2012 Kentucky sportsman of the year

Sportsman: Davis, Calipari best U of L trio

February 1, 2013 

  • Anthony Davis

  • Randall Cobb

  • Teddy Bridgewater

  • John Calipari

  • A'dia Mathies

  • Darius Miller

  • Charlie Strong

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

  • Tom Jurich

  • Dermontti Dawson

1. Anthony Davis

As John Calipari liked to point out, Davis swept (most of) 2012's major national college basketball player of the year awards yet was fourth on the Kentucky team in shot attempts. From saving Kentucky's one-point victory over North Carolina with a blocked shot to earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors in spite of shooting 1-for-10 in UK's national title game victory over Kansas, Davis was a basketball player of singular abilities.

"No player had more of an impact on his team than Davis," wrote Chuck Jones of The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown. "... A truly unique talent."

Along with his national awards, Davis, 19, claimed a trophy case full of Southeastern Conference honors — Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year, "Davis had arguably the greatest year in the history of college basketball," wrote Anthony Wireman of Allkyhoops.com.

Sportsman fact: The 1,216 total points Davis received in this year's voting are the most in the 32-year history of the award.

2. John Calipari

From the time it became apparent that Calipari was going to build the Kentucky basketball program largely around one-and-done talent, the debate raged over whether a coach could win a national championship in that manner. In 2012, the UK coach proved his way could yield a title.

Deftly combining a ballyhooed freshman class led by Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague with veterans Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, Calipari led Kentucky to its first NCAA championship since 1998.

"Calipari did a masterful job getting big talent and big egos to play for the common good of the team," wrote Brian Rickerd of The State-Journal in Frankfort.

The Wildcats went 38-2, including a perfect 16-0 in the SEC regular season. In the NCAA Tournament, Calipari and the Cats beat fellow college hoops royalty Indiana, Louisville and Kansas en route to the championship. After the season, Calipari, 53, saw the top six players from his national title team taken in the NBA Draft.

"(Calipari) won a national championship and had six players drafted, but his off-court accomplishments were also impressive," wrote Ben Jones of Cats Illustrated. "In particular, the telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief shouldn't be forgotten."

Sportsman fact: In the past four years, Calipari has finished first, third, second and second.

3. Teddy Bridgewater

In 2012, the Louisville quarterback, 20, had the kind of year that launches a legend — or at least a future Heisman Trophy campaign.

With a berth in a BCS bowl on the line at Rutgers in what was the de facto Big East championship game, a too-injured-to-start Bridgewater watched U of L fall behind 14-3. Coming off the bench to play even though he had a broken left wrist and a sprained right ankle, the sophomore from Miami threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and rallied Louisville to a stirring 20-17 victory that ultimately put the Cardinals into the Sugar Bowl.

"(Bridgewater had) an amazing performance against Rutgers to get Louisville to the Sugar Bowl," wrote Connie Leonard of Louisville's WAVE TV.

Against No. 4 Florida in New Orleans, Bridgewater finished off the 2012 season in style, throwing for 266 yards and two TDs to lead U of L (11-2) to a stunning 33-23 upset.

"He bedazzled a Florida Gators team to the point of confusion," wrote Lonny Demaree of Kentucky Sports Report.

The U of L QB (3,718 passing yards with 27 touchdown tosses to eight interceptions) was Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Sugar Bowl MVP.

"(Bridgewater is) taking U of L's program to another level," wrote Alan Cutler of Lexington's WLEX-TV. "We'll be watching him play on Sundays for 10 years."

Sportsman fact: Bridgewater went from 15 points in 2011 Sportsman voting to 581 in 2012.

4. Charlie Strong

After his first two seasons as Louisville football coach yielded 7-6 records, Cardinals fans were ready for Strong's program to take the proverbial next step in 2012. The 52-year-old coach and his team more than delivered.

Louisville started the season by winning its first nine games, including victories over archrivals Kentucky and Cincinnati. After sagging with late losses at Syracuse and to Connecticut, U of L traveled to Rutgers in a game that would determine who got the Big East's bid to a BCS bowl.

