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Kentucky Basketball In The Olympics

DeMarcus Cousins gives Team USA a UK player for a third consecutive Olympic Games
DeMarcus Cousins gives Team USA a UK player for a third consecutive Olympic Games
Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

When DeMarcus Cousins and Team USA visit Brazil in August, we'll see Kentucky continue its strong presence in Olympic Basketball.

The addition of Cousins to the roster means UK has produced 11 Olympic basketball players.  History suggests Cousins’ participation bodes well for both Kentucky and Team USA—Six times has the USA Olympic roster included at least one Kentucky player; America has won gold in each of these years.*

1948 (London): Kentucky conquered college basketball in 1948, but didn’t stop there.  That summer, five players went from UK to The UK as Team USA crossed the pond to achieve world domination. Alex Groza led Team USA in scoring at 11.1 points/game.  Wallace Jones, Ralph Beard, Ken Rollins and Cliff Barker joined Groza to create 44% of America’s scoring output, which beat its opponents by 33.5 points/game.  The Kentucky boys combined to outscore USA's opponents in the Semifinal (Mexico) and Championship (France) games.  A fantastic chronicle of the 1948 Olympic Team can be found here.

Kentucky's "Fabulous Five"; Left to right: Beard, Rollins, Barker, Jones, Groza

Kentucky's "Fabulous Five"; Left to right: Beard, Rollins, Barker, Jones, Groza

1956 (Melbourne): Billy Evans, a guard from Berea, KY scored in double figures in three games in the 1956 Olympics.   Led by Bill Russell, the Americans campaigned through the Land Down Under and destroyed the rest of the basketball world (half of its eight wins were by 60+ points).  At Kentucky, Evans was an All-SEC performer who also played collegiate tennis and baseball.

1960 (Rome): USA did as the Romans had, and showed off its (basketball) empire en route to an 8-0 Olympic conquest.  One of the most prolific rosters in USA Basketball history included Kentucky’s Adrian Smith.  Smith was one of five American gladiators who averaged 10+ points, and joined a backcourt that included Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.  In 2010, this team was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a single unit.

++ If you recognize the name Adrian Smith from recent news, it’s the same guy that Oscar Robertson said was a better shooter than Steph Curry.

The first Dream Team: Adrian Smith holding the trophy.

The first Dream Team (Adrian Smith holding the trophy)

*1980 (Moscow): Due due to Cold War hostilities, USA boycotted Olympics participation and players were awarded Gold Medals by President Reagan.  Three freshmen were on the roster, including UK’s Sam Bowie, who led Kentucky in rebounds and blocks in his first year.

2008 (Beijing): Following a demoralizing showing in the 2004 games, Team USA’s basketball dynasty returned just four players (Anthony, Boozer, James, Wade) and assembled the "Redeem Team".  This included the addition of Tayshaun Prince, who was coming off his fourth consecutive season on the NBA All-Defense team.  Prince’s best game was a 10 point showing against Spain.

2012 (London): 20 years prior, Team USA began a trend where it filled the team with NBA stars, with one roster spot saved for a college scrub.   Anthony Davis was chosen to be that guy (but even then, we knew he wasn’t a scrub).  Davis missed only one shooting attempt in the first three games.  The Brow became the first freshman to win an NCAA Championship and Olympic gold in the same year.

All-time, Team USA is 40-0 in the Olympics when a Kentucky player participates.  If history prevails, DeMarcus Cousins will help add 8 wins and a gold medal to that total.