UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: One-and-done players here to stay

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talked to Dick Vitale of ESPN after the game as the University of Kentucky defeated Maryland in the Barclays Center Classic held in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY., Friday, November 9, 2012. UK won 72-69. This is second half action.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talked to Dick Vitale of ESPN after the game as the University of Kentucky defeated Maryland in the Barclays Center Classic held in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY., Friday, November 9, 2012. UK won 72-69. This is second half action. Herald-Leader

During a teleconference last week, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale likened Kentucky basketball to the drive-through window at a fast food restaurant. Players come to UK, order their NBA careers (hold the fries) and happily drive away after one season. Then the next class of freshmen pull up to the speaker and hear a voice ask, "Can I take your order?"


And Vitale is a vocal (what else?) supporter of UK Coach John Calipari.

The start of Kentucky's season against Maryland in Brooklyn on Friday revived an interesting phenomenon. Although the so-called one-and-done player is a settled issue in Kentucky, it continues to be raised by reporters elsewhere in the country when UK comes to town or arrives at one of the game's grand stages.

For better or worse, Kentucky is synonymous with star recruits who stay in college one season and leave for the NBA. As someone noted a few years ago, UK is a "glorified AAU program." No question prompted Vitale's reference to fast food. It came as part of his introductory remarks to begin a teleconference promoting ESPN's telecast of the UK-Maryland game.

During another teleconference later in the week promoting the game, Calipari again voiced a firm opposition to the rule allowing one-and-done players.

"I'm not a one-and-done proponent," he said. "I can't stand the rule."

It's a sensitive subject. Almost by reflex, Calipari regularly mentions that UK players do well in the classroom during their abbreviated college days. Nine players had a "B" or better average in the spring semester of 2012, he said.

"So," Calipari concluded, "it's not all about basketball."

Considering how the subject of one-and-done players keeps coming up (it re-blossomed out of nowhere at the 2012 Final Four), it's doubtful the grade-point average argument is persuasive. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS does not think classroom performance will silence criticism.

"I think people's reservations about this rule have to do with their own predispositions and personal beliefs rather than concern for academic performance," he wrote in an email.

Former UK president Lee Todd once noted that Kentucky was not alone in recruiting players who probably would stay in college one year. No argument from Vitale, who said, "Not many coaches in America would say no to a kid like Anthony Davis."

Jim O'Connell, long-time college basketball editor for The Associated Press, cited the one-and-done big men who have played for Ohio State.

"People who know basketball can't name all those centers," O'Connell wrote in an email. "But they played and left and there wasn't a lot of national attention."

It's the dark side of the Kentucky Effect.

"When you are a program as successful as Kentucky has been, you have to expect people who root against you to find something to complain about," O'Connell wrote.

Barring the slim chance that the NBA and its players association agree to expand the time players must wait to enter the league (two-and-done players, anyone?), the one-and-done player is here to stay.

"We've got a younger game now," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. " ... It's almost like we as a basketball community refuse to admit it.

"I don't think John's doing anything wrong. It's not good or bad for the game. It is the game."

Rather than fret about one-and-done players, college basketball should work toward providing incentives to stay in school, Bilas said. For instance, if a player doesn't like where he's drafted, let him return to college.

But stop yearning for a basketball time that no longer exists, Bilas said.

The one-and-done rule is an NBA creation. It's the league's pitiful plea for help to keep players who just graduated from high school from being drafted.

"My message to the NBA has been consistent for years," Seth Davis wrote. "If you don't want these kids in your league, then stop drafting them."

Like Bilas, Davis had no issue with the existence of one-and-done players. He noted the example of Anthony Davis, who led Kentucky to a national championship and became a UK icon by being the program's first National Player of the Year. Oh, and he also became the first player chosen in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"Is that supposed to be a bad thing?" Seth Davis wrote. "Such bad things should only happen to me."

Renovation Rupp-date

Remember the debate about whether to build a new arena or, as Lexington Mayor Jim Gray likes to call it, "re-invent" Rupp Arena?

That process continued last week when a subcommittee of the Arena, Arts & Entertainment District Task Force listened to two groups present themselves as possible guiding lights for Lexington. One could be hired to formulate a design plan for the district, a business plan for deciding who does what and, most importantly, a plan for how to pay for the project. Here's a few notes:

■ Committee members continue to emphasize that a re-invented Rupp Arena is only part of the project. What to do with Lexington's Convention Center is a key component.

