The New Cats: What's in a Number?

What's in a number? Sometimes nothing. Other times a lot. With Big Blue Madness rapidly approaching, takes a look at the jersey numbers UK fans will see on the court this season.

UK released its 2013-14 "basketball prospectus" this week, a condensed version of the award-winning media guide the program will distribute to us scribes as the new season approaches.

One of the first things I always check out when it comes to a new team is the jersey numbers. Not exactly sure why, but I've always been fascinated by the numbers the players wear and why they choose them.

Among the nine newcomers to the Wildcats this season, a couple of the players say they wear their numbers in honor of family members. Julius Randle will wear No. 30, which his mother wore during her playing days. Dakari Johnson will wear No. 44 to honor his late grandfather.

James Young, another freshman, will don No. 1 because high-scoring NBA wing Tracy McGrady was his favorite player as a child.

Freshman guard Dominique Hawkins, the Bluegrass State's 2013 "Mr. Basketball," will wear No. 25. He doesn't cite a particular reason for the number in the prospectus, but it's interesting to me because it instantly reminds me of former UK guard Anthony Epps, a fellow Kentucky "Mr. Basketball" and a player who Hawkins has been compared to at times for his competitive drive.

Marcus Lee says he likes "double numbers." The freshman center will become only the fifth player in program history to wear No. 00, joining John DeMoisey, Leroy Byrd, Tony Delk and Adam Chiles. (Note: Enes Kanter would have worn No. 0 in 2010-11 had he been eligible to play at UK.)

Another newcomer, Derek Willis, will be the first Wildcat to wear No. 35 since Reggie Hanson during the 1990-91 season. It's one of the longest gaps between a player wearing a modern standard number (digits 0 through 5) at UK. Every other option, with the exception of No. 45 and No. 52, has been worn since that time.

Good trivia question, by the way, on No. 45. He was better known for leading UK to its last SEC football championship. (Answer: Derrick Ramsey for two games and 8 minutes of PT during the 1975-76 season.)

Lavon Williams was the last No. 52 during the 1979-80 season, a number I'll never forget because he was one of my mother's favorite Cats when I was a youngster.

It would require a unique situation -- and probably a really small opponent -- but this is also the first season of UK basketball where the coach could have a lineup of players wearing numbers 1-5 if Young, Aaron Harrison, Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Andrew Harrison were ever on the floor at the same time.

Here's the complete list of jersey numbers for this year's squad and the last player to wear it before them:

00 Marcus Lee (Adam Chiles)
1 James Young (Darius Miller)
2 Aaron Harrison (Matt Scherbenske)
3 Jarrod Polson (Nerlens Noel)
4 Jon Hood (Dusty Mills)
5 Andrew Harrison (Jarrod Polson*)
13 Sam Malone (Michael Porter)
15 Willie Cauley-Stein (DeMarcus Cousins)
21 Tod Lanter (Perry Stevenson)
22 Alex Poythress (Stacey Poole)
24 EJ Floreal (Eric Bledsoe)
25 Dominique Hawkins (Marquis Teague)
30 Julius Randle (Eloy Vargas)
32 Brian Long (Joe Crawford)
35 Derek Willis (Reggie Hanson)
44 Dakari Johnson (Chuck Hayes)

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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