LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach John Calipari held a teleconference Tuesday morning to preview his upcoming role with USA Basketball and the 2017 NBA Draft. Hitting the highlights here:
- Wildcats workouts in progress: Calipari said he got his new UK team together for a workout last night and “I went home with a smile on my face.” He’s also excited to have freshmen Hamidou Diallo, P.J. Washington and Kevin Knox in Team USA camp next week to see them against some of the best young players in the world.
- Jarred Vanderbilt health update: The 5-star freshman forward suffered an injury to his lower right leg during the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in April. Calipari said he’s not playing yet — and probably not for another two weeks — “but I think he’ll be fine. There’s no issues. Like I told his family, this is June; I just want to make sure when we get in November, he’s in his stride.” Kentucky’s doctors and trainers have examined Vanderbilt, who also had injury issues in high school, and feel good about his health.
- Baseball rule for hoops? There’s been some recent buzz about the NBA getting rid of the one-and-done rule, taking players straight out of high school again. Calipari was asked what he thought about the “baseball rule,” by which a player can either go straight into the draft out of high school or, if he goes to college, must wait three years. “Would the baseball rule work in my mind? Heck yeah,” Calipari said. “I love it.” But he doesn’t think that is going to happen because the NBA doesn’t really want to go back to taking guys straight from high school. He also refuted the notion that his one-and-dones don’t go to class, noting all five early entrees finished the second semester at Kentucky this year, as is standard.
- Safety in Egypt: There have been concerns from parents about sending their kids to Egypt with Calipari and Team USA’s under-19 squad because of recent terrorist attacks in that country. “Whether you’re the NBA or the Olympics, traveling around the world has changed a whole lot. USA Basketball has recognized that,” Calipari said. He’s been on the phone repeatedly getting assurances about safety and says there are two levels of safety precautions being taken by USA Basketball, plus extra security at the team hotel and arena. Even the president of Egypt has gotten involved. “I was very curious of how we’re going to do this, and at this point I’m very comfortable.”
- Will Calipari miss the NBA Draft? It’s like his own personal holiday, but Calipari will be in Colorado Springs at Team USA training camp on draft day. That’s why they make jets. “My plan is to be at the draft.” Of course he will.
- De’Aaron Fox took charge. Most of the NBA writers on the teleconference wanted to know about Fox and Malik Monk. Calipari raved about both. He said Fox didn’t immediately take charge of a UK team that had a few veterans last season. But two months into the season, Calipari told him, “Hey, kid, this is your team.” That’s when the Wildcats took flight. “The thing about the 3-point shooting is the least of my worries with him,” Calipari said. “He has a personality that will play in all these NBA communities.”
- Monk to the Sixers? Philadelphia has the No. 3 pick in the draft. Is it possible Monk goes that high? “Philadelphia right now is on the cusp of a breakthrough,” Calipari said, and all they need is improved guard play. “The interest in Malik is he can play both one and two and can score the ball. With Malik, what people have talked to me about: We didn’t realize he was as good in pick-and-rolls as he is. I would guess, if I’m those Philadelphia players, I would like to see Malik there.” The Sixers also have interest in Fox. “If Philly got either of those two, they’d be in great shape,” Calipari said.
- What about Bam Adebayo? “Right now, everybody is stunned at how Bam shoots the ball. I must’ve had 10 calls. He’s been exciting people.” Calipari said UK players surprise NBA people every year because they all sacrifice parts of their game for the greater good while in Lexington. He noted that both Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries are getting good feedback from NBA workouts.
- Briscoe fighting for a shot: “People are really impressed, more impressed with his shooting than a year ago,” Calipari said. “The thing that is driving me crazy: He’s a sophomore! He just turned 20. I’m looking at Isaiah and I’m saying, ‘He’s like one of the young guys in this draft.'” But because he played at Kentucky, many believe something is wrong that he’s not further along. What if he’d played point guard in college? Calipari scoffed at that idea. That’s not how the NBA works now, he said. “It’s can you play basketball?” And Briscoe can.