Former Kentucky men’s basketball star Tyler Herro (2019) was named the 2021-22 Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year on Tuesday after leading the league among all reserves with 20.7 points per game during the regular season.
Herro topped Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Phoenix’s Cam Johnson with a commanding 96 first-place votes and 488 total points in voting conducted from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. Love finished in second with three first-place votes and 214 total points.
Herro becomes the first Wildcat to win the award as well as the first player from the Miami Heat to claim the honor, which began in 1983.
UK head coach John Calipari has now coached a player that has won Most Valuable Player (Derrick Rose – 2011), Rookie of the Year (Rose – 2009, Tyreke Evans – 2010, Karl-Anthony Towns – 2016), Most Improved Player (Julius Randle – 2021), Defensive Player of the Year (Marcus Camby – 2007) and Sixth Man of the Year. He is the only collegiate coach in history to have a former player win each of the major NBA honors.
Herro appeared in 66 regular-season games for the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. He shot 39.9% from 3-point range and averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. His scoring average led the league for all reserves.
Herro had eight 30-point games off the bench this season which tied for the third-most by a reserve in NBA history. His 20 games of 25 or more were the fourth-most in NBA history off the bench. Furthermore, he scored 1,162 total points off the bench which broke Dwyane Wade’s franchise record of 1,208 in 2018-19.
The Milwaukee native averaged career highs in points per game, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage in his third season in the league.
Herro played one season for the Wildcats helping UK to an Elite Eight appearance in 2019. He was the Southeastern Conference’s Newcomer of the Year as voted on by the Associated Press and was an All-SEC Second Team selection by the league’s coaches. He started in all 37 games and averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Herro drained a team-high 60 3-pointers and registered a team-high 29 double-figure scoring efforts. With 25 seconds remaining in the Sweet 16 he sank a go-ahead 3-pointer against No. 11 Houston and then hit two free throws nine seconds later to cap a 19-point performance to send UK to the Elite Eight.
He was drafted 13th overall by the Heat in 2019 and had a memorable run to the NBA Finals during his rookie season. He was the youngest player ever to drop 30 points in a playoff game off the bench and hit 48 3-pointers in the postseason, the most of any NBA rookie during the playoffs in history.
Herro and the Heat return to action Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Herro scored 25 points and added seven assists in Monday’s opening victory of the series.
A staggering 27 players from Kentucky were on 2021-22 NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive lists), the most of any school. The number grew to 32 players throughout the regular-season as several players earned roster spots and 10-day contracts throughout the year.
Kentucky has enjoyed unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under Calipari. In the 12-plus seasons of the Calipari era, 43 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 32 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Anthony Davis, Towns and John Wall) and 21 lottery selections.
Calipari’s players are not only reaching the next level, but they are also succeeding when they do. Since 2010, eight Calipari-coached players have garnered 28 All-Star selections. Rose (from Memphis) was named league MVP in 2011. Five of his players have been tabbed All-NBA (Rose, Wall, Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Towns), three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year (Rose, Evans and Towns), Randle was tabbed the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2021 and 15 players from Calipari’s first 11 teams at Kentucky have made the NBA All-Rookie teams.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rajon Rondo) have amassed nearly $3.4 billion in career NBA contracts. In the 12 seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled nearly $3 billion in NBA contracts.
Calipari produced a top-10 pick in 11 straight drafts prior to 2020, a feat no other coach has ever accomplished. He has a streak of 14 consecutive drafts with a first-round pick. Calipari is the only coach in the history of the sport to have four players drafted No. 1 overall (Rose – 2008, Wall – 2010, Davis – 2012, Towns – 2015).
Of the 70 players who have finished their college careers at Kentucky under Calipari (through the 2020-21 season), 43 were selected in the NBA Draft, a 61.4% success rate. Another eight of those made the NBA, and the majority of the rest were walk-ons.