The last time Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist embraced in celebration Kentucky was on top of the college basketball world. Eighty-seven days later they shared a similar moment after the two teammates were made the top two selections in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Davis being selected No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets was never in doubt but Kidd-Gilchrist being picked No. 2 by the Charlotte Bobcats was a bit of a surprise, if only because league insiders had been suggesting in the days leading up to the draft the Cats' freshman forward was sliding on draft boards.
The selections of Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist continued Kentucky's dominance of the NBA Draft lottery the past three years, giving the Cats their second top overall pick during that span. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist also joined John Wall (No. 1 overall in 2010) and DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5 overall in 2010) as top five selections. It also marks the first time two players from the same school have been taken with the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA Draft.
Davis' ascension from 6-foot-2 high school shooting guard to 6-foot-11 power forward has been well documented but few analysts could have ever predicted the Chicago native nearly sweeping every major individual college basketball player award, set an NCAA record for blocked shots by a freshman, win a national title and become the top overall draft pick.
“It has been weird to see him grow so fast and having to buy a new bed and new clothes for him,” Davis' mother, Eranier, said. “Now he can buy me some (clothes) too.”
Kidd-Gilchrist, who has worked to overcome a stuttering problem, has always been destined for greatness by recruiting analysts but his selection was still the conclusion in a life story of perseverance. The Prudential Center In Newark, N.J. was packed with friends and family who cheered Kidd-Gilchrist on as he grew up in nearby Somerdale.
“This is a blessing for me,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “Oh my gosh. I means a lot.”
The early moments of the draft were also a recruiting bonanza for Kentucky, another weapon in John Calipari's arsenal as he hits the recruiting trail. The UK coach was wired for sound by ESPN and displayed his typical brash nature as he joked with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist before the draft began.
“Hug your mom, Hug your dad. Hug me,” Calipari said. “Then I'll spin you around so the camera sees my face.”
The Cats continued to make their presence felt later in the evening when Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague also found their future homes in the NBA. Jones, who was in New York but watching the draft with teammate Doron Lamb at a Manhattan hotel, was selected No. 18 by the Houston Rockets. Teague landed with the Chicago Bulls at No. 29 as the backup and insurance plan for another former Calipari point guard, Derrick Rose.
Doron Lamb slipped out of the first round but landed with the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 42, the fifth Kentucky player taken on the night. Darius Miller's selection by the New Orleans Hornets at No. 46 closed out what was a historical night for the Cats and reunited him with Davis, who helped the Maysville, Ky. native win a championship ring in his home state.