Not only does the Kentucky men’s basketball program develop more players for the NBA than any other program in the country, the Wildcats are proving time and time again that they’re better prepared than any other competing alumni.
The latest example was the Tuesday release of the 2020 NBA All-Rookie teams, which featured former UK men’s basketball stars Tyler Herro and PJ Washington, both of whom made the All-Rookie Second Team.
It’s the eighth time in the last 10 seasons a player has made one of two All-Rookie Teams after playing at Kentucky, plus the 10th time in 12 seasons for a John Calipari-coached player when including Memphis standouts Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose. It’s also the fourth time in the last 10 seasons there have been multiple Wildcats on the All-Rookie teams, including three in both 2015-16 (Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker and Willie Cauley-Stein) and three in 2010-11 (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe).
With the selections of Washington and Herro, 14 Wildcats have earned All-Rookie status over the last 10 years, the best mark of any school during that time period. Calipari has coached 16 in the last 12 seasons when factoring in Evans and Rose.
A global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters selected this year’s NBA All-Rookie teams. The media voted for five players for the first team and five players for the second team at any position. Players received two points for each first-team vote and one point for each second-team vote.
The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played through March 11. The seeding games, which were played July 30–Aug. 14 as part of the 2019-20 season restart, did not count toward voting for the NBA All-Rookie Team or the league’s other traditional end-of-season awards.
Herro earned 115 total points, coming up just a point shy of the final first-team selection, Eric Paschall (Golden State). He also received 23 first-team votes.
Washington tallied 88 total points with eight first-team votes.
The UK duo was joined by Terrence Davis II (Toronto), Coby White (Chicago) and Rui Hachimura (Washington).
Kentucky tied Gonzaga with two representatives on the All-Rookie teams.
Last week, three Wildcats – Anthony Davis (first team), Bam Adebayo (second team) and Bledsoe (third team) – made the NBA All-Defensive teams, marking just the second time in NBA history three players from the same school made the All-Defensive teams in the same season (UCLA did it first in 1977).
After two seasons at Kentucky, Washington made an immediate impact in Charlotte. The 12th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft made an NBA rookie record seven 3-pointers in his NBA debut, a sign of things to come for his first season in the league.
Showcasing the versatility Washington developed in his second season at UK, he averaged 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while make 1.5 3-pointers per contest in 2019-20. The 6-foot-7 forward logged four double-doubles with 37 double-figure scoring games – in a shortened season no less – and a 12.48 player efficiency rating.
Washington, UK’s first selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, concluded his college career with 932 points, 475 rebounds, 120 assists and 74 blocks. After putting the NBA on hold for a year to return for his sophomore season, Washington evolved into one of the nation’s most dominant players in the country and was an NCAA Consensus All-America Third Team selection. He produced career highs in virtually every statistical category in 2018-19, including leading the Wildcats in scoring (15.2 points per game), rebounding (7.5 rpg) and double-doubles (nine).
Herro has been a force for the young and talented Miami Heat, who last week knocked off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks to advance to the NBA Eastern Conference finals. With high-scoring nights, unwavering confidence and clutch shots, Herro has already evolved into one of the game’s bright young stars.
After going 13th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, Herro averaged 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists while making 38.9% from 3-point range in the regular season. He’s upped those splits to 14.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 40.0% from long range during the Heat’s 8-1 run in the postseason.
Herro was not only Kentucky’s second-leading scorer (14.0 points per game) and leading 3-pointer shooter (60 3-point field goals) during the 2018-19 season, he was one of UK’s most important pieces to its success. The Wildcats were 19-0 when Herro scored 15 or more points and 11-7 when he didn’t. In Kentucky’s 30 wins, he averaged a team-high 14.9 points, 49.5% shooting and 39.7% from 3-point range. Shooting 93.5% from the free-throw line, he not only set a new single-season school record for free-throw percentage but also for the SEC (with players between 50 and 100 attempts).
Both Washington and Herro were selected for the 2019 NBA Rising Stars Challenge.
Although Kentucky’s third first-round pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, Keldon Johnson, didn’t make one of the two NBA All-Rookie teams, he showed tremendous promise in the NBA seeding games at Walt Disney World. Johnson scored in double figures in four of eight games in Orlando, including a career-high 24 in each of the last two games.
Johnson averaged 13.5 points per game and 5.9 rebounds during the 2018-19 season at Kentucky. Both of those marks ranked third best on the team. He shot 46.1% from the field and 38.1% from long range, while draining 45 3-pointers on the year. Johnson seemed to be at his best when the lights were the brightest, tallying 14.6 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 48.9% in UK’s 12 matchups with Associated Press Top 25 foes. He was drafted 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs.
Kentucky has enjoyed unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under Calipari. In the 10-plus seasons of the Calipari era, 38 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 29 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Towns and Wall) and 21 lottery selections. A staggering 29 players from Kentucky were on NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive lists), the most of any school.
Thirteen former Wildcats were on NBA playoff rosters, which also led the country. Seven Wildcats are still competing with seven teams still alive.
Calipari’s players are not only reaching the next level, they are succeeding when they do. His players have garnered 22 All-Star selections. Rose (from Memphis) was named league MVP in 2011. Five of his players have been tabbed All-NBA (Rose, Wall, Davis, Cousins and Towns) and three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year (Rose, Evans and Towns).
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rajon Rondo) have amassed more than $2.26 billion in career NBA contracts. In the 11 seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled nearly $1.9 billion in NBA contracts.
In just the 2019-20 season alone, UK players were slated to make more than $255 million. Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rondo) will make more than $260 million.
Calipari has had at least one player selected in the top 10 of the draft in each of the last 12 seasons, dating back to his time at Memphis. No other school or coach in the country has had a first-round pick in each of the last 11 seasons. Calipari is the only coach in the history of the sport to have four players drafted No. 1 overall (Rose – 2008, Wall – 2010, Davis – 2012, Towns – 2015).
‑ GO CATS –
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