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Current state of men's basketball roster

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Just as the Kentucky men's basketball roster looks different than it did a month ago, it could look even more different a month from now.

Head coach John Calipari, who held the first news conference of the offseason Monday, addressed the current state of the UK men's basketball roster as it deals with a major roster turnover. Five underclassmen have declared for the NBA Draft, three of which have announced their intentions to stay in the draft, in addition to the graduation of three seniors.

That could leave UK with just five returners (Darnell Dodson, Josh Harrellson, Jon Hood, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller), one of which's status - Dodson - remains "up in the air."

"I don't know yet," Calipari said when asked if Dodson would play next year. "I spoke to him yesterday. He's a good kid."

Calipari declined to elaborate when pressed on why Dodson could be in limbo, citing only a "few different reasons," for his current questionable state. Even if Dodson were to remain with the team, UK may not fill all 13 scholarships.

A lot could ride on the decisions of freshmen Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton, the remaining two players yet to make a final decision. Calipari anticipates both players staying in the NBA Draft.

"I think they both will," Calipari said. "Can we start by saying this? I've said this a thousand times: I don't like the (NBA age-limit) rule. Have I said that to you all? I don't like the rule. Kids should be able to go directly to the NBA, or like in baseball, if they come to school, they should stay two or three years. I have never wavered, but folks, we have a rule that I have to deal with."

Calipari said that won't stop him from recruiting the "best of the best" players, as has been the case this recruiting season.

Just a year removed from signing the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, Calipari has already inked the nation's No. 3 overall player (forward Enes Kanter), the No. 6 player (point guard Brandon Knight), the No. 21 player (shooting guard Doron Lamb) and the No. 33 player (Stacey Poole).

Calipari had positive things to say about each of UK's current four signees:

- On Poole: "Stacey Poole reminds me a lot of (former Memphis player) Antonio Anderson, and that's me giving him a major, major compliment."

- On Lamb: "Doron Lamb has more of a midlevel game than guys that I've coached in the past. Guys like him, guys like (former Memphis player) Chris Douglas-Roberts, I let them make those plays because they're good at it."

- On Knight: "Brandon Knight is obviously one of the best players in the country. He's great, a leader (and) a hard worker."

- On Kanter: "Not every young man needs to be coming and playing college basketball. The club programs (in Europe) have developed terrific players. There are some whose family wants more than just basketball. There are some like that, and those kids will have an opportunity. The rules that have changed make it so now you're not going to have the roadblocks that you used to have. They would put a player in the game when he was 15 or 16 years old for a minute or two. Why did they do that? At that point you're considered a pro even if they're not paying you as a pro. ... You don't have a contract. You cannot have a contract until the age of 18. Enes is 17 today as we speak." 

Even with the signings, Calipari's staff is still on the recruiting trail trying to cushion the blow of key losses and wrap up another banner recruiting class. If Bledsoe and Orton decide to stay in the draft and Dodson doesn't fall back into Calipari's good graces, it would leave UK with just eight current scholarship players.

Kentucky is still in the hunt for a couple of highly touted players with the May 19 final signing date looming, but Calipari and UK cannot discuss a prospective student-athlete until he or she signs a National Letter of Intent. As of Monday afternoon, UK had not received any additional NLIs.

Despite the uncertain roster situation, Calipari remains confident on the players he has returning and the players he has signed.

"We'll be fine," Calipari said. "I've coached where I've played 11 guys and I've also coached where I've played five guys."

Calipari said there is no set number that he has to coach with to win, adding that he will coach to the strengths of his team.

"There is no one system where this is how we have to play," Calipari said. "We ran dribble drive about 30 percent of the time last year because of the team that we had. I would have been dumb trying to do it more than that."

Given Kanter's skills at forward, Calipari is not sure yet how he'll run next year's team.

"I think that the guys that we have, all of them can play," Calipari said. "I would say maybe doing more pick-and-rolls than I have in the past, but I don't know that. I hope it's a team that you can't play a 1-3-1 zone against."

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