Kentucky basketball: Best one-and-done Wildcats of the John Calipari era

No program in the country has done a better job recruiting in the one-and-done era, so Kentucky's list of best one-and-done players is tough to crack.
Tennessee v Kentucky
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When the NBA created the rule stating that players had to be one year removed from their high school graduation to enter the NBA draft, the one-and-done era of college basketball was born. No coach was quicker to embrace the five-star freshman and make the most of their one-season layover in college basketball than John Calipari at Kentucky. 

With the emergence of the NBA G League, the growth of overseas leagues, and the influx of European talent into the draft, the one-and-done era has frankly come to an end. Instead, the NIL money in college sports is keeping players who do choose the college route in school longer, and many of the top talents headed for the NBA bypass the NCAA altogether. 

With the veteran talent across the country and the migration of that talent via the transfer portal, it’s harder than ever to build a championship team around freshmen. Calipari did it in 2012 and nearly pulled it off again in 2014 and 2015, so if anyone has a shot, it might be the Wildcats.

Cal is still looking for his second championship at Kentucky and is still building teams with five-star freshmen. The core of the 2023-24 squad is five freshmen, Reed Sheppard, D.J. Wagner, Justin Edwards, Rob Dillingham, and Aaron Bradshaw. This could be the year that he finally climbs back to the mountaintop, or at least win the SEC.

Either way, we know that Kentucky will continue to be a roaring pipeline of talent to the NBA, and no coach can boast a better list of one-and-done talent in the entire country. These are the best one-and-done players of the John Calipari era at Kentucky. 

The ranking has a heavier emphasis on their impact at Kentucky over their NBA career. That leaves off a few former Wildcats who are in the NBA right now, like Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo, Tyrese Maxey, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson among others. There also wasn’t enough room for a few former NBA players; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Eric Bledsoe, Marquis Teague, Nerlens Noel, James Young, and Archie Goodwin to name a few. 

528. Kentucky basketball one-and-done player rankings. 2016-17. 10. Malik Monk. player. . Malik Monk. . Shooting guard

PPG: 19.8 APG: 2.3 RPG: 2.5

Awards: Consensus All-American, SEC Player of the Year, All-SEC, SEC Rookie of the Year, SEC All-Freshman

At the start of the 2016-17 season, Malik Monk was the superstar freshman on the Kentucky roster and across the country. He was the Batman to De'Aaron Fox's Robin, but that flipped by the end of the year.

Even though Monk was the one named an All-American, Fox was clearly the best player on Kentucky's roster and that drops Monk in the rankings for me despite his great numbers and bevy of accomplishments.

His career didn't take off in the NBA after Charlotte drafted him 11th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, but he's found a home coming off the bench for Fox's Sacramento Kings.