Without mentioning any names, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said a parent turned down his offer of advice for her son’s decision about whether to enter an NBA Draft or return to college.
“Do you want my help?” Calipari said he asked the mother.
As the UK coach recalled, she replied, “No. We got this.”
Reflecting on that exchange, Calipari said, “Kind of gave me the idea that that young man was leaving.”
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The implication was the player entered the NBA Draft, but did not realize his professional dreams to the fullest.
Calipari told the story Thursday when asked about the NCAA relaxing its rules about college players entering the NBA Draft. It was announced Wednesday that players can test their draft value by participating in the NBA Combine. A player will have until 10 days after a Combine to withdraw his name from the draft.
In two other changes, players can participate in a Combine more than once, and players can work out for one NBA team each year without jeopardizing their college eligibility.
Calipari applauded the changes as a way to help players make better informed decisions about entering a draft or returning to college.
“Let them get the right information from the NBA,” he said. “Just about every player on your team should declare for the draft to see if they’re invited to the Combine.”
If the NBA does not invite a player to the Combine, that sends an obvious message about how NBA personnel assess that player.
The changes should reduce the chances of a player’s draft stock dramatically falling, Calipari said.
“I think it gives these kids real information so there is no delusion about what they’re up against,” he said.
The NBA Combine this year will be in Chicago May 11-15. So players will have until May 25 to withdraw their names from consideration for the NBA Draft, which is June 23.
In telling the story about the mother who declined his offer of assistance, Calipari said something about the credibility of coaches. Players and parents can believe that a coach has an ulterior motive in advising a return to school.
Apparently, Kentucky’s 25 players drafted, including 19 first-rounders, in the last six years gave Calipari no added expertise in the eyes of the mother.
Calipari did not have to say that he’s built his Kentucky program on a foundation of so-called one-and-done players. That revolving door approach sends a clear signal that Calipari will not try to persuade a player to return.
If anything, Calipari has a vested interest in players turning professional as soon as possible for two reasons:
It bolsters the recruiting pitch of Kentucky as a fast-track to the NBA.
It opens roster spots for incoming freshmen who aspire to enter the following year’s NBA Draft.
Calipari downplayed his involvement in the decision-making. When a player is pondering such a decision, the UK coach said he typically meets with the player for less than five minutes.
“I do not try to brainwash a kid into staying,” he said. “That’s not what I do. And I don’t force kids to leave either.
“I want them to make decisions (based) on information the NBA gives them.”
The history of the NBA Draft is dotted with examples of players whose stock fell dramatically. It became a painful cliché to see a player waiting anxiously in the so-called green room for his name to be called.
“You hate to see a young man start his career and be told one thing, and you know it’s not true,” Calipari said.
Of the changes, Calipari said, “It’s good for the game. It’s good for the student-athletes.”
Calipari welcomed Dominique Hawkins’ return to practice on a limited basis Thursday. Hawkins had not played since suffering a high ankle sprain against Ole Miss on Jan. 2.
Although Hawkins is averaging only 8.8 minutes and 2.5 points, Calipari said the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball can be a reliable backup for the team’s three star guards.
More than once this season, Calipari has wondered aloud if Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe are playing too many minutes.
Going into this week, Ulis, Murray and Briscoe rank first, fifth and ninth in most minutes played by an SEC player. Their current average minutes are 36.0, 33.7 and 31.5 minutes per game.
The only other SEC team with more than one player in the top 10 in minutes played was Tennessee with Kevin Punter third (34.5 minutes) and Armani Moore seventh (32.1).
Kentucky at Auburn
4 p.m. (ESPN)