Former Kentucky Wildcats star Bam Adebayo now plays for the Miami Heat. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
March 20 (UPI) -- Bam Adebayo and Jamal Murray each spent one season at Kentucky and have completely different philosophies when it comes to following their former squad during the NBA season.
Adebayo, now with the Miami Heat, has close ties to some of the players on the current squad and catches the Wildcats on TV from time-to-time. He also hopes to go to a tournament game, should the Wildcats advance further into the NCAA men's basketball tournament and if the NBA seasons allows for it.
Murray doesn't watch at all. But Big Blue Nation shouldn't feel bad, Murray said he doesn't watch a lot of basketball in general. He also grew up without cable, so TV has never been a big part of his life.
Still, both players have enough knowledge to break down the current team and how it can contend. The No. 5 seed Wildcats take on No. 9 Kansas State at 9:37 p.m. Thursday in the Sweet 16. But this Wildcats team is an interesting composite of athleticism and grit, unlike the teams Adebayo and Murray played on under coach John Calipari which featured NBA lottery picks scattered all over the floor and a gluttony of sharpshooters like Devin Booker, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Murray.
Those four all had seasons making at least 40 percent of their 3-pointers and taking at least three per game from downtown. The only player to do that this season for the Wildcats is freshman Kevin Knox, who hit 43 percent of his shots from downtown, while firing up 4.6 per game, but Knox also leads the team in field goal attempts per game, unlike Booker, Lamb, Miller and Murray during their tenures.
"They are clicking at the right time," Adebayo said. "You know people were talking bad like they weren't going to make the tournament, but it's funny how stuff works. They are playing at a grind it out pace this season. When they get it out, they go. But other than that, they run in sets. Cal always has different teams, good teams. The majority of us all leave, but he's making it work."
Adebayo netted seven points -- and had a spectacular one-handed dunk -- in the Heat's win Monday against the Denver Nuggets. He joined the Heat as the No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Murray joined the Nuggets as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
"Hopefully they have an easy route to the championship," Murray said of the Wildcats. "They'll use defense to their advantage and use their athleticism to get stops and fuel their offense to get into the fast break and do what they do best."
One of the best Wildcats on the break during Kentucky's round of 32 win against Buffalo on Saturday was guard Hamidou Diallo, who scored 22 points and was an energetic nuisance to the Bulls for 35 minutes.
I've known Hami since, while I was there when he came halfway through the season," Adebayo said. "He's in the gym 24/7, so its not like he's not getting in work or he's not making shots. He's worked for this attention. He's making it happen and I'm proud of him."
Even if Adebayo doesn't get to see the Wildcats in action on a regular basis, he is likely to suit up against a former Kentucky star on any given night in the NBA.
In fact, Adebayo's Heat will face off against former Calipari coached Kentucky players 36 times this season. There are 15 NBA teams with a total of 26 players this season who were coached by Calipari at Kentucky. Seven of those squads have multiple players who played for Calipari in Lexington.
After some games, Adebayo can be seen embracing those with the Wildcats connection.
"It's different because it's like we used to play with each other, but we won so I've got [bragging rights]," Adebayo said. "It's one of those things where we both wanted the same goal. And we both achieved that and now we are out here taking care of our family. So just having that, this is a great moment for us. Every time we go to Sacramento, I go see De'Aaron Fox. Every time he comes to Miami, he comes to the crib."
"We just kinda kick it and really think about it. 'We are in the NBA right now. This is real.' And we cherish those moments because you never know when your time is up on this earth."
The Wildcats have advanced past the Sweet 16 six times in seven NCAA tournament appearances under Calipari.