• Gregory Alcala

A Diamond In the Rough: Sean Kilpatrick Earns His Spot In The NBA


When Sean Kilpatrick left the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team in 2014, the Yonkers, NY native left behind a legacy. Over his four-year career as a Bearcat, Kilpatrick amassed over 2,145 points, ranked second in the program’s history to Oscar Robertson, and led the Bearcats to four straight NCAA tournament berths. Prior to Kilpatrick’s arrival, Cincinnati missed the big dance five-years in a row, then a part of the Conference USA conference.

During his collegiate career, Kilpatrick was known as a “Prime-Time-Player,” as the famous sports broadcaster, Dick Vitale would describe him and despite his reputation in college as a premier performer on the court, the success he is enjoying with the Brooklyn Nets this season didn’t just come overnight.

Kilpatrick had to earn it.

“He has what every NBA player that I've coached has,” Cincinnati’s head coach Mick Cronin said to cbssports.com, during Kilpatrick’s senior year. “He is self-motivated.”

Kilpatrick, was not selected in the 2014 NBA Draft after his senior year, becoming the second, first-team Associated Press All-American, to go undrafted since Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds in 2010, according to hawkcentral.com. Without a deal, Kilpatrick did what any aspiring NBA player would do. He looked towards the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League and joined the Philadelphia 76ers to try and play his way onto an NBA roster.

He averaged 10 points a game, shooting 42 percent from the field, according to basketball.realgm.com, and did enough to impress the Golden State Warriors, agreeing to a contract in late October. But with the roster at 20 and needing to cut down to 15 to start the season, the Warriors waived Kilpatrick along with a group that featured Aaron Craft, Jason Kapono, James Michael McAdoo and Mitchell Watt.

In 2015, Kilpatrick was still without a stable NBA home. He would play for the Milwaukee Bucks in the Summer League, New Orleans Pelicans in September and the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League in November.

It wasn’t until the 87ers reacquired Kilpatrick in February 2016 after two 10-day contracts with the Denver Nuggets, that he saw his NBA opportunity come into fruition. Kilpatrick transformed himself into a D-League All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers affiliate, averaging 26 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. Towards the end of the month, the Nets took notice and added the D-League’s top scorer to their roster, which improved the team immediately.

At the time, the Nets were well on their way to a forgettable season but Kilpatrick, offered the Nets something that they haven’t felt all season long: hope.

After scoring eight points and 12 points against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, respectively-the first two games of March-Kilpatrick poured in a career-high 19 points, going 3-5 from long-range while shooting 6-13 from the field, 46 percent.

And that was only the beginning. He continued to play well, becoming a regular off the bench, tying his career-high, two games in a row, against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers and scored a new career-high 25 points, in a 105-100 loss against the Charlotte Hornets. He averaged 13.3 ppg in March and would finish April strong posting 16.9 ppg. Kilpatrick survived two 10-day contracts-from February to March-and finally found a home, signing a three-year deal following the second 10-day.

“Every night I really sit here and say to myself, ‘Where would I be without him(GM Sean Marks)?”, Kilpatrick said to basketball insiders. “It’s like my emotions toward Mr. Marks are kind of crazy because I always say he saved my life, and he did.”

Although Kilpatrick earned his spot on the Nets, and provided a story that everyone can root for, real-recognized-real, and it was only a matter of time before the former Bearcat got his Kodak moment.

I saw his game at Cincinnati and I always thought that he would find his way into the league. He was a prolific scorer on the college hardwood, and even with the challenge disparity separating college ball to the pros, I thought his game would translate well into the pro ranks, and it has.

Now the Nets get a chance to see what Kilpatrick is made of, standing on the strength of a guaranteed contract and recently, the 6’4 guard showed just how good he can be.

Against one of the best teams in the NBA in the Los Angeles Clippers, Kilpatrick reached a new career-high in 38 points, stunning a western-conference power, leading the Nets to a 127-122 Double-OT win.

Of course the Nets weren’t supposed to win this game but Kilpatrick defied the odds, put the Nets on his back and delivered like a star would. When the Nets needed a bucket, he answered the bell, scoring 31 of his 38 points after the 3rd quarter, but none was bigger than the three-point-play he generated to clinch the win for the Nets. With less than 20 seconds left in the second OT period, Nets up 124-122, Kilpatrick beat Paul on a slight crossover to his dominant hand, challenged Clippers center DeAndre Jordan at the rim and converted a tough layup, with contact, to put the Nets up 127-122 after draining his and-1 with 13.5 seconds left in the extra-extra period. He was unafraid of the big moment or the bright lights. Kilpatrick carried the Nets offense and was given the space and respect of his teammates to operate.

But that’s just one game. For the season, Kilpatrick is averaging nearly 16 a game, two assists and four rebounds, which are all career highs.

With their cornerstone in Brook Lopez, and youngsters in Chris McCullough, Isaiah Whitehead and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kilpatrick adds to that young core, albeit at 26 years-old. He’s a four-year college graduate, one of the first signature signings of new GM Sean Marks, who has to be creative in scouting without draft picks till 2019, and he’s just getting started.

Stats and Info Courtesy of RealGM, ESPN, Netsdaily, Hawkscentral, Gobearcats, NBA.com, ESPN and BBALL REF

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