James Young to leave Kentucky for NBA Draft

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2014 


    Previous players under Coach John Calipari who stayed one season at UK before turning pro. (Listed with the number they were drafted in the first round):


    John Wall 1

    DeMarcus Cousins 5

    Eric Bledsoe 18

    Daniel Orton 29


    x-Enes Kanter 3

    Brandon Knight 8


    Anthony Davis 1

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2

    Marquis Teague 29


    Nerlens Noel 6

    Archie Goodwin 29

    x-Attended classes at UK but never gained athletic eligibility.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari suggested Thursday morning that everyone will have to wait to learn which of his players enter this year's NBA Draft. For one player, the suspense lasted only a few more hours.

James Young, who made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team this past season, will enter this year's NBA Draft, UK announced mid-afternoon Thursday.

"My time at Kentucky has been special to me, something I'll always treasure, but I feel that I'm ready to take the next step to the NBA," Young said in a news release. "I've learned more this year, on and off the court, about life from Coach Cal and the staff and appreciate all of their guidance and support. I can't say enough about my teammates; the journey helped us build a bond that we will always share for the rest of our lives. I would like to thank the best fans in the country, the Big Blue Nation, and I hope you guys will continue to support me as I move on. I will always bleed blue. Succeed and Proceed!"

The final three words in the statement are the new label Calipari has proposed for so-called one-and-done players. He said during the NCAA Tournament that the label one-and-done had a negative connotation.

In speaking to reporters hours before the announcement on Young's decision, Calipari strongly suggested any decision a UK player makes to enter an NBA Draft as an underclassman is to be respected.

"You may look at it and say, 'That's ridiculous,'" Calipari said, speaking generally. "But you don't live (the family's) life. You haven't done what they've done. What you have to do is accept their decision."

The decisions to turn pro or return to college are well-informed, Calipari said.

"They see the upside," he said. "I have to remind them of the downside. Of what could happen. When they make that choice, you have to live with it. It's their (decision). It's their family's."

Young, a native of Rochester Hills, Mich., led UK with 82 three-point baskets. That was the seventh most in a single season in program history and second most by a UK freshman. He shot 42.6 percent from three-point range in the NCAA Tournament, and 34.9 percent overall.

Young averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in the Final Four en route to Final Four All-Tournament Team honors.

"I'm excited for James and his family and the decision he's come to," Calipari said in the school release. "From day one, the NBA people who came to our practices in the preseason raved about him. He's done everything we've asked of him all season, investing himself in his brothers for the betterment of the team, and I think we all saw the end result in the tournament and Final Four. Whatever team drafts James is not only getting a superb athlete, they are getting the ultimate teammate."

Young was named to the All-SEC Second Team. He scored 10 or more points in 30 games.

Young became the second of what's expected to be eight players making a decision about whether to enter this year's NBA Draft or return to UK next season. This week, UK announced that Willie Cauley-Stein will return to the UK team next season.

The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 26. Calipari noted that underclassmen have until April 27. (To be precise, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 27) to enter the draft. He dismissed the NCAA deadline, which was Tuesday. Players like Young who enter the draft after Tuesday forfeit their NCAA eligibility.

In meeting with reporters, Calipari described the process of UK players pondering their basketball futures as starting at the Final Four. In Arlington, Texas, he asked eight players if they wanted to weigh the option after the NCAA Tournament.

A couple players said they did need to talk to the coach about the subject, which implied that those players had decided to return. "A majority" wanted to go through the process of gauging their NBA profile and consider entering the draft, Calipari said.

The UK coach said he spoke to about 19 NBA general managers.

As he said on several TV and radio appearances this week promoting his new book, Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out, Calipari said the decisions had to be personal decisions and not based on a perceived effect on UK or the basketball program.

Calipari asked reporters to raise their hands if they were surprised that Cauley-Stein decided to return to UK next season.

In explaining his reasons for returning, Cauley-Stein said he was in no hurry to leave, liked going to school, would get closer to a degree, needed to grow as a player and wanted to try to complete a run to a national championship, Calipari said.

"That's a good answer for me," Calipari said.

Cauley-Stein has undergone ankle surgery and will need about two months of rehabilitation.

"Best doctor in the world to do it," Calipari said. "A procedure that is done a lot. So he'll be fine."

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

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