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Understanding Isaac Humphries’ decision to go pro


Your first reaction to the news that Isaac Humphries is going pro was probably, “What?” followed by “Why?”. Last season, Isaac averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game, not quite NBA Draft prospect numbers, but the Australian has still decided to declare for the draft, sign with an agent, and see what happens, whether it be in the D-League or abroad. At first glance, this is a confusing call, but upon further reflection, it actually makes a lot of sense. Here’s why.

With Bam potentially staying and Bamba potentially on the way, the frontcourt is loaded

Even if Bam Adebayo decides to stay in the NBA Draft, next year’s roster will be heavy on big men. Between Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard, and potentially Mohamed Bamba, Humphries probably felt like there weren’t going to be enough minutes to go around; that’s kind of a shame because Humphries brings a lot to the table in that he’s a big, solid kid who can rebound AND shoot a jumper consistently. But, would that be enough to get him minutes over the others when he averaged only eight per game this season?

If Kentucky misses on Bamba and Bam decides to stay in the draft, not having Humphries will sting a lot more, but in order to make his dream of playing professionally come true, he simply needs more playing time, and that probably wouldn’t have happened next season. Or, honestly, maybe even the season after that.

Just because he’s declaring for the NBA Draft doesn’t mean he expects to get drafted

I’ve seen a lot of people slamming Isaac’s decision to enter the NBA draft because there’s a slim chance that he’ll get drafted, but that’s not just what the draft process is about. Isaac will have a chance to get feedback from teams and even though we’re hearing that John Calipari and the staff really wanted Isaac to come back to school, you better believe Calipari will do his best to pitch his best assets to teams to help him find a spot in the D-League or abroad. In fact, Calipari said before the season ended that an Australian scout was at practice to watch him play. Just because he won’t get drafted here doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to use those resources before he moves back down under. Reading his statement, you can tell Isaac knows that.

“At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family,” Isaac said. “I know turning pro is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I understand that these next few weeks and months with the pre-draft process is going to take a lot of hard work and maybe some realistic truths.”

He’s coming off his best game

The fact that Isaac’s best game as a Cat was his last is cruel for those of us who wanted him to stay, but going out on a good note does help his stock a little bit. Isaac had a career-high 12 points on 5-8 shooting and five rebounds in 21 minutes vs. North Carolina, eight of those points coming during UK’s 10-2 run to take the lead with five minutes left. As Calipari said, that game proved that Isaac is just now coming into his own.

“My belief is what you saw at the end of this season is just the beginning of his pro career,” Cal said. “Isaac has gotten so much better in his two seasons here and I believe he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. I absolutely understand and fully support his decision and I will do whatever I can to help his dreams come true.”

He’ll find a home at home

The most likely scenario for Humphries is signing with a team in his native Australia, especially since we know Aussie pro scouts have been watching him this year in practice. In reading his and Cal’s quotes, it sounds like that’s a decision Isaac and his family prepared for, and one that may be necessary.

“This decision didn’t come easily for me,” Isaac said. “My goal has always been to play professionally…At the end of the day I have to do what I believe is best for myself and my family.”

“This was a difficult decision for Isaac but one that he and his mom put a lot of thought into,” Calipari said. “You’re talking about a 7-footer who can shoot and can rebound. That has value anywhere in the world.”

If all else fails, he’s got singing

From Kyle Tucker’s profile of Isaac in January 2016:

I’d buy his record.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

31 Comments for Understanding Isaac Humphries’ decision to go pro

  1. billyb49
    12:22 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    I stopped reading after “Isaac averaged 2.8 points a game” – no need to read further. No reason to write the article.This is madness.

  2. Catcasey1
    12:25 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Running him off

  3. chris43
    12:40 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Pro?!? Smh

  4. david8577
    12:46 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    When I was 19 years old, I totally would have taken a 150k a year job in Europe. Maybe that’s all he aspires to do…

  5. CatsFanFrankfort
    12:50 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    These are decent points. But to the point about declaring for the draft….he can always go to the combine and get the feedback WITHOUT signing an agent and officially ending his college eligibility. I just don’t understand why he didn’t get that feedback first and then make this decision. If he felt pressured to do so to make room for Bamba, that is a shame. I wish the best for him.

    I just hope he fully realizes that the competition in the pros, whether it be the NBA or abroad, will be much stiffer than guys who are graduating from HS this year and coming in to the program in the fall. If he is worried about getting minutes over them, he should be pretty concerned about getting minutes over guys who are also trying to earn money and make a living out of playing basketball, just like he is. They will be plenty hungry to earn a spot.

  6. chrisg18
    12:50 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    I disagree completely. The more I think about this the more it makes little to no sense unless his family situation is causing him to make money asap. The kid is still VERY young and I would say the biggest thing holding him back from being an NBA prospect is his body type. That’s something that can obviously be improved (and would have been improved) through another two years at UK especially at his age, no matter how many minutes he steps on the court. He will clearly not be drafted and will not set foot on an NBA court any time soon, probably ever, so by leaving now he is basically giving up on any chance of ever playing in the NBA – which has to be his ultimate goal. If he ends up playing professionally in Australia, which I agree is the likely scenario, his chances are slim to none that he ever ends up in the NBA. He has a lot of work to do, but he has a skill set to play in the NBA if he stayed at UK and really worked on changing his physique. I think in two years he could have been a legitimate NBA prospect.

