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- SEC commissioner Mike Slive expects vote on adding 9th SEC football game at spring meetings
- Vince Marrow to UK fans: Blue-White attendance has big impact on recruiting
- Guest post: Fan has his solution for one-and-done dilemma for NBA, NCAA and players
- Dakari Johnson’s mother appreciates opportunities her son had, looks forward to future at UK
- Kentucky center Dakari Johnson to return for sophomore season
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops not only watches Kentucky practice, but puts on UK pullover
- Receiver Jeff Badet has broken fibula, receiver A.J. Legree “gonna quit and go play somewhere else”
- Jojo Kemp: “I’m trying to make this like high school again”
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Teammate James Young has opted to leave UK just as Julius Randle announced he would on Tuesday. Two other teammates, Willie Cauley-Stein and Marcus Lee, have announced they will return. Randle said he had no idea what twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison would do about returning for their sophomore seasons or going into the draft.
“I can’t really speak for them. I have not given them any advice or anything,” Randle said Tuesday. “We are just talking about normal teenage things. I am pretty sure they will make the best decision for them. But whether they will go or declare, I can’t speak on that.”
However, he did says he expects UK to have an “amazing team” next year.
“We have so much talent,” Randle said. “Willie coming back, Marcus was huge in the (NCAA) tournament. So much talent coming in next year. They will definitely make another run. Coach Cal will do a great job of developing players.”
Calipari eventually did that last season even though UK finished 29-11, not exactly what was expected when the Cats started the year ranked No. 1 and openly talked of going 40-0. Regular-season losses created mounting criticism for the players and coach before UK caught fire in postseason play.
Randle said he dealt with the criticism because he never “fed to, read anything or believed anything” about the preseason hype. Instead, he stayed in his “own little circle” and stayed focused on improving.
“It was an experience I will never forget. All the adversity we went through all year and to finally have the opportunity to play for a national championship and see how we came together during the postseason run I will never forget. I will grow old one da yand tell my children or grandchildren what I did when I was 19 years old. It will always be a memory for me,” Randle said.
Randle said “some was fair, some was not fair” about the criticism during the year.
“But at the end of the day it never shook us up. We stayed together and showed how tough minded we are,” Randle said. “Lot of day I would go into practice or a game not feeling well, but I would look at those guys and know what they been through and that just gives you motivation.”
He said the daily challenges made him a better player and person.
“Each day you have to take things one day at a time. You are definitely going to face adversity in life whether it is basketball or not. Facing all that doubt and criticism taught me how to deal with things and I can apply it to life as well,” he said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Julius Randle surprised no one today when he announced he was leaving Kentucky to put his name into the NBA draft where he’s expected to be among the top five picks in the June draft. Teammate James Young made the same decision last week.
“I have been blessed and fortunate to be in position to have decisions and big decision whether to declare for the draft or not. Talking with my family and a lot of prayer, I have decided to declare for the draft,” Randle said.
Randle averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds — both team highs — for Kentucky and had 24 double-doubles, tops in the nation. He was remarkably consistent in NCAA play — 10 points, six rebounds, four assists versus Connecticut; 16 points, five rebounds against Wisconsin; 16 points, 11 rebounds against Michigan; 15 points, 12 rebounds against Louisville; 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists against Wichita State; and 19 points and 15 rebounds against Kansas State.
He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year as well as an overall first-team all-SEC pick. He also made several all-American teams.
Here is how NBAdraft.net evaluates Randle’s strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: Very strong upper body and a reliable left hand … He shows a strong motor, and finishes well around the rim with contact … He is very skilled with his face up game and has shown some creative finishing ability … Though he lacks elite explosiveness, he is able to use his strong frame to protect the ball and avoid blocks … On the offensive boards he is an absolute beast, relentless in seeking out rebounds … The same thing is true on the defensive end where he has natural instincts for rebounds … He uses his strong body to not allow taller opponents to get close to the rim … He doesn’t have the quickest feet in the world, but definitely really good for a big, very balanced … Randle is a mix of power, skills and balance that makes him a very interesting prospect … Despite being just a freshman he could have an immediate impact in the NBA due to his strength and offensive skills.
