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Dakari’s mother on 2013-14 season: ‘We had a blast’

Statement released by UK from Dakari Johnson’s mother, Makini Campbell:

“I just wanted to take some time to reflect, share, and thank the Big Blue Nation and the coaching staff for a great year of basketball through the ups and downs. Hands down we had a blast! I am so proud of Dakari and the University of Kentucky basketball program on their achievements this year. I had the opportunity to see my son grow as an individual and become the leader that I knew him to be.  I appreciate the space, patience and respect shown to my family during this important time. What a blessing to have an opportunity to choose.  When making a decision (we have made many) we try to look at the whole picture (advantages and disadvantages). I must truly admit when going through the process we saw both sides of the coin as a win-win. I must say that in making his decision, Dakari wasn’t worried about any other player coming back/or in. I think what he learned this year — regardless of a loaded talented team – is that each player brings something unique to the group that attributed to the March run. I’ve always been aware of his goal to win a national championship in high school, college, and the NBA. For him to confidently state what he did after his national high school championship game and make it to the finals in his freshman year of college was prosperous within itself. All of this while successfully working on his degree and enjoying college life whenever he could. I respect each of the young men having to make this decision. Congrats to Julius Randle and James Young for making their dream reality; I wish them all the best. I’m excited about the upcoming season and what lies ahead for this group.”

Dakari Johnson’s statement on decision to return to UK

Here’s a statement released by UK from Dakari Johnson on the decision to return to Kentucky next season:

“This year has been for me a year of transition, growth and so much fun! I’ve learned a lot about myself personally through adversity and triumph which I know made me a stronger individual. I would like to thank my brothers (teammates) for pulling together and stepping up and taking the road that many don’t travel. What memories! I would like to thank Coach Cal and the staff for trusting and providing me the opportunity to grow and build on my skills. I’d like to wish Julius Randle and James Young all the best and personally let them know that they have a group of brothers who will always support them. With that being said, I’m excited about having the option to either enter the 2014 NBA Draft or return to the University of Kentucky. After looking at the information provided to me by Coach Cal and the NBA committee, my family and I made the decision for me to return to UK for my sophomore year.  Returning to school allows me to build on my leadership skills, improve my individual basketball  strength and conditioning skills, and have another opportunity to accomplish one of my individual goals: winning an NCAA national championship in college. In addition, it will give me the opportunity to continue my studies because the ball will stop bouncing one day (shout out to Mike Stone). Big Blue Nation, I can’t thank you enough for your support, and I look forward to representing UK next year.”

Dakari Johnson joins Poythress, Cauley-Stein, Lee in remaining at UK

Dakari Johnson followed Alex Poythress’s lead Wednesday in announcing his decision to remain at Kentucky next season. In each case, the decision followed a meeting with UK Coach John Calipari.

“After looking at the information provided to me by Coach Cal and the NBA committee, my family and I made the decision for me to return to UK for my sophomore year,” Johnson said in a statement. “Returning to school allows me to build on my leadership skills, improve my individual basketball strength and conditioning skills, and have another opportunity to accomplish one of my individual goals: winning an NCAA national championship in college.”

Johnson started 18 of Kentucky’s last 20 games, averaging 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during that stretch. Johnson tallied nine points and a career-high 11 rebounds in UK’s postseason-opening win over LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

“I’m happy to have Dakari back with us for next season,” Calipari said in a statement. “Despite being the youngest player on the team this season, he continued to improve every day on the court, and it showed. We look forward to seeing his improvement over the summer and throughout next year.”

Earlier this month, sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein and freshman Marcus Lee  announced plans to return to UK for the 2014-15 season.

On Tuesday, star freshman Julius Randle said he would enter this year’s NBA Draft, which will be June 26. The NBA deadline for entering this year’s draft is 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Among UK players, only Andrew and Aaron Harrison have not announced their decisions.

