It's that time of year again...
We knew that with Coach Cal came the very real possibility of constant wondering at the end of each season as to who will stay and who will go. I'm talking about the NBA of course. Each spring we as UK fans are left with a mixture of emotions. Generally we are thrilled and excited about the #1 recruiting class (yes, John Calipari has had the overall #1 class for each of his 3 recruiting classes at UK thus far), but we are also left on pins and needles about which stud players from the previous season will take their talents to the NBA and which will stick around for another year with us here in the bluegrass.
Last year we felt a twinge of sadness when 5 of our players left for the NBA, all 4 of them early entrants. At the same time, it was pretty cool because no other school had placed 5 players in the 1st round-- and we were happy to see all of those guys we had grown to love reach their dreams.
With that said.....fellas, listen to the song above before you make your final decision. Try not to be overwhelmed by the fancy dress that Kelly Clarkson is wearing...
Within the next 2 weeks we will know for sure the final decisions for our players. Here's my list, in order from who I want to stay the most to who I want to stay the least.
#1 Coach John Calipari
(Please stop waving goodbye Coach...)
To put it bluntly, we can't lose this guy. We often think of the players first when it comes to who stays and who goes to the NBA, but with Calipari as our head coach--the good players will constantly be flooding into the program. As good as a Brandon Knight or a Terrence Jones is, Calipari will replace them if they leave with guys of equal or better talent. We might not want to lose them, but in reality--we can afford to lose them.
We can't afford to lose Calipari. Each year, his name will float around as a possibility for vacant NBA jobs. It's a fact. We all have to deal with the reality of that. I think he wants an NCAA championship. Badly. As soon as he gets one of those under his belt though--I see no reason to believe that he might not make the jump back to the NBA. Although UK is a dream job for all of us (who have grown up loving and adoring the program and everything about it), for Calipari it is the dream college job. That doesn't mean he doesn't have dream NBA jobs.
What are those potential "dream NBA jobs?" Miami (with LeBron James) and New York (with Carmelo, and well....all that NY has to offer..."concrete jungle where dreams are made of..."). Unfortunately for us, those happen to be 2 jobs with a high probability to be open after this season.
I still in my heart of hearts believe that Calipari won't leave after just 2 years and 0 NCAA championships at Kentucky. I just can't see it. Plus he has what is being called "the best recruiting class since the Fab 5" coming in next year. But if I'm being completely honest with myself, I won't breathe easy until both the Knicks and the Heat jobs are filled.
#2 Brandon Knight
(Wasn't that a glorious day? And a glorious hair style? #bringbackthebraids #longhairdontcare)
Back when Brandon Knight committed to Kentucky, he was thought to be a potential "one and done player" but he had some unconventional and unusual "X factors" that led many to believe he might be a 2-year player. Why? Well, first and foremost, no one could have foreseen the development into a star that Brandon underwent between the end of the SEC regular season and the Final 4. He played himself into the conversation as a top 10 pick in the draft. No one could have predicted such a high ceiling for him after just 1 year. The other X factor? He's smart. Like reallllly smart. He could graduate college in 2 years. Or at least be within a few summer courses (presumably he could pick those credits up the summer after being drafted). It's hard to turn down finishing college in 2 years.
The NBA will always be there for Knight. Chances are that he will be a 1st Round Pick no matter when he decides to leave. This year's draft is really weak though. He may still be a solid 1st Round Pick after 2 years, but it's hard for any kid to turn down a Top 10 pick.
I have no idea what Knight will do. I'm banking on how wonderful of a student he is, and how his parents claimed when he signed that he really wanted to get his degree. Unfortunately, a guy like Knight can still get his degree after his NBA career is over.
We will be scary good next year if Knight comes back. Chances are good that he would slide over to Shooting Guard alongside Teague, or share PG duties with him and share SG duties with Lamb. That's an absolutely stacked backcourt. Let's hope he wants that degree sooner rather than later.
#3 DeAndre Liggins
Some people might think Terrence Jones would be the logical name to slide into this #3 slot. I disagree with those people.
I'd pick DeAndre Liggins for my team any time, any place. Defenders and true "glue guys" like him only come around once every decade if you ask me. In fact, I can't even remember the last guy who we had on UK who I would even place in that category.
I've heard people say that having Liggins on the roster with the stacked talent of the incoming freshman class would just be an "added luxury." I just don't buy that. You want Liggins on your team. I think you could have put Liggins on a number of NCAA tournament teams that lost in the 1st or 2nd rounds and they would have probably made it a few round further. He's that guy.
With that said, I've heard some rumors as to why it might be important for Liggins to at least try to play professionally for money somewhere (whether it be the NBA or overseas). If the reasons I have heard are accurate (and I'm pretty certain they are), I don't for one second blame the guy for doing what he has to do for his family.
Let's put it this way....I will support Liggins until the end of time no matter what he decides to do. But I would LOVE to have him back next year. I don't care how much talent Calipari brings in...Liggins will play. He will find a way to make it impossible for a coach to keep him off the court.
#4 Jorts (Josh Harrellson)
Just kidding, just kidding. I know he is actually graduating and can't legally come back. Anyone who revolutionizes and brings back a forgotten style faux-paux from the 80's and 90's and makes it actually cool should earn an automatic extra year of eligibility. Period. I'd take him back before I'd take Jones back. If we just remove Jorts' chin, so that he has no chin like Jones, maybe he could pass for him?
#5 Doron Lamb
I really don't think Lamb and his goggles are in serious jeopardy of going anywhere, but you never know til' the final decision has been made. We need his shooting like we needed Jodie Meeks' shooting 2 years ago when we had Wall, Cousins & the gang. For Calipari's Dribble Drive Motion Offense (that's a mouthful) to work effectively, his team's have to have at least 1 outside shooter. Lamb is that guy and I actually suspect that if he stays another year-- he will explode offensively and put up Brandon Knight-esque numbers. I'm talking 16-17 ppg. Easy.
#6 Terrence Jones
"I love you but I'm not IN love with you." That's how I feel about Terrence "where's my chin?" Jones. I realize that he was a crucial part of this year's success. Without him, Jorts doesn't slide into soft spots in the defense and we don't grab half as many rebounds. With that said, I think he would certainly not hurt us next year by any means...but there are just other guys I'd rather have back than him. That's all there is to it. The whole "it's not you, it's me" argument...or rather in this case, "it's not you, it's them." If he comes back, I will welcome him with open arms. We'd have a seriously solid front court with him, Anthony Davis (beast, by the way) and Kyle Wiltjer. Oh and Eloy can hang out and say "we in here" on Twitter and provide a few fouls and flops a game.
#7 Darius Miller
I've heard a few, and I mean a very few, rumblings about Miller "testing the NBA waters." Color me naiive, but I just don't see it. Not happening. In fact, I'm so confident in my statement that I will actually trip a toddler in the grocery if he ends up leaving. Did I just write a check I can't cash? Maybe. We'll see.
GO CATS. GO KROGERING.