Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe were, in part, some of the last ties to the Billy Gillispie recruiting era. While other Gillispie players will still be with the program next year, Daniel Orton was Billy Clyde’s prized recruit and Eric Bledsoe was one of his biggest remaining targets. While it’s uncertain if Bledsoe would have come had Clyde not imploded during his second year, it remains plausible that the two of them would have suited up in blue this year, regardless of John Calipari’s influence. Still, at this point it appears as both are attempting to make the jump to the next level this summer, so let’s look back at how they stamped the program.
You could say that both Daniel and Eric played second fiddle to other freshmen at their positions this year, and you would probably be right. Still, the team would have had several more losses without both of these players. Unfortunately, we never got to see Orton shine the way we would have liked to this season. He played good minutes backing up Cousins, especially when Boogie had early foul trouble, but for as talented as Orton is he was unable to find a solid way to contribute consistently to the team. This year he was a very solid – but not spectacular – sixth man, capable of altering shots, getting boards, and the occasional put back. And at the very least, he taught us all a little more about the goal tending and offensive interference rules. If Orton stays in the draft (which all signs point to him wanting to do,) he will be successful in the NBA after a couple years. If he decides to come back to Kentucky next year, he will be a star.
The same could be said about Eric Bledsoe. Eric came into the off season as ‘that other guard,’ second to John Wall. However, reports of Eric dominating pick up games over the summer, as well as some exceptional early games against Morehead and Sam Houston State, and his stock was rising faster than most any other player in the country. While he had just as much speed as John Wall, Eric was consistently inconsistent. Early in the year he was put on the line to ice games, but towards the end of the season you were never sure what Bledsoe would come from the locker room. Most nights it was the super talented frosh, but other nights he played out of control and his shot was off. Perhaps no two games speak more of this than the first and last of the NCAA tournament. Against ETSU, Bledsoe shot a blistering 8 of 9 from behind the arc to pour in 29 points, yet against WVU he went cold and finished 0 for 5 from three point land and only had 7 points. On his best of days, he could look better than John Wall. On his worst of days, he found a seat firmly on the bench.
While both Eric and Daniel could improve tremendously and be national stars if they opt to come back next year, it seems as though both really want to go to the NBA and both will most likely be drafted. We wish them the best, and even if they don’t suit up for Kentucky next year, we hope to welcome them back to Rupp soon.
Daniel “Would You Like To Give A Definition Of Popping” Orton
I’m sure you don’t remember this video, but it is to date my favorite Orton video out there. If not just for the awkward interaction at 0:35
Bledsoe’s highlight reel. Some of these shots are just insane.