After winning the NCAA Championship, Kentucky’s starting lineup consisting of three freshman and two sophomores will enter next season’s NBA draft.
Freshman Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague, along with sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb made it official Tuesday night after declaring for the draft in a nationally televised news conference.
With different futures awaiting each member of the close-knit group, it seemed fitting that they come together one last time to announce they would be taking the final step towards entering the NBA.
According to the official site of the Kentucky Wildcats, “For a brief moment, the plot appeared to be in danger. With the press conference announced for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, it became clear one of the five would be unable to attend due to a snag in travel arrangements. Even so, they weren’t about to be deterred. Schedules were rearranged and the event pushed back a few hours.”
Coach John Calipari was unaware of the plan to hold a joint announcement. “I didn’t even know they wanted to do it together,” Calipari said. “We say all the time, ‘Be the teammate you want to play with.’ This team has done that by showing up what they’re doing today. They taught us a lot.”
The starting five join seniors Darius Miller, who is also projected to be drafted, and Eloy Vargas in their departure from the program. This means only freshman Kyle Wiltjer remains from the championship-winning rotation with a new class of highly publicized recruits joining Calipari next season. Calipari said that this was the first time he ever watched the last game of a season.
ESPN.com reported that Kidd-Gilchrist appeared emotional for a few moments at the podium. He said later that his mother, Cindy Richardson, wanted him to return to the University of Kentucky because he was one of the youngest players in Division I having turned 18 in September. Contrary to her wishes, he has other plans in store for her.
“I want to spoil my mom. I think I’m going to spoil my mom to death. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who plans on buying her a watch right off the bat. “I'm ready, I think. I’m ready for anything that comes my way now.”
Teague seemed to be the only player who might be a questionable first-round pick in comparison to Kentucky’s 2010 draft class that had five players go in the first round, which included the first overall pick in John Wall. Teague said he felt like he did enough to be drafted in the first round by leading a “great team that’s kind of like an NBA team” to a national championship.
Lamb said he had one primary goal after he and Jones were both projected first-round picks last season. “The reason I stayed was to win a national championship. Me and Terrence, we talked together last year and we decided to come back this year to win a national championship and we did that. Our dreams came true,” said Lamb.
The Tennessean said, “The team is in the hunt for a few of the remaining top prospects who have until May 16 to make their final decisions. All of Kentucky’s new players will be thrust into major roles because with the departures, the Wildcats will lose 93.3 percent of their points, 94.5 percent of their individual rebounds and 96.2 percent of their assists.”
In the meantime, the starting five that led Kentucky to its eighth national championship will be looking forward to testing their skills at the professional level along with a newfound lifestyle. This is something Davis couldn’t help laughing about when he was reminded of his upcoming payday.
“I actually haven’t thought about that yet. That’s right, I am going to be rich,” Davis said. “You’ve just got to manage your money well. Good thing is I like math. So I should be fine.”