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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Don’t expect John Calipari to take graduate transfers

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Or should we...

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Indianapolis Practice Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats may still be in the NCAA Tournament, but they’re still set to undergo major turnover this offseason.

We already know seniors Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Derek Willis will have their eligibility expire. We also know Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are locks to enter the NBA Draft, and Isaiah Briscoe is likely departing as well.

We also shouldn’t expect Isaac Humphries back based on his comments.

That’s seven scholarship players Kentucky is set to lose, not to mention the top six guys in the rotation right now. That means that, for now, next year’s starting lineup would look something like this:

  • Freshman guard Quade Green
  • Redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo
  • Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel
  • Freshman forward P.J. Washington
  • Freshman center Nick Richards
  • Bench: Freshman guard Shai Alexander; Freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt; Sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones; Redshirt sophomore forward Tai Wynyard.
  • Possible additions: Freshman forward Mo Bamba; Freshman forward Kevin Knox

That kind of turnover leading to a very green team is what Kentucky went through when they won the national title in 2012 and lost their top seven players.

We saw what that led to in the 2012-13 season, and that included John Calipari getting graduate transfer Julius Mays to try and give that team some veteran leadership. Mays certainly helped, but after taking a player from another college program, it doesn’t sound like that’s something Calipari wants to do again, even if next year’s team has virtually no real college experience.

As Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader points out, Calipari has been railing on the graduate transfer rule recently, so much so that it’s hard to envision him taking a grad transfer this year.

“I just can’t imagine we can’t come up with a solution that you have to sit out,” Calipari said Saturday. “If you transfer, you sit out. It’s just what it is. I mean, whether you graduated or not, you sit out. From what I understand, there are programs that have the names of all the kids that have a chance of transferring and playing right away. ‘Who can we grab out of that?’ Come on.”

“The problem is those kids play for a coach whose job may be on the line. So you take those kids and now all of a sudden that guy loses his job. I don’t think it says the right thing to the kids. I know it’s not right for coaching.

“But we’ll be mad about one and done. Really?”

It’s clear Calipari doesn’t want to raid small schools like Drexel (Damion Lee), College of Charleston (Canyon Barry), Robert Morris (Rodney Pryor), or Cleveland State (Trey Lewis). Those are the kinds of players that smaller schools rarely land, so stealing them away could be a death knell for that school’s coach.

Now, Calipari would be willing to make an exception for a player leaving a program whose coach was just fired. After all, kids commit to coaches more than the school, so if the coach is gone, the player has every right to leave and immediately play somewhere else, and Calipari knows this.

Perhaps Calipari would be willing to take a player from a school like Indiana, Washington, Cal, Illinois, or N.C. State, all of whom lost their coach this year. There’s nothing wrong with a player leaving after his coach has departed. The issue Calipari has is clearly with bigger programs poaching the best players from a coach still employed.

That’s how Calipari can criticize the grad transfer rule, still take one, and not be a hypocrite about it. We shouldn’t expect him to take one this year, but we can’t rule it out either.