LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks freshmen stars Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones should throw their names into the NBA draft. He's just not sure Knight and Jones should keep them there.
The two freshmen fueled Kentucky's first trip to the Final Four since 1998 and their names have vaulted up NBA Draft boards. Neither player has decided yet whether to return to Lexington or go pro.
Calipari said the decision to enter the draft is "a no-brainer" but suggested Knight and Jones should hold off signing with an agent, which would prevent them from opting out of the draft and coming back to school.
He pointed to the anxiety over the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players Association and the owners, which expires on June 30. If a new deal can't be reached, there's a chance league owners could lock out the players.
"The lockout really kind of screws everything up because a lot of kids are pulling their names because what if the lockout goes the whole year?" Calipari said. "What kind of mistake did you make?"
Knight averaged 17.3 points and 4.1 assists this season and was spectacular in the NCAA tournament, hitting game-winning shots against Princeton and Ohio State and a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the regional final against North Carolina.
Jones set a Kentucky freshman-record by pouring in 35 points against Auburn but took on a more secondary role in the postseason and finished the year averaging 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.
In a normal year, Calipari would all but push them out the door. But this isn't a normal year.
"We don't know what could happen," Calipari said. "Where are they going to fall in this? I tell them if they're not willing to come back and work like they've never worked before then they should go because they're not going to improve."
Calipari is also encouraging junior forward DeAndre Liggins to explore his professional options. Liggins is considered one of the best defenders in the country but remains limited offensively. Calipari says Liggins is the kind of player who could surprise once he goes through pre-draft workouts.
"DeAndre maybe goes up there and goes crazy and plays his way in," Calipari said. "I would tell you that we know he's not on any lists or boards right now but here's the reason I'd tell him to do it, (because) what he is physically and how he is is not going to change or be projected any other way."
While Jones, Knight and Liggins might not be back next year, Calipari blew off questions about whether he'll return.
"I laughed when the newest rumors came out because I said, 'You're not screwing up our recruiting because we already have these kids signed,'" Calipari said. "Those rumors are going to be out there. I've got a great job, one of the best in our sport. I can't stop the rumors."