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Calipari wanted these three, but they needed him


We often talk about Calipari’s ability to maximize NBA draft potential through player development, marketing and a unique system at UK; it’s the #KentuckyEffect and the proof is in the numbers.

In his four seasons at Kentucky, Coach Cal is responsible for 17 NBA draft picks, including 13 first rounders and two No. 1 overall selections. Only the hat guy bounces around the NBA draft’s green room more often than John Calipari each and every year and he’s not slowing down anytime soon. The league should consider putting a roller chair in the middle of the room next year, so Cal can make his rounds from table to table, UK lottery pick to UK lottery pick.

The #KentuckyEffect was present yet again in last night’s draft, although not quite like we’ve seen it in years past. Sure, Kentucky basketball saw two of its former players drafted in the first round, but last night we saw how it affects those who elected to become part of another program, where progression isn’t at warp speed and the UK emblem isn’t around to boost appeal.

Three players who almost wore Kentucky blue in college were on the 2013 draft board last night and all three were high on Calipari’s wish list during their recruitments, but ended up elsewhere. But snubbing UK and John Calipari isn’t the only bond they share, they each saw their draft stock plummet from where it once was, before denying the opportunity to become a Wildcat.



Maybe Cal’s biggest miss since being at Kentucky, so we thought at the time, Shabazz picked UCLA over Kentucky on April 12, 2012. Muhammad was the No. 1 recruit in the 2012 class and projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft throughout his senior season of high school. When Nerlens Noel reclassified to join Muhammad in the 2012 class, Muhammad dropped to No. 2 in the high school rankings and most mock drafts, although some kept him at the top.

Jeff Goodman projected Muhammad to go second overall in his early 2013 mock draft last summer; The Big Lead predicted he’d go first. Yahoo! Sports wrote, “He is one of the best all around guards to come out of the high school ranks in a few years. Muhammad already has an NBA body, and the athleticism to go with it. He is a tireless worker who is all about winning. UCLA is in for a big season, and I expect a number of their players to cash in on that success.”

Last night Muhammad made a backstage entrance to shake the commissioner’s hand after the Bulls drafted Tony Snell, six picks after his name was called. It wasn’t the way he envisioned his dream playing out, and it was very uncomfortable to watch.

14th pick, Utah Jazz (traded to Minnesota)




Alex Oriakhi is another player John Calipari expected to suit up for him at Kentucky last season. As the story goes, Cal was shocked to find out the UConn transfer would play his final season of college basketball at Missouri. The news was announced, unexpectedly, during Oriahki’s April 14th visit to Missouri, one weekend before he was scheduled to visit Kentucky. Calipari thought he was in great position to land the big man during that visit.

At the time, Oriakhi was projected to go late first/early second round, but with a little help from the UK program, many believed he could’ve secured a spot as a mid-to-late first rounder. But Oriakhi chose to become a Tiger instead, connecting on a swift kick to his own NBA draft potential.

57th pick, Phoenix Suns




Remember him? A top 10 prospect in the class of 2010, Leslie was Calipari’s first miss at Kentucky. He thought he was getting him, too. Everyone did. One day before Leslie announced his commitment to N.C. State, ESPN Rise called him ‘a lock’ to Kentucky. “Leslie to Kentucky is imminent,” the website reported. But UK wound up with Terrence Jones playing power forward instead. Not a bad consolation prize.

Leslie was a projected top 20 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft entering his first season with N.C. State, but after an up-and-done freshman campaign — including a suspension for a violation of team rules, far too many selfish plays and lacklaster defense — he returned for a sophomore season under new head coach Mark Gottfried.

The following summer, he was a projected late first rounder, this time in a loaded 2012 draft class, but he chose to return to N.C. State for a third season. Fast forward to today and the one-time Kentucky target, a guy Calipari really wanted, is likely headed overseas unless he shines in the summer league with the New York Knicks.

Undrafted (signed free agent contract with New York)


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

41 Comments for Calipari wanted these three, but they needed him

  1. The Visor
    1:44 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Agreed on all three. Cal could have done wonders for them in terms of their draft potential. The only kink in the argument is that Bennett is someone that “at one time” Calipari wanted pretty badly and the guy was #1. But the basis of the piece is understood. Come play for Cal and he will make your dreams come true. Go elsewhere, and who really knows.

  2. Big Blue 66
    1:44 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    CJ Leslie wouldve been awesome in Cals system…first rounder under Cal regardless of minutes. Players leave UK to go to the NBA so they can get more playing time!

  3. AaronJ
    1:47 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    I remember CJ Leslie situation a bit differently. We were after him hard but backed off when we decided to go all out on Terrence Jones.

    I could replace CJ Leslie with Anthony Bennett who we did go after and wanted badly. That guy went #1 and would have been THE difference between a first round NIT loss and potential NCAA Champ. Alex was way too soft and Bennett would have been a bulldog down low to go with the lanky Noel and WCS.

  4. Bicycle Seat Sniffer
    1:48 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Last year’s team with Shabazz and Oriahki…That’s a Sweet 16 team, at worst.

