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.”