COLUMN: Should they stay or should they go?

The reward of winning a championship this year may have been lost for every Division I team save for Connecticut, but the reward of a lucrative NBA contract remains as the dangling carrot for several high-profile (and sometimes not-so-high-profile) college players.

With an NBA lockout looming, the draft prospects considering whether to make the jump from the college game to the professional game have more to consider than where they’ll call home next season or when they anticipate to have their name called on draft night.

Other questions now include if they’ll be able to play next season, and if so, what effect a new collective bargaining agreement would have on rookie wages and contracts.

Whatever the future of the NBA holds, decisions have to be made quickly. College kids have until April 24 to decide if they want to test the draft waters. May 8 is the final deadline for those players who have not hired an agent — and therefore have not forfeited their remaining eligibility — to withdraw their name from consideration for the NBA draft, which will take place June 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

However, unlike last season, the decision for many of UK’s underclassmen this year may not be as clear cut.

Here is a look at where the Cats are projected to be drafted and the factors they have to consider:

Brandon Knight

Should he go? Yes. His stock has been improving since his forgettable performances at the Maui Invitational. Better yet, his stock was subject to a meteoric rise after a phenomenal NCAA Tournament performance that included two game-winning shots. Couple this upward trend with the incoming of freshman Marquis Teague, who is more of a true point guard than Knight, and surely Knight will not want to play less minutes or relinquish control of his team, even if it means shifting into his more natural scorer’s role, now that he’s had the taste of being the floor general.

Will he go? Probably. As much as he is the quintessential student-athlete, he can always earn his degree at a later time. He’s a smart kid who has developed his game to the point where he can not only score in bunches, but lead a team. NBA teams love a player who can create offense, and he has clearly shown he is capable of doing so.

projection: No. 7 to the Detroit Pistons

Terrence Jones

Should he go? No. On the contrary to Knight, his stock has decreased in value since the Maui Invitational and he averaged a paltry 10.4 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. He has oodles of potential, but doesn’t seem quite ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA.

Will he go? Probably. He is still a likely lottery pick, though not necessarily a top-five pick like he was thought to be early in the season. It would be entirely understandable if he jumps ship now instead of risking falling further down draft boards in the much deeper draft class of 2012.

projection: No. 14 to the Houston Rockets

Doron Lamb

Should he go? No. His shooting is excellent and NBA ready, but other parts of his game are not. It would also help for him to bulk up another year before he heads to the pros.

Will he go? Probably not. He kind-of-sort-of hinted that he was coming back for his sophomore year during the NCAA Tournament before backing off his commitment moments later. However, he’ll be aided by the fact that none of UK’s incoming freshmen play his position, so he’ll receive big minutes and have the chance to flourish in a primary role again.

projection: Undrafted (However, he is slated as the No. 15 pick in 2012.)

DeAndre Liggins

Should he go? No. He’s a defensive miser, but the rest of his game isn’t NBA ready. If he found himself on the right NBA team, he could excel in the role of a defensive specialist, but he’d be taking a big gamble that this opportunity would come along.

Will he go? Maybe. Liggins hinted that he had to weigh his options at season’s end. Originally from the southside of Chicago and greeted by a newborn this year, the chance to earn a paycheck so he can help his family is a persuasive factor and probably means more to him than anyone else on UK’s roster.

projection: Undrafted

Darius Miller

Should he go? No. He improved so much from last year to this year and this Kentucky native should stick around and aim for a UK title in his senior season.

Will he go? Certainly not. He was never asked of his NBA intentions as the season wound down and he never gave any inclination that he wanted to forfeit his eligibility.

projection: Undrafted

Enes Kanter

He receives the asterisk next to his name because the Turkish big man had his decision made for him when the NCAA ruled him ineligible. Interestingly, he is still considered a lottery pick, despite not playing a competitive game of basketball since the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. projection: No. 4 to the Washington Wizards.