LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t not sure what freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are going to do in regards to the NBA draft.
They have until April 24 to put their names into the draft pool and can remove their names by May 8 and remain eligible to continuing play at UK as long as they do not retain an agent.
“We are not there yet to be able to tell you (about the draft),” said Calipari. “Putting their names in is a no-brainer, if that is what they choose to do.”
Knight averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game for UK and shot 42.3 percent from the field, including 37.7 percent from 3-point range, and 79.5 percent at the foul line. He led UK with 159 assists in 38 games.
Jones averaged 15.7 points per game and led the Wildcats in blocked shots with 72 and rebounds at 8.8 per game. He shot 44.2 percent from the field and 64.6 percent at the foul line where he attempted a team-high 243 free throws.
Lamb was a 48.6 percent (68-for-140) shooter from 3-point range and averaged 12.3 points per game.
Calipari says that the problem with the draft comes when the official NBA draft early entry list is not available until April 28 or 29 and NBA teams cannot talk to or work out players until the list is released. He noted that the NCAA also does not allow players to miss class to attend NBA workouts before the May 8 deadline to remove a player’s name from the draft arrives and that places even more limitations on how many teams can actually have a player work out.
“It is not as easy as you think. Then the lockout screws this up. What if there is a lockout for a whole year?” Calipari said.
The UK coach said knowing there is a possible lockout, a player will have to be self-motivated to stay in shape and also be aware of how much it might cost to pay trainers and others while there is no basketball.
“It’s not as easy as what you think and that’s why a lot of kids are coming back (to college),” Calipari said.
He said another factor is that the order of the draft lottery is not decided until after the May 8 deadline passes and that can change a player’s draft outlook.
Calipari said Knight and Jones, both projected as lottery picks in many mock drafts, are “stepping back” to evaluate the draft process. Calipari said at this time last year he knew both John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were top five picks, Patrick Patterson would go 12 to 15, Eric Bledsoe 17 to 22 and Daniel Orton would be drafted. All five were first-round choices.
“But this is all over the map (with Knight and Jones),” Calipari said.
Calipari says Lamb’s situation is more fluid even though his play has put his name on NBA draft boards.
“He has to get stronger, get tougher. If he does that ... he and I talked about him gaining 15 pounds of muscle and then he will be a lottery pick next year. His feel for the game is as good anybody’s,” Calipari said. “He finally took on a defensive presence, and he had nothing (earlier in the season). By the end of the year, he was guarding pick-and-rolls and on the ball pretty good. As he gets physically stronger, tougher and rougher, what will happen to him is that with 15 more pounds, how will you guard him? This year people just tried to knock him off the ball.”
Calipari stressed that NBA teams do pay attention to a player’s defensive prowess.
“What happens in the NBA is that if you can’t guard and the other coach knows it, they will go at you 12 straight times,” Calipari said. “It is embarrassing. They will go at you until the other coach takes you out of the game.”
By next year Calipari said Lamb could be “one of those guys they will be talking about and everybody will be watching” if he adds muscle and improves his defense.
The UK coach did note that two years ago Jodie Meeks elected to stay in the draft knowing he would be a second-round choice and he’s now been in the league two years.
“He’s doing fine. It worked out. He has worked his way in to where it appears he will now get a second contract,” Calipari said. “Whatever is right for the young man ... I may not agree with it, but it is not my decision.”