[Moderated by Matt Jones]
With the season coming to a close in the next few weeks (Please God don’t end tomorrow), the make-up of next year’s team starts to take the main focus. We all know about the incoming freshmen ready to take college basketball by storm, but the real question is who decides to stay another year from this team. There are a ton of factors playing towards convincing many of the freshmen to stay for their sophomore year. This season has clearly bothered every single one of these players, and a redemption season next year is certainly helping our cause to keep them in Lexington. The draft stock of everyone except Cauley-Stein and Noel has been plummeting. Let’s go player by player on their chances of returning:
Nerlens Noel- Noel is a sure-fire top 5 draft pick next year and rightfully so. The probability of his return all hinges on his rehabilitation of his knee. If he starts to get behind or sees complications, he could make a return to Kentucky next year. Personally, I hope he has no complications and can enter the draft because he deserves that. The only other factor with Noel is that he wanted a national title more than anyone else on this team. It is unlikely, but the draw of cutting down the nets after winning the national title (I’m staring at you Tom Crean) could help sway Noel. RETURN STATUS: HIGHLY UNLIKELY
Willie Cauley-Stein- Cauley Stein has really caught the eye of NBA scouts since his entrance into the starting rotation. He has a defensive presence just below Noel that has caught the eye of everyone who has watched him. He has all of the things you can’t teach a player, but his lack of offensive skills and Game IQ are the drawbacks for WCS. Combine that with his horrendous free throw shooting as we all know very well, and it becomes tough for a scout to envision him on an NBA rotation next year. If he enters the draft, he will go in the Top 15 because there is always a place for 7 footers in the NBA draft. However, Willie would be highly unlikely to see the NBA floor as a rookie. He would probably spend most of his time in the D League. Can Cal convince him a year at UK is better than the D League? I really hope so because the triple threat of having WCS, Lee, and Johnson as interchangeable pieces has the basketball lover in me salivating. Still, the draw of being a possible lottery pick is tough to turn down. RETURN STATUS: UNLIKELY
Ryan Harrow- You might as well call this the “Curious Case of Ryan Harrow.” Our point guard really has no draft stock at all, but all of the rumors indicate his departure is likely. My guess is Harrow will seek a spot in one of the Euro Leagues, but it is truly unknown at this point. If 5’6″ high school player Aquille Carr can get a contract in Europe, there is no doubt Harrow can do the same. Calipari has been reaching out to point guards like Hawkins and Owootoah which furthers the idea that Harrow will be leaving. I think Harrow would thrive as a backup to Andrew Harrison next year. The pressure of being a key factor to the team’s success would be off of Harrow and that is the key to him being comfortable on the court. RETURN STATUS: DOUBTFUL
Alex Poythress- Here is where things start to look bright for UK’s future team. Poythress is starting to look like he will be back for next year. First, his mother strongly pushes academics. If you recall, Vanderbilt was a strong draw for Poythress during his recruiting process. Aside from his family desire to further his academic progress, it is strikingly clear that Poythress needs another year to improve his game. His intensity and consistency are two factors that scouts have criticized Poythress about throughout the season. An offseason with Calipari combined with next season where he will likely be battling Julius Randle for playing time will be the best medicine to make Poythress an all-around better player. His draft stock has taken a massive hit, and he has been labeled as the frustrating player to read in the draft. RETURN STATUS: LIKELY
Archie Goodwin- It is beginning to look like Goodwin is in the same boat as Poythress. His flaws have become huge concerns for scouts, and the gradual improvement over the season has simply not been there. While everyone complains about Goodwin’s erratic drives to the basket, one of the biggest criticisms of the shooting guard is that he is simply not a good shooter at this point in his career. His three point shooting was scarce to put it likely this year. To be brutally honest, what good is shooting guard in the NBA if he can’t truly shoot the basketball? Goodwin needs a year to work on his jump shot and overall basketball IQ to prove he is not reckless on offense. I think he is starting to realize how badly he needs to work on these factors. RETURN STATUS: LIKELY
Kyle Wiltjer- I know it seems weird even throwing his name into this discussion. It’s no secret that Wiltjer is miles away from the next level because of his speed and defensive struggles. Why am I bringing him up in this post?
Still saying it’s highly unlikely Harrow returns. The surprising name that came up, as a possible transfer, was Kyle Wiltjer.
— UK Recruiting (@WildcatRecruits) March 18, 2013
Obviously this is a rumor, but that is news actually starts. For now, take this with a grain of salt. That being said, this UK Recruiting Twitter account has a pretty strong track record in the past. I hope Wiltjer does not transfer because I would love to see him enter his role as a strictly three point shooter next year like the championship. RETURN STATUS: HIGHLY LIKELY
We have a monster class coming in next year. The freshman are so strong that I do not even see Goodwin or Poythress starting next year. However, that duo staying would provide the greatest benefit for everyone’s games. Archie Goodwin would improve his game drastically if he had to battle the Harrisons and James Young everyday in practice. Assuming we get Julius Randle, Poythress would finally have a person in on the team that would push him to play at his highest level every day. I know it’s been a rough year, but next year is looking beyond beautiful Cats fans.
Follow me to the promised Land: @JayHochKSR
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