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What if John Calipari’s players had to stay for three years?

Ever wonder what the Kentucky Wildcats basketball roster would look like if there was not a one and done rule? I took a look at the Wildcats if a NFL-type rule was in place.

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If you follow SEC sports enough, you are going to run into a conversation about the two premier coaches in the SEC, John Calipari and Nick Saban. They are both unmatched in the league as a coach and as a recruiter.

While both have won national titles, there is a disparity. Saban is on his way to his fifth title at Alabama, while Calipari has just one. There is also another big difference in play here as well. Saban gets to keep his players for three years while Calipari has to constantly reload.

What if the NBA entry rules mirrored the NFL rules in that players had to stay three years? We would see a vastly different Kentucky roster and one that would have at least three national titles during Calipari's time.

Here is my look at what would have happened to the Kentucky roster if players were required to stay three years. I went with the theory that most of the players would come to Kentucky rather than go overseas or elsewhere,

Let's take a look at the Kentucky roster if players had to stay for three years.


This is the team that went 35-3 and finished just short of a Final Four. With the three year model that I am suggesting, this would have been a very different off-season for John Calipari.

Some things would not change, however. Patrick Patterson would still go pro, and Ramon Harris, Mark Krebs, and Perry Stevenson would still graduate. In addition, Darnell Dodson would still be found academically ineligible and leave UK.

But here is where it gets fun. None of the four other players that left for the NBA draft would have been able to. Let's see how this affects the next year's roster.


Here is where we see the first changes to the future rosters. I spent some time on this and debated as to whether Brandon Knight would still come to Kentucky with Wall and Bledsoe on the roster. There was always some speculation that he may go to Europe but I do not think this was a serious possibility for him. Brandon could graduate from school in three years and I think he would have still come to Kentucky.

I also debated the possibility of Terrence Jones. Once again, the lure of that first Calipari season at Kentucky and the fact that he had to spend three years in college would have brought Jones to Kentucky as well.

There would be some attrition, however. If forced to stay three years, I do not think Enes Kanter would have ever entertained playing in the United States. He could have stayed in Turkey and made a lot of money as a pro before eventually trying the NBA. The depth and talent on this team would have kept Stacy Poole, Eloy Vargas, and Twany Beckham from attending UK.

Here is a look at my version of the Wildcats for 2010-11. Sensing the potential backlog of players, I kept the scholarships at 11 and made Polson a walk-on, which was the case in real life.

  • G- John Wall, SO
  • G- Eric Bledsoe, SO
  • G- John Hood, SO
  • G- Brandon Knight, FR
  • G-DeAndre Liggins, JR
  • G-Doron Lamb, FR
  • G-Jarrod Polson, FR (W)
  • F-Darius Miller, JR
  • F-Josh Harrellson, SR
  • F-Terrence Jones, FR
  • C-DeMarcus Cousins, SO
  • C-Daniel Orton, SO

As the core of this team was already a Final Four team, you would have to think that if the four previous players had stayed, then this would have been Calipari's first national title year.

After this season, Josh Harrellson would have graduated, and like he did in real life, DeAndre Liggins would have departed for the NBA. I also have Daniel Orton transferring elsewhere after two seasons at Kentucky.

This leaves us with eight scholarship players and Jarrod Polson as we head into the national championship season.


With three scholarships available and coming off a probable national title, it's easy to see that Kentucky is the premier place in the country and recruits realize they will be well served to go to UK for three years rather than head overseas.

I struggled a bit with the addition of Marquis Teague to the roster, but with Wall and Bledsoe, on the way out after this year, UK would still be attractive. I did not have Kyle Wiltjer coming to UK for the reason that the talent was stockpiling and he committed to Kentucky sight unseen. I don't think he makes that commitment with the talent UK has now. I can say the same about Ryan Harrow as he would have redshirted this year.

There is no reason to not think this will be a national title team.

  • G-John Wall, JR
  • G-Eric Bledsoe, JR
  • G-Jon Hood, JR
  • G-Brandon Knight, SO
  • G-Doron Lamb, SO
  • G-Jarrod Polson, SO (W)
  • G-Marquis Teague, FR
  • F-Darius Miller, SR
  • F-Terrence Jones, SO
  • F-Anthony Davis, FR
  • F-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, FR
  • C-DeMarcus Cousins, JR

After this season, Calipari loses four players as Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe head to the NBA. Darius Miller graduates, which leaves the Wildcats with eight players, which includes Polson, who was a walk-on.


I don’t think it is a shock to anyone but I do not see Archie Goodwin attending Kentucky under this model. The Wildcats did welcome freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress.

In addition, Julius Mays would come to UK for one year. After two years as a walk-on, Jarrod Polson was awarded a full scholarship, giving John Calipari 12 players this year.

  • G-Jon Hood, SR
  • G-Julius Mays, SR
  • G-Brandon Knight, JR
  • G-Doron Lamb, JR
  • G-Jarrod Polson, JR
  • G-Marquis Teague, SO
  • F-Terrence Jones, JR
  • F-Anthony Davis, SO
  • F-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SO
  • F-Alex Poythress, FR
  • C-Nerlens Noel, FR
  • C-Willie Cauley-Stein, FR

Arguably, this could have been another National Title team. The departures from this team would have been huge, however. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, and Terrence Jones would depart for the NBA while Jon Hood (remember, no injury) and Julius Mays would also leave.

