NCAA finals notes: Cats not ready to discuss future, but Cauley-Stein offers a hint

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 7, 2014 

ARLINGTON, Texas — After Kentucky's loss in the NCAA Tournament finals Monday night, Willie Cauley-Stein candidly detailed the conflicting factors that he and several teammates will face in deciding whether to return to college next season or enter this year's NBA Draft.

Cauley-Stein made his ledger seem heavily weighted toward returning.

"I still have something to prove and I still have so much to work on in my game," he said. "I went up from last year. Now, I want to take another step."

Cauley-Stein professed his love for all things UK.

"You know, I love the school," he said. "I love being at Kentucky. I love the fan base. I love the community. I love the people there.

"Why not stay until they make you leave?"

Because an NBA career means millions of dollars and the opportunity to improve in basketball while free of schoolwork.

"I really don't know," Cauley-Stein said. He added that he would meet with his family and UK coaches before deciding on future plans.

Several other UK players recoiled from the inevitable questions about whether to return next season or leave.

"No clue," Aaron Harrison said.

When asked what thoughts he had about the subject, James Young said, "None at all."

Julius Randle, widely considered the most likely of UK's freshmen to enter this year's NBA Draft, said, "It's hard to think of that right now. I'm hurting from this loss."

Stern admires Cal

Former NBA commissioner David Stern does not support the so-called one-and-done rule nor critics of coaches, like UK's John Calipari, who recruit such players.

"I have no problem with schools that sign up players with the almost certain knowledge that they'll leave after one season," Stern said. "I'm an admirer of Coach Cal.

"But the college presidents shouldn't complain."

If a college president objects to one-and-done players, he or she can bar a coach from recruiting such players, Stern said.

Calipari has had 11 players enter the NBA Draft after their freshmen season since becoming UK coach in 2009. No one would be surprised if several freshmen on this season's team enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

But Stern objected to the conclusion that one-and-done players serve as a foundation of UK's program.

"I don't think he bases the program on it," he said of Calipari. "He bases it on getting the best players. It's not the foundation. It's the result of getting the best players."

Stern, one of the inductees in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2014 announced Monday at a Dallas hotel, said the one-and-done rule is a product of labor negotiations between the league and its players' association. The league wanted a minimum age limit of 20. The players wanted no limit. The compromise was 19.

"There's a lot of sense in making it 20," he said. "There's more support than I've seen in a while."

Coachable

Calipari saluted the accomplishments of his freshman-oriented team.

"I can't believe what these guys got done together," he said. "... I needed to do a better job for these kids (in the game), because they needed more help in this."

Calipari called this season's team "the best group I've ever coached as far as really being coachable and wanting to learn."

50-50 balls

Calipari noted UConn's hustle and desire.

"Every 50-50 ball they got," he said. "They just had more energy. The only thing that slowed them down is us going into a zone."

Generous spirit

One of the inductees into the United States Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame was George Lapides, a longtime media fixture in Memphis. In his acceptance talk, he mentioned Calipari's generous spirit.

Lapides noted how former Memphis player and coach Larry Finch died in 2011, leaving a wife and three children in a less-than-secure financial situation.

"John Calipari gave Vickie Finch an extraordinary amount of money every year to keep the family going," Lapides said. "I know many, many other instances when John has done things like that."

Salute to UK fans

Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson noted how more than a few UK fans congratulated him on making the Naismith Hall of Fame.

"The Kentucky fans have always been that way with me," he said. "I don't care where I go. If Kentucky is involved and the Kentucky fans are there, they always want to come up and talk and get pictures and autographs. They must think I'm the greatest guy that ever lived (laughs)."

Richardson saluted UK fans' knowledge of basketball and how they've treated him like a celebrity.

"I did a signing deal at the SEC (tournament) this past year ... ," he said. "I thought I coached at Kentucky the way their fans treated me. They were great to me."

Etc.

■ When asked if was attending the championship game, Stern used a conspiratorial whisper to say that he was not. His pick? Kentucky.

■ The Kentucky-UConn final ensured that 16 of the last 17 national champions were from schools in the Eastern Time Zone.

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

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