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Published September 12, 2015
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 as they prepared for 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.
Davis and Wall were eagerly anticipating playing before the Wildcats faithful for the first time as professionals. Miller won't play because of a stress fracture in his left foot but echoed their sentiments.
The NBA exhibition game was Rupp's first since 2000.
Asked after the morning shootaround what it's like to be back, Davis said, "It's cool. ... It's going to be same way as any college game. Kentucky fans will come out and support you, especially with three Kentucky guys playing. It's going to be fun and I'm excited to play."
Davis and Miller figure to get the biggest cheers when introduced on Saturday. They're just two years removed from dominant team that won Kentucky's eighth national championship led by the 6-foot-10 Davis, a consensus first team All-American selection and national player of the year.
The two Wildcats were part of a school-record six players that were drafted in 2012, with Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 1-2 overall.
Fan reaction upon returning reminded Miller of how special it was playing for the Wildcats and 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."
Wall expected a charged welcome as well. The guard led coach John Calipari's first Kentucky squad within a game of reaching the Final Four before the following squad broke through the next season.
Wall left after one season and went on to become the first Wildcat drafted No. 1 overall, leading five Kentucky selections in the first round, including DeMarcus Cousins. Memories of his Wildcat career make him wonder what could have been had he stayed for four years, but returning reminded him of how great his brief stay was.
"You get chills coming back here, knowing this is where you played and how the fans treat you and give you a lot of support," Wall said.