Calipari: 'I'm hoping there are six first-rounders on this team'

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 3, 2012 

NEW ORLEANS — After the nets were cut down, the Kentucky players handed the NCAA Tournament trophy to a Superdome employee with the name tag Tony.

He guarded it dutifully as the players, with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes, wandered up into the stands to find friends and families.

Terrence Jones paused for a minute to kiss a toddler and pose for a picture with the boy and his mother before going up into the stands to find his mother.

After that, the players journeyed to another part of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where they slapped hands with adoring Kentucky fans.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pulled up his newly printed national champion T-shirt to point to the word "Kentucky" on his jersey emphatically over and over again.

For a minute, for this minute, the five starters were Kentucky; they were surrounded by Kentucky; they were a part of Kentucky.

Even if they might not be a part of it for much longer.

Anthony Davis, who has won player of the year award after player of the year award, said he hasn't made any kind of decision yet about his future. He's likely to be the first pick in the NBA Draft.

"Coach Cal said I have until April 29 to decide," Davis said after being named most outstanding player of the Final Four. I'm going to sit down and talk to my coach and my family and decide."

Davis admitted that it would be an amazing way to finish his career, but he declined to elaborate much beyond that.

A month ago, Kidd-Gilchrist implied that he might like to come back to Kentucky and finish his degree. UK Coach John Calipari said then that Kidd-Gilchrist would have to have seriously good arguments for him to stay, especially if he could be drafted as high as No. 2 or No. 3, as he's projected by several Web sites.

In an article for NBAdraft.net, analyst Adam Ganeles said newly crowned national champion Kentucky could have as many as six first-round draft picks: all five starters and Darius Miller.

Calipari, who put five first-rounders into the NBA two years ago, said after the game that we could see that record broken.

"I'm hoping there are six first-rounders on this team," he said.

The NBAdraft.net writer projected that Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist could be the first teammates in draft history to go No. 1 and No. 2.

In its mock draft, that site lists Davis as No. 1, Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2, Terrence Jones No. 18, Doron Lamb No. 23, Marquis Teague No. 28 and Darius Miller No. 35.

There are 30 picks in the first round.

They have a short amount of time to decide whether they're going to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft.

Calipari has indicated several times this week that if that's their best option, he's going to encourage them to go.

"I'm going to do what's right for our kids," Calipari said when asked this week about UK taking advantage of the one-and-done rule. "At the end of the day, I don't apologize for anything we do."

"I mean, you know, Steve Jobs left, Bill Gates left. The integrity of their schools were at stake when they left," Calipari said. "They should have stayed and not changed the world."

Draftexpress.com's mock draft has all six UK players being drafted by early in the second round with Davis No. 1, Kidd-Gilchrist No. 3, Terrence Jones No. 12, Marquis Teague No. 21, and then Darius Miller and Doron Lamb going early in the second round.

Calipari has said many times that he doesn't love the NBA rule that essentially makes top prospects play one year of college basketball. He said it again Monday night after winning the title.

"I hope we change the rule before this week's out, so all of these guys can come back," Calipari said.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: UKfootball.bloginky.com, UKwomen.bloginky.com.

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