Kentucky players: NBA All-Star team adds snubbed Booker after Davis, Randle

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari without a doubt gets players to the NBA, but after that, it’s up to them to shine.

Shining examples this year Julius Randle, Anthony Davis, and Devin Booker were all named to this year’s NBA All-Star team. Davis and Randall were announced on Tuesday and Booker’s name added on Wednesday after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Booker would be replacing Davis on the Western Conference team due to injury.

For Davis, it marked the eighth time that he has been selected which is the most all-time by any former Kentucky player. However, he is out while recovering from a strained right calf and Achilles tendinosis.

Davis is in his ninth season in the NBA and second for the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. LA sits second in the Western Conference standings with a 22-10 overall record. He is the team’s second-leading scorer and leader in rebounds, blocks, and steals per game.

In 2017, Davis won MVP honors by scoring an All-Star Game record 52 points in addition to contributing 10 rebounds. He broke Wilt Chamberlain’s previous scoring record of 42 points set in 1962.

Named the 2012 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the 2012 national championship, Davis has already put together a long list of accolades in the NBA during his short career.

Among his most noteworthy achievements, he’s a four-time All-NBA First Team selection (2015, 2017, 2018, and 2020) and made the NBA All-Rookie Team in 2013. He was considered the consensus national player of the year in 2012 before being drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans (formerly the New Orleans Hornets) in 2012.

This is the eighth straight season the Wildcats have led the country in All-Star selections (tied or led outright).

While it’s bittersweet that all three were not actually selected and would have played together it was redemption for Booker who was snubbed by NBA coaches by not picking him for a reserve role. Thus Silver stepped up and made the right call.

When Booker’s name was called during the starting lineup announcement in Phoenix on Wednesday it was met with a thundering ovation from the home crowd.

Booker has been in the league six seasons and is now making his second All-Star appearance.

After the dissing by coaches to put him on the team to begin with LeBron James came to his defense saying “Devin Booker is the most disrespected player in our league. Simple as that.”

However, if that is the case and he should have been on the team in the first place who would LeBron who is the captain of the West squad, left off? Just asking.

During this season Booker is averaging 24.7 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds a game while shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. The numbers may be down a tad but that’s because the Suns added veteran point guard Chris Paul who has taken a big load off Booker and allowed him to be more versatile. That has helped the Suns get off to a 20-10 start. Paul is also an All-Star.

Booker was a member of the UK team everyone across college basketball watched as the Wildcats became the first in collegiate history to begin the season 38-0 and eventually reached the 2015 Final Four. He was also the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year winner.

In 2020, Booker became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to score 7,000 career points. He also scored 70 points in a game in his second season in the league.

As for Randle, it is hard to believe this is his first All-Star selection.

Playing in the Eastern Conference Randle has the surprising New York Knicks off to a 15-16 record and in seventh-place. He’s been the centerpiece to the resurgence for Tom Thibodeau in his first season as head coach. Randle is averaging team bests in points per game (23.2), rebounds (11.0), and assists (5.5).

The former Wildcat started in all 40 games for UK in 2014 en route to an NCAA championship game appearance following one of the most memorable runs in postseason history. He led the team with 15.0 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. Randle set the UK single-season freshman record in rebounds (417), double-doubles (24), and made free throws (204). His 24 double-doubles also led the nation that season.

Randle was an All-America Third Team selection by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, United States Basketball Writers Association, and the Associated Press. He was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Year and was an All-SEC First Team selection. He was also a member of the Midwest Region NCAA All-Tournament Team and the Final Four NCAA All-Tournament Team.

In the 11-plus seasons of the Calipari era at Kentucky, he has had 41 players selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 31 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and John Wall), and 21 lottery selections. A staggering 31 players from Kentucky were on 2020-21 NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive lists), the most of any school.

The 70th NBA All-Star game will be on March 7 and teams will be set by the All-Star starters who led their respective conferences in fan votes during NBA All-Star voting. James and Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets) will serve as this year’s captains and select their teams from the pool of players on March 4 at 8 p.m. on TNT.