Mentor: Randle can be a more versatile player at NBA level

While acknowledging the challenges associated with a move from college to the NBA, Julius Randle’s mentor said Tuesday that the now former Kentucky player can rely on a more versatile game to ease the advancement.

Jeff Webster, a 2,000-point scorer for Oklahoma in the 1990s, said Randle sacrificed his individual game to help the Kentucky team prosper this past season.

“He can’t just be the one guy out there doing everything,” Webster said. “They’d have never made the run (if Randle tried to dominate). So we know he can shoot the ball, can handle the ball.

“He’s not just a post guy, but that’s what the team needed. Now, he’ll get back to doing things because the NBA is more of a one-on-one game.”

Randle, who announced Tuesday that he will enter this year’s NBA Draft, smiled broadly when asked whether he anticipated pro teams guarding him with one defender. At UK, he faced double- and triple-teaming most games.

Webster, who has worked with Randle since the former UK player was a fifth-grader, said he will resume training Randle.

“He’ll be back under my tutelage, and I can see him every day,” Webster said. “Kentucky did an outstanding job. But we can kind of get back to some things that I know he needs to correct and fine-tune and get ready for the next step.”

The NBA Draft is June 26.

Randle announces he’s entering this year’s NBA Draft

With his mother in attendance, freshman star Julius Randle announced Tuesday that he will leave Kentucky and enter this year’s NBA Draft.

The decision was “about me personally,” Randle said at a news conference.

Randle led the nation with 24 double-doubles.

Various mock drafts projected him as a lottery pick even before he arrived at UK less than a year ago. He led Prestonwood Christian to the 2013 state championship, his third in four high school seasons.
Nothing during UK’s 2013-14 season lowered Randle’s NBA Draft profile. Despite being double- and triple-teamed almost every time he touched the ball near the basket, Randle averaged a double-double: 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds. He ranked No. 9 nationally in rebounding.
Randle was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference.
Of Randle as a NBA prospect, the website Bleacher Report said, “His ability to finish against length and ‘tweener’ status are concerns, but his offensive versatility and athleticism would be hard to pass up.”
Randle will join teammate James Young as players who started and ended their UK careers with the 2013-14 season.
Other UK players who have yet to announce whether they’ll enter this year’s NBA Draft or return to Kentucky next season include Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.
The deadline for entering the NBA Draft is 11:59 p.m. EDT Sunday.

Young, who announced his decision to enter this year’s draft last week, became the 11th so-called one-and-done player for Kentucky since Calipari became coach in 2009. The others are John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel.

UK: Randle will announce stay/leave decision on Tuesday

Star freshman Julius Randle will announce Tuesday his decision to return to the University of Kentucky next season or enter this year’s NBA Draft, UK announced Monday.

Randle will announce his decision at a 1:30 p.m. EDT press conference Tuesday in Memorial Coliseum. The press conference will be live-streamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f5JkPxw2Iw

It is widely expected that Randle will enter this year’s NBA Draft.  If he does, he will join teammate James Young as players who started and ended their UK careers with the 2013-14 season.

Other UK players who have yet to announce whether they’ll enter this year’s NBA Draft or return to UK next season include Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.

The deadline for entering the NBA Draft is 11:59 p.m. EDT Sunday.

Young, who announced his decision to enter this year’s draft last week, became the 11th so-called one-and-done player for Kentucky since John Calipari became coach in 2009. The others are John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel.

The NBA Draft is June 26.

UK: Marcus Lee will return next season

Freshman Marcus Lee will return to the Kentucky basketball team next season, UK announced Friday.

“I’ve really enjoyed my college experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player,” Lee said in a statement. “Playing in the Final Four was such an amazing feeling, but I want to come back and help win that final game (next) year.”

Lee’s decision came as no surprise. During this past season, his brother dismissed speculation of a transfer by saying that Lee came to UK looking for long-term improvement. Relatively little playing time as a freshman was not an issue, he said.

Lee, one of six McDonald’s All-Americans in UK’s freshman class, had a moment in the sun against Michigan in the Midwest Region final. With teammate Willie Cauley-Stein sidelined because of an ankle injury, Lee scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots.

