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Draft night once again a boon for former stars, UK

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2012-NBA-Draft.jpg When John Calipari arrived in Lexington three years ago, it was clear he was building something different at the University of Kentucky, something college basketball hadn't seen before.

His first team felt like an experiment, and a successful one at that. Though UK fell in the Elite Eight in 2010, five players would go on to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Coach Cal would famously declare it the greatest night in the history of the sport's greatest program.

Much of the next season was spent waiting on the arrival of a player who was on campus all along, but never allowed to put on a uniform. Not long after the fact that he wouldn't play sunk in, everyone realized UK had a pretty good team anyway. The Wildcats would make a surprise Final Four run and four more players were drafted.

This past year, it all came together. UK assembled not only the most talented group of players in the nation, but the best team. The result was a national title. The result was a record six players picked in the 2012 NBA Draft. After three years of Calipari preaching, there's no mistaking just how much the two go hand in hand.

Back in April, it was Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller leading UK to its eighth championship. Three months later, they were realizing life-long dreams in the NBA Draft, at once writing the next chapters of their lives and potentially laying the foundation for No. 9 or maybe even No. 10 back in the Bluegrass.

Minutes before Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist would hear their names back-to-back as the top overall picks in the draft, ESPN cameras and microphones caught Coach Cal in a candid moment with his two departed stars. He was reminding them of conversations he'd had with both during the recruiting process, the same conversations he continues to have with every potential future player of his.

"What I tell these guys in the homes is, 'You're going to be in that green room. You're going to hug your mom and you're going to hug your dad and then you're hugging me. And then I'll spin you around so the camera can see you,' " Calipari said in a draft night interview with Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "That's like a running joke."

Coach Cal may call it a joke, but it's really anything but.

Imagine yourself as a high school basketball phenom. Programs around the nation are constantly calling and sending text messages, now limitlessly. You know all about Kentucky and Coach Cal. You know about the title. You know about the Final Fours. You know about the unprecedented 15 draft picks in three years.  

If you're 16 years old and John Calipari starts talking about the green room at the NBA Draft, does that not grab your full and undivided attention?

In three seasons at UK, Coach Cal has had 13 players start at least 28 games. Each and every one of the 13 has been selected in the NBA Draft. Plus, Daniel Orton and Enes Kanter were each first round picks without starting once, and Kanter without even playing a game.

Calipari's reputation as a salesman precedes him. Perhaps his greatest masterstroke is putting Kentucky into a position such that it almost completely sells itself.

"I don't know what else we can do for recruiting," Calipari said.

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