[Moderated by Matt Jones]
There is just something special about seeing a Kentucky boy dominate in the Blue and White. You can go out watch a hometown kid star in high school, play in Rupp during the state tournament, then go on to play for the Cats. Any players that does that is sure to share a special connection with fans in the state. Those players truly understand what Kentucky Basketball is all about. For this list I only considered each players college career with the Cats, many of them had stellar NBA careers that would possibly change the order. First up is:
10. Patrick Sparks- Edging out Marquis Estill and Anthony Epps is the king of the clutch shot. Sparks came to Kentucky from Muhlenberg North by way of Western Kentucky. In two seasons with the Cats sparks scored 714 points but he will always be remembered as a hero for the free throws against Louisville and the three in the elite eight against Michigan State. He will also be remembered as a villain by playing on the Western team that upset Kentucky in 2001. He may be the only Kentucky player with a win against the Cats.
9. Rajon Rondo- Rondo has had a great NBA career but at Kentucky he never reached those heights. Rondo grew up in Louisville and attended Eastern before going to Oak Hill Academy. Like Patrick Sparks, Rondo also only spent two years in Lexington before beginning his NBA career. Rondo is the single season steals leader and ranks tenth despite only playing two seasons. Rondo and Tubby just weren’t a good fit but I would have loved to see him play under Cal.
8. Derek Anderson- From Doss High School in Louisville Derek Anderson also only spent two seasons with the Cats. He spent his freshman year at Ohio State before transferring to UK to help win the title in 96. He was also a major part of the 97 season and many feel we may have won that title had Anderson not gone down to a knee injury.
7. Scott Padgett- From St. X in Louisville it’s Scott Padgett. He was named to the All Final Four team in 97 and 98 and the All Region team in 99. Padgett will always be known for his tremendous three to take the lead and seal the comeback against Duke.
6. Melvin Turpin- The Big Dipper played in the shadows of fellow big man Sam Bowie but still put up some great numbers. After Bowie went to the NBA “Dinner Bell” lead the team in scoring for his senior season. Mel ranks 16th in scoring with 1509 points and third in field goal percentage with 59 %.
5. The Unforgettables – Instead of taking up four spots with these guys I just consolidated them into one. Each player had a great high school and collegiate career. One of the main reasons that this team was so beloved is that, except for Woods, they were Kentucky boys. Richie Farmer came from Clay County where he was the 1988 Mr. Basketball. Deron Feldhaus from Mason County was the Gatorade State Player of the Year. Finally John Pelphrey from Paintsville was the 1987 Mr. Basketball. This team also included Travis Ford from Madisonville-North Hopkins. Four of the best players the state has ever produced on one team.
4. Rex Chapman- The greatest player to ever lace them up at Apollo High in Owensboro, King Rex comes in as the fourth best player from the state. The 1986 Mr. Basketball joined the 1000 point club in just two seasons in Lexington. He did that while shooting 47% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Rex left early for the draft following his sophomore year. Otherwise, based on his great NBA career, he would have been higher on this list maybe even taken the top spot. He would definitely take first in the coolest players to wear the blue and white.
3. Darius Miller- The only triple crown winner in Kentucky history. Mr. Basketball and state champion from Mason County, Darius Miller has probably played with the most NBA players in college basketball history. Surrounded by all those star players Darius had times during his career that he would disappear on the court. However this past season Miller stepped up big during crunch time of games and found his groove in getting to the lane. Darius finished his career with 1248 points.
2. Ralph Beard- For this list I decided to only include one player from the golden age of basketball. From the olden days there were several players that deserved a spot on this list. Among them were Earl Adkins, Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan. However, those players played in a completely different era and most of us never witnessed them in action. For this list I went with a member of the original Fab Five hailing from Louisville Ralph Beard. Beard was a consensus 1st team all American for three years, brought the Cats their first two titles, and won an Olympic gold medal. Those achievements will land you in the top of nearly any list.
1. Jack Givens- The Goose grew up in Lexington and attended high school at Bryan Station. He was the 1974 Mr. Basketball. He led the Cats to their fifth national championship en route to being named the Helms player of the year. On top of all that Givens ranks at third on the All-Time scoring list with 2038 points. The Goose is the best player from Kentucky to attend the University.
One thing I have enjoyed about Cal’s tenure at UK is that he has embraced the state of Kentucky. In each of his three years as Coach he has added an in-state player Hood in 09, Polson on 10, Beckham in 11. With Kentucky’s population the fact is that each year the state will not produce an elite level talent but when it does Cal is sure to reel them in, like Derrick Willis. Even still he will take a walk on that is sure to be a fan favorite.
Who is your favorite player from KY? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @ACassady_KSR
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