Love them or hate them, Kentucky is always talked about every college basketball season. Since the 2000 season, Kentucky has had 54 players taken in their respective NBA Drafts. They have made 20 NCAA Tournaments in that same time frame, nine Elite Eights, and won a National Championship. For the purposes of this exercise, I felt it necessary to split the talent into groups. Group one, this group, will be pre-John Calipari.
Prior to John Calipari taking over the Kentucky program for the 2009-10 season, Kentucky had two coaches since 1999-2000, Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie. In his two years at Kentucky, Gillispie won 40 games and saw two players get drafted. From 1999-2000 to 2006-2007, Smith won 200 games and saw five players get drafted.
Prior to Calipari, Kentucky saw success, and they had players. Let’s discuss the starting five for Kentucky Basketball since 2000, pre-John Calipari.
The Starting Five
G – Rajon Rondo (‘04-’06)
Rajon Rondo, a Louisville native, came to Kentucky as a top-25 recruit out of the famed Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy. In his two years with Big Blue Nation, Rondo led the SEC in steals one season, assists one season, and earned SEC All-Freshman honors. Tubby Smith averaged 25 wins in Rondo’s two seasons, including a seventh-place finish in the Final 2005 AP Poll after finishing first in the SEC East.
G – Keith Bogans (‘99-’03)
In his four seasons at Kentucky, Keith Bogans took home some hardware. On top of his 1,923 career points and 122 starts, the top three recruit earned SEC All-Freshman honors, SEC Player of the Year honors, and SEC Tournament MVP honors. He was named second-team All-SEC and first-team All-SEC. He went in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft and played 11 years, 671 games, in the NBA.
F – Tayshaun Prince (‘98-’02)
Over his final two seasons in Lexington, Tayshaun Prince averaged 17.1 points while starting 66 games and winning and winning 46. He also earned SEC Player of the Year honors, second-team Consensus All-American, and twice named first-team All-SEC. In his senior year, Prince finished top 15 in the SEC in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks. He went No. 23 in the 2002 NBA Draft, where he played for 14 years, won a title, and four times earned first-team NBA All-Defense.
F – Patrick Patterson (‘07-’10)
Patrick Patterson was a tricky one here because he played for both Billy Gillispie and John Calipari. However, two of his three seasons at Kentucky were for Gillispie, so he falls in this category. Patterson came to Big Blue Nation as a top-ten recruit. During his time in Lexington, he earned SEC Rookie of the Year, SEC All-Defense, and two second-team All-SEC.His career 16.1 points per game is top 25 in the SEC over the past 30-plus years, and his career 58.5 percent field goal percentage is No. 6. Patterson went No. 14 in the 2010 NBA Draft and played 11 years, 719 games, in the NBA.
F – Chuck Hayes (‘01-’05)
This position came down to Chuck Hayes and Randolph Morris. At the end of the day, Hayes’ impact was difficult to ignore. He finished his career at Kentucky’s top 15 in total rebounds over the past 30-plus years. Hayes earned SEC All-Freshman honors, first-team and third-team All-SEC honors, first-team All-SEC Tournament, and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors throughout his four seasons. Despite going undrafted, Hayes played in the NBA for 12 seasons with 244 career starts.
G Jodie Meeks (‘06-’09)
It was difficult to leave Jodie Meeks out of the starting five here. His 23.7 points on 40.6 percent shooting from three in ‘08-’09 led the SEC and earned him second-team Consensus All-American honors. Meeks also earned All-Freshman honors his first year and was first-team All-SEC during that ‘08-’09 season.
G Ramel Bradley (‘04-’08), G Gerald Fitch (‘00-’04), G Kelenna Azubuike (‘02-’05), C Randolph Morris (‘04-’07), G Joe Crawford (‘04-’08), F Darius Miller (‘08-’12), F Marquis Estill (‘00-’03)