DeAndre Liggins’ life has been full of challenges, both on a personal level and in athletics. Now he’s set to face one that could determine his future head on.
The junior guard announced his intention to remain in the NBA Draft late Sunday night, ending a career at Kentucky that had moments of brilliance and ones he’d rather forget. Having overcome the public embarrassment of refusing to enter a game early in his freshman season to making the three-pointer that sealed Kentucky’s first trip to the Final Four in 13 years, it was quite a ride for the Chicago native.
“I put in a lot of hard work at Kentucky,” Liggins said in an interview with UK athletics’ Cat Scratches blog. “I overcame a lot throughout my Kentucky career. Everybody knows that. I think I’m mature enough to play in the NBA. I know it’s going to be different than college.”
“I had to really think about my family and my son,” Liggins said. “I just followed my heart, really.”
Liggins welcomed a baby boy, Bracyn, to the world during the season but said his decision was heavily predicated on the feedback he received both during the UK Combine early last week and then again at a combine run by the New Jersey Nets over the weekend.
The 6-foot-6 defensive stopper told Cat Scratches he understands how NBA executives and talent evaluators view his game and doesn’t have a skewed idea of his standing in the draft.
“I know I’m not going to be a superstar or anything,” Liggins said. “I’m a role player. I was a role player (at Kentucky) and I know my role. I know my weaknesses and I know what I can do well. I’m a guy who can play to my strength.
“There are a lot of teams that like me and will consider me. There were a couple of teams that said I should come back to school and work on such and such, but I just felt like I’m a worker and can do all that stuff at any point in the NBA. I’m a guy who likes to work on my game a lot. I’m a tough guy. I’m mentally tough. I just think guys who are mentally tough, who have a good work ethic like me, can be in the league for a long time.”
As for the reasons he decided to leave Kentucky, which is expected to be a consensus preseason Top 3 team in the country next season, Liggins acknowledged a loaded UK roster and the return of so many collegiate prospects across the nation played into his choice.
“It’s going to be a deeper draft next year,” Liggins said. “Where do I fit in? Would I start? Would I come off the bench? Would I be treated differently? I was thinking if I was going to go, this was the perfect time to go.
“No regrets. I made my decision and I’ve got to live with it now.”
The NBA Draft is June 23 in Newark, N.J., the site of Liggins’ clutch triple to help defeat North Carolina in the Elite Eight.