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Calipari on if UK loses five to the draft: “We’re going to be Kentucky. We’ll be fine.”

Ashton Hagans

Over the last 48 hours, the Kentucky basketball program has seen departures from starting guards Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey, with the former declaring for the NBA Draft on Sunday afternoon, and the latter doing the same Monday morning.

As he usually does when players declare, UK head coach John Calipari congratulated both players on their decisions and wished them well in their future professional careers.

“Two guys, as you know, have announced for the NBA Draft. Ashton and Tyrese,” Calipari said in a Facebook Live video stream Monday evening. “Ashton was just a warrior for us. Just a competitor, better from year one to year two. Coaching Tyrese and challenging him, kind of like how I challenged Karl Towns. I was hard on Tyrese just as I was hard on Karl. He’s reminding me more and more of Jamal Murray, those kind of guys that I’ve had here that left here and stepped up to another level (in the NBA). I think you’re going to have that. Ashton, again, running a team, a competitive spirit.”

From there, the wait continues for Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley, and EJ Montgomery, with the former two players widely expected to enter the draft in the coming days and the possibility seemingly growing more and more by the day for the latter.

Factor in Nate Sestina’s departure and Johnny Juzang’s transfer from the school, and Kentucky could wind up with just two scholarship players back in Keion Brooks Jr. and Dontaie Allen, with the former being the lone returning player with college basketball experience.

“We’re waiting on a couple others,” Calipari said on Facebook Live. “You still have Immanuel making his decision. Think about it, from year one to year two, he becomes Player of the Year in our league. You have Nick, in three years, he went from a guy that everybody said “What is going on?” to “Oh my gosh, he could’ve been (SEC) Player of the Year.” And EJ, the strides he made this year, getting in shape, getting strong, getting tougher. And then Nate, I was hoping they were going to let seniors play again so I could get Nate for another year. We’ve been blessed because we’ve had good kids here, good teammates. Guys that like to be coached, guys that like to be challenged.”

Should they lose all five starters to the NBA Draft, along with Sestina and Juzang’s impending departures, would Calipari be worried about next year’s roster?

Not in the slightest.

“Somebody asked me today, “What are you going to do if Immanuel leaves, Tyrese leaves, Ashton leaves, Nick leaves, Nate leaves, and EJ leaves?”‘ Calipari said on the live stream. “We’re going to be Kentucky. We’ll be fine. We’ll go, “Let’s go. Who do we have?” And then we’ll figure out how we’re gonna play and how we’re going to win.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

24 Comments for Calipari on if UK loses five to the draft: “We’re going to be Kentucky. We’ll be fine.”

  1. chris43
    4:13 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    Losing all of that we better hope this incoming class is AMAZING and also a good grad transfer to two. Talk about leaving the cupboard dry….

  2. Fitz
    4:37 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    The class coming in is very good but not sure if it’s “amazing.” Guys leaving UK start with a frame of mind they have coming, fed by the success players have in making it to the NBA. It’s a one year and make $$$ attitude that’s hard to shake. You can’t blame the kids, nor Cal for recruiting them. But it contributes to roster turn and lack of experience which are not the best if factors for winning National championships.

  3. VirginiaCat
    4:49 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    The operative word is “fine.” Lately it has meant early losses, ranging from disappointing to humiliating, an uneven regular season, but with a trend towards improvement, and then a loss to an inferior opponent in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. Mix in plenty of verbiage about youth and being everyone’s super bowl. Scatter in occasional admissions of being out-coached. Players enter the transfer portal or declare for the draft, leaving the cupboard bear. That is the definition of “fine” going into a new season (hopefully).

    • eyebleedblue
      5:16 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      Harsh but fair, Virginia.

      Just think we should use a couple roster spots for a couple 2 or 3 star 4 year Kentucky kids. Players that are specialist at something and teach them to play defense by junior year.

    • T-Town Cat
      5:41 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      Yes, I would like to have a few more decent players that could actually be legitimate practice players and take the floor out of necessity, rather than having 3-4 walkons who don’t even practice but are sons of Cal’s friends.

