Wall, 4 Kentucky teammates declare for NBA draft

Freshman All-Americans John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and AP
player of the year Evan Turner were among 10 players – including
five from Kentucky – who declared for the NBA draft on
Wednesday.

Wall and Cousins were joined by freshman teammates Eric Bledsoe
and Daniel Orton and junior Patrick Patterson in leaving a Wildcats
team that had a remarkable turnaround in coach John Calipari’s
first year at Kentucky. The Wildcats went 35-3 and won the
Southeastern Conference regular season and conference tournament
titles before losing to West Virginia in the regional finals of the
NCAA tournament.

Calipari met with each player individually and encouraged them
to gauge their draft prospects.

“It’s extremely unusual for four freshmen from the same team to
have this opportunity, but it’s my job as a coach to prepare these
young men for such opportunities,” Calipari said.

Also joining Ohio State’s Turner and the Kentucky crew headed to
the pros are two more one-and-done freshman in Cincinnati’s Lance
Stephenson and Kansas’ Xavier Henry. Dayton junior Chris Wright,
Xavier sophomore Jordan Crawford and Florida junior Alex Tyus also
declared their eligibility for the draft, though none of have hired
agents and could return to college. Players have until May 8 to
change their minds.

Wall – the SEC player of the year after averaging 16.6 points,
6.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds – and Cousins are expected to be among
the first few players selected in the June 24 draft.

“I’m not the same player as when I arrived at UK,” Wall said
in a statement. “I believe I’m ready for the next challenge as
Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were the last two years under Coach
Cal.”

Turner, a 6-foot-7 guard also expected to be a top-three pick,
said his decision wasn’t an easy one.

“This is the toughest thing I had to do,” he said, his voice
breaking. “But I was blessed with this decision and I have a great
opportunity. I’m going to turn a leaf over and go on to the next
stage of my life.”

The Chicago native averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0
assists while shooting 52 percent from the field, 36.4 percent
behind the arc and 76 percent at the line.

Turner was moved to point guard before the season, a decision by
Ohio State coach Thad Matta that raised some eyebrows because
Turner had never played the position and had been prone to making
mistakes with the ball.

But with Turner leading the way the Buckeyes went a surprising
29-8 (second-most wins in school history); won a share of the Big
Ten title; took the conference tournament championship; and
advanced to the NCAA tournament round of 16 before falling to
Tennessee.

Turner has not hired an agent, but made it clear he is not
waffling.

“I felt that whatever I did, I had to have two feet in,” he
said. “I had to be committed. This is the decision I’m committed
(to).”

Henry, a 6-6 guard, averaged almost 14 points as the
second-leading scorer for a Kansas team that won a sixth straight
Big 12 championship and was ranked No. 1 most of the season, before
getting upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by
Northern Iowa.

“I think coach prepared me as well as he can,” Henry said of
Jayhawks coach Bill Self. “He kept me confident throughout the
whole season even when I went through slumps. He got my mindset
ready to be able to play with anybody.”

Henry said he agonized over the decision even though it had been
widely assumed that he would be Kansas’ first one-and-done
player.

“People who really know me knew it would be a tough decision
either way because they know I love people and once I start bonding
with people that it’s real hard for me to let go,” he said. “The
people outside looking in, they probably had no idea what I was
thinking.”

Stephenson, the Big East’s rookie of the year announced he’s
going to hire an agent and forfeit his remaining college
eligibility. The 6-foot-5 guard from New York led the conference in
scoring by a freshman with 12.3 points per game during a highly
inconsistent season.

He finished strong, averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds over
the final four games. As the season wound down, Stephenson said
repeatedly that he planned to return for his sophomore season
because he hadn’t met his own expectations.

Stephenson understands that he’s not going to be a top pick in
the draft.

“I’ve heard from people that Lance needs to stay,” Bearcats
coach Mick Cronin said. “Lance understands he needs to develop as
a player. He’s going to have a chance to do that as a professional.
It’s a risk, but everything is a risk.”