Now that Kelenna Azubuike has apparently found a NBA home with the Golden State Warriors, maybe it's time to give Kentucky coach Tubby Smith a little more credit for developing players than he has received during his tenure at Kentucky.
Three players off his 1998 national championship team — Nazr Mohammed, Jamaal Magloire and Scott Padgett — are playing in the NBA. Two more players on that team — Jeff Sheppard and Wayne Turner — spent time in the NBA.
Then there's Tayshaun Prince, who has become a star — and NBA champion — in Detroit. Don't forget that Keith Bogans is still cashing NBA paychecks and probably will for a few more years.
Erik Daniels and Gerald Fitch, two lightly-regarded recruits that helped UK earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, both had a taste of life in the NBA. Daniels is playing so well in Italy right now that it would be surprising if he does not make a NBA roster next year.
Perhaps Smith's all-time favorite player, Chuck Hayes, has also made a place for himself in Houston. He was not a sure bet to make a roster but the same work ethic that endeared him to Smith and UK fans also helped make him a valuable player for Houston.
Guard Rajon Rondo was a first-round draft pick last year. He's currently struggling to get significant playing time in Boston, but he's got a bright future as well.
Since Smith also sent two players from Georgia and two from Tulsa into the NBA, it's obvious he's done a better job of developing talent than he sometimes gets.
Perhaps Smith is partly to blame because unlike some other coaches, he won't toot his own NBA horn. He seldom talks about his former players in the NBA because he prefers to keep the focus on his current players.
Nothing wrong with that, either, since he's currently developing Randolph Morris into a future NBA player — and yes, that could happen next year — and hoping to mold a few others to make the jump to the play for pay league as well.
So criticize Smith all you want for style of play, not making the Final Four, etc. But maybe, just maybe, the criticism for not being able to develop talent is unfounded based on the number of former players he has, or has had, in the NBA.
Smith can develop NBA talent
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