Poythress still has decision to make
There could have been nine chairs.
On a day when seven Kentucky players, sitting alongside John Calipari on a stage in the Joe Craft Center, stood and declared their intentions to enter the NBA Draft, the number could have been eight.
Calipari said so: if Alex Poythress hadn't gone down in December with a knee injury, the junior small forward would have been part of the professional procession.
"It's unfortunate," Calipari said. "It's a tough deal because he would be sitting here, too."
Which isn't to say Poythress is for sure forgoing the draft to return for a senior season. Calipari said Poythress will go home and meet with his family to discuss the "research" the staff has done on his stock.
However, he isn't to be found on 2015 mock drafts, spurring the notion that he will be back in UK blue and white next year.
"If Alex comes back, he will graduate in three years," Calipari said. "He will have his college degree and he has an opportunity to do the things he wants to do and reach his dreams, too."
Should Poythress return, Kentucky will have a strong core to build around, including Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee, as well as a recruiting class currently ranked the top in the country.
And though Poythress' comeback could be a boon come next season, seeing him standing off to the side instead of by his side gave Andrew Harrison the blues.
"Alex is like (twin brother) Aaron to me," Harrison said. "I love Alex. It hurt me just to see him standing over here. It's not even him staying. It's him not having the choice."
A choice Willie Cauley-Stein can remember he and Poythress having to make last year, and the year before that, too. After their freshman year, they stuck together. Sophomore year, too, after Cauley-Stein's ankle injury prematurely ended his season.
Cauley-Stein said he didn't want to leave hurt, so he can understand what Poythress may be thinking, but if Cauley-Stein had his way?
"I wish he would go," Cauley-Stein said. "Honestly, I really want him to go, because we're all going. It's going to be so hard to be, like, a senior, let alone a senior and then you have to be on a whole other team with probably three guys that you've played with. That's hard. That's super hard to endure."
Next season figures to be a rebuilding year, after all. New players will have to mesh with the few veterans staying put. Cauley-Stein wants to spare his close friend the hardships that might await UK and Poythress next season.
"That's the biggest thing about Alex, is I don't want to see him go through the rough spot again, the rough times," Cauley-Stein said. "At the end of the day, they could still do that, but it's just -- that's your guy, that's your brother, and to see him have to split up like that, if he doesn't end up going, it's just tough on you."