The University of Kentucky Basketball's All-Decade Team
With such a rich basketball tradition, the University of Kentucky has been blessed with a multitude of great players in its history. Now, with another decade come and gone, we take a brief look back and attempt to identify the best players at each position from the past 10 years.
Before we start, we must remember that, with so many players being taken into consideration for only five spots, there will be many talented players who end up just missing the cut. Some selections were easier to make than others, but when it comes down to it, each pick is purely subjective. Now, with that being said, let us start the show, shall we?
No matter how you slice it, John Wall has to be the pick here. Despite playing only one season at UK, Wall firmly established himself as arguably the best point guard in Kentucky history.
To put his accomplishments into perspective, one need only look at the rankings. Among all single-season efforts in UK history, Wall ranks first in assists, ninth in steals, and 16th in points. Not to mention, he helped lead his team to a 38-3 record and an Elite Eight appearance.
Cap all of this off with him becoming UK's first No. 1 overall selection in the NBA draft and the choice is pretty clear.
Although not quite the unanimous selection that John Wall was, it would feel like a crime leaving Jodie Meeks off of the all-decade team. In just three seasons at Kentucky, Jodie Meeks proved himself to be not only an explosive athlete, but also one of the most prolific scorers in team history.
His 2008-2009 scoring total ranks as the second-highest in school history, behind only UK legend, Dan Issel. Even more impressive is the fact that he holds three of the top 10 highest scoring games in team history, including his record-setting 54 point performance against Tennessee.
Yet, what is especially remarkable about Meeks's performance is that it came on a team that was not very talented, at least by UK standards. In fact, the 2008-2009 squad missed the NCAA tournament entirely, marking the first time UK had missed the cut in 18 years.
Yet, despite being one of only two legitimate scoring threats on the floor and having to constantly fight off double teams, he still managed to put up points in bunches night after night. Meeks's explosive scoring ability is what earns him a starting spot on this roster.
Prince is another guy who is tough to keep off of the roster because during his four years at Kentucky he seemed to embody everything that fans loved about UK basketball. Not only was Tayshaun immensely talented, he was also a winner. During his time at UK, the team compiled a record of 97-39 and regularly made an impact in the NCAA tournament.
What helps Tayshaun stand out among the rest is the fact that he was a true all-around player. For his career, he ranks 29th in assists, 27th in steals, 19th in rebounds, eighth in blocked shots, eighth in points, and third in three-point field goals.
Not only was he a great defender because of size and quickness, but he could also dissect a defense with his shooting ability, especially from beyond the arc. Versatility is what earns Tayshaun a spot in the all-decade starting lineup.
Every great team needs a great leader and this is where Patrick Patterson comes into the picture. Despite only playing three seasons at Kentucky, Patterson is considered one of the most beloved players in team history, and for good reason. He provided stability for a team that was anything but stable during his time in Lexington.
For two seasons, Patterson was the star of a team that was otherwise mediocre. In his third season, the scene totally shifted and with four other first round picks on the team, most of the nation was too distracted by the young stars to give the veteran playmaker any recognition.
Yet, through all of this time, despite the disappointing seasons and the general lack of recognition, Patterson never complained. He simply went out and did his job every night, and he did it well. In fact, his three-year career ranks him 13th in points scored, 13th in rebounds, seventh in blocked shots, and 6th in field goal percentage. Patrick Patterson receives this spot as a result of his excellence both on and off-the-court.
Many people may consider this pick a bit of a head-scratcher, but bear with me for just a moment.
In order to understand why Randolph Morris edges out DeMarcus Cousins, simply look at the numbers. In his best season at UK, Morris averaged 16.05 points, 7.76 rebounds, 2.06 blocks per game, while shooting 59.1 percent from the field and 68.3 percent from the foul line.
In Cousins's only season at UK, he averaged 15.13 points, 9.87 rebounds, and 1.76 blocks per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 60.4% from the foul line. As you can see, while Cousins holds the edge in rebounding, Morris tops him in every other category.
Yet, the main reason I give the edge to Randolph Morris is because of this statistic: fouls per game. In his final season at UK, Morris averaged 2.35 fouls per game. On the other hand, Cousins averaged an astonishing 3.21 fouls per game during the 2009-2010 season. During his time at UK, Cousins showed an inability to avoid foul trouble, causing him to spend more time on the bench than he ever should have. As a result, Cousins averaged almost five minutes less than Morris each game.
If I'm starting a team, I'll take the guy that can contribute on both ends of the court while being smart enough to actually stay on the court. In this instance, that guy appears to be Randolph Morris.
What is a true team without bench players? Here are the guys who just missed the cut for the starting lineup but still hold a special place in the hearts of UK fans:
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting Guard: Gerald Fitch
Small Forward: Keith Bogans
Power Forward: Chuck Hayes
Center: DeMarcus Cousins