UK players well suited for NBA draft

Kentucky players made a fashion statement at the 2015 NBA Draft.

Devin Booker, picked 13th by the Phoenix Suns, wore a Kentucky blue suit.

“I’m kind of a fashion guy,” he  said. “But, obviously, it’s Big Blue Nation.

“This is Kentucky right here,” he added as he fingered his lapel. “I owed it to them after this great season that they gave to us. I gave them a little tribute with my suit color.”

Incidentally, Booker’s middle name is Armani.

“I’ve actually met Giorgio before,” he said. “My dad played for Armani Jeans overseas.”

Overall No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns wore an unusual jacket that might be described as pinstripes on acid.

“My stylist was telling me the story about how it’s eight meters of (this) fabric . . .  in the world,” Towns said. “And this suit is two and a half of it.  So he’s really blessed me with a one-of-a-kind suit for this special day in my life.”

WCS’s interest in art returns after NBA Draft

When he met with reporters at the NBA Combine in Chicago last month, Willie Cauley-Stein denied any interest in art. Coincidentally or not, NBA teams wondered about his desire to excel in basketball.

After being selected with the sixth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft Thursday night, Cauley-Stein apparently had a relapse. He showed his artistic side. Actually he wore it around his neck in the form of a medallion.

“A little something you spoil yourself with,” he said of the medallion, which had his initials. “I got a couple of them made. It’s just good fun. Branding. It’s a little logo that me and my boys put together, so it’s something that we’re pushing, and hopefully it takes off.”

Cauley-Stein said he participated in the design.

“I’ve been working on it for weeks now,” he said. “My friend and I designed it together.”

4 UK players make history, money being among first 14 picks

No college team had ever placed four players among the first 14 picks in a NBA Draft . . . until Thursday night.

Karl-Anthony Towns (No. 1), Willie Cauley-Stein (No. 6), Trey Lyles (No. 13) and Devin Booker (No. 14) made history in the 2015 NBA Draft.

The foursome also made a lot of money. According to the salary scale for NBA rookies, the four UK players will collect more than $11,000,000 next season.

When asked what he would first purchase, Cauley-Stein said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Well, I already bought the stuff I already needed with the money I already had.

“So I already have a car and clothes. I don’t really need anything else.”

A reporter asked Towns, who will receive a rookie salary of almost $5,000,000, about not being able to negotiate a contract.

“Life has just never been fair,” Towns said before adding, “I’m just happy with any card I was given today, whether it be from two to a jack. I was going to be happy regardless.”

Despite projections, first pick still shocked Towns

Former Kentucky standout Karl-Anthony Towns was widely projected as the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Yet, when the Minnesota Timberwolves made it official Thursday night, being the first overall pick shocked Towns.

As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver approached the podium to announce Minnesota’s pick, Towns turned to UK Coach John Calipari sitting across the table.

“I was trying to drink the water and I was shaking,” Towns said. “I told him, ‘Coach, don’t give me the ball right now for the last-second shot. I wouldn’t make it.'”

Towns saiId he had no assurance he’d follow John Wall (2010) and Anthony Davis (2012) as UK players who have been the first overall pick.

“You have no idea,” he said. “You’re talking about the NBA. It’s the greatest coverup.”

Towns said he had not spoken to Wall, Davis or any other former overall first pick.

“But I know the one thing I have to do,” he said. “I have to live up to the expectations and goals. Lofty expectations people are going to have for being the No. 1 pick.

“Through my life, there’s always been expectations and goals. I’ve always had to exceed them and jump over.”

Towns spoke of being an example for kids.

“A boy from Piscataway, N.J., and the Dominican Republic can make it,” he said.  “. . . (I’m) able to  show kids around the world what a little hard work, determination, a little bit of luck and some guidance (can do). You can really make it far in this world.”

Cal ‘really nervous’ as NBA Draft is about to begin

What could be a record night for Kentucky at the NBA Draft Thursday did not ease Coach John Calipari’s nerves.

“I’m really nervous right now,” he said about an hour before the draft was to begin. “Guys are moving a little bit. It’s a little more fluid. We’ve had this before, and I can tell you I’m excited but I’m nervous. I haven’t eaten, so I’m kind of like — I’m ready for it to be over so I can get in the car and just go.”Most projections had Karl-Anthony Towns as the first pick. If that came to pass, he would be the third UK player to be the first overall pick, following John Wall in 2010 and Anthony Davis in 2012.

“There’s a lot of stuff that I’ll struggle now if I try to think of it,” Calipari said. “Having kids in the lottery, having guys like Willie (Cauley-Stein) who there was no talk of him when he came being a NBA player, or Devin Booker. You see some of the stuff that’s going on. I’m anxious to see where Dakari (Johnson) and Andrew and Aaron (Harrison) go just as much as these four. And it is fluid. I’m telling you, there’s no – I don’t know. I know Karl. I feel really comfortable about that, but other than that I just don’t know.”

When UK had five players drafted in 2010, Calipari famously called it the greatest night in the history of the program. That raised eyebrows.

Would seven players drafted become the new greatest?

“I would say it changes things again,” Calipari said with a grin. “Now all the sudden it’s like, ‘Holy cow, just being on the team you can be drafted.’ Marcus Lee’s in a position. Tyler’s in a position. Alex. And then if you’re afraid to come, you shouldn’t. Then I’ll go get players from Canada, New Zealand. We go where we gotta go, but it’s interesting and exciting and I’m just happy for these kids and their families.”

WCS: Cal made UK a ‘mini NBA program’

Seven players in this year’s NBA Draft reinforces Kentucky’s reputation as a prolific training program for would-be pro players.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Willie Cauley-Stein endorsed that perception.

