Rajon Rondo's boffo showing in the 2010 NBA playoffs has established the Louisville product and former University of Kentucky guard as one of the rising stars in pro basketball.
It has me thinking about Rondo's standing in the commonwealth's basketball lore. For the fun of it, I decided to rank the best basketball players actually from the state of Kentucky for each of the last four decades.
We're picking the most significant high school player, the best college player and the best pro by decade (players are assigned to the decade in which they graduated from high school).
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Most significant high school player: Darrell Griffith. The bouncy 6-foot-4 Griffith led Male to the 1975 state championship and became the 1976 Mr. Basketball.
Runner-up: Jimmy Dan Conner. I have always been partial to the Anderson County standout (1971 Mr. Basketball), the star of the first state tournament my 6-year-old self saw in person.
Best college player: Darrell Griffith. Became the University of Louisville's all-time leading scorer (2,333 career points) and led U of L to its first NCAA title in 1980.
Runner-up: Jack Givens. The Bryan Station product scored 2,038 points in his Kentucky career and had 41 points in the 1978 NCAA title game win over Duke.
Best pro player: Darrell Griffith. Averaged more than 20 points a game four times in his first five years with the Utah Jazz.
Runner-up: Melvin Turpin, Bryan Station. Failure to control his weight cost Turpin what should have been a long NBA career. Still, he had two double-figure scoring seasons in a five-year pro stint.
Most significant high school player: Richie Farmer. The Clay County star became a statewide folk hero in five straight state tournament appearances. He led Clay to the 1987 state title and had 51 points in a losing cause in the '88 state championship game. Two-time state tourney MVP and 1988 Mr. Basketball.
Runner-up: Rex Chapman, Apollo. King Rex was a statewide rock star.
Best college player: Allan Houston. The Ballard High product averaged more than 20 points in all four of his seasons at Tennessee.
Runner-up: Winston Bennett. Male grad scored 1,399 points at Kentucky and played on a Final Four team (1984) and a 32-4 squad (1986).
Best pro player: Allan Houston. In a 12-year NBA career, averaged 17.3 points.
Runner-up: Rex Chapman. Scored 14.6 points in a dozen NBA seasons.
Most significant high school player: J.R. VanHoose. The Paintsville big man led the tiny mountain school to a 1996 state title and a 1998 state runner-up finish. One of four players in the history of Kentucky high school hoops to have over 3,000 points and 1,500 rebounds for his career.
Runner-up: Jermaine Brown. Fairdale star was Sweet Sixteen MVP for back-to-back state championship teams (1990 and '91) and was Mr. Basketball in 1991.
Best college player: DeJuan Wheat. The jet-quick guard from Ballard finished his University of Louisville career with 2,183 points.
Runner-up: Greg Buckner. University Heights Academy product scored 1,754 points for Clemson.
Best pro player: Derek Anderson. The Doss graduate and ex-UK star played 11 seasons in the play-for-pay and averaged 12 points for his career.
Runner-up: Greg Buckner. Spent 10 years in the NBA as journeyman.
Most significant high school player: Chris Lofton. The sweet-shooting guard led Mason County to the 2003 Sweet Sixteen title and a runner-up finish in 2004. Named the 2003 state tournament MVP and 2004 Mr. Basketball.
Runner-up: Darius Miller, Mason County. In 2008, captured the high school basketball triple crown — won state title and was named both Sweet Sixteen MVP and Mr. Basketball.
Best college player: Chris Lofton. Scorned by home-state powers, Lofton became a star at Tennessee (2,131 career points).
Runner-up: Shelvin Mack. Bryan Station guard was a standout on Butler team that finished second in 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Best NBA player: Rajon Rondo. This season, the willowy 6-1 Celtics guard made the NBA All-Star Game and the league's All-Defensive Team. Regardless of how Thursday's NBA Finals Game 7 against the Lakers turned out, Rondo was clearly one of the five best players in the playoffs.