It’s the summer. And even though the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball schedule was released on Wednesday, there’s not a lot of news. Which makes this a perfect time for barbershop style debates. The first in this serious may be one of the hardest: If you could pick a starting five from any former (or current) UK players, who would you start with?
Here’s my list:
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo. His two years in Lexington are viewed, by some, as a disappointment, especially in light of how phenomenal his NBA career has been. But when you really examine his numbers, it’s easier to appreciate how talented and what an overall great player he was. As a freshman, he set the UK single season record for steals at 87, getting at least one in every game. As a sophomore, Rondo averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals a game for a team that most people feel generally underachieved. Even though his teams didn’t win at a rate that most in the Big Blue Nation expected, Rondo’s versatility (25 points vs. Louisville, 19 rebounds vs. Iowa as a soph) is something that cannot be completely ignored.
Honorable Mentions: John Wall, Wayne Turner, Anthony Epps, Brandon Knight
Shooting Guard: Keith Bogans. In my opinion, he’s one of the most overlooked players in the history of Kentucky hoops. He’s the fourth all time leading scorer in school history. Bogans made the All-SEC Freshmen Team, was All-SEC second team and made the All-SEC Tournament team as a sophomore, and after a somewhat disappointing junior season, Keith was a 3rd team All-American, All-SEC first team and SEC Player of the Year as a senior. Also during his senior year, he led the Wildcats on a 26 game winning streak as UK became the first team in SEC history to go undefeated throughout conference play and the conference tournament. Despite turning his ankle earlier in the NCAA Tournament, he still scored 15 points in the Elite Eight loss to Marquette. What if Keith Bogans was healthy in that Elite Eight game?
Honorable Mentions: Tony Delk, Rex Chapman, Doron Lamb, Jodie Meeks
Small Forward: Jamal Mashburn. The Monster Mash is probably the easiest selection on this list. His recruitment led to the Cats back to the top of the college basketball world. His numbers are solid. Mashburn could score inside and out. He could pass. He could simply dominate the game in so many ways, things that showed up in the boxscore and those that did not. And even though he wasn’t able to bring home a national title, his impact on the Kentucky program and his overall talent cannot be understated.
Honorable Mentions: Jack Givens, Tayshaun Prince, Kenny Walker, Pat Riley
Power Forward: Dan Issel. Another relatively easy choice. Issel is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the history of the program. He led UK to three straight SEC titles. His 53 points in a single game (vs. Mississippi in 1970) stood as UK’s single game record until Jodie Meeks broke it in 2009 (54 points vs. Tennessee). His 25.7 points per game average is far and away the best in school history. Issel was a two time All American, three time NCAA All-SEC first team selection and was also named to the NCAA Tournament All-Regional Team three times. When Dan Issel graduated from UK, he was the holder of 23 school records.
Honorable Mentions: Cotton Nash, Cliff Hagan, Melvin Turpin, Patrick Patterson
Center: Anthony Davis. Yes, he was only in the Blue and White for one season, but what a season it was. Davis set the school single season record for blocks in leading the Wildcats to the 2012 national title. Davis was the SEC and National Player of the Year. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year. He was the National Freshman of the Year. In short, he produced one of the most decorated individual seasons in UK history while leading the Wildcats to a school record 38 wins. And, he is perhaps the most unique player in UK history. Davis was the 2012 NCAA Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player despite only scoring 6 points in the championship game against Kansas he did have 16 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, however).
Honorable Mentions: Sam Bowie, Rick Robey, DeMarcus Cousins
With a tradtion as rich as UK’s, I know there are some players that I have overlooked or omitted. However, I feel that a starting five of Rondo, Bogans, Mashburn, Issel and Davis is a pretty good team to trot out and take on any other collegiate historical team. Wanna tell me I’m right or that I’m out of my mind? Be sure to comment or hit me on Twitter – @TBrown_80 .