  5. College girl jogging
    1:48 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    I kind of feel sorry for their families. Millions of dollars lost for them. There are a couple of guys at UL who would be driving a Bentley right now instead of studying for an pre calc exam, if they had picked UK. Evidently their parents didn’t want a new house.

  6. Dustin
    1:49 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Same can be said for Archie, he chose UK and his stock plummeted over the course of the season. Also Anthony Bennett snubbed UK and he was No. 1 overall. Different players fall and rise based on more than one factor.

  7. Unclebrother
    1:53 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    The #NotGoingToKentuckyEffect turned out pretty swell for Anthony Bennett, as I saw on Nerlens Noel’s face, who saw no benefit from the 23.5 games he played for UK and Cal. Just sayin, squirrel fkkers!

  8. James
    1:53 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    This is as asinine as it is simplistic. There’s a number of factors why the draft didn’t pan for these guys as they hope. To say that they needed Cal or that he would definitively make their professional careers is crazy. I’m as much of a diehard UK fan as anyone else on this site, but it’s hard not to see this website as the propaganda division of UK athletics.

  9. #6 ..
    1:55 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Yeah its not all on one factor… but the one being discussed is a BIG and IMPORTANT one.

    Remember.. archie ended up with Guaranteed $$$$ where as Alex Oriakhi and CJ leslie ended up with am outside chance of some $.

    KENTUCKY is a players first program !!!

  10. Basteballer
    1:55 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Shabazz was not Cal’s biggest miss since he’s been at Kentucky.

    Wiggins, anyone?

  11. Spuds McKenzie
    1:55 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Drew, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of Muhammad’s story. What hurt him more than anything was the revelation that he was a year older than previously believed. Suddenly, his dominance in high school was far less impressive, considering that he should have been in college age-wise. Combine that with the questionable influence of his crazy father, and Shabazz was going to drop in the draft no matter where he went to school.

  12. Lamont
    1:56 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Ryan Harrow needed Cal too.

  13. Also
    1:57 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    simply put if NOEL did not get injuried we would have made tourny and he would have been #1 pick.

    Bennett, Len, ect. all got helped by a tragic injury.

    All the teams that pasted on noel never said it was because of talent or skill.. it was due to the uncertainty of the injury.

  14. Basteballer
    1:57 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Also, I really believe UK backed off on Leslie. That kid had some attitude issues.

  15. Unclebrother
    2:00 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    And the jury is still out on Cauley-Stein, Poythress, etc. Those guys were supposed to be headed to the NBA this year too and there they sit, studying for their ping pong final.

  16. Another fact..
    2:03 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    harrow was meant to be a back up point for teague…

    cal didn’t think teague would go in drafted until very end of the NCAA tourny and by then wasn’t able to get a PG recruit. Harrow was brought in to serve as a back up for teague 2nd year.. not be a starter.

    Harrow was too small and weak. Not a bulldog like teague or big and athletic as wall.

    Other than harrow tell me the last small PG cal has had.

    Not Rose, Not Evans, Not Wall, Knight (questionable but could shoot the ball), Not Harrison Boys.

  17. Remember..
    2:06 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Cal and UK never tells or promising 1 and done to anybody.

    If the player is good enough, they are told to go.. if they are not ready then coaches tell them to come back.

    Cal and the coaches tell the players what they think and what is best for them.

    At the end of the day it is players choice.. and the media is the one saying every UK recruit is a one and done. No one else but the media..

    As usual the media is making the issue more than it is, and trying to sell articles and make money.

  18. Seriously
    2:07 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    It does have an effect but it has way more to do with the particular players and situations. Like a few people mentioned, goodwin’s stock dropped throughout the year and Anthony Bennett was still the number 1 pick

  19. mjblue2
    2:11 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    I’m a big time cats fan, but I don’t think we should make it out to be more than it is. We had players we thought would go higher that barely went, and some people thought would be ready that weren’t. And I remember us recruiting Anthony Bennett fairly heavily, he seemed to do OK last night. Some of these guys are going to be ready and some aren’t. It will vary from player to player. Certainly lots of exposure on a winning team can’t hurt. We didn’t have a winning team last year but the talent was down throughout the ncaa.

  20. Deacon
    2:16 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Obviously guys we wanted, who chose not to go to UK, can turn out just fine (Anthony Bennett). But the Kentucky effect is real and I believe it is as follows for G.M’s: “While we’re not sure on this guy, we know Cal gets lots of talent to go to Lexington. If Cal thought he was good enough to play at UK, then there must be something there, so we’ll take a chance on this guy.”

    It’s the difference that leads teams to take Teague and Goodwin in the late first round v. if coming out of another school, they would have been second round or undrafted (if they would have even had enough cache to enter the draft after one year). It’s the difference between being given the benefit of the doubt and getting a guaranteed contract, v. no guarantees. And, it should be a big part of Cal’s pitch to every kid he recruits.

