Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stirred up some controversy last week when he was quoted saying: "I'm graduating here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying at Kentucky." The media response ranged from skeptical to inflammatory. "Surely you jest," pundits squawked. "NO ONE passes up the chance at NBA riches!"
Yet both Kidd-Gilchrist and his mother sound like they are seriously considering doing such a thing. Following some chuckles immediately after Kidd-Gilchrist's media comment, Kidd-Gilchrist addressed the laughter: "I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing." Meanwhile, Kidd-Gilchrist's mother took to Twitter to dispel some dirty rumors (for more on that, see the above link).
In addressing the Kidd-Gilchrist quote, John Calipari told the Courier-Journal:
"I’ll be with him whatever he wants to do. Obviously, if he wants to stay, I’m going to be very happy. But in the same sense, it’s too early to tell what anyone is going to do right now. He says, ‘I want to get my degree from Kentucky,’ and I agree. I want him to also. Basketball-wise, he’s got to wait until the year is out and figure out where everything is. He is a young freshman. He’s very young."
Now, the latest blog post ($) from ESPN.com's Chad Ford confirms that Kidd-Gilchrist is seriously considering returning to college. Of all the NBA Draft experts, Ford has the best pulse on what NBA front offices are thinking, so it's definitely worth a read. Ford is understandably skeptical, stating, "More often than not, when a top prospect says he's staying in school, you can go ahead and pull out the Sharpie and write him into the draft."
He lists some one-and-done exceptions who had rationales Kidd-Gilchrist does not. Last year, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III, and Jared Sullinger all stayed, but were at least somewhat influenced by the uncertainty of the NBA lockout. In 2008, Blake Griffin made a similar decision, but he badly wanted to play a second year with his brother, Taylor.
However, not all hope is lost when it comes to Kidd-Gilchrist's return. In his post, Ford admits that the "stay in school" vibe is definitely out there for Kidd-Gilchrist.
Luckily for Kentucky fans, Kidd-Gilchrist isn't your typical freshman. I think he is "dead serious" about staying in school -- at least for his sophomore season. I've been hearing for months that Kidd-Gilchrist loves it at Kentucky, doesn't feel like he's ready for the NBA and wants at least one more year under Coach Cal to work on his jumper.
"Luckily for Kentucky fans" is the key phrase indeed. A Kidd-Gilchrist return would transform next year's team in a similar way Terrence Jones' return has buoyed this year's. Yet part of me feels like Calipari does, hoping that he does go and optimize his NBA draft stock as soon as he can.
Either way, it's definitely still early for Kentucky fans to be fretting one way or another, and for Kidd-Gilchrist to come to a final decision. There is still a whole 'nother month of college basketball to go in what has been a banner year for the Kentucky program. If anything, appreciate Kidd-Gilchrist in his remaining games this year, but be prepared not to be completely taken aback if he ends up on campus again next year.