College Courtside

For The Love Of College Basketball

All-Time Kentucky teams (with a twist)

Posted by sawdog on January 4, 2012

Online yesterday I saw this thread on the Cats Illustrated message boards and, as usual, I thought participating in this would be a lot of fun.  Kudos to trueblue#1 for a neat idea.

The challenge is this: create an All-time best Kentucky Starting 5 while only being able to take one player from each of Kentucky’s previous five coaches.  Those coaches include John Calapari, Billy Gillispie, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, and Eddie Sutton.  Any player you choose simply had to play at least one season under that coach.  If a player played for two different coaches such as Patrick Patterson (Gillispie and Calipari), you could use him for either coach.

Finally, we had to set a concept for our picks.  Are we building this team based on the premonition that this starting 5 will compete against other great teams around the world?  Or are we building our starting 5 based largely on career achievements?  You may take a guy like Rajon Rondo with the former, but Wayne Turner for the latter.  That kind of thing.  To clear any confusion A-Train and I agreed to build two different teams based on both criterions.  First, we’ll post our all-time starting five that we would put up against anyone, and take some time to discuss our logic.  Lastly, we’ll briefly note our all-time starting 5 based on a great career coupled with the idea that these guys are all-time greats partly because of their heart and soul, and their pride in wearing the blue and white uniform.

Sawdog’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (from the last five UK coaches):

PG   Rajon Rondo  (Smith)
SG   Jodie Meeks  (Gillispie)
SF   Jamal Mashburn  (Pitino)
PF   Kenny Walker  (Sutton)
C     Anthony Davis  (Calipari)

When you play a game like this you have to first ask yourself “who would I take from the short two year stint of Billy Gillispie?”  Well, it’s either Jodie Meeks or Patrick Patterson.  I hate leaving Pat off my list, but with Kenny Walker available from the Sutton years it becomes a little less painful.  I considered what it would be like to take Tony Delk as my SG and go with Patterson instead of Walker, but that would mean leaving off my favorite UK player of all time Jamal Mashburn (who, like Delk, played for Pitino).  I couldn’t dream of doing that.  Mashburn was a terrifying college player.  Mashburn shot 3’s with the skill and confidence of Delk or Meeks, but was 6’8 and 240 lbs.  You weren’t going to block him.  Ever.  But it was his presence on offense–the ability to pass and shoot equally well–that made him a first team All-American and my no brainer for Small Forward on my starting 5.  So once I knew Mashburn, Meeks and Walker were my core I looked for point guard and center.  And I had to choose those two positions from the Tubby Smith and John Calipari eras.  The center position was easy.  Anthony Davis.  You may argue he’s not developed enough, or he’s not a multi-skilled threat, but it doesn’t matter.  Basketball is as much defense as it is offense, and Davis is a freakish athletic talent with uncanny shot-blocking skills and patience.  He is literally a threat on every possession to block a weakside shot attempt.  He and Walker form a kind of skinny frontline, but Walker played with the aggression of a bigger man while Davis can give pounds away due to his ridiculous length.  That left point guard from the Tubby Smith era, and luckily this was one of the bright spot positions during his tenure.  I could go with Wayne Turner or Rajon Rondo.  I went with Rondo.  I had a deadeye shooter in Meeks in my backcourt, so I went with the guy who was super fast with the basketball and incredible on defense.  He doesn’t have to shoot well for us to win.  Not with Mashburn’s all around arsenal and the firepower of Meeks.  I like the look of this starting 5 a lot.

Sawdog’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (great play coupled with embodying the UK uniform):

PG  Wayne Turner   (Smith)
SG  Rex Chapman   (Sutton)
SF  Jamal Mashburn   (Pitino)
PF  Patrick Patterson   (Gillispie)
C   Josh Harrellson   (Calipari)

