The end of the year is always a great time if you enjoy two things: (1) Reviewing the past and (2) Lists. You cant throw a stick without reading someone’s Top 10 “Somethings of the Year” and I admit that I ready nearly all of them. This is especially true this year, as we are not only ending the year but also the decade. The first full ten year period of the 21st Century will be completed in just a couple of weeks and thus it is time to do a bit of a review. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be reviewing the decade in UK Sports and a number of other topics over the coming weeks, with the following topics as examples upcoming:
Duncan Cavanah — All Decade UK Football Team
Fake Gimel — Best UK Villains
Tomlin — Best Sports Movies
Dustin Rumbaugh — Top Ten Recruiting Legends
Hunter Campbell — Top Ten UK “Near Misses”
Intern — Most Obscure Players
Will Lentz — Best UK Stories in TV Show Form
With that said, we must start somewhere, and I decided to go with the All-Decade UK Basketball Team. This was part of my continuing endeavor to write about UK basketball in as many “Greatest” lists as possible, and has engulfed a good part of my thinking in the past weekend. In compiling the list, I went by three strict criteria:
1. The only performances that counted are those from the 1999-2000 season to the 2008-2009 season. Thus ten postseasons, all in the 2000s. Unfortunately that means no John Wall, but it is how it is.
2. Only what the player did while in college at UK was considered for ranking. Rondo’s heroics in the pros are not part of the discussion.
3. Where there is a tie, I take winning over individual glory. We love watching great players, but we like winning more. I take a player who helped lead to wins when all other things are equal.
Now I grant you that this decade was not as star-packed as the 1990s or decades of the past. We went through a bit of a lull at the end, and there was no Final Four for the first time in history. However there was one great season (2003), two very good seasons (2004 and 2005) and as you will see, they are represented heavily here. I am picking three teams and one walk-on, in order to have a 16 man squad that you can take with you into battle. Without further ado:
PG — Cliff Hawkins
SG — Keith Bogans
SF — Tayshaun Prince
PF — Patrick Patterson
C — Jamaal Magloire
In coming up with the list, there were only two locks. Keith Bogans was the first and if the decade had an MVP, he would have been mine. He was the best player on the best team of the decade (2003) and finished his career as a Top 5 scorer in the history of the school, and one of the more underappreciated players to put on the uniform. The other lock was Tayshaun Prince, who was unfortunate enough to have his Senior season during “Team Turmoil.” Tay hit game winners throughout his career, had the great 5 threes in a row UNC game, 41 against Tulsa in the NCAA Tournament and is headed for the rafters in Rupp one day.
The other three were harder. I picked Cliff Hawkins as the starting point guard in what was an agonizing choice. The next two point guards were probably better players, but Hawkins had a better UK career. Starting point guard on two teams that both were the #1 overall seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Individually he was not a superstar, but his UK career was better than most realize. I took Patrick Patterson at Power Forward in a decision that could easily be reversed with the Second team player. Patterson carried the UK team through difficult times and was a better player than Hayes. He didnt win as often, but his individual talent places him here. Jamaal Magloire is the Center, due in large part to his First Team All-SEC finish. He only played one year in the decade, but it was a great season and trumps the other candidates.
PG — Rajon Rondo
SG — Gerald Fitch
SF — Jodie Meeks
PF — Chuck Hayes
C — Randolph Morris
The decade was so even on talent that this team could give the first a run for its money. Rajon Rondo may be the most talented player to play at UK in the decade, but he falls here due to two inconsistent years. However his talent and production is undeniable. Gerald Fitch had the best career you dont think about. He was the best player on the 2004 team that was the #1 overall seed in the tournament and is a Top 25 scorer all time. I added a third guard spot to put Jodie Meeks in the group, because his Junior season forced him onto this team. His 54 points may stand forever. Chuck Hayes is the player on this list who was most punished by our “position” method of ranking…he is 4th in the decade overall to me. And Randolph Morris goes at Center, the most talented big man to play at UK for the decade, but his effort kept him from ever reaching true greatness.
PG — Ramel Bradley
SG — Joe Crawford
SF — Kelenna Azubuike
PF — Erik Daniels
C — Marquis Estill
Walk-on Patrick Sparks
The third team is filled with a group of “almost 2nd team” players that just missed the cut. Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford seem to almost always go together and they find the same team here. Both could score in bunches and got better every year. Neither ever had team greatness and seemed always just one step or shot away from reaching the next level. Kelenna Azubuike is a player that had he stayed one more year, could have contended for much higher honors. He was coming into his own as a scorer on the 2005 team and may have been the hardest dunker to ever play here. Erik Daniels was a player no one knew out of high school, who played all four years and got better each season. He was a true winner and his teams were always better when he was in the game. Finally, Marquis Estill may be the most forgotten member of the 2003 squad, a big man from Kentucky who could step out and shoot the three. He also left early, one year away from contending for a first team spot on this list. I throw in Patrick Sparks because I cant leave him out. He is a key ingredient of two iconic moments in UK basketball…the free throws against UL and the bouncing rim shot against Michigan State. The buzzcutted one is still one of the most remembered players from the decade for non-UK fans.
I like this group. What you can see is that a case can be made for various players on various teams. Outside of Bogans and Prince, there are no locks and different people could see it in different ways. I would like to see these teams match up and long for the day in ten years when whoever is running this site (it wont be me), does the Calipari era group for 2010-2019…I think I already know its starting point guard.
More stuff coming all day….