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MVP Wildcats: A real Top 10

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As riveting as scrimmages and basketball recruiting -- and football demoralization -- are, I have come to the not-that-difficult conclusion that I do not function best as a news delivery portal. Message boards, a few blogs and Matt Jones and his KSR comrades do a much more comprehensive job of this.

What I can do well is poromote myself as an arbiter of good taste and of the Big Blue Nation's zeitgeist at a given time.

And with that overlong introduction, I present to you the first installment in a running series as the regular season approacheth.

The Goal
To elucidate why and what the UK fanbase most values in a player by breaking down a top 10 list of fans' (and my own) list of the 10 most valuable players of the last 25 years.

I use the last 25 years intentionally, as they represent a wedge of time that encapsulates four different coaches, and which compomises the bulk of the modern era, not to mention the fall and rise again of the UK program.

The Plan
Early each week, I will unveil a new group of names and biographies detailing players whose individual career can be perceived to be meritous of Most Valuable Player status.

NOTE: Please remember that these players are being chosen not solely for statistical prowess nor for fan favoritism. They are being chosen for their all-around value to their respective teams.

Your job
Fans are encouraged to chime in with comments, arguments for and against each player and, ultimately, cast their vote at the right-hand navigation. The cumulative list will be unveiled in a truly ceremonious (and as yet undecided) manner.

Let's get started ...

The Round 1 Candidates

Dirk Minnifield, G, 1979-1983
Mr. Basketball for the state title-winning Lafayette Generals (Go Big L!), Minnifield was a McDonald's and Parade All-American recruit for Coach Joe B. Hall.

Minnifield was a key part of several loaded teams, making the All-SEC third team twice and the second team once in his four years as a Wildcat. Minnifield would also go on to become the all-time leader at UK in assists (646, or 5.3 apg) and is still in the top 10 in steals.

Known for his athletic full-court game and scatterquick style, Minnifield fed the ball to giants Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin, as well as Charles Hurt. Minnifield assumed the point guard mantle from All-everything Kyle Macy, no easy task in the Bluegrass State.

Dale Brown, G, 1991-93
A big part of Rick Pitino's rebuilding project, Brown was one of The Don's biggest early gets. originally known as a sharpshooter at Pascagoula (Miss.) Junior College, ironically it was a shooting slump that truly brought out the best in Brown.

Forced to find other ways to get on the floor after his three-point shot stopped falling with the same regularity it had in JC, Brown became Pitino's defensive stopper, helping subdue such marquee opponents as Allan Houston (Tenn.), Jo Jo English (South Car.) and Latrell Sprewell (Bama), among many others.

Many UK fans (including myself) believe that it was Brown's shoulder injury in the early going against Michigan in the 1993 Final Four that changed the course of the game, as the rest of the Cats couldn't contain the backcourt of the Fab 5, namely Jalen Rose and Jimmy King.

While Brown was not the scoring guard that Pitino envisioned when he initially inked out of Juco, Brown turned himself into perhaps the classic "glue" guy, spelling the point at times and always drawing the opponents' best scoring guard on defense.

Reggie Hanson, C, 1987-1991
Currently a prominent (and nattily dressed) assistant to Tubby, Hanson was the star on those long past, but never to be forgotten, Pitino's Bombinos teams of the probationary period. An almost afterthought recruit in the next-to-last Eddie Sutton class that featured All-Americans Eric Manuel and LeRon Ellis, as well as the coach's son Sean, Hanson played his way into significant playing time on the 13-19 1988-89 Cats.

But it was the arrival of Pitino that changed Hanson's career. As the talented, bigger hyped players jumped ship (Ellis to Syracuse, Chris Mills to Arizona), Hanson dug in, becoming the closest thing to a true center that the severely outmanned and overwhelmed Cats would have. Hanson more than held his own against a revenge-minded SEC, averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds for a 14-14 team that captured the Bluegrass' heart, then continuing his fine play for the resurgent 22-8 probation-addled Cats in 1991-92. While Hanson never got to taste NCAA play, his inspired and scrappy play in the paint at only 6'7" and 200 pounds made believers of both the fans and the coaches, who rewarded Hanson with a first-team All-SEC spot his senior year.

Jamaal Magliore, C, 1996-2000
He came to campus as a gangly Canadian project and left -- fittingly -- as the centerpiece of an overachieving team. This future NBA All-Star left behind a legacy of big blocks and bent Wojos, and was among the most intimidating players in modern UK history.

Perhaps no player better bridges the transition from Pitino to Tubby Smith better than Magloire, who showed himself a formidable defensive presence in the 1997 (under Pitino) and 1998 (under Smith) NCAA tournaments, and then upped his offensive game to another level under Tubby's tutelage, ultimately crafting himself into the 19th overall pick in the NBA draft.

Magloire is the all-time leader in blocked shots at UK, and ranks 13th all-time in rebounds as well. He forever ingratiated himself to Big Blue Nation when, in Kentucky's miraculous comeback win in the 1998 Regional Finals in Tampa, Magloire tangled memorably with Duke guard (and irritant) Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski. While Wojo did his best Oscar bid, Magloire showed the Cats would not be intimidated or back down, and as we know, they did neither on their way to their 7th national title.