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John Calipari selects his ‘dream players’

Who are your favorites during the John Calipari-era?

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

With college basketball in a slow crawl in the midst of COVID-19, Andy Katz is doing his part to ramp things up with a new “dream player” segment on his March Madness 365 podcast.

On Tuesday, UK coach John Calipari was in the hot seat, joining the likes of Roy Williams (Kansas), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Bruce Pearl (Auburn), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Tom Izzo (Michigan) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee), who have all been asked by Katz the past eight weeks to break down their “best player” in 10 different categories.

With 38 players selected in the NBA Draft since 2010, including 21 lottery picks, Katz gave Calipari a pass on picking any one specific player, but the Hall of Fame Coach did his best to shine a light on many of the all-time greats that have helped the Wildcats to four Final Fours and a National Title in his 11 years at Kentucky.

As usual, Calipari had some fun with the discussion and gave a disclaimer to any of his past players that might feel slighted with his answers.

“I’m walking here so it’s hard to remember when you’re talking about 40 guys,” said Calipari.

The ten categories below include those players mentioned by Calipari and his “pick” in each grouping.

ULTIMATE PLAYMAKER

Mentions: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Marquis Teague, Andrew Harrison, Ashton Hagans, Tyler Ulis.

Cal’s Pick: “You have to look at Tyler Ulis. Even with his size, (he) didn’t care. Never thought of him as anything but a big-time guard.”

MR. CLUTCH

Mentions: John Wall, Brandon Knight, Aaron Harrison, Devin Booker, Tyler Herro, Immanuel Quickley.

Cal’s Pick: “We all remember Aaron Harrison and the shots that he made...Aaron probably had the biggest. We had five freshman starting on that team and (his shot against Michigan) put us in the final game of the year for a national title.”

ULTIMATE BUCKET GETTER

Mentions: Doron Lamb, Devin Booker, Tyler Herro, Eric Bledsoe, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns.

Cal’s Pick: Anthony Davis by the end of the year was ridiculous. He could go get buckets 10 different ways. Karl Towns by the end of the year, that’s all we did. We were going at him.”

ULTIMATE DEFENDER

Mentions: Julius Randle, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, PJ Washington.

Cal’s Pick: “Obviously Anthony Davis. We’ve always had shot blockers. That’s been our forte.”

BEST REBOUNDER

Mentions: DeMarcus Cousins, Terrence Jones, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Nick Richards.

Cal’s Pick: Despite calling Cousins “a beast”, Cal never could land on a winner in this category, but did say that the best defenders are also typically the best rebounders, so Davis would most likely be the winner in both categories.

BEST SHOOTER

Mentions: Devin Booker, Tyler Herro, Doron Lamb.

Cal’s Pick: “When Devin Booker got it going, it was hard to say anybody was better.”

GLUE GUY

Mentions: Darius Miller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jamal Murray.

Cal’s Pick: “Shai [Gilgeous] Alexander, he and Jamal Murray will be (NBA) All-Stars. Both scorers, both clutch players but both were wiling to step back so other people could step up so all of a sudden, Shai Alexander doesn’t start his first nine games (at Kentucky), but they step back and made room (for others).”

BEST ATHLETE

Mentions: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe.

Cal’s Pick: “I had John Wall, who was so fast it was crazy. I looked at Eric Bledsoe and said, ‘How fast is John Wall?’ And he said, ‘Coach, he is so fast.’ I go, ‘He’s faster than you?’ ‘Oh no, he’s not faster than me but he’s really fast.’ You talk about two athletes at guard. Eric Bledsoe could put his head on the rim and so could John. Both fast and strong.”

BASKETBALL IQ

Mentions: Tyler Ulis, Ashton Hagans.

Cal’s Pick: “Tyler Ulis being a coach on the floor...we had different guys that could do that, but here’s a guy who was 5-8, 140 pounds in the NBA, and he’ll be back in the NBA.”

TEAM CAPTAIN

Mentions: Anthony Davis

Cal’s Pick: “Anthony Davis could be a team captain because he would step back if he had to and then step up if he needed to and was the ultimate teammate. Normally, I don’t pick a captain. The officials will come to me before the first game and say, “Who’s your captain?” and I say, ‘I don’t know, ask them’ and whoever’s captain will step up. I want it to be truly organic and I want it to be from them, not me.”

During the interview, Calipari also talked about his work with the John McLendon Foundation Minority Leadership Initiative and why he’s chomping at the bit to play this season with a talented group that includes nine newcomers. The “Dream Player” segment begins at the 16:11 mark.