Kentucky freshmen Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and John Wall and junior Patrick Patterson will enter their names in this year’s NBA Draft. All five players are projected as first-round picks. It marks the second straight season a UK player has declared early for the draft. All-American Jodie Meeks decided to forego his senior season last year to turn pro.
Bledsoe averaged 11.3 ppg while hitting 49 three-pointers and shooting 38 percent from behind the line in his freshman campaign. Bledsoe finished sixth on UK’s all-time freshman scoring list (419), second on the three-point field goals made list (49) and fourth on the freshman assist list (107).
“I never thought I’d be in this position after one year,” Bledsoe said. “Coach Cal pushed us all to be the best we could be and he believes I’m prepared to take my game to the next level. I want to thank the fans for all their support this year.”
Cousins was second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.1 ppg while posting a team-best 9.8 rpg average, all in only 23.5 minutes per game. He destroyed the UK freshman rebounding record by nearly 100 rebounds and scored the second-most points by a UK freshman, behind teammate John Wall.
The Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year also led the Wildcats in double-doubles this season with 20, the most by a UK player since 1973 and the fourth most in a season in Kentucky basketball history.
“Coach challenged me to grow on and off the court this season,” Cousins said. “I believe my game expanded along with my maturity. This year was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball and a lot of it had to do with the support I got from our fans.”
Orton served as the Wildcats’ sixth man this season and finished averaging 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds. He was second on the team in blocked shots with 53 and ranked eighth in the SEC in blocks per game (1.4).
“Being at Kentucky allowed me to play with some of the most talented players in the country,” Orton said. “Battling with DeMarcus (Cousins) and Patrick (Patterson) every day helped improve my game. I want to thank the coaching staff for helping put me in a position to be drafted this year.”
Patterson ranked second in the SEC and 12th nationally in field goal percentage (.575). He recorded nine double-doubles this season, fourth most in the SEC, and 11 double-digit rebounding performances. He finished his junior season ranked 13th on Kentucky’s all-time scoring list (1,564) and sixth on Kentucky’s career double-double list with 30.
“I want to thank the fans who have supported me all three years,” Patterson said. “I also want to thank the coaches for putting me in a position to showcase other parts of my game as well as my versatility. Lexington and UK will always be a special place to me.”
Wall led the Wildcats in scoring (16.6), assists (6.5) and steals (1.8) while setting the school single-season assist record with 241. The Adolph Rupp National Player of the Year recorded five double-doubles on the season, three in points and assists, and two in points and rebounds, making him the first player in UK history to record double-doubles in points and rebounds and points and assists.
“I’m not the same player as when I arrived at UK,” Wall said. “I believe I’m ready for the next challenge as Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were the last two years under Coach Cal. I want to thank my teammates and the fans for all their support this year. I love them.”
“I’ve spoken with all five guys concerning the NBA and have encouraged them to put their names in the draft,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “They’ve all met individually with our compliance office to make sure they have a full understanding of eligibility rules and academic responsibilities. I’m so proud of these five young men, with everything they did for us on the court and the way they represented us off of it.
“It’s extremely unusual for four freshmen from the same team to have this opportunity, but it’s my job as a coach to prepare these young men for such opportunities.”