Article courtesy of UK Athletics, photo via @NBL Twitter
SYDNEY – Former Kentucky men’s basketball forward Isaac Humphries was tabbed the National Basketball League’s Rookie of the Year on Tuesday following a solid first season with the Sydney Kings.
Humphries, who played two seasons at Kentucky (2016-17), averaged 6.9 and 3.6 rebounds in 26 games for the Kings in Australia’s premier professional league. The 7-footer from Sydney shot 58 percent from the floor in his first season before an eye injury sidelined him in early February.
Humphries played a key role off the bench in each of Kentucky’s last two Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor during his sophomore season.
Playing alongside some of the best talent in the country, Humphries made the most of his opportunities, most notably in the 2017 Elite Eight matchup vs. North Carolina. Playing in a season-high 21 minutes under the national spotlight, Humphries scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. More importantly, he scored eight points during a 10-2 UK run that gave the Wildcats a 64-59 lead with 5:10 to play. The effort nearly willed Kentucky to the Final Four.
Other notable performances included a nine-point, nine rebound game in 11 minutes vs. Cleveland State and nine points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals vs. Stephen F. Austin. A late summer addition to the 2015-16 roster, Humphries earned valuable minutes late in his freshman year, breaking out with a six-point, 12-rebound game at Texas A&M.
Humphries is just one of a number of Wildcats in the pros enjoying a spectacular February.
Karl-Anthony Towns (2015) was one of the top performers in the 2018 All-Star Game with 17 points and 10 rebounds – the only player on Team Stephen with a double-double – while Anthony Davis (2012) followed up his 2017 All-Star Game MVP performance with 12 points in 17 minutes. Towns went 7 for 11 from the floor and led Team Stephen at halftime with 13 points. Davis, making his third career start and donning injured teammate and former UK men’s basketball player’s DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey, went 6 of 9 from the field.
Cousins (2010) and John Wall (2010) were also selected to the game – Cousins as a starter – but the two Wildcats were unable to play due to injuries after their all-star selections.
With the four selections, Kentucky joined UCLA as the only program to have four former players picked for a single NBA All-Star game in the event’s history. UCLA achieved the feat in 1983 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Marques Johnson, Kiki Vandeweghe and Jamaal Wilkes on that year’s roster.
Jamal Murray (2016) and De’Aaron Fox (2017) tipped off NBA All-Star weekend for the Wildcats in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Challenge. Murray, the 2017 MVP, posted 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Fox represented the Sacramento Kings with four points and two assists. Murray also participated in the Skills Challenge.
Devin Booker (2015) won the JBL Three-Point Contest with a record score of 28 in the championship round. He defeated the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, considered one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters and winner of the 2016 competition. Booker became the first player from Kentucky to win the JBL Three-Point Contest. Wall and Kenny Walker (1983-86) won the Slam Dunk contests in 2014 and 1989, respectively. Towns won the Skills Challenge in 2016.
Since the All-Star break, Davis has been on a tear. He’s averaging 41.7 points, 16.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks since the All-Star Game, including 53 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in a win vs. the Phoenix Suns. Booker had 40 points in that same game.
Humphries isn’t the only former UK men’s basketball player enjoying success in the professional ranks outside of the NBA. Isaiah Briscoe (2016-17) put on a show in the Estonia/Latvia All-Star Game two weeks ago with a 50-point performance. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds for Kalev-Cramo after helping the Wildcats to the Elite Eight last season.
Also of note, former UK men’s basketball player Aaron Harrison (2014-15), who hit three straight game-winning shots in Kentucky’s unforgettable 2014 Final Four run, led the USA Men’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team to a victory vs. Mexico on Monday night with a team-high 16 points. Derek Willis (2014-17) is also on the team.