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NBA notes: College stars considering options

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 12:24 p.m. MDT

Stitches can be seen in a cut over the eye of Kentucky's Josh Harrellson as he listens during a news conference, Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Newark, N.J., as his team prepares to face North Carolina in the East regional final of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday.  (Mel Evans, Associated Press) Stitches can be seen in a cut over the eye of Kentucky's Josh Harrellson as he listens during a news conference, Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Newark, N.J., as his team prepares to face North Carolina in the East regional final of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday. (Mel Evans, Associated Press)

Several star players will soon have to make decisions on whether to return for another season or head to the NBA. Already, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger has announced that he plans to return for his sophomore year.

Underclassmen have until April 24 to declare for the draft, and they can withdraw by May 8 to retain their eligibility as long as they do not hire an agent. But compounding the difficulty in that decision this year is the threat of an NBA lockout.

The league and the players' association have been working on a new collective bargaining agreement for one that expires June 30, though it's unclear how much progress has been made.

While the NBA draft will go on regardless of whether there's a lockout, teams wouldn't be able to sign or pay players until a new CBA is struck. That means a lot of uncertainty for the players, especially if negotiations were to drag into next season.

"Everybody tells me there is going to be a lockout, but I will also do one thing that I have always done: Here is the information, what do you want to do?" North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Saturday. "And then I'm going to support whatever that individual wants to do."

North Carolina's Harrison Barnes (40) drives to the basket during the second half of an an East regional semifinal game against Marquette in the NCAA college basketball tournament on Friday, March 25, 2011, in Newark, N.J.  (Julio Cortez, Associated Press) North Carolina's Harrison Barnes (40) drives to the basket during the second half of an an East regional semifinal game against Marquette in the NCAA college basketball tournament on Friday, March 25, 2011, in Newark, N.J. (Julio Cortez, Associated Press)

The Tar Heels' Harrison Barnes is one player who could test the NBA market, while Kentucky — the team they play Sunday in the regional finals — has a trio of talented freshmen in Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, all of whom could consider turning pro.

"Right now, you know, I know all of us are student-athletes," Knight said. "We are focused on being student-athletes first, so we are just — I'm enjoying the time that I'm having here, and you know, loving the college experience."

Lamb was a bit more succinct in his plans for next year.

"I'm just having fun playing with these teammates, and playing with Coach. I just want to have fun," he said. "I'll be back next year, so I can't be worried about leaving."

RATINGS BONANZA: The first time that every NCAA tournament game has been available live on television has certainly worked out well for everyone involved.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari answers a question at news conference Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Newark, N.J., as his team prepares to face North Carolina in the East regional final of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday.  (Mel Evans, Associated Press) Kentucky head coach John Calipari answers a question at news conference Saturday, March 26, 2011, in Newark, N.J., as his team prepares to face North Carolina in the East regional final of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday. (Mel Evans, Associated Press)

The average rating through the regional semifinals, including the "First Four games," was 5.8 — representing the percentage of homes with televisions tuned to a program. That equated to about 9.0 million viewers overall, an increase of 13 percent from a year ago.

This is the first year of a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting that guarantees every game will be televised live on CBS, TBS, TNT or truTV. In the past, broadcasts on CBS were regionalized, and the network would switch among games.

FASHION STATEMENT: Josh Harrellson's nickname is "Jorts," which the Kentucky senior earned after a picture of him wearing a lengthy pair of jean shorts popped up on a popular web site while he was being recruited by former coach Billy Gillispie.

It's a moniker Harrellson has embraced. He has about a dozen pairs of jean shorts stuffed inside a drawer in his bedroom in a wide array of colors and lengths.

"It's a fashion statement, they're easy to put on," he said. "I can wear my basketball shorts underneath them and wear them out to the courts, they're easy to slip off."

Students declared Harrellson's final game at Rupp Arena "Jorts Day," and dozens turned out to honor the much-improved former junior college player by donning a pair of their own.

GETTING PHYSICAL: Every coach takes pride in the toughness of their team, that dogged desire to grab every rebound, track down every loose ball, make every possession miserable.

When that's not happening, they go to great lengths to get their message across.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was so disgusted earlier this season that he found some boxing gloves and punching bags and put his guys to task. He figured those kinds of intense workouts might spark something in a team trying to mix several star freshmen with a handful of veterans.

"We had to go to toughness drills," Calipari explained Saturday, on the eve of his team's game against North Carolina in the regional finals. "We put on boxing gloves, heavy bag, and we had guys hurt their wrist hitting a heavy bag with a glove on."

The drills must have worked, though. Kentucky got tougher physically and mentally, which allowed the Wildcats to start winning close games. That's carried into the NCAA tournament, where Brandon Knight delivered last-second shots to beat Princeton and Ohio State.

"Like coach said, we weren't tough in the season, we let a lot of games slip away from us in the late-game situation," Harrellson said. "We kind of turned that around."

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