The divorce becomes final tonight.
The core unit and top six players from a Kentucky team that won 40 games in 38 attempts last season will be nothing but a lasting memory and remembered for its “gr8ness” on the court.
Even though the breakup of the defending national champion began almost immediately after the school captured its eighth national championship in April, speculation on the separation quickly turned into realization not even a month after the team left New Orleans with the coveted national championship trophy in hand. Senior Darius Miller’s future was known, but the core of the team played the waiting game as the deadline for entering the NBA¿Draft loomed.
Aside from Miller, it was widely known that Anthony Davis would exchange his textbooks for green backs, but it wasn’t entirely a big surprise when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague joined Davis at a press conference at the Joe Craft Center to announce their intentions to turn from one- and two-year college players into professional ones.
Coming back for more, and a chance to become the first Wildcat team to repeat as champions since the 1948-49 seasons, was intriguing, but not as much as getting paid to play basketball.¿Who can blame them?
Professional teams yearn for solid talent and also players who have room to develop following the draft. Kentucky’s six players have both options for teams to consider.
Of the six former Kentucky players expected to be chosen in the NBA Draft tonight, Davis is without question the cream of the crop. No player in this century has made more of an impact on the program than Davis, who made shot-blocking popular again and a useful weapon on defense. He can take over a game at both ends of the floor and his humble roots off the court also make him an appealing prospect for the Hornets.
Players like Davis are hard to find. Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff knew that when they recruited Davis from Chicago to Kentucky and NBA¿teams, especially the New Orleans Hornets, know that, too. His ability to dominate with his hands on defense, combined with his skills around the basket, make Davis a hot commodity and are just two of the reasons why Davis will be the top draft pick.
After Davis, it’s not known where the other five of Kentucky’s former five players will end up once the draft begins. Like most analysts, the feeling is that Kidd-Gilchrist will follow Davis, with Jones, Lamb and Teague also going into the first round. Miller will likely be selected in the second round, but that’s not a bad thing.
Kentucky’s recent second-round draftees have included Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins, Jodie Meeks, Joe Crawford and Keith Bogans.
The only thing for certain is that Davis will begin his professional career where he played his final college game — in the Big Easy.