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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Frank Ramsey: The Original Sixth Man

Frank Ramsey: The Original Sixth Man

Photo: Kentucky Digital Library

Born in Corydon, raised in Madisonville, multi-sport athlete and national champion at the University of Kentucky, seven-time NBA champion, head coach of the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels, and settled down back home again in Madisonville.

Frank Ramsey was a hometown Kentucky legend through and through.

At the University of Kentucky, Ramsey played basketball for coach Adolph Rupp and baseball during the offseason. Under Rupp, the 6-foot-3 guard totaled 1344 points and 1038 rebounds, helping the Cats take home the national title in 1951. Every season at Kentucky, he finished with All-American and All-SEC honors.

As a graduate player in 1953-54, Ramsey averaged 19.6 points per game as the star player of the AP No. 1 undefeated 25-0 team. If the NCAA had allowed them to play in the postseason, the Cats would have nine banners hanging at Rupp, not eight. Alongside fellow Kentucky legend Cliff Hagan, the two formed one of the SEC’s greatest one-two scoring combos of all time.

He only got three years in a Kentucky uniform, but he solidified himself as one of the best Wildcats to ever do it.

“I may have earned a bachelor’s degree in business from UK, but I earned a doctorate athletically,” Ramsey said in the book Wildcat Memories. “I played basketball for one of the greatest coaches ever.”

Little did he know, he would soon play for one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, as well.

Pictured from left to right: Clint Eastwood, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey

As an NBA player, Ramsey furthered his basketball greatness as the original “sixth man” with the Boston Celtics. He was drafted in 1953, and after returning to Kentucky for a graduate season, started his eight-year career in 1954-55.

His best year came in 1957-58, where he averaged 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest. For his career, he only averaged 13.4 points per game, but his playmaking abilities, grit, and hustle off the bench was instrumental in Boston’s mid-1900s dynasty.

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981, it was obvious Ramsey was talented enough to be a starter. But he preferred his role off the bench to allow the star Celtics to get their time in the spotlight. He was a selfless individual both on and off the floor.

“You have to remember that as a rookie I was playing behind two All-Star guards, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman,” Ramsey said in an interview with The Sports Column. “I was happy. I got to play plenty of minutes. Tommy Heinsohn was a ‘two cigarette at halftime man,’ which meant that after seven minutes I would get to play the rest of the time.”

He wasn’t rewarded for it financially. No one really was. But the taste of victory year after year more than made up for it.

“We didn’t make a whole lot of money,” said Ramsey. “The first year we won the championship the whole team’s salary was under $200,000. I think some of the players today make that much for one game. I was certainly happy with that, though. We were winning, we all got along, our wives all got along. and all of it made home life a whole lot better.”

And that home life was very rarely in Boston. He only stayed there during the season, heading back to Madisonville the second his time with the Celtics was through each year.

“The house I lived at in Boston was owned by a couple who went to Florida during the winter. We’d live there during the season, but I’d call them the minute the season was over. We’d then come back to Madisonville, KY.”

“It’s a completely different atmosphere (today),” Ramsey continued. “The minute the season was over we all take summer jobs. We didn’t make enough playing basketball to support a family year-round. When the season was over we didn’t touch a basketball until training started the next year.”

He worked at a grocery store and for a construction company during the summer months in Madisonville.

Eight years as an NBA player, seven championships. The one year he didn’t win a ring, he still reached the NBA Finals, where he lost to Cliff Hagan’s St. Louis Hawks. He was, and still is, a Boston Celtics legend. Just like his No. 30 jersey at Kentucky, Ramsey’s No. 23 jersey was retired and hangs in the rafters of TD Garden to this day.

Getty Images Pictured from left to right: John Havlicek, Red Auerbach, Frank Ramsey

Auerbach offered him a job to replace him as head coach in Boston once the legendary coach retired in 1966. Instead, he went back home to coach the Kentucky Colonels for one season in the ABA, and retired from basketball for good soon after. His father was growing old and he wanted to spend more time with his three children at home in Madisonville.

