To hear Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari tell it, the press conference on Tuesday evening when all five Wildcats underclassmen starters declared for the upcoming NBA Draft was every bit as meaningful for him and his program as winning the national championship.
Flanked by freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague as well as sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrance Jones, Calipari opened up the press conference by revealing how he views the departures of these players in the context of his program.
"I want to first talk about that this is a 'players first' program. I said it three years ago," Calipari began. "During the season, it's about our team. You saw it in this year's team. They were about each other. It's about how we play together, how we share. When the season is over, it's about moments likes this. It's about these young people getting with their families, getting information and making decisions about their future."
With Davis the presumptive No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft and the remainder of the UK starting five projected to go off the board during the first round, the decisions for each to enter the draft were hardly a surprise. Despite the feelings of Bobby Knight -- who insists that he would not draft a "one-and-done" player if he were an NBA general manager -- teenagers Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist could go No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft.
The departures of these underclassmen along with the exits of seniors Darius Miller -- another first round hopeful -- and Eloy Vargas means that the team will be losing 93.3 percent of its points, 87.3 percent of rebounds, 95.1 percent of the blocked shots, 96.2 of the assists and 96.7 of the steals, according to Eric Lindsey at CoachCal.com.
Fear not, Big Blue Nation. Coach Calipari has a new set of diaper dandies heading for Lexington, including top prospect Nerlens Noel. Ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the ESPNU 100, the 6-foot-10 Noel announced his own decision by showing off a haircut that featured the UK logo etched onto the back of his head.
While Noel's look may be more stylish than Davis' signature unibrow it remains to be seen if he'll be able to replace him on the court.
"Coach Cal recruited me real hard. He is a good person who cares about his players, he helps them reach their goals and the team's goals," Noel told ESPN after announcing his decision. "They play as a unit and are very unselfish. Also the fans were incredible on my visit. They are behind the program 100 percent."
Can Calipari keep replacing players who seem irreplaceable? Will Noel be another one-and-done prodigy? More importantly, does he truly have their best interests at heart? Would the self-appointed protectors of the sanctity of college basketball really be doing someone like Davis a disservice by convincing him to return to campus for another year?
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