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Noel Announces He’s Leaving UK For The NBA

mrsec-breaking-newsWell this one won’t surprise many folks.  Kentucky star and freshman All-American Nerlens Noel is leaving UK and entering the NBA draft:

 

“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA.  I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support.  I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process.  I’ll always be a Wildcat!”

 

Noel was having the kind of season that would have won him SEC Player of the Year honors before tearing his ACL in a February contest at Florida.  Despite the injury he is expected to go in the first few picks in this summer’s NBA draft, likely first overall.  If he does go first, he’ll be the third Wildcat to go #1 in the four years since Calipari took over in Lexington.

As for the “I’ll always be a Wildcat!” line, Noel arrived on UK’s campus in mid-August.  Eight months later he’s decided to depart.  Welcome to life in a one-and-done universe.

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Liggins Stays In The Draft

The one Kentucky basketball player least likely to keep his name in the NBA draft has decided to do just that.  Junior DeAndre Liggins decided after a weekend combine in New Jersey that he will leave UK early for the cash of the pro game.

“Coach (John Calipari) encouraged me to come back for my senior season, but based on the feedback I got from NBA personnel, I felt it was in the best interests of me and my family to stay in the draft,” Liggins said.  “I learned a lot in my three years here at Kentucky, and I appreciate all the support I got from the people at UK as well as the Big Blue Nation.”

Calipari — though he believed Liggins should return — still has his player’s back publicly.  “I feel comfortable that DeAndre had all the info that he needed to make this decision.  I fully support what he’s doing, and I will do everything I can to help him reach his dreams.”

Liggins joins one-and-doner Brandon Knight on the exit platform.  However, reigning SEC Freshman of the Year Terrence Jones passed on the draft and decided to return to Lexington.  Knight’s decision was expected.  Those of Jones and Liggins are much more curious.

Here’s a look at all three players’ stats from this past season.


Player
Min
Pts
Reb
Ast
TO
Stl
Blk
FG%
3P%
T. Jones
31.5
15.7
8.8
1.6
2.0
1.1
1.9
44.2
32.9
B. Knight
35.9
17.3
4.0
4.2
3.2
.7
.2
42.3
37.7
D. Liggins
31.6
8.6
4.0
2.5
1.4
1.2
.7
42.4
39.1


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Cal not entirely happy with victory over Washington

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Kentucky’s gut-check 74-67 victory over Washington in the Maui Invitational made Coach John Calipari happy. But not THAT happy.

“We had great individual performances, but the team is not there yet,” he said, an observation perhaps bolstered by the seven assists, a low for a Cal-coached UK team. “We got a little selfish.”

The Cats also wobbled a bit down the stretch. A five-point lead inside the final three minutes left got dicey when Washington’s Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas drove for three straight layups. Then Terrence Jones stopped the clock by needlessly fouling.

“Defensively at the end, it was layup, layup and then foul,” Calipari said. “That’s what happens with young guys.”

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‘Soft tape’ part of UK’s get-tough preparation

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

As part of his effort to get Kentucky players to adopt a more tough approach to basketball, Coach John Calipari said he prepared what he called a “soft tape” for them to watch.

He also issued an order before the opening credits. “We’re not laughing,” he said.

The complication of “soft” plays or efforts against Pikeville College on Monday was not a comedy. It wasn’t a tragedy, not in the first week of November. It was more of a cautionary tale with the message being that getting pushed around by Pikeville bodes ill when future opponents are North Carolina, perhaps Michigan State and the Southeastern Conference teams.

“We’re going to come up against bigger teams than them,” freshman Stacey Poole said. “We are just going to do what he says. We’re going to have to be a tough team.”

Kentucky gets another chance to show toughness in Friday night’s second exhibition against Dillard University.

Since the victory over Pikeville on Monday, Kentucky has concentrated in practices on creating toughness. Or, perhaps more correctly, bringing toughness out of the fuzzy-cheeked kiddie Cats.

“If they are what I think they are, they have fight in them,” Calipari said. “You’ve just got to bring it out of them.”

The “soft tape” must have been no selected short subjects. That would have been the “seven or six” plays in which UK displayed toughness against Pikeville, Calipari said. Those plays were edited out of the tape.

When asked to define the “soft” plays on the tape, Calipari said, “You get pushed into the cheerleaders (and) you get sparkle on your face. . . . That happened about three times.”

Calipari acknowledged that the game against Pikeville was a coming-out-party for a freshman-oriented team, therefore not the ideal place to see experience and toughness.

“They were shellshocked,” the UK coach said of many of his players’ being introduced to live college competition. “Within 15 seconds of the game. It’s on.”

Calipari noted that some players did not know where to go or what to do during pre-game introductions. “The second guy went over to shake hands with the officials like in high school,” he said.

Kentucky doesn’t have a lot of time to get familiar with what’s expected. After the tuneup against Dillard, the Cats have only a week before the opener against East Tennessee State, a team that made the NCAA Tournament last March.

A week after that, Kentucky plays in Portland, Ore., as a stopover on the way to the always ultra-competitive Maui Invitational.

Poole’s facial expression seemed to concede that asking freshmen to push their weight around is asking a lot. But Kentucky does not have alternatives.

“We’re out here,” Poole said. “We’re here. We’re just going to have to play. We have to do what we have to do.

“The other guys are older. But we’ll be fine.”

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