UK basketball notes: Davis says next season's Cats could be just as good

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2012 

Facing the reality of losing six players that could be NBA first-round draft picks, Kentucky might be destined to take a step backward next season. Don't count on it, Anthony Davis said Tuesday.

When asked if UK could be as good next season as this past season, Davis said, "Most definitely. It's a great recruiting season."

Nerlens Noel, the heir apparent as a shot-blocking presence, got validation from Davis.

"A great shot blocker," said Davis, who set a Southeastern Conference record with 186 blocks this past season. "I think he's better than me."

UK Coach John Calipari acknowledged how his team figures to be highly regarded next season. But he questioned such expectations.

"On this team, we had Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller," he said. "All players with Final Four experience coming back.

"Next year, we have one guy with any experience," he said of forward Kyle Wiltjer. "That's it. Everybody else either hasn't played or played very little.

"For some reason, we'll be ranked very high."

Two reasons might be another No. 1-rated recruiting class and Calipari's track record. In three seasons, he's guided UK to an Elite Eight, a Final Four and a national championship.

Calipari nominated Louisville as the pre-season No. 1 team. "Should do what we did this year," he said of the Cardinals.

The UK coach also noted that Indiana should be a standout team.

As for Kentucky, Calipari said another freshman-oriented team should benefit from how the NCAA permits two hours of team workouts per week in the summer. Older players might dread the summer workouts, he said.

"Young players should be pumped up to be coached," he added.

"We'll be OK."

Riches to rags

As the widely projected first player taken in this year's NBA Draft, Anthony Davis faces the possibility of joining a pro team destined to lose a lot of games. For instance, the Charlotte Bobcats must win at least one of their final six games to avoid setting an NBA record for worst winning percentage.

"It's going to be a challenge," Davis said of the prospect of losing games next season. "I want to go out there and have fun and try to win games (and) not let anything bother me."

Taking a philosophical approach, Davis said, "You're not going to win 82 games. If you do, that would be incredible."

Workout objectives

Calipari suggested Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones can enhance their draft status by performing well in workouts for NBA teams.

While Jones said he was unsure what specific skills he'd like to show the pros, Teague had an idea.

"Prove I can knock down (perimeter) shots," he said. "Show I can make shots."

Will miss UK

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will leave Kentucky. But he suggested he'll remember his one UK season fondly.

"I'm really going to miss this place to death," he said.

When asked what he'll miss about UK, Kidd-Gilchrist looked at reporters and said, "Ya'll."

He'll also miss the fans, coaches and teammates, he added.

Emotional moment

Kidd-Gilchrist admitted that the emotion of the announcement was overwhelming.

"I'm just saying stuff to say something," he told reporters. "It's a blur to me."

Sentimental Cal

Calipari, who wore a dark suit with a subtle pin-striped pattern, cautioned reporters that he might get emotional when discussing the five departing underclassmen.

When asked how Davis seemed to make Calipari get teary-eyed, the UK player smiled and said, "It's not me. Coach Cal is just soft."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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