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Keith Taylor: Calipari has room for Bolden if Lee, Briscoe return; Skal’s NBA stock on the rise

Marques Bolden’s future will be decided this week.

The heralded 6-foot-11 star is expected to make his decision known at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Bolden is the ranked the top center in the Class of 2016 and has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky and Duke. Bolden, who led his high school DeSoto (High School) to the state championship, has participated in the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Nike Hoop Summitt and the Jordan Brand Classic since his high school career came to a close.

Marques Bolden  is expected to make his college decision Thursday

Marques Bolden is expected to make his college decision Thursday

Kentucky has already signed five players — De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Wenyen Gabriel, Bam Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones — for next season. Kentucky doesn’t have any scholarship openings on the roster, but if Marcus Lee stays in the NBA Draft, that would make room for Bolden if he chooses to sign with the Wildcats. Lee and Isaiah Briscoe have until May 25 to withdraw from the draft and return to campus..

Even if Bolden picks Duke, UK’s current recruiting class remains one of the best John Calipari has assembled in Lexington. If Lee and Briscoe return to the Cats’ roster, Calipari doesn’t envision scholarship issues if Bolden chooses the Wildcats.

“I didn’t think it will be an issue for us here,” the Calipari said last week.

Despite the incoming talent pool arriving on campus this summer, Calipari said the five newcomers still have to adjust to the pace of the college game.

“Every kid that’s come here, there’s an adjustment,” he said. “The thing that always amazes me is the way we recruit. We’re not promising and I’m not telling anybody, ‘You’re going to be one year and go.’ I tell every kid, ‘You ought to plan on staying at least two and you may be here longer.’ Don’t come in here thinking you’re leaving eight months later. You’re gonna torture yourself. But it’s amazing to me that these kids think that it’s an extension of high school.”

Combine elevates Skal

Skal Labissere’s stock moved upward following the NBA combine in Chicago last week. Labissiere, who endured a roller-coaster ride in his lone season with the Wildcats, is now projected as a Top 10 pick in next month’s NBA Draft.

Jamal Murray also is expected to be one of the top picks in the draft and has been projected to go as high as sixth, while Tyler Ulis is ranked among the Top 25 picks.

Lee also participated in the combine but wasn’t among the movers and shakers who participated in the event. Lee’s future may come down to whether or not he wants to play in the NBA D-League or return to college for a fourth and final season with the Wildcats. He reportedly has canceled workouts with at least two NBA teams.

Hawkins competing overseas

Kentucky junior Dominique Hawkins is spending the remainder of this month competing in the Far East as part of a Reach USA cultural exchange trip.

It marks the second time in his career that Hawkins has made the excursion, which gives him an opportunity to learn about Far East culture while improving his skills on the court.

“I wanted to return to the Far East because I enjoyed the trip earlier in my career and I didn’t have any other plans,” Hawkins said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn about another culture and spend some more time on the basketball court.”

The trip, which concludes May 29, features games against teams from China and Lithuania. Hawkins took part in the tour in 2014 and averaged nine points per game. He scored 27 in a win over Lithuania.

Barnhart appointment ‘good for everybody’

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart was recently was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, a move that pleased Calipari.

“We talked about some other things and that didn’t even come up — it didn’t come up,” Calipari said. “Now that he’s on the committee, the first thing I heard that they told him was, ‘Now that you’re on the committee tell your coach to shut his mouth.’ No, they didn’t do that. I’m just kidding. He deserves to be on the committee and he’ll do a great job. He has to leave the room when they talk about us. Anyone that thinks it’s an advantage, it’s an advantage for college basketball because of him being on it. It’s good for everybody.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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