Weaknesses: Despite all the good things mentioned about his game there are a lot of concerns about Randle … It’s been noted that Randle is undersized for the PF position, lacking ideal length with a sub 7 foot wingspan … He may struggle to create looks against stronger, more athletic and taller opponents in the post … Offensively his numbers on synergy indicate how difficult it has been for him to score on post moves with very low percentages on each low post block and over either shoulder … It also doesn’t help matters that he is not able to utilize his right hand … Very few, even highly talented, players are able to play at high level without being able to finish and make moves with both hands, as the book becomes well known and everyone overplays their strength. … His shooting isn’t consistent and despite good mechanics, his percentages are low and 3-poin range is non-existent … He will have to develop a consistent solid jumpshot to replicate the success of Zach Randolph and Michael Beasley when facing the basket … Overall his game right now is based almost entirely on overpowering weaker opponents … He is very skilled but it will be hard to find the same success overpowering post players in the league. Also it is worth considering that most of Randle’s game is below the rim … His future will likely hinge more heavily than most prospects on landing in the right system, where a team has a vision of how to utilize him and makes sure he stays focused and works hard on the right skill development.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Did Julius Randle upgrade his NBA draft stock with his play in the NCAA Tournament? That’s the question I posed to Ed Isaacson of NBAdraftblog.com.
“I don’t think Randle did anything to hurt his draft value, and I think actually showing what he did well all along this season just reinforced people’s thoughts about him,” said Isaacson. “I see a player who could make an impact rather quickly and he still has room to improve. At worst, he is going to be a very good rebounder and efficient scorer around the basket.”
What about James Young, who did declare for the draft Thursday (Randle has yet to declare but likely will soon)?
“He’s still the same player he has been all along. He’s a very good athlete, but an inconsistent shooter and a poor defender,” Isaacson said. “But there will be teams that will be interested in him, but I don’t see any real value for him until you get into the 20′s.”
Note: This release was sent by UK Athletics.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky freshman All-Southeastern Conference selection James Young will forego his sophomore season and enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft.
“My time at Kentucky has been special to me, something I’ll always treasure, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Young said. “I’ve learned more this year, on and off the court, about life from Coach Cal and the staff and appreciate all of their guidance and support. I can’t say enough about my teammates; the journey helped us build a bond that we will always share for the rest of our lives. I would like to thank the best fans in the country, the Big Blue Nation, and I hope you guys will continue to support me as I move on. I will always bleed blue. Succeed and Proceed!”
The Rochester Hills, Mich., native knocked down a squad-best 82 3-pointers, the seventh most in a single season inprogram history and second
“I’m excited for James and his family and the decision he’s come to,” head coach John Calipari said. “From day one, the NBA people who came to our practices in the preseasonraved about him. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him all season, investing himself in his brothers for the betterment of the team, and I think we all saw the end result in the tournament and Final Four. Whatever team drafts James is not only getting a superb athlete, they are getting the ultimate teammate.”
Young collected All-SEC Second-Team and All-SEC Freshman Team honors after logging 30 double-figure scoring efforts on the season. He received national player of the week honors after delivering a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists) against No. 6/4 Louisville in the regular season. He followed that performance with a 26-point, 10-rebound performance in UK’s SEC opener against Mississippi State. It was one of his team-high nine 20-point efforts on the season.
The NBA Draft lottery is scheduled for May 20, and the 2014 NBA Draft will take place June 26.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari started a national media tour Monday to promote his new book, “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” and admitted he had no idea how many players would leave UK early for the NBA draft and denied reports that he had any interest in coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know right now,” said Calipari on the Dan Patrick Show when asked how many players might leave UK. “We had great conversations. They all have the information. I am not going to meet with them nine times. This is it. Tell me what you want to do so I can help you.”
He later when on Kentucky Sports Radio and said he called 10 NBA general managers the day after UK lost to Connecticut in the national championship game to gauge where his players might land in the draft. He said he even had one player on the way to the airport in Dallas after the title game he told him he didn’t want to leave UK.
“As I was doing all of the other research, they were throwing his name in, and a couple of them told me he could be a first round pick. So, I had to call him back in and say, ‘I know what you said to me, but you and your mom need to sit down and talk about this because here’s some of the information I’m getting,’” Calipari said.
“If you’re in the first round, you’ve got to go do this, if you’re in the lottery, you’ve got to go do this.” In fact, if a player wants to come back, he has them sit down and explain why, like Patrick Patterson did back in 2009,” Calipari said.
Calipari said he doesn’t see any way all eight players that might consider leaving early would do that. He noted they have until April 27 to make a decision to put their names into the draft and that they are “not hurting” him or UK by waiting to make a decision.
“You obviously know that there’s a couple, they’re going to go, and then there’s three or four that are like ‘what will you guys do?’ At this point? I don’t know. I don’t think all eight will leave. How about that? We finally will have some guys come back. I don’t think eight will go, but five, six, four, I don’t know,” he said.
He also addressed the rumor former Kentucky star Rex Chapman put out a few hours before the national championship game that he had been told it was a “done deal” that Calipari was going to be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Obviously it is not true,” Calipari told Patrick.
He said he was “surprised” that Chapman put that message on Twitter.
“You know, every year I have coached I am going somewhere. That is all part of being the coach at Kentucky but that disappointed me in that unless the Lakers told him, which I know wasn’t done … They had a coach. We had a coach. Getting ready for the championship game. I am not mad at Rex. We are moving on,” Calipari said.
