By Josh Cook
Don't expect Daniel Orton or Eric Bledsoe to be back in a University of Kentucky basketball uniform next season.
Although neither has signed with an agent yet, which would prevent them from returning to the Wildcats, UK coach John Calipari isn't counting on either coming back to Lexington for their sophomore years.
"I think they both will (hire an agent)," Calipari said during a Monday news conference.
The deadline for college underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA Draft is this Saturday. So expect Orton and Bledsoe to keep their names in, joining UK teammates John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. Those three, who have already announced that they have, or will, hire an agent, are projected to go in the Top 10 in June's draft. NBAdraft.net has Wall as the top pick to the New Jersey Nets, while Cousins is projected as the No. 6 selection to the Philadelphia 76ers and Patterson No. 8 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 6-foot-10 Orton, who averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as the Wildcats' sixth man this past season, is projected as the 20th pick in the draft to the San Antonio Spurs.
"I got another call today, a team loves Daniel Orton," Calipari said. "And (people have) been saying, 'He needs to come back for another year,' Oh yeah? Well that team is going to pick in the middle of the first round.
"And the same with Eric Bledsoe. (Fans say) 'He needs to come back and get one more year. We need to win some more games, then he can go.' Yeah, but there are teams all over that first round that say, 'Hey, we really like the guy.'"
The 6-1 Bledsoe was UK's fourth-leading scorer this season (behind Wall, Cousins and Patterson, respectively), averaging 11.3 points per game and second on the team in three-pointers made (49). He is projected as the 30th pick, the final selection of the first round, by the Washington Wizards. All first-round picks receive guaranteed contracts, while those chosen in the second round do not.
"I'm going to be one to try to convince kids to stay," Calipari said. "I've never done that and I won't do that. My job is to help prepare them. Prepare them for life after basketball. prepare them for their future, then their family makes those kind of decisions."
Calipari also defended his commitment to academics after this report in Sunday's Lexington Herald-Leader that said his UK team had the worst cumulative grade-point average (2.025) of all 20 Wildcat athletic teams in the fall semester. By comparison, the University of Louisville men's basketball team had a collective 3.0 GPA in the fall.
"There was a lot thrown at these young men this last year, especially that first term," Calipari said. "I wish they did a little better that first term academically. But let me say this, I am so proud of how they handled the big picture of this I can't begin to tell you, (given) the pressure that they were under and all that happened."
Meanwhile there is no word yet on if UofL forward Samardo Samuels, who led the Cardinals in scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (7 rpg) as a sophomore, will remain in the draft. Like the others Samuels, who declared for the draft last month, has until Saturday to withdraw.