In an effort long on fortitude, the Cardinals rallied from 14-3 down in the second half to claim a 20-17 win and what became a Sugar Bowl berth opposite Florida.

Tennessee was so impressed, it offered Strong its head coaching job. Despite deep ties to the SEC from his days as an assistant at South Carolina and Florida, Strong said no.

"(Strong) turned down Tennessee to stay at U of L," wrote Kent Taylor of Louisville's WAVE-TV, "and then led the Cards to the biggest win in school history."

In the Sugar Bowl against No. 4 Florida, Strong's team stunned college football by whipping the Gators 33-23 to finish an 11-2 season.

"Charlie Strong turned U of L's football program into a national power with the win over Florida," wrote Bob White of The Courier-Journal.

Sportsman fact: Strong was named on 24 of the 26 ballots cast by members of the Louisville sports media.

5. Tom Jurich

When word came last fall that Maryland was bolting the ACC for the Big Ten, the Louisville Athletics Director was on vacation in Florida. Cutting his trip short, Jurich returned to the Derby City to lead an intense 11-day lobbying effort to get U of L out of the sinking ship that is the Big East and into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

On the morning of Nov. 28, the ACC rendered judgment on both Jurich's lobbying and the work he's done in 15-plus years building U of L athletics — by inviting the Cardinals to join. "Tom Jurich," wrote Earl Cox of The Voice-Tribune in Louisville, "is the greatest administrator our state has ever had."

Not even a month later, Jurich, 56, scored another coup when he was able to fend off the efforts of Tennessee to woo away Louisville's successful head football coach, Charlie Strong.

In a calendar year when Rick Pitino coached the Cardinals to the men's basketball Final Four, Strong and the football Cards followed up by earning a Sugar Bowl berth.

For Jurich, who hired both, 2012 was a red-letter year.

"Jurich directed perhaps the best month and a half in the history of U of L athletics — the ACC move, keeping Strong, winning the Sugar Bowl," wrote Jody Demling of The Cardinal Authority. "He has every athletic program on campus on an uptick."

Sportsman fact: Jurich's second-place finish in the 2001 Sportsman of the Year vote is the highest ever for an athletics director in the award's history.

6. Randall Cobb

As a rookie in 2011, Cobb proved he could play in the NFL. In 2012, the ex-Kentucky wide-out showed he has the potential to become a Green Bay Packers star.

Cobb, 22, emerged as the favorite target of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound slot receiver caught a team-best 80 passes and led the Packers in receiving yards (954).

"Randall Cobb has turned almost every Kentuckian into a Green Bay Packers fan," wrote Steve Cornelius of Somerset's Commonwealth Journal.

Also used as a kick and punt returner as well as an occasional running back, Cobb set the all-time Green Bay record in 2012 by accounting for 2,342 net yards.

"When Cobb went to the NFL, I expected him to be good," wrote Mark Buerger of Lexington's WLAP radio, "but not ‘breaking all-time Packers records' good."

Sportsman fact: In the past three years, Cobb has finished second, ninth and sixth in the voting.

7. Darius Miller

In the rich basketball history of the commonwealth, no player who had both played for a high school boys' hoops state champion and claimed Mr. Basketball honors had also gone on to win an NCAA title playing for the University of Kentucky.

In 2012, Darius Miller completed "the triple" at UK.

Last year could have been a downer for Miller, who led Mason County to the 2008 Sweet Sixteen title and was that year's Mr. Basketball. A two-year starter at Kentucky, Miller was pushed into an off-the-bench role as a senior by the arrival of another of John Calipari's star-powered recruiting classes.

Rather than sulk, Miller (9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists) became both a steadying influence on a young team and a late-game, big-shot maker.

In the NCAA Tournament, Miller had 19 points and six rebounds in a round-of-32 victory over Iowa State. He hit six of eight shots and scored 19 points against Indiana in the round of 16. Against archrival Louisville in the Final Four, Miller made a late three-pointer that gave UK a seven-point lead inside the game's final five minutes.