Calipari said the rumor was not a distraction for him or the team because they didn’t know about it until after the game.
Patrick asked if Calipari would one day like to be offered the Lakers job?
“No, I am good We need to get this thing to two years (before a player can leave college for the NBA),” he said.
He said on Kentucky Sports Radio that he had a “great job” where he could impact the lives of players and their families and wanted to keep doing that. However, he told Patrick if players are still able to leave school after one year that it would “be hard” for him to still be coaching in three to five years.
“The option is to recruit players that are not good enough (to leave UK for the NBA after one year) or convince kids that should leave that they should stay,” Calipari told Patrick. “I am not comfortable with that and BBN is not comfortable with the first one (recruiting players not as good). Let’s get to two years because that is good for everyone.”
Calipari said even if he didn’t get the top-ranked players, the 50th rated recruit would still think he could be a one-and-done player.
“If I try to talk them into staying, people are going to say I am doing it for me,” he told Patrick. “I give information to families and they make the decisions. I can’t go at this any other way.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
While many assume that Kentucky freshman James Young is already set to put his name into the NBA Draft, his godfather insists that is not accurate.
“If you go through all this, I think you have been through every emotion possible and I am sure Kentucky fans feel the same way. Then if you have player on the team, it is just magnified even more,” said Sean Mahone, Young’s godfather. “But I love all the tradition and experiencing that run this team made was fantastic.
“We feel blessed. Everybody wants to be part of the championship game experience. That means you might not be on the right end of the final game, but who wouldn’t rather be there with a chance than not even being in the game. Honestly for us, right now it has been such an emotional roller coaster ride and we are seeing so much through James’ eyes. We are not rushing to make any decisions.”
Mahone gave an example to show how the family had been thinking national championship, not NBA draft.
“I am not even certain what the deadline is for deciding. That shows how we are not fixated on the draft. That is just an innocent admission of where we are and what we have been thinking about,” Mahone said. “It’s just been chaos the last few weeks during this incredible run with a lot of late night worries and anxiety and then some great, great moments. That was our focus, not next year.”
Young is projected a a mid-first round pick by most mock drafts but seems to be projected as a first-round choice in every mock draft after averaging 14.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for UK this year. He made 82 3-point shots — the second highest freshman total behind Brandon Knight’s 87. His 573 points were the sixth most by a UK freshman — ahead of Anthony Davis and two behind DeMarcus Cousins.
“I’ve always said the worst time you can make a decision is when you are emotional,” Mahone said Friday. “We don’t want to rush anything. There is no sense of urgency right now to make any decision.
“We are in a cool down period and just want to see where we are at and what will eventually be best for James. We will spend time as a family. He’s been in class this week and focusing on that. We will just try to evaluate and see what our best options will be.
“There is a lot of stuff going around about James. All I’ll say is there are options and I am glad somebody might think James has achieved enough that he could maybe live out his dream. What a compliment to think somebody would like to pay you for doing what you enjoy. I hope we have those kind of options. It would be flattering.
“But we have no complaints over anything from this year. He can come back to Kentucky and that would be great or if he is evaluated (by the NBA) and can do what he has dreamed about, that would be great.”
Mahone has heard and seen reports about players not caring about academics or the national championship. He says both are untrue.
“Some things you don’t forget or ignore. If James was not playing basketball, I would say the same thing about his education and why he needs it. The University of Kentucky gave our boy a scholarship and with that came a lot of accountability and responsibility on the court but also in the classroom,” Mahone said.
“During recruiting, it was made very clear that there were high academic standards and a commitment to fulfill those academic requirements. When we made a commitment, that meant also doing what was right for James’ academic development. That has been a high priority for him at UK because coach Cal made that very clear during recruiting.”
He said the pain the players showed after the title game loss should have made it clear how much they wanted to win the title.
“That championship meant a lot to these kids. That’s what they came to UK to do,” Mahone said. “They are all young. They have to evaluate how much they might want another chance at winning that title. Everybody is different. You just can’t say these kids didn’t care about that because they really did.”
Could Kentucky lose seven players — five freshmen starters and sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress — to the NBA draft?
As unlikely as that might seem to Kentucky fans, it doesn’t seem that unlikely to some who closely monitor the NBA draft.
Start with ESPN analyst Chad Ford who indicated on ESPN.com Wednesday that UK could lose more than the expected trio of Julius Randle, Cauley-Stein and James Young — all projected first-round picks in every mock draft I have seen.
