By LARRY VAUGHT
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.”