Three More Cats Go in NBA Draft First Round
In what has been dubbed “graduation night” by head coach John Calipari, three more Kentucky men’s basketball players had their names called and walked across the Barclays Center stage at the NBA Draft. PJ Washington (No. 12, Charlotte Hornets), Tyler Herro (No. 13, Miami Heat) and Keldon Johnson (No. 29, San Antonio Spurs) were the three players selected during the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday.
In 10 seasons with Calipari at the helm, Kentucky has churned out three No. 1 selections, 29 first-rounders, 21 lottery picks and 38 total players in the NBA Draft. The 38 draft picks are 14 more than the next closest school (Duke). With another surge of first-round picks, Kentucky has more first-round selections (40) than any other school in the NBA lottery era (since 1985).
“I’m so proud of all of our guys,” Calipari said. “Graduation night is always special for our program because the lives of several families just changed. To see the dreams of not only our kids but their families come true is truly a special moment for all of us.
“I’m really happy for PJ and Tyler. There were teams that were hoping that they would go past 12 and 13 that really wanted them. They were so excited to go back-to-back. I heard PJ got up from an interview to applaud Tyler. I’m happy where they are and the kind of teams and coaches they will play for.
“It’s amazing how this draft works. If you don’t work out for three or four teams and you end up falling to those teams in a row, you end up unfortunately sliding by them. I’ve seen it happen with other players but never with one of ours. But here’s the thing with Keldon: He gets to play for a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich in one of the best organizations that develops young people. I’ve been wrong before – I think it was 1978 – but I believe Keldon will over deliver more than any other player in the draft at his position. The Spurs got a gem, but Keldon drawing them is like hitting the lottery.”
The Wildcats have had more top-10 picks, more lottery selections and more first-round picks in the Calipari era than any other team in the country. For the fifth time in 10 seasons under Calipari, UK has churned out at least three first-round selections. The Wildcats had five in the opening round in 2010 (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton), four in 2012 (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague) and in 2015 (Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker) and three in 2017 (De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo) and in 2019 (Washington, Herro, Johnson).
“A lot of emotions right now. Just excited,” Washington said. “Can’t wait to get to Charlotte, show what I can do. I’m a very versatile player. Great locker-room guy. Just willing to give anything for my teammates.
“It helped a lot (returning to Kentucky). Without it, I don’t think I would have been a first round pick so I definitely credit Coach Cal and the rest of the staff for having my back and helping me get here.”
Kentucky has had 129 players drafted 131 times in its illustrious history with 53 players selected in the opening round.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Herro said. “I can’t believe I’m standing here with a Miami Heat hat on walking across the stage, so I mean it’s a true blessing. I mean it’s just a dream come true. Not too many kids make it from where I’m from. I’m from a small town – shout out to Whitlow – so I’m just happy I’m here.
“He’s (GM Pat Riley) a former Kentucky guy. Obviously, he has a great tradition in Miami. What they’ve done, they’ve won a lot of games and a lot of series and championships … I’ll take every day one step at a time and just learn something new every day.”
It is the 10th 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 10 straight years. Calipari is the only coach to have multiple players selected in 12 consecutive NBA Drafts, dating back to his time at Memphis. UK has had multiple lottery selections in seven of 10 drafts under Calipari and has featured a player in the lottery in all 10 drafts under Calipari, which no other school can claim.
“I’m just going to keep working because this is only the beginning,” Johnson said. “I feel like my parents have made a lot of sacrifices for me, for my family to be in the situation we are in today and I’m not going to be able to thank my parents enough. I’m just blessed and blessed to be a part of the NBA.”
The Wildcats’ three total picks tied Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia for the most selections in the 2019 NBA Draft.