SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Who are the 'Mount Rushmore' Stars in Calipari Era?
(This is the first of a five-part series about UK Basketball's "Mount Rushmore" players from different championship-winning coaches.)
You know, everybody likes free stuff.
When you attend Media Day festivities for men’s basketball at the University of Kentucky, one of the free items the staff graciously gives each member is a record book chronicling the long and storied history of Kentucky basketball. Being a history buff, I read the book each year like clockwork.
As I went through the pages of UK hoops history, my mind began to wonder. What if a monument was erected for Kentucky basketball? What would it look like? Being that UK has such a gloried history that covers an expanse of over 100 years, a single monument wouldn’t do the program justice. But since we live in America, greatest country on Earth, we have a monument with several figures. Mount Rushmore.
Quick history lesson. Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is comprised of the carved heads of former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. History class over. Back to UK history.
The object of this series of articles is to establish who in UK history deserve a spot on the mountain. Knowing it is simply too hard to compress UK basketball as a whole to four spots, I felt like it would be easier to divide UK basketball into championship coaches eras. The eras are the Adolph Rupp Era, the Joe B. Hall Era, the Rick Pitino Era, the Tubby Smith Era, and the John Calipari Era.
I also knew that I couldn’t undertake this endeavor alone, so I called upon my crack group of sports loving friends and family to help me put this together (in case people hate this, I won’t mention their names.) Each person had four spots to fill and I totaled every vote together to come up with the four selections. To also give credit where it's due, each person who didn’t make the monument will be mentioned in a “Receiving Votes” section.
With the parameters laid, let’s begin sculpting shall we? We begin with the John Calipari Era.
--John Calipari: 2012 National Championship at UK, 2-time NCAA Coach of the Year, member of National Basketball Hall of Fame.
--Aaron Harrison: NCAA Tournament and SEC Tournament All-Tournament Team, known for hit two clutch three pointers to lift Kentucky to wins in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
--Jamal Murray: All-SEC selection and All-SEC tournament selection. Sharp-shooting guard.
--Devin Booker: SEC All-Freshman selection, All-SEC, and SEC Sixth Man of the Year.
--Karl-Anthony Towns: SEC Freshman of the Year, NCAA Regional MVP, and #1 Overall Pick in NBA Draft.
--Malik Monk: SEC Player of the Year, Jerry West Award Winner (best shooting guard in America.)
--Tyler Ulis: SEC Player of the Year, Bob Cousy Award Winner (best point guard in America.)
--Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: NCAA Regional MVP, All-American, #2 Overall Pick in NBA Draft.
What a phenomenal group of Wildcats. Each player has merited consideration for the monument, an honor in itself. But alas, after tabulating the votes, here are the four selections for the Kentucky Basketball Mount Rushmore from the Calipari Era.
4. Brandon Knight (2011): The super-smart point guard led the Cats to the Final Four and garnered himself several accolades, including NCAA Regional Tournament MVP, All-SEC, and Academic All-SEC.
3. DeMarcus Cousins (2010): The powerful center had a big impact in Lexington in his only season. Cousins was SEC Freshman of the Year, All-SEC, and later a Gold Medalist in the 2016 Olympics, perennial All-NBA selection.
2. John Wall (2010): Wall was coach Calipari’s first big name recruit when Cal took the job in 2010. The 6-4 point guard with elite quickness and athleticism was the National Player of the Year in 2010 as well as SEC Player of the Year, SEC Tournament MVP, and Academic All-SEC. He would later become a No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and become a member of UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
And with further adieu, the top vote-getter from the Calipari Era is....
1. Anthony Davis (2012): Davis (pictured with Calipari in 2012 Final Four) had perhaps the greatest single season in NCAA history. The 6-10 forward gathered nearly every single accolade out there including a national championship, National Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year, the Pete Newell Award (Top Big Man in America), SEC Player of the Year, Final Four MVP, and the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft. Davis’ season was capped by earning a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympics. Davis would later be inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
So there you have it. One era down, five eras to go. The next era we will tackle is the Rick Pitino Era. Should be another fantastic process. Hope each of you enjoy this walk down UK memory lane.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports writer from Speedwell, Tenn. You can contact him via email at email@example.com, Facebook, Twitter @shack_daddy_1, and his website Coach Shack’s Corner at coachshack50.wixsite.com/coachshackscorner.
Photo of Calipari and Davis by Jamie H. Vaught