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August 4, 2012

Ex-Cats return to Lexington for Calipari camps

Everything has changed. Nothing's much different.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a lot more money than he did when he played at Kentucky, and he's got a brand-new team, having been drafted and signed by the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. But as he ran the floor with kids at the Prasco John Calipari Procamp this week, he looked every bit the teenager he is.

"I still feel the same, believe it or not," Kidd-Gilchrist said this week. "I'm still the same little kid I was here. It's been good. A lot of hard work, but it's been fun for me."

The transition to NBA life has been different for each of Kentucky's six draftees - Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller - but through the adjustment, they've remained close.

Though Davis is playing for Team USA in the Olympics, the five other UK draftees from this spring's NCAA champion attended Calipari's Procamps this week, sharing court time with kids and off-court moments catching up.

Since the season ended, they've been through a draft and an NBA Summer League, and along the way, they've kept in contact.

"It's just a great experience and just a great time to actually have time to hang out with each other," Jones said. "In (Las) Vegas in the NBA Summer League, we all supported each other, hung out off the court, just had a great time seeing each other. It's just great to spend time with each other."

They've also had the chance to spend time with kids as young as 7 years old at the Procamps at Memorial Coliseum.

"I was the same way as those little kids out there," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I just love having fun at the end of the day with little kids. It's a good experience. I'm a role model now. That's what I take on from being here."

For the most part, the ex-Cats still are kids themselves. Only Miller spent four years in college, and Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague remain in their teens. But basketball is a job now. It's getting serious.

Davis is taking the court with the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in London - "It's crazy just to see him playing with them," Teague said - but here stateside things are a little less glamorous for his former teammates.

With Summer League wrapped up, most of the former Cats are focused on offseason workouts until training camp begins in October.

Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones and Teague were first-round picks. Teague is the only one yet to sign his guaranteed contract, but he said on Saturday that he and the Chicago Bulls are closing in on a deal.

Lamb, a second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, signed a partially guaranteed deal. Miller - drafted in the second round by the New Orleans Hornets, who took Davis with the No. 1 overall selection - likely is the only Cat who faces a fight to make a roster.

"I've been fighting for spots for a while," Miller said. "It was the same way when I was here with (high draft picks). It's nothing different."

Miller had his Summer League struggles, averaging 4.4 points per game on 33 percent shooting. Teague also had his ups and downs, averaging 10.6 points and three assists per game, but shooting 29.4 percent.

Lamb averaged 14 points per game and shot 45 percent. Kidd-Gilchrist played only one Summer League game, finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. And Jones made the most of his Summer League session, averaging 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Rockets.

It was only a taste of NBA action. The real thing picks up in the fall. That's when life gets really different.

For a week, though, the ex-Cats could still be kids, getting back together to relive the college experience "one last time," Teague said.

"We had a lot of fun here last year, practicing, just going hard, competing with each other," Lamb said. "We really came back for the kids, though, just to show support and be there for the kids, show our face and be active on the court with them. Make sure they feel that."


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