Kentucky junior DeAndre Liggins and freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight have declared for the NBA Draft, UK announced Wednesday. None of the three has signed with an agent, leaving open the possibility they could opt to return to school before a May 8 deadline.
Liggins, a 6-foot-6 guard from Chicago, served as the Wildcats' defensive stopper this season, consistently drawing the assignment of guarding the opposing team's top offensive threat. He averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range.
He was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year by Yahoo! Sports, as well as being named to the SEC All¬-Defensive Team by the league's coaches.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to enter my name into the draft, putting me one step closer to realizing my dream," Liggins said in a UK release. "Growing up in a tough environment in Chicago, it's a pleasure to have an opportunity to do something special. This is another challenge I'm looking forward to, to have my game evaluated by pro scouts and see how I rank against some of the top players in the world."
Jones, a 6-8 forward from Portland, Ore., was a Freshman All-American by several outlets. He averaged 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. HE led the league in double-doubles (13) and rebounding, ranked sixth in blocks and seventh in scoring.
He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by league coaches and SEC Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press. He is currently ranked fourth among power forwards in the Yahoo! Sports power rankings.
"Coach Cal and the rest of the staff pushed us all year long and helped us develop every part of our game to help prepare us for this point in our lives," Jones said. "This will be a great chance for me to measure my skills against some of the best in the country and receive additional information on where I fit into this year's draft."
Knight, a 6-3 guard from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., led the team and ranked fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per game. His 4.2 assist average was second in the SEC. He set the UK freshman scoring record, scoring 657 points, and also broke the UK freshman 3-point record with 87 3s.
A Freshman All-American, Knight was also named the NCAA East Regional Most Outstanding Player. Like Jones, Knight is ranked fourth in the Yahoo! Sports power rankings for point guards.
"Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, and this is the next step," Knight said. "All season long coach (John Calipari) has been tutoring me on the fine points of being a point guard, and now I have an opportunity to put my game on display in front of NBA scouts as a result of my hard work."
Calipari said in a roundtable discussion with media last week that he thought it was a "no-brainer" that Knight and Jones, projected as possible lottery picks, should at least initially submit their name into the draft to see where they stand. He said he also encouraged Liggins to test the draft waters and try out at a combine.
"I support the decision these three have made to take advantage of the process of putting their names in the draft," UK men's basketball coach John Calipari said. "They were a joy to coach this year and I would love the opportunity to continue to coach them again next season. I will always support my players in weighing their options and doing what is personally best for them and their families."
Underclassmen have until April 24 to declare for the draft and have until May 8 to withdraw their name from the draft, provided they do not sign with an agent.
The 2011 NBA Draft will take place on June 23.
Calipari also said last week that the possibility of an NBA lockout complicates this year's draft because rookies could go many months without being paid or having a place or means to work on their games.