“Coach Cal runs his program like a NBA program,” he said of UK Coach John Calipari. “There’s, like, college basketball. Then there’s, like, Kentucky basketball. And then there’s the league.

“I mean, it’s like a little mini NBA program in itself. That’s why I think dudes that come out of Kentucky come to the league prepared already.”

Cauley-Stein attributes questions about ankle to ‘politics’

Reports early this week said NBA teams were concerned with Willie Cauley-Stein’s surgically repaired ankle. Kentucky’s latest All-American might see his draft stock suffer.

“It’s politics,” Cauley-Stein said of the supposed questions about his ankle, which he injured against Louisville in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

“People are going to put the stories out there, but, I don’t know, I don’t feel any pain. My game didn’t looked hindered at all. I increased my vertical by five inches. Like I’m putting my chin on the rim.

“So I don’t think anything’s wrong with it. A lot of it is just talk.”

When asked why he thought such reports had surfaced, Cauley-Stein said, “Who knows? It’s a dirty business. Who knows?”

Picked 1st or not, Towns relishes being home for draft

Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to be the third Kentucky player chosen first in a NBA Draft since John Calipari became coach in 2009.

In a media session on the eve of the Thursday’s 2015 NBA Draft, Towns downplayed the significance of being the No. 1 selection.

“It’s not that important,” he said. “I just want to go and make my mark for any organization I’m picked to and fortunate enough to play for.”

Former Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the only player mentioned as possibly being picked before Towns, also downplayed the significance of being the first player picked.

Towns welcomed the possibility of being taken by Minnesota, which has the first pick. He said he would be “blessed, honored and privileged” to play for the Timberwolves. If picked by Minnesota, Towns said “I just can’t wait to add my contribution” to a team effort that includes Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio.

But Towns gushed about seeing his NBA dream come true in Brooklyn, which is less than 60 miles from his hometown of Piscataway, N.J.

“I can’t believe everyone is here,” he said of the familiar faces that gathered to speak with him. “It’s like a family reunion. I’m back home again. This is crazy.”



Jay Bilas sees Towns-or-Okafor as a debate about how to play

The debate about who should be the first pick in the NBA Draft Thursday might become a referendum on how basketball should be played.
Of course, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor are widely considered the only players who might hear their name called when the Minnesota Timberwolves make the first selection. Each unwittingly represents the future and past, respectively, of the game.
Towns, the former Kentucky player, is seen as the versatile big men whose perimeter skills better fit “small ball,” a more wide-open style that the Golden State Warriors used to win the NBA championship earlier this month. Mix one championship and the usual over-reaction to anything/everything. Viola! A geomagnetic reversal. A traditional “big” clogs the speed lanes.
Okafor, the former Duke player, is the low-post scoring presence who has given team a historical heads up — literally and figuratively — on the competition (George Mikan in the 1950s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1970s and 1980s, Shaquille O’Neal in the 1990s and Tim Duncan in the 2000s).
A consensus of self-appointed draft experts predict that Minnesota will pick Towns.
But Jay Bilas, who will be part of ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Draft, wondered aloud about that.
Speaking on a telconference Monday, Bilas asked two pointed question. “If we’re saying the game has changed, then why aren’t these other guys higher up in the discussion for the No. 1 pick?” he said.
Bilas meant highly-regarded “small” players like guards D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay or a wing like Justise Winslow. Why are these players not in the speculation for the first or even the second picks?
Then Bilas added, “If we’re saying the game has changed, and that’s why you’re not taking Jahlil Okafor No. 1, why take him in the top five?”
Call him a “traditionalist,” one of UK Coach John Calipari’s polite putdowns for those who question his vision of the present and future, but Bilas made it sound that he would pick Okafor while wondering if he sound have selected Towns.
“I’m actually torn on who’s the best overall,” Bilas said. “Okafor. You don’t see a scorer like him in the low post very often.”
Bilas acknowledged that draft analysts question Okafor’s ability to defend, especially pick-and-roll action or even as a rim protector.
“Towns is more versatile,” Bilas said. “He’s good at everything. There’s nothing we can’t tick off as attributes  he’s not good at. . . .
“But I tend to lean a little bit to Okafor because he’s a dominate low-post scorer. Towns is not dominant in any one area. Maybe he will become that. But Okafor is the superior low-post scorer.”
That Okafor did not display low-post dominance in the latter stages of the NCAA Tournament, Bilas said the Duke big man was hampered by an injury.
If he had to make the Towns-or-Okafor, future-or-past decision, Bilas said he would canvas his pro team’s talent evaluators.
“I’m leaning one way,” he said. “But I wouldn’t argue with anyone who would have a different view than me. Both of them are going to be really good. The question is who’s going to be better.”

UK returning to Bahamas in 2016 to play Arizona State

Kentucky will return to the Bahamas in the 2016-17 season to play Arizona State, UK announced Monday.

UK will play Arizona State on Nov. 28, 2016. The game will be played in the 3,800-seat Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort. The game will fulfill a two-year deal with Arizona State, which plays at Kentucky this coming season on Dec. 12.

“We are thrilled to return to the Bahamas in 2016 to play Arizona State,” UK head coach John Calipari said in a news release. “The Bahamas bring back a lot of good memories for our team. It was there we built the foundation for our unforgettable 2014-15 season. I have a ton of respect for Coach Bobby Hurley and believe he’s going to take Arizona State to the next level. A great opponent coupled with a beautiful setting after the holiday weekend should make this an unbelievable trip for our fans.”

Kentucky hasn’t played Arizona State since the 2002 Maui Invitational.


Of course, UK played in the Bahamas last August. Six exhibition games served as a tuneup and experiment with the platoon system of substitutions.