- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2011

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - John Calipari cringes when people bring up the subject of one-and-done players, those freshmen who use college basketball merely as a springboard to the NBA.

He’s certainly had his share of them, four last year alone.

But every time newcomers Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb knock down key baskets, it seems that senior big man Josh Harrellson’s offensive rebound made it happen. Or it was junior DeAndre Liggins’ screen that set up the open look. Or Darius Miller providing the assist.

The freshmen have delivered most of the highlights this March, with Knight’s second game-winner of the NCAA tournament lifting the Wildcats past top-seeded Ohio State on Friday night and into the regional finals. But it’s been Billy Gillispie’s holdovers that have been holding everything together, providing the leadership necessary this time of year.


One and done? More like three and won.

“We’ve been together for six months,” Calipari said Saturday, fewer than 24 hours before playing North Carolina for a spot in the Final Four. “We’ve got freshmen playing with three vets who weren’t ‘the guys’ a year ago. It’s a new team, so we’re trying to figure it out.”

It’s nothing new to Calipari, though. He’s figured it out before.

The NBA declared in 2005 that players must be at least 19 years old or complete one year of college before entering the draft, so elite prospects do just that: spend one year on campus.

Calipari doesn’t like the rule, but ever since he returned to college coaching at Memphis, he’s chosen to embrace the unique opportunities that it presents.

Derrick Rose truly began his one-and-done wave, starring for the Tigers in 2007-08 before jumping to the Chicago Bulls. Tyreke Evans came the following year, and when Calipari moved on to Kentucky last season, perhaps the richest crop of freshmen ever signed on. Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and John Wall all turned pro after one year.

“I don’t agree with one-and-done, never have, but it is the rule,” Calipari said. “And I am not holding kids back. If they have the chance to go, I will tell them to go.”

Usually he has more in the pipeline.

It’s been Knight and Lamb this year, providing scoring punch from beyond the perimeter with the same youthful exuberance of their predecessors. But for the first time, it seems, there are some guys who have been around the block to help them along.

“Every team needs experienced players. Coach Cal does too,” Liggins said. “He kept us around because we’re experienced guys. It helps the team out a lot if you have experience.”

Liggins acknowledged that it’s sometimes difficult to watch elite freshmen come in every autumn, taking the minutes that the veterans believe they earned.

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