Kentucky Basketball: The 5 Most Unlikely Success Stories in Wildcats History

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: The 5 Most Unlikely Success Stories in Wildcats History

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    Kentucky basketball has a storied history made up of blue-chip recruits and big-name coaches. 

    From John Calipari to Adolph Rupp and Dan Issel to Anthony Davis, everyone knows Kentucky's famous names. However, mixed in with them are a handful of surprises who helped to lead the Wildcats to Final Fours and championships. 

    The following will look at the five most unlikely success stories in Kentucky's history. 

5. Scott Padgett

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    With the Christian Laettner shot in the 1992 Elite Eight fresh in Big Blue Nation's mind, it looked like Kentucky would suffer another loss to Duke with the Final Four on the line in 1998. 

    With the Wildcats trailing by 17 points with only nine-and-a-half minutes left, Duke fans began to celebrate yet another trip to the Final Four. However, the Wildcats lived up to their "Comeback Cats" nickname thanks to some hot shooting. 

    In three minutes and 38 seconds, Kentucky cut the lead down to one thanks to three shots falling from behind the arc. With 2:15 left, Cameron Mills gave Kentucky an 80-79 lead. However, it was Scott Padgett who would seal the win for Kentucky.

    With 40 seconds to go and the game tied at 82, Padgett found himself open at the top of the key with the ball in his hands. His three swished in, and the Wildcats hung on to win, 86-84. 

4. Ravi Moss

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    Ravi Moss was a walk on who won over head coach Tubby Smith and Kentucky fans with his dedication and toughness. 

    In his freshman year, he played only two minutes a game in 12 games, but as a senior he played more than 19 minutes in his 35 games of action. He proved to be one of Kentucky's best overall players in the 2005-06 season.

    One of the best defensive players for Smiths' team, Moss also averaged six points a game while shooting more than 36 percent from the field. 


3. Josh Harrellson

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    From a bathroom stall to being drafted in the NBA. That's what happened to Josh Harrellson in just two short years.

    The junior college transfer was famously banished to a bathroom stall during halftime of a game at Vanderbilt by former coach Billy Gillispie. However, Harrellson did not let that deter him from being a better player and staying at Kentucky.

    The following year under Calipari, Harrellson saw a dip in numbers, and many wondered if he'd be a casualty of the new coaching hire. However, Calipari saw something in the big man to keep him around, and that paid off during his senior year.

    Harrellson started and played more than 28 minutes a game, scoring more than seven points and grabbing eight rebounds. 

    The moment that Big Blue Nation remembers of "Jorts" now is not sitting in a bathroom stall but rather chucking a ball off Ohio State star Jared Sullinger's chest on his way to a Final Four in 2011. 

2. DeAndre Liggins

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    If a picture sums up a player's career, the one above of DeAndre Liggins speaks a thousand words. The often-troubled swingman developed into a key player in Kentucky's run to the Final Four in 2011 and won over not only his coach but Kentucky fans everywhere with his willingness to do the dirty work.

    Liggins spent a year in Gillispie's doghouse, never finding his way onto the court to make a splash like many expected him to do as a freshman. The start of his sophomore year under John Calipari was even worse.

    Liggins was mysteriously suspended for the first nine games by Calipari, and many wondered if he'd even wear a Kentucky jersey again. However, he found his way into the rotation toward the end of the year to play more than 15 minutes a game.

    In his junior year, Liggins was a completely different player. He embraced coming off the bench as the sixth man and was never afraid to guard anyone on the other team. Liggins played more than 31 minutes a game, averaging eight points and four rebounds. 

    The moment above was captured when Liggins helped clinch an Elite Eight win over North Carolina to send Calipari to the Final Four for the first time during his tenure at Lexington. 

1. The Unforgettables

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    Sure, Jamal Mashburn was the star, but his four teammates are forever remembered in Kentucky's history. Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey, Sean Woods and Deron Feldhaus suffered after the "Kentucky Shame" Sports Illustrated cover and made their way to the Elite Eight.

    Everyone but Woods hailed from Kentucky, making the ascent into greatness even better for "The Unforgettables." 

    They weren't supposed to be a great team. They aren't mentioned in the same breath as the recruiting classes of Calipari's or Tubby Smith's 2004 class with Rajon Rondo, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Randolph Morris. 

    However, what they did in Lexington is better than almost every other class. They helped rebuild the Kentucky name and bring the Wildcats back to glory. 

    Tied in with The Unforgettables has to be Rick Pitino, who had an impossible task in taking Kentucky over after the Chris Mills and Eric Manuel scandals. He pushed this team to its limit and developed a style that is now seen throughout college basketball by playing 40 minutes of hell.