■ If all goes according to plan, construction will begin in late 2014 and be completed by the end of 2017.

■ CSL & Associates noted how it planned an arena project in Lincoln, Neb. That arena has 40 private suites (all sold), plus club and loge seating. University of Nebraska basketball is the prime tenant.

■ There's a lot of ifs. The subject of season ticket holders being displaced by private suites came up. Mike Ondrejko of CSL & Associates said the company would want to hold face-to-face meetings with any such fans before proceeding. Any such displacement would be a decision made by UK, not by Lexington officials. But that's a decision that might or might not arise years in the future.

Bill Rhoda, the president of CSL & Associates, saw the model used by the Green Bay Packers as viable. The Packers sold shares to fans to finance a renovation of Lambeau Field. "It's not feasible in most markets," Rhoda said. "This may be one that it is."

In such a move, UK fans could buy shares of the arena and district project. In return, the fans would get chances for special seating, parking and other perks.

■ On Thursday, the subcommittee is expected to recommend to Lexington Center Corp. either CSL & Associates or HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment as the firm to guide the district project.

Top markets

ESPN noted last week that Louisville was its top market during the 2011-12 season.

North Carolina boasted three cities in ESPN's top 10: No. 2 Greensboro, tied for No. 4 Raleigh-Durham and No. 6 Charlotte.

The rest of the top 10 was No. 3 Kansas City, No. 4 Columbus, Ohio; No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 8 Dayton, No. 9 Indianapolis and No. 10 Knoxville.

Pre-season top 50

A pre-season top 50 list for the Wooden Award arrived last week. Since freshmen are not eligible for the pre-season list, Kentucky was not mentioned.

Three Louisville players made the list: Peyton Siva, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng.

Four SEC players were on the list: Kenny Boynton of Florida, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia, Jarnell Stokes of Tennessee and B.J. Young of Arkansas.

As the season unfolds, freshmen can be added to the Wooden watch list.

Bipartisan humor

Barack Obama's victory over Mitt Romney inspired UK guard Sam Malone's regularly entertaining Twitter account.

The UK player, whose father, Joe Malone, once ran as a Republican for Senate in Massachusetts, did not let Romney's defeat stifle his sense of humor. He tweeted this reaction to the presidential election:

"Breaking News: Big Bird is taken off death row and found not guilty of all charges!"

Follow the leader

Howard Schnellenberger's formula for UK football success would be to recruit eight to 10 players from Florida each year, five or six from Kentucky, two or three from Chicago, two or three from Detroit and a couple from Cleveland.

In other words, follow the example of U of L.

"Louisville would be a great study for the University of Kentucky," Schnellenberger said.

But would UK's sense of pride prevent the wisdom of following U of L's example?

If so, Schnellenberger said, "They better go to a psychologist."

Knight check

The subcommittee on Lexington's Arena, Arts & Entertainment District heard about luxury suites, loge seating, etc, etc.

Bill Rhoda, the president of the consulting firm CSL & Associates, noted how Oregon built a new arena without luxury suites and special seating. Oregon wanted to preserve sight lines and the cozy atmosphere of its former arena.

Oregon could literally afford to do that.

"It helps when you have someone like (Nike bigwig) Phil Knight, who wrote a $100 million check," Rhoda said.

In the blood

Justin Moore, who handles media relations for Maryland's basketball team, introduced himself prior to the Terps' game against Kentucky.

Moore noted how he grew up in Owensboro and attended U of L because he liked their sports promotion program.

He also said that his grandfather was Jack Perry, once the sports information staffer for UK basketball.

Bucket list

Last week syndicated columnist Norman Chad (yes, the poker guy on ESPN) offered his personal bucket list of things he'd like to do.

First on the list: Replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and bench any player who takes a charge.

Happy birthday

To Twany Beckham. He turns 24 on Wednesday. ... To Jared Prickett. He turns 39 on Wednesday. ... To A.J. Stewart. He turns 24 on Wednesday. ... To Dwight Perry. He turned 25 on Friday. ... To Russell Westbrook (a role model for Archie Goodwin?), who turns 24 on Monday.