  4. Jpcat15
    5:13 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    It is probably Cal’s 2nd best class ever. They will be fine, especially if Allen is good from the injury. I’m sure they will add at least 1 solid transfer. I really think Montgomery is making a big mistake if he leaves. He needs to show that he is a difference maker on the court. I can’t imagine any NBA team drafting him. Think about the players that we have had that way better players than him that really didn’t make it in the NBA- Teague, Lamb, Young, Harrison twins, Sheppard, Turner- pretty long list of superior players.

    • ColoradoCatFan88
      5:19 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      Terrence Jones, Daniel Orton, Tyler Ulis are a few more that were much more talented that EJ but didn’t make it in the league

    • Miller45
      8:20 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      James young trey Lyles doron lamb

    • Jpcat15
      5:30 pm April 8, 2020 Permalink

      Trey is still in the league and Terrence played several years in the league. They were/are not stats but they were in the league long enough to say they had an NBA career and made some money.

  5. Headhurts
    5:32 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    Ok, everybody goes pro that’s great players first, got it, so let’s go win a title with all freshman, tall task just ask Zion.

  6. Lip Man 1
    6:14 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    I’m sure if everyone leaves all those talented “walk-on’s” that Cal loves so much will be able to save the day.


    He talked about rethinking that philosophy back in November/December when the injuries hit, so far…not a damn thing has changed.

    • ky1988
      12:05 am April 8, 2020 Permalink

      If you want three or four year guys your not going to have a chance to win a title every year . Like we expect in Kentucky. Remember the Tubby years mediocre because he couldn’t bring the best players in.

  7. UKCatAttack
    6:24 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    It’s actually sad that we can’t fill out a roster. Year in and year out it seems like we struggle to have 8 or 9 scholarship players. Of those only 7 or 8 actually play. It’s hard to understand why we can’t fill out those last 3 spots with 3 or 4 star talents that will stick around for 4 years (like Hawkins, Miller, Willie Cauley etc).

    • ky1988
      12:03 am April 8, 2020 Permalink

      Willie only stayed three years if I am not mistaken

  8. JT55
    6:42 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    Unless they add some experience, they’ll fizzle out in March.

    • Bluehender
      7:45 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      By March, they’ll all be experienced..

  9. VirginiaCat
    7:58 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    Bluehender, there is experience and then there is experience. Freshman have not fully developed physically and compete against older players who have had 2-3 more years to grow into their bodies. Freshmen have had no NCAA tournament experience. They have played four months of college basketball, while their opponents often have 2-3 years more experience. Sure, there are some freshman that come to college as full grown men who have the skills to compensate for limited experience, but they are few and far between.

    • Miller45
      8:26 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      Right. Kentucky in 2012 and duke in 2015 are the anomalies in that experience wins in the postseason

    • CrystalBall
      11:01 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

      You are not wrong, VirginiaCat.

    • Bluehender
      8:26 am April 8, 2020 Permalink

      I can’t disagree with you VC. They’ll be better by March, but I concede we need upperclassmen. Hopefully EJ realizes he’s better off to return.

  10. channell
    9:43 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    At least 3 or 4 better get their heads out of the air and come back. Some of then will not be drafted and the ones that are in second round will be d league at best. Maxey will make it. These guys are not ready for a man’s game.

  11. mcp157
    10:33 pm April 7, 2020 Permalink

    An argument for all the players to leave, excluding Montgomery, can be made logically. EJ needs to stay and develop his game, body, mental toughness, etc., etc., etc., Maxey would gain the most out of the other four, by staying and showing he can be more consistent night to night. None of remaining three from the group is an instant star or starter.

  12. millertim
    7:36 am April 8, 2020 Permalink

    We’ve got good but inexperienced backcourt players arriving, but we need BIGS!!! One of the blessings of this current quarantine has been the ability to watch our championship teams— and what did they ALL have in common— returning VETERANS blended with talented freshmen and depth at the BIGS!! WE NEED BIGS!! My offseason will be greatly enhanced if Cal grabs the Haarms— the big grad transfer from Purdue!

  13. CALfacts
    9:54 am April 8, 2020 Permalink

    All good points! But it won’t matter how good the in coming class is, bc if we don’t add at least 4 more guys they will all be tired, or hurt or both by March!