Patterson, four freshmen declare for draft

Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

D-day has struck Big Blue Nation.

Wednesday, April 7 will be known as Decision Day for the UK men’s basketball team, and the roster will look very different next year.

Junior forward Patrick Patterson, freshman guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, and freshman forwards DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton will enter their names into this year’s NBA Draft.

“I’ve spoken with all five guys concerning the NBA and have encouraged them to put their names in the draft,” said UK head coach John Calipari in a news release. “They’ve all met individually with our compliance office to make sure they have a full understanding of eligibility rules and academic responsibilities. I’m so proud of these five young men, with everything they did for us on the court and the way they represented us off of it.”

UK Athletics did not specify whether the five players will sign with agents.

Underclassmen have until April 25 to declare for the draft and have until May 8 to withdraw their names if they have not signed with an agent.

All five players are projected to be first round picks. Wall could be the first player taken overall, Cousins and Patterson are projected to be lottery picks and Bledsoe could be a top-20 pick.

Patterson averaged 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season. If Patterson remains in the draft he will finish 11 points shy of 12th place on UK’s all-time scoring list with 1,564 points.

“I want to thank the fans who have supported me all three years,” Patterson said. “I also want to thank the coaches for putting me in a position to showcase other parts of my game as well as my versatility. Lexington and UK will always be a special place to me.”

Wall was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, the Adolph Rupp National Player of the Year and a first-team All-American by the Associated Press among many other awards. Wall averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds. He finished the season with 616 points, 241 assists and 175 made free throws. All are UK freshman records. He also had five double-doubles on the season, three in points and assists and two in points and rebounds. Wall is the first player in UK history to record double-doubles in points and rebounds and points and assists.

“I’m not the same player as when I arrived at UK,” Wall said. “I believe I’m ready for the next challenge as Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were the last two years under Coach Cal. I want to thank my teammates and the fans for all their support this year. I love them.”

Bledsoe averaged 11.3 points, 2.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He finished sixth on UK’s all-time freshman scoring list, second in 3-point field goals made (49) and fourth in assists. Bledsoe was also named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

“I never thought I’d be in this position after one year,” Bledsoe said. “Coach Cal pushed us all to be the best we could be and he believes I’m prepared to take my game to the next level. I want to thank the fans for all their support this year.”

Cousins was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American by the AP. The big man from Mobile, Ala., averaged 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. His 364 rebounds this season were the most ever by a UK freshman.

“Coach challenged me to grow on and off the court this season,” Cousins said. “I believe my game expanded along with my maturity. This year was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball and a lot of it had to do with the support I got from our fans.”

Orton, while not getting the minutes the other four players saw, showed his defensive prowess by swatting 1.4 blocks per game in just 13.2 minutes.

“Being at Kentucky allowed me to play with some of the most talented players in the country,” Orton said. “Battling with DeMarcus (Cousins) and Patrick (Patterson) every day helped improve my game. I want to thank the coaching staff for helping put me in a position to be drafted this year.”

If all five players remain in the draft, and there are no other losses, UK would return five players from their 2009-10 roster.

“It’s extremely unusual for four freshmen from the same team to have this opportunity,” Calipari said. “But it’s my job as a coach to prepare these young men for such opportunities.”