When John Calipari signed his contract to coach the Kentucky Wildcats back in 2009, he had a dream to one day be the former coach of the greatest players in the NBA. It was a bold idea to have the greatest players all over the league coming from Kentucky.
Fast-forward seven years to 2016. The 2016-17 NBA season has just kicked off, and Coach Cal’s dream is alive and well. As the season starts, we’re seeing former Wildcats burst onto the scene.
You need to look no further than perhaps Kentucky’s best player ever, Anthony Davis, to see how Kentucky pros are doing. Davis’ season debut produced 50 points, 16 rebounds, 7 steals, 5 assists and 4 blocks. It’s the first time any player has ever recorded at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals ever since steals became an officially recorded stat.
Meanwhile, there were so many Wildcats in the Sacramento Kings-Phoenix Suns season opener that they should have played it at Rupp Arena and advertised it as a Kentucky all-star game. DeMarcus Cousins led the former Cats in scoring with 24 points to go along with 6 rebounds, followed by Devin Booker who had 18 points and went 8-12 from the field. Eric Bledsoe had perhaps the most complete game, as he put up 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and Brandon Knight did pretty well with 7 points and 5 assists as well. Tyler Ulis played 14 minutes and put up 2 points, and Skal Labissiere was inactive. Oh, and I almost forgot that Willie Cauley-Stein had 6 points and 2 rebounds, and did this.
So to recap: a lot of Calipari players played, a lot of them contributed, and Willie Cauley-Stein embarrassed Marquese Chriss.
In Memphis there was another matchup between Cal’s players, as Andrew Harrison and the Memphis Grizzlies took on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harrison played a game-high 38 minutes for Memphis, recording 4 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists. Meanwhile, the superstar Towns dropped 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. A pretty successful start to his sophomore campaign.
NBA Cats have had quite the start to the season, and when you combine their numbers, it’s astounding that all these contributions have come from not only one university, but one coach.
In all, 15 Wildcats combined for 216 pts, 85 rebs, 41 asts and 17 stls, an average of 14.4 pts, 5.6 rebs, 2.7 asts and 1.1 stls. #BBNBA— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) October 27, 2016
Calipari’s always had a player-first mentality. He wants his players to be in the best position to succeed in the future. He puts them in front of the national media, he raises their draft stock, and he encourages them to leave whenever they’re ready to fulfill their lifelong dream off playing in the NBA. And looking at how this NBA season has started, his mentality is working to perfection. Calipari has roots across the league, as he has a former player on 15 different NBA rosters, not including those in the D-League.
Cal was asked about his former players while addressing the media, and it’s clear that he’s quite proud. When asked about Davis’ 50-point night, he answered by bringing attention to all numerous other NBA Cats
“How about Michael Kidd-(Gilchrist) went for 22 (points) and 14 (rebounds)? How about Andrew Harrison started? I was so happy that I texted those guys. I didn’t text Anthony. He scored 50 and I’m like, ‘Yeah, you should.’ I hit Tyler (Ulis) who had a blocked shot. Are you kidding me? He said it was a steal that it wasn’t a block. I hit him back and he said, ‘I’m waiting for my chance.’ I said, ‘It’ll come.’ I tried to hit Jamal (Murray) this morning because I know he went 1 for 8. I know him well enough and I was just trying to hit him but he didn’t have a voicemail so I’ll probably get him after.”
He was also asked about a scuffle between Cousins and Booker during the Suns-Kings game, and talked about how interesting the fight would be, and how proud he is of his players.
“Let me say this: It would be a scrap. Devin will not budge, and I imagine the little kid (Ulis) went out and bit his knee cap when it happened. Because those two are absolutely – that’s two boys right there. Those two are like two peas in a pod, those two. Look, we have so many guys that when I get in in the morning, you know what happens. I have a list of all of my guys and how they played, if they won. You know, I’ll hit a bunch of them. Some of them I just like knowing (how they did). I get them (those lists) every morning. Today the list was like this (shows with his hands the length of about 12 inches) with all of those games. It was like a long list.”
The list of NBA players coached continues to grow for Cal, and as the Wildcats continue to pour into the NBA and leave their mark, it’s becoming quite evident that Cal’s Cats will dominate the NBA even more than they already are at some point in the near future. Perhaps we may even see a former Wildcat on every single team in the league?