    Your first point is something that Matt said on the radio too. I don’t think you guys are giving Isaac enough credit. You act like he won’t get any better than what he is right now. He is so young and with a lot of room to improve. If Bam goes pro and Bamba doesn’t come, why would you say ANY of those other players would play in front of Isaac. I’d argue that Isaac would have been the favorite to start at center based on what we have seen so far (two guys who couldn’t play ahead of him this past year and one very unproven and raw incoming freshman). Yes if Bam stays and Bamba does come, he is likely a back up again with limited minutes, but at least he would still give stay on the NBA’s radar by being at UK. And why not wait to see how those situations play out? I just wonder why he ever came to UK in the first place. If he just wanted to go pro in Australia, why not do that right away? I’m sure he could have found a team as a 17 year old.

    Just an odd decision if his ultimate goal is the NBA, which I think would be realistic if he stayed at UK.

    • CatsFanFrankfort
      1:20 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      I agree with this completely. I love what Cal has done here, don’t get me wrong. We are winning, always relevant, and always have a chance to win a title. Basically everything you could ask.

      But I do think (through no fault of Cal’s or the players, really) that some guys just get caught up in the quick turnaround playing here. I think Isaac truly feels ‘left behind’ in a way since most of the guys he came in with are gone. Briscoe too, perhaps. If they don’t quickly jump to the pros, they might think they are underachieving. Which is a shame as well. I just wish I could tell him that he will still be valued in 2 years at age 21 by both the NBA and pro leagues abroad. Especially if he stayed to play against top-10 prospects at Kentucky for the next 2 years. I would think that he would gain far more useful experience from doing that than being unhappy in the D-league or on a middling pro team.

      I obviously cant speak for him, but I suppose the money is the lure. As another commenter said, I would have great difficulty in turning down a chance to make $150K after my sophomore year of college too. But he also wont be a rock-star anywhere else for the rest of his life, like he is in Lexington. That should be a pretty big factor too.

    • chrisg18
      1:41 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      I get the money aspect of it, or just being a pro in general. I mean if he wants to just move back to Australia and be a pro there, totally get it. Not a bad place to live! But I have to imagine he came to UK with the plan of getting to the NBA, otherwise why not just go pro out of high school in Australia? So if his ultimate goal is the NBA, this makes little sense. But who knows, maybe his goals changed.

    • Blue Jesus
      6:33 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      This is pretty much my take. If he/his family needs the money, so be it. But otherwise I can’t quite figure out why declaring now is in his interest. Playing in Australia will always be there, whether he goes now or next year or after graduating. The NBA is not there now, and he was only going to get that shot with (probably) two more years at UK, and a chance to take a prominent role on the team like Hawkins and Willis did this year.

      And like TT said, if Bam stays in the draft and Bamba goes elsewhere, we’ll really miss the Big Aussie…

  7. HillbillyInBC
    1:04 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Not sure about the Aussie leagues, but several of the pro leagues overseas have caps that limit the number of foreign-born players per team. If they have such a rule, a guy with Isaac’s size and skill who isn’t limited by those restrictions has enormous value.

  8. dmill4444
    1:07 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Lol. Tyler Thompson sounds like Calipari’s hype man with how she’s trying so hard to justify Humphries’ decision to go pro. You do realize that not every decision to go pro is a good one right?

    • Mrs. Tyler Thompson
      1:12 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      Easy for you to say.

    • DelrayCat
      1:20 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      Really only 2-3 poor decisions by UK players since Cal’s been here…Lamb and Teague…and maybe Johnson (but he would be have in the league by now had he been drafted by a different team). All three are still in the D-league developing their games and making far more money than selling insurance at State Farm of Nicholasville.

    • chrisg18
      1:37 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      The above comment is just not true. NBA D League salaries for 2016-17: $19,500 (B-Level) and $26,000 (A-Level). Overall team cap is $209k.

  9. binarysolo
    1:19 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    I mean, to go pro because PT could be limited at Kentucky is a recurring — and ridiculous — reason. But it does sound like there are opportunities in the Australian league and that’s his safety option. And if you’re gonna leave, why not take a shot in the NBA? Anything can happen at the combine.

  10. Rain1940
    1:24 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Good article TT and good decision for Humphries IF a transfer for more playing time was out of the question. The way Cal recruits a junior or senior isn’t going to get playing time, especially a big man next year. Humphries knows that and made the decision best for him. He likely has a job playing in Australia and even if only a 100 grand a year, how many college graduates start for even half that much money. IMO, had Dom and Willis played somewhere that didn’t recruit over them every year, they would have a legitimate chance at going pro but that isn’t how it works at UK. My advice to Sacha, Wynyard and Gabriel would be to transfer for more playing time. None of them will see more time on the court next year, regardless of what other big men come to UK. It’s the way the one and done pipeline works. Play the high school superstars, unless they just don’t have it out of high school, so the next bunch will know they are going to play.

