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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Would you take Cal’s 5-year run of talent over any other era?

Sometimes I wonder if we, as UK fans, don’t fully understand just how amazing the talent level has been at the school the last 5 years.  Even in the year that UK went to the NIT, Kentucky had 2 first round draft picks on roster as well as the potential in 2 more in Poythress and Cauley-Stein.  An NIT team with 4 NBA first round draft picks.  Just incredible.  But has this 5-year run been the best in UK history for talent?  It might seem like an obvious answer, but when you look at each coaches best 5-year talent run since Rupp, there might be an argument there.

Keep in mind that for a player to have qualified for this list, he had to ARRIVE AT UK during the time frame listed.  Doesn’t mean the coach couldn’t leave and that player played for another coach for the rest of his career.  Just means the coach listed RECRUITED that player.  Below are the 12 best players during that 5-year run.

Calipari (Classes of 2009-13)
GUARDS: John Wall, Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Doron Lamb, Archie Goodwin
FORWARDS: Julius Randle, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, James Young
CENTERS: Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Nerlens Noel

-This was really tough.  I think the Top 11 guys in this list are locks.  Davis, Cousins, Noel, Randle, MKG, Jones, Young, Wall, Knight, Bledsoe, and Lamb just can argue very little about.  I continue to hold that Archie Goodwin was a very good player on a pretty bad team.  He was forced to attempt to do things he wasn’t suited for and if placed on any of Cal’s other teams, he would have flourished.  So I put him on as the 12th guy.  WCS and Poythress just miss the list because of their inconsistency, but they deserve recognition too.

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Smith (Classes of 1998-2002)
GUARDS: Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch, Cliff Hawkins, Ravi Moss
FORWARDS: Tayshaun Prince, Chuck Hayes, Kelena Azubuike, Erik Daniels
CENTERS: Marquis Estill, Jason Parker, Jules Camara, Marvin Stone

-I think if you just go 1 through 10, this roster stacks up pretty well.  The problem is the back end of the team.  Marvin Stone transferred and Jules Camara was wildly inconsistent.  Tubby seemed to always have 1 really good player per class, but he whiffed far too much.  And that is proven by the fact that in his best 5-year period, I couldn’t find 12 really quality players.
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Pitino (Classes of 1992-1996)
GUARDS: Tony Delk, Wayne Turner, Jeff Sheppard, Derek Anderson, Anthony Epps
FORWARDS: Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty, Scott Padgett, Rod Rhodes
CENTERS: Nazr Mohammed, Jamaal Magloire

(Jamal Mashburn did not fall into the time frame.  He came to UK in 1990.  Neither did Travis Ford, who came in 1991.)

-The 3 guys who just missed the cut are Mark Pope, Allen Edwards and Heshimu Evans.  Edwards didn’t blossom until late in his time at Kentucky and Evans was a transfer who certainly was an impact player, but not to the level of the other guys.  While this roster might not have the NBA success that Calipari’s did, I think at the college level, they could stack up.
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Hall (Classes of 1978-82)
GUARDS: Dirk Minniefield, Dwight Anderson, Jim Master, Dicky Beal, Roger Harden
FORWARDS: Kenny Walker, Derrick Hord, Charles Hurt, Chuck Verderber
CENTERS: Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin

-It was very hard to find 12 quality players in any 5-year stretch.  Still a fantastic group with highly elite players at each position.  The depth is certainly more of a question than on other teams.  But I say any team with Chuck Verderber on it is going to be tought to beat.
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Rupp (Classes of 1945-49)
GUARDS: Ralph Beard, Bobby Watson, Cliff Barker
FORWARDS: Wah Wah Jones, Jim Line, Dale Barnstable, Walter Hirsch, Joe Holland, Shelby Linville
CENTERS: Alex Groza, Bill Spivey

-Rupp mostly coached in an era where large classes were hard to come by, so there were not 5 consecutive years with 12 great players, so his roster only gets 11.  Nonetheless, there are a bunch of UK legends in that 5-year span between 1945 and 49, a group of guys that would eventually bring 3 national titles to the school and a gold medal.
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So, who do you got in a game?

Article written by Bryan the Intern

33 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Would you take Cal’s 5-year run of talent over any other era?



  1. Brian
    9:05 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Pitino’s crew blitzes everyone else. To pretend otherwise because he coaches UL would be intellectually dishonest.

    You all remember some of the beatdowns of ’95-’96 right? And even ’92-’93- that FSU team in the Elite 8 was loaded and the Cats blew their doors off by roughly 174 points.



    • Elwood Blues
      9:22 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      I say otherwise because they other players are better, not because I hate Pitino.
      The game has evolved so much that it’s hard to compare. Players now are so much bigger and better than they have ever been, and they will only continue to get better. Cal, easy. Players today are basically genetically engineered.



