NEW ORLEANS -- John Calipari said his Kentucky team that faced Kansas in the NCAA championship game Monday night at the Superdome might have as many as six first-round draft picks. If that seems high, just remember that his 2010 team included five first-round picks, starting with No. 1 overall John Wall.
There's no doubt that 6-10 freshman Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick this summer if he chooses to come out as expected, and it's possible that forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could go No. 2, certainly in the top five. Forward Terrence Jones probably is a lottery pick, and guards Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague have late first-round potential. Senior guard Darius Miller also could sneak into the first round.
What it all shows is that no coach has embraced the economic realities for top basketball talent as fervently as Calipari has. Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Kansas coach Bill Self marveled at the Final Four at his ability to manage a program with so many players who leave early for the NBA. Miller is a rare Wildcats senior, and he has played with 40 teammates in four years.
"It's not my rule," Calipari said of the NBA rule that bans players younger than 19 from entering the draft, thus forcing them to play at least one season in college before heading to the NBA unless they want to play overseas.
Calipari went on to outline his solution for what the NCAA and NBA might do to encourage players to stay in school longer.
The first thing is for the NBA to shorten the term of rookie contracts if a player stays two or more years in college. They come out early now to start the clock ticking toward their second contract, when they can become free agents.
Calipari said the NBA rookie pay scale also could be increased for players who graduate in three or four years. He suggested the NCAA and the schools that recruit elite players should fund loans for disability insurance, which costs upward of $12,000 per year, to insure against career-ending injury.
Noting that North Carolina is losing its top three stars to the NBA draft and that Duke is losing freshman Austin Rivers, Calipari said, "It's not just my issue now. What happens is you have a young man that can leave after a year, and he's going to be drafted in the first five or 10 picks. How do you tell him to stay?"
Calipari said he has discussed the issue with Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA. "He liked the insurance, all the other stuff," Calipari said. "I told him we have to do something now because do we really want 150 high school kids to think they're going to college for one year? In reality, you're going to have five or six, but there's 150 that think they are that guy."
Calipari tells players he recruits to expect to stay two years minimum. Of course, they know his track record for preparing players well enough to leave sooner.
NCAA officials are studying the idea of increasing the stipend for athletes to $2,000 per year to replace antiquated rules limiting spending money for incidentals such as laundry. Calipari sees that figure as inadequate but said it's at least a starting point.
Finally, the Kentucky coach said NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter is a key figure because he ultimately must sign off on the rules in collective bargaining.
"I think the NBA shortening a contract if a kid stays or graduates, it's good for them," Calipari said. "There's things we can do, but you've got to negotiate them."