By LARRY VAUGHT
Give Andy Katz credit for trying to pry information out of Kentucky coach John Calipari that no one else has ever been able to do.
Calipari joined Katz on the “March Madness 365” podcast and Katz, who now writes for NCAA.com after previously working for ESPN, asked Calipari to pick the “best of” several categories based on players he’s had at Kentucky while getting teams to the Final Four four times, Sweet 16 eight times and two national title games while producing 21 lottery picks and 29 first-round draft picks.
Who would be his team captain?
On this one, even Calipari didn’t have to rattle off a lot of players for obvious reasons. He went with Anthony Davis, the 2011-12 Player of the Year who averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game for the national champions. He could dominate a game scoring, rebounding or blocking shots.
“Anthony Davis could be a team captain because he would step back if he had to and step up if he needed to and was the ultimate teammate,” Calipari told Katz. “He could have gone here and tried to shoot 30 balls a game and we probably wouldn’t have won a national title.
“He accepted what he had to do and by the end of the year, he ends up being the player of the year, the first pick in the draft, he ends up being on the Olympic team, All-Star in the NBA but he did it by stepping back.”
And if you have not heard Calipari mention it, Davis did not take the most shots or even the second most shots on the team despite clearly being the best player.
What about the best playmaker?
Calipari talked about John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Prisco, Jamal Murray, Marquis Teague, Andrew Harrison and even Ashton Hagans. But his favorite is Tyler Ulis, the smallest point guard he’s had at Kentucky.
“Ulis was more in-tune. Even with his size, didn’t care. Never thought of him as anything but a big-time guard. He was unique in that,” Calipari said.
The 5-9 guard was SEC player of the year and SEC defensive player his sophomore season when he averaged seven assists per game.
Best coach on the floor?
Bingo. It was Ulis again even though Calipari talked more about Hagans than most UK fans probably would when picking the best player in that role Calipari has had. Still, the pick was Ulis.
“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. He had to have a hip operation,” Calipari said.
What about best bucket-getter?
Calipari obviously had a lot of choices here and mentioned Doron Lamb, DeMarcus Cousins, Devin Booker, Kyle Wiltjer Tyler Herro, Eric Bledsoe, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns as some of his best at scoring in the clutch.
“Anthony, by the end of the year, was ridiculous,” Calipari said. “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.”
Davis ranks fourth in Kentucky basketball history with a field goal percentage of 62.3 percent.