John Calipari took over a Kentucky program that was at its lowest point in years. The aftermath of the Billy Gillespie days looked to be a daunting task for Calipari to repair. He was coming off an impressive stretch of years at Memphis and had hype surrounding the UK program for the first time since Tubby’s championship.
The charismatic Calipari turned Kentucky into a hot-spot for elite recruits to make their way to the NBA. In doing this, Kentucky was able to have a ton of amazing players come through Rupp Arena.
This is my personal opinion of Kentucky’s All-Decade team. I’ll be doing a “first-team all-decade” and a “second team all-decade” because I feel as if a bunch of players deserves recognition.
Kentucky First Team All-Decade: Backcourt
Point Guard: Tyler Ulis
With all of the amazing Point Guards to come through Kentucky and become NBA stars, this selection may confuse some casual fans. The thing is, none of Calipari’s point guards have been as effective and efficient as the 5’9 Floor General, Tyler Ulis. Tyler was one of the shorter PG’s in the country, but that didn’t matter. His ability to run the offense, pass the ball, and get a bucket whenever needed makes him one of the most valuable players of this decade for Kentucky. Ulis never turned the ball over. He was one of the best passers in the country. He also won the Cousy award for the nation’s best PG in his sophomore year. Tyler was an efficient shooter and a sneaky finisher. Ulis is a Kentucky legend.
Shooting Guard: Doron Lamb
Doron Lamb was part of the same draft class as Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. He had a solid freshman season but returned to Kentucky for a 2nd year in 2012. In that season, Lamb proved to be one of the best 3 point shooters in college basketball history. He was an extremely important piece in winning the national championship, even earning Player of the Game in the championship. To this day, he still holds the highest 3pt% of any player in the Calipari era, shooting 47% from three.
Small Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
MKG was one of the greatest defenders in the NCAA during his one year at Kentucky. He was an amazing finisher and physical rebounder. His lack of a jump shot didn’t matter in college because he imposed his will in the post or while driving to the basket. As a wing, he also had excellent court vision, and it was like having another PG on the floor. Kidd-Gilchrist was Kentucky’s second-best player on the 2012 Championship squad, and his versatility was extremely valuable. MKG exhibited heart and passion on the court, which helped translate to a national championship.
Kentucky First Team All-Decade: Frontcourt
Power Forward: Julius Randle
Many people forget the dominance of Julius Randle in his single-season wearing the blue & white. He was automatic in the post and was a top-level ball-handler for such a big guy. He was able to use his elite size and strength to score through contact and in transition. Julius was also the best rebounder in the country that year and was a major factor in Kentucky’s Cinderella run in the tournament. The Wildcats came up short in the championship, but Randle was a major factor in getting them to that point.
Center: Anthony Davis
Not only is Anthony Davis the best Kentucky player of this decade, but he is also the best overall player of this decade. No other player has accumulated the accolades that Davis did. He won every national player of the year award, including freshman of the year. He also broke Shaq’s freshman record for blocks in a season halfway through the year. AD was the best player on Kentucky’s only championship team of this decade. Nobody has come close to replicating Anthony Davis’s impact on their team.
Kentucky Second Team All-Decade
Point Guard: John Wall
Shooting Guard: Jamal Murray
Small Forward: Darius Miller
Power Forward: Terrence Jones
Center: Willie Cauley-Stein
Before anyone says anything, I’ve had a lot of people be mad at me for not having Karl-Anthony Towns as my second best Center. In terms of the NBA, yes. Willie Cauley-Stein played at UK for three years. His freshman year was rough, but his sophomore and junior years were exceptional. Willie was the team’s best defender in those years. He was an elite rebounder and a highlight-reel dunker. WCS gave the team a ton of spark and heart, and for that, he takes the second team spot over KAT.
Here’s to hoping that this next decade holds a lot of success for our Kentucky Wildcats! Go Big Blue!
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