With the college basketball season over, many parts of the college landscape turn their attention to the other major sport on campuses around the country--football. Spring practice is happening all around the nation, including at Kentucky, where Joker Phillips looks to build on the momentum from finally getting over the hump and beating Tennessee last season.
At Kentucky, however, most eyes don’t focus on spring football, or baseball, despite the Wildcats 30-3 start and #1 national ranking. Our focus remains on one sport--basketball. 365 days a year, 24/7, it´s all basketball.
With a national championship in hand, and a week to celebrate, attention now turns to recruiting. Under John Calipari, the Wildcats have brought in the best recruiting classes in the nation the past three years, but with that bonanza of talented players comes much roster churn, and never so much as this year. It is highly likely that Kentucky will lose its top six players to the NBA draft, and virtually certain to lose its top two.
Anthony Davis will certainly leave, and why wouldn’t he? Most draft projections have him slated as the top pick and it simply makes no sense for him to come back, as delicious as that prospect would be to Kentucky fans.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hinted late in the season that he may want to return, but he is projected as the second pick in most mock drafts, so my hunch is that Calipari will strongly urge the freshman to make the leap to the NBA.
Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones both returned after last year with the intent to improve their draft status, and most likely have. I don’t see any scenario that either of them return. Darius Miller is a senior, which leaves the only possible returnee being point guard Marquis Teague.
Teague could certainly benefit from another year in college, but if NBA teams are waving a fat contract in front of him, it’s hard to see why he would return. Teague’s brother plays for the Atlanta Hawks, so Teague has perhaps a different perspective when getting advice on what to do than many other players. Still, I think the chances are less than 50-50 that Teague returns which would leave the Cats without any of their top six players from this year.
With that said, this is Kentucky, and we have John Calipari, and other programs don’t. We don’t rebuild, we reload.
Which leads us to tonight, the eve of the next signing period. Two of UK’s prime targest, Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad, are set to announce their college picks tomorrow night on ESPN. The bottom line is this-if the Cats sign both of them to go along with signees Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress-Kentucky will be primed to repeat in 2013. Even if UK gets just one of the “big 2”, they should be a top-5 team next year.
Another target of Calipari is Connecticut senior Alex Oriakhi who is transferring from the Huskies due to their NCAA tournament ban next season. Oriakhi would be immediately available and brings the experience not only of a senior but one who won a national title under UCONN’s Jim Calhoun two seasons ago. Oriakhi is friends with Nerlens, and the two have apparently talked about the possibility of playing together next season.
Needless to say, the next couple of days could be huge for the Wildcats. While the NCAA has set a ridiculous deadline of tomorrow for underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft, the NBA’s deadline is April 29-so don’t be surprised if several players announce they are coming back and then opt to leave. It’s yet another example of the NCAA NOT putting student-athletes first.
Whatever happens, the Wildcats look primed to have another great year next season under John Calipari! Go Cats!go back