So, I have this girlfriend (yeah, it’s hard to believe) and she is a big UK fan (of course). But she has this weird fascination when following UK basketball. No, she can’t recite championship runs or great team names. She, for whatever reason, loves jersey numbers. She can pretty much give you the jersey number of anybody from the 1990’s on. So anyway, she batted this idea around with me over the weekend: which jersey number has seen the most success in UK history? You know I love research and numbers, so that was right in my wheelhouse. For me, I split the jersey numbers into 2 categories: TOTAL POINTS and TOTAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. Then, at the bottom of the article, I give you my reasoning for picking #12 as the greatest UK number:
#44: 9,381 (Nash, Issel, Hayes) *DAKARI JOHNSON
#12: 8,799 (Beard, Feldhaus, Knight, Parker)
#10: 8,445 (Dampier, Minnifield, Bogans)
#24: 8,444 (Cox, Mashburn, A.Walker, Azubuike) *EJ FLOREAL
#32: 8,246 (Casey, K. Walker, Pelphrey, Padgett)
I have to say I was somewhat surprised that #44 would take this category, even with Issel being the school’s scoring leader. Because 15 players have worn the number 44 at UK, but a total of 9 other numbers have been worn by 15 or more players (5, 10, 11, 12, 14, 24, 25, 32, and 42). But after looking at it, it is hard to find a number with a better trio at the top than Cotton Nash, Dan Issel, and Chuck Hayes. Plus, Dakari Johnson will likely add a decent chunk of points to that lead this season.
Championships (8 total)
#13 (Day (x2), Lansaw, Mohammed (x2), Malone)
#25 (Line (x2), Shidler, Epps, Anthony, Teague) *DOMINIQUE HAWKINS
#5 (Stough (x2), Turner (x2), Polson) *ANDREW HARRISON
#14 (Holland, Townes, Johnson, Evans, Gilchrist)
#15 (Groza (x2), Gettlefinger, Sheppard (x2)) *WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN
#20 (Campbell, Castle, Howe, Casey, Lamb)
#32 (Whitaker, Crigler, Lee, Prickett, Long)
Note: Scott Padgett wore #34 in the 1998 season
#12 (Beard (x2), Cassady, Harrow)
#23 (Barker (x2), D.Anderson, Davis)
#30 (Jordan, Ramsey, Stephens, Vargas) *JULIUS RANDLE
#33 (Ross, Mercer, M.Bradley, Wiltjer) *KYLE WILTJER
First things first, the only modern number (only using the numbers 0-5) that has not been a part of at least 1 championship is the #2. This season, Aaron Harrison will wear that jersey, meaning either the team is cursed by that number or Harrison will break that streak. To be fair, the last 3 guys to wear the number 2 at UK are Rashaad Carruth, Ravi Moss, and Matt Sccherbenske. So, it’s safe to say the level of talent wearing that jersey is taking a leap this season.
So, which number do I consider to be the best in UK history? Well, for me it’s pretty simple. There are only 2 numbers that show up on both lists. The number 12 is the 2nd leading scored in UK history and also has 4 championships. The number 32 is 5th in UK history in scoring and has 5 championships. So, how do I break that tie? I choose the number that had the best player. And for me, that is number 12. Ralph Beard might have had the greatest UK career in history when combining individual success and team success.