John Calipari knows he won’t see another historic first-round haul, but the Kentucky coach does expect a lot of early action for the Cats when he attends the 2011 NBA Draft Thursday in New York.
“I think Enes will be the No. 1 or 2 pick,” Calipari predicted. “He and Brandon Knight will be picked in the first 20 to 25 minutes of the draft. I’m talking to pro teams daily. That’s my opinion from what I’m hearing. It’s good stuff.”
Kanter, who was unable to play for UK after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, met Monday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the No. 1 and 4 picks in the first round.
Knight, a 6-foot-3 point guard, made numerous last-second game-winning baskets in leading UK to the Final Four as a freshman. The competitive playmaker even fired back recently when some suggested he would not work out with other top prospects.
“What I was happy about,” Calipari said, “is that there are teams that want him to work out with other players and he said, ‘I’ll work out with Kyrie Irving. Where is he? Bring him. If you think I shied away from anything, I went to Kentucky and I followed John Wall, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. I had to follow all those guys, you’re telling me I shied away?’ I loved it when he said that. I thought it was great stuff. The kid’s got a swagger. He’s proud of what he’s done.”
Knight is projected by most mock drafts as the No. 3 player in the draft to Utah, while Kanter is slotted at No. 4 to Cleveland.
“I think they’ll both be really good,” Calipari said. “Our kids have done well in the league. We had three (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe) on the NBA all-rookie team, and Patrick (Patterson) was just outside of it. Our kids are prepared to go in there and do well.”
Calipari, who watched an unprecedented five UK players selected in the first round last year, credits his dribble drive offense and overall approach to the game for helping prepare players for the pro circuit.
“The style we play is such an aggressive style that they can go in there and feel more comfortable,” the coach said. “Derrick Rose said, ‘Coach, the terminology they use is the same terminology you use.’ So that helps them.”
Then there is the ‘it’ factor, which Calipari has already assigned a clever name.
“There is what I call the ‘Kentucky Effect,’” Calipari said. “When you play at Kentucky, you get a 20 percent bump, whether it’s your draft position, your shoe contract. There is that ‘Kentucky Effect.’ We’re on national television more than any team. We move the needle more than any team in the country. When we’re on TV, people watch. That may not have been the case a few years ago, but it is now.”
“I still think he’ll get drafted, but he knew what could happen,” Calipari said. “Sometimes to get drafted late in the second round, it’s better not to get drafted and then go work out for a team that you know you can make. You could end up with a team that’s not a good fit for you. He can guard three positions and defend and rebound. He’s proven himself.
“It’s interesting. I’ve gotten some great calls on both of them,” Calipari said. “It would be a heck of a thing if all four got drafted. If they all four got drafted in the first round, I’d probably retire because there’s nothing more I could do. I’d sit up in the seats and say, ‘Somebody else try this.’”