Head coach John Calipari sat down for a roundtable interview with some local reporters on Wednesday to wrap up the 2010-11 season, talk about the upcoming NBA Draft and next year's freshman class. Here is part one of the complete Q and A with Calipari:
Question: Can you give us any insight on where your guys are NBA wise and the decision-making process?
Calipari: We're not there yet to be able to tell you. I think putting their names in is a no-brainer, if that's what they choose to do. They may not choose to do that, but if they do it's a no-brainer. The problem is the NCAA didn't work with the NBA to come up with this date, the drop-dead date of May 8. Here's what happens: The NBA says (you must declare) by (April) 27. Well, the list doesn't come out until the 28th or 29th. The NBA cannot talk to these kids or work them out until that list comes out. Well, the NCAA says, 'You only have until May 8 to make a decision.' What are you talking about? How about this: And you can't miss class. It's not like you can go Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You can go Friday afternoon, or if you don't have a class on a Tuesday, Saturdays, and that's it. It's hard. We're going to try to do some stuff to get some more information. I've talked to 10 NBA teams to try to find out exactly. Here's the great thing about a list: The list has Terrence (Jones), let's just say going ninth. This is all an example. I talked to the ninth pick. They're not taking him. He's not going ninth. Maybe he goes eighth, but he's not going ninth because the ninth guy told me, 'I'm not taking him.' 'Well, he's 11.' I talked to the 11 guy and they're not taking him. It's not as easy as you think. And then this (NBA) lockout really kind of screws everything up. I think a lot of kids are pulling their names because what if the lockout goes the whole year? What kind of mistake did you make? And then someone says the agent (will front them money). It's loaned. How about if you're not a self-motivated, driven guy? How are you going to work out? They're going to take you to L.A. with room service and all that and you're going to do that for two months. Who is paying for that? What about the workout guys, $20,000 a month? Who is paying for that? You're paying for that and you're not making any money. It's not as easy right now and I think that's why a lot of kids are coming back. Until we go through this process a little bit, I just told them here's a plan of how we'll do this. But I haven't told them 'I think you should do this or that,' and normally I won't. I'll give the families information.
Question: Does this include DeAndre (Liggins)?
Calipari: I think DeAndre should put his name in. His may be a little different. They're going to do a combine in New Jersey. I don't think that Terrence or Brandon (Knight) should go to the combine. I won't recommend it. It will be more than a recommendation that they don't go. DeAndre, maybe you're fighting your way in and you go up there and go crazy and try to get your way in. His will be a little different.
Question: You mentioned there are people coming back. There are at least three or four guys, or at least as of today, that say they're coming back that were potentially top-10 picks. Does that change the calculus for Terrence and Brandon?
Calipari: The whole thing is, are you ready to do this. Are you ready for this lockout? Do you understand that yeah, you may move down in that draft? It's not etched in stone. Those kids could stay and then put their name in there. How about this one: You've got to make your decision and the balls (at the NBA lottery) haven't dropped yet. Well, you say, 'What does that do.' Alright, you work out and the 11th pick in the draft says, 'I'm taking you.' And then the balls drop and what happens? He gets the third pick. And he says what? 'I'm not taking you.' Now all of a sudden you just went to 17 and at 17 you would have never gone. This is not a normal (draft). And the lockout is happening. When they cancel the summer (league), they're just setting the tone of what they're trying to do.
Question: How much does it change just filling out your roster for the rest of the summer?
Calipari: I don't ever worry about that. In other years I'd tell you the same thing. It never hurt my program. That's why I say I will never try to talk a kid into staying. If a kid really wants to leave, he's just got to tell me why he wants to leave and what he's trying to do. If I give him the pitfalls - it's kind of like Jodie (Meeks). I told Jodie, 'I know they're telling you you're going to be in the first round, (but) you're not. You're going to be a second-round pick. Can you live with that?' He said, 'I can.' Well, then I said, 'I'm for you.' And I never really coached the kid.
Question: When you talked to Terrence and Brandon, did you get a sense that they understood the magnitude of the lockout?
Calipari: Both of them are really stepping back. Look, when it was John Wall, even DeMarcus (Cousins) - we knew Patrick (Patterson) was 12 to 15. We knew Eric Bledsoe was anywhere from 17 to 22. We knew where they were falling. We knew Daniel (Orton) would be drafted. We weren't sure it would be first round, but we knew he would be drafted, and he was fine with that. This is all over the map. Some of it's guys pull their names, but what if they put their names back in because someone hits them in the mouth and says, 'You're the fourth pick in the draft! Who talked you into staying and why did they talk you into staying?' We don't know but that could happen.
Question: Do you think if DeAndre knew he would be drafted that he would be more apt to go?
Calipari: I don't think so. I would tell you that you and I know he's not on any list or draft boards right now. Here's the reason I would tell him to do it: What he is physically and how he is, is not going to change or be projected any other way. If you go and work out for one of these guys and you don't show well, they never change their minds. I was in the league so I understand. So you come out early and they watch you and say, 'This kid doesn't have it.' They won't even watch you next year. If you're physically not able to go in there and fight and battle, you don't go until you're ready to do that. Now I think he will go in and the only thing they're going to say is, 'He needs to improve his skill level with the ball. He's a little bit out of control.' There's not going to be any, 'This guy is not tough enough or this guy doesn't have what it takes.' You're not going to have that. I've seen guys come out and go to those events and absolutely kill themselves because they don't change their mind. Whatever they see there, that's who you are.
