Calipari Says At Least 5 Kentucky Players Likely Headed to NBA (UPDATED) | Zagsblog
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Friday / July 12.
  • Calipari Says At Least 5 Kentucky Players Likely Headed to NBA (UPDATED)

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    NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-3rd Round-Kentucky vs CincinnatiINDIANAPOLIS — Following the official announcement that he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters he expects at least five — and possibly seven — Wildcats to declare for the NBA Draft.

    We reported here this week that an NBA scout said as many as seven players “are gone” to the NBA.

    Calipari said he expects freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, the projected No. 1 pick by, to declare, along with junior big man Willie Cauley-Stein (No. 6), freshman forward Trey Lyles (No. 17) and sophomore guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Andrew is projected No. 52 by, while Aaron is projected to go undrafted.

    Calipari also said freshman shooting guard Devin Booker (No. 17) and sophomore center Dakari Johnson (No. 39) are considering departing.

    “There’s not going to be any brainwashing, forcing, pushing either in or out. I want each kid to make a decision for themselves,” Calipari said, according to the Courier-Journal. “I did tell a couple of the kids that it’s a man’s league; it’s not a child’s league. If you’re not ready for a man’s league, you need to come back.”

    Calipari can easily reach out to any number of NBA GMs and executives to gauge what range his players will be drafted.

    “Cal knows his kids and they can go through the competition committee and find out where they’re going to go,” a former NBA GM told “Cal knows all the NBA guys. He can pick up the phone and call five GMs and get an answer to all seven of his guys in a heartbeat.”

    Calipari told reporters he thinks after the Harrison twins interview with NBA teams, they might go in the late-first or early-second round.

    “I believe they will be when you get the workouts and the interviews and you see their size and their athleticism and all that – when you meet them and say, ‘Those are two of the greatest kids; where did all this other stuff come from? Where’s this narrative? It’s not true,’ ” Calipari said, per the Courier-Journal. “And then I think what’ll happen is they’ll both be in the first round. But even if they’re not, it’ll be shortly thereafter. … There’s so many variables, but I would be surprised if both of them weren’t first-round picks.”

    The former GM isn’t buying it.

    “To say that they’re first rounders, Cal knows better than to think that both those kids are first-rounders,” he said. “I mean, come on, no chance. I’ll bet a million dollars they’re both not drafted in the first round. I don’t care if they go and interview well and they’re good kids. I don’t see it happening. I think he wants them gone, too.”

    As for Booker, he is a projected first-rounder who could jump now or decide to come back to try to improve his stock.

    “I think Booker’s in the first round when he comes out, it’s just does he want to get drafted in the first round or does he want to go higher next year,” the former GM said. “It’s up to him.”

    Johnson is projected as a second-rounder and the former GM thinks he wouldn’t improve by staying at Kentucky.

    “Dakari’s on the fence,” he said. “I think at the end of the day he goes in the second round. Does he just want to get drafted? I don’t see him improving much in college next year. He is what he is.”

    As for next year’s team at Kentucky, they will return freshman point guard Tyler Ulis, sophomore forward Marcus Lee and likely junior Alex Poythress, who tore his ACL this season, although Calipari said he would talk to NBA people about Poythress.

    According to the Courier-Journal, Calipari texted Ulis and said, “I’m going to build a team. Get your guys and let’s do this again. Let’s rerun this.”

    Kentucky has a three-man class so far of point guard Isaiah Briscoe, two guard Charles Matthews and big man Skal Labissiere.

    The Wildcats remain in the mix for numerous uncommitted wings and bigs, including Jaylen Brown, Cheick Diallo, Stephen Zimmerman, Caleb Swanigan and Thon Maker, who is leaning toward reclassing.

    Thomas Bryant is off the board to Indiana and Ivan Rabb is down to Cal and Arizona.

    Meantime, with the twins leaving, Kentucky would now seem to be in good position to add Malik Newman, the top uncommitted guard in 2015.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. 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.

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