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.”