Despite head coach John Calipari frequently being chastised for having a one and done program, it is undeniable that the Lexington, Kentucky-based Kentucky Wildcats churn out NBA-caliber players annually. Moreover, a number of these players (especially in recent memory) have not just been first round picks, but have been lottery picks.
Calipari's heard his fair share of criticism about being unable to have his recruits stay longer than a year. But, as Calipari tells it, "if it's your son, you want him out in a year to go to the NBA. If it's someone else's son, you want him in for four years. Look, I'm for the kids. Whatever's best for them, I'm all in". Based on Calipari's statement, its hard to tell one of your players that it's better to stay in school as opposed to receiving a seven-figure payday.
However, some of these players clearly weren't ready for that seven-figure payday and likely jeopardized potential future paydays. Here, we look at ten Wildcats that made Kentucky proud and five that did not.
15 PROUD: DeMarcus Cousins
Arguably the NBA's most polarizing current player, DeMarcus Cousins has not left his bad boy antics behind in Sacramento since being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Instead, Cousins has made media rounds for two profane incidents involving fans. In the first, Cousins told a fan to "sit your fat a** down". In the second, Cousins told a fan to, "suck a d**k b***h". While Cousins may have some work (or maybe a lot of work) to do on his character, his skills on the NBA hardwood cannot be debated. Cousins is a double-double machine who has career averages of 21.0 PPG and 10.8 RPG in his six plus years in the NBA. Cousins is no longer the face of the franchise in New Orleans (that honor belongs to Anthony Davis) as he was in Sacramento, but he is still among one of the NBA's brightest stars and one that the Lexington, Kentucky faithful are proud to say donned a Wildcat uniform in college.
14 PROUD: Devin Booker
While Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns stole the majority of headlines (and rightfully so) for the rookie class of the 2015 NBA Draft, Towns' former Wildcat teammate, Devin Booker put together a promising inaugural season in his own right. Booker averaged 13.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 2.6 APG as a rook and has only built on that as a sophomore. Booker's currently averaging 20.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 3.2 APG, as he's not just establishing himself as the go-to scorer for the Phoenix Suns, but as one of the league's brightest youngsters at the two-guard spot. Booker is only twenty and while the majority of his contributions come in the scoring department, it is important to note just how dominant he is at getting bucks at such a ripe age. The best is to come from Booker and it shouldn't be a shocker if he becomes one of the league's highest scorers in a few years.
13 NOT PROUD: Skal Labissière
The expectations for Skal Labissiere were sky high when he committed to Kentucky; he was rated a five-star prospect by 247 Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout. If that wasn't enough, Kentucky Wildcats Head Coach John Calipari thought Labissiere had the ability to become the second coming of Anthony Davis. Well, Labissiere wasn't exactly the second coming of Davis; on the other hand, he was nowhere close to showing the potential Davis had shown. Instead, Labissiere averaged a mediocre 6.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG before declaring for the NBA. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns twenty-eighth overall in the 2016 NBA Draft and his career in the NBA has been underwhelming thus far. In his second season, Labissiere has bounced around the NBA and the D-League playing for the Sacramento Kings and Reno Bighorns.
12 PROUD: Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker has had his fair share of problems off the court, most notable among them being filing for bankruptcy in 2010. In addition, Walker also pled guilty to writing a bad check to a casino to which he owed over $800,000. Now, out with the bad and in with the good! Walker had a predominantly successful NBA career, mostly in Beantown with the Boston Celtics. In his first seven seasons with the NBA's winningest franchise of all time, Walker averaged 20+ PPG in five seasons and never averaged less than 17.5 PPG. While Walker and fellow Celtic Paul Pierce formed when of the NBA's best duos in the Eastern Conference in the early-2000s, the two were never able to make it to the NBA Finals. Lucky for Walker, he won that elusive ring in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat. As for Pierce, he won one of his own with the Cs in 2008.