I found this little exercise to be much more difficult. Career achievements and “representing the UK spirit” is a little more difficult to examine. It all, again, starts with the Gillispie era. I could have taken Patterson from the Calipari era, but I would have been left with Meeks from the Gillispie years. While Meeks is certainly a nice choice, there are other shooting guards in my opinion that best capture all time team successes and servitude to the uniform, such as Tony Delk and Rex Chapman. Since Meeks wasn’t the perfect fit at SG I went with a no-brainer fit at PF with Patrick Patterson. What a warrior. Has there ever been a more loyal, mature soldier wearing Kentucky blue than Patrick Patterson? He was an astounding freshman for Billy Gillispie, followed by a sophomore trooper that played through various injuries but never complained, even as Gillispie’s antics threatened to derail everything Patterson was fighting for. He then as a junior received a new roster full of teammmates with the addition of John Calipari, but soldiered on and played the role asked of him to allow the team to develop. I cannot possibly say enough about Patrick Patterson! Although I wanted Tony Delk badly, I could not pass up Mashburn from the Pitino years. Again, tremendous all-american talent but you have to also consider–for this exercise–his decision to come to Kentucky under dire circumstances and also his generous donations to the school immediately after signing his NBA rookie contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Great man, great player. Starting Small Forward. Unable to take Tony Delk because of the Mashburn selection, and unable to take Kenny Walker because of the Patterson selection, shooting guard fell into the lap of King Rex. Perhaps no player has so perfectly fit the definition of “shooting” guard. Beautiful shot, deadly accuracy. Incredible athleticism. Kentucky born. King Rex at shooting guard from the Sutton years was the next obvious choice. So again, I was left with point guard and center. I considered Jamal Magloire and Nazr Mohammed at center, but wasn’t crazy about the “careers”, obviously, of Calipari’s point guards. I was, however, crazy about the career of Josh Harrellson at center. Last season Harrellson put on one of the greatest individual transformations in school history, going from uninterested backup to DeMarcus Cousins as a junior to featured center and glue guy for a team that made the Final Four. Harrellson embodies what Calipari has preached since day one–you get what you earn. And that self-determination and improvement will endure a lot of fans, thus making him my easy pick from the Calipari era.

A-Train’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (from the last five UK coaches):

PG  Rajon Rondo  (Smith)
SG   Rex Chapman   (Sutton)
SF   Michael Kidd-Gilchrist   (Calipari)
PF   Jamal Mashburn   (Pitino)
C     Patrick Patterson   (Gillispie)

I’m going chronologically…

Sutton – Chapman, still in my mind the best 2 we’ve had at UK, super athletic and proved not only in college but also in the pro’s that he could and WOULD take the big shot and nail it. Only 2 other possibilities for this spot in my mind, one being Shawn Kemp who I’m presuming to be ineligible since he never actually suited up for UK. The other being Kenny Walker who despite being a stud I feel has more competition for his spot on this team than Rex does.

Pitino – Mashburn, hardest part about this pick is where to play him. At the 4 he’s a nightmare for the slower post players, out on the wing at 3 he’s a post up mis-match. Will opt for the 4 in order to hide his defensive liabilities. Also, just let that first sentence marinate for a minute. Pitino coached what in my mind is the most talented college team to ever play and I’m taking Mashburn over any of those guys.

Tubby – Rondo, this is where the tough calls came in. Once we clarified which type of team we were going for it made this a little more distinct if not easier. This guy is a match up problem with his length and absurd athleticism. One of the best on ball defenders ever at UK. And also the toughest addition to this team because of who I had to leave off.

Gillespie – Patterson, a true gamer and he’ll have to be cuz he’s manning the 5 for this team. Something he did and did well in his time at UK. He can do a little bit of everything and other than Mash is the only real post up guy I took.

Calipari – Kidd-Gilchrist, this was kind of a tough call for me. I ended up going with him over Wall because in reality, what CAN’T this guy do? He is one of the toughest, and possibly THE toughest, defenders we’ve seen at UK and brings the kind of competitive fire that just plain wins games.

A-Train’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (great play coupled with embodying the UK uniform):

PG   John Wall   (Calipari)
SG   Tony Delk   (Pitino)
SF   Darius Miller   (Gillispie)
PF   Kenny Walker   (Sutton)
C     Chuck Hayes   (Smith)

Sutton – Kenny Walker, his nickname was Sky for crying out loud. Threw down some nasty dunks and ended up 2nd all-time in scoring at UK.

Pitino – Tony Delk, stone cold shooter/scorer who will forever have a place in my heart.

Tubby – Chuck Hayes, this guy had more heart than a lot of TEAMS. A true warrior.

Gillispie – Darius Miller, classic underrated guy, does EVERYTHING well but nothing “great”, plus he’s a hometown kid like Rex.

Calipari – John Wall, another guy that brought some pride back to the bluegrass after a very dark time. Needless to say one of the best athletes ever to don the blue and white.


One Response to “All-Time Kentucky teams (with a twist)”

  1. […] All-Time Kentucky teams (with a twist) // College Courtside […]

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