The 2000-2001 Kentucky Wildcats once again surprised the experts by grabbing a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship with the Florida Gators. They returned to their usual spot, winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville in impressive fashion. They entered the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed, poised to face the eventual champion Duke Blue Devils in Philadelphia, site of the classic showdown nine years prior. Kentucky did make it to Philly, but bowed out to Southern Cal, in a mild upset in the Elite 8. The highlights of the season included a thumping of long-time rival North Carolina in their home gymnasium, a gritty loss to Final Four bound Michigan State in East Lansing, and a series sweep over talented arch-rival Tennessee.
Kentucky coach Orlando "Tubby" Smith was able to overcome a 3-5 start to the season and lead his young players to a SEC conference regular season crown and a conference tournament championship. Despite many misses in the recruiting department, Smith was able to land two unheralded players Erik Daniels and Gerald Fitch, both who surprised many and played important roles in the season. Smith also received two late gifts, in the form of point guard Cliff Hawkins and Jason Parker who were slated to attend other schools but who decided to become Wildcats late in the year. Sophomore Keith Bogans and Junior Tayshaun Prince were the leaders of the team. Bogans showed an incredibly strong will to win and toughness which made him the heart of the team, while Prince at times took over games with his unique physical gifts, earning himself All-American and SEC Player of the Year honors. Prince became the 48th player to enter the 1000-point club. Bogans fell one game short, finishing the year short 12 points. Saul Smith finished his career at UK ninth in all-time assists. Other notable players included Marquis Estill who had some amazing games in his first season as a Wildcat and Fitch, who was inserted into the starting line-up early in the season and helped turn around Kentucky's fortune with his determined play.
Seated: Assistant Coach Mike Sutton, Coach Tubby Smith, Matt Heissenbuttel, Cliff Hawkins, Todd Tackett, Saul Smith, J.P. Blevins, Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch, Associate Coach George Felton, Assistant Coach David Hobbs.
Back Row: Strength Coach Tom Boyd, Athletic trainer David Kindy, Basketball Director Reggie Hanson, Cory Sears, Marquis Estill, Jules Camara, Marvin Stone, Tayshaun Prince, Erik Daniels, Manager G.G. Smith, Equipment Manager Bill Keightley, Special Assistant A.J. Summers.
Not Pictured: Jason Parker.
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Page written by Jon Scott. Please with any corrections or additional information.
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