LEXINGTON, Ky. – John Calipari one day hopes that half of the NBA All-Star Game starting lineup will be laden with Kentucky Wildcats. If the 2016 edition of All-Star weekend is any indication as to what is to come, Calipari’s foresight may be closer to coming to reality than a far-fetched idea.
The 2016 All-Star weekend will be stock full of former UK greats highlighted by three members in Sunday’s premier event. DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and John Wall were all selected to the All-Star game for the second consecutive season. It marks the third selection for Wall and Davis and the second for Cousins. No other college has more than two representatives. The NBA All-Star Game will take place in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and the 8 p.m. game will be televised by TNT. That’s not all, however. Kicking off the weekend will be the Rising Stars Challenge, which will feature three former Wildcats in Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles. Towns and Booker will represent Team USA, with Lyles suiting up for the World. Nerlens Noel was originally chosen for the game but will not participate because of an injury. Game time is set for 9 p.m. ET and will air on TNT. On Saturday, DeAndre Liggins will represent the East in the NBA D-League All-Star game at 2 p.m. on NBA TV. All-Star Saturday night is slated to begin at 8 p.m. on TNT and will feature four total Wildcats. Cousins, Davis and Towns will compete in the Skills Challenge, while Booker will become the youngest-ever participant in the history of the Three-Point Contest. UK’s trio of big men will go head-to-head in the Skills Challenge, which spotlights fundamentals. The former Wildcats are among the first-ever frontcourt players to participate in the eight-player field in the event’s 14-year history. Booker will compete with the likes of reigning NBA Champions Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the Three-Point Contest. At just 19 years of age, Booker is the youngest participant in the event’s history. After tremendous first halves of the 2015-16 NBA season, it is only fitting that this year’s event features Wildcat players. Cousins, who starred at Kentucky during Calipari’s inaugural season as UK’s head coach in 2009-10, is enjoying arguably the finest season of any big man in the league. The Sacramento Kings’ big man is averaging 26.8 points and 11.1 rebounds, the only player to rank in the top five in both categories in the league. Davis (2011-12) will make his third straight NBA All-Star Game after becoming one of the most dynamic players in the league. The former No. 1 overall pick is currently averaging 20.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks – second in the NBA – for the New Orleans Pelicans. Wall (2009-10) has cemented himself as one of the elite point guards in the NBA with his third All-Star appearance. Kentucky’s first-ever No. 1 overall pick ranks third in the league in assists at 9.9 dimes per game and sixth in steals with 2.1 swipes per contest. Those are in addition to his 20.1 scoring average and 4.5 rebound average. Towns (2014-15), Kentucky’s third No. 1 draft choice in the last six years, leads all rookies with 30 doubles-doubles. Towns is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year with a 17.1 scoring average in addition to 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Noel (2012-13) has enjoyed a solid second season in the NBA (Noel did not play in 2013-14 as he recovered from knee surgery). He’s among the league leaders with 1.6 blocked shots per game while posting 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Philadelphia 76ers. Lyles (2014-15) has started 29 of 50 games for the Utah Jazz in his rookie campaign. Lyles is averaging 4.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and shooting at a 41.9 percent rate. He’s notched eight double-digit scoring performances including six since Jan. 13. Booker (2014-15) has emerged as one of the hottest young players in the league over the last month of the season. For the year he is logging 10.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He’s connected on 56 3-pointers of for the year and owns a 40.3-percent shooting clip from long range. Liggins (2008-11) is one of the premier players in the NBA Developmental League and is making his second All-Star appearance in the D-League game. Liggins is averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. NBA All-Star Weekend Events with Kentucky Participants
Friday, Feb. 12 Rising Stars Challenge – 9 p.m. ET – TNT – Booker, Lyles, Noel, Towns Saturday, Feb. 13 NBA D-League All-Star Game – 2 p.m. ET – NBA TV – Liggins All-Star Saturday Night – 8 p.m. ET – TNT – Booker, Cousins, Davis, Towns Sunday, Feb. 14 NBA All-Star Game – 8:30 p.m. ET – TNT – Cousins, Davis, Wall