No matter how famous he was as a basketball player, Ramsey never left his Kentucky roots behind.

Nov 14, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel (3) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. The Spurs defeat the Mavericks 97-91. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel Granted a Second Chance in Oklahoma City

Nerlens Noel signed a two-year minimum deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Nerlens Noel is only 24 years old, but he’s experienced more in his five seasons in the NBA than some seasoned veterans ever will. The ACL injury he endured at Kentucky cost him a couple spots in the 2013 NBA Draft, as he slipped to the New Orleans Pelicans with the number six pick. He was quickly traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and then proceeded to miss the entire 2013-14 season to provide his knee enough time to fully heal by the first moment he would step onto an NBA court.

He showed promise as an elite rim protector and rebounding connoisseur, but nagging injuries would limit that potential. He was ultimately traded to the Dallas Mavericks, which is where the story gets a bit more interesting. After turning down a gigantic offer sheet from the Mavericks worth $70 million over four seasons before the beginning of this 2017-18 season, he accepted the $4.1 million qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

In Dallas, he was given minimal playing time. Slipping in the rotation, averaging a measly 12.5 minutes per game. Then there was the infamous hotdog incident. Then he tore a ligament in his thumb and missed over half the season. The relationship between the Mavericks, head coach Rick Carlisle, and Noel were clearly not one where everyone was on the same page. He could never find his footing in the 12 regular season games after returning from the injury and was subsequently suspended the last five games of the season for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Program.

Noel bet on himself to pull in more than the max offer sheet that Dallas gave him and it hasn’t come close to paying off.


Last season for Noel was an NBA disaster in every sense of the word. Losing millions of dollars, starter-level minutes, and the trust of an organization can often spell doom for whatever might be left of that player’s career, but Noel can be an anomaly. Solely because he still has so much left in his game to develop. Coming into the league at the young age of 19 has allowed him to have a second chance of making this NBA thing work. His market this summer as an unrestricted free agent wasn’t anything near what he had hoped this time last year, but he’s found a home and culture that can mold him back into the player who was honored as a member of the 2014-15 All-Rookie team.

On July 6, the Oklahoma City Thunder officially signed Noel for the veteran minimum salary on a two-year deal. The most important thing to note about this two-year deal is that the second year is a player option. The Thunder gave Noel a cheap deal but with player-friendly details. If he exceeds expectations and solidifies himself as a legitimate backup option for Thunder center Steven Adams, he can test free agency next offseason and try to pull in a larger deal. He’s not going to be given the minutes this season he needs to prove himself as a max contract player, but he can slowly progress to that point. And if he doesn’t impress this coming season, he can opt-in and try it all again in 2019. With Noel, he’s better off trying to take a similar road that DeMarcus Cousins took (no, not joining the Golden State Warriors). Take a smaller deal coming off injury, prove yourself next season, then see what you can get in the offseason as a free agent. Even if he doesn’t garner a huge deal, he can take another one-year deal with another team where he’ll have a bigger role. With the NBA’s salary cap expected to rise over the next two offseasons, Noel can play the waiting game and pounce when the opportunity is right.

His fit with the Thunder is an incredibly favorable situation for him, especially more so than in Dallas. The relationship between the Mavs organization and Noel was shot and them bringing in DeAndre Jordan (an older version of Noel, basically) on a one-year deal was a sign that they had long moved on from Noel. In Oklahoma City, he’ll backup Steven Adams, a 24-year old from the University of Pittsburgh who has established himself as one of the most physically imposing big men in the entire NBA. He’s in the same talent realm as Clint Capela and Andre Drummond. Young, towering big men who all bring something unique to the table in today’s NBA. *Just for fun, if I could rank these three it would go Capela > Adams > Drummond but with hardly any separation between the three*

Adams is the center that Noel should strive to mold his game after. Noel’s offensive limitations keep him restricted to the paint, similar to Adams, but Adams is a pick-and-roll savant who reads defenses as the roll man just as well as any player in the NBA. This is where Noel can add to his value. Noel’s calling cards are as an above-average rebounder and rim protector, which can be said about Adams as well – although above-average would be an understatement for him. The offense is where he needs to improve if he wants to become a two-way player, something that is becoming more and more necessary as the game advances. Adams already is that two-way big and he can mentor Noel to follow suit. He’s already a lob threat on every pick-and-roll and an underrated passer, expanding his game outside the paint would be a huge step forward.

