LEXINGTON, Ky. – The notion that the Kentucky men’s basketball program not only puts players in the NBA, it prepares them to succeed, was underscored Thursday by the latest honors from its most recent draft class. Former Wildcats Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Willie Cauley-Stein were named to the NBA All-Rookie teams on Thursday by the league.
Towns, who was named just the fifth unanimous Rookie of the Year in league history on Monday, was a unanimous first-team selection. Booker also made the five-man first team while Cauley-Stein landed on the second team.
Towns became UK’s first-ever player to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors on Monday and the third John Calipari-coached player to earn the distinction, joining former Memphis players Tyreke Evans (2010) and Derrick Rose (2009).
The Piscataway, N.J., native is the first NBA rookie to average 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game since Elton Brand in 1999-00. He finished his rookie season averaging 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 blocks per game en route to sweeping the NBA Rookie of the Month awards for the Western Conference, the first player to achieve the feat since Damian Lillard in 2012-13. He was the just the eighth player in the history of the league to win the award in all six months of his rookie season, joining the likes of Lebron James, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
Towns was one of just six players to play in all 82 games this season and capped his first NBA season ranked eighth in the league in rebounding (10.5), eighth in field-goal percentage (.542), 10th in blocks (1.68), 26th in scoring (18.3) and third in double-doubles (51). His 51 double-doubles in the regular season were 30 more than any other rookie. Towns’ sensational season also included setting franchise records for a rookie in total points (1,503), total rebounds (857), blocks (138) and double-doubles (51).
A consensus second-team All-America selection in his only season at Kentucky, Towns helped lead UK on a historic run, becoming the first team to win 38 consecutive games in NCAA history. He was the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He went on to become UK’s third No. 1 overall draft pick in the last five seasons when he was picked first by the Timberwolves in June.
Booker, who was the third-highest vote getter for the All-Rookie First Team, finished fourth Monday in the NBA Rookie of the Year race. The youngest player in the NBA this season averaged 13.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game as a rookie with the Phoenix Suns. The sharpshooter finished in third in the 3-Point Contest during the NBA’s All-Star Game festivities.
After averaging 4.5 points in November and 7.6 points in December, Booker became the one of the NBA’s most explosive young scorers after the all-star break, including a fantastic month of March in which he averaged 22.4 points in 16 games. After the break, Booker logged 19.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 35.4 minutes per game.
Booker was drafted 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2015 NBA Draft after averaging 10.0 points in his freshman season at Kentucky. En route to SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors, Booker made 58 3-pointers, second most on the team, with a .411 3-point field-goal percentage. He was also a second-team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches and made the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Cauley-Stein, who picked up two votes for the All-Rookie First Team, showed off his immense potential with the Sacramento Kings this season, averaging 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 block in 66 games. Cauley-Stein’s 1.0 block per game was the sixth-highest average in the NBA among rookies.
After playing no more than 21.9 minutes per game in any one month, Cauley-Stein closed out the season by averaging 31.3 minutes per game in seven April outings, and averaged 9.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
Cauley-Stein was taken sixth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings after a banner end to his UK career. In his final season at Kentucky in 2015, in which he averaged 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for the 38-1 Wildcats, Cauley-Stein earned consensus first-team All-America honors, first-team All-SEC honors and won SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Kentucky has now placed 17 players on the NBA All-Rookie teams in school history. Ten of those players have been coached by Calipari within a six-year period.
UK players who have made the NBA All-Rookie teams:
Sam Bowie – 1985 (1st)
Rex Chapman – 1989 (2nd)
Jamal Mashburn – 1994 (1st)
Antoine Walker – 1997 (1st)
Derek Anderson – 1998 (2nd)
Ron Mercer – 1998 (1st)
Rajon Rondo – 2007 (2nd)
Eric Bledsoe – 2011 (1st)
DeMarcus Cousins – 2011 (1st)
John Wall – 2011 (1st)
Brandon Knight – 2012 (1st)
Anthony Davis – 2013 (1st)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 2013 (2nd)
Nerlens Noel – 2015 (1st)
Karl-Anthony Towns – 2016 (1st)
Devin Booker – 2016 (1st)
Willie Cauley-Stein – 2016 (2nd)