Kentucky's John Calipari Talks NBA Draft, COVID-19 in Virtual At-Home Presser

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2020

Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks to his team during a timeout against Texas A&M during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Sam Craft/Associated Press

Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari didn't let social distancing stop him from holding a press conference Tuesday. He held a virtual call to discuss the state of the program, the impact of the coronavirus on college basketball and touched on the upcoming NBA draft. 

From his home office in Lexington, the coach said he and his wife, Ellen, have been ordering takeout at least once per day to help small, local businesses survive during a time of uncertainty, and he has donated to the university's student emergency fund.

Additionally, the Caliparis have worked with Kroger grocery stores to provide meals for 400 families. 

"We are all responsible for ourselves," Calipari said to kick off the call. "Stay in your house. Wash your hands. If you go out, which you should, walking around, exercising a little bit, six feet from everyone."

Turning his attention to basketball, Calipari noted he's been working with the National Association of Basketball Coaches to get more clarity on the upcoming NBA draft and how players should be preparing for it.

Specifically, the coach wants the June 15 early-entrant withdrawal deadline pushed back so prospects have more time to decide whether to turn pro. The draft is currently slated for June 25, but that is looking increasingly like it will be postponed. 

"Shouldn't we move the decision date back for the kids to go to college or not?" Calipari said. "The date was always based on when the draft and combine are. Well, that's all moving. So now I think these kids should have more time making that decision."

The coach said he's concerned that players who are only able to train by themselves for two months won't be able to fully show out when NBA teams come calling to scout them. 

Without naming players, Calipari said he expects four to five of his players to test the NBA waters.

Unfortunately, the 2019-20 Wildcats have joined the ranks of teams who will never know just what they could have accomplished in March. After a 25-6 season in which UK finished atop the SEC, the cancellation of March Madness brought all too sudden an end for a team that had found a way to gel at the right time.

"This was really difficult because of how this team came together and the vibe this team had." Calipari said. "I felt this was a vibe that my best teams have had." 

At one point toward the end of the season, Calipari told his staff he felt like they could win the whole thing. In the end, they never got the chance. 

Following the bus ride back from the cancelled SEC tournament, Calipari got a text that the NCAA tournament was canceled as well. While the coach went back to his home, the team went back to their facilities and, not knowing what else to do, played a pickup game against each other.

Afterwards, Calipari was later told, is when reality hit and players began crying as they accepted their run was over.

"My hope," he said, "is that this becomes one of the favorite teams in at least my era here."


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