Kentucky basketball oach John Calipari suggested Thursday morning that everyone will have to wait to learn which of his players enter this year’s NBA draft. For one player, the suspense lasted only a few more hours.
James Young, who made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team this past season, will enter this year’s NBA draft, UK announced mid-afternoon Thursday. Young played high school basketball for Troy before transferring to Rochester.
“My time at Kentucky has been special to me, something I’ll always treasure, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Young said in a news release. “I’ve learned more this year, on and off the court, about life from Coach Cal and the staff and appreciate all of their guidance and support. I can’t say enough about my teammates; the journey helped us build a bond that we will always share for the rest of our lives. I would like to thank the best fans in the country, the Big Blue Nation, and I hope you guys will continue to support me as I move on. I will always bleed blue. Succeed and Proceed!”
The final three words in the statement are the new label Calipari has proposed for so-called one-and-done players. He said during the NCAA tournament that the label one-and-done had a negative connotation.
In speaking to reporters hours before the announcement on Young’s decision, Calipari strongly suggested any decision a UK player makes to enter an NBA draft as an underclassman is to be respected.
“You may look at it and say, ‘That’s ridiculous,'” Calipari said, speaking generally. “But you don’t live (the family’s) life. You haven’t done what they’ve done. What you have to do is accept their decision.”
The decisions to turn pro or return to college are well-informed, Calipari said.
“They see the upside,” he said. “I have to remind them of the downside. Of what could happen. When they make that choice, you have to live with it. It’s their (decision). It’s their family’s.”
Young led UK with 82 three-point baskets. That was the seventh most in a single season in program history and second most by a UK freshman. He shot 42.6% from three-point range in the NCAA tournament, and 34.9% overall.
Young averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in the Final Four en route to Final Four all-tournament team honors.
“I’m excited for James and his family and the decision he’s come to,” Calipari said in the school release. “From day one, the NBA people who came to our practices in the preseason raved about him. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him all season, investing himself in his brothers for the betterment of the team, and I think we all saw the end result in the tournament and Final Four. Whatever team drafts James is not only getting a superb athlete, they are getting the ultimate teammate.”
Young was named to the All-SEC second team. He scored 10 or more points in 30 games.
Young became the second of what’s expected to be eight players making a decision about whether to enter this year’s NBA draft or return to UK next season. This week, UK announced that Willie Cauley-Stein will return to the UK team next season.
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 26. Calipari noted that underclassmen have until April 27. (To be precise, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. April 27) to enter the draft. He dismissed the NCAA deadline, which was Tuesday. Players like Young who enter the draft after Tuesday forfeit their NCAA eligibility.