BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Continuing a recent trend of making and breaking NBA Draft history, a record six Kentucky men’s basketball players were selected at the 2015 NBA Draft on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., including the No. 1 overall pick in Karl-Anthony Towns. The six draft picks is the most in NBA history and ties its own record set in 2012.
Tying an NBA record, four Wildcats were selected in the NBA lottery (the opening 14 picks), which also tops a program record set by the 2010 Kentucky team for most picks in that range. Towns highlighted the night by becoming the program’s third No. 1 overall selection since 2010 when he was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Towns was joined in the lottery by Willie Cauley-Stein (sixth – Sacramento), Trey Lyles (12th – Utah Jazz) and Devin Booker (13th – Phoenix Suns).
With Cauley-Stein going sixth overall, the Wildcats have had more top-10 picks in the John Calipari era than any other team in the country.
“Six guys get drafted and tie a record, four lottery picks and another No. 1 pick – it’s been another unbelievable night,” Calipari said. “I’m proud of the guys. Our job as coaches is to help these kids realize their dreams. I’m so happy that a lot of lives were changed tonight. I’m disappointed that Aaron (Harrison) didn’t get drafted, but he will be fine. I will tell you that he will be on a summer league team and fighting for a position on an NBA team. My guess is he will be on an opening-season roster even though he wasn’t drafted.”
Minnesota’s selection of Towns marked the first player taken by the organization in Kentucky’s program history.
“This is what you live for,” Towns told ESPN moments after being selected No. 1 overall. “You want to give back to your parents. They give you the world and being able to wear this hat and show them their son is doing well in life and that I can take care of myself. All the work and dedication that they put into me and all the time that they sacrificed for me – I’m sacrificing back for them. It wasn’t for nothing.”
The three No. 1 picks ties Duke for the most in NBA Draft history. Prior to Calipari’s arrival, the program had never had a No. 1 draft pick. Including Derrick Rose from Memphis, Calipari has coached four top draft picks, twice as many as any other coach.
“I’m going to go in right away and just be as versatile as I can be,” Towns said. “I’ll contribute by giving Coach (Flip Saunders) any option he needs for us to win. That’s the one thing that I want Timberwolves fans to know is that I’m coming with a winning attitude. I just want to win. I’m not looking for individual success. I’m looking for the team to have success.”
Three other Wildcats were taken in the lottery of the draft, tying an NBA record with four players taken in the lottery, which began in 1985. It’s the most selections in the top 13 in the draft in program history.
Continuing a historic night, Andrew Harrison went 44th overall to the Phoenix Suns and Dakari Johnson was selected 48th overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Our season will officially end tonight with seven of these guys (drafted),” Calipari said. “We want to win, but not at the expense of these kids. I want them to benefit more than the program. That’s what I want this to be. When the season’s over, you want to say, ‘They got more out of this than we did, I did, or the program did.’ If anyone wants to question me with results, please say it publicly. Final Fours, wins, and all of this stuff that we do, but it’s not about that; it’s about these kids.”
In six seasons with Calipari at the helm, Kentucky has churned out three No. 1 selections, 19 first-round rounders, 13 lottery picks and 25 total players in the NBA Draft. The 25 draft picks is more than twice as many as the next school (Kansas) since 2010. With another surge of first-round picks, Kentucky now has more first-round selections (32) than any other school in the NBA lottery era (since 1985).
It is the sixth consecutive NBA Draft that Kentucky was represented by multiple players in the first round of the draft. UK is the only program since the draft went to two rounds in 1989 to have multiple players selected in the first round in six straight years. Calipari is the only coach to have multiple players selected in eight consecutive NBA Drafts, dating back to his time at Memphis.
Kentucky has now had 116 players drafted 118 times in its illustrious history with 40 players selected in the opening round.
Towns became the third Wildcat to go No. 1 overall since Calipari’s arrival in 2010. He’s also the first player Minnesota has selected in UK program history. Minnesota was one of six franchises that had never drafted a Kentucky player entering the 2015 Draft.
In one year with Kentucky, Towns earned All-America distinction while hauling in Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year accolades. He averaged 10.3 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.6 percent from the floor and 81.3 from the charity stripe.
Towns saved his best basketball for the biggest of games, logging 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds throughout the NCAA Tournament. He was the 2015 Midwest Region Most Valuable Player after scoring a career-high 25 points and hauling in five rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting vs. Notre Dame.
