Kentucky Wildcats – A Nine Pro Players Team in 2014

Ranked recruiting classes by ESPN, Rivals and others don’t always pan out the way they should, but they give you a general idea of how good a freshman class is going to be. Kentucky, despite the very disappointing 2013 they’ve had, have landed another impressive one. With Julius Randle committing to the school for next season, they now have the Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, 11 and 18 players in the ESPN 100.

John Calipari took a lot of heat for this season. Once Nerlens Noel went down, the team that everyone knew wasn’t going to be as good as last year but still should have been a lot more dominant in the SEC simply faded away, lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament, got thrown into the NIT and lost their opening game there to Robert Morris. It was excuses time for the College Basketball head coach everyone loves to hate, for more than one reason, but the one-and-done system often gets blamed on him and not for the entire culture, which might be a bit more correct way to vent the anger.

Alex Poythress was disappointing to say the least, especially in the second half of the season. So was Archie Goodwin, despite averaging 14.1 points per game. Going 26.6% from beyond the arc really hurt his stock, and if the two hit the NBA draft right now, they still should make it into the first round, but quite a few people predict a lot of time in the developmental circuit before they can get some serious playing time for the team that chooses them.

Willie Cauley-Stein was expected to shine once Noel was gone, but didn’t really impress with the extended playing time he got. All three players have indicated that they plan to return next season, which is already good news for Kentucky, who aren’t really used to great talent or even good one staying for another season. Noel, despite missing half the season, is probably done with College Basketball, and even with the ACL tear, should be a top 5 pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

And that leaves the incoming recruiting class, which some have called better than what Michigan had in 1991 with the Fab Five, to fight for the remaining spots, or maybe even overcome the returning sophomores for their positions. Juluis Randle at power forward, point guard Andrew Harrison, shooting guard Aaron Harrison, small forward James Young, center Dakari Johnson and another power forward, Marcus Lee.

That means there’s going to be some serious talent on the bench, but some frustrated players, thinking that losing their starting place in the lineup might cost them a spot in the draft and maybe most importantly, a better rookie contract. Some scouts think that playing off the bench doesn’t matter, as long as you’re good.

There’s a lot of talent there and Kentucky really needs some depth. Dion Waiters went No. 4 in the draft last year coming off the bench. If they play with energy, fix their weaknesses this summer and toughen up, they can still redeem themselves. They both have all the physical attributes we’re looking for. Another year in college is what they need. Starting, coming off the bench — doesn’t matter.

If the three potentially returning players and the six ones coming in are as good as expected to be in the 2013-2014 season, Kentucky might have between seven and nine players making it into the NBA in one draft class.

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