John Wall among 5 Wildcats Heading to NBA

Kentucky coach John Calipari, center, talks to DeMarcus Cousins (15) as Perry Stevenson (21) listens during the first half of a semifinal in the East Regional of the NCAA college basketball tournament Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Syracuse, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli

Freshman All-Americans John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and AP player of the year Evan Turner were among 10 players — including five from Kentucky — who declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday.

Wall and Cousins were joined by freshman teammates Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton and junior Patrick Patterson in leaving a Wildcats team that had a remarkable turnaround in coach John Calipari's first year at Kentucky. The Wildcats went 35-3 and won the Southeastern Conference regular season and conference tournament titles before losing to West Virginia in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.

Calipari met with each player individually and encouraged them to gauge their draft prospects.

"It's extremely unusual for four freshmen from the same team to have this opportunity, but it's my job as a coach to prepare these young men for such opportunities," Calipari said.

Also joining Ohio State's Turner and the Kentucky crew headed to the pros are two more one-and-done freshman in Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson and Kansas' Xavier Henry. Dayton junior Chris Wright, Xavier sophomore Jordan Crawford and Florida junior Alex Tyus also declared their eligibility for the draft, though none of have hired agents and could return to college. Players have until May 8 to change their minds.

Wall — the SEC player of the year after averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds — and Cousins are expected to be among the first few players selected in the June 24 draft.

"I'm not the same player as when I arrived at UK," Wall said in a statement. "I believe I'm ready for the next challenge as Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were the last two years under Coach Cal."

Turner, a 6-foot-7 guard also expected to be a top-three pick, said his decision wasn't an easy one.

"This is the toughest thing I had to do," he said, his voice breaking. "But I was blessed with this decision and I have a great opportunity. I'm going to turn a leaf over and go on to the next stage of my life."

The Chicago native averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 52 percent from the field, 36.4 percent behind the arc and 76 percent at the line.

Turner was moved to point guard before the season, a decision by Ohio State coach Thad Matta that raised some eyebrows because Turner had never played the position and had been prone to making mistakes with the ball.

But with Turner leading the way the Buckeyes went a surprising 29-8 (second-most wins in school history); won a share of the Big Ten title; took the conference tournament championship; and advanced to the NCAA tournament round of 16 before falling to Tennessee.

Turner has not hired an agent, but made it clear he is not waffling.

"I felt that whatever I did, I had to have two feet in," he said. "I had to be committed. This is the decision I'm committed (to)."

Henry, a 6-6 guard, averaged almost 14 points as the second-leading scorer for a Kansas team that won a sixth straight Big 12 championship and was ranked No. 1 most of the season, before getting upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Northern Iowa.

"I think coach prepared me as well as he can," Henry said of Jayhawks coach Bill Self. "He kept me confident throughout the whole season even when I went through slumps. He got my mindset ready to be able to play with anybody."

Henry said he agonized over the decision even though it had been widely assumed that he would be Kansas' first one-and-done player.

"People who really know me knew it would be a tough decision either way because they know I love people and once I start bonding with people that it's real hard for me to let go," he said. "The people outside looking in, they probably had no idea what I was thinking."

Stephenson, the Big East's rookie of the year announced he's going to hire an agent and forfeit his remaining college eligibility. The 6-foot-5 guard from New York led the conference in scoring by a freshman with 12.3 points per game during a highly inconsistent season.

He finished strong, averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds over the final four games. As the season wound down, Stephenson said repeatedly that he planned to return for his sophomore season because he hadn't met his own expectations.

Stephenson understands that he's not going to be a top pick in the draft.

"I've heard from people that Lance needs to stay," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "Lance understands he needs to develop as a player. He's going to have a chance to do that as a professional. It's a risk, but everything is a risk."


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