Kentucky shocker would be returns
Posted: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 4:21 pm
By: By JEFFREY MCMURRAY, Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari says he would be “shocked” if freshmen Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe decide to return to school rather than enter the NBA draft.
Three underclassmen — junior Patrick Patterson and freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins — have announced they will hire an agent, giving up their amateur eligibility. Calipari says he expects the center Orton and guard Bledsoe to also be early picks, even though they haven’t officially declared for the draft.
“I got another call today from a team that loves Daniel Orton,” Calipari said Monday during a news conference. “That team is going to pick in the middle of the first round. There are teams all over that first round that say we really like the guy.”
Asked whether he thinks Wall will go No. 1 overall as expected, Calipari said he believed it was close between him and Cousins.
As for his recent history at Memphis and now Kentucky of drafting “one and done” players who go straight to the NBA as freshmen, Calipari says he’d prefer a situation similar to in baseball, where high school players can enter the draft directly or must wait until they’ve completed three years of college.
Calipari also added some fuel to rumors about a possible transfer for another freshmen and one of the team’s top outside shooters, Darnell Dodson.
“Whether he’ll be back next year is up in the air,” he said, but wouldn’t elaborate.
In the wide-ranging news conference, Calipari also responded to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader that found men’s basketball had the worst grade-point average of any Kentucky sports team last year and the program’s lowest since 2002.
Calipari defended his team, citing high graduation rates in his previous stops at Massachusetts and Memphis. He said the coaching transition at Kentucky may have been a factor in the low averages, he said.
“Everything was different,” Calipari said. “New staff, new players, new system … There was a lot thrown at these young men this first year.”
He said he expects improvement next year and has always had the philosophy that students who don’t go to class won’t play.
“I want to protect these young people,” Calipari said. “My job is to make sure there’s growth academically and that they’re on line to graduate. It’s pretty obvious I’ve done that.”
Calipari was joined at the news conference by former football coach Mike Gottfried to announce the opening of a Kentucky chapter for Gottfried’s Team Focus program. It is an effort to provide life skills to young men who have grown up without the presence of fathers in their lives.
Gottfried, who coached at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas and Murray State, said the program began 10 years ago in Mobile, Ala., and 50 of the 60 members of that first class are still involved as mentors.
Calipari’s charity made an initial pledge of $50,000 to the program and announced a five-year commitment to open a Lexington chapter immediately.
In other SEC basketball news, Tennessee guard Skylar McBee is part of an 11-player team of current NCAA Division I players that will travel to China for some games this summer.
The team is organized by Kentucky-based Christian sports ministry Sports Reach and will play nine games against teams from the Chinese Basketball Association in May.
A few of his teammates hail from the Volunteers’ biggest rival. Kentucky forward/center Josh Harrelson and guard Jon Hood will also play for the team.