No college basketball program has a richer history than the University of Kentucky’s. It’s all there: the good (eight national championships); the bad (a major point shaving scandal); and the ugly (the racism, albeit arguably overstated, of legendary coach Adolph Rupp).
Selecting all-stars from a program that has been so dominant over such a long period of time raises special difficulties. Prolific scorers from bygone eras can’t easily be shunted off to the third team or honorable mention — not if they led the team to major success in the NCAA tournament and had strong pro careers. So too with “one-and-dones.”
Anyway, here goes:
Kyle Macy (1977-80)
A transfer from Purdue, he’s sixth on the Wildcats all-time assist list and was a first-team All American as a senior. For his UK career, Macy shot 52 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the line. He was the starting point guard on the 1978 national championship team.
Kevin Grevey (1972-75)
Averaged 21.4 points per game (on 51.7 percent shooting) during his career, and 23.5 as a senior. That year, he led Kentucky to second place in the NCAA tournament. UK lost a close title game to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game. Grevey also averaged 6.5 rebounds per game for his career. He went on to have a solid NBA career, including a championship with Washington in 1978.
Jamal Mashburn (1990-93)
He’s number six on the Wildcats all-time points list with a career shooting percentage of 51.6. As a senior, Monster Mash was SEC player of the year and a first-team All-American. And why not? That season he averaged 21 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.
Kenny “Sky” Walker (1982-86)
Because he fizzled as a pro, it’s easy for non-Kentucky fans to forget how dominant Walker was in college. A three-time all SEC selection, he’s second in career points, with a 57.2 career shooting percentage, and sixth in rebounds. “Sky” lived up to his name when he won the NBA slam dunk contest in 1989.
Dan Issel (1967-70)
They don’t come much better than Issel. Despite playing only three years for the Wildcats, he’s number one in both career scoring and rebounding. Issel made first-team All American as a senior, when he averaged just under 34 points and just over 13 rebounds per game. As a pro in the ABA and then the NBA, his career averages are 22.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Dirk Minniefield (1980-83)
He easily tops the UK career assists mark and is tenth is steals. Minniefield lacked a good outside shot and thus was a “pass first” point guard. By picking his spots, he compiled a 52.4 percent shooting percentage for his career.
Tony Delk (1992-96)
Delk starred on the 1996 championship team. That year, he was a first-team All American and the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. Delk is fifth in career points at Kentucky; second in career steals; and first in three-pointers made (at a success rate of nearly 40 percent).
Tayshaun Prince (1998-2002)
One of the best defensive forwards ever (with four NBA all-defensive team selections to prove it), Prince ranks number eight on the Wildcats all-time scoring list. Twice, he was first team all SEC and once he was SEC player of the year.
Cliff Hagan (1950-54)
As a senior, Hagan averaged 24 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. He was a two-time first team All American. As pro, Hagan made six NBA all-star teams while playing for the St. Louis Hawks alongside another SEC legend, Bob Petit (LSU).
Anthony Davis (2011-12)
Davis played only one season for the Wildcats, but what a season. He was National Player of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. More importantly, he led his team to a national championship. Not bad for a freshman.
Ed Davender (1984-88)
Eleventh on Kentucky’s career points list, eighth in assists, and fourth in steals.
Louis Dampier (1964-67)
Dampier was the star of the 1966 all-white Kentucky team that lost in the NCAA final to a Texas Western team that started five blacks. He averaged 19.7 points per game for his Kentucky career on .508 shooting. Later, he lit it up in the ABA.
Ron Mercer (1995-97)
Star of the 1997 national runner-up team. That season, Mercer was SEC player of the year and a first team All American. He averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game.
Jack “Goose” Givens (1974-78)
As a senior, Givens was National Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. He led Kentucky to its first national championship in 20 years. Givens’ performance in the championship game against Duke — 41 points — was one of the best in NCAA tournament history.
Alex Groza (1944-49)
The brother of football’s Lou “The Toe” Groza, he led Kentucky to back-to-back national titles in 1948 and 1949, and was Most Outstanding Player in both Final Fours. He also was the leading scorer on the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team that won the gold medal. His point total in 1949 ranks tenth in Kentucky history. Unfortunately, Groza later was implicated in having shaved points that season.
The honorable mention list could go on almost forever. I’ll name just these few:
Rajon Rondo: The game of this smooth point guard is best enjoyed to classical music.
Wayne Turner: The starting point guard on two national championship teams (1996 and 1998).
John Wall: Like Anthony Davis, Wall was National Player of the Year in his freshman season. Unlike Davis, he stumbled in the tournament.
Keith Bogans: The Washington DC area’s own (out of DeMatha), he’s fourth on Kentucky’s career scoring list.
Rex Chapman: One of the premier shooters in Kentucky history, he was all SEC in his sophomore (and final) year at Lexington. Chapman averaged 40 percent from three-point territory.
Cotton Nash: Averaged of 22.7 points per game for his Kentucky career and ranks fifth on the career rebounding list. Played in three professional sports leagues — the ABA, the NBA, and baseball’s major leagues.
Frank Ramsey: Averaged nearly 13 rebounds a game as a sophomore on Kentucky’s 1951 national championship team. Later an outstanding “sixth man” for numerous Boston Celtic championship teams.
Antoine Walker: Led Kentucky to the national title in 1996, averaging 15.2 points and 8.2 boards per game.
Sam Bowie: Had a great sophomore campaign but then sat out two seasons due to injury. Returned as a senior to help propel UK into the 1984 Final Four.