Noel is going to have to put on some muscle if he wants to mimic Adams overwhelming frame and being healthy for an entire season would definitely be a good first step. Noel needs the Thunder (specifically Adams) more than they need him, but for the Thunder to exceed expectations next season, Noel has to play well. With Paul George resigning, a hopefully healthy Andre Roberson returning, and – now this is the big one – releasing Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder have a more-than-real shot at going to the Western Conference Finals this coming season. Had Roberson not gotten injured (the team went 18-14 after losing him for the season) and Melo just accepted coming off the damn bench, there’s no reason to think the Thunder couldn’t have beaten the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs and then had a competitive series against the Houston Rockets in round two (the Rockets, by the way, lost their best two-way wing player in Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns and replaced him with Micahel Carter-Williams. If anything, the Rockets regressed this offseason while the Thunder improved).

Noel can use this season in Oklahoma City as a learning experience. Play behind one of the best young big men in the league, help in a playoff run, develop a couple go-to moves on offense, become a reliable pick-and-roll player, and see what he can make of limited minutes. He’ll compete with fellow Wildcat Dakari Johnson, someone the Thunder have seemingly been impressed with for a couple years now, but Noel should win that battle (unless Johnson comes out shooting 40 percent from three).

The Thunder were already an elite defensive team, adding Noel covers up one of the few holes they had on that end. If he can be the tenacious shot-blocker that he was at Kentucky and in his first two seasons in Philly, the Thunder picked up a gem for practically nothing. Noel could be preparing for the second season of his $70 million deal, but instead, he’s been given a second chance to one day get that money back.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Don’t Put too Much Stock in NBA Summer League

Kevin Knox drives on John Collins during his Summer League debut for the New York Knicks. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

The summer is a dry time for sports, especially basketball. Baseball and the World Cup every four years are the sources of sports entertainment during the offseasons of basketball, football, and hockey. Which means events such as the NBA Summer League are going to attract all sorts of eyes for starved basketball enthusiasts.

The Summer League provides fans small sample size insights into the players their teams drafted in the lottery. It also allows players who have spent time in the G League and overseas to prove themselves and potentially make an NBA roster. It’s basically one giant tryout with some players participating just for the hell of it. Because in reality, the Summer League is a giant mirage of talent. It is not a great indicator of how good a player is going to be in the NBA. It’s essentially young G League level talent trying not to get embarrassed in front of lottery selections.

This isn’t to say there aren’t things that we can take away from Summer League. Players such as Kyle Kuzma, Damian Lillard, and John Wall have dominated Summer League in the past and went on to continue that trend into the regular season. If players are consistently taking control in the Summer League, there’s a good chance they’ll continue to build off that. But, then there are examples such as Josh Selby and Glen Rice Jr., who have both been named Summer League MVPs in the past but have long been removed from the NBA. Steph Curry shot 32.5 percent in five Summer League games back in 2009.

We can take away little tidbits, such as how players respond to defending off the ball, defending the pick-and-roll, and running plays. In my opinion, watching how players move within the offense and defense is more beneficial for us as fans than how they shoot from three or their field goal percentage. Watching for minuscule things such as how a player attacks the ball in 50/50 scenarios or if they’re reading defenses and anticipating passing lanes is a more efficient way to judge these players. Players can go through bad shooting slumps, but if they don’t have a clear grasp on fundamentals or natural awareness, that’s a solid sign of knowing how to project them as NBA players.