    • ThatWasntThatLongAgo
      2:20 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Elwood Blues – you act like Pitino’s players were from the great depression. That wasn’t that long ago. There is nothing “genetically” different about players from 1992-1996 than today. That is the most ridicolous thing I have ever heard. Waltet McCarty was an athletic freak of nature, as was Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson. You are either 12 years old or an idiot.



  2. btowncatfan
    9:12 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Assuming they stayed and became upper classmen, Cal’s by a mile. Couldn’t imagine what Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, etc. would be like as juniors and seniors, that would be scary for other teams.



    • David Elswick
      10:03 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Exactly!



  3. Joe B
    9:20 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    I think for the Joe Hall era you have to go with 75-79
    J. Givens
    R Robey
    M. Phillips
    J. Lee
    L Johnson
    J Shidler
    K Macy
    D. Anderson (Dwight)
    S. Bowie
    D Minniefield



    • Not Dan Issel
      9:32 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Joe B’s list is the one to go with. I’d put that group up against any of the others.



    • Not Dan Issel
      9:34 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Two final fours (one runner-up and one championship), one elite eight, and one NIT championship from 1975-78. Not bad at all.



    • lonnieb
      9:49 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      I agree with the guy above that said the players are so much better so its a hard question. The collection of cal’s players would demolish that list of people you just named. The second five…maybe third five of cals players would demonlish that list you just named. BUT. its just different now. For example put calvin johnson on a NFL team in the mid 70’s and it would be like him playing against high school players right now. The best of the best are always better in all sports as time goes along. Too much science and even legal drugs(and illegal) that help get the most out of the players.



    • E
      10:18 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      lonnieB ^^^^^^^^ right on the money



  4. STOOPS TROOPS
    9:20 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    1. Rupp 2. Hall 3. Cal 4. Pitino 5. Billy 6. Sutton



    • E
      10:15 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Are you serious? Boogie, the Brow, and Wall puts Cal over the rest. All Cal’s other recruits are just icing on the cake.



  5. asdf
    9:42 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    If not for the NCAA trouble, look at the team Eddie Sutton could have had at one point had a few things gone differently: Rex Chapman, Shawn Kemp, Eric Manual, Chris Mills, LeRon Ellis, etc. It would have been a super-team!



    • David Elswick
      10:05 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      I agree. Sutton was building a monster team. Besides the players you mentioned, UK was favored to land Harvey Grant, brother of Horace, until the trouble struck.



  6. E
    10:08 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Are you kidding? Wall, Young, Randle, Boogie, and the Brow would pulverize any combo of these players to a bloody pulp. Top it off with Terence Jones as the 6th man? One word comes to mind: DOMINATION. I would put that starting five against the Bucks or the 76ers. This article makes for good debate against any old-timer that is a expert in UK basketball, but these other teams wont stand a chance.



    • Not Dan Issel
      11:18 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      It’s a shame so many of those who post here never saw the Robey, Phillips, Givens, Lee, etc. group play. I repeat, they could play with any of the other groups discussed here.



    • theWilkman
      11:38 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      No, no they wouldn’t. See lonnieb’s comments above. They could play 10 games and not come within 10 points in any of them.



    • theWilkman
      11:39 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      And I’m talking about Cal’s kids.



  7. Delray Wildcat
    10:18 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Tubby doesnt get credit for Rondo?



    • Logan
      11:39 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Thank You



  8. Quartet Fan
    11:17 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Rupp, easy



  9. The Real Pioneer
    11:31 am May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Real disappointed that Troy McKinley was not included on Hall’s group of players for the 5 year stretch. A real crying shame on that one….



  10. catfaninnc
    12:16 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    What, are the Drunks not allowed on your list, BTI?!



  11. RollingCat
    12:32 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    If you your talking about when they were in college, I’d take Pitinos team. But if your talking how good the players for calipari now not the others, Cals team by a mile. Anthone Davis is becoming and might be the best player in the NBA in a couple of years when Lebron starts to fad a little because of age. Next year People think Davis will be right behind Durant in the nba, he’s the best defensive player in the nba. Cousins top 3 center nba. John wall and knight or Bledsoe could be one of the best back courts in the nba. Your talking about a team if they were all I the same team in the nba would win the nba championship easily…



  12. ATB (Always True Blue)
    2:14 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    I’m going to expand BTI’s argument for the newer coaches to be the best players over
    all the other coaches tenure versus Cal’s 5 years,
    I am not including Rupp because #1 I only have limited privvy to their play
    #2, the game has changed so much:

    Guard: Wall – Rondo (not on list) – Turner – Minifield best reserve at pos(Bledsoe)
    Guard: Knight – Bogans – Delk – Masters – best reserve at pos(Lamb)
    SF: MKG – Prince – Toine Walker – SkyWalker – best reserve at pos (Mercer)
    PF: Davis – Hayes – Mash (not on list) – Hord – best reserve at pos(Randle)
    C: Cousins – Parker – Mohammed – Terpin – best backup from any of the groups (Bowie)

    So Cal has two of the top 10 PG’s in the NBA and three of the top 15 playing in the NBA.
    Tubby may have the best when he’s healthy but he’s not in BTI’s list but in mine.

