Kentucky, John Calipari and the ‘one-and-done’ perception

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All it took was five sentences from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to create a stir regarding his future and Kentucky’s reputation as a place that churns out NBA players under coach John Calipari.

“I’m graduating here. I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying at Kentucky,” Kidd-Gilchrist said Saturday. “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing.”

Since then, stories have circulated on whether the Wildcats’ superb freshman wing should leave this season, if he’d benefit by staying, if he’ll just change his mind in a few months, etc. It’s to the point where even Calipari had to lay out multiple scenarios.

“If Michael is the one pick in the draft, yes, I would wrestle him to the floor and say, ‘What are you thinking?’ ” Calipari said. “He’s got to come up with some reasons he’s coming back and convince me. Here’s why: What if he got hurt and I’m out there convincing him to come back? What if that happened? Or something happened to him that all of the sudden really hurt him and his draft-ability and his future?

“It’s hard to live with yourself, unless you’re just trying to win five more games or ‘How many games can I win before I retire?’ This is about these young people.”

That’s a variation on Calipari’s standard response when it comes to the NBA draft. He’s always maintained that he’ll advocate what’s best for his players, which usually means advocating an early departure. Makes sense, too. His players who leave early are usually lottery picks.

The MKG stories also prompted another response from Calipari – to write a response on his website of Kentucky as a “one-and-done factory.” It’s an interesting read, too. Calipari reiterates his dislike of the NBA’s one-and-done rule, Kentucky’s APR results during his tenure and how he helps his players make pro decisions.

Really, it’s one of those things where Calipari can’t win, no matter how hard he tries. As long as his star players keep leaving after their freshman seasons – six at Kentucky, counting Enes Kanter and two at Memphis – the perception will remain that he’s recruiting players who only want to stay for one season. (I’d say he’s just recruiting really good players who are usually ready for the NBA, but anyway.)

But hey, battling public perception is just part of Calipari’s life.

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