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Seven Kentucky basketball players declare for NBA draft

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Seven Kentucky basketball players declare for NBA draft

Kentucky basketball might have lost its bid for perfection, but the 2015 Wildcats might not be done making history. They could break their own modern-era NBA draft record of six picks in 2012 by having seven selected this June. Seven Kentucky players with eligibility remaining — Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, and Aaron and Andrew Harrison — all stated their intent Thursday to enter the NBA draft.635641856966742627-GTY-466949038-71741253

And, Kentucky coach John Calipari said, “If Alex (Poythress) didn’t get hurt, it would have been eight.” With the departures, Kentucky is losing 85% of its points, 83.2% of its blocked shots, 78.3% of its steals, 77% of its rebounds and 69.6% of its assists from the 2014-15 season. The cupboard is not completely bare, as freshman point guard Tyler Ulis, sophomore forward Marcus Lee and junior forward Alex Poythress – all former McDonald’s All-Americans – will return.

Sophomores Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, two former in-state high school stars who struggled to find playing time on a loaded Cats roster, are also expected back. Kentucky has also already received pledges from three top-100 recruits, including 6-11 No. 3 Skal Labissiere, who is already being projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft by DraftExpress.com. Hawkins, Willis, fellow Wildcats players Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and E.J. Floreal were all present to watch. Poythress is one of six scholarship players who is expected to return, though Poythress is still torn. Kentucky went 38-1 this season, winning the SEC championship and going unbeaten until falling to Wisconsin on Saturday in the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

Two days later, Calipari said he expected at least five and as many as seven underclassmen to declare for the draft. Towns is projected as a top-five, perhaps top-two pick. He, Lyles and Booker all were freshman this season. Towns said the freshmen did not all plan to be one-year players for the Wildcats when they came to Lexington. Said Booker: “I honestly did not think I would be in this position so early.” Calipari has had 19 draft picks, including 15 first-rounders, in his first five years coaching the Wildcats. Towns, Lyles and Booker will give him 16 one-and-dones.

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