As most of us hover around our televisions loving the sight of college football being back on I am here to remind you also that college basketball is only a month and a half away. I like most people have been craving college basketball since that horrible night in March when the Wildcats looked completely helpless from behind the arc and West Virginia sent the ‘Cats home packing.
Now, with many new faces on campus (when I say many I mean almost a completely different team) the Wildcats will be looking to start where they left off. Kentucky will be looked to do the same thing they did last season with a less dynamic team and quite honestly not as skilled a team from a year ago. The season is still a little bit away but here is just an update on what we will be looking at when the Wildcats are playing at Rupp come Nov. 1st.
Losing Depth and Experience to the NBA
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As you all know the Wildcats lost five players to the 1st round of the NBA draft last season. There will be no loss felt more by the Wildcats and Kentucky faithful than Daniel Orton. After last season all signs pointed towards Orton returning to Blue and White country. A highly touted recruit from the Billy Gillespie era that didn’t see much time on the court due to the sensational duo of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. When Orton decided to join his teammates in the draft it came as a shock to the Wildcat faithful.
He had an up and down season with flashes of brilliance through in the mix. With some more seasoning, Orton had the potential to be a top 5 pick someday. Instead he rushed his pro career and could find himself as an okay bench player and playing in the NBDL to start his career. Orton was questioned at the end of last season with some pretty unflattering comments, none focused on more than when he made a comment centered around him playing at Kansas.
Without a doubt if Orton would have returned he would have given Kentucky much more depth in the paint and could have instantly put Kentucky in the conversation for a final four birth. I’m not saying that the loss of Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe wasn’t big it was just expected that those three players were headed to the draft from the first time they stepped on the floor at Rupp Arena.
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New Faces on Campus
With the loss of so many talented players, John Calipari did what he does best. He went out and got another top recruiting class in 2010. Although we haven’t seen much of these new recruits we did get to see them in a few exhibition games in Canada. The freshmen to keep an eye on when the season starts are Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, and Enes Kanter (if eligible).
The one who will be counted on the most will be Doron Lamb. The ‘Cats suffered without a consistent outside jump shooter last year. This being evident in the Elite 8 match-up vs. West Virginia (and pretty much every other game). Lamb looked very good in the three games in Canada and as long as he continues to shoot lights out during the regular season then the Wildcats should be okay from the outside.
Brandon Knight may have the toughest shoes to fill. Calipari is known for recruiting top point guards and grooming them into the best players in the country. Wall was stellar in his only year at Kentucky and people will be looking for Knight to carry some of the same responsibilities Wall had while playing here.
Operation Free Enes
Enes Kanter is already being projected as a top 5 pick in the NBA without playing a single game in the U.S.. Kanter is a 6’11″ power forward/center out of Istanbul, Turkey. He is currently being looked at by the NCAA because it is believed that Kanter took money while playing overseas.
This is the thing about Kanter. Even if he were to take money playing overseas can you blame him? In Europe there is no AAU league to play in. If you want to play at a young age you get picked up by prep teams in your country otherwise known as “professional” teams. If the comment is true about Kanter taking more than $100,000 then it can only work in a negative way for Kentucky. Just keep this in mind. Do you really think that John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins paid for every cent of their AAU trips?
John Calipari has done it again and this time before the current season has even started. There is no reason not to believe that the Wildcats have locked up their third straight No. 1 recruiting class in the three years that Calipari has been in Lexington.
This 2011 class will feature Michael Gilchrist (ESPNU No. 2), Anthony Davis (ESPNU No.3), Marquis Teague (ESPNU No. 7), and Kyle Wiltjer (ESPNU No. 12). Four recruits in the top 15 of the recruiting class doesn’t seem to shabby. It is a joke to even consider that Rick Pitino’s squad will compare at the end of the 2011 recruiting period.
This season can go one of two ways for the ‘Cats. They will either be championship contenders based on the leadership of Darius Miller and if the young kids will be able to play at the high level Calipari will expect of them. Or, they will be a Sweet 16 team because the youth and inexperience will not be able to keep up with the competition.
Calipari has always been known for his recruiting and getting those freshmen to play at a high level. The only problem with this is he gets them to play at such a high level that they end up leaving after one season. Calipari longs for his first ever championship but I just don’t know if it will happen this season.
If he is able to retain some of the players he recruited this season and mix them up with next years class then 2012 could be the year he gets it done. The thing is you can’t count them out in 2011 because they will be a dangerous team with a lot of talent. They just will be lacking that key word experience. I agree with Calipari when he said “if I could choose between pure talent and experience, I would go talent everytime.” But boy it sure would be nice to have both for one season.