Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats' Best-Ever Player at Each Position
The Kentucky Wildcats are arguably the most storied program in college basketball. With eight national titles and names like Issel, Riley, Prince, Walker, Mashburn, Wall and Davis calling Lexington home, the rich history of Kentucky basketball dates across many generations.
For a blue-blood program like Kentucky, it is near-impossible to make a best-ever list without leaving off well-known players whom someone could make a case for. In fact, the honorable mentions for Kentucky could more than likely be a best-ever player for a majority of college basketball programs.
But, as many fans like to do, let's take a look at my list of the best Kentucky basketball player at each position.
Each player was considered based on the impact he had during his entire career at Kentucky, postseason success and the context of the competition he played against.
Point Guard: John Wall
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Sure, John Wall was a Kentucky Wildcat for only one year; however, that doesn't exclude him from any best-of conversations.
Wall led Kentucky to the 2010 SEC title and a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament before the Wildcats were upset by West Virginia in the Elite Eight. However, the fact that he didn't make the Final Four doesn't leave him off as the best point guard to wear the blue and white.
Wall made his presence known early as he hit the game-winning shot against Miami of Ohio in his first game as a Wildcat. During the 2009-10 season, Wall set school records including most assists in a single season and most assists in one game. He also left the school as No. 9 in career steals.
Wall also cleaned up awards such as National Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, First-Team All-American and Rookie of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Macy
Shooting Guard: Tony Delk
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Tony Delk might be known best for hitting seven three-pointers in the 1996 NCAA National Championship against Syracuse. However, Delk was a great player for all four years in Lexington.
The former Mr. Basketball in Tennessee left the school after scoring 1,890 points, good enough for fourth in school history. Delk also had 201 steals in his career, including 67 during his senior year.
Delk began to be recognized after his sophomore year, being named Second-Team All-SEC by the coaches, before going on to win First-Team All-SEC a year later. It was his senior year, though, that helped elevate Delk into the greatest shooting guard in Kentucky's history as well as the No. 16 overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets.
Besides winning Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, Delk was SEC Player of the Year and a First-Team All-American.
Honorable Mention: Louie Dampier
Small Forward: Jamal Mashburn
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Jamal Mashburn isn't just the greatest small forward in Kentucky history, he's arguably the most important player as well. However, that's a debate for a different day, but the revival of Kentucky basketball can be linked directly to the commitment of Mashburn out of New York.
He did not let anyone down once he stepped foot in Lexington. In three seasons Mashburn scored 1,843 points, good enough for fifth-best in school history. Besides playing part in the most legendary game in the history of the NCAA tournament and arguably the greatest college basketball game of all time, Mashburn also appeared in the 1993 Final Four.
Mashburn averaged an impressive 21 points and eight rebounds during his junior year, which saw him win SEC Player of the Year and first-team All-American nods.
His No. 24 currently hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena, and he is widely regarded as one of the best players to ever play for Kentucky.
Honorable Mention: Tayshaun Prince
Power Forward: Dan Issel
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Dan Issel defined success while wearing the blue and white for Kentucky. He is the school's leading scorer as well as its all-time leading rebounder.
During his three years at Kentucky, Issel scored 2,138 points while averaging 25.8 PPG. Couple that with his 1,078 rebounds and 12.9 RPG, and there's no other option but to have Issel as the best power forward in Wildcat history.
Issel was All-SEC for all three years he was eligible and was a First-Team All-American selection for two of the three years.
Issel did have some bad luck in the NCAA tournament, though, making the Elite Eight twice but losing by a combined seven points to Ohio State and Jacksonville.
His No. 44 is hanging in the rafters at Kentucky, and he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Honorable Mention: Kenny Walker
Center: Anthony Davis
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If Anthony Davis had played three years at Kentucky like Dan Issel did, Davis would be the best basketball player in Kentucky's history.
Davis did everything but win the SEC tournament and rebuild the campus during the 2011-12 season in Lexington.
Davis was a national title winner, All-American, Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player while forever putting his name in Kentucky fans' hearts. He also shattered the school record by blocking 180 shots during his freshman year.
He threw up averages of 14 points per game, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Davis showed that in one year, you can go down as one of the best players of all time, no matter if you get to a storied program like Kentucky or an up-and-comer like Florida Gulf Coast.
Honorable Mention: Cliff Hagan