LITTLE ROCK — Pass the salt, please.
Three Kentucky basketball players in their late teens say they are not ready for the NBA and that they are staying in Lexington. I’m not saying Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein are fibbing, I’m just viewing their declaration with the skepticism that comes from being the father of a male who was once 19.
Playing a second year of college basketball, Goodwin, Poythress, and Willie Cauley-Stein risk embarrassment.
If Kentucky’s recruiting class is as good as it is supposed to be, the three starters as freshmen could be role players as sophomores. Folks with their ear will explain they can leave Kentucky and get paid about $1 million to sit the bench in the NBA. Goodwin, Poythress, and Cauley-Stein are all projected as first-round selections and any player selected in the 2012 NBA draft with the 23rd pick or higher was guaranteed at least $1 million in the first year of his contract.
Proclaimed previously as the best incoming class in the nation, Kentucky’s group grade went through the roof when 6-foot-9 Julius Randle chose the Wildcats over Kansas, Florida, and Texas on Wednesday. Let’s not quibble about whether the young man from the Dallas area is the No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 player in the country; it is unanimous that he is the sixth Kentucky commitment ranked in the top 20.
Still out there is Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the country, according to many. He is considering Kansas, North Carolina, Florida State and (fanfare) Kentucky.
Measure the potential of that group alongside the Arkansas class that has Razorback fans anticipating the 2013 season because Bobby Portis is considered a top 20 player and fellow signee Moses Kingsley is in the top 50.
Recruiting services can miss on a particular player, but I’m confident the services are not wrong about 6-foot-5 twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and all three of the others who promised to play for coach John Calipari.
Announcing his commitment, Randle said, “The final straw that came to me was the system,” another way of saying that one year at Kentucky is a 30-plus game tryout for the NBA. Even though Kentucky’s Nerlens Nole suffered a season-ending knee injury that allowed Cauley-Stein to crack the lineup, Noel could be the second player selected on June 27. Last year, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the first two players chosen and four of their teammates were also drafted.
“Coach Cal tells all his recruits — he told me — ‘I get guys to where they want to go,’” Davis told USA Today a year ago. “‘I like to make their dream come true.’”
Calipari catches heck for his approach, but he is only playing by the rules that enable the so-called one and done. For those who believe Calipari’s players don’t attend class, the Academic Progress Rate for Kentucky’s basketball team in 2010-11, the latest year figures are available, was 963, which was better than five other SEC schools.
The NBA players association is opposed to requiring two years of college ball before entering the draft, but adopting the rules of major league baseball would end this farce. Baseball can sign players right out of high school, junior college players, and players at four-year colleges who have completed their junior year or who are 21.
Calipari’s critics reveled when Kentucky, one year removed from an NCAA championship, was eliminated from the NIT by a team that plays its home games in an arena with a capacity of 3,000. Come the fall, those same critics will have to deal with the Wildcats becoming the first team ranked in the Top 5 in the country only months removed from the NIT.
The high ranking is more certain than his roster.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.