Kentucky basketball fans are going to have all the entertainment they need Feb. 16 with a jam-packed slate of UK basketball action.
While the UK-Tennessee game will be going on at 8 p.m. in Rupp Arena on ESPN – with possibly first place on the line in the Southeastern Conference – three NBA Wildcats will be participating at the 2019 State Farm NBA All-Star Saturday Night at NBA All-Star weekend simultaneously.
Devin Booker (2015) will try to defend his 2018 championship in the 2019 Mtn Dew 3-Point Contest, Hamidou Diallo (2017-18) will take to the skies in the ATT Slam Dunk Contest and De’Aaron Fox (2017) will compete in the Taco Bells Skill Challenge at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
It all gets started Saturday at 8 p.m. on TNT, making for great commercial breaks during the UK-Tennessee game that will be airing on ESPN at the same time. The Skills Challenge will start first, followed by the 3-Point Contest and then the Slam Dunk Contest.
The NBA All-Star Game, which will feature former UK stars Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, is Feb. 17 in Charlotte. That game will also be on TNT.
Additionally, Kevin Knox (2018), was added to the 2019 Mtn Dew Ice Rising Stars game, which features some of the league’s best first- and second-year players. That game will air Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. on TNT.
Fox, one of the three participants in that Rising Stars game (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rounds out the three Wildcats), is in his second season with the Sacramento Kings and has quickly become one of the best young point guards in the game after being selected fifth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. With elite speed and athleticism, Fox has the upstart Kings in contention for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 17.5 points per game and ranks ninth in the league in both assists per game (7.2) and steals per game (1.70). On Nov. 1, he became the youngest player in league history to record 30 or more points, 15 or more assists, and 10 or more rebounds in a game.
At Kentucky, Fox guided UK to within a game of the Final Four after a memorable season in Lexington. In earning Associated Press All-American honorable mention honors, Fox scored a freshman NCAA Tournament record 39 points vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 and recorded the program’s first triple-double since Chris Mills in 1988 with a tremendous performance vs. Arizona State.
Fox will go against seven other players in the Skills Challenge. Eight Wildcats have participated in the event before with Towns winning the 2016 competition.
Booker, a budding superstar with the Phoenix Suns, will try to hold on to his 3-Point Contest crown after putting together the best performance in the history of the competition last season. Booker scored a record 28 in the championship round last year to defeat the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson.
He will have stiff competition again this year with the likes of the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter, Stephen Curry, Charlotte’s own Kemba Walker and some of the best perimeter shooters in the game in a 10-man contest.
Booker, of course, has turned into one of the game’s best scorers in just his fourth season in the league. He’s averaging 24.9 points and 6.7 assists per game, both among the game’s leaders. He’s the fifth-youngest player in NBA history to score 5,000 points (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard) and caught the attention of the world two seasons ago by becoming one of just six players to score 70 points in a game.
All that from a player who didn’t start a single game at Kentucky. Booker was a part of the historic 2014-15 Kentucky team that won its first 38 games before falling in the Final Four. Booker was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 10.0 points while sinking 58 shots from long range. He was selected 13th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft and just recently signed a five-year maximum contract extension with the Suns.
Kentucky fans know all too well that Diallo can dunk with the game’s best. The rest of the world will get a chance to see the high-flying guard do just that Feb. 16 in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
The former UK star, who was selected 45th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets (and then traded eventually to the Oklahoma City Thunder), is one of four participants who will compete for the crown of the NBA’s best dunker. Diallo put together a highlight reel of dunks during his one on-court season with the Wildcats. A 6-5, athletic guard who packs a punch with his slams in addition to his 44.5-inch vertical, Diallo is enjoying a solid rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The second-round pick not only earned a roster spot with the Thunder, he’s played in 43 games with three starts and is averaging 11.9 minutes per game for the 33-18 Thunder. He’s tallying 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field.
Diallo will become the fifth Wildcat to compete in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and the first since John Wall took to the skies in 2014. Eric Bledsoe (2013), Rex Chapman (1990, 91) and Kenny “Sky” Walker (1989, 1990) have also participated with Wall and Walker (1989) winning their respective competitions.
Diallo averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while starting in all 37 games during his redshirt freshman season with Kentucky. He scored in double figures in 16 games, topping the 20-point plateau three times, including a 22-point game in UK’s second-round NCAA Tournament win over Buffalo.
Knox has lived up to the billing as the No. 9 overall pick in last season’s NBA Draft with a strong rookie season thus far. He’s averaging 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds for the New York Knicks. He’s registered 29 double-digit scoring performances, including eight 20-point games and one 30-point showing.
When Knox hit the 30-point mark on Jan. 14, he become the sixth-youngest player in NBA history to score 30 or more points in a game. He has started 28 of the Knicks’ 46 games.
While leading UK in scoring last season with 15.8 points per game, Knox was tabbed the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and an AP All-America honorable mention. He made a team-high 57 3-pointers and was tabbed an All-SEC First Team member.
‑ GO CATS –
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