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)