The University of Kentucky Wildcats ended the 2011-2012 season with a 38-2 overall and 16-0 record in the Southeastern Conference. Coming off a Final Four appearance a year ago, and bringing in 4 of the top 20 recruits in the nation according to ESPN top #100. Returning Terrance Jones and Doron Lamb, two top recruits from the previous year and an unselfish senior in Darius Miller. Winning a Championship was the only thing on the mind of the BBN. Amidst all the pressure and expectations a Championship is exactly what Coach Cal and the Wildcats delivered.
The most amazing part about this team of freshman and sophomores was the way they played together as a team. The image of the one and done player usually is one of selfishness. They don’t have the ability to think about team goals because the best thing for them to do is, play for a team that will allow them a chance to shine. Score over 20 PPG and lead team to the tournament. Not this team. This team played as if they had been playing together for 4 years and was finally ready to put it all together. The mental mistakes that usually go with a team like this were slowly nonexistent as Coach Cal always had his team in the best position to win. All we can say to Coach Cal is “Thank you and Congratulations” and to commend him on his courage to take the team and run it his own way. Coach Cal took some of the best players in the world to sacrifice individual accolades for the common team goal.
This is the time of year where everyone is reviewing what went wrong. What shot could have fallen? What player injury kept them reaching their goal? The University of Kentucky and BBN can sit back and review the season with joy and a collected sigh of relief. Its one thing to have 3 consecutive #1recruiting classes, but another to bring one of those teams together and win it all.
Below are a few words, on the impact and growth of each contributing member to the CHAMPIONSHIP!!!!!
When Coach John Calipari left The University of Memphis for The University of Kentucky, the only thing the Big Blue Nation could imagine was winning it all. Yes Coach Cal had not won anything in his previous coaching stints but Coach Cal did take a UMASS team to the finals that eventually lost to Kentucky. He also had taken Memphis to the finals; and was only a few free throws from winning it all. Though both records of UMASS and Memphis have been vacated the fact of the matter is that he has already shown the coaching ability to get to the finals. All Coach Cal needed was the 7 Championship Banners hanging in the rafters at Rupp Arena, fan support that only the Big Blue Nation can provide and surely Coach Cal would get that elusive Championship at Kentucky. To quote the Rally’s Burgers commercial from my youth “CH-CHING!!!!!!
14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.4 STL, 4.7 BLK, 62% FG, 71% FT
A once in a lifetime type of player; every kid who has ever played the game of basketball dreamed of waking up one day and being 7 feet tall and for Davis this is true. Not only did he grow to be 7 feet tall, he accomplished these goals along the way.
And it could not have happened to a better person. Calipari made a team of unselfish players and the kid was so outstanding in his role, he was still able to receive all the personal accolades. Did Anthony Davis carry his team the entire season? No way. Terrance carried us for an entire half’s at times. Doron and Darius hit the big shots down the stretch. MKD was the heart of the team. Anthony Davis was the entire team’s backup; he covered his teammates when a mistake was made. He passed you the ball when you were open; he hit you on the outlet. Most importantly if a teammate was beaten on a play he blocked the shot. He was the consummate team player who developed all year long into a very confident player.
11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 49% FG, 75% FT, 26% 3pt
To have a 17 year old come into college basketball and have the type of leadership skills that Michael Kidd Gilchrist possess are very rare. His intensity and passion are unmatched, and something that his teammates were really able to rally behind. Want some evidence that proves it? How about 7.4 RPG as a SF shows the ability to go down low and bang with the big boys. Ranking #1 amongst NCAA prospects in transition scoring efficiency making 71% of his attempts. He rebounds, attacks and has no problem sticking his nose in the mix. To be a freshman and have the kind of heart is unreal. He has the heart of a Champion and that is something very few players have. I am writing an article that goes into detail the future that I see for MKG…Keep your eyes open for it.
9.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG 47% FG, 80% FT, 38% 3pt
Darius epitomized what it meant to be a Senior on a team filled with Freshman and Sophomore’s. Darius did all this without complaining or feeling down on self. He was coming off a summer playing with Team USA for the second time and confidence was extremely high. Darius stepped up the biggest on the court, when other teams looked as if they were starting to stage a comeback. Darius would hit a shot, grab a rebound, or make a steal, something that would turn the tide back to Kentucky’s way. He played like a leader, and showed that not only was he one of Kentucky’s better players, But he was one of the better players in the country.
13.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 47% FG, 83%, 47% 3pt
Has anyone ever seen the kid from Queens, NY ever get rattled? He does what he supposed to do when he is supposed to do it. Doron shooting ability was always evident. Making the decisions to come back really improved his game. He improved his ball handling and decision making, allowing him to fill in at PG and keep the offense moving. He ran off screens reminiscent of Rip Hamilton or Ray Allen. Just like Darius, Doron was always there at the right time with a jump shot, rebound, or steal that would settle the spirits of BBN. I believe he is the most underrated player on the Wildcats as far as NBA prospects go. But that’s another story
12.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.8 BPG 50% FG, 63% FT, 33% 3pt
Of all the players on Kentucky, Terrance Jones had to be the X factor. We hard all year long, as Terrance Jones go, so does the Kentucky Wildcats. Yes Terrance had his Terrance moments, but after Ashley Judd sent him a text message to pick up his spirits he did just that. He became like Anthony Davis in a sense that he was able to change the game without scoring instead of getting down on himself like he had done in the past. There were moments when Terrance put Kentucky on his back and carried us for a half. Terrance stuck around to get better and to win, he did both. He was a stat stuffer, filling in every bracket, while showing leadership and maturity, something he had lacked the year before. With a performance like that in March madness, he may have worked his way into the top #10 for the NBA draft.
10.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.7 TPG, 412 FG%, 71% FT, 33% 3pt
Marguis was a turnover machine when the season began. He was not the John Wall or even Brandon Knight, a player that could create his own offense when things broke down. Yes he still committed turnovers late in the season, but he learned how to run a team. The scoring guard mentality would not work with this team. Teague was surrounded with studs at every position. The Indiana game seemed to give him a little confidence, and slowly as the season started to turn to March. Teague started playing better, not turning the ball over, and attacking when the play broke down. He became a leader of the offense, communicating much better. Marguis development throughout the season was phenomenal; it was a true attribute to the coaching that Coach Cal puts in. Give Rod Strickland assistant coach some credit there too.
5.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 44% FG, 82% FT, 43% 3pt
It takes a lot of heart to do what Kyle Wiltjer did. Kyle officially committed to Kentucky without even taking a visit to the campus. Kyle does not bring much to Coach Cal’s Dribble Drive offense. He is not athletic; he has a tough time penetrating with the ball. He is not physical enough to play inside and does not rebound well and he can’t guard anyone without help defense. The two things that he does provide are being able to hit a jump shot, and having a high basketball IQ. Normally Kyle is in the right place in the right time, and gained confidence with his game as the season wears on. With experience from this years Championship team and an off season to get better I expect Kyle to be one of the most improved players in the college game.