offseason.

Randle attributes his success to one of Calipari’s core tenets: accountability.

“I think the biggest thing coming out of Kentucky that Coach (Cal) teaches is accountability.  For young men going into the NBA, there’s a lot of free time, a lot of stuff to where you have to be accountable for your actions off the court, but on the court as well.”

WATCH: Hamidou Diallo’s Vertical Leap at the NBA Combine


At the 2017 NBA Combine, Hamidou Diallo wowed NBA Scouts with the highest vertical leap at the event.  His 44.5″ vertical tied for the eighth-best in NBA history.

Diallo set the bar high, no pun intended.  See how he performed under pressure:

Unfortunately, Diallo could not surpass his previous mark.  Even though he almost touched every single plastic marker, it was four inches shorter than last year’s leap.  At 40.5,” he’s currently tied for fourth with Grayson Allen.

Diallo’s athleticism manifested in every other drill.  Players are still being tested, but he’s currently in the top five of the shuttle run (4.44), three quarter sprint (3.1) and lane agility (10.53).  You’ll find all of the combine numbers here.

Washington, Diallo to Participate in Combine 5-on-5

A pair of Wildcats will scrimmage in front of dozens of scouts at the NBA Combine in Chicago.

The rosters have been released for the 5-on-5 portion of the combine.  Hamidou Diallo will play for Team Two alongside Kansas’ Devonte Graham, UCLA’s Kris Wilkes and Louisville’s Ray Spalding.  P.J. Washington will team up with Kansas’ Malik Newman, Auburn’s Austin Wiley and West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate on Team Three.

Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, both projected to be lottery picks, are noticeably absent from the roster, seen below:


The scrimmages will take place after players are tested in a variety of drills.  You can catch all of the action on ESPN2 from 3:00-7:00 today and tomorrow.


The fine reporters at ESPN just notified us that even though he’s on the roster, Hamidou Diallo will not participate in the scrimmage portion of the combine.  A surprising move, maybe he believes less is more?

Kentucky’s NBA Combine Measurements Released

The NBA Combine is officially underway in Chicago.

The festivities began with simple measurements.  The results from Kentucky’s representatives — Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington  — prove just how lengthy last year’s team was.

Player Body Fat Hand Length Hand Width Height w/o Shoes Height w/Shoes Standing Reach Weight Wingspan
Hamidou Diallo 4.45% 8.75 9 6’4.25 6’6″ 8’7″ 197 6’11.5
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 3% 9 9 6’4.5 6’6″ 8’8″ 180 6’11.5
Kevin Knox 4.95% 8.75 9.25 6’7.75 6’9″ 9″ 212.6 6’11.75
PJ Washington 6.85% 9 10.25 6’6.5 6’8″ 8’11” 223 7’2.5

Gilgeous-Alexander has the lowest body fat of any NBA Combine participant.  Hamidou Diallo is not far behind at fifth.

Click here to see how they compare with the entire field, and stay tuned to KSR for more combine coverage throughout the day.

DeMarcus Cousins unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram

DeMarcus Cousins may have tipped us off regarding his future with the New Orleans Pelicans. Cousins unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram, which suggests he no longer has a future with the franchise.

Cousins will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and there is a big debate over whether or not the Pelicans should offer him a new deal. It’s rumored they’ll offer him a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, but Cousins will want a max contract and should have plenty of opportunities, despite the injury that cut his season short.

When asked about the unfollow, Cousins replied, “cause I’m grown,” in the comments.

It’s worth noting that he still follows the Pelicans on Twitter, so this could be nothing more than an overreaction to a meaningless Instagram cleansing.

Whatever the case, we’re following Boogie wherever he ends up.


REPORT: Dwane Casey’s push for contract extension may have led to firing

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

After yet another early playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James, the Toronto Raptors controversially relieved Dwane Casey of his head coaching responsibilities.

The former Kentucky Wildcat player and assistant coach led the Raptors to a franchise-record 59 victories during the regular season and ran away with the No. 1 seed in the East. It was a performance worthy of the National Basketball Coaches Association’s coach of the year award, an honor he won just two days before being fired.

Now, there’s a bit more to the story.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the former Wildcat asked for a two-year contract extension after the season, which may have led Raptors team president Masai Ujiri to make the ultimate decision to cut ties with Casey.

Casey sought a two-year contract extension in an effort to maintain job security, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The person requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

Casey’s wish may have forced Ujiri’s hand ahead of Friday’s decision.

Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun said Raptors president Ujiri denied reports of any contract extension request.

If the report of Casey asking for an extension turns out to be true, it’s a bit of a questionable move for him. He just signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension two years ago to lock him up through the 2018-19 season. Despite another disappointing postseason run for the Raptors, Casey had one more season left on his contract to capitalize on a solid roster foundation, which could have led to an even longer tenure with the team. With few key draft/trade/free agent decisions this offseason, along with a potential move for LeBron to the West, there was a legitimate shot for an ECF/Finals run for Toronto.

Now a free-agent, there are rumors the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks are interested in Casey to fill their head coaching vacancies, though nothing significant has been reported as of yet. That being said, it’s no secret the former Cat won’t be unemployed for long.