LEXINGTON — Even though he knows DeAndre Liggins’ name is not on any NBA draft lists, Kentucky coach John Calipari still thinks his junior guard should explore his draft status and even go to a NBA combine to let NBA officials evaluate his play.
Liggins has until April. 24 to declare for the draft and can take his name out of the draft by May 8 and stay at UK as long as he does not hire an agent or accept money from any NBA team.
Calipari said he would not recommend that UK freshmen Brandon Knight or Terrence Jones go to a NBA combine because their status is relatively well known.
“DeAndre may be fighting his way (into the draft). He may go crazy (at the combine) and maybe get his way (into the draft). Maybe with him it is a little different,” Calipari said.
Calipari said the danger in attending a NBA combine is that scouts and coaches don’t forget a bad impression if a player does not play well. Calipari knows Liggins’ shortcoming is his overall offensive game, but doesn’t worry that he will hurt his image at a combine.
“What he is physically and how he is is not going to change and he will not be projected any other way,” Calipari said. “If you work out and do not show well, they will never change their minds. They will not even watch you (the next year).
“If you are not able to fight and battle, don’t go. He will go in and they will say he needs to improve his skill level with the ball, he’s a little out of control. But there will not be anyone say this guy is not tough enough or does not have what it takes. I have seen guys go to events and kill themselves because they (NBA officials) will not change their minds.
“I am not saying he should stay in (the draft), but what if he goes in and works out and now somebody says you are a first round (pick). Then I may change what I say.”
Calipari admits Liggins “has come so far” physically and emotionally during the coach’s two years at Kentucky.
“But it is never enough for me. Like Darius (Miller). What I want them to talk about is that he got every ounce out of his body just like Josh (Harrellson) did,” Calipari said. “If those guys think that way and I drag them that way, what would they be saying about those two (Miller and Liggins).”
Calipari isn’t sure Miller, who is also a junior, should put his name into the draft. Instead, the coach thinks Miller probably would be better off to improve his stock with a strong summer and even better senior season.
“They (NBA officials) don’t change their attitudes. That’s why you have to be careful. If you are not ready and they see it, they never change their minds,” Calipari said.
Calipari also understands that Liggins has one motive Miller doesn’t have — he became a father during the season. The coach admitted he tried to find ways to encourage Liggins to spend time with his son, who was in Cincinnati.
“Part of what I was doing was due to his upbringing. I wanted him to understand that being a father is not just birthing a child,” the Kentucky coach said. “You have responsibilities here and also there.
“I tried to accommodate him (with practices) so he could get his butt up there. We would practice later so he could do that. It was important for him to learn to be a father. Because of his own background and experience, he has to walk his way through it.”