Calipari waits on Meeks to make final roster moves

May, 22, 2009
Kentucky coach John Calipari said late Thursday that he has already talked to three players who will not be returning in order to get the Wildcats down to the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarships.

UK went over the maximum with the high-profile signings of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe -- coupled with the return of Patrick Patterson from the NBA draft. Calipari wasn't ready to name the players who are affected.

But Kentucky officials had previously acknowledged that under former coach Billy Gillispie, one reserve knew that he was on a one-year scholarship, another had already graduated but had a year of eligibility remaining, and a third was apparently not talented enough for the SEC. There could be more attrition to come, according to Calipari. The Wildcats will need to come up with one more scholarship if Jodie Meeks withdraws from the NBA draft by June 15.

Calipari said he was never worried about getting down to the number 13. But he also wasn't going to cut players just to cut them unless there were issues (not talented enough, academics or finished with school) in case any of the newcomers didn't qualify academically.

"Everyone has to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse and we all think everyone is fine," Calipari said. "We don't think there will be any issues. But you don't want to get caught short if something happens."

The roster will take shape at the latest by mid-June after Meeks makes his decision whether he's staying in the draft or returning for his senior season in Lexington.

Calipari said newcomer Daniel Orton has already been on campus working out with the Kentucky strength and conditioning coaches and Patterson too. Calipari said Wall will be in Lexington beginning June 9 to attend both summer school sessions. So, too, will Cousins, Orton and Darnell Dodson. The only Kentucky player who may participate in USA basketball is returnee Darius Miller, who Calipari said will try out for the FIBA USA 19-and-under team coached by Pitt's Jamie Dixon.

Meanwhile, Calipari is attempting to create an atmosphere in Lexington where the summer pickup games are a destination for NBA players. He wants his current crop of newcomers to go against the Kentucky alumni in the NBA.

"I want as many guys playing here as possible," Calipari said.

Calipari said he is attempting to get Nazr Mohammed (Charlotte), Tayshaun Prince (Detroit), Rajon Rondo (Boston) and Chuck Hayes (Houston) to come back and play this summer.

"I want to see unbelievable pickup games," Calipari said. "I want it to be for the pros that there is no reason to go anywhere else."

Calipari also said talks with Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen are over and that Rohrssen will remain with the Jaspers instead of going to Kentucky to be an assistant with John Robic, Orlando Antigua and Rod Strickland.

"Slice [Rohrssen] told me he's got a good team and in the end didn't want to do it," Calipari said. "I'm going to hire one more guy, it will be an out-of-left field hire. You'll see."

• Well, the rumor that Jay Wright will leave Villanova one day for the Sixers continues to be proved incorrect. Wright withdrew from consideration for the vacancy. Wright seems to be a natural to slide over to the NBA's Sixers, just like Mike Montgomery did when he was at Stanford and took the Golden State Warriors gig. Taking the NBA job is a financial parachute that is hard to dismiss. But Wright clearly likes where he's at and doesn't want to mess with his life. Pitt's Dixon and Wright are likely going to be the two standard bearers in the Big East for years to come as Syracuse and Connecticut eventually cycle out their Hall of Fame coaches.

• Bruce Weber is one of the class acts in college basketball and was rewarded for his honest service with an extension at Illinois until 2015. Weber continues to plow ahead, doing what he knows is correct, and was rewarded for his good behavior.

• Connecticut should feel a bit concerned over Detroit's Rip Hamilton suing Josh Nochimson after the Pistons player said his former business manager stole $1 million to fund various ventures. Nochimson, the former UConn manager and one-time registered agent, is alleged to have aided in the recruitment of former UConn student-athlete Nate Miles and current UConn player and current early-entrant Ater Majok. In court proceedings, what Nochimson used the money for could become public record. If it does then the NCAA enforcement staff would have access to possible information if he did use any of Hamilton's money for Miles and/or Majok.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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