Liggins didn't expect to leave UK

DeAndre Liggins did not go into last season thinking it would be his last one at the University of Kentucky. What he did know was that he was going to have a chance to play more for coach John Calipari and that if he worked hard enough his game should improve.

DeAndre Liggins did not go into last season thinking it would be his last one at the University of Kentucky. What he did know was that he was going to have a chance to play more for coach John Calipari and that if he worked hard enough his game should improve.

It did and he eventually put his name into the NBA draft instead of returning to UK?for his senior season. He was drafted in the second round by the Orlando Magic and is now waiting for the NBA lockout to end.

"Probably a week after the season I?thought about it (going to the NBA)," said Liggins Saturday during a stop at Wildcat Wearhouse in Danville. "I?think I put in the work for it, so it came across my mind. I had to talk to my family and people close to me and decided from there. But when the season started,?I never thought this would happen.

"I never dreamed it would all work out this way for me. Hard work, though, pays off and surely paid off for me in a big way."

Liggins endured a year playing for coach Billy Gillispie that was controversial at times, worried if Calipari would keep him on the team when the new coach arrived and then was suspended the first two months of Calipari's first season before developing into a defensive stopper and reliable scorer on last season's Final Four team.

"It was crazy, but I?never gave up and tried to stay positive and it all worked out," Liggins said. "I am proud. I just thank coach Calipari and the coaching staff for helping me become a better player and person. My story is tough, but I fought through it."

He laughs when asked if there were two bigger surprises in college basketball last season than him and Josh Harrellson, who went from bench warmer to the second leading rebounder in the Southeastern Conference and NBA second-round draft pick.

"Nope. It is as good as it gets. Now we are trying to continue our careers and develop as good players. Two years ago was tough (when both were seldom playing), but you never know what happens if you stick with it. That's what me and Josh did and it turned out good for us," Liggins said.

He's happy to be part of the Magic, too.

"It's a great fit for me. I?just have to prove I?belong there. That's all I am focused on now," he said. "After the draft was over I went to Orlando for a week and worked out before the lockout started. They knew the lockout was coming and since they didn't work me out during the draft, they wanted me to come down.

"I wasn't surprised they took me in the draft. My agent called me that morning and said Orlando might take me.?I am happy they stuck with me. It is a perfect it. It could not get any better than that. They brought me in to play defense. I shot the ball extremely well during workouts. They worked us out individually for an hour with a lot of shooting and ballhandling drills. But I know my role is to play defense."

He reunited with former UK teammate Daniel Orton, Orlando's first-round pick in 2010 who missed last season with a knee injury.

"I had a chance to chill with Daniel. He told me how to do things and how to treat people He is a good teammate and good person. He's always been that way," Liggins said. "Our roles are kind of reversed now. I helped him when he got to UK, now he's helping me at Orlando."

Liggins also met Magic star Dwight Howard.

"He's a very funny guy. What you see is what he is. He's a good person, too," Liggins said.

Liggins says his agent, Henry Thomas, has contacted teams overseas about the possibility of Liggins playing there if the lockout drags on for month.

"If it happens, it happens. It could be a good thing to get over there and stay in shape, make some extra money and come back over when the lockout is over," Liggins said. "In my situation now, I've got a son. So that's something I'm looking into because money talks."

Liggins says he's proud to have been on UK's first Final Four team since 1998 even if few expected the Wildcats to get that far when the season started.

"That's how it is. Everybody knew their role and played their role well last year. That's what happens when everybody does that and comes together as a unit," he said. "I?think I?have got over that last loss (to Connecticut) and am moving on in my career, but I?will never forget it. That one will hurt for a long time no matter what else I do."


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