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April 13, 2012

Calipari anticipates five underclassmen in NBA Draft

If John Calipari is to repeat his national championship feat at Kentucky, he expects to have to do it with some fresh faces.

Calipari said on Friday that he's expecting six players off the Wildcats' NCAA title team to be selected in the NBA Draft in June. That would mean five underclassmen - freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb - would turn pro early, joining senior Darius Miller in exiting to the NBA.

"I expect six first-round picks (from the same school), for the first time in the history of our world," Calipari said. "And I'll say this: that may be the biggest day in the history of our program. I know you're all going to be mad now."

ESPN.com's Chad Ford projects Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones, Teague and Lamb among the top 30 prospects in the upcoming draft.

Calipari caught heat two years ago for suggesting that NBA Draft night - when John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton gave UK five first-round picks - was "the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program"

But Calipari maintains that the 2010 draft was a critical piece of what followed.

"Well, doing that brings another and another and another championship," Calipari said. "And that first group, those five, brought us the players that just won."

Now Calipari is trying to reload again.

On Wednesday, he got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-10 shot-blocker Nerlens Noel, the nation's No. 2 recruit, and that could elevate UK to its fourth-straight top-ranked recruiting class.

Noel's signed national letter of intent has not arrived yet, and NCAA rules prohibit coaches from discussing specific players until they have signed.

"I think there are a lot of happy people," Calipari said. "But I don't worry about recruiting. We're going to get the kids we're supposed to, the others won't come here, and that's fine."

Kentucky isn't finished recruiting, but already the Wildcats are being projected among the contenders for next season's NCAA title. Most postseason polls project UK among the top five next year, despite what's expected to be an almost entirely new nucleus.

"How is that?" Calipari said. "I've never heard of that before. I hate to tell you, it's now the third year in a row, the same kind of deal. This team, they're getting pieced together like last year's team, where everybody's got a little slot to fit in."

For now, though, Calipari's still celebrating this season's title.

He took the NCAA championship trophy on a bus tour Thursday through Eastern Kentucky, and the tour continues into Western Kentucky on Friday via train.

The turnout to see the trophy has been big, Calipari said, adding that "the people that I'm meeting are the neighbors I grew up with."

"You also find out that those are all the people that really can't get to Rupp, maybe can't get to Lexington, maybe haven't left town in a long time," Calipari said. "And the joy that they get from this team, this trophy, this championship and just sharing it with them is why we're doing it."


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