For the first time, we see a real need to have a solid guard class next year and Calipari would enter the next season with seven scholarship players.


In desperate needs of guards, the Harrison twins answered the call and gave John Calipari his backcourt for at least three seasons. Once again, I did not see them going overseas and all of the other powerhouse schools would have similarly stacked rosters at this point. It would be abundantly clear by now that three years at Kentucky as a guard will put you in the lottery.

With the backlog of talent of Kentucky, we would not see some familiar faces. Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee would not enroll at Kentucky, but the class would be filled out by Julius Randle, Derek Willis, James Young, and Dominique Hawkins. As with Jarrod Polson. Hawkins would be a walk-on to start his Kentucky career.

  • G-Jarrod Polson, SR
  • G-Marquis Teague, JR
  • G-Aaron Harrison, FR
  • G-Andrew Harrison, FR
  • G-James Young, FR
  • G- Dominique Hawkins, FR (W)
  • F-Anthony Davis, JR
  • F-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, JR
  • F-Alex Poythress, SO
  • F-Julius Randle, FR
  • F-Derek Willis, FR
  • C-Nerlens Noel, SO
  • C-Willie Cauley-Stein, SO

I have to admit, I am really intrigued by this team. We can see what Marquis Teague would be with three years of Calipari coaching him and the thought of Anthony Davis and MKG together for three years make me giddy.

We only lose four players from this team, although the losses are hard to fill. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd—Gilchrist and Marquis Teague depart for the NBA while Jarrod Polson graduates.


The loss of Anthony Davis was met with the commitment of Karl- Anthony Towns. In addition, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis joined the team this year. As this was the core of a team that went 38-1, it is not hard to envision another national title.

  • G-Aaron Harrison, SO
  • G-Andrew Harrison, SO
  • G-James Young, SO
  • G-Dominique Hawkins, SO (W)
  • G-Tyler Ulis, FR
  • G-Devin Booker, FR
  • F-Alex Poythress, JR
  • F-Julius Randle, SO
  • F-Derek Willis, SO
  • F-Trey Lyles, FR
  • C-Nerlens Noel, JR
  • C-Willie Cauley-Stein, JR
  • C-Karl-Anthony Towns, FR

After this season, I have Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein departing for the NBA. In addition, I have James Young as a two-year transfer from Kentucky. The increasing backlog at the guard position is going to lead to some transfers. I did go ahead and give Alex Poythress another year in Lexington since he returned for his senior season in Lexington in real life.


With the loaded roster, I found it necessary to make some difficult decisions. As I have said a couple of times, some players that we love may not make it to the roster if players stay three years. It's a numbers game and unfortunately, hard cuts have to be made.

With that said, Charles Matthews and Skal Labissiere would have never committed to Kentucky. In addition, Calipari would not have gone after Mychal Mulder or Tai Wynyard. That said, there were plenty of new players on this roster. Say hello to Isaiah Briscoe, Isaac Humphries, and Jamal Murray. In addition, I awarded Hawkins a scholarship.

  • G-Aaron Harrison, JR
  • G-Andrew Harrison, JR
  • G-Dominique Hawkins, JR
  • G-Tyler Ulis, SO
  • G-Devin Booker, SO
  • G-Isaiah Briscoe, FR
  • G-Jamal Murray, FR
  • F-Alex Poythress, SR
  • F-Julius Randle, JR
  • F-Derek Willis, JR
  • F-Trey Lyles, SO
  • F-Isaac Humphries, FR
  • C-Karl-Anthony Towns, SO

After three years, the Harrison twins, Julius Randle will depart for the NBA while Alex Poythress graduates. With a loaded class coming in, Derek Willis sacrifices his scholarship for his season and walks on. It's a bit unusual, but not uncommon for in-state players to do so.


With the supreme sacrifice of Willis, Kentucky was able to welcome their entire class of De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, and Sacha Killeya-Jones. Brad Calipari would also join this squad as a walk-on.

  • G-Dominique Hawkins, SR
  • G-Tyler Ulis, JR
  • G-Devin Booker, JR
  • G-Isaiah Briscoe, SO
  • G-Jamal Murray, SO
  • G-De'Aaron Fox, FR
  • G-Malik Monk, FR
  • G-Brad Calipari, FR (W)
  • F-Derek Willis, SR (W)
  • F-Trey Lyles, JR
  • F-Isaac Humphries,SO
  • F-Bam Adebayo, FR
  • F-Wenyen Gabriel, FR
  • F-Sacha Killeya-Jones, FR
  • C-Karl-Anthony Towns, C

As crowded as this roster is, it was the only year that I had problems fitting all the players that I wanted to on the roster. And after this season, there would be six players leaving this year so we would head into 2017-18 with eight scholarship players and Calipari.

So what are your thoughts? Who would you have not coming to Kentucky if the three-year model was in effect?