LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I’m not sure which is the most A) hyperbolic; B) provocative; C) silly or D) ridiculous, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has said about the NBA Draft.
But I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates.
Statement A was delivered in 2010 after four UK players were taken in the first 18 picks, led by John Wall at No. 1 and DeMarcus Cousins at No. 5.
“I’d like to say it’s the biggest day in the history of the UK program,” Calipari said, much to the delight of former UK star Dan Issel and others.
Statement B was the one Cal made in 2015 before six Wildcats were called, including four in the first 13 picks.
“Last year we started the season with a goal,” Calipari said. “You might think it was winning a national title or winning all the games, (but) it was getting eight players drafted.”
Cast your vote now for statement A or B.
Don’t expect a Statement C this week with the 2023 NBA Draft booked for Thursday at 20:00 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With an eight-year gap since the Wildcats’ last Final Four appearance and Kentucky finishing in the Sweet Sixteen the past three seasons, now is not the time to suggest NBA Draft success > than NCAA Tournament success to Kentucky fans.
Thursday will not be one of those vintage UK draft nights. Cason Wallace, the Wildcats’ freshman point guard, is the only UK player projected to be selected in the first round — and he’s a borderline lottery pick (top 14 pick).
Three other draft-eligible former UK players may or may not be selected, but Chris Livingston, Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin still chose not to return to Lexington for another season.
Indiana head coach Mike Woodson has more reason to crow about the work he did to get two former Hoosiers ready for paychecks at the next level.
Point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino arrived in Bloomington last summer ranked No. 26 in the class of 2023. At least six NBA mock drafts have Hood-Schifino projected to be a lottery pick Thursday. Hood-Schifino has been effusive in his praise for the work Woodson and the IU coaching staff did to prepare him for his professional journey.
There is more. Two seasons ago, when Woodson took over at IU, the first player he recruited was center Trayce Jackson-Davis.
He convinced him not to start his pro career or consider the transfer portal. Jackson-Davis stayed. In fact, he stayed two more seasons and played an old-fashioned four-year college career, leaving with a number of IU basketball records.
Woodson also upgraded Jackson-Davis’ game to a level most observers didn’t think possible — he’s a first-round fringe Thursday night. Half of the eight NBA mock drafts I studied have Jackson-Davis ranked in the top 30 picks.
You can also archive it during player development. Someone did something right.
As the countdown continues Thursday night, here’s an overview of Wallace, Tshiebwe and Livingston, as well as the two Indiana prospects. (Toppin is ranked No. 93 by The Athletic and is not listed on any mock drafts.)
Cason Wallace, guard
- Highest mock ranking: No. 9, Utah Jazz by Kyle Irving, The Sporting News.
- Lowest mock ranking: No. 19, Golden State Warriors, by Bryan Kalbrosky, USA Today.
- Average Mock Rank: No. 14.
- Overview: Wallace’s 6-foot-9-inch wingspan and defensive ability should translate into a significant NBA career. His ability to create separation and quality shots for himself while finishing at a higher level near the rim will determine if Wallace becomes an all-star instead of a starter.
Chris Livingston, forward
- Highest mock rank: No. 43, Portland Trailblazers, by Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer.
- Lowest Mock Rank: Omitted.
- Average Mock Rank: No. 49.
- Overview: Livingston checks the necessary boxes on defense, determination and wingspan (6 feet, 11 inches on his 6-6 frame). But he made just 42.9% of his field-goal attempts while averaging more turnovers than assists in his only season at UK.
Oscar Tshiebwe, forward
- Highest mock rank: No. 54, Sacramento Kings, by Krysten Peek, Yahoo! Sport.
- Lowest Mock Rank: Omitted.
- Average Mock Rank: No. 60.
- Overview: Tshiebwe will join a coaching staff that is enamored with his motor skills and willingness to entrust him with one job – rebounding. His inability to become a consistent threat away from the basket as well as his struggles on defense last season have kept him absent from several mock drafts.
Jalen Hood-Schifino, guard
- Highest mock ranking: No. 8, Washington Wizards by Gary Parrish, CBS Sports.
- Lowest mock ranking: No. 15, Atlanta Hawks, by Kalbrosky of USA Today and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic.
- Average Mock Rank: No. 13.
- Overview: Some say Hood-Schifino plays more of a 1980s-style game because of his reliance on mid-range jump shots. But he made a third of his 3-point attempts as well as nearly 78% of his free throws, showing solid potential as a shooter. The big question scouts have about Hood-Schifino is his lack of elite athleticism.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, forward
- Highest mock ranking: No. 29, Indiana Pacers by Irving of The Sporting News and Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press.
- Lowest mock rank: No. 45, Memphis Grizzlies, by Kalbrosky of USA Today.
- Average Mock Rank: No. 34.
- Overview: With Jackson-Davis, the question has never changed: Can he become a solid, productive NBA player without finding ways to score off the rim? He did it in Indiana with excellent footwork, energy and explosive leaping ability. But he measured in at 6 feet, 8 1/4 inches (without shoes) at the NBA Combine. There aren’t many dazzling NBA power forwards that size.
Copyright 2023 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.