To Stay or not to Stay? - Evaluating the Futures of Knight, Jones, and Liggins

04/27/2011 01:30 PM

It may take awhile for Cats fans to become comfortable with the idea of players leaving early for the NBA Draft. Better yet, some may never understand it. However, it is a reality the Big Blue Nation must come to grips with for the time being.

Since last week when Knight, Jones, and Liggins declared for the 2011 NBA Draft without hiring agents, questions have been swirling. Which guys will go? Which, if any, will stay? Let’s take an in-depth look at the factors that freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, and junior DeAndre Liggins are evaluating in order to decide whether they are remaining in Lexington or setting sail for the NBA.

Let’s start with Brandon Knight. The extremely quick and talented freshman guard has the most reason out of the three to enter the draft. Despite playing out of position much of the time, he was asked to clock an enormous amount of minutes and lead the Wildcats as a freshman… he did that wonderfully. He also showed grit and toughness in clutch moments throughout the NCAA Tournament which NBA scouts love. After a season that ended up in a Knight-led University of Kentucky in the Final Four and other players deciding to stay in school, it is no surprise his stock has risen to a potential top-5 pick.

Of course if Knight came back to Kentucky, he would be able to play the majority at shooting guard, a more comfortable position on team that could be 2012 National Champions. However, would that improve his stock in the draft? Considering the players who are projected to be in next year’s draft, it would be nearly impossible. Besides, he will play point guard at the next level. Regardless of the fact that he loves school and there’s a potential lockout on the horizon, it makes perfectly good career sense for Brandon Knight to keep his name in the hat.

Now let’s look at Terrence Jones, a much trickier situation. If you glance at the statistics from the past season there is no doubt he had an incredible freshman year; however, it’s no secret that there is ton he can do to get better. Being unbelievably athletic and having a few breakout games got him projected somewhere in the lottery, but put a right-hand and an improved skill-set on him and you got yourself a top-3 pick.

Here’s the tricky part. If Jones comes back for a sophomore season, he will be fighting for time and touches with both highly touted incoming freshmen, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. Some say coming back another year worked for Patrick Patterson, who came back from an NIT team in 2009 to play with J-Wall, Dcuz, and the crew in 2010 (sacrificing numbers to be showcased on a better team), but Terrence Jones doesn’t necessarily fit that same situation. He would be coming off an always hard-to-duplicate Final Four run. Also, simply because of the weapons at UK next season, there won’t be enough points, rebounds, and minutes to go around in order to have the impact he had this year. Therefore, depending on his NBA workouts, it seems The League is calling Jones’ name.

Last but definitely not least is junior DeAndre Liggins. Although he was not a headlining star like the previous two, Liggins was no slouch on the defensive end and showed glimpses of offensive brilliance throughout the season. His tenacity and length on the defensive end gives him a chance at being drafted relatively high. The question for DeAndre is will his draft position negatively change if he returns? The answer…it would change only for the better.

A 6’6’’ wing that can flat out defend while also possessing the potential to create offensive sparks from time to time is the definition of a great role player at the next level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Those players always find teams and usually win championships. Even if DeAndre Liggins plays out his senior season at Kentucky, he can go on to make a name for himself in the NBA. As a matter of fact, he would fit perfectly as a senior leader on a team of insanely talented youngsters. The hype of next season at Kentucky would only improve his situation. He should return with that in mind.

These underclassmen have until May 8 to withdraw their name from the draft, provided they do not sign with an agent.


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