John Clay

As decision-making begins, a look at the UK freshmen who waited to turn pro

Kentucky forward Kevin Knox (5), guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22), forward PJ Washington (25) and forward Jarred Vanderbilt (2) celebrate following the team’s exhibition game against the Centre Colonels at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Kentucky beat Centre College 106-63.
Kentucky forward Kevin Knox (5), guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22), forward PJ Washington (25) and forward Jarred Vanderbilt (2) celebrate following the team’s exhibition game against the Centre Colonels at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Kentucky beat Centre College 106-63. aslitz@herald-leader.com

It’s the waiting period again for Kentucky basketball, the time between the final game of the season and the final deadline before the NBA Draft. June 11 is the date to withdraw. June 21 is the date of the draft. Mark your calendars.

In John Calipari’s nine seasons as coach, this year’s postseason offers the most uncertainty. In the past, we knew John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle and De’Aaron Fox, to name a few, were turning pro after their freshman seasons. We had a good idea who would go and who would stay. This year, not so much.

And despite the national perception, a few UK players have chosen to delay the draft and stay in school for their sophomore seasons. It’s not the majority, by any means. Twenty of the draft picks Calipari signed while at Kentucky fit the one-and-done category. Six more picks are exceptions.

Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb were the first two, both electing to stay another season despite helping Kentucky to the Final Four as freshmen in 2011. The duo teamed with freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, along with senior Darius Miller, to win a national title in 2012.

Jones was taken in the first round, 18th overall, in the 2012 NBA Draft. He bounced around the league for five years but has been with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League this season where he averaged 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Photos from the 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball season of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Music: www.bensound.com

Lamb was taken in the second round at No. 42 overall in 2012. After playing 100 NBA games, he’s been out of the league since the 2013-14 campaign.

Next was Andrew Harrison, who along with twin brother Aaron arrived at UK in 2013-14. After helping the Cats to a national runner-up finish in 2014, both decided to stay at UK in hopes of improving their NBA stock.

After UK’s 38-1 season, Andrew was taken in the second round of the 2015 draft, No. 44 overall. Aaron went undrafted. Andrew caught on with Memphis in 2016-17 and has started 45 games this season. Aaron was recently picked up by the Dallas Mavericks.

Willie Cauley-Stein was also an important part of that 2014-15 team. The highest-drafted Calipari non-freshman, Cauley-Stein was taken with the sixth pick in the 2015 draft by Sacramento. He has improved each season with the Kings. Cauley-Stein is averaging 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds this year. He’s started 48 games.

Photos of PJ Washington from the 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball season.

As a sophomore, Dakari Johnson also left after the 2014-15 campaign. Taken in the second round with the 48th pick, Johnson finally reached the NBA this season with Oklahoma City. He’s played in 29 games, made six starts, and is averaging 1.9 points.

Last but not least is Tyler Ulis, a key reserve in 2014-15, a sophomore starter at point guard in 2015-16. Ulis made the leap then, going to Phoenix in the second round with the 34th pick overall. Ulis has started 37 games this year for the Suns, averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 assists for a rebuilding team.

Aside from Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress is the only other Calipari signee who stayed at UK beyond his freshman season, went undrafted, and is in the NBA. Poythress, who left after the 2015-16 campaign, has played in 24 games with the Indiana Pacers, where he’s averaging 1.1 points.

Will any of the seven who just completed their freshman seasons remain at UK for at least another year? Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appear the most likely to go; Nick Richards and Quade Green the most likely to stay.

Photos of Kevin Knox from the 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball season. Music: www.bensound.com

Five of the seven are currently on ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony’s Top 100 prospect list — Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 12; Knox at 14; Hamidou Diallo at 36; PJ Washington at 46 and Jarred Vanderbilt at 63.

Diallo, Washington and Vanderbilt could all three improve their standings by returning for another year to join incoming freshmen Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro. That’s no guarantee they will return, however, or improve.

Meanwhile, we wait — again — to see how it all shakes out.

Photos of Hamidou Diallo from the 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball season. Music: www.bensound.com

Kentucky’s NBA Draft picks under John Calipari

Year

Player

Rnd

Pick

Team

2010

John Wall

1

1

Washington

2012

Anthony Davis

1

1

New Orleans

2015

Karl-Anthony Towns

1

1

Minnesota

2012

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

1

2

Charlotte

2011

Enes Kanter

1

3

Utah

2010

DeMarcus Cousins

1

5

Sacramento

2017

De’Aaron Fox

1

5

Sacramento

2013

Nerlens Noel

1

6

New Orleans-c

2015

Willie Cauley-Stein

1

6

Sacramento

2014

Julius Randle

1

7

L.A. Lakers

2016

Jamal Murray

1

7

Denver

2011

Brandon Knight

1

8

Detroit

2017

Malik Monk

1

11

Charlotte

2015

Trey Lyles

1

12

Utah

2015

Devin Booker

1

13

Phoenix

2010

Patrick Patterson

1

14

Houston

2017

Bam Adebayo

1

14

Miami

2014

James Young

1

17

Boston

2010

Eric Bledsoe

1

18

Oklahoma City-a

2012

Terrence Jones

1

18

Houston

2016

Skal Labissiere

1

28

Sacramento

2010

Daniel Orton

1

29

Orlando

2012

Marquis Teague

1

29

Chicago

2013

Archie Goodwin

1

29

Oklahoma City-d

2016

Tyler Ulis

2

34

Phoenix

2012

Doron Lamb

2

42

Milwaukee

2015

Andrew Harrison

2

44

Phoenix-e

2011

Josh Harrellson

2

45

New Orleans-b

2012

Darius Miller

2

46

New Orleans

2015

Dakari Johnson

2

48

Oklahoma City

2011

DeAndre Liggins

2

53

Orlando

a-traded to L.A. Clippers

b-traded to New York

c-traded to Philadelphia

d-traded to Phoenix

e-traded to Memphis

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