    I wish the best of luck to Humphries, a classy young man with a lot of improving to do yet and I hope a scout sees that.

    • donjohnson
      2:48 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      Dom has no chance of every playing in NBA…under size guard and below average shooting and ball handling. The reasons Willis is not a first round pick reside in mental abilities and approach. He is a TEXTBOOK stretch 4 in NBA right now. He has a good shot he is big and athletic. Laziness? Approach and mental lapses are his own doing not uk or the system

    • donjohnson
      2:49 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      I am not trying to.dig at him either. He really grew on me during time here

  11. ericspeezy
    1:26 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    I actually think it’s the right call. Isaac could be really good for another team and could be way more utilized somewhere else. He’s got a lot of assets, but with Calipari’s run and gun style, he’s always going to be a step behind,literally. He might rule the Australian leagues for all I know. At any rate I think he could get way more exposure in a team or league that suits his style more. That might not be the NBA, but who knows.

  12. Biglaw Dawgin'
    1:54 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Humphries won’t be able to stockpile money playing in Australia’s basketball league. The salary cap is about $1M per team. That’s less than $100k per player. Maybe he can become one of the marquee players there, which they can make some decent money I’m guessing.

  13. Catsby80
    1:56 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    For all of the people complaining about his decision: you all need to realize what college basketball, and even more specifically what teams like UK, Duke, and Kansas have become. These places are mere pit stops for elite talent. Accept it for what it is. Be grateful that we are loaded with talent year in and year out and we have the opportunity to compete for titles on a yearly basis. The old days when kids stayed in school all 4 years and OCCASIONALLY left after their third year are well behind us. If you want to cheer for a team like that, go cheer for Georgetown. These kids have the opportunity to make A LOT of money either in the NBA or overseas, and who the hell are we to tell them that they can’t? Do I love that these guys only stick around for a year? No absolutely not. I wish Karl was just a junior this past season, but you have to get over it. It’s not going to change until there is a rule change from the NBA. Accept it and move on.

  14. Bobbum Man
    2:47 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Gotta love everyone knows his family situation and what he does and doesn’t need to do for himself. I highly doubt he expects to be drafted in the NBA and would imagine he’s looking to play in Australia or overseas which pays rather nicely. Coupled with the fact that maybe there’s info where he knows he wouldn’t get many minutes next year. Funny people knocking him because he might “only” make 100k a year doing what he loves in his home country. Give me a break, be happy for the kid. UK will be just fine and so will he. Good luck to him

  15. Rick_S
    5:50 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    These kids get dumber each year..We have 2 guys that should go pro..The rest should return…just crazy and Can needs to slow it down

    • Bobbum Man
      6:22 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

      I know right, how dumb do you have to be to want to go over seas (worst case scenario) and make hundreds of thousands of dollars doing what they love straight out of college, the stupidity is astounding

  16. shelby
    7:10 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    And BTW, this kid can go to australia, or to europe, and make a lot of money .heck if he transferred to Vandy, he’d drop 20 and 12 on us first time we played.

  17. mgilkey13
    9:33 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    The “Why leave?” argument can’t be complete without financial analysis. Reference #1 is Daniel Orton. Everyone said he was crazy for leaving. He only averaged 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 13.2 minutes per game his one and only at UK. No one even hears about him anymore. But, he actually makes $954k / year! Exhibit #2, Jorts. Conversely, he stayed, improved his stat line in college and gained exposure, but makes about $750k per year now. Why should Isaac leave? Well, despite the obvious that he can still make a ton of cash either overseas or even in the D league like Orton, but A) the time value of money is a factor, B) these kids know they can’t play forever, and C) he also knows he’ll have limited upside at UK. He’ll always be a role player at best, and even if he did become a go-to, critical component like Jorts, he’d make roughly the same at the next level. So go get that money Isaac! And lets hope we get Bamba… or return of the Bam. Unlike the above, Bam could stay and improve his contract by Millions. This money is chump change to a player like Bam. Go Cats.

    • chrisg18
      8:32 am April 13, 2017 Permalink

      Plus Orton only made a lot of money playing in the D league because he was on a first round contract. If you have no contract with a NBA team, D league contracts are less than $30k.

  18. SoCalCat
    10:17 pm April 12, 2017 Permalink

    Quite a bit at the end of the year, Humphries routine was come in, do something to set Cal off, shake his head in sadness, and return to the bench. For that I’m not surprised he is leaving. While I don’t see him being a significant pro at the moment, he is still growing and we’ll not see his continued maturity. Transferring to a different school doesn’t make sense and staying and remain one of Cal’s in-game punching bags also doesn’t make sense. His game doesn’t translate well to Cal’s style of play so his primary mistake was attending UK in the first place. I’m surprised he originally didn’t consider St. Mary’s as a natural Australian pipeline.