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Is Coach Cal going to bring back this year’s freshmen?

Mar 20, 2013, 10:30 AM EST

USA Today USA Today

The irony was almost too much to bear.

Kentucky, who had made their way up to John Calipari’s hometown of Moon, PA, for the NIT, got knocked out in the first round by Robert Morris. It was a one-and-done performance in the tournament no one pays attention to that could end up keeping this year’s recruiting class from being one-and-done players headed to the NBA.

Or at least that’s what Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein were saying after the 59-57 loss.

“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year. … If any of us were saying we think we should leave, then we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave.”

“Yeah, I do,” Poythress said, when asked if he thinks he’s coming back. “I don’t think I’m ready (for the NBA).”

But here’s the thing: it’s not so much whether or not they are ready for the NBA as it is that UK is ready for them to head to the next level. Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin are both being projected as mid-first round picks in the 2013 draft. They may be able to sneak into the back end of the lottery this year. Willie Cauley-Stein is projected as a top ten pick in 2014, but after the way he played after Nerlens Noel’s injury, it’s not difficult to imagine that an NBA team would be willing to use a guaranteed contract on him.

And if they do come back, where are they going to get their minutes from?

Kentucky’s recruiting class, as of this moment, includes both the Harrison twins, James Younger, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. There’s a chance that it could also include either Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle, maybe both. And while it’s starting to seem unlikely, Aaron Gordon might even be thrown into the mix.

Coach Cal doesn’t need depth. In 2010-2011, the seventh-man — Eloy Vargas — averaged 7.7 minutes. In 2011-2012, the seventh-man — Kyle Wiltjer — averaged 11.6 minutes. This season, the eighth-man — Jarrod Polson — averaged 13.8 minutes, and that had much more to do with Cal not trusting Ryan Harrow than it did wanted to play Polson that much.

Cal is going to bring in those five (or six or seven) recruits while also having Wiltjer return for his junior season. Throw Poythress, Goodwin and Cauley-Stein in the mix, and all of a sudden there is too much talent.

Is he going to risk the happiness and the sanity of his team for a group of freshmen that he said “hijacked” the program? Guys that he said he was forced to accept the unacceptable from?

I’ll believe it when the NBA Draft’s early-entry deadline passes and those three have yet to declare.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. gerryb323 - Mar 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    How will they have enough scholarships for all these players?

  2. erspielman - Mar 20, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    That James Younger is going to be a stud. Guaranteed.

  3. gmsalpha - Mar 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    That’s the downside of excellent recruiting. As a player, you have one chance to make an impact first impression. If you fail to impress or live up to your lofty expectations, too bad for you. UK will move on to the next group of kids and brush you to the side.

    Someone like Cody Zeller doesn’t have to worry about that because Indiana is good (right now), but there’s not a pack blue chip players waiting in the wings, ready to push him out of the way. Not that staying another year helped him.

    UK is fascinating in this way. Last year’s team chemistry will likely not be repeated, but the competition is fierce. Moreso at UK than any other school, including Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina.

  4. philliesblow - Mar 20, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    You can bet there will be some academic or other off court issues that get some players off the team. Calipari will just borrow a page from the Saban/Miles rule book for signing more players than scholarships available. It’s the SEC way.

  5. tarr123 - Mar 20, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    So four kids who don’t think they’re ready for the league want to stay in school further their skills on the court and gain another year of valuable education and Rob Dauster of all people is skeptical and pessimistic of the actual chance that it happens I mean you have to be a real dirtbag to cry about one and dones one minute and then be a hypocrite the next.
    #ProbablyAFatLoserAnyways

  6. ukraiders - Mar 20, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    7 freshman
    stein, Goodwin, poythress, harrow, wiltjer, polsen.

    That’s 13 schollies. We all know harrow might leave and rumor is Wiltjers dad wants him to leave. but if we get Wiggins the polsen goes back to walk on still leaving us at 13. If harrow leaves look for Hawkins from KY to take his spot

  7. iamjimmyjack - Mar 21, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    I bet u coach k or cal get an interview for the laker job this summer. I bet u.

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