With the final home game of the season tipping off later tonight, one of the best traditions in all of college sports will be hosted with the annual Senior Night tradition. It’s the opportunity to show deserved appreciation to college athletes whose careers are coming to a close, no matter how long they’ve been in the program.
At Kentucky, players don’t normally stick around long enough to have many ceremonies. With that said, two beloved Wildcats will be honored tonight in Davion Mintz and Kellan Grady. This is neither of their first rodeos, though. Mintz had one of his most memorable performances on Senior Night last year while Grady scored 13 points in a Davidson win last season. But the two were able to extend their college careers by a year and will now be sent off together by the Rupp Arena crowd.
Ahead of what should be another memorable commemoration, there have been some other notable performances for the Wildcats on this night under Calipari. Let’s dive into a few of the best moments.
Darius Miller (2012)
Before winning the 2012 National Title, Kentucky wrapped up their home slate with a 79-49 win over Georgia. Before that win, they honored one of the Bluegrass’ own in Darius Miller.
Miller accepted a bench role during his senior season, but he returned to the starting lineup during the Wildcats’ 30-point romp. He scored 17 points on 6-11 shooting, including 5-9 from three, with three assists and two rebounds in 34 minutes. Miller was the ultimate glue guy on Kentucky’s most recent title team as he did it all in his role on the Wildcats’ run to New Orleans.
Julius Mays (2013)
An often forgotten piece from Kentucky’s past is transfer Julius Mays.
After two seasons at NC State and a year at Wright State, Mays transferred in to join a Kentucky team that was attempting to defend their title. That’s not how that season would play out at all, unfortunately. After losing Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL, the Wildcats limped towards the postseason. To end the year, they faced a quality 24-5 Florida team. In 39 minutes, Mays helped Kentucky end the regular season on a high note with a 61-57 upset.
He was instrumental in the win with 13 points (3-9 from three), two assists and two steals. With a two-point lead down the stretch, Mays iced the victory with two free throws to push the game out of reach of the Gators. That team ended up missing the tournament and losing in the NIT, but they ended the Rupp calendar with a big win that Mays was a big part of.
Tod Lanter, Brian Long & Sam Malone (2015)
Did this trio put up significant stats during their Senior Night? No. Was the moment memorable? Absolutely.
Kentucky entered Senior Day in 2015 undefeated at 30-0. Todd Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone started alongside Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns, but only played 22 seconds for the first possession. They reentered the game with 46 seconds left, but the trio combined for no statistics besides two fouls from Long. With that said, their Senior Day was a part of the 67-50 win that led Kentucky to an undefeated regular season. It’s not significant number-wise, but that win is one of Calipari’s most memorable in Lexington.
Alex Poythress (2016)
Coming off an ACL tear in his junior season, Alex Poythress became one of the most notable Kentucky recruits to play all four seasons in college. His ceremony was significant because of it, but his final performance in Rupp was overshadowed by no fault of his own.
First, Kentucky knocked off future #1 pick Ben Simmons and his LSU team 94-77. Second, Jamal Murray had some iconic “Blue Arrow” moments in his de facto Senior Day with 22 points (6-12 FG and 4-8 from three), seven rebounds and four assists. Finally, Skal Labissierre had his best game as a Wildcat to end the season with 18 points (8-10), nine rebounds and six blocks. Poythress had a decent showing, though, with 12 points on 6-7 shooting with three boards. It might not have been the best line of his season, but it played a part in a big win that sent Kentucky off into the postseason.
Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder, Derek Willis (2017)
2017’s Senior Day featured another trio that included two Kentucky kids getting their Rupp Arena sendoff.
Mychal Mulder scored the most points with five in just seven minutes of play. Richmond’s own Dominique Hawkins did a little bit of everything, which fits his career perfectly. He finished with two points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 21 minutes. But it was Bullitt East High School star Derek Willis who had the most memorable game by far.
On the court, Willis had just three points but he grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. During his ceremony, though, he had one of the more meaningful Senior Day moments in recent memory with this pregame proposal to his girlfriend. She said yes and the Wildcats finished the day with a 73-67 win over Vanderbilt.
Davion Mintz & Olivier Sarr (2021)
Last year’s Senior Day was one Kentucky desperately needed. Entering the game at 8-15, Kentucky finally got to beat up on someone when 6-13 South Carolina came into town. BJ Boston tried to steal the show with one of his best games in blue and white with 21 points (7-13 FG & 6-10 from three), four assists and three boards. Still, Sarr and Mintz went out with a bang.
Sarr put up a decent statline of 15 points and three boards in 21 minutes. Mintz was the star of the show, though, as he absolutely caught fire. At the start of the second half, Mintz connected on five straight three-pointers that sent Rupp Arena into a frenzy. His outburst from distance blew Kentucky’s eight-point lead up to 19. It was one of the best moments of a rough year as the Wildcats secured a 92-64 victory to end the season.
What will 2022’s Senior Night bring to the Big Blue Nation?