    Tony Delk was the best pure shooter Kentucky ever had in my 40+ years of watching.
    However, Cal has probably the second best pure shooter I can can remember in Lamb.

    SF, all I can say is wow, they were all good, Pitino wins this one.

    PF: I am moving Davis to a PF as he played out of position in college.
    Mash was the single best player I have ever seen in Kentucky blue.
    Davis is probably second best I have ever personally witnessed.
    Randle put’s Cal over the top.

    Finally at Center: Cousins was the best big man of the group without a doubt.
    Terp was a solid second and always had to play with Bowie.
    Actually Hall wins this one in my mind.

    So there you have it, PG – Cal, SG – Pitino, SF: Pitino, PF – Cal, and Center – Hall.

    Total collection – I would have to give it to Cal.



  13. boo boo
    2:54 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Wah Wah Jones — Head and Shoulders THE best athlete ever to compete at UK.

    PERIOD!

    That said….48 to 51 was the most excellent era in Kentucky Basketball.

    I don’t know if it is possible today.

    Wallace Jones was an All America in BOTH football and basketball under Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant.

    That’s nearly untouchable in any era.



  14. boo boo
    2:59 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    “If you your talking about when they were in college, I’d take Pitinos team. But if your talking how good the players for calipari now not the others, Cals team by a mile. Anthone Davis is becoming and might be the best player in the NBA in a couple of years when Lebron starts to fad a little because of age. Next year People think Davis will be right behind Durant in the nba, he’s the best defensive player in the nba. Cousins top 3 center nba. John wall and knight or Bledsoe could be one of the best back courts in the nba. Your talking about a team if they were all I the same team in the nba would win the nba championship easily…”

    That’s all NBA shit. Who gives a f**K!

    This question was about COLLEGE basketball. It was not about NBA basketball. Dumbshit!



  15. Alec
    3:55 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Here is my starting five. 1.John Wall 2.Tony delk 3.James Young 4.Jamal Mashburn 5 Anthony Davis
    Wow talk about 40-0!!!



  16. Rizzodule
    5:01 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Rondo isnt there because he chose to do 5 yr increments due to Cal just finishing his 5th season as Head Coach of the University of KY Wildcats Men’s Basketball Program. As he says above, he chose 1998-2002 to fit in the most talented players. Rondo played from 2004-2006 on teams that really didnt feature any other top talent. To give you an idea, Randolph Morris and Patrick Sparks were probably the best player besides Rondo.



  17. Megan
    5:34 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    I actually was watching the old 96 tournament games a few weeks ago. They were amazing. Better then this year. Sorry but it’s true- rebounds, fast breaks, awesome passes- they blew this team away. This year there was a lot of me yelling ‘COME ON’ at the tv with little screw ups and missed layups/freethrows. That didn’t happen to ’96. Freshmen are still freshmen and it’s only the NBA’s fault they decided to take kids so early, but if you don’t think those same guys playing together 3-4 years would not be better you are crazy. I don’t think they should be forced to, but the college game back then was much more polished and ‘professional’ because they learned each other for years.



  18. gazza90
    5:44 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    “I think if you just go 1 through 10, this roster stacks up pretty well.” This statement is certifiably insane. If one is going to go by achievements while at UK, those players got to ZERO final fours. Only 3 of those players have had decent NBA careers and only 4 really played much at all in the league. A look at the RSCI composite recruiting rankings for the players listed for Tubby shows how much less regarded his recruits were than for all the other coaches mentioned and Sutton:

    Bogans 2
    Stone 6
    Prince 12
    Parker 16
    Camara 31
    Azubuile 33
    Hawkins 42
    Hayes 46
    Allison 61
    Estill 92
    Daniels 137
    Fitch 147
    Moss unranked

    In what way do these guys stack up with Cal’s recruits? They are completely inferior in evey way: UK results, NBA success, and recruiting rank.



  19. UKBB4L
    6:50 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Where’s Rondo?



  20. The Wilkman
    9:03 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    I am a 15 year old boy. I think that I could have outplayed Dan Issel and Sky Walker in their prime, Michael Jordan was not as good as Eric Bledsoe smdh