There’s a familiar theme when it comes to the best young basketball talent in the world, and it’s that many of those players went to Kentucky.
On Thursday, ESPN concluded its rankings of the top 50 players in the NBA under the age of 25, and eight of the top 35 players listed played at Kentucky for John Calipari. Kentucky’s eight players in the top 35 were twice as many as the next closest school. UK, Duke and Kansas were the only schools to have multiple players in the top 35.
The eight NBA Cats to crack the top 35 were Anthony Davis (1), Karl-Anthony Towns (3), Devin Booker (13), Enes Kanter (22), Julius Randle (23), Michael Kidd Gilchrist (30), Nerlens Noel (31) and Jamal Murray (35).
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Davis is on pace to join Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to average 20 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and one steal per game in four of their first five seasons. Davis is currently averaging 27.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game this season.
Towns is averaging 23.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game this season. Per ESPN Stats & Info, if Towns can maintain those averages he will join Shaquille O’Neal as the second player age 21 or younger to put up those numbers.
Earlier this season, Booker became the youngest player in NBA history to have back-to-back 39-point games, and also became the youngest player in league history to have three 39-point games in their career. He recently concluded a stretch of 16 consecutive games of 20-plus points, surpassing LeBron James for the longest streak of 20-point games by a player age 20 or younger in NBA history.
More nuggets from ESPN Stats & Info:
- Kanter ranks 10th in the NBA in player efficiency rating among those to play in at least 100 games since the start of last season.
- Randle is one of seven players in the NBA this season to log multiple triple-doubles.
- Kidd-Gilchrist has contested more 3-point shots per game this season than any other player.
- Noel, who is in the midst of his third season, is the only player in the league to average 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per 36 minutes over that time.
- Murray has more 20-point games this season (five) than any other rookie in the NBA.
Four of the aforementioned eight NBA Cats will compete during the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans beginning Friday.
Murray, Booker and Towns will compete in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT. Trey Lyles will join Murray on the World Team, and Booker and Towns will play for Team USA. Booker and Davis will compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday at 8 p.m. on TNT. Davis was voted as a starter for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday (8 p.m. on TNT).
You can view ESPN’s entire list of the top 50 players in the NBA under the age of 25 by clicking here.
#NBACats billboards in New Orleans for NBA All-Star weekend