April 1, 2013

Kentucky basketball roster taking shape

In a statement last week, a Kentucky spokesman said no decisions have been made about next season's roster. We take a look at the Wildcats' potential returnees and the most recent information about their options.

Status (UPDATED): Cauley-Stein will return for his sophomore season after averaging 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman.

Kentucky announced the move on April 1.

"I'm looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player," Cauley-Stein said. "I'm also excited for the opportunity to try and win a national championship."

Cauely-Stein, who had 59 blocked shots as a freshman (the seventh-most by a first-year player at Kentucky) had said after UK's season-ending loss to Robert Morris that he hoped to return to school, but that he would consult with his family and determine its needs before deciding whether to enter the NBA Draft.

Cauley-Stein was projected as a probable first-round pick (and a possible low-lottery pick, given the perceived weakness of this season's draft class) if he'd entered the draft. His combination of size, skill and energy is appealing to NBA scouts, but his offensive game is raw and could benefit from the additional time in college.

Status (UPDATED): After insisting he'd return for his sophomore season, Goodwin reversed field on April 1 and announced his plans to enter the NBA Draft after leading Kentucky in scoring as a freshman.

"This is something I've dreamed about my entire life and I feel like the opportunity is there for me to play at the next level," Goodwin said in a release. "I will stay in Lexington to finish my schoolwork this semester before continuing to pursue my dream."

Goodwin, who averaged 14.1 points per game as a freshman, is projected as a probable late first-round pick in the NBA Draft, though he lacks a consistent outside shot and sometimes makes questionable decisions. He is adept at driving to the rim and drawing contact and plays with high energy.

"Although I really wanted Archie to return for his sophomore season, I fully support him choosing to pursue his dreams," Calipari said in a release. "He has the drive and desire to be great and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure he succeeds in life both on and off the court."

Status (UPDATED): Harrow told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he will transfer to Georgia State and seek immediate eligibility there. Harrow told the newspaper he wants to be closer to his father, who suffered a stroke prior to the 2012 basketball season.

"It was just real important for me to be with my dad. With him being sick like this, I needed to be there with him."

It was unclear whether Harrow would be welcomed back. Calipari said the two would discuss it after the season, but declined to say whether Harrow had the option of returning after a tumultuous sophomore season.

Harrow averaged 9.9 points and 2.8 assists as the Wildcats' starting point guard this season after sitting out last season following a transfer from North Carolina State, but he was inconsistent, failing to score in two of UK's final 10 games. He had a four-point, 2-for-15 shooting night in a critical SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt.

"If I can come back, then I'll come back," Harrow said after the season finale. "If I can't, then I just have to make decisions, really."

Why he'll return to UK: Though he played sparingly this season (6.3 minutes per game), Hood proved toward the end of the season that he could provide valuable spot minutes as a savvy defender and three-point shooter. He averaged 11.2 minutes per game over the final six games and played 15 minutes in each of UK's two postseason games. With one season of basketball left, Hood might be interested in pursuing a second NCAA title and might be reluctant to uproot.

Why he'll leave: Hood is on track to graduate in May, and that will give him plenty of options. An NCAA rule would allow him to transfer to and play immediately at any school offering an academic program not available at Kentucky. That means Hood could choose a destination with readily available playing time if he opts out of a senior season at Kentucky where minutes likely will be hard to come by.

Status: Though there's been considerable speculation that Hood could go the Julius Mays route and play elsewhere next season, Hood has given no public indication that he intends to transfer, saying late in the season that he planned to go through Senior Day festivities next season.

Why he'll return to UK: Noel, who blocked 106 shots in 24 games as a freshman, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Feb. 12 at Florida and missed the remainder of the season. With a long rehab ahead of him, it's possible that he'd return to Kentucky and play at least part of next season in order to be more fully healthy for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Why he'll leave: Despite his injury, Noel, who was college basketball's most complete defender, is considered a likely top five pick in the draft. ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said in a live chat that Noel is the best bet to be the No. 1 overall pick. If there's a sense that Noel could go first overall even with rehab ahead of him, it likely would be a difficult opportunity to turn down, especially with a much stronger draft expected in 2014.

Status: Dr. James Andrews, who performed Noel's surgery, is expected to keep in contact with NBA personnel during Noel's rehab, giving Noel the chance to keep the NBA informed without violating NCAA rules and jeopardizing his eligibility. Calipari has said that Noel would return if his rehab takes longer than expected.

Why he'll return to UK: In the second half of Kentucky's season finale, Polson supplanted Harrow as the team's primary point guard. He finished the game with 10 points (his third double-digit scoring game of the season) in a career-high 31 minutes. Polson started with a bang this season, scoring 10 points in a win against Maryland, and showed that he could provide solid minutes as a backup point guard, a role the Cats could need filled next season, depending on how the roster shakes out. Polson played double-digit minutes in 16 of UK's last 17 games and had one start.

Why he'll leave: Polson, who came to UK as a walk-on, has been on scholarship because Calipari has had them available. But the understanding always has been that Polson could shift back to walk-on status if the roster becomes crowded. And Calipari said that Polson is on track to graduate in May. If so, he could opt to transfer to another school and play right away.

Status: Polson hasn't made a public comment about his status. The expectation has been that he'll return, possibly as a walk-on.

Status (UPDATED): A day after a trio of his teammates made their future plans known, Poythress announced via a UK news release that he'll return for his sophomore season.

"This year didn't end like we wanted it to," Poythress said in the release. "I want to come back and do what we said we wanted to do and that's win a national title. I want to develop more as a player and the competition coming in next year should help me do that."

Poythress, who averaged 11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman, had said at the end of the season that he didn't think he was ready for the NBA and that he expected to return to Kentucky.

"I'm really happy that, after talking with his family and evaluating his options, Alex has decided to return for his sophomore season,” Calipari said in a release. "Alex is a great kid with a lot of potential and I'm excited to be able to work with him next year. I believe we have only scratched the surface with Alex, and another season in college will get him closer to reaching his dreams."

Status (UPDATED): Despite rumors to the contrary, Wiltjer will return to Kentucky for his junior season.

Wiltjer tweeted on March 31, "I just want everyone to know I AM NOT TRANSFERRING. The thought never crossed my mind. I love Coach Cal and the staff, UK, and the BBN."

Kentucky followed that up on April 1 with a release announcing Wiltjer would be returning to school.

"I'm so excited about the possibilities of next season," Wiltjer said in the release. "I love Coach Cal and the staff, the University of Kentucky and the Big Blue Nation. After talking with Coach and the staff, I understand what I need to do. I want to be a part of another championship. This summer I'm going to work the hardest I’ve ever worked to come back next season better and stronger to help my team fight for number nine."

Wiltjer averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore. His 55 three-pointers were the most among returning players, and he shot 36.7 from three-point range.


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