Ford agreed that Randle and Young are “for sure gone” and put Cauley-Stein in the same category even though the sophomore explained after the title game that there would be reasons for staying in school — as well as having several millions reasons (dollar-wise) for going to the NBA. He has Randle ranked as the fifth best player with Young 16th and Cauley-Stein 19th
“The Harrison twins have wanted to leave all year according to multiple sources around the twins, but their draft stock made them iffy first rounders. I’m not sure it’s to the point that they are clear first rounders,” Ford said on ESPN.com. “Andrew probably has the most claim, but he’s not a lock. Another year at Kentucky would help.”
Aaron Harrison Sr. told the Houston Chronicle that he had not discussed the NBA with his sons before the title game and that he expected them to discuss the subject this weekend when the twins likely will come home. Harrison Sr. said about a month ago that he was fine with his sons staying at UK if that was their decision.
NBADraft.net has Andrew Harrison going 27th in the first round with Aaron going in the second round with the 35th overall.
Draftexpress.com has Randle going fourth, Cauley-Stein 12th and Young 17th. Draftexpress.com does not have any other Wildcat going in the first or second rounds. CBSSports.com has Randle, Cauley-Stein and Young in the same slots with Poythress 46th and Aaron Harrison 47th in the second round. CBS has Andrew Harrison as the 61st best prospect — there are 60 spots in the draft.
Most assumed that freshman Dakari Johnson would be back. While he said he had not thought about his draft status after Monday’s national title game loss, he also didn’t want to say he would be back at UK, either.
“Dakari Johnson would be a bubble first rounder as well,” Ford said.
He said he’s also heard rumblings that Poythress could declare, but says he would be on the same first-round bubble as Johnson.
“I think there’s a chance all of them are gone. There are certainly rumblings that direction. But the only three that really make sense right now are Randle, Young and Cauley-Stein,” Ford said.
Players don’t have long to make a decision. The draft is not until June 26 but players who wanted official NBA input have already had to request that and will receive by Monday. Those not requesting information have until April 27 to enter the draft.
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By LARRY VAUGHT
ARLINGTON — Kentucky’s players were still trying to come to grips when their 60-54 loss to Connecticut in Monday’s national championship game when they started getting the question — would they be back at UK or head to the NBA.
“I don’t even know. I am not thinking about that right now. I am just thinking about this game,” said freshman center Dakari Johnson.
Next he got asked if that meant it was too early to say he would definitely be back at UK.
“I don’t know. I am still trying to deal with this loss,” Johnson said.
That’s basically what twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison said except they added they would have to discuss it with their family. Ditto for James Young. Julius Randle, considered the player that would be drafted the highest, dodged the question, too, as he softly answered question while trying to handle the disappointment of Monday’s loss.
Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein, who was injured and did not play the last three tourney games, had more to say than his teammates about what the future might hold.
“I have no idea. I haven’t thought about it like that,” Cauley-Stein said when asked what it was like to be together with so many teammates for the final time. “I am just trying to relish the moment with my brothers and see what some of them are doing. That is kind of how I based my decision last year (to come back to UK rather than going to the NBA.)
Two NBA scouts at the Final Four said Cauley-Stein was UK’s most intriguing prospect after Randle. His size and athleticism have scouts contemplating what his potential could be once he fully commits to improving his offensive game. Both said his injury — Cauley-Stein said after the game he had a “cracked bone, stress fracture” in his ankle — would not be an issue unless it was more severe than it appeared.
“I can see coming back. I feel this emptiness in me like I’ve still got something to prove and I’ve still got so much stuff to work on in my game,” he said. “I went up from last year and now I want to make another jump in my game. Could I come back to school and make that step and be safe or do I make the jump to the league and mess everything up? What if I go there and don’t do what I thought and I’m stuck and can’t come back to school?
“I love school. I love being at Kentucky. I love the fan base. I love the community. So why not stay until they make you leave? IYou just get better as you get older. There are so many things that go through my head.”
That would be what he called “millions of dollars” and being able to work only on his game without balancing school, which he called a full-time job.
“That kind of weighs in. My family weighs in. I will talk to my family and coaches and then decide what is best for my future and my game and if I could be happy either way.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari does not discourage players from leaving if he feels they are ready to make the jump. The question becomes how many of these players are truly ready — and NBA scouts warn that what happens in March won’t wipe out a season’s worth of observations.
“Well, I’ll sit down with each young man individually, probably have their family either with us or on a speaker phone and get them information and say, ‘If I can help you with anything, let me know. Tell me what you want to do, what do I need to do to help you?’ Calipari said after Monday’s loss.
“I kind of stay out of the decision making. I just get them information. So we’ll see. I have no idea because I haven’t talked to them and none of us have talked about that. We were playing to win the national championship. But now that the season’s over, it is about the players. It’s no longer about the program. It’s no longer about the team.
“It’s about each individual player on this team now. They sacrificed. They surrendered to each other now, for our team and our program and our school. Season’s over. Now it’s about them. And we’ll sit down with each of them and they will make decisions for themselves.”