Published April 08, 2010
As long as John Calipari is around, Kentucky fans need not worry.
A news release went out late Wednesday afternoon that a handful of UK players would be putting their names in for the NBA Draft.
None are expected back in Lexington next season. Is there a chance Patrick Patterson or Daniel Orton could return? Sure, but it's highly unlikely.
If all five end up leaving, it'll be a defection that college basketball has never previously witnessed.
Four freshmen and a junior.
We all knew John Wall was history before he even stepped foot on campus. UK fans were fortunate that Patterson opted to play a single minute for Calipari since he could have been a first-rounder a year ago following his sophomore season.
DeMarcus Cousins won't see his stock climb any higher after the dominance he displayed for much of the season and Eric Bledsoe could wind up being the second point guard selected, and sources indicate, just isn't cut out for the academic component of college.
Daniel Orton, well, that's another story. The kid averaged a whopping 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman and has decided to take a shot at the NBA.
Calipari will also lose senior bodies Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson and Mark Krebs, which brings down the number of returnees to a handful.
Starter Darius Miller, reserve wing DeAndre Liggins, bench-warming freshman Jon Hood, seldom-used junior big man Josh Harrellson and erratic junior college wing Darnell Dodson.
That's a scary sight for the diehards in Lexington -- and Dodson could be gone as well, according to numerous sources that maintain he's on a short leash from the coaching staff.
Kentucky fans, as they often do, have hit the panic button.
But it'll all be fine -- as long as Cal doesn't bolt for the NBA.
It's only a matter of time before he loads up again. No, it won't be with a quartet of one-and-done guys as he was able to do a year ago to instantly make UK hoops relevant once again after a couple of disastrous years under Billy Clyde Gillispie.
But it may be far more beneficial in the long run.
As long as Calipari stays in Lexington.
The Wildcats already have two players in the mix -- a solid wing out of South Carolina in Stacey Poole and talented 6-foot-10 power forward Enes Kanter, a Turkish import whose eligibility will be in question, according to multiple sources.
But the next couple of weeks will determine where the Wildcats will fall in the national pecking order this coming year.
Calipari is almost certain, according to just about everyone in the know, to land Brandon Knight -- arguably the top guard in the entire country.
Knight is terrific, but he's not Wall. He may have similar talent, but he won't be able to walk in and assume the leadership responsibilities that Wall was able to shoulder so quickly in his college career.
Kentucky is also in the mix for five of the top six available players still left on the board -- and it wouldn't surprise anyone if Calipari and his staff landed at least two of them.
It would be difficult to fathom Calipari, if he does get a pledge from Knight next week, being able to bring in another big-time point guard such as Josh Selby or Cory Joseph or even combo guard Doron Lamb.
However, this is a guy who was somehow able to persuade Bledsoe to come even though he knew Wall would have the ball in his hands most of the time.
So, while you can question Calipari's coaching abilities, you can't ever question his recruiting prowess.
The Wildcats will also likely get either C.J. Leslie or Terrence Jones - two of the top forwards in the Class of 2010.
Calipari will get players -- and talented ones. That's not even up for debate.
He won't have the influx of talent he brought in a year ago when he jumped from Memphis, but then again, that only got him to the Elite Eight.
But two years ago, Kentucky fans were watching their team in the NIT.
That won't happen again -- as long as Calipari doesn't go anywhere.