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Want to win the lottery? Play for John Calipari at UK

Playing hoops for John Calipari at UK has proved to be a lottery ticket time and time again.

NCAA Basketball: Valparaiso at Kentucky
Kentucky’s latest lottery winners
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It is possible to win the lottery. The NBA draft lottery that is. Just play basketball at the University of Kentucky. To be a lottery pick in the NBA assures a player of a life-changing paycheck and a place in basketball history.

Since arriving at Kentucky coach John Calipari has created a lottery machine. So far he has had 13 players picked in the lottery. And on Thursday that number will almost certainly be increased by two or possibly three.

Before Calipari became UK's coach the number of lottery picks since the beginning of the lottery was only five. They date back to Kenny "Sky" Walker who was the first UK player to be picked in that category. The lottery didn't exist before 1985. Jamal Mashburn was the next Cat to be picked followed by Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson.

Calipari very nearly matched the entire pre-Calipari history of UK lottery picks in a single year. In the 2015 draft, four former UK players were drafted in the lottery with the top pick being Karl-Anthony Towns. Also included that year were Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker.

Having the top draft pick was something new to UK also. No UK player had ever achieved that result before Calipari became coach. In 1949 Alex Groza was drafted second. Sam Bowie was chosen second in the 1984 draft. That's as close to the number one spot UK got. UK has had three players chosen first in the draft under Calipari with the previously mentioned Towns being joined by Anthony Davis and John Wall.

Kentucky also had the remarkable achievement of having the first two players chosen in the draft when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist followed Davis in the 2012 draft. No other school has had the top two picks.

It is possible UK missed out on having a top draft pick in the 1970 draft when Dan Issel signed to play in the ABA instead of the NBA.

To be fair, Adolph Rupp never designed his program around a single star player preferring to play team basketball at all times. The only exception would have been Dan Issel. Kentucky produced a number of first-rate pros under Rupp including Issel, Frank Ramsey, Louie Dampier, and Ralph Beard.

Dampier was the all-time leading scorer in the ABA, Issel retired as a top five all-time scorer in pro basketball, Ramsey had a long career with the Boston Celtics during their dynasty years. And possibly the best of them all, Ralph Beard, had his career cut short because of the point shaving scandal. Bobby Knight once described Beard as "...the Michael Jordan of his time." But Beard played on a team of UK greats so again he wasn't the center of attention many players become.

Of course, the total number of Calipari players drafted overall and in the first round is staggering. No other school comes close to their level of production in the Calipari at UK era. Even the great UCLA teams failed to produce the number of NBA players we have seen from Calipari's teams.

Again we can expect this list to grow on Thursday. To date, the complete list of lottery picks that came from Calipari coached teams at UK includes:

  • John Wall
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Patrick Patterson
  • Brandon Knight
  • Anthony Davis
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Nerlens Noel
  • Julius Randle
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Trey Lyles
  • Devin Booker
  • Jamal Murray