Of course, you can’t spell Big Blue Nation without an “N”, a “B”, and an “A”. Kentucky is practically synonymous with the National Basketball Association.
The Kentucky program isn’t shy about partnering with the NBA. Whether it’s putting photos of former Cats now in the NBA on video boards in Rupp Arena before every game. Or organize a televised “Pro Day” every pre-season. Or draw attention in 2021-22 to John CalipariFirst 12 seasons as a coach, 43 players were drafted, 32 in the first round and 21 as lottery picks.
Speaking of the NBA elite camp on Monday, Kellan Grady hailed this connection as a key to recruiting the best prospects.
“It was definitely a factor, I think, in everyone’s decision to go to Kentucky,” Grady said before putting that into perspective. “That’s part of it, but ultimately I wanted to be part of the tradition and play in front of big fans at Rupp Arena, compete in the SEC and play for Coach Calipari.”
The website Sidelines.io recently released that the 113 players in NBA history who previously wore Kentucky jerseys are the most from any one school. UCLA is second with 93 and Louisville is eighth with 57.
This seems to influence the recruitment process.
“It was a huge factor” Keion Brooks mentioned. “Kentucky is almost like a stepping stone to the NBA. …
“I think that plays a big role in finding recruits. You know, if Kentucky is interested in you and you want to go there, I was pretty sure you aspire to be an NBA player. You don’t go there if you don’t.
Shaedon Sharpe took that to the extreme when he entered this year’s NBA draft after only training with the British team as a late rookie last season.
Bobby Brands, ESPN’s NBA front office insider, questioned a college program billing itself as a training ground for the pro level. “Are we running an NBA Academy?” he said. “Or are we trying to win a national championship?”
Ty Ty Washington said his recruiting decision came down to ‘best fit’, which he defined as somewhere he wouldn’t have to change his style of play. He also cited ‘coach’s CV’ , which included the production backgrounds of professional players.
Of course you could say Johnny Juzang doubled down on that college-NBA connection. He played for Kentucky and UCLA. He said he benefited from playing for both Calipari and UCLA Coach Mick Cronin.
“I think you just want to go on a program where the coach is going to develop you and invest in you,” he said. Playing for Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, or Kansas (the top five programs on Sidelines.io’s list for producing NBA players of all time) can be incidental to a professional career.
“It’s nice to be on the big stage,” Juzang said, “but these (NBA) scouts, they find guys from all over. So as long as you become the best player you can be, that’s the main thing.
‘Short sample size’
Last week, the NBA hosted an elite G League camp and then its annual Chicago combine. It seemed reasonable to consider both as a step up in terms of a player’s NBA Draft profile.
Keion Brooks and Kellan Grady participated in the elite camp. Neither was among the players subsequently invited to the Combine.
When asked on Monday how it would feel to be invited to the Combine, Brooks said: “I think it would be something really, really good. But it is not an end in itself. It’s a small sample of who you are as a player. …Whether you get a promotion or not, that’s not the end of your story.
Three-point shots from the baseline (aka “corner three”) are a notorious offensive weapon.
As regularly as it is drawn, it may come as a surprise that corner three is part of the adjustment going from college basketball to the NBA draft process, Kellan Grady mentioned. This is because the three-point line is closer to the baseline and sideline in the NBA.
“There’s a bunch of people, myself included, who went out of bounds twice today,” he said of Monday’s scrimmage match at the elite camp.
That smaller space had been noted in more than one of his practices for NBA teams the previous week, said Grady, who added, “it’s something to consider.”
Walker Kesler transferred from North Carolina to Auburn last year. Kessler and his old school had good seasons.
Kessler, who participated in the NBA Combine, averaged the second-most blocks in Division I: 4.56 per game.
And UNC qualified for the national championship game.
When asked how he felt about the Tar Heels’ prosperity in his absence, Kessler said, “I was extremely happy. They were my guys.
‘I was not feeling well’
British fans may remember this Walker Kesler adjust the pick that leveled sahvir Wheeler when Kentucky played at Auburn last season.
“I felt bad,” he said when asked about the choice. “It was a tough, tough screen.”
Earlier in the season, Wheeler suffered a neck injury while blindly running into a screen at LSU.
Was making picks on Wheeler part of the game plan? “Not at all,” Kessler said. “I am a screen designer. So, I just saw my man going down in transition, so I put this screen on.
Did Kessler hear a UK player trying to warn Wheeler by calling the screen ahead?
“Not really,” Kessler said with a hearty laugh.
Social Justice Champions
Former British standout Karl Anthony Towns is one of five finalists for the 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, the NBA announced Monday.
The other finalists are Reggie Bullock (dalas), Holiday Jrue (Milwaukee), Jaren Jackson Jr.. (Memphis) and Fred VanVleet (Toronto).
The award recognizes the most influential social justice advocates of the year.
After his mother Jacqueline Cities, who died of COVID, Towns began working to create greater equity in health and education. He worked with the NBA on a vaccine public service announcement and helped provide 100 COVID test kits distributed to more than 50 schools in his native New Jersey and Minnesota.
The cities also donated $20,000 to the George Floyd Foundation and $30,000 to the Vera Institute of Justice (which works to end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants and the poor ).
In support of gender equity and greater athletic opportunities for women, Towns donated to Kean University.
Towns also sits on the board of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.
The winner of the Social Justice Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award will be announced during a TNT television broadcast of a Western Conference Finals game. The NBA will donate $100,000 to the winner’s chosen social justice organization.
The other four finalists will receive donations of $25,000 to the organization of their choice.
Happy belated birthday
For Keith Bogans. He turned 42 on May 12. … For Nate Sestine. He turned 25 on May 12. … For Quad Green. He turned 24 on May 12. … For Kevin Grevey. He turned 69 on May 12. …to the former Missouri coach Kim Anderson. He turned 67 on May 12. … For Merion Haskins. He turned 67 on May 13. … For Valerie Still. She turned 61 on May 14. … For John Adams. He turned 79 on May 15. …to the SEC Network analyst Pat Bradley. He turned 46 on May 16. …to the former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. He turned 59 on May 17. …To Coach LSU Kim Mulkey. She turned 60 on May 17. … For Ron Mercer. He turned 46 on May 18.
For Enes Kanter Freedom. He turned 30 on Friday. … For Jamal Magloire. He turned 44 on Saturday. … For Rob Lock. He will be 56 on Sunday. …to the former Florida standout Keyontae Johnson. He will be 23 on Tuesday. … For Cedric Jenkins. He will be 56 on Wednesday.
This story was originally published May 21, 2022 06:00 a.m.