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April 3, 2012
Five Cats have NBA decisions to make
Anthony Davis had done this season, still marveling over his Final Four Most Outstanding Player performance.NEW ORLEANS - In Kentucky, they still were talking about
Davis was minutes removed from having helped power Kentucky to its eighth NCAA championship in a 67-59 win against Kansas at the Superdome. Already, the national Player of the Year was being asked about what's next.
"I haven't decided," Davis said when asked if he's jumping into the NBA after one season at UK. "Coach Cal said have until April 29 to decide," Davis said. "I'm going to wait, sit down with my coach, sit down with my family, see what the best decision is for me."
Pay close attention to that deadline.
For the first time, the NCAA has set a deadline of April 10 for players to declare their NBA Draft intentions. But the NBA doesn't require players to declare until April 29.
So UK coach John Calipari has told his players the NCAA deadline is meaningless. There's no NCAA punishment for entering the draft after that date. A player can inform the NCAA he plans to return, only to change his mind before April 29.
The deadline was created to give coaches a handle on their roster before the spring recruiting signing period begins the next day.
"I'm not worried about the NCAA deadline," Calipari said. "It means nothing to me or those players. They have until the 29th to make their decision. If anybody else wants their players to make that decision by the (10th), that's fine, but my players will not."
Davis is all but certain to leave. He's a virtual lock to be the No. 1 pick in the draft after a season in which he averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds and set an NCAA record for blocked shots by a freshman with 186.
If in fact Monday was his last game in a Kentucky uniform, Davis said, "it's a great way" to go out. But he insists he's not making any declaration soon.
He's not the only UK player with a decision to make.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who's been projected as high as No. 2 in the draft, said "I don't know yet" when he was asked about his future.
During the season, Kidd-Gilchrist insisted he planned to stay in school, but ESPN.com reported during the NCAA Tournament's second weekend that he intends to declare. Kidd-Gilchrist refuted that report.
Neither Terrence Jones, a predicted first-round pick, nor Doron Lamb, a borderline late-first-rounder, addressed their plans after Monday's NCAA title game.
Point guard Marquis Teague, another potential first-rounder, said he's still undecided about the NBA.
"It's a chance (I'll be back)," Teague said. "We've got until April 29 to make a decision, and we'll see then."
It's clear, though, that Calipari expects most of his roster to turn over. In Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones, Lamb and Teague - along with senior Darius Miller - Calipari has six players who could be drafted, and he sounded prepared, even excited, for the possibility.
"What I'm hoping is there's six first-rounders on this team," Calipari said. "We were the first program to have five (in a single first round, in 2010). Let's have six. That's why I've got to go recruiting on Friday."
There was a time when Calipari could have expected to have most of his team back next season. But in the One-and-Done Era, that's unlikely.
Calipari reiterated Monday night that he doesn't like the NBA rule that prevents players from being drafted until a year after their high school graduation, though he's made better use of it than anyone.
The UK coach has proposals for altering the college-to-pro landscape. He wants the NCAA to provide disability insurance for top players. He'd like to see hardship loans available to top talents and their families.
And Calipari would like to see collegiate experience factored into NBA contracts.
Let players who stay in college an extra year have a year removed from their first NBA contract, he suggested, so they reach free-agency - and a potentially lucrative second contract - a year sooner. Or provide higher pay - a 20 percent hike, Calipari suggested - to players who enter the NBA having graduated college.
Calipari said he's met with NBA Players Union rep Billy Hunter about negotiating such ideas with the NBA.
"(Hunter) spoke to my team before the NCAA started to tell them to worry about college and not the NBA, then he and I spent an hour (talking)," Calipari said. "I've already been up to New York to meet with him about it, to try to say, 'Billy, we've got to do something.'"
In the short term, though, Calipari anticipates significant roster upheaval again. It's become a reality of life at Kentucky, and Calipari knows that if he's chasing a second NCAA championship next season, it'll likely be with a vastly different team.
"You know what, I sat up there (in the press conference), and I was ready to say, 'If this was 1985, I would have that team back,'" Calipari said late Monday night. "And I would've said, 'Next year, we're trying to win 'em all.' But you know what? It's not 25 years ago. It's now. You have to deal with the reality of the way it is."