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Who are the 5 most important UK basketball recruits of the past 30 years?

Which recruits have impacted the program most over the past three decades?

Tony Delk

While browsing Twitter, I stumbled upon Oscar Combs’ personal list of the top-five most important basketball recruits of the last 30 years for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Then, the reply from John Wall caught my attention, as he had been list off the list.

So, I thought why don’t I put my two cents into this conversation and ranked my personal top-five of the most important UK basketball recruits of the last 30 years?

Keep in mind, I was born in 1997, so my earliest memories of UK basketball and recruits begin in the early 2000’s but I believe that my knowledge of the program runs deeper than just early 2000’s Wildcat basketball. So we’re going from 1990-2020.

My criteria for this is simple; what was the impact that this player had on the program?

Let’s get started.

5. Patrick Patterson

Billy Gillespie’s first big nap as Kentucky coach, Patterson was the first big recruit that Kentucky had landed in a few years, probably since Randolph Morris or Rajon Rondo.

The impact he had on the program? His first two years were great statistically, but obviously under Billy Clyde, Kentucky sucked. But when John Calipari took over, Patterson was the selling point for a coach already interested in coming to Lexington. And in Patterson’s Junior season, he helped elevate Kentucky back to rockstar status, along with a certain someone that we’ll touch on later.

4. Tony Delk

While not much of a factor during his freshman season, Delk took a substantial leap during his sophomore season, being named to his first All-SEC team. From there, Delk would lead Kentucky to a 1996 national title, and be named the 1996 Final Four MOP, along with SEC Player of the Year.

3. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis at number three? Am I mad? Well, I personally just think there’s two more players that were super important to the program.

But Anthony Davis put on the single greatest season by a freshman, maybe by any college player in the history of the sport.

He racked up every award possible, won a national title, was drafted first overall, and won a gold medal. Not bad if I would say so myself.

2. Jamal Mashburn

Jamal Mashburn was THE guy that got Kentucky back to their status as a top program in the early 90’s. Coming off of their probation from the late 80’s-early 90’s, Kentucky needed a recruit to bring them back to prominence. Yeah, the local boys such as Richie Farmer and Sean Woods were nice, but they needed a superstar.

That prayer was answered when Jamal Mashburn stepped foot on campus in 1991. He would lead Kentucky to an Elite Eight in 1992 and a Final Four in 1993, following two years of probation from 1989-1991.

Mashburn paved the way for the members of the 1996 team and 1998 teams and his jersey hangs in the rafters at Rupp for a reason.

1. John Wall

John Wall is, in my opinion, the most important recruit in UK basketball history, not even just the last 30 years.

Following two of the most miserable years of basketball I have ever witnessed, Kentucky landed their coach in John Calipari. Then what followed is probably some of the most fun I have ever had watching Kentucky basketball.

John Wall followed Calipari to Kentucky and immediately became a rockstar, not only in Kentucky, but nationwide. Kentucky became the ‘IT’ program and Wall’s commitment to Kentucky kicked off five of the most impressive years of recruiting by a program in college basketball history.

John Wall is responsible for a lot of the recruiting success for Kentucky in the 2010’s, and is why he is the most important recruit in the last 30 years.