"(Miller) displayed class at every turn, surrendering his starting role in Lexington for the good of the team," wrote Zack Klemme of The Ledger Independent in Maysville. Miller was named SEC Sixth Man of the Year by the league's coaches. The Maysville product made the SEC All-Academic team and graduated with a degree in community communications and leadership development. The 22-year-old was taken with the 46th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by New Orleans.

"All (Miller) does is win championships — and do it with class," wrote Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com in Louisville. "What a credit to the university."

Sportsman fact: Of the 205 points Miller accumulated in the voting, 93 came from media members in Eastern Kentucky.

8. Dermontti Dawson

The former Pittsburgh Steelers center, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, has not played in a football game since retiring in 2000. Yet 2012 provided the ex-Bryan Station High School and University of Kentucky standout the highest individual honor in his sport.

After three prior years as a finalist, Dawson, 47, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Finally, the greatest center got the ‘Call from the Hall,'" wrote Steve Moss of Lexington's WKYT-TV. "While he's one of the best players ever, he's even a better man."

Dawson played guard for Jerry Claiborne at UK (1984-87) and was a second-round draft pick of the Steelers in 1988. The following season, when future Hall of Famer Mike Webster left as a free agent, Dawson replaced him as Pittsburgh's starting center.

Redefining the position, Dawson is credited for popularizing the idea of a center "pulling," snapping the ball then running to the edge to block.

Dawson, who now lives in San Diego, is the second ex-Kentucky Wildcat to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. George Blanda was inducted in 1981.

"Dermontti is the epitome of ‘Sportsman,'" wrote Ryan Lemond of Lexington's WLAP radio. "He is the absolute perfect ambassador for UK and Lexington."

Sportsman fact: Of Dawson's 189 points, 83 came from members of Lexington's broadcast media.

9. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Kidd-Gilchrist provided the fire that sparked Kentucky's 2012 NCAA championship run. When things got tough for UK, it was often the 6-foot-7, 232-pound freshman from Somerdale, N.J., who got going.

In a physically grinding battle with archrival Louisville in Rupp Arena, Kidd-Gilchrist went for 24 points and 19 rebounds. In a revenge matchup with Indiana in the 2012 NCAA Tournament round of 16, MKG had 24 points and 10 rebounds.

"MKG set the tone for the season as he helped shape the identity of UK's team as one that was not only talented, but hard-nosed," wrote Thomas Beisner of cn2 TV.

Kidd-Gilchrist (11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds) was named third-team All-American by The Associated Press. He was Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament South Region and made the Final Four all-tournament team. In June, Charlotte made Kidd-Gilchrist, now 19, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"(Kidd-Gilchrist's) numbers were impressive but he was about so much more than statistics," wrote Larry Vaught of The Advocate-Messenger in Danville. "His will to win, team-first attitude and ability to overcome his stuttering elevated him over teammate Anthony Davis to No. 1 on my ballot."

Sportsman fact: Eastern Kentucky media accounted for 61 of Kidd-Gilchrist's 187 points.

10. A'dia Mathies

In what turned out to be Pat Summitt's final visit to Kentucky as Tennessee head coach, A'dia Mathies became the story.

With the Lady Vols protecting a 36-game SEC winning streak, Mathies played one of the best games in Memorial Coliseum ever by a UK player. The Louisville product scored 34 points and hit the game-winning shot with 4.2 seconds left.

"... in 2012, A'dia Mathies continued to make her case as one of the best players in (UK) history," wrote Jon Hale of KyForward.com.

As a junior, Mathies helped UK (28-7) to the 2012 SEC regular-season crown and to the NCAA Tournament round of eight for the second time in three seasons. The 5-foot-9 guard led Coach Matthew Mitchell's team in scoring (15 ppg), assists (2.7), steals (2.6) and three-point field-goal percentage (37.8) and was second in rebounding (5.1).

Mathies, 21, was named SEC Player of the Year by both the league's coaches and The Associated Press.

"Winning conference player of the year ... is no small feat anywhere in the country," wrote Lexington freelance writer James Pennington. "Doing it in the SEC is even tougher."

Sportsman fact: Of the 38 ballots that mentioned Mathies, 24 were cast by members of the Lexington media.

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