  21. Unclebrother
    2:29 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    There is no Kentucky Effect. If anything UK hurts would be NBA payers by not being able to adequately support them physically and as young men. Look at poor Nerlens, he was so undersized. The kids should have bulked up much more than he did. Had the coaches not been catering to a whole team of wannabe NBA players Nerlens may have been in better shape and not prone to the injury.

  22. Young Gun
    2:29 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Imagine if Archie chose to play ball at another school. Without Cal, I think Archie still enters the draft, but goes late 2nd round or undrafted. Bennett did just fine without Cal, but only went #1 because Nerlens went down. Let’s not forget that Jorts and Liggins made NBA money, which would have NEVER happened with anyone except Cal. Coach Cal is the reason a lot of these kids make the money they do in the NBA.

  23. Reverse
    2:37 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    If allowed to go straight out of High School, Noel goes #1. Instead goes to UK for a year and is drafted #6 = Kentucky Effect.

  24. Reverse
    2:39 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Please look at Draft projections prior to them going to school versus after.

  25. Unclebrother
    2:44 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    But Reverse don’t forget – Noel was injured. That’s why he slid, not the crowd he surrounded himself with or his lack of an offensive game, certainly not his kindlin’ thin frame.

  26. kadizkat
    2:51 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    I see UL fans still don’t have anything else to do this summer but visit UK’s fan site. Sorry for you guys. #LilBrotherEffect

  27. Anthony Bennett
    2:56 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Y’all wanted me real bad. Now I’m first overall. LOL.

  28. Wildcatsteeler
    2:59 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Shabazz wouldn’t have helped us with his selfishness. Had Oreikhi came Poythress would have rode the bench all season and probably transferred.

  29. Cking9698
    3:09 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    What a terrible article….what about Bennett?
    He said no, and it worked out great for him.
    Just sayin.

  30. Unclebrother
    3:21 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    26, not a UL fan. Just a fan who knows that this article is weak and that the Kentucky Effect doesn’t exist – at least not in a positive way.

  31. syrin
    3:42 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Well at least those guys each got to bask in the glow of their Final Four run…..

  32. NotFirst
    3:44 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    #30.. Ahh, you must be a who?-sier. The Bobcat fans sure are proud of their get from you guys. I give y’all props on VO, tho, what a great player he is/is going to be.

    But the fact is, had Nerlens not blown his knee, he’d have been #1. Six with a bum leg ain’t too shabby. And Archie, despite his poor play during the season and poor performance during the camps, still sneaked into the first round — because Cal can promote.

    So just because you deny the #KentuckyEffect doesn’t mean you aren’t a hapless pawn in Cal’s game.

  33. lonnieb
    3:49 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Everyones only example is Bennett against the kentucky effect…….weird right. Name another one…noel had #1 locked up until he got hurt. Goodwin goes undrafted if he plays anywhere else….The kentucky effect does exist…there is way too many people that got drafted that should not have…goodwin, orton, miller, liggins, teague, jorts..those guys may go undrafted elsewhere( no way liggins or jorts get drafted)

  34. Logan
    4:01 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    Josh Harrelson+#KentuckyEffect

  35. Logan
    4:02 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink


  36. tom5673
    4:09 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink


  37. RahRah
    5:21 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    If I remember correctly, both Bennett & Muhammad had eligibility issues. I personally don’t believe the ncaa would have allowed either to play one minute at UK. Maybe I’m just being negative but that’s the way I see it.

    I actually felt bad for Muhammad but not one bit bad for his family who I feel was the cause of his situation.

    Can’t believe some of you are doubting the KY Effect after Arch going in the first round. Seriously, your championship point guard almost didn’t GET drafted. Coach Cal never lets his kids down.

  38. Don
    11:18 pm June 28, 2013 Permalink

    There are going to be hits and misses with recruits in any program. I think this last season got Cal’s attention about the character of a player. He will really be checking more on how the guy responds to coaching from now on. Cal has done a fabulous job so far on picking the right recruits. We are very fortunate having Cal as our coach!!!!!

  39. mashburnfan1
    1:20 am June 29, 2013 Permalink

    You can add 2 more names…Noel and Goodwin, make it 3 name with Poythress. All 3 were considered higher picks last year than where they ended up this year. And Bennett was top pick without Cal. Look I love UK and Cal but he is not responsible for putting these guys in the NBA. They would have been there no matter where they went, see Bennett and many others. If it is all Cal making them better then why can’t Nerlens make a free throw or a basket from past 3 feet away. Why did Goodwin and the team get worse as the season went on. Cal has done a great job of getting NBA type players to come to UK, except for last year, he is not the reason they are in the NBA.

  40. mashburnfan1
    1:23 am June 29, 2013 Permalink

    33} the reason Goodwin got drafted is his athletic ability, which sadly seems to be more important in basketball now than skills. Plus it was a very bad draft. If this were 2014 and Goodwin was coming off the same type season he would not get picked. Some others mentioned like Orton was only because of his size and that would have got him a shot in the NBA no matter where he went to college.

  41. Not so Fast
    11:22 am June 29, 2013 Permalink

    Tell that to Archie Goodwin. Top 5 to 29