“I’m excited for Marcus and think he’s barely scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” Coach John Calipari said in a statement.  “In addition to his athleticism and the energy level he brings, the experience he gained in the NCAA Tournament this year will be immeasurable for us next season.”

Lee became the third UK player to announce a decision about his basketball future. Earlier in the week, James Young said he would enter this year’s NBA Draft, and Cauley-Stein said he would return to UK.

UK: James Young to enter this year’s NBA Draft

Kentucky guard James Young, who made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team this past season, will enter this year’s NBA Draft, UK announced Thursday.

“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 statement. “I’ve learned more this year, on and off the court, about life from Coach Cal (John Calipari) 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 for so-called one-and-done players that Calipari proposed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He said the label one-and-done had a negative connotation.

Young, a native of Rochester Hills, Mich., 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 percent from three-point range in the NCAA Tournament.

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 a statement. “From day one, the NBA people who came to our practices in the pre-season 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.

Earlier this week, UK announced that Willie Cauley-Stein will return to the UK team next season.

The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 26.

Cal: No answers yet on which players will stay or leave

Kentucky Coach John Calipari suggested Thursday that everyone will have to wait to know which players will enter this year’s NBA Draft and which will return to UK next season.

In meeting with reporters, Calipari said he broached the subject in Arlington, Texas, site of the Final Four, to eight players.

A couple players said they did need to talk to the coach about the subject, which implied that those players had decided to return. “A majority” wanted to go through the process of gauging their NBA profile and consider entering the draft, Calipari said.

The UK coach said he spoke to about 19 NBA general managers. Among the things he learned was that one of the players who was not interested in the draft could be a first-round pick, and perhaps a lottery pick.

Calipari said he had a follow-up meeting with the player and his mother.

“I just told him, ‘I need you to know what you’re passing up by coming back,’” Calipari said. ”What I told him and his mother, I’ve got to live with myself. I told him, I want you to come back. I think  you need to come back. But you need to know what’s out there.”

As he said on several TV and radio appearances this week promoting his new book, Players First; Coaching from the Inside Out, Calipari said the decisions had to be personal decisions and not based on a perceived effect on UK or the basketball program.

Calipari asked reporters to raise their hands if they were surprised that Willie Cauley-Stein decided to return to UK next season.

In explaining his reasons for returning, Cauley-Stein said he was in no hurry to leave, liked going to school, would get closer to a degree, needed to grow as a player and wanted to try to complete a run to a national championship, Calipari said.

“That’s a good answer for me,” Calipari said.

Cauley-Stein has undergone ankle surgery and will need about two months of rehabilitation.

“Best doctor in the world to do it,” Calipari said. “A procedure that is done a lot. So he’ll be fine.”

Cal plans in-state book tour beginning Thursday

UK announced Tuesday that Kentucky Coach John Calipari plans an in-state tour to promote his new book, Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out.

The tour begins Thursday in Lexington.

Here are the dates, times and sites:

Date Area Store Address Start time
April 17 Lexington Joseph-Beth Booksellers 161 Lexington Green Circle, Lexington, KY 40503 6 p.m.
April 18 Louisville Barnes & Noble 4100 Summit Plaza Dr., Louisville, KY 40241 6 p.m.
April 19 Nicholasville Sam’s Club 103 Bryant Dr., Nicholasville, KY 40356 2 p.m.
April 21 Cincinnati Joseph-Beth Booksellers 2785 Dixie Hwy., Crestview, KY 41017 6 p.m.
April 22 Bowling Green Barnes & Noble 1680 Campbell Ln., Bowling Green, KY 42104 6 p.m. CT
*April 24 Louisville Carmichael’s Bookstore 2117 Payne St., Louisville, KY 40206 7 p.m.
April 29 Lexington Barnes & Noble 1932 Pavilion Way, Lexington, KY 40509 6 p.m.