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The Great Kentucky 'Haul' (a cautionary tale)
by Larry Ness - 06/25/2010
Everyone knew that John Wall would be taken first by the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, making him Kentucky's first-ever overall No. 1 pick in NBA draft history. Considering that the last two Calipari-coached point guards (Jalen Rose and Tyreke Evans) have also been the last two rookie-of-the-year winners, few could argue with the pick or against that Wall will be able to step in immediately and contribute (maybe even be a star?). However, Wall was hardly the only Wildcat to hear his name called before the first round was over.
Three times before, in 2006 (U Conn), 2005 (North Carolina) and 1999 (Duke), schools saw four of their players drafted in the first round. However, Kentucky did those schools one better in the 2010 draft, as five players from the Wildcats' 2009-2010 team were drafted before the first round was over. Following Wall came DeMarcus Cousins (5th to Sacramento), Patrick Patterson (14th to Houston), Eric Bledose (18th to Oklahoma City but traded to the Clippers) and Daniel Orton (29th to Orlando). Calipari called it "the greatest night in Kentucky history."
I wonder if Kentucky fans would agree? In fact, I doubt I'm going very far out on a limb here by guessing that most of the Kentucky faithful would rank days in the years 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996 and 1998 ahead of June 24, 12010. Of course, those years represent the ones in which Kentucky captured the NCAA tournament, winning the national championship. Calipari's 2009-2010 team lost 73-66 to West Virginia in the Regional Final this past March, falling three wins shy of the school's eighth national championship. For the record, Wall scored 19 points with nine rebounds and five assists vs West Va, Cousins had 15 points and eight rebounds, Patterson eight points and 13 rebounds (made 3-of-7 FGs), Bledsoe had seven points (3-of-9 FGs) and Orton went scoreless without a rebound in nine minutes (averaged just 3.4-3.3 on the year while playing 13.2 MPG).
A check of the history book reveals that we had better not expect too much form this Kentucky group. The 1999 Duke "group of four" consisted of Elton Brand (1st), Trajan Langdon (11th), Corey Maggette (13th) and William Avery (14th). Brand was a terrific player his first eight seasons (20.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG) but his career looks all but over after these last two years with the 76ers. Langdon's career lasted just three seasons (119 games) and with a 5.4 PPG average. Maggette's had a solid career (16.6-5.1) but Avery was a complete bust, as he averaged 2.7 PPG and 1.4 APG in 142 NBA games over three seasons with the Timberwolves.
The 2005 North Carolina group consisted of Marvin Williams (2nd), Raymond Felton (5th), Sean May (13th) and Rashad McCants (14th). Williams is a solid (he's started the last four seasons) but unspectacular player for the Hawks, averaging 11.9-5.4 in his career (the second overall pick?). Felton started 54 of 80 games as a rookie and has been a regular since for the Bobcats, averaging 13.3 PPG and 6.4 APG. May's career has been injury-marred (missed all of the 07-08 year), playing in just 119 games (25 starts) with career averages of 6.9 PPG and 4.0 RPG. McCants has started just 39 of 249 games, averaging 10.0 PPG.
The U Conn group consisted of Rudy Gay (8th), Hilton Armstrong (12th), Marcus Williams (22nd) and Josh Boone (23rd). Gay has developed into an excellent player, averaging 20.1, 18.9 and 19.6 PPG the last three seasons. Armstrong's career is going nowhere fast, as he's started just 37 of 224 career games (3.4 PPG plus 2.6 RPG) and last year played for three teams (Hornets, Kings and Rockets). Williams has started just 10 of 203 career games, owning averages of 5.6 PPG and 2.8 APG. Boone has started 88 of his 256 games, owning averages of 5.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG
Getting back to this year's "Kentucky-Five," just what can we expect? I'll let "you make the call" but a word to the wise. After Wall, keep your expectations low.