UK Recruiting

UK signee Orton keeping his options open

LOUISVILLE — When introducing a player who really needed no introduction on Thursday, Derby Festival spokesman Mark Shallcross said, "Daniel Orton of Kentucky. (pause) Hopefully."

There's plenty of reason for doubt since Orton signed with Kentucky last fall.

First, he injured a knee that basically wiped out his senior season of high school. Then his mother died. Then UK fired Billy Gillispie as coach. Then Orton asked for a release. Then UK hired John Calipari as its new coach. Then Orton decided not to press UK for the release.

Is there any wonder it was a confused Orton who came to Louisville on Thursday to begin preparation for Saturday's Derby Festival Basketball Classic.

"Right now, me and my brother and my dad are going to sit down and talk about it," Orton said. "We'll go over everything and assess our options."

Sometime while he's in the area, Orton's father and brother hope to speak with Calipari.

"We want to make sure everything's right," Daniel Orton said of his wavering. "We want to make a good decision. We want to make a very educated decision."

Another of UK's signees, Jon Hood, said he thought Orton was "90 percent" likely to stay with Kentucky as his college choice.

Orton said he would consider Kansas as well as Kentucky. He spoke warmly of Kansas Coach Bill Self, who once unsuccessfully recruited his older brother Terrence Crawford for Tulsa. Crawford played for Oklahoma State.

Orton noted how Self made more of a personal connection with the Orton family than other college coaches.

"We have a great history with him," Orton said. "Coach Self was the only coach to talk to my mom. She thought that was really something."

This past winter brought much more heartache than warm feelings. The capper was UK's firing of Gillispie.

"I started thinking of going through the recruiting process again," Orton said. "I was all stressed. More instability in my life. Something I really didn't need right now."

Calipari made a priority of visiting the Orton family the day he was introduced as UK coach. Orton recalled Calipari saying he was operating on no more than five hours sleep when he met with the family.

"It went real well," Orton said of the meeting. He saw Calipari's visit as a way for the coach to reassure the player.

"Mainly, he really was interested in me," Orton said of the message he received from Calipari. "He still wanted me to go there."

When asked to share his inner most feelings about the college choice, Orton said, "In my heart, yeah, I believe I truly want to go to Kentucky. I'm still sold on Kentucky, and I really like Kentucky.

"I've just got to open my options."

Orton sent mixed signals about another big man, DeMarcus Cousins, committing to Kentucky.

At one moment, he noted how he and Cousins were "going to complement each other" because each has inside/outside versatility.

But Orton also later acknowledged how UK's crowded frontcourt (Cousins joining Patrick Patterson, Perry Stevenson and Josh Harrellson, at least potentially) might impact his decision.

"It does kind of affect it," he said before adding, "I really don't know. I have to sit down and think about it."

Meanwhile, Orton saw the Derby Festival game as more of a respite from the decision-making to come rather than a critical factor.

"I just want to play and have fun," he said. "Because I haven't played for a while."

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