John Calipari was unable to be at last night’s NBA Draft due to “reasons out of [his] control,” but Cal being Cal, you know he had to weigh in on where his guys landed. After the dust settled on “Graduation Night,” Calipari sent out these comments in a press release from UK.
Isaiah Jackson is “just scratching the surface of his talent”
Isaiah Jackson was selected No. 22 by the Los Angeles Lakers and through a trade with Washington and Indiana, ended up with the Pacers. He’s the 32nd first-round pick of the John Calipari era. Kentucky has had at least one player taken in the first round of each of the last 12 NBA Drafts, the longest streak in the modern draft era.
“I am so happy for Isaiah Jackson and his family,” Calipari said. “He is just scratching the surface with his talent and is another one of our guys who is going to make a lot of teams regret passing on. Isaiah had an unbelievable spirit with us, and I can’t wait to see him continue to grow at the next level.”
“It’s a surreal moment,” Jackson said Thursday at the Barclays Center. “Just growing up, just wanting, like having the dream of making it to the NBA, it’s just crazy. So, this is surreal moment for me and I’m enjoying it.
“It lived up to everything, just having my name called, getting drafted. It’s just, it’s mind blowing. … It just feels like a dream in a way. Like, it’s just crazy right now. I’m just trying to bottle all my emotions and it’s just crazy, man.”
“BJ is going to use tonight as fuel”
BJ Boston had to wait a little longer to hear his name called. He was taken No. 51 by the Memphis Grizzlies — the first UK player ever drafted by the club — but will be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Boston’s NBA Draft stock was much higher when he came to Kentucky a year ago, but Calipari is certain he will use the slide as motivation.
“BJ is going to use tonight as fuel and is going to have a great NBA career,” Calipari said. “I am sure of it, just as sure as I am that teams are going to look back and wish they would have taken him sooner. BJ has length, an ability to score that few have and a high ceiling.
“He has landed with a great franchise that will give him time to grow, and my guess is we will look back in a couple of years and realize how much he was hurt this season by his hand injury and the COVID year. I know he is a special player.”
Olivier Sarr “will be a steal”
As expected, seven-foot forward Olivier Sarr did not get drafted, but will likely get a chance to prove himself in the NBA Summer League.
“I am disappointed for Olivier that he did not get selected tonight, but not discouraged,” Calipari said. “Olivier is a mature kid with great skills and range for a player his size. With the right opportunity, I think Olivier is going to find a spot and will have a successful career. I am looking forward to seeing who gets him because it will be a steal.”
Terrence Clarke tribute “shows the true heart of the league”
While it was great to see Isaiah Jackson walk across the stage, the moment of the night had to be the NBA’s tribute to Terrence Clarke. Just after the lottery, between the 14th and 15th picks, Commissioner Adam Silver took the stage and honored Clarke with a posthumous selection.
“Terrence was expected to be drafted tonight but he tragically passed away in April following a car crash,” Silver said. “He was 19. His extraordinary talent, commitment and dedication to the game deserve to be recognized on this stage.”
Clarke’s mother Osmine, sister Tatiana, and younger brother Gavin were invited to the draft and took the stage to shake hands with Silver.
“To the three of you, and all those who knew and admired Terrence, please know that he will forever be a part of the NBA family,” Silver said. “It is my honor to now announce that with the next pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the NBA selects Terrence Clarke from the University of Kentucky.”
There was not a dry eye in the house, or the Big Blue Nation.
“I want to thank Adam Silver, Mark Tatum and everyone in the NBA office who gave Terrence’s family and all of us who loved him a special moment tonight,” Calipari said. “It shows the true heart of the league and I thank you all.”
Just a beautiful moment.