LEXINGTON, Ky. — Anthony Davis, John Wall and Darius Miller aren’t so far into their NBA careers that they’ve forgotten their college days as Kentucky standouts.
Recalling those fond memories was easy after Saturday night’s preseason game at Rupp Arena that served as a homecoming for the trio of former Wildcats. Davis and Miller, members of Kentucky’s 2012 NCAA championship team, returned with the New Orleans Pelicans to face a Washington Wizards squad featuring Wall, who led the 2009-10 Wildcats team within a game of the Final Four.
And in fitting fashion for a top-notch shot blocker, Davis rejected Bradley Beal’s late drive attempt to preserve the Pelicans’ 93-89 victory before 14,980 fans. He finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks.
“It was fun, really fun just to get that win,” Davis said. “The crowd was awesome, both teams were awesome. It was a great battle and I hope everybody enjoyed themselves.”
Davis and Wall eagerly anticipated playing before the Wildcats faithful for the first time as professionals. Miller didn’t play because of a stress fracture in his left foot, but he echoed their sentiments.
The NBA exhibition game was Rupp’s first since 2000.
Davis and Wall drew the loudest cheers in Saturday’s introductions, and Kentucky native Miller got a rousing ovation when he was recognized during timeouts. The reception for Davis and Miller was expected, considering Wildcats fans still have fresh memories of the dominant team that won UK’s eighth national championship two years ago led by Davis.
The two Wildcats were part of a school-record six players that were drafted in 2012, Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 1-2 overall.
Fan reaction upon returning reminded Miller of how special it was playing at Rupp.
“It’s been really nice for me,” said Miller, who went 46th overall to the Pelicans (then Hornets) in 2012. “They’ve shown me a great amount of love throughout my whole career, and I really appreciate it. Just coming back and getting to spend time with them and see everybody has been great.”