John Calipari said the NBA's new proposal to lower the age limit for the NBA draft to 18 will change college basketball for the better if it's adopted.
USA Today reported Thursday that the NBA has formally proposed changing the draft-eligible age requirement from 19 to 18, and Calipari said he would be "ecstatic" if the change meant the players who did come to college stayed longer.
However, the Kentucky coach also said he opposes the "baseball rule" that would require players who choose college basketball to stay in school for two or three years. Players should have the right to leave when they're ready, he said, but those who do go to college and pass on the chance to leave after high school will likely stay for multiple seasons.
"We should not go to a baseball rule," Calipari said Friday at his pregame news conference for Saturday's matchup against Auburn. "If a kid goes to college and after a year or two wants to go to the NBA and is good enough -- and he grew, he got bigger, he got more confidence -- let him go. Why would you now force a kid to go two years? But if they come to college, let me explain: very, very few will be able to leave after a year or they would have left. They would have gone. So now they go to college, they're gonna stay two or three years. You don't think I'm happy about that? I'd be ecstatic."
Calipari said the change will increase the experience level in college basketball and added that he was less "anxious" prior to the one-and-done era.
"This program has been special and it's gonna remain special whatever the rules are so anything like this, I believe it helps us," he said. "I'd love to be coaching kids three or four years. You kidding me? That's what I used to do. Believe I wasn't as anxious. I could walk into games with juniors and seniors being down 10-0. Timeout. 'C'mon guys. You know you're better than this.' Knowing where the game is going. And all of a sudden you'd look up and we'd be up 20 at halftime."
He also chimed in about Zion Williamson, who suffered a mild knee sprain 36 seconds into Wednesday's loss against North Carolina and destroyed his left shoe in the process.
"The kid is so unusual: size-wise, explosiveness, quick twitch," Calipari said. "I don't care what he had on. It's a wonder both shoes didn't blow out.
"What Nike will do with him, if he decides to go with Nike, is that they would make a shoe special for him," Calipari said. "I doubt if they're able to do that because he's a college player. Now, they did some stuff with Karl Towns because he had a 19- or 20-inch shoe but his foot was [narrow], so they had to do something special for him."
Kentucky recently partnered with Nike for an exclusive team colorway of its PG 2.5 shoe, the same model that Williamson blew out. Nike's stock dipped the day after Williamson's injury, but Calipari said the make and model of the shoe wouldn't have mattered.
Williamson, who is averaging 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, is listed as day-to-day. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he felt "optimistic" about the national player of the year candidate's status during his Thursday night show on ESPNU Radio ahead of Saturday's matchup against Syracuse.
If the NBA changes its rules and players like Williamson can turn pro after high school, Calipari said Kentucky will adjust.
"If they're out of high school and they can go directly to the NBA and get drafted and get millions of dollars, I'm for it 100 percent," Calipari said. "Just let's not devalue education. Let's just not devalue it. Let's not make it solely about basketball. What we do and how we do it is important."