Former Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyrese Maxey just had his NBA dreams realized.
During Wednesday night’s 2020 NBA Draft, Maxey was selected 21st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite Kentucky having a strong presence in the NBA, Maxey will be the lone Wildcat on Philly’s roster.
Maxey was widely projected to be drafted within the first 16 picks, but this is a great oppurtunity for him. He’s not only going to one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference, but he gets to play for head coach Doc Rivers, who’s been tremendous at developing guards (like that Rajon Rondo fellow, who was also drafted 21st overall in the 2006 NBA Draft).
A 6-3 guard out of Texas, Maxey was one of the top freshmen in the country in 2019-20, averaging 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the SEC regular-season champs. He shot 42.7% from the floor and made 33 triples.
“There was no player I was harder on this year than Tyrese, and there’s a reason for that,” UK head coach John Calipari said when Maxey declared for the draft. “One, he’s a great kid with a confidence in his ability that does not waver. Two, he has a potential that he has only begun to realize. And three, Tyrese needed to be challenged to take that next step.
”Tyrese made that leap this season. He met every challenge and became one of the best guards in the country. Not only was it his dream to play at Kentucky, he wanted to be coached. He’s going to do great in that league because there’s nothing he can’t do. He can handle the ball, he can shoot, he’s got great athleticism and he really defended as the season went on. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of what Jamal Murray was able to do and we know how well he’s done in the NBA.”
Highlighted by a career-high 27-point performance in the victory over No. 3 Louisville, Maxey averaged a team-high 19.0 points to go along with 5.3 rebounds in UK’s six games vs. AP Top 25 teams. In true road games, Maxey ranked second on the team with an average of 14.4 points. He also added 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 blocks per game in such games.
Maxey’s 26 points in the 1-2 matchup vs. Michigan State topped Terrence Jones’ 25 points against East Tennessee State in 2010 for the most points by a freshman in his debut as a Wildcat. From the 10:03 mark of the second half until a pair of Ashton Hagans’ free throws with 37 seconds to play, Maxey scored or assisted on 14 straight UK points to hold off the Spartans rally, including the game-clinching triple with just over a minute to play from NBA range.
Against Louisville, Maxey made a career-high nine field goals (on 14 shots), sunk a career-best four 3-pointers and tied a career high with seven rebounds. His 27 points were the most by a UK freshman vs. Louisville and the most by a Wildcat in the rivalry since Jodie Meeks score 28 on Jan. 4, 2009.
Maxey scored in double figures in 22 games. The league’s coaches picked him for the All-SEC Second Team and the SEC All-Freshman Team. He was also a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection and both the NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week and the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman following the win over Louisville.
Down the stretch of the regular season, Maxey averaged 15.5 points per game on 42.9% shooting over the final 12 games, scoring in double figures in 10 of those, including 17 vs. 15th-ranked Auburn to help the Wildcats win the SEC regular-season title.
Now, the NBA dream continues in the City of Brotherly Love.