For the first time since the Calipari era began at Kentucky, they failed to have a player selected in the NBA Draft lottery. With that said, three Wildcats were taken in the draft — Tyrese Maxey (No. 21 — Philadelphia), Immanuel Quickley (No. 25 — OKC trade to New York) and Nick Richards (No. 42 — New Orleans trade to Charlotte).
The three new draftees bring the total of UK players taken in the draft under Calipari to 41 players, including three No. 1 selections, 21 lottery picks and 31 first rounders. The 41 draft picks in 14 higher than the next closest (Duke), and is more than any other program in the lottery era.
Former UK guard Tyrese Maxey was the first Wildcat to be picked by Philadelphia since 1975 (Mike Flynn). In his post-pick interview, he got very emotional as he recollected on the work he put in and thanked a specific former ‘Cat who has had plenty of success.
“I just want to show them that I can compete and I know what I can do,” Maxey said during the telecast. “I trust myself. I put the work in and I’m just so excited. I’m so thankful. I learned so much from (Rajon) Rondo (while he trained in LA). He took the time out of his day every morning to teach me the tricks of the trade and I just want to say thank you so much. I thank Philadelphia for this opportunity, and I promise that it won’t be a regret.”
The one and only LeBron James, who Maxey also trained with in quarantine, also had nice words to say about him:
2019 SEC Player of the Year Immanuel Quickley was initally drafted by the OKC Thunder, but was then traded to New York, where he will join former UK assistant coach Kenny Payne. After his selection, he talked about his faith keeping him humbled, and thanked UK coach John Calipari.
“For me it was more just staying true to who I am, which is keeping God first, and my grind. (Coach Cal) said I was one of the hardest-working players he’s ever had. And then also just being a great person off the floor. Those three things have really propelled me and gave me confidence on and off the floor. I feel like that was how I was able to lead and be a leader on last year’s team. Just putting the work in and my teammates and coaches believed in me,” he said.
Former UK center Nick Richards was initially drafted by New Orleans, but was then traded to Charlotte. While he did not have an official statement, we did get an emotional interaction between him and Calipari after his selection thanks to the UK men’s basketball Twitter account:
Ashton Hagans went undrafted, but the former UK guard signed a two-way deal immediately with Minnesota. EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina are also expected to hear from different teams about potential deals after both former UK players also went undrafted.
Overall, while “graduation night,” as Calipari calls it, did not include any flashy high-picks that we have usually seen in his time as the UK coach, I would say he was still proud of how the program was represented.