Five UK players declare for draft



There were no surprises at Tuesday’s announcement for UK’s five underclassmen and their NBA intentions, even if head coach John Calipari tried to manufacture some suspense.

“Anthony, Doron and Terrence have decided to put their names in the NBA draft,” he said, referring to each of the players sitting to his right, and then pausing for full effect as he looked to his left. “And Marquis and Michael have also decided to put their names in the NBA draft.”

It only cemented what everyone has suspected for the last few weeks: these five players — three freshmen, two sophomores, all starters — had taken UK to a national championship together, and they would leave for the NBA together.

No one should begrudge any of them for their decisions. I don’t really think anyone is, but it still deserves to be said in case anyone does.

These five accomplished everything they could as a team and did it together. Now they get to achieve their own dreams individually.

“We figured if we all came back we could try to have an undefeated season or something,” Marquis Teague said. “But we felt like it was the best decision for all of us to move on.”

It was a joint announcement, but not a joint decision. The players said they had their own process for deciding and their own timetables for finalizing their choices. After talking about it “a few days” after winning the title, Teague said, the players went their own ways.

Teague bypassed being a “top-10 pick next year” because he thought he had proved enough this season.

“I feel like I’m ready this year,” he said.

Lamb completed two dream seasons — a Final Four and a championship — and now gets to go to the league he’s been following all his life as he grew up in New York.

“My friends keep texting me, ‘You’re a pro. No joking around anymore,’” he said.

Jones turned down a projected late-lottery pick and no title to be a projected late-lottery pick with a title.

“It’s special to be part of something like this,” he said.

Kidd-Gilchrist ends up going to the pros, but he’ll remember his “brothers” forever.

“I got friends for eternity,” he said.

Davis becomes a near-lock to be the No. 1 overall draft pick. He maintained that the decision was “tough,” even as everyone around him said it should be easy, and said he only finalized his decision Monday night. His mom wanted him to stay in school, but his dad — well, his dad fully realized what he had just done, as did Calipari.

“He didn’t wrestle me (to go),” Davis said, “but he kind of said, ‘All right. Let’s not kid yourself.’”

That’s about how it felt with all five of them: a sliver of possibility that some might come back. It was a possibility you had to laugh at. Let’s not kid ourselves: it always felt like the inevitable conclusion would be everyone going.

And that’s just fine. They leave behind memories of a historic season, one that won’t be forgotten by UK fans or players any time soon.

“We had a hell of a year,” Lamb said.

He said it on the edge of the Joe Craft Center practice floor, where the 2012 national championship banner was absent. The players were announcing their departure before what they earned had even arrived. That’s how it goes at UK, and it’s worked out just fine.

“I’m proud to say,” Calipari said, sitting between his five NBA-bound underclassmen, “that I was able to spend a year with them.”