11 PROUD: Eric Bledsoe
Phoenix Suns speedster point guard Eric Bledsoe is no stranger to being overlooked by another playmaker on his own team. In his lone season in Kentucky blue, Bledsoe was overshadowed by John Wall (more on him later). In his first three seasons in the NBA, Bledsoe was overshadowed by State Farm Insurance spokesperson and one of the league's best playmakers, Chris Paul. After spending three seasons in the City of Angels backing up CP3, Bledsoe was traded to the "Valley of the Sun" to join the Phoenix Suns. Having an opportunity to man the starting PG reigns, Bledsoe has not disappointed. Bledsoe hasn't averaged less than 17.0 PPG or 5.5 APG since joining the Robert Sarver-owned team. Furthermore, Bledsoe is having a career year averaging 21.1 PPG and 6.3 APG, which are both the highest totals of his career.
10 NOT PROUD: Ron Mercer
Ron Mercer had two memorable years at Kentucky. In his first, Kentucky won the National Championship. In his second, Mercer was named the SEC Player of the Year. He was drafted sixth overall by the Boston Celtics in 1997 and played well while donning green and white. In 2 1/2 years in Beantown, Mercer averaged 16.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2.6 APG. Mercer went on to play well in his next three stops in Denver, Orlando and Chicago as well. But, his next three stops were the complete opposite. After being traded to the Indiana Pacers from the Chicago Bulls, Mercer saw his scoring dip drastically from 16.8 to 4.8 PPG. He would never average double digits again. Before the 2005-2006 NBA season began, Mercer's then-team, the New Jersey Nets released him to avoid paying the league's luxury tax. Mercer hasn't played since and his rapid decline is something that only Mercer has the answer for.
9 PROUD: Rajon Rondo
Giving DeMarcus Cousins a run for his money for the most enigmatic Kentucky Wildcat, Rajon Rondo's experienced a number of highs and lows during his career that his spanned over a decade. Rondo experienced immediate success winning an NBA Championship in just his second year and was establishing himself as a better passer year by year. However, ever since being traded from the Boston Celtics to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2014-2015 season, Rondo's experienced more lows than highs. For one, his tenure in Dallas was nothing short of abysmal as he clashed with coach Rick Carlisle and was even benched during the playoffs! He's since clashed with new coach Fred Hoiberg in Chicago and received a benching as a result of it as well. Rondo's talent is unquestionable, but he clearly needs the proper fit like he did in Boston in order to play to his full potential.
8 PROUD: Karl-Anthony Towns
Unlike DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns possesses a demeanor that is about is mild-mannered as their is for a franchise cornerstone in the NBA. The Piscataway, New Jersey native is in his second year in the NBA and has piggybacked off his impressive rookie campaign to parlay it into an even more impressive sophomore season. Posting averages of 24.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG and 1.3 BPG, Towns has upped his scoring by just shy of six points more per game along with upping his boards average by two as well. At twenty-one years of age, it's scary to see Towns playing at the level he is and unless you're a Timberwolves fan, the Dominican-American center is poised to give you and your favorite team headaches for years to come.
7 NOT PROUD: Aaron and Andrew Harrison
Along with the likes of Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins, Aaron and Andrew Harrison were regarded as top five prospects for the class of 2013. The twin guards were productive in college, although nowhere near productive to the point where they lived up to their top five prospect ranking. Aaron Harrison finished his career at Kansas averaging 12.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 1.6 APG. Andrew Harrison posted averages of 10.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 3.8 APG in his two seasons with the program. The twins underachieved in college and it showed on draft night in 2015 as Aaron went undrafted and Andrew was drafted forty-fifth by the Phoenix Suns. Aaron's bounced along the D-League and is currently with his forth team in the league. Andrew's recently found a home with the Memphis Grizzlies. These aren't exactly the careers either the twins or their alma mater's fans had envisioned.