Cauley-Stein was taken with the No. 6 overall pick by Sacramento. He’s the ninth player in program history to hear his name called by the Kings and the first since DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. He’s the first Wildcat to go No. 6 overall since former classmate Nerlens Noel was picked in the same position in 2013.
“I’m talented enough to do a lot of different things,” Cauley-Stein told ESPN. “When I get to Sacramento, I’m just going to work my butt off, try to become a complete player, and hopefully help bring a championship to the city.”
Cauley-Stein became UK’s 58th all-time All-American during his breakout junior campaign and its 25th consensus First Team All-American. The 7-foot forward from Olathe, Kan., averaged 8.0 points and 6.2 rebounds during his three-year career in Lexington.
Cauley-Stein finished his career as the only player in program history to amass 500 or more rebounds, 200 or more blocks, and 100 or more steals. He ranks second all-time in the UK record books with 233 blocked shots.
In addition to his consensus All-America honors, Cauley-Stein was the 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2015 SEC Tournament MVP, an All-SEC selection, an All-Freshman Team selection in 2013 and a two-time member of the All-SEC Defensive Team.
Lyles is the fourth player selected by the Jazz’s organization and the first since Enes Kanter in 2011. He’s the first player in program history to go 12th overall.
“I didn’t need to do a lot of it at (Kentucky) because we had it at other positions, but now I’m on another level and I’ll be able to do more,” Lyles said. “I’m the guy that can come and contribute right away and will do anything he can to help this team win.”
Lyles, who Calipari described as the “X-factor” of Kentucky’s magical 2014-15 run, averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 36 games in 2014-15. An All-SEC Freshman Team selection, Lyles was also named the SEC Freshman of the Week twice during his career.
The Indianapolis native averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game throughout UK’s NCAA Tournament run in 2015, which included his second career double-double effort with 11 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Cincinnati
Booker is the fourth Wildcat to go to the Phoenix Suns and the first since Rajon Rondo in 2006. He’s the first Wildcat selected 13th overall since Derek Anderson in 1997. Booker will join three Wildcats in Phoenix as Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and Brandon Knight are all currently on the roster for the Suns, in addition to Andrew Harrison, who was also selected by the Suns.
“At Kentucky, we had a really talented team,” Booker said. “I fit in really well with the team and found my niche. I’ll have to create more for myself. I think I’m surprising people with my athleticism. Just stay tuned.”
Booker averaged 10.0 points and sunk 58 3-pointers during his freshman season. He was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year by the league’s coaches and was also a member of the All-SEC Second Team and All-SEC Freshman Team.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., native was a five-time winner of the SEC Freshman of the Week honor while connecting on 41 percent of his shots from long range. Booker’s season highlights included a stretch of seven games in which he connected on 20 of 28 (71.4 percent) of his 3-point shots, beginning with the game vs. No. 18 North Carolina..
Andrew Harrison was the first Wildcat to come off the board in the second round at pick No. 44. Harrison joined teammate Booker who was also drafted by the Suns. Harrison and Booker are the fifth pair of teammates to be drafted by the same team in a single draft in program history.
Harrison served as the floor general for two seasons at Kentucky. The 6-6 point guard averaged 10.1 points and churned out 298 career assists in 79 career contests, starting all but one game for the Wildcats during his tenure.
Harrison’s 298 career dimes ranks 16th all-time in UK’s record books, which are the most for a two-year player in program history. He earned a spot on the 2015 All-SEC Tournament Team and was a member of the Midwest All-Region Team after sinking the game-winning free throws against Notre Dame to send Kentucky to its 17th Final Four in program history.
Johnson was picked 48th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, joining former Wildcat Kanter who is on the roster. Johnson is the fifth player selected by the Thunder franchise in program history. Goodwin was the last UK player selected in 2013 by Oklahoma City.
Johnson appeared in 78 career games and started 18 contests during his two-year career in Lexington. The 7-foot center averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in his career, logging career bests in points per game, rebounds per game, free-throw percentage, blocks, steals and assists during his sophomore campaign.