This Summer League has been no different in terms of evaluating talent and everything should be taken with a grain of salt, with a few exceptions. Second-year players such as John Collins (Hawks), Josh Hart (Lakers), Jordan Bell (Warriors), and even Bam Adebayo (Heat) have all shown that they have no need for the Summer League. They may not be putting up big numbers, but they have clearly been the best players on the court. It goes back to looking for smaller details and these four clearly look like tenured NBA players. Rookies such as Trae Young and Marvin Bagley III have been relatively disappointing, but that isn’t to say that will continue at all. Lauri Markkanen was the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft and shot under 30 percent from the field in Summer League, but was one of the most productive rookies of last season and made the All-Rookie team.

These games are test trials. Exhibitions. Most of these guys haven’t been surrounded by this type of talent, even if it isn’t anything close to the NBA. This is their way of feeling it out and gaining a better understanding of how the game works at the next level. They’re encouraged to make mistakes, especially the lottery picks. Learning a new system and style of play isn’t something that can be taught overnight. For some players, it can take years before they buy into how they should play. Jeremy Lamb of the Charlotte Hornets was a Summer League success six years ago, but it wasn’t until this past season at age 26 that he became the player he was expected to be when drafted out of Connecticut.

Kevin Knox dropped an impressive 22 points in his Summer League debut for the New York Knicks, getting to the rim at will but only connecting on one of his seven three-point attempts. Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks has shot terribly from the field but displayed some dazzling passing performances. On somewhat of the flip side of that, Justin Jackson was not an NBA caliber player last season for the Sacramento Kings but averaged 17 points per game on 53 percent shooting over three games in Sacramento’s Summer League this year. The same can be said about Antonio Blakeney from the Chicago Bulls, who recently poured in 25 points during a Summer League game in Las Vegas. Do I expect either of those players to be better than Knox or Young next season? Not even a little bit.

Most Summer League players, especially the most recent draft picks, don’t have the benefit of being surrounded by NBA organizations for an extended period of time. They have to do everything they can with a limited sample size to individually prove that they belong on an NBA roster. This doesn’t apply as much to lottery/first round picks from the most recent draft, but they are still essentially being thrown into a situation with little practice time where they are expected to perform at a high level on live television.

If Knox averages 20-plus points per game for the remainder of Summer League and continues to impress like he did Saturday night, I still wouldn’t expect him to transition into the regular season like that. I’ll say the exact same thing if he doesn’t even break 10 points the rest of Summer League.

If anything, Summer League places unfair expectations and ridicule on players who haven’t even played an NBA game yet. At it’s best, it gives basketball fans something to discuss and argue about during the month of July. There is still another nine days left of the Las Vegas Summer League. All I ask is we don’t take any definitive answers out of what we see.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

Steve Kerr on Warriors adding Boogie: “People are really going to hate us now”

Last week, former Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins shocked the basketball world by agreeing to a deal with the Golden State Warriors. One of the greatest teams ever assembled just got the best center in the NBA at just $5.3 million.

It was a steal, and it likely solidified the world champion of the 2018-19 season before it even started.

And according to Golden State head coach Steve Kerr, he knows he got lucky with it. And he’s perfectly fine with that.

In an interview with The Athletic, Kerr said he hasn’t really noticed the backlash of the decision yet, but he knows it’s going to get people pretty angry when Cousins returns from the ruptured Achilles he suffered last season.

“I haven’t really noticed it,” he said. “I mean I knew it was coming. Bob and I sort of looked at each other after this happened and just shook our heads and started laughing. Like, people are really going to hate us now. We got lucky. It’s the mid-level, we weren’t even necessarily going to spend it; we were only going to use it if there was somebody we felt could make a big impact at a $20-million expense. It’s not $5.3 million. It’s times 4 with the tax.”

That being said, Kerr said it’s not his fault for Cousins being interested in joining the Warriors. Other teams had their chances to put money on the table to sign him.

