Can we not find great ball players from Kentucky anymore?
No, I am not talking about the college “Kentucky”, but the state of Kentucky. One of the things that is often thought of when Kentucky basketball is mentioned is the homegrown players who have been instrumental in UK’s success. And this was true at one time: The 1940’s and 1950’s. Ralph Beard, Wah Wah Jones, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, Vernon Hatton, and Johnny Cox all called Kentucky home before coming to Lexington.
But here is a stat that blew my mind: Since Johnny Cox’s last season (1959), a total of 4 players have had their jersey retired at Rupp that hailed from the state of Kentucky out of the total of 15. And Feldhaus, Farmer, and Pelphrey were not exactly given that honor for strictly their play on the court, but for their impact to the fanbase. The only exception was Jack Givens, who was from Lexington.
So my question is: what in the hell happened to the basketball talent in Kentucky?
Currently, the UK roster has 3 kids from Kentucky: Darius Miller, Jon Hood, and Jarrod Polson. Miller is a starter and very good player, Hood barely played last season and minutes may be limited this season, and Polson is a walk-on.
Here is a list of SCHOLARSHIP players from Kentucky who played at UK since 2000:
Rondo certainly turned out to be great, but he was up and down at Kentucky, and he even left the state of Kentucky to get better experience at Oak Hill. Sparks was up and down as well. Marquis Estill is the only other player who played a significant impact on any UK team.
This season, the Kentucky Boys All-Star team was AGAIN swept by Indiana. The Mr. Basketball from this state ended up WALKING-ON at Louisville. Some of the players on that team are going to colleges like Ashland, Bellarmine, Transy, Chipola, and Kankakee. Not exactly a star studded team there.
But here is the greater issue: Is it that Kentucky just doesn’t have the talent, or is it that UK doesn’t open its eyes up when there is talent there?
Remember, Sparks went the Western Kentucky out of high school. AJ Slaughter and Steffphon Pettigrew just finished a season at WKU where they were the team’s two best players. Both guys could have easily found some time at UK. Admittedly, John Calipari is bringing in a different level of ball player NOW compared to those guys. But what about Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie?
Two of Pitino’s biggest Kentucky recruits, Derek Anderson and Travis Ford, both left the state to go to other schools before coming to Kentucky. Why wasn’t the talent recognized out of high school?
I’ll be honest: I want the 12 best guys we can get to be on the roster. I don’t care if they all came from Communist North Korea, as long as they challenge for a Final Four. BUT, my bigger concern is has Kentucky coaches begun completely ignoring the state, and letting potentially talented players slip through is the past 15-20 years? As fans from Kentucky, do you care if Kentucky born players are on the roster?