In UK’s Final Four game vs. Wisconsin in 2014, Johnson poured in 10 points and hauled in seven rebounds, including five offensive boards. Against Louisville in the Sweet 16 in 2014, Johnson played in a career-high 31 minutes and posted a career-high 15 points while filling in for the injured Cauley-Stein.
2015 NBA Draft Notes
- Kentucky has had 116 guys drafted 118 times (Johnny Cox ’58 and Roger Newman ’60 both drafted in Jr. eligible draft, but returned for senior year and were drafted again).
- UK has had 40 players selected in the opening round (19 have come in the last six years) of the draft.
- Kentucky has had 25 players selected in the draft over the last six years, more than double the next-closest school (Kansas).
- Kentucky has had 10 players selected in the top 10, 13 in the top 15 and 19 in the first round of the draft in the last six years.
- With four players taken in the NBA Draft Lottery in 2015 (Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles), the Wildcats tied the record held by the 2005 North Carolina team with four lottery selections in a single draft since the lottery expanded to 14 selections in 2004.
o The Wildcats have had at least one player taken in the top seven of the draft in six consecutive seasons. Since the lottery began in 1985, only two teams have had more than one player taken in at least four consecutive drafts (Kentucky, 2010-15 and Kansas, 2012-15).
- Kentucky has had five pairs of teammates taken in the top 10 of the draft in the same year: (Sam Bowie – second, Melvin Turpin sixth in 1984; John Wall – first and DeMarcus Cousins fifth in 2010; Enes Kanter – third and Brandon Knight eighth in 2011; Anthony Davis – first and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – second, Karl-Anthony Towns first and Willie Cauley-Stein sixth an in 2015).
- Coach John Calipari has had two or more players selected in seven consecutive NBA drafts dating back to 2008 with Memphis. Following the 2015 draft, Calipari has had 12 players taken in the top 10 of the draft in the last six seasons and 19 taken in the first round overall.
- Head coach John Calipari has had four players taken No. 1 overall in his career (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns). He’s the only coach in the history of the NBA to have three or more players selected No. 1 overall.
o After never having a No. 1 draft pick in the history of its storied program prior to Calipari’s arrival, the Wildcats have had three selected in the last six years (John Wall, 2010, Anthony Davis 2012, Karl-Anthony Towns 2015).
o With Towns selected at No. 1 overall, Kentucky ties Duke for the most No. 1 overall picks in NBA history with three.
o With Towns going No. 1 overall, Calipari now has more No. 1 picks (4) than the entire Big 12 conference (3), Big East (2), American (2) and Pac 12 (1) since the beginning of the NBA Draft Lottery in 1985. Only the ACC (6) has more, while the Big 10 ties Calipari with four.
- In 23 seasons as a head coach, Calipari has coached 35 NBA Draft picks, including 25 first-round selections with 13 of those going in the top 10. He has had 25 selected in the last six years as UK’s head coach, including 19 coming in the opening round.
- Since 2000, only 15 coaches have had multiple players taken in the NBA Draft in more than one draft. Here’s a breakdown of coaches who have achieved the feat in multiple seasons since 2000. Calipari is the only coach to have multiple players selected in eight consecutive drafts.
o Rick Barnes (2011, 2010 and 2006 with Texas)
o John Beilein (2014, 2013 with Michigan)
o Jim Boeheim (2010, 2000 with Syracuse)
o Jim Calhoun (2009, 2006, 2004 and 2000 with Connecticut)
o John Calipari (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 with Kentucky; 2009, 2008 with Memphis)
o Jeff Capel (2010 and 2009 with Oklahoma)
o Billy Donovan (2011, 2007 and 2000 with Florida)
o Ben Howland (2011, 2009, 2008, 2006 with UCLA)
o Bob Huggins (2010 with WVU and 2000 with Cincinnati)
o Tom Izzo (2014, 2006, 2001 and 2000 with Michigan State)
o Mike Krzyzewski (2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2006, 2004, 2002 with Duke)
o Mike Montgomery (2001 and 2002 with Stanford and 2008 with California)
o Rick Pitino (2015, 2013, 2009 with Louisville)
o Lute Olson (2001 and 2005 with Arizona)
o Bill Self (2014, 2013, 2011, 2008, 2003 with Kansas, 2002 with Illinois)
o Jerry Wainwright (2001 and 2007 with DePaul)
o Roy Williams (2010, 2009, 2007, 2005 with North Carolina)