“It’s not like we stole him. Everybody else had a shot, too. It’s just a very thin market this year. DeMarcus kind of slipped through the cracks. I think he recognizes that this is an opportunity to do something different in his career. I think he’s excited about it. He wants his career to move in a different direction from where it’s been. I think we can give him that opportunity and in return, he can give us a better opportunity to win. So it really is a win-win,” Kerr said.

The Pelicans reportedly had a two-year, $40 million offer on the table during the season, but Cousins declined it. The Lakers were reportedly interested and even called him when free agency opened, but in a win-now situation, they said he wasn’t a major priority and didn’t want to put a lot of money on the table for a guy that would only be available half the year. The Celtics supposedly finished No. 2 in the Cousins sweepstakes, but according to several Boston insiders, the All-Star center already agreed to a deal with Golden State by the time both parties were ready to talk numbers. In other words, they didn’t have a real chance to sign him.

Money was tight in free agency this offseason, in large part due to the ridiculously high team spending back in 2016. As a result, there weren’t a lot of suitors with max-money for talented players like Cousins, especially coming off of a major injury.

Now, we get to watch Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Boogie destroy the competition this season.

[The Athletic]

Malik Monk to be Re-Evaluated in 6-8 Weeks

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Malik Monk’s second year at the NBA Summer League got off to an impressive start. He put up 23 points on 9-13 shooting (4-9 from deep) in 27 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, but with three seconds remaining in the game, Monk fractured his right thumb after slamming the ball on the floor. The Charlotte Hornets have ruled him out for the remainder of the Summer League and he is expected to be re-evaluated in 6-8 weeks.

Monk is set to have a breakout season in year number two. In 63 games, he averaged only 6.3 points per game last season, but on extremely limited minutes. It wasn’t until the injury to Michael Carter-Williams that Monk was given a longer leash and allowed to play more within himself. In the 18 games he played in Carter-Williams’ absence, Monk averaged 12.1 points and 2.3 assists in 18.8 minutes per game, shooting 35.7 percent from deep.

His 2018 Summer League debut got off to a hot start and he was looking like one of several second-year lottery picks that were obviously too good to be there. It would have been great for him to ride that confidence into the regular season, but he should still be ready to go for the start of training camp.

The Hornets have gone through a full front-office rebrand, bringing in former Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak as both GM and President of Basketball Operations. Kupchak then brought in former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach James Borrego as head coach, who has stated he wants to play more uptempo and with more focus on Monk.

Borrego called Monk “a major player for us next (season)”  during a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer.

Monk is built to thrive in the modern NBA. He’s insanely athletic with a deadly stroke who can run up and down the court. If the Hornets want to get younger and push the pace, it’s going to start with Monk.

Devin Booker is a special talent on and off the floor

One day after signing a five-year, $158 million extension with Phoenix, the Suns have been pumping out a ton of quality content on social media to praise their franchise superstar.

They started by talking to Devin Booker’s teammate, Tyson Chandler, about their relationship and Booker’s budding career that will soon lead to star players joining him in Phoenix:

Then they gathered Booker’s top ten plays of the 2017-18 season:

And then, they interviewed Booker, his teammates, and different Suns legends about his historic 70-point performance against the Celtics last season:

Off the court, Booker is a pretty special individual, as well.

In case you missed it last week, Tyler Ulis was waived by the Suns, ending Booker and Ulis’ three-year basketball partnership.

So I made a video to reminisce about the BBN’s favorite bromance:

Gone but never forgotten.

Booker’s time in Phoenix and his extremely thick wallet? That’s here to stay.

UnderKanter meets The Undertaker

UnderKanter meets The Undertaker

Eight years after we learned of former Wildcat Enes Kanter’s love for professional wrestling and The Undertaker, he got to live out his dream.

The legendary wrestler visited New York City for a match, where Kanter was able to give his idol an exclusive behind-the-scenes look of Madison Square Garden.

