Within minutes of a devastating loss in the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky’s freshmen had microphones thrust in their faces and were asked about their futures.
Of course, speculation is ongoing throughout the season with mock drafts and player rankings, but this is the point of the year when these guys really start thinking about the future.
PJ Washington is an All-American, and it would be absolutely shocking to see him forego the NBA for another season. Keldon Johnson has been projected as a lottery pick all season, and while he has not met expectations at Kentucky he will be a mid-first round pick at worst.
The two guys with the biggest decisions to make are Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans. Hagans was once a defensive player of the year candidate, but really took a step back in the last six weeks of the season. Herro climbed draft boards throughout the season, and he is now commonly projected in the top 20.
When asked in the locker room, both players admitted that they have a big decision to make. While you can take these post game conversations with a grain of salt due to the emotions involved, of course Big Blue Nation wants to know what they have to say.
Herro responded, “Of course,” when asked about whether or not he would consider a return to college basketball. He may be the epitome of the “sell-high” analogy, and many believe he will capitalize on his success and head to the NBA while his stock is high.
But if he has his sights set on the lottery, you have to wonder if he would come back with a chance to be a top 10 draft selection.
Hagans said he absolutely has a decision to make, feels like he had a hell of a year and will "see what happens".— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) March 31, 2019
The consensus over the last month or so has been that Hagans would benefit from another year in college. Yet, he talked after the game about how tough the decision will be about his future. He believes he had a great year, which he did, at times. However, it is not common for players to leave after one year when they are projected in the late second round.
I think it is likely that Kentucky will have a large group of players that attend the NBA Draft combine. The feedback they get there will have more weight on their decision than anything that has been said up to this point.
It also sounds like Calipari may be more willing to encourage guys to return than he has in the past:
Reading between the lines on Cal's show tonight, he thinks his young guys should follow PJ Washington's lead and come back to develop their game a second year. Two or three times hinted at the "grown-ass man" aspect of the NBA.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) April 1, 2019
Will these freshmen take the PJ Washington route and come back to improve? Or will they take the leap and head for the league?