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Cats In The NBA: 2011/2012 Season Preview

Fifteen former Kentucky basketball players will be on NBA rosters when the league begins its season on Christmas Day.

Only two schools, Duke (17) and UCLA (15) have produced as many or more current NBA players.

Here’s a preview of what to expect from the 15 Wildcats in the league.

Eric Bledsoe (Clippers) Still recovering from knee surgery in October, he isn’t expected to play until the middle of January. With Chris Paul now a Clipper, Bledsoe will compete for minutes at backup point guard.

DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) Boogie was hobbled by an ankle injury in the preseason but is fully healthy for the start of the season. The sky is the limit for Cousins, the questions as always concern his attitude and commitment.

Josh Harrellson (Knicks) Jorts-mania is sweeping through Manhattan after the Knicks traded for Harrellson on draft night. He’s already a fan favorite and his play in the preseason has made him popular with the coaching staff as well. He’s impressed with his toughness and shooting touch, whether he can crack the team’s rotation remains to be seen.

Chuck Hayes (Kings) Hayes’ first attempt at signing with the Kings fell through when team physicians discovered a heart abnormality. A second opinion from doctors at the Cleveland Clinic gave Hayes a clean bill of health and he officially joined Sacramento this week. He will start in the frontcourt opposite DeMarcus Cousins.

Enes Kanter (Jazz) Utah traded Mehmet Okur this week, a move that opens up plenty of minutes in the frontcourt for Kanter. Unfortunately for the rookie, Okur – like Kanter – is a native of Turkey and was serving as Kanter’s mentor. Kanter told the media in Utah that he was saddened by the move and considered Okur a big brother.

Brandon Knight (Pistons) Knight is already impressing his new teammates and coaches with the same traits Kentucky fans got to know last year: his intelligence, work ethic and quickness. Teammates are calling Knight the future of the organization but with veterans Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum on the roster, he won’t be counted on to play a ton of minutes right away.

DeAndre Liggins (Magic) A spot on Orlando’s roster wasn’t guaranteed when the team drafted him in the second round but Liggins made the team in training camp. He impressed enough with his defense to earn a roster spot but minutes will be very limited.

Jamaal Magloire (Raptors) Magloire joins his hometown team and becomes the first Canadian to play for the Raptors. His role with Toronto will likely be to provide physicality and depth in the frontcourt.

Jodie Meeks (76ers) Meeks will continue to start for Philadelphia, keeping Evan Turner – drafted second overall by the team in the 2010 draft – on the bench. Meeks began last season buried on the Philadelphia bench but carved out a role in the second half of the season as the team’s designated perimeter shooter.

Nazr Mohammed (Thunder) OKC is one of the deepest teams in the league but they are also among the youngest. Mohammed is the only player with more than eight years of NBA experience on the roster. He brings a veteran presence and another big body to a team that should contend in the West.

Daniel Orton (Magic) After missing all of last season with a knee injury, the first part of 2011 is critical for Orton’s future in Orlando. The team has until Jan. 25 to decide whether they will pick up his rookie-level contract extension for next year or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. The front office has expressed concern over Orton’s injury history but he says he’s 100 percent going in to this year. Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has been complimentary of Orton in the preseason but has also said he is hesitant to use a player with so little experience in his rotation. Orton’s situation figures to change if Orlando trades all-star center Dwight Howard.

Patrick Patterson (Rockets) Patterson is recovering from off season ankle surgery and is hoping to only miss the first week of the season. Once he gets back on the floor he’ll compete at forward for minutes in new coach Kevin McHale’s rotation.

Tayshaun Prince (Pistons) Prince resigned with the Pistons in the offseason and will be among a small group of veterans who will have to reestablish a role as the team begins to rebuild around Brandon Knight and new coach Lawrence Frank.

Rajon Rondo (Celtics) The sand is slipping through the hour glass for the aging Celtics. Rondo’s name was fodder for off-season trade rumors but he returns to Boston to play point guard as the Celtics attempt another run at an Eastern Conference championship.

John Wall (Wizards) The rebuilding process continues to slowly take shape in the nation’s capital. Wall largely lived up to lofty expectations as the first overall pick in his rookie year, despite playing through a number of nagging injuries. Cutting down on turnovers and improving his percentages is key for him to go from good to great and for his team to go from bad to average.

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