Needless to say, Kanter fanboyed pretty hard.

He also got to meet a few other wrestlers, including former KSR guest Jinder Mahal.

While we’re at it, take a look at “The UnderKanter” in action back at Big Blue Madness in 2010:

If only we got to see Kanter in a Kentucky uniform…

Hamidou Diallo follows big night with best Calipari advice: “Stay Ready”

Hamidou Diallo follows big night with best Calipari advice: “Stay Ready”


Hamidou Diallo came out firing in last night’s summer matchup between the Thunder and the Nets, scoring 19 points, pulling in eight rebounds and grabbing two steals. He was 7-11 from the field, and the former Cat lead Oklahoma City to their 90-76 victory over Brooklyn. 

He took some time after the victory to discuss his last conversation with John Calipari, mentioning the dinner this impressive group shared a few nights ago.

“I spoke with him two days ago – we had dinner,” Diallo said of Cal. “He just told me to go out there and be myself. He thinks I’m ready. He believes in me.”

The NBA TV reporter followed up by asking Diallo about the best advice his former coach ever game him.

“Stay ready. Everybody has a different path,” Diallo said. “You’ve just got to stay ready and make sure you always believe in and trust your work.”

Watch the full interview here:

Here are some highlights from the game, courtesy of Classic KY clips:


Kevin Knox Impresses in NBA Debut

Just a few weeks after the Knicks fans booed Kevin Knox, Knox made his first appearance in a Knicks jersey today in a summer league game against the Hawks in Las Vegas. In his first appearance, Knox didn’t disappoint racking up 22 points with eight rebounds.

Knox put the Knicks fans and the NBA on notice with his first trip down the floor with a steal and a slam for the first points in his NBA career.

Kevin Knox wouldn’t just stop there as he had a couple more impressive dunks throughout the game.

All these highlights and that’s not even mentioning this excellent effort play in the 2nd quarter.

Knox’s play today earned high praise from twitter as well.

It was nice to see Kevin Knox shoot at a high volume as well as he put up 20 shots, including seven threes. While he only hit one from behind the arc, it’s a good sign that he’s showing the confidence to shoot more often, especially behind the arc.

It seems like the Knicks fans, for now, are eating their words a bit. Kevin Knox is off to a great start in his young NBA career.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrentW_KSR

RUMOR: Boogie Turned Down Late Season Offer From The Pelicans

Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

By far, this summer’s most stunning free agency move came from Demarcus Cousins when he decided to join a Warriors team that has won three of the last four NBA finals. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you know that Boogie signed a one-year deal with the Warriors, taking a HUGE pay cut in the process, signing for $5.3 Million.

Even though it shocked all the sports world, it became more understandable in the coming days why Boogie did this. 29 teams refused to offer him, and he is coming off an Achilles injury in which he still needs to prove his superstar status.

Have fun, almost guarantee yourself a championship, and have four other superstars around you to take some of the focus off of you so you can have more room to rehab. It makes total sense, and even though I hate that the Warriors are getting better and better, it’s hard to blame him for this move.

According to Marc Stein, League sources say that during the season Cousins turned down a two-year extension on his contract in the $40 Million range. It’s been reported that the Pelicans offered Boogie this extension after the injury, but still during the season. Once Cousins declined, New Orleans took the offer off the table.

It’s clear that Cousins thought he would cash in this summer, but teams weren’t sold on him coming off an injury and the fact that Boogie won’t be expected to play until January. A healthy Boogie would have certainly gotten his money this summer, but his injury took things off course.

Now it seems the question has shifted from ‘Why would Boogie Sign with the Warriors?’ Now it’s ‘Why did he turn down that offer’ or, more importantly, ‘why did the Pelicans take it off the table? Was it after the play of Anothny Davis? Did New Orleans think they didn’t need him and could free up some cap space?’

So many questions that are currently unanswered that resulted in the Warriors becoming even more unstoppable.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrentW_KSR