By Shane Shackleford
In honor of the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 25, or “The Unofficial Graduation of Wildcat Players” as I call it, here are some words and numbers for the avid Cat fan to help you through the draft:
1) 15-12-3. According to ESPN NBA Draft Central, in the last 15 years there have been three UK bigs who have averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks per 40 minutes of play -- DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.
2) 18. The Cats have had 18 players chosen in the NBA Draft since 2010. The next highest number is 11 by du….nope, Kansas!
3) 6. The number of Cats I expect to be drafted Thursday night in NYC. According to my Crystal Ball, I see the Cats coming off the big board like this:
1- Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota
6- Willie Cauley-Stein Sacramento
8- Trey Lyles Detroit
9- Devin Booker Charlotte
30- Dakari Johnson Golden State
45- Andrew Harrison Boston
4) 14 percent. According to ESPN Analytics, the player with the lowest chance to be a bust in the draft is…Dakari Johnson.
5) Mid-Major. Kudos to Cameron Payne, point guard from OVC power and up-and-coming mid-major power Murray State. The small NCAA Division I school in Murray has produced top quality coaches Mark Gottfried (NC State), Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M) and Steve Prohm (Iowa State) and NBA players Popeye Jones (Dallas), Isaiah Cannon (Philadelphia) and Payne. Look for the 20-year-old Payne to wind up being selected 11th overall by Indiana.
6) Top 5. With all that being said, here are my predictions for the Top 5 selections in this year’s draft:
1. Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns C Kentucky
2. LA Lakers: Jahlil Okafor C Duke
3. Philadelphia: D’Angelo Russell (and KY native) PG/SG Ohio State
4. New York: Emmanuel Mudiay PG Congo
5. Orlando: Justise Winslow SF Duke
A parting thought: If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Shane Shackleford, a native of Harlan County, is currently a teacher and basketball coach at Middlesboro Elementary School in Middlesboro, Ky. The former high school basketball coach is a sports junkie, fisherman, rat rod enthusiast and still trying to be raised by his loving wife, Elizabeth, in their home in Harrogate, Tenn. Shane can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.