Calipari to Bilas: Kentucky's culture, system, process produce NBA players

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Thursday's NBA draft increased the total number of picks from Kentucky in John Calipari's 10 seasons as coach to 38 draftees. That included 29 first-rounders and 21 lottery selections.

Analyst Jay Bilas has suggested as recently as ESPN's telecast of this year's draft that no college program "produces" NBA players. More than once this week he tried to make this point by saying NBA teams do not claim to produce all-star players.

"I don't agree," Calipari said at a Saturday news conference. "What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don't know. Maybe I'm missing something."

Herro, a four-star prospect at No. 37 in 247Sports' composite ranking of high school seniors a year ago, was drafted by Miami with the No. 13 pick Thursday. Calipari suggested that this evolution proved how Kentucky's program helps improve players to an NBA-caliber level.

Bilas acknowledged that college programs can enhance players' abilities, but he said he did not accept a college program claiming to "produce" NBA-level players.

Calipari seemed to make that claim.


"I think there's a culture that we have, a system, a process that we have in developing them with an idea of what the end result will be ...," the UK coach said. "To say why go there when you can go anywhere is what he's saying. I don't believe it. But he can say it."

As if to emphasize his point, Calipari told assembled reporters, "I want you to hear: It doesn't matter what school you go to. You're going to make it if you're supposed to.

"Do you believe that's true? Does anybody believe that's true?"

Calipari said he stops short of saying in his recruiting pitches that Kentucky alone can get a player to the NBA.


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