Smith discusses his Cats that made the NBA

This is the second of a five part interview KSR's Larry Vaught conducted with former Kentucky coach Orlando "Tubby Smith". In this part Larry and Tubby discuss Cats who made the NBA during Tubby's tenure at UK, and the prospects of Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley making the league in the near future.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Former University of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith took time to talk about a variety of subjects during a recent interview.

This is the second part of an exclusive series with Kentucky Sports Report that offers some insights into Smith and the feeling he still has for Kentucky.

Question: What about Rajon Rondo winning a NBA championship? Has his success surprised you at all?

Smith: He is surrounded by great layers. When you put together guys like that, you have a chance to win. I coached Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in Olympics. They are class, competitive guys. They knew they had two of the hardest working and most professional players in the game when they got them.

"Certainly when Rajon is added to the mix with his ability to push ball up the floor and find open people, it was a big help. He did not worry about doing more. He actually had to do less than maybe what he wanted. He understood his role and did a fantastic job. Rajon can get past anyone I know of. He is so fast and athletic. He can go by anybody and can prove that at any point in a game. Once he gets you on your heels and he can push ball, you have real problems. He is learning to shoot better, too. I had chance to watch him play when he was here (during the season). We visited then and I talked to him recently to congratulate him."

Question: So how good is he?

Smith: "He is one of the greatest athletes I have ever coached. Pound for pound, there is not anybody better when it comes to speed, athleticism, jumping ability, eye-hand coordination. He's a gifted passer. He plays to his strengths. No one is better. He set a record for steals as freshman (at UK). He led the league (NBA) in steals hhis first year. Those are the same things he did in college. You usually don't change in the pros. We always knew he would be good."

Question: Another player who is enjoying a successful NBA career is Tayshaun Prince. What is your reaction to him being named to the Olympic team?

Smith: "I am absolutely proud of him. I remember after his freshman year when he was going to try out for a USA team that represented us in South America and he did not want to do. I said, ‘Some day you are going to be trying out for the Olympics and it would be good to have this USA Basketball in your background to get you over the hump.' It came true for him, too.

"There will not be a prouder moment for him than to represent his country. I did not get to see him this year because we were out of town when he played here, but we communicate. He had another good year. I am very close to that Detroit program."

Question: Do you follow the success other former UK players like Chuck Hayes, Kelenna Azubuike, Keith Bogans are having in the NBA?

Smith: "I do not have a lot of time, but I saw Keith and had dinner with him this year. I saw Kelenna at games. You always have Jamal (Magloire) and Nazr (Mohammed) playing. There are even two Florida guys on the Timberwolves. I see more former players here that at any other school

Question: Any surprises about how all those guys have played?

Smith: "None really rsurpised me. I can't say there is one I didn't think could do it. Some have surprised me that they could probably be doing more, but it has not surprised me that they all made it. I really felt like Erik Daniels was a kid that was gifted and could help and play in this league too."

Question: What about UK's two seniors -- Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford? Do they have a chance to play in the league?

Smith: "I think you are going to see Ramel and Joe both make it. I have gotten calls about both of those kids and think they can make it. They are both good kids. Look at players we have had. They are mature and know how to handle themselves.

"One thing about the Kentucky program is that it does prepare those guys as well as any program in country to go to the next level. The limelight, the pressure to be the best, the discipline you have to have. A lot of things are pulling at you. You have to control yourself. That is what our kids learn to do and why so many Kentucky guys make it in the NBA."

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