UK BBall

In late March, in a series of tweets, University of Kentucky Men’s basketball coach John Calipari said that,

“Met with our team today. Told them that during the season it’s about the team and sacrificing for each other – which they did this year…When the season’s over, it’s about each individual player and what’s right for them and their families…With that being said, every player who is eligible for the draft, including our walk-ons, will submit their names for the NBA Draft in hopes of being invited to the combine in May.”

This may have come as a shock to some outside of the NCAA sphere, but this isn’t all that surprising within. The move stems from the NCAA and NBA’s agreement last summer over a new NBA rule that allows early entrants to return to school even after declaring for the draft. The proposal came with the backing from not only the NCAA and NBA, but also with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), indicating a unified stance on player’s rights.

It should come as no surprise that Coach Cal and Kentucky would spearhead the movement to send all draft-eligible players, from lottery potentials like Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere to the team’s walk-ons, to the draft. Kentucky became the signature school for one-and-done athletes that now impact virtually every top-flight program in the country. With a program that embraces the new approach in the NCAA, the Wildcats once again stay ahead of the curve. As Coach Cal mentioned in his follow up tweets,

This is a clever move on Kentucky’s part because they once again demonstrate their ability to embrace the evolution of the system. In doing so, players and recruits will feel the atmosphere of “team during the season, personal gains in the offseason” that John Calipari has laid out. Establishing that feeling could, in theory, create a pipeline that sends not only one-year players, but any player that wants to win on and off the court, towards the Wildcats.

It wasn’t like Kentucky had trouble enticing the nation’s top recruits to Rupp Arena, but this only helps their case. While the rule may be controversial to some, the prospect of giving student athletes the chance to test that professional waters with the option to return to school was bound to happen. By openly stating their intentions, Kentucky and John Calipari sent a message to the nation’s basketball talent that the university is ready to play ball.