By Bryan Cross
Following the loss in an Elite-8 match up to West Virginia, it was expected that the Kentucky Wildcat squad of freshman would not all remain together. But all four, plus a junior, declared their eligibility for the NBA draft this week. John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton announced their intentions to forgo the rest of their eligibility, and enter the draft after just one year at the collegiate level. Along with them will be Patrick Patterson, who will skip his senior season with the team.
Wall is expected to be the No.1 pick in the draft, with Cousins expected to be taken off of the board very soon after. The dynamic duo grew up together, and came to Kentucky together under John Calipari, who was in his first year leading the Wildcat program.
In a turnaround season, Kentucky tabbed a 35-3 record and won both the regular season conference title and SEC tournament.
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Calipari stated that he met with each of the players individually and guided them on a decision, which included checking their status in the draft.
“It’s extremely unusual for four freshmen from the same team to have this opportunity, but it’s my job as a coach to prepare these young men for such opportunities,” Calipari remarked.
On the year, Wall led the team averaging 17 points per game, six assists and four rebounds, and was voted the SEC player of the year, and was second in the AP player of the year behind Ohio State’s Evan Turner.
“I’m not the same player as when I arrived at UK,” Wall said. “I believe I’m ready for the next challenge as Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were the last two years under Coach Cal.”
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Calipari had stated in the beginning of the basketball season that he thought Wall to be at a higher level than Rose or Evans were as a freshman. Rose was the top-pick a couple years ago out of Memphis as a freshman by the Chicago Bulls.
Cousins was one of the most dominant forces in the country, and took the college basketball landscape by storm, tabbing 15 points and 10 rebounds a night. At 6-11 and 270 pounds, he is a big presence on the floor.
“Coach challenged me to grow on and off the court this season,” Cousins remarked. “I believe my game expanded along with my maturity. This year was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball.”
While Wall, Cousins and Patterson were virtual certainties to leave school, the departure of Bledsoe was not expected. Bledsoe averaged 11 points per game this year, and is very quick on the court.
Online Sportsbooks had Kentucky as a favorite to win the national championship this past year, and now Calipari will have to rebuild the team for the next.