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John Calipari: Kentucky PG Tyler Ulis entering 2016 NBA draft

SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 13: Tyler Ulis #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball in the 82-77 OT win over the Texas A&M Aggies in the Championship Game of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Seven players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison – left Kentucky with eligibility remaining to turn pro.

One Wildcat who stayed, Tyler Ulis, will soon join them.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, via Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal:

“I’m happy for him,” Calipari said of the 5-foot-9 Ulis, who has earned first-team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated, Sporting News and USA TODAY while also winning SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. “When he came here, you had everybody tell me, ‘You’ve got a four-year point guard. Now this is how you should do it.’ And, ‘He doesn’t need to have all pros.’ Welp, you were wrong again. I mean, here’s this kid that’s going to be a pro. He’ll be drafted this year, after two years.”

The new draft-withdrawal rules would allow Ulis to declare for the draft, participate in the combine and then return to Kentucky. But Calipari’s statement sure makes it sound as if Ulis is set on entering and remaining in the draft.

Ulis is a borderline first-round pick, though he’s more likely than not to get picked in the top round.

He’s tough and smart – an excellent distributor and pesky defender. But his size raises concern, especially with a lack of elite athleticism and shooting. How well can Ulis set up NBA teammates if opponents don’t respect his ability to score? How well his defense translate against bigger and stronger opponents?

Ulis, whose Kentucky teams opens the NCAA tournament with Stony Brook, will have another game or six to ease those concerns.