Question: So you're saying he should put his name in, but you're not saying he should stay.
Calipari: I don't know, but what if he goes to New Jersey or he works out here for us and somebody says, 'We're going to take him in the first round. Then I might sit down and say, 'You know what, kid, think about it.' But this lockout changes it. That's what the hard thing is here.
Question: What about Doron (Lamb)?
Calipari: I think in Doron's case, all the things he's done, he is on the board. Now he's got to get stronger, get tougher. If he gains 15 pounds of muscle weight, in my opinion he'll be a lottery pick in a year from now. That's what I think. His feel for the game is as good as anyone out there. He finally took on a defensive presence (near the end of the year), which he had nothing (coming in). I can remember at Mississippi, all they did is whoever he guarded, they drove the ball. By the end of the year he was guarding pick-and-rolls pretty well, he was guarding the ball pretty good. As he gets physically stronger and tougher and rougher, you're not going to take away his feel for the game. That's always going to be there - his ability to make shots and all that. You look at him with 15 more pounds on him - how do you guard him? Because what they did this year was try to knock him off point. If he drives, bump him. That's how they guarded him. And then defensively, what happens in the NBA is, if you can't guard and the other coach knows it, they'll go at you 12 straight times. Like, it's embarrassing. They're trying to win now. If they know they can score a basket by scoring on you, they're going at you until the other coach takes you out of the game. And so, he's learning and getting better. He's one of those guys that they'll be talking about him. Everybody will be watching him.
Question: How do you balance a guy that you know if he stayed one more year and worked on X and X as opposed to ...
Calipari: It's his choice. Jodie Meeks, one more year with us with the way we play, he would have been a top-15 pick. But guess what? He's doing fine. It's worked out. He's playing fine for the 76ers. Now, you're playing for that second contract, not the first one. And so he's worked his way in where it appears he'll get a second contract. It's whatever works for that young man. Now, I may not agree. But you know what? It's not my decision. What I've told all these kids, whatever decision you make, there is only one person that has to live with it - them. I don't have to live with it, your mom and dad don't have to live with it, your friend who tells you he knows what's going on in the NBA doesn't have to live with it. Whether you come back, you have to live with it by coming back, which means you're going to class, you're going to study table, 'I'm not backing away; I'm the same guy I was.'
Question: Without mentioning names, are you waiting to see about adding anyone in this class to see what these guys do?
Calipari: No, we're going forward. We're feeling things out. I'll be honest with you, I just got back in. The staff and I were out. I was out with my daughter for a few days. I've got a couple of names from people that have called us. Again, every kid that watches us play, what do you think they're saying? 'I want to play at Kentucky.' Now, they don't understand how hard it is to play here. They don't understand the scrutiny you're under, that, something that could happen on another campus can't happen here. They don't understand the level of competition in that every game you play, you are somebody else's Super Bowl. They don't understand how hard we train. They think we just let kids go. They have no idea what we're doing and how we're doing it. So yeah, we'll get a lot of calls about this kid and that kid, but at the end of the day, this isn't for everybody. We'll look at some kids and figure out would they fit in here.
Question: It seems like the kids you do have signed, just from watching them and listening to them in the all-star games, they've already kind of formed a bond. Can that have any implications that can carry over?
Calipari: You hope so. I'll tell you what they all are: They all love the game and they're all gym rats. We've had one or two guys at 11 o'clock at night that are in (the Joe Craft Center practicing). Now we may add five or six. And if it's five or six, that may be 11. And if it's 11, we may not lose any games. That's guys committed to getting better, gaining weight, getting stronger and loving practice, being the first one in there because you want to be there. What that does is it drives your team. That's where we want to go. I talked about Brandon Knight when we brought him here, I wanted him to be a guy that is driven on all fronts - academically, on the basketball on the court. Everywhere he goes, I want him to be driven. That starts moving your team.
Question: Have you watched any of the guys in the all-star games?
Calipari: A little bit. I hate watching all-star games because guys just go nuts, so I watch some of them.
Question: You haven't had a class, at least here, where they've been committed to the program for this long period of time. Do you have a sense for the bond those guys have?
Calipari: Those other guys we had the year before and even these guys, maybe they didn't commit or sign early, but they were tight and committed to this. It's a good group. Let them play. You can say what you want, but this freshman class that we just had right now, you've got to rank them with any of the others I've had, if not the best. Why? Because of their performance on the court. It's not about your rep and your accolades. It's your performance. These guys have performed.
Question: Do you expect the other guys on the team not considering the NBA to be back?
Calipari: I would hope so. We sat down with everybody. The thing that Josh (Harrellson) did for guys is Josh made it clear for other guys - do you want to play or do you not want to play. So when they come back and they say they want to play, well OK, you've got to do what Josh did, which is change your body, change your skill level, change your attitude toward the game of basketball, change so that the result changes. If you're not going to change, the result is not changing, but the only way you're going to play then is to go to another school that is maybe not so challenging. But Josh has made it clear - change your body, change your skill set, change your attitude, change your habits and the results change. It can't be every once in a while. It's got to be to be this, 'This is the new me.' And it's great, because now I sit down and say, 'I want you to play.' I think the guys know it. I like the guys that are on our team even if they didn't play as much. They're great teammates, good guys. But you want them to play. You want them on the court. You want them to perform. You want to put them in the game and not have them be tentative about it. You've got to get after it.