6 PROUD: Pat Riley
Despite being drafted seventh overall in 1967, Pat Riley never amounted to much as a player in the NBA. In his nine seasons at the pro level, Riley only averaged double digits once and finished his career with a 7.4 PPG across those nine years. The guard didn't fare better dishing the rock or grabbing boards either as he averaged a paltry 1.7 and 1.6 respectively in both departments. Riley wasn't much of a player in the NBA, but he's one hell of a coach and one hell of an executive. Riley won four rings with the "Showtime Lakers" as a head coach in the eighties and also won one on the sidelines for the Miami Heat in 2006. But, it doesn't end there. Riley has also won three rings as the President of the Miami Heat.
5 PROUD: Jamal Mashburn
Should Kentucky Wildcats fans be more proud of Jamal Mashburn for what he did on the court or what he did off the court? You be the judge. In his eleven years in the NBA, Mashburn proved to be a prolific scorer for all of the clubs he played for - the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets. Mashburn finished his NBA career averaging 19.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 4.0 APG and wasn't too shabby from behind the arc either. Once his NBA days were over, Mashburn took a page out of Jay-Z's book and showcased that he "wasn't a businessman, but (I'm) a BUSINESS MAN". Mashburn has demonstrated his understanding of the game for ESPN as an analyst in the past and has gone on to own over three dozen Outback Steakhouse and Papa John's pizzerias. Owning restaurants isn't the only thing Mashburn can add to his post NBA resume; he owns car dealerships as well! How can Wildcats fans not be proud of "Monster Mash"?
4 NOT PROUD: Rex Chapman
Rex Chapman had a good two-year career at Kentucky; Chapman had a good twelve-year career in the NBA. So, why exactly did he not make the program proud? In 2014, Chapman made the boneheaded decision of shoplifting over $14,000 worth of goods from an Apple store in Scottsdale, Arizona. Earth to Chapman: you played the bulk of your career in neighboring Phoenix; you're a former NBA player; you stand 6'4''; you've amassed millions of dollars throughout your playing days! Yet, you resort to shoplifting. Unsurprisingly, Chapman wasn't hard to identify. The following year Chapman checked into rehab in Lexington, Kentucky as a result of battling an addiction to prescription pain killers for close to two decades. Clearly, Chapman has a number of demons he's faced in the past and continues to in present day.
3 PROUD: John Wall
The face of the Washington Wizards, John Wall, continues to improve annually as he ranks among the NBA's best point guards (which is no easy feat considering the talent at PG is greater than it's ever been in the NBA). Wall's having the best year of his career as he's averaging 22.9 PPG, 10.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG. Wall is averaging 20+ PPG for the first time in his career and his assist and steals total are also the highest of his career. Wall's also added four straight selections to the NBA All-Star team to his resume and is a part of one of the NBA's most deadly backcourts, even if he and Bradley Beal have a "tendency to dislike each other on the court") as Wall puts it. At just twenty-six and improving annually, it's hard to imagine that fans have seen the best version of Wall.
2 PROUD: Anthony Davis
While "Boogie" Cousins is not just one of the best big men in the NBA, he's not even the best big man on his own team! And that's no dig at Boogie. The twenty-four year old by way of Chicago, Illinois by the name of Anthony Davis holds that honor. Selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis has improved annually and it seems like the only thing that can stop him are the minor nagging injuries that he experiences year in and year out. The Pelicans have struggled to establish themselves as a threat in the West Coast, but Davis is not to blame. Davis is having a career year as he's posting averages of 27.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 2.3 BPG, with the former two being career highs. By the way, did we mention he's only twenty-four?! The best is yet to come for "The Brow".
1 NOT PROUD: Walter McCarty
In today's college landscape you'd be hard-pressed to find a player that played four years of college basketball, let alone played four years of college basketball at Kentucky. However, in the eighties and nineties it was much more common to see a player play out his full four years of college eligibility. Walter McCarty was one of those players that played out his full four years. McCarty had a serviceable eight-year career in the NBA, primarily with the Boston Celtics. However, McCarty never materialized into anything more than a bench player. McCarty never averaged double digits and despite being 6'10'', he never averaged over 4.4 RPG for a season. McCarty never evolved into a dominating starting PF in the NBA that many of the "Big Blue Nation's" fans thought he would, as he was nothing more than a mere role player.
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