John Calipari discusses draft plans, possibilities for Knight, Jones and Liggins

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John Calipari discusses draft plans, possibilities for Knight, Jones and Liggins

Post  BestdamnUKfanperiod on Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:00 pm

John Calipari discusses draft plans, possibilities for Knight, Jones and Liggins

When Kentucky coach John Calipari sat with star freshman point guard Brandon Knight to discuss the 2011 NBA Draft, he delivered his message emphatically ... and graphically.

“This makes me sick to my stomach, because I want to coach you again,” Calipari told Knight. “But I’ve got to give you the information.”

Knight smiled at his coach’s words.

And on Wednesday, Knight announced he was entering the NBA Draft. So too did U.K. freshman power forward Terrence Jones and junior wing DeAndre Liggins.

None of the three plans to immediately sign with an agent. Calipari still is in the process of compiling information, particularly regarding Jones and Liggins, so it remains prudent for them to keep their option to return to Kentucky next season.

The picture for Kentucky’s draft prospects changed in recent weeks. North Carolina’s entire frontcourt of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and, as of Monday, small forward Harrison Barnes announced they were remaining in college for the 2011-12 season. Baylor forward Perry Jones is another elite prospect who said he would not be leaving school.

Based on the information Calipari is receiving, their absence from the draft pool, as well as that of Ohio State freshman center Jared Sullinger, pushed Knight firmly into the top-10 range.

“How can I say no to that?” Calipari told Sporting News on Wednesday.
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Liggins has impressed some NBA scouts with his exceptional defensive ability. At least one franchise compared his pro potential to that of Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen, who has helped lead that team into the playoffs with his defensive skills.

“(Allen) has transformed the Grizzlies,” said Calipari, who was coaching the University of Memphis when the NBA moved to town in 2001. “Everybody is looking at DeAndre Liggins, that he could guard multiple positions. He’s athletic, tough, comes up with balls -- all the stuff they want in that position.

"He’s getting a serious look now. I wasn’t positive about it before, but I feel pretty good."

Liggins averaged 8.6 points per game as a junior and shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

Calipari still is working to ascertain that the positive evaluation of Liggins is supported by multiple teams so he’ll have a better shot at being selected in an advantageous position.

The coach has yet to compile enough information on Jones to conduct a meeting with him similar to the one with Knight. Calipari said he expects that meeting with Jones to occur by the end of the week.

Initial indications are Jones would be selected toward the latter part of the draft lottery. It could be argued his talent -- he is 6-8 and 244 pounds with the ability to pass, handle and shoot -- would support a higher selection were he to return to Kentucky and continue improving.

If Jones were to withdraw from this year's draft by the May 8 deadline, the idea would be to take a serious run at consistently dominating in college and perhaps becoming the No. 1-overall selection in the '12 draft.

Calipari insists Kentucky will have a strong team next season even if it loses all three underclassmen. He is excited about the arrival of the freshman class that features 6-10 Anthony Davis and 6-6 Michael Gilchrist. He is thrilled about the return of 6-4 guard Doron Lamb, who announced Tuesday he would return for his sophomore season.

“If (Lamb) gains 15 pounds, does what he’s supposed to do, he’ll be a lottery pick next year. I believe that,” Calipari said. “His feel for the game is as good as anybody I’ve ever coached. Now, it’s just adding that roughness to your game.”

Calipari said next season’s Kentucky team will be configured differently than the one that lost in the Final Four to eventual NCAA champion Connecticut. He will make some plans about changes to the Wildcats’ offense and defense during the summer. But once he gets the players into practice in October, he figures he’ll wind up making major changes to that design.

Things have a way of changing in college basketball, whether it’s how a team operates or which players will be on that team.

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