NEW YORK — While Kentucky Coach John Calipari has sworn off platoons, the success of the system of mass substitutions was abundantly evident Wednesday.
Four of the seven UK players in Thursday's NBA Draft served to refute the argument that limited playing time would hinder players' draft profile.
Still, Calipari has said he will not use platoons again, a declaration widely interpreted as a response to negative recruiting tactics by rival programs: Don't go to Kentucky if you want to play a full game.
The UK players who met with reporters in a pre-draft media session found that line of reasoning hollow.
"I don't know how you recruit against it," Devin Booker said of UK's platoons. "You see how many Kentucky guys are in the draft this year and how many of us are going to get drafted, how successful we were as a team.
"I'm probably the one that they highlight, where coming out of high school I wasn't in the top 10 or anything like that, and I was able to go out there and share minutes and still be successful. So there's two different approaches you can take. People want to be that guy, but everyone can't be that guy. That's not how it's going to be in the NBA. So I think Kentucky was the closest thing to an NBA team as possible, and it helped me out to be in this position I am now."
Trey Lyles acknowledged he could have played a more prominent role in another program. "If I went somewhere else, I could have done a lot more," he said.
Lyles said he could have been more productive as a low-post player at another program. Given UK's glut of big men, Lyles moved to small forward to get on the floor.
Yet, Lyles said, the platoons "helped all of us out. We were 38-0. You can't really say much against that. If you're going against it, you're going against something that won games."
(Of course, Kentucky won its first 38 games of this past season before losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four.)
Willie Cauley-Stein echoed Lyles' sentiment. After noting the 38 victories and the seven players in this year's NBA Draft, he said, "Why wouldn't you want to play under that" system?
But Cauley-Stein spoke of how anything and everything is subject to questioning by rival recruiters. UK's platoon system was not off-limits.
"A lot of places will be, like, 'If you go to Kentucky, you know you're not going to, like, play a lot," he said. "Or you know you're not going to get all the shots."
Despite doubts about his ability to play for Kentucky, Cauley-Stein signed with UK.
"Something pulled me there," he said, "and I rolled with it. And now look. I'm sitting here."
No. 1 pick
Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to be the third Kentucky player chosen first in an NBA Draft since Calipari became coach in 2009.
Towns downplayed the significance of being the No. 1 selection.
"It's not that important," he said. "I just want to go and make my mark for any organization I'm picked to and fortunate enough to play for."
Former Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the only player mentioned as possibly being picked before Towns, also downplayed the significance of being the first player picked.
Towns welcomed the possibility of being taken by Minnesota, which has the first pick. He said he would be "blessed, honored and privileged" to play for the Timberwolves. If picked by Minnesota, Towns said "I just can't wait to add my contribution" to a team effort that includes Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio.
But Towns gushed about seeing his NBA dream come true in Brooklyn, which is less than 60 miles from his hometown of Piscataway, N.J.
"I can't believe everyone is here," he said of the familiar faces who gathered to speak with him. "It's like a family reunion. I'm back home again. This is crazy."
When asked to assess how he might fare in the NBA, Booker said, "Well, I know my shooting translates. That's the most important part. And I know my IQ translates also. I think the game before anything. But I'm here to learn. I'm going to come into any team and try to learn from the older guys and make my own style. I feel like I'll be OK."
On this being a good draft to be a shooter: "Definitely, because you know shooters are really important to the game now, and I feel like the game's evolving to more shooters, and it kind of showed that in the Finals. I think the last five teams left (in the playoffs) were the top five leaders in three-point percentage and attempts, so it just shows you how important shooting is."