Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NBA Scout Says Seven Kentucky Players ‘Are Gone’ to the NBA
INDIANAPOLIS — Seven Kentucky players are expected to leave for the NBA after the NCAA Tournament is over, one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv on the eve of the Final Four.
“I think all seven leave,” the scout, who has attended numerous Kentucky games and practices, told SNY.tv. “If they win it all, there’s no doubt in my mind all seven of them leave. No doubt.”
He added: “I’m telling you what I hear from some pretty good sources that seven of the 10 are gone.”
The group of seven includes freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns, projected as the No. 1 overall pick to the Knicks by DraftExpress.com; junior center Willie Cauley-Stein (No. 6); freshman shooting guard Devin Booker (No. 17); freshman forward Trey Lyles (No. 19); sophomore center Dakari Johnson (No. 39); sophomore guard Andrew Harrison (No. 53); and sophomore guard Aaron Harrison (N/A).
Might any of them stay if Kentucky doesn’t win the NCAA championship?
“The only ones who would stay [if they lose] would be a [Trey] Lyles, maybe a [Devin] Booker,” the scout said. “The rest of them are all going, I don’t care if they win or lose. I think if they lose there’s maybe a moment [of pause] by Trey Lyles or Devin Booker. Those are the only two that I think may pause at all. Regardless what happens I’m fairly confident that the Harrison twins, Dakari, Karl and Willie are all gone. No doubt in my mind.”
Kentucky set a record in 2012 by having six players drafted after they won the NCAA championship. That group was highlighted by No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft is April 26.
Asked here Thursday about the one-and-done rule, Kentucky coach John Calipari said:
“It’s not my rule. As a matter of fact it’s not the NCAA’s rule. This is a rule between the NBA and the Players’ Association. It’s something that we can deal with in a way, let’s just worry about me as a coach and my program, I’m not worried about them. Get them to stay, force them to stay, don’t play them as much at the end of their year so they got to stay. Or you let them run and make a decision on what they want to do. They don’t always make the right decision now. Like sometimes they should stay, and they choose to leave. Well, you got to live with that, too, because it’s their life, not my life.”
Kentucky is 38-0 and will meet Wisconsin here Saturday in the national semifinals, with Duke facing Michigan State in the other semifinal. Kentucky is seeking the first 40-0 season ever and the first undefeated season since Indiana went 32-0 in 1976.
If both Harrison twins and Booker go to the NBA, it could facilitate Malik Newman picking Kentucky.
“It plays a big role,” Newman told SNY.tv at the McDonald’s Game. “Because there may be a lot of guards staying. If there is a lot of bigs then it could benefit me a lot. So that is a big factor.”
The 6-4 Newman is also considering LSU, N.C. State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kansas.
“The rumors out here [at the McDonald’s Game] were that if all the guards from Kentucky leave that’s his No. 1 choice,” the scout said of Newman. “Now Ben Howland is putting the fullcourt press on him at Missisisppi State and for LSU [Antonio] Blakeney and [Ben] Simmons are trying to corral him there as well.”
Kentucky currently has a three-man class of guards Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews and big man Skal Labissiere that is ranked No. 1.
The Wildcats remain involved with numerous uncommitted wings and bigs, including Jaylen Brown, McDonald’s All-American Game MVP Cheick Diallo, Caleb Swanigan, Stephen Zimmerman, Thomas Bryant and Thon Maker, who is likely to reclass.
Briscoe told ESPN during the McDonald’s Game he was recruiting Newman and Brown to Kentucky.
Photo: USA Today Sports
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.