Almost immediately after the Kentucky basketball season came to an abrupt end back on March 12, UK head coach John Calipari called into SportsCenter to talk through his thoughts on the team and why he felt they were capable of winning a national championship.
Tucked in the middle of his conversation was an early prediction on how many Wildcats would ultimately enter the NBA Draft, telling the world he felt “four or five guys” would test the waters.
“Now, I’m going to have four or five guys that are putting their names in the draft and you ready?” Calipari asked. “When is the draft? When is the combine? … Will there even be a draft? … This is a hard thing for these kids. Think about it.”
Again during a Zoom video conference call with the media on Tuesday, Calipari doubled down on that prediction, adding that he’s working on “getting information to the kids” right now about their draft stock.
“We’re getting information to the kids,” he said. “Most of the stuff I’m doing is texting to stay in touch. But my guess is four to five guys would probably test the waters.”
During an appearance on the SEC Network’s “SEC House Party” Friday evening, though, the Kentucky head coach took his early predictions a step further. In fact, Calipari spilled the beans that five players “have put their name in the draft.”
“What we did, before they left, I had individual meetings with each player and I had the staff in there,” Calipari said. “I wanted everybody to hear it together individually with my staff. Then we just did a Zoom (video conference) call yesterday with my entire team to try to keep touching base with them, but the reality of it was five of them have put their name in the draft.”
Though he didn’t specify which players this includes, the general consensus is that Kentucky’s five starters – Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and EJ Montgomery – are the ones considering a jump to the NBA.
Now, the next step for Calipari and the UK coaching staff will be to find out any new restrictions on returning to school and whether or not the final withdrawal date will change.
“We’re trying to figure out how, with the draft [potentially] moving, will they be able to come back to college at a later date than normal?” Calipari asked. “What if they go through the draft and don’t get drafted? Come back to college. This is uncertain times right now, the NBA doesn’t know when we’re going to have a draft.”
As of now, the UK head coach is worried that players throughout college basketball will rush into decisions they aren’t comfortable with and could ultimately regret.
“We can’t put these kids in a position where they say, “If I have to make a decision now, then I’m going to go.” And then guys don’t get drafted,” Calipari said. “Now what do you do? “Oh, they can go to the G-League for a year and figure out the rest of your life because you’re done.” I don’t want to do that to these kids. We’re trying to figure out, it’s almost like a moving target right now for these kids.”
Calipari hopes that despite the obvious ongoing hardships, this crisis will spark much-needed change throughout college basketball.
“One thing I would tell everybody, in all my years of coaching, there’s only one thing that brings about change: a crisis,” he said. “It’s not meetings, it’s not individual meetings, it’s when, “Uh oh. What just happened?” And it’s a major crisis for everything. We have a chance as coaches to put together a different calendar for recruiting. We have a chances as coaches in the NCAA to say, “If a young man puts his name in the draft, let them stay in the draft. And if he doesn’t get drafted, let him go back to college.” There are things now, because of the crisis, we can now say, “This is right for kids if we do this, this, and this.”‘