Will they stay or will they go?

Published 5:35 pm Saturday, March 24, 2018

ATLANTA (KT) — It’s too early to speculate on who will be returning next season, but it will be business as usual for Kentucky forward Kevin Knox next week.

“I just want to focus on this season and get back to school get some good grades,” he said. “I want to focus on my teammates, get with my parents and (decide) if I’m going to come back or leave. But right now, I’m just focused on school and on this (past) season.”

Knox, the Southeastern Conference Co-Freshman of the Year, is considered a first-round pick and potential lottery selection in the NBA Draft in June. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the team’s point guard this past season, also is high on the target list of several NBA teams following his breakthrough season with the Wildcats.

Email newsletter signup

Scratch Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander off next year’s roster and that leaves potentially a solid nucleus returning, especially if Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington decide to return for a second season. All three players are on the fringe when it comes to the next level, so the chances of all three coming back next year weigh heavily on their draft stock. All three will likely declare for the draft, but only to test the waters and get an evaluation.

The players weren’t prepared to make an immediate decision following a 61-58 loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Thursday night at Phillips Arena in Dallas.

“The guys were crying and that’s how it is (when you lose) the last game of the season,” Knox said. “You don’t know who is going to go on or who is going to stay. It’s a tough environment, but coach (John Calipari) told us to keep our head up and move on.”

Knox added the sudden end to the season was frustrating.

“We were pretty confident coming into this game,” he said. “We worked hard all season. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It’s March Madness and anything can happen.”

The entire season, even a four-game losing streak, proved to be a learning experience, especially for Washington.

“I learned a lot, “ Washington said. “I learned a lot from coach Cal and this is one of the favorite years of my whole life. These guys made me better every day, especially coach Cal, who pushed me to be better every day in practice.”

As he does every season, Calipari will meet with every player, but ultimately won’t make the final decision.

“I don’t know yet until I sit down with all the guys, sit down and talk and see where they are with things and where their families are,’ he said. “I have no idea. We haven’t discussed it.”