Late last week, Tyler Herro announced he was entering his name in the NBA Draft while keeping open the option of returning to Kentucky. On Wednesday, he announced he was closing the UK option.
“My hope was always remain in the draft and get my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA,” Herro said in a video he posted on Twitter. “But we wanted to be absolutely certain that taking the next step was in (my) best interest.”
The player’s father had spoke of UK Coach John Calipari’s concern that Herro be as certain as possible of being picked sooner than later in the first round of the June 20 NBA Draft. Being taken late in the first round would mean he’d likely go to a good NBA team that might send him to the G League for further development, Chris Herro said of Calipari’s input.
Calipari spoke of the return for a sophomore season as a way to improve on Kentucky’s grand stage, the player’s father said.
“Ty wanted to do it in the first place,” Chris Herro said of casting his basketball lot in the NBA. “Cal made him wait and get some information.”
The initial feedback had Herro projected as being picked between Nos. 15 and 25.
When asked if the follow-up projections changed dramatically, Chris Herro said, “Nah. Not a lot. No one guaranteed us anything yet.
“But the biggest thing was we wanted to make sure Cal was comfortable, and (we) did some homework, so Cal is comfortable.”
In a news release, Calipari threw his support behind Herro’s decision.
“As I said last week, Tyler is wired and driven like few other players I’ve coached,” Calipari said. “Tyler was such a pleasure to coach this year because he didn’t let anyone else define what type of player he was. He defined what type of player he was going to be. He made the decision and put in the effort to become a complete basketball player who can score on the bounce, who can shoot it, who can defend and who can rebound. It’s his total package that will make Tyler successful at the next level.
“I’ve loved coaching him and I can’t wait to see what he does at the next level.”
Mike Schmitz, an NBA Draft analyst for ESPN, said Herro could go as high as late in the lottery (the top 14 picks).
“At worse, probably, oh, a top-20 guy,” Schmitz said.
The ESPN analyst saw a real possibility of Herro improving his status during the pre-draft process.
“He’s a guy who’s going to look really good in workouts just because of how well he shoots the ball,” Schmitz said. “And (Herro’s shot) is really mechanically sound. He can shoot it off the dribble. He can shoot it off the catch. I think he’s kind of built for workouts.”
Schmitz suggested a way Herro can improve his stock significantly.
“If he can show teams he can play a little more point guard than maybe they saw at Kentucky,” the ESPN analyst said. “That’s something he did a little bit more of in high school.”
As a freshman, Herro averaged 14.0 points per game. He led UK by making 60 three-point shots and made a school record 93.5 percent of his free throws.
“This year was everything I had hoped for and more,” Herro said. “Coach Cal and the staff challenged me to become a complete basketball player, and I truly believe I’ve done that and improved in all areas of my game. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned to the next level.”
Herro also expressed gratitude for how the Big Blue Nation embraced him. “I’ve absolutely loved my time here at Kentucky,” he said.
Herro joined PJ Washington in closing the door on playing for Kentucky next season. It would not be a shock if Keldon Johnson did the same. Like Herro, Johnson announced last week that he would enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft but retain the option of playing for UK next season.
With or without Johnson, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said Kentucky will be good next season. Fraschilla came away from the recent Nike Hoop Summit impressed with incoming freshman Tyrese Maxey.
“Tyrese Maxey is going to step in right away and really contribute offensively,” Fraschilla said. “I think he’s going to fit into that Kentucky backcourt like a glove. I can see he and Ashton Hagans being a really dynamic backcourt next year.”
Fraschilla spoke of the loss of Reid Travis as significant. Another graduate transfer, Nate Sestina of Bucknell, could ease the effects of that loss, he said.
“Not having a guy like (Travis) will hurt them,” Fraschilla said. “But I think there’s enough talent for them to be in that top-10 mix again without a doubt.”