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June 28, 2012

Calipari: UK 'setting standards' with Draft success

NEWARK, N.J. - Two years ago, John Calipari had suggested it "might be the biggest day in the history of our program," and the fact that he was talking about an NBA Draft and not an NCAA championship had ruffled some feathers.

On Thursday, Calipari again was touting a draft night as a historic day, and he wasn't shying away from its significance. Six Wildcats were selected at the Prudential Center, including Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who became the first college teammates ever selected with the first and second picks.

Calipari sat nearby in the Green Room adjacent to the stage and celebrated as the New Orleans Hornets took Davis with the No. 1 pick and the Charlotte Bobcats followed by selecting Kidd-Gilchrist second.

"Somebody told me they were going to make that the Blue Room and not the Green Room," Calipari said. "I don't know."

It might be a fitting name change.

Kentucky had two more players selected in the first round - forward Terrence Jones went 18th to the Houston Rockets, and the Chicago Bulls took point guard Marquis Teague with the 29th pick - and two second-round picks in Doron Lamb (42nd to the Milwaukee Bucks) and Darius Miller (46th to New Orleans).

Including Enes Kanter, who was ruled ineligible but practiced with the Wildcats for a season before entering the draft, 15 Kentucky players have heard their names called on NBA Draft night in the three years since Calipari took over as head coach.

That's an NBA record for a three-year span, and it matches the total draftees the Wildcats had in the 15 drafts prior to Calipari taking the job.

"We seem to be setting standards every time I turn around," Calipari said. "But the good news is, we're setting standards for young people. It's not just about the program. It's not about me."

The Wildcats' six draft picks were the most ever in a two-round draft. Only UNLV, in an eight-round draft in 1977, had six players selected. All six went in the second, third and fourth rounds.

Every player who has started for Calipari in his three seasons has been selected in the NBA Draft. Bench players, too, have been draft picks. Sixth men Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins and Miller all were picked.

"In three more years, we'll have 10 percent of the league will have played for us," Calipari said. "It's crazy. Will it keep going? I don't know. If they're ready, they should go. If they're not ready, they should stay."

That success has been a recruiting pitch for Kentucky.

"I mean, I don't know what else you could add to our recruiting," Calipari said. "I just want to know: How'd you beat us on a kid? What happened? Did something happen? You're beating us on a kid? A 3.2 grade-point average, national titles, wins, kids staying out of trouble, all of them getting drafted."

Calipari could have more draft picks next season. Frontcourt freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress, at least, could have the chance to be first-round picks. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer might "have an opportunity," Calipari said.

"I hope it happens again next year - and the year after," Calipari said. "It would be nice. I started thinking the reason we won last year was because of me. But I guess if you have the one and two pick, you should win."

In the moments after winning his first NCAA title in April, Calipari suggested his next goal was to coach a team to a 40-0 record. On Thursday he was asked about capping off a season like that with a 1-2-3 sweep of the top picks in the NBA Draft.

"Then I would really retire," Calipari said. "It would be like, 'I'm done. There's no fun in anything else.'"

Video by CatsIllustrated.com











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