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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, who do you got in a game?