Kentucky trio to test draft waters
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky freshmen
Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and junior DeAndre Liggins are heading to
the NBA. Maybe.
The school announced Wednesday all three
players have declared for the NBA draft but will not sign with an
agent, clearing the way for them to return to school next fall if they
change their mind by May 8.
Jones and Knight are considered
mid-to-high first-round picks while Liggins is a defensive stopper who
hopes to play his way into the first round after being evaluated by
The trio helped the Wildcats to their
first Final Four appearance in 13 years this spring. Kentucky fell to
Connecticut in the national semifinals.
Knight averaged 17.3 points at point
guard and proved to be one of the best clutch performers in the country.
The 6-foot-3 Knight hit a pair of game-winning shots during the team’s
NCAA tournament run. His driving lay-up helped Kentucky escape an upset
bid by Princeton in the second round and his pull-up jumper with 5
seconds left allowed the Wildcats to knock off top-seeded Ohio State in
the regional semifinals.
“Playing in the NBA has always been a
dream of mine and this is the next step,” Knight said. “All season long
coach has been tutoring me on the fine points of being a point guard,
and now I have an opportunity to put my game on display in front of NBA
scouts as a result of my hard work.”
Knight’s 657 points were the most by a
Kentucky freshman and he also broke the school’s freshman 3-point record
by knocking down 87 3s.
Jones averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds
and 1.9 blocks and set a Kentucky freshman record by pouring in 35
points in a victory over Auburn in January. He was chosen SEC Newcomer
of the Year by The Associated Press.
The 6-8 power forward volunteered to
take on a slightly lesser role during the postseason to allow his
teammates to get more involved, a move coach John Calipari said was key
to the team’s postseason success.
Liggins will have the most to prove. He
blossomed into one of the country’s top defenders but remains limited
offensively. He averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds while leading the
team with 46 steals.
“Growing up in a tough environment in
Chicago, it’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to do something
special,” said Liggins, who welcomed his first child during the season.
“This is another challenge I’m looking forward to, to have my game
evaluated by pro scouts and see how I rank against some of the top
players in the world.”
Calipari encouraged all three players
to test their prospects but added he would “would love the opportunity
to continue to coach them again next season.”
The coach told reporters last week the
unstable NBA labor situation could throw a wrench into his players’
plans to leave early.
The collective bargaining agreement
between the NBA Players Association and the owners expires June 30. If a
new deal can’t be reached, there’s a chance league owners could lock
out the players.
“The lockout really kind of screws
everything up because a lot of kids are pulling their names because what
if the lockout goes the whole year?” Calipari said. “What kind of
mistake did you make?”
The announcement comes one day after
freshman guard Doron Lamb said he would return next fall. Lamb pointed
to the Final Four loss and another talented freshman class next season
as the main reasons for his decision.
Lamb’s return guarantees at least one
high-profile freshman will be back, one more than a year ago when
Kentucky lost John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton
to the pros after just one season on campus.
Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight
criticized Kentucky for promoting the “one-and-done” culture over the
weekend but backed off his statements Tuesday.
Knight said in a brief statement
released by ESPN: “My overall point is that ‘one-and-dones’ are not
healthy for college basketball. I should not have made it personal to
Kentucky and its players and I apologize.”