From Kentucky, with love, to the NBA
Kentucky coach John Calipari was bouncing from table to table, flashing an endless smile into just about any camera that made its way within 10 feet, in an attempt to garner as much face time as possible during Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
It was almost as though Calipari were on a photo shoot as he watched an unprecedented five Kentucky players come off the board in the first round.
His starting point guard, John Wall, went first overall to Washington. His enigmatic big man, DeMarcus Cousins, was taken four picks later by Sacramento. Patrick Patterson, the rock-solid power forward, went 14th to Houston and talented guard Eric Bledsoe, forced to play shooting guard because of Wall, was taken 18th and traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Even Daniel Orton, who came off the bench and averaged a whopping three points and three boards, managed to be taken by Orlando with the second-to-last pick in the first round despite questions about his knees, character, work ethic and family.
It was considered unfathomable, especially in this day and age in which the wealth is spread around. Five players from the same school going in the opening round?
It had never happened in the history of the NBA Draft.
"For a program that makes history pretty regularly, Thursday night was truly a historic evening,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. "An unprecedented FIVE Wildcats were chosen in the 1st round of the 2010 NBA Draft. I am so proud of John, DeMarcus, Patrick, Eric and Daniel and I love the way they have represented our University, our program and the Big Blue Nation.”
It was a night to celebrate for Calipari and Kentucky fans.
A night to be proud of being a UK fan and a time to, once again, stick out their chests.
Just think that this was the same Kentucky program that was in the NIT just two seasons ago and was crucified under the watch of former coach Billy Gillispie.
The scary part is that Calipari is just getting started.
As long as he sticks around in Lexington, you’d better get used to the Wildcats coach parading around the side of the stage on Draft night as if he were a political candidate running for office.
It’s going to be an annual rite of passage.
There’s no such thing as a rebuilding process with the combo of Calipari’s recruiting prowess and the power of Big Blue Nation.
Calipari already has re-loaded for next season. He may not have a top-five preseason team in the nation this year (that honor belongs to the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils), but Calipari has brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the country for a second consecutive season.
Next year Calipari will, in all likelihood, be sitting at a table with Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter or maybe even Terrence Jones. The trio has a chance to be taken in the first round — and all three could even become lottery picks after just one season in college.
Then Calipari will be grinning in 2012 at the Theater in Madison Square Garden while hugging Michael Gilchrist, the near-unanimous top-ranked player in the Class of 2011, elite point guard Marquis Teague and probably another Player to Be Determined or two who have yet to commit to the Wildcats.
I have no clue who it’ll be three years from now, but as long as Calipari is still coaching at the school with the nation’s most vocal and passionate college hoops fan base, he’ll have someone.
There are college coaches who will never be blessed to coach a single first-round pick in their entire careers.
Others, such as Georgetown’s John Thompson III, make occasional appearances at the NBA Draft in support of their players.
Calipari was truly blessed to have a handful of first-rounders on his team this past season.
Somehow, it also was a group that wasn’t able to advance to the Final Four.