In a move without any apparent precedent, Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari says every player on his roster will submit his name for this summer's NBA Draft.
He announced as much in a string of tweets on Wednesday, some of which are produced below:
With that being said, every player who is eligible for the draft, including our walk-ons, will submit their names for the NBA Draft ...— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 23, 2016
... in hopes of being invited to the combine in May.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 23, 2016
The coach cites a new NCAA rule, effective this year, that gives underclassmen the ability to "test the waters" of the NBA without more-or-less automatically conceding their collegiate eligibility. The rule pushes the final deadline for players to decide if they'll leave for the league or return to school until 10 days after the NBA's scouting combine. This year, that makes for a deadline of May 25, more than a month later than it was previously.
Players were previously allowed to declare for the draft and then return to school as long as they didn't hire an agent. But that was a somewhat hollow rule, because the NCAA required them to either withdraw from the draft by mid-April (right after the end of the college season) or give up their NCAA eligibility altogether. So players could dip a toe into the NBA pool, but they couldn't get more than ankles-deep because they had to decide on their futures before the NBA even held its scouting combine, which comes later in the offseason.
Now, Calipari's entire roster will look for combine invitations. Kentucky's walk-ons aren't going to get them, but Calipari is reaching deep into his bench to make a point that's worth making: College players now have nothing to lose by seeking the most accurate assessment of their professional potential, and they should all take advantage of it.
Calipari has come under a lot of fire over his coaching career for pushing a one-and-done culture in college basketball, where talented players make an obligatory one-year (or even two-year) stop to play for him at Kentucky (or Memphis) and then jump to the NBA without completing their degrees. Calipari's defense of his approach, all along, has been that going pro early is often exactly what's best for players and their families. He's saying the same thing about this move.
When the season’s over, it’s about each individual player and what’s right for them and their families.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 23, 2016
Calipari wants to sell himself as the ultimate player's coach. But that doesn't mean he's wrong here.