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Kentucky has some questions to answer this offseason

Apr 8, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

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Under John Calipari the equation’s been a relatively simple one for Kentucky: after one highly regarded freshman class completes its season, another rolls in with the expectation of immediately competing for a national title. This year’s group, in spite of some struggles over the course of the season, nearly accomplished that goal before losing to UConn 60-54.

Now the question of who returns to Lexington and who decides to enter the NBA Draft hangs over the program, with Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein both being seen as lottery picks by Draft Express. But what about the Harrison twins? Will their improved play during the NCAA tournament result in the twins deciding that it’s time to get paid as opposed to spending another season in Lexington? James Young will have the same dilemma to address, with the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline less than two weeks away.

But if anything has been learned during Calipari’s tenure, it’s that with the notable exception of the 2012-13 campaign the Wildcats don’t rebuild so much as reload. And with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes heading to Lexington this summer, that may very well be the case.

While big men Trey Lyles and Karl Towns will help Kentucky address the possible departures of Randle and Cauley-Stein, it can be argued that the backcourt tandem of point guard Tyler Ulis and shooting guard Devin Booker will be the freshmen whose performances have the greatest impact on Kentucky’s 2014-15 title hopes.

Can Ulis be the distributor this group that should be loaded with front court talent needs in order to punish teams in the paint? Can Booker live up to his reputation of being a dead-eye shooter, thus punishing teams who choose to double the post? Those will be two important questions to answer, but if anything was learned from the 2013-14 edition it’s that those answers aren’t guaranteed to come immediately.

Another question to consider: how much better will Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee Dakari Johnson be with another offseason of work? Johnson emerged as a consistent starter as the season wore on, Lee was productive when given a specific task (see his performance in Kentucky’s win over Michigan) and when aggressive Poythress can be an impact player. However that’s the issue with Poythress, as he doesn’t always bring the effort that makes him an even tougher player for opposing teams to account for. If that changes, Kentucky becomes a tougher team to slow down.

As with any offseason there are a number of questions for Kentucky to answer, beginning with those regarding the players considering making the jump to the professional ranks. And with the season now completed, the focus for Calipari goes from the team to each individual player, with the idea being to help them make the best and most-informed decision they can make.

“I’ll sit down with each young man individually, probably have their family either with us or on a speaker phone and get them information and say, ‘If I can help you with anything, let me know,’” Calipari said following Monday’s loss. “‘Tell me what you want to do; what do I need to do to help you?’

“I kind of stay out of the decision-making. I just get them information. So we’ll see.”

  1. coloradofort - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Kentucky is simply a mercenary school that uses the “one and done” to perfection and Coach Cal and his program have executed the sales pitch as a 1 season NBA training ground impressively…..the concept of student athlete at Kentucky is laughable……but the on-court results cannot be discounted.

    • icanhazblogs - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      You sound like you think that the “student athelete” problem is exclusive to Kentucky. Nevermind the countless other schools that put kids in the pros after one year or perhaps two. Further, is there that much of a difference between a kid that goes to college for one year, then leaves for the pros, versus other student athletes that may stay for four years but don’t actually get an education? I would argue that the latter is a victim of a greater disservice.

  2. landshard2012 - Apr 8, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    Totally agree. Calling these guys student athletes is a joke. OK I know NCAA doesn’t churn out top athletes to be cardiologists, but Kentucy is a joke.

    • icanhazblogs - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      A joke compared to what other top tier basketball schools, or even top tier football schools for that matter? People believing that the NCAA even cares about the concept of “student athlete” for the major revenue producing college sports is just laughable. Did you go to college? Did you interact with “student athletes” at all? I’m curious.

    • fpstratton - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:46 PM

      The fact is that college sports have been big for a long time. The concept of the student-athlete went out a long time ago because sports is what brings money into universities, and if you’re not winning games, fans don’t come and support you, and alumni and other boosters don’t throw money at you. It’s a business and has been for many decades now. Let’s not get too sentimental. Top athletes have always gotten preferential treatment, not only in college, but even in high schools. Sports in America is king! Sports TV ratings are about the only programs that are more watched now than before. Sports, sports, and more sports. That’s the good old USA, baby. Everything else comes second. Not the way it should be? I agree, but there’s no fighting it.

  3. slowclyde86 - Apr 8, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    It’s going to fun to see all the Kentucky fans turn on Cal once he leaves for the Lakers.

  4. fpstratton - Apr 8, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    People are being critical of Kentucky, but what other option do they or any other school have? It’s not their fault that players leave after one or two years. The only way to keep winning is to keep recruiting top-flight freshmen and mold them into cohesive units in less than one year. You can’t turn back the clock. Kentucky is merely being realistic. As a UCLA fan, who has seen the program sink because of the “one and done,” I look back with fondness on the way it used to be, with players staying together for 3 or 4 years, but the game has changed, and Kentucky has changed with it, to the tune of two final game appearances in three years…that’s pretty good!

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