Kentucky Wildcats basketball fans are known as the “Big Blue Nation.” But what if the Big Blue Nation were an actual sovereign nation eligible to compete in the 2012 London Olympics? How would an Olympic team comprised solely of Kentucky alums fare against the medal favorites like the USA, Spain and Argentina?
Here’s a hypothetical rundown of what UK in the UK would look like.
Managing Director – Pat Riley
Head Coach – John Calipari
Assistant Coach – Dan Issel
Assistant Coach – Travis Ford
Student Assistant – Enes Kanter
Riley and Calipari would serve as the unquestioned leaders of the Cats. Riles would oversee the Big Blue Nation basketball program, in a czar role similar to Team USA’s Jerry Colangelo. Coach Cal would pace the sidelines a la Coach K for the USA.
Flag Bearer – Ashley Judd
Anthem – “My Old Kentucky Home”
The lovely Miss Judd would serve as the beautiful face of the Commonwealth during the Opening Ceremonies, with the classic Kentucky Derby standard, “My Old Kentucky Home” as the anthem to be played should Kentucky win gold.
C – DeMarcus Cousins
Age: 21 (Aug. 13, 1990)
Height/Weight: 6-11, 270
Drafted: 2010, Sacramento Kings, No. 5 overall
2011-12 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.2 bpg (NBA)
DMC was one of the final cuts made by Team USA. Boogie would bring the type of interior toughness that Spain has in the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, and that the USA lacks outside of Tyson Chandler.
F – Anthony Davis
Age: 19 (March 11, 1993)
Height/Weight: 6-10, 220
Drafted: 2012, New Orleans Hornets, No. 1 overall
2011-12 Stats: 14.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.7 bpg, 1.4 spg (NCAA)
Much like Kentucky early in the Civil War, the reigning NCAA Player of the Year, Final Four MOP and No. 1 overall NBA draft pick might be on the fencepost deciding whether to play for the USA or UK. But the unibrow-ed Uni-blocker would be a perfect running mate for the brutish Cousins down low.
F – Tayshaun Prince
Age: 32 (Feb. 28, 1980)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 215
Drafted: 2002, Detroit Pistons, No. 23 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 35.6 3P% (NBA)
A gold medal winner with the Redeem Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2004 NBA champion, Prince provides valuable length defensively, veteran leadership and a history of making clutch 3-pointers in pressure situations.
G – John Wall
Age: 21 (Sept. 6, 1990)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 195
Drafted: 2010, Washington Wizards, No. 1 overall
2011-12 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.4 spg (NBA)
Playing off the ball while Rondo runs the point, Wall would be charged with going toe-to-toe with the USA’s Kobe Bryant and Argentina’s Manu Ginobili. Turning defense into fast break offense would be a likely strength of the lightning quick backcourt of Wall and Rondo.
G – Rajon Rondo
Age: 26 (Feb. 22, 1986)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 185
Drafted: 2006, Phoenix Suns, No. 21 overall
2011-12 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 11.7 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 spg (NBA)
The 2008 NBA champion was the assists leader in 2012 and steals leader in 2010. A defensive menace and one-of-a-kind playmaker, Rondo would play with a massive chip on his shoulder against Team USA and Heat rival LeBron James.
F – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Age: 18 (Sept. 26, 1993)
Height/Weight: 6-8, 230
Drafted: 2012, Charlotte Bobcats, No. 2 overall
2011-12 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 spg (NCAA)
The defensive specialist would get an early taste of tangling with LeBron, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
G – Jodie Meeks
Age: 24 (Aug. 21, 1987)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 210
Drafted: 2009, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 41 overall
2011-12 Stats: 8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 90.6 FT%, 36.5 3P% (NBA)
A designated shooter and spark off the bench, Meeks’ free-throw shooting would also be a valuable asset on a team that might struggle at the line.
F – Terrence Jones
Age: 20 (Jan. 9, 1992)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 250
Drafted: 2012, Houston Rockets, No. 18 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.3 spg (NCAA)
The enigmatic talent would likely run hot and cold on the international stage. But Coach Cal would have the luxury of only playing Jones when he had a hot hand.
G – Brandon Knight
Age: 20 (Dec. 2, 1991)
Height/Weight: 6-3, 190
Drafted: 2011, Detroit Pistons, No. 8 overall
2011-12 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.2 rpg, 38.0 3P% (NBA)
Another ball-handler and shooter, Knight would see limited floor time behind Wall and Rondo but would be a nice option off the bench.
G – Doron Lamb
Age: 20 (Nov. 6, 1991)
Height/Weight: 6-5, 210
Drafted: 2012, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 42 overall
2011-12 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 46.6 3P%, 82.6 FT% (NCAA)
Lamb would be a better option than even Knight. The sharpshooter with a savant’s basketball IQ would play essentially the same role with this team that he did with the 2012 NCAA champions.
F – Chuck Hayes
Age: 29 (June 11, 1983)
Height/Weight: 6-6, 250
2011-12 Stats: 3.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.4 apg (NBA)
A mauler down low, Hayes would provide muscle and hustle, providing the most value banging with the USA’s LeBron, Melo and Kevin Love, as well as Argentina’s Luis Scola.
C – Josh Harrellson
Age: 23 (Feb. 12, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-10, 275
Drafted: 2011, New Orleans Hornets, No. 45 overall
2011-12 Stats: 4.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 33.9 3P% (NBA)
“Jorts” would be the token white guy, the chief cheerleader and a valuable stretch-4 whose game might be better suited for international rules than for those of the NBA or NCAA.
G – Eric Bledsoe
Age: 22 (Dec. 9, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 195
F – Patrick Patterson
Age: 23 (March 14, 1989)
Height/Weight: 6-9, 235
C – Nerlens Noel
Age: 18 (April 10, 1994)
Height/Weight: 6-11, 215
The depth at point guard bumped Bledsoe, who shined playing alongside Chris Paul during the playoffs. Patterson isn’t as athletic as Jones, as tough as Hayes or as energetic as Harrellson. Incoming freshman Noel would have provided the best hair of the tournament — with his signature high top fade — but the young buck is still too green to run with the “national team” from the Bluegrass State.
If Kentucky fielded a team in the 2012 London Olympics, it would not have the depth to match Team USA. But the Wildcats’ length, speed and defense would be too much for the likes of Spain and Argentina. The Big Blue Nation would bring the silver medal back to Lexington.
by Nathan Rush