In the undefeated match-up of Kentucky vs. Florida last week, there was one statistic that stood out above the rest. Four freshmen, 61 points, 27 rebounds, 11 assists.
Just halfway through their season and freshmen Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins have all scored at least 25 points in a game this season. Historically, this is the first time UK has had three different freshmen score at least 25 since the 1975 season.
So let’s break this down.
Kentucky's No. 15, standing at 6’11”, 260lbs, has tallied averages of 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds playing in the paint for the Wildcats. He is definitely one of the most physical players out there not to mention his reputation for being verbally provocative with his defenders.
Against Louisville, he racked up 18 points and 18 rebounds.
As of this week, Cousins has recorded four straight double-doubles and leads the SEC with eight this season. Cousins is averaging 32.1 points and 20 rebounds on the season, while averaging 32.9 ppg and 26.7 rpg in Kentucky’s two-game swing this past week.
Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com analyzes Cousins: “He can score in traffic and rebound in a crowd. Defensively, he is extremely difficult to score over…perhaps his most underrated skill is his passing ability. Maturing emotionally is his biggest challenge in the development of his game.”
Mark Story of the Lexington Herald Leader recounts that in Wall’s first college game versus Miami of Ohio, “the UK freshman went the length of the court, rose up and hit a jump shot with 0:00.5 showing on the Rupp Arena clock to give the Cats a 72-70 victory.”
In another clutch moment for Wall, while playing at Madison Square Garden versus top-ranked Connecticut, the UK guard drove to the bucket through traffic to make a layup while drawing a foul and draining the and-one with 30 seconds left to put the Cats ahead for good while they held onto the lead.
With only half of the season over, when most freshmen college basketball players are lucky to have gotten playing time in any capacity, Wall has racked up an average of 17.2 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 51.9 percent shooting.
Even before UK’s big win over then-undefeated Florida, the Gator’s guard Kenny Boynton Jr. said Wall "was faster than any guard I've ever covered.'' After a win against Louisville’s Coach Pitino compared Wall's ability to take over to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
"I'm playing at another level I never thought I could play at,'' Wall said. "I always played good when I was in high school, but playing for [coach John] Calipari, he's going to take you to another level and get you better. I thought I was at the top of my potential when I was in high school. I'm nowhere near it.''
“With UK clinging to a one-point lead in overtime [versus Stanford], the freshman guard buried an NBA-length three-pointer—his only made trey of the game—with 33 seconds left to secure victory.” MS
Against Louisville, Bledsoe powered through a sore left foot (which lead to him limping off the court post-game) to make all six of his free throws while scoring 12.
Florida Coach Billy Donovan also says Bledsoe “is as good as any point guard in America. He's faster than John Wall and probably shoots it a little better.”
In that Florida game, Bledsoe had his undoubtedly best game thus far. He shot an amazing 10-13 from the field, including 3-4 from three-point range and 2-2 from the free throw line for a total of 25 points along with five assists. He also threw in three steals just for fun.
On Monday, he was even named SEC Player of the Week with his performances against Florida and Auburn where he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists with his career-high 25-points in the Florida game.
Eric Crawford of Louisville’s Courier Journal says of the freshmen’s performances in the SEC opening game versus Georgia: “Freshmen aren't supposed to do this. They're supposed to be tentative and get rattled when their 15-point lead is whittled to a tie game in the second half, not gather themselves and score 20 of the team's final 28 points in a hostile environment.” To which, Kentucky Coach John Calipari responds, “They don't know that. They're not worried about that stuff. They just have a great will to win.”
The downside? Like so many other college basketball phenoms, they probably won’t stay in college basketball for long. But for now, Wildcat Basketball fans can continue enjoying a fantastic season for Kentucky.