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Calipari “will always roll” with what players want to do about NBA

John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)


Another season ends, another round of speculation starts about who will leave UK early for the NBA and who will return for another season with the Wildcats.

Obviously senior Reid Travis will not be back. Sophomore PJ Washington came back to UK for a second season to enhance his draft status and has. He’s a first-round projected pick and possible lottery pick.

Freshman Keldon Johnson has been projected as a top 20 pick all season even though UK Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt said Monday night that some NBA personnel he knows think his draft stock has dipped. Freshmen Tyler Herro, Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery have also been mentioned as possible draft hopefuls along with sophomore Nick Richards.

“We always will roll with what they want to do. There may be kids that I may say, ‘If I’m you, this is how I play this out.’ During the season it’s all about team. The minute the season’s over … now it’s about individual players,” Calipari said on his weekly radio show Monday  night.

Calipari always meets with individual players after they first go through a meeting with assistant coaches. Calipari told show host Tom Leach about a few of the things he tells players.

“The one thing you gotta understand in this, if you make a decision based on, ‘I just want to go try it,’ then you’re not quite ready. If you don’t have the skill set yet, you don’t have a resume of what you do as a player, sometimes you’re one or two years from unemployment. That’s why when you go in that league you want to be ready,”  Calipari said.

“The second thing is, if you got off the court stuff going on, you’re not really mentally into this, you don’t need to walk into that man’s environment.”

Former UK All-American Rex Chapman said it has never been easier to get drafted — or harder to stay in the league. “PJ, Keldon, Tyler … not one of them is ready to start on any NBA team,” Chapman said.

That’s why Calipari leaves decisions to individual players without trying to influence them about whether to go to the NBA or stay at UK.

Above all else, Calipari wants each player leaving with lessons that will benefit them for the rest of their life.

“We want them all leaving this program with an unbelievable experience that they can draw on,” Calipari said. “Do we want them to leave with a national title? Yes we do. But leaving with that experience, leaving with an understanding of what commitment means — which will carry into their lives and everything they do — what a good teammate is, what a servant leader truly is, if they leave with those things, they’re going to have success in whatever they chose.”


  1. Good explanation of Calipari’s system. Chapman’s comments about individual players were spot on IMO.

  2. I understand and appreciate everything about Cal, except He should tell them exactly what he thinks of their chances in the NBA. Everyone else is pushing them one way or the other. They need to hear the truth in this very important decision.

    Who better than Cal who has worked with them over the year. In a way, Cal is showing his approval by remaining silent. I know he does not want to put extra pressure on the players, but they are getting ready to enter a pressure cooker and need honest direction.

    Why blow an opportunity that you have worked your whole life to achieve? You can never go back or start over. You need the truth, regardless of if it is what you want or not. The truth is the truth and it takes a man to understand it. John is the only man in the equation. They players will be some day, but not yet.

    1. I agree, Ben.
      If that was my son, I would want the coach to tell him straight up.
      If it were me, personally, I would also want to know what the coach thought my chances are. Cal knows a lot of NBA people and can talk with them about players.
      There are teams in the NCAA Herro, Johnson, and Hagans could not start for, much less the NBA.
      I know if the money is there it is hard to say No, but if I were a freshman and could improve my stock 5-10 spots, I would be back.

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