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Calipari assesses draft stock of ex-Cats

By Jerry Tipton Lexington Herald-Leader

LEXINGTON -- De'Aaron Fox's shooting? "The least of my worries."

Bam Adebayo has "stunned" NBA personnel with his ability to shoot.

Malik Monk, like Eric Bledsoe seven years earlier, has point guard skills that were masked at Kentucky because he played alongside an even more skilled point guard.

Isaiah Briscoe is not as far along the age and developmental curve as you might think, so his upside is larger than you might think.

Isaac Humphries. Dominique Hawkins. Derek Willis. Mychal Mulder. "They're showing well, which makes me really happy."

On a teleconference Tuesday, UK Coach John Calipari spoke optimistically about each of his former players eligible for the NBA Draft on June 22.

The 37-minute call drew questions from reporters covering the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks in addition to regulars in the UK media corps.

Of course, the bottom line was where did Calipari expect his former players to be drafted. He said he'd guess that Monk would be taken in the three-to-seven range of picks, Fox two to five and Adebayo nine to 15.

He said players such as Briscoe and Humphries have improved their profiles in the pre-draft process. They are "going to have their opportunities, now."

Fox's shooting (24.6 percent accuracy from three-point range last season) prompted several questions. When asked by a reporter who covers the Sixers (third overall pick) how Fox could improve as a shooter, Calipari said, "Just got to be more consistent. He's got to get in the gym and be committed to it.

"When you can make free throws and you can make 15- to 17-footers at a high clip, then you can make threes. There's nothing mechanically wrong. â ¦ That should be the least of their worries. What you have is a long guard that can pick up 94 feet and can be as fast as anyone in the league."

Later, Calipari called attention to how Fox had improved throughout last season. How Fox had been an "unbelievable personality" in the locker room and shown a willingness to share the ball.

The UK coach likened Monk to Bledsoe. Monk could play point guard in the NBA, if the Sixers decided to use him at that position, Calipari said. The pros do not realize how well Monk could play in a pick-and-roll offense, the UK coach said.

"Malik is an elite, special talent and athlete," Calipari said. "When he gets in a zone, and he just locks it down, you just kind of sit there and say, 'Oh, my goodness.'"

Calipari expressed his belief that Monk will become a great defender and rebounder "because there's no reason he shouldn't be."

During pre-draft workouts, Adebayo surprised NBA teams with his shooting, Calipari said.

"Right now, everybody is stunned how Bam shoots the ball," the UK coach said. "I must have had 10 calls (saying) 'I didn't realize he shot the ball this way.'"

To which, Calipari offered a response. "You didn't realize Karl (Anthony Towns) shot the ball," he said. Calipari put Anthony Davis in the same category.

Calipari suggested that Briscoe's savvy play and competitive nature lead NBA scouts to misperceive the player.

"The thing that is driving me crazy is he's a sophomore, he just turned 20," Calipari said. (Actually, Briscoe turned 21 on April 13.)

"So when you look at him, you think, 'Well, here's a veteran,'" Calipari said. "No! â ¦ He's like one of the young guys in this draft. But he played at Kentucky. He's been through the wars. He knows how to win. He's improving his shooting."

Calipari seemed to say that prospects should not be judged by how they fit into a classic notion of a position. At the NBA Combine, Briscoe said he was a point guard.

"Who played point guard for Cleveland?" Calipari said. "Who played point guard for Golden State? â ¦ The game is changing. They're not doing it like that anymore.

"Can you play basketball? Can you make plays? Can you rebound (for) your position? Can you space the court? Are you a good layup shooter?"

By inference, Calipari seemed to be saying Briscoe can be this kind of player.

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