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Calipari fulfilling role as PR man as half a dozen Cats ponder moving on to the NBA


Some experts predict Karl-Anthony Towns will be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and John Calipari thinks he'll be one of at least five Cats to leave early (UK Athletics Photo / Chet White)

Some experts predict Karl-Anthony Towns will be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and John Calipari thinks he’ll be one of at least five Cats to leave early (UK Athletics Photo / Chet White)

 

By Guy Ramsey
UK Athletics
 

John Calipari may have wanted a morning to decompress, some time to himself after a heartbreaking, season-ending defeat to Wisconsin on Saturday night.
 

He wouldn’t allow it. He owed Sunday morning to his players.
 

“I met each individual player the next morning, because when our season ends it becomes about them,” Calipari said. “Our season ended that night, so the next morning I had individual meetings.”
 

The agenda for the meetings, as Kentucky fans know by now, covered the decisions his players will make in the coming weeks regarding the NBA Draft. The meetings were the first of two five-minute meetings Calipari will have with the players who will think about making the jump to the pros.
 

“There’s not going to be any brainwashing, forcing, pushing either in or out,” Calipari said. “I want each kid to make a decision for themselves. I did tell a couple of the kids that it’s a man’s league; it’s not a child’s league. You can be physically ready (but) if you’re not ready for a man’s league, you need to come back. But that’s your choice.”
 

In the 30 minutes he spent with the media after the announcement of his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Coach Cal said seven players are “considering their options.” Piecing together everything he said, the seven are Willie Cauley-Stein, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson.
 

“We will get information from probably 20-25 NBA GMs,” Calipari said. “We’ll then put their families in touch directly with the NBA. If they want my opinion, I’ll give it. If they don’t, I won’t.”
 

Cauley-Stein likely won’t need Calipari’s opinion. The junior and projected top-10 pick said after UK’s Final Four loss he had “probably” played his last game in a Kentucky uniform and that “it’s time to take another step.” Calipari said nothing Monday to suggest Cauley-Stein’s thinking had changed.
 

Towns, meanwhile, stopped short of making his intentions known. The freshman, however, is a contender to be the top overall pick in June’s NBA draft. Calipari wouldn’t say unequivocally he should earn that distinction and join John Wall and Anthony Davis as the third player he’s coached to be the No. 1 pick, but he did have plenty of good things to say about Towns.
 

“I’ll say this is what he is: He’s one of the greatest kids, really intelligent, really a smart kid, will make free throws, can play pick-and-roll defense, guard, block shots, and he’s going to be a little bit like (a LaMarcus) Aldridge,” Calipari said.
 

Aaron and Andrew Harrison, meanwhile, have more uncertain draft prospects. Both ESPN and Draft Express peg the two twins out of the first round, but Coach Cal believes they would work their way there if they did declare.
 

“If they’re not first-rounders, which I believe they will be when you get the workouts and the interviews and you see their size and their athleticism and all that – when you meet them and say, ‘Those are two of the greatest kids; where did all this other stuff come from? Where’s this narrative? It’s not true,'” Calipari said. “And then I think what’ll happen is they’ll both be in the first round. But even if they’re not, it’ll be shortly thereafter.”
 

Lyles and Booker, meanwhile, face choices between returning for promising sophomore seasons or the draft, where both are expected to be selected in the middle of the first round. Calipari said Alex Poythress’ knee injury makes him likely to return for his senior season.
 

Johnson is a possible late first-round pick, making the 7-footer’s decision an interesting one as well.
 

“What if Dakari’s the 25th pick of the draft?” Calipari said. “I’m not going to say, ‘You should stay.’ See, the worst thing for me is to be in that position and try to influence a kid because of what’s right for me.”
 

That’s why Coach Cal will provide the information, give his opinion if asked and stand back.
 

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“There’s no reason to hold off if you know what you’re doing,” Calipari said. “Just say and let’s move. And then now my job shifts from that to making sure we bring in people to help them interview, that they start training, that they get on the track – we help them. And then the other thing is now I’m their PR machine. That’s why I said my season doesn’t end until June 28.”
 

While he’s serving as the PR machine for his recently departed pupils, he’ll be putting the finishing touches on his next talented crop of recruits. Calipari said he expects to lose a minimum of five players to the draft, meaning he’s likely to look to add to a 2015 class that currently features three signees.
 

That means there’s work ahead.
 

“I need to get through the next month and I know I can do it,” Calipari said. “I’ll go one step at a time, sleep as much as I can sleep, get done what we gotta get done, and then I can step off the gas. But it’s what – if you do this and you’re about letting these kids make their own decisions, you’re in this boat every year.”
 


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