2011 NBA Draft Combine Coverage: Kentucky's DeAndre Liggins Made Right Decision in Entering NBA Draft - June 10
Every year I scratch my head at several underclassmen who decide to leave school and enter the NBA Draft early; and this year was no different. Most people felt that way about DeAndre Liggins' decision to leave Kentucky after his junior season. However, when you look at Liggins' situation with his personal life and how things likely would have shaped up on the court at Lexington next season, his choice to turn pro makes sense even though there is a real possibility he will not get drafted on June 23.
Liggins was not a star at Kentucky, as he was fifth on the team in scoring this past season averaging 8.6 points per game. He will never be a star in the NBA. However, despite being overshadowed the past two seasons by freshmen like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, Liggins felt now was the right time to leave school and pursue his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
When dissecting Liggins' decision to turn pro, two things come to mind. He became a father this past season and now has to support a family (including his fiancee). Also, with the extremely talented batch of recruits coming to Kentucky next season, there was no guarantee that Liggins would see more playing time than he did this past season.
The Wildcats figure to be loaded on the wing with Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones all returning along with the addition of McDonald's All-American Michael Gilchrist. Calipari's outstanding reputation as a recruiter is a huge reason for his success as a coach, but it has worked against Liggins.
"We had other guys who more highly recruited than me, so (Coach Calipari) would rather live with their mistakes than my mistakes," Liggins said at the NBA Draft Combine. "But I have the chance to show people I can do more than I did at Kentucky. Coach Cal recruits one-and-done guys, but he also makes them work for their playing time."
Liggins earned his playing time due to his ability to blend in with those one-and-done players. His biggest asset to the Wildcats was developing into one of the best defenders in the SEC. Versatility played a major part in that as Liggins was able to guard multiple positions depending on the nightly matchup.
While defense is a huge strength for Liggins, his offensive abilities are in question with his transition to the next level. He shot the ball well from three this past season (39.1% which was up from 31.8% his sophomore year), but he never showed consistency in attacking the basket. Still, Liggins feels he can hold his own in the NBA.
"The whole thing with me is confidence," Liggins stated. "I have to have the confidence that I can play offense. I didn't have the ball in my hand a lot but I think my offense improved greatly the first two years and this year it improved again. Coach Cal gave me this confidence. That's what I love about him."
If Liggins is drafted, it will most likely be in the late second round which does not guarantee him a contract or a spot on an NBA roster. In fact, it may actually be beneficial for Liggins to not get draft so he can pick which team has a need for depth on the wing and try to earn a spot as a free agent during training camp. If not, Liggins will likely have to make a living by playing ball overseas.
Whichever path he ends up taking, Liggins is prepared to scratch and claw his way to the next level.
"I wanna be the underdog, my whole life," Liggins said. "I've got nothing to lose here. I'll put it on the line and give it my all."