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By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though he will not hire an agent to protect his eligibility, Kentucky freshman Daniel Orton is dropping his classes to concentrate on impressing NBA teams before the June draft.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Daniel is going into the draft,Ã¢â‚¬Â his father, Larry Orton, said Wednesday. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going into training. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to drop his classes just in case he needs to come back (to UK), but the plan is for him to be in the draft.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Orton will go to California to train just as he did last summer with teammate Patrick Patterson before working out for NBA teams in May
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The NBA guys respect that trainer and knows he gets players ready to play when they leave him,Ã¢â‚¬Â Larry Orton said.
Larry Orton has received information from various sources that his son, who turns 20 in August, has at least five teams interested in drafting him in the first round. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Four have indicated he could be in the top 20 picks and one said he might go from 25 to 30,Ã¢â‚¬Â Larry Orton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But they all say he will be a first-round pick.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Underclassmen have only until May 8 to withdraw from the NBA Draft and retain their eligibility and Larry Orton indicated his team would work out for NBA teams in May.
Daniel Orton played behind freshman teammate DeMarcus Cousins and averaged only 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots and 13.2 minutes per game. He shot 52.7 percent from the field and 53.4 percent at the foul line.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But if Daniel has a good workout, he might be a top five pick,Ã¢â‚¬Â Larry Orton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has a lot of stuff people have not seen. If he had played more, he would have made DeMarcus look bad. I am not saying that because he is my son. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just that I know what he can do. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very smart and very skilled.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is why NBA guys go to practice and they got to see a lot from Daniel then. What they see in practice and what they saw in games, they are not stupid. They know he could have been playing more and had a lot better numbers.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It has been a hectic last two years for Daniel Orton. He injured his knee before the start of his senior season in Oklahoma and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play until the state tournament. He signed with UK when Billy Gillispie was coach and then had to wait to see if he felt comfortable with John Calipari after Gillispie was fired and Calipari hired. His mother also died midway of his senior season.
Yet Daniel Orton said this year was harder on his father than it was him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think it has been a rough year for him. He had to go to the hospital a couple of times just from dealing with the death of my mother. He has really stressed about it and that is something that has really affected me, too,Ã¢â‚¬Â Daniel Orton said before UK played West Virginia. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s had a hard time and I can tell. I have tried to be around the house a lot more for him. A lot of guys donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t realize that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really stay in the (Wildcat) Lodge a lot so I can be around him and make sure he is okay.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have a second family with the team, but he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really have anybody around him like that. He has a couple of guys that will ride and drive with him to some games and stuff, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about it. He really is a softy, too. I call him a big teddy bear. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a pushover. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t lie about that. I take advantage of him a lot, probably too much. He is a great Dad. I really enjoy him being here (in Lexington). He always said he would be the dad he never had to me.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We talk about the future, past and present all the time. I think he will always be around. He will want to be around me for the rest of my life probably just watching out for me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Daniel Orton didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t deny early in the NCAA Tournament that he would consider going to the NBA. Even Calipari has indicated for weeks that Orton would have options to consider about his future.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“People are going to have their opinions on what I came back for if I stay at Kentucky, but I just really enjoy college. If anything, it will be to better prepare me for the NBA,Ã¢â‚¬Â Daniel Orton said then. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But my confidence is getting better all the time and my game is getting better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said then he would talk to his father and brother, former Oklahoma State standout Terrence Crawford, about his options and consider their advice about what to do.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have great experience with my brother and dad and they will give me great advice,Ã¢â‚¬Â Daniel Orton said.
Larry Orton said the family knew leaving after one year for the NBA was a possibility when Orton came to Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We talked about it again two days ago and just said it was the right time,Ã¢â‚¬Â Larry Orton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I actually think he made his mind up in high school that this is what he would do if he had the opportunity.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to work out for teams and do things to show them what he can do.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He saidÃ‚Â his son attended classes Wednesday but will leave for California Sunday. Larry Orton will remain in Lexington working until after the draft.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am going to be working until after the draft and that will tell me where to go then,Ã¢â‚¬Â Larry Orton said.