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Opportunities abound for next year's players

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MBSK 09_10 UK_ARK Web 77.jpgThe hammer fell hard Wednesday evening, but it fell as expected.

The mass exodus of Kentucky's core that led the Cats to a 35-3 season has ended just as soon as it seemed to start.

With the announcement that John Wall intends to enter his name in the June 24 NBA Draft after one season in college came the additional news that DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton will all enter their names the draft. Come one, come all, as they say. 

No one decision came as much of a surprise and no one player should be criticized for turning pro. With stocks soaring, a potential NBA lockout looming in the near future and the risk of injury always nearby, their decisions were smart ones, ones that you and I would both  likely make if we were in their shoes.

So ease up, Big Blue Nation. Commend the kids for the work and rebuilding that they did at UK. If it wasn't for them, UK isn't back near the top of college basketball.

As for the aftermath? When the dust settles, it will paint an uncertain picture that will likely create a mild-to-medium panic in the Bluegrass State.

As the roster stands now, only five players will return from the 2009-10 team. That includes starters Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson and reserves DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson and Jon Hood.

MBSK 09_10 UK_ARK Web 70.jpgEach player is talented in their own right.

Miller, a former Team USA member, averaged 6.5 points per game this season and possesses the type of skills set (driver/slasher) to flourish in head coach John Calipari's Dribble Drive Motion Offense. Dodson was one of UK's best three-point shooters this year, hitting a team-high 50 shots from behind the arc, and Liggins became one of Calipari's go-to players off the bench because of his defensive intensity.

Although Hood and Harrellson didn't see significant minutes this season, they're expected to be key reserves next season.

It goes without saying that plenty of opportunities will be open for the returners and next year's incoming recruiting class.

Still, the returning five depicts a cloudy future for UK solely because of how much will be lost if each of the five early entrees stay in the draft. Coupled with the graduation of Kentucky's seniors, the Cats will lose 72.9 percent of their total point output from this season and 75.0 percent of the minutes (or for better perspective, UK is set to return just 27.1 percent of the scoring and 25.0 percent of the minutes).

That makes for one tough job for Calipari and a feat that few teams in recent history have been able to conquer.

Of the last five national champions (Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Florida twice), no team has returned less than 55.6 percent of its points production from the year before and gone on to win the title.

Full breakdown of the last five national champions are below. The statistics are what each of the past national champions had returned from the year before the team won the title. For instance, Duke, the 2010 national champion, returned eight players this season that accounted for 60.1 percent of last year's minutes and 64.1 percent of last year's scoring.

The years next to each team indicate the year the team won the title. The statistics are from the year entering each team's national championship season.

Duke (2010)
Players returned: eight
Minutes returned: 7,425/4,483 = 60.1 percent
Points returned: 2,867/1,838 = 64.1 percent

North Carolina (2009)
Players returned: 13
Minutes returned: 7,900/6,727 = 85.2 percent
Points returned: 3,454/3,162 = 91.5 percent

Kansas (2008)
Players returned: 11

Minutes returned: 7,675/5,928 = 77.2 percent
Points returned: 2,978/2,281 = 76.6 percent

Florida (2006)
Players returned: 10
Minutes returned: 7,824/7,064 = 90.3 percent
Points returned: 3,052/2,84 - 93.2 percent

Florida (2005)
Players returned: nine
Minutes returned: 6,450/3,585 = 55.6 percent
Points returned: 2,438/1,465 = 60.1 percent

Now, let's make one thing clear: This isn't to say Calipari can't and won't replace the bulk of this year's team. Just because it hasn't been done recently doesn't mean it's unprecedented.

Need I remind you what Michigan's Fab Five (a starting lineup of all freshmen) did in 1992? For that matter, do I need to bring up this year's freshman-laden team? A lineup led primarily by four freshmen cushioned the blow of several key losses, including leading 2008-09 scorer Jodie Meeks, and guided UK to the doorstep of the program's first Final Four in more than a decade.

MBSK 09_10 UK_ARK Web 18.jpgHeading into this season, UK returned seven contributors (most of them which saw minimal action the year before), 64.5 percent of its minutes but only 56.7 percent of its scoring.

If Calipari can piece together a team in just a few short weeks like he did at this time last year, imagine what he can do this recruiting season with his feet now firmly entrenched at UK. The guy is known as one of the best recruiters for a reason.

Calipari has already signed the highly touted Stacey Poole, who is ranked No. 27 overall in the 2010 class, and UK is rumored to be atop the lists of several of the nation's top high school talent. Unfortunately, until a player signs a National Letter of Intent to play for Kentucky, I cannot post the names of the recruits interested because this is the official site of UK Athletics.

The UK coach told reporters, fans and players that this day was coming. When he signed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class last year, he warned that many of them would be one-and-done. Calipari welcomed and encouraged the notion, vowing to try to repeat that year after year with top-notch recruiting classes.

He brought up a great point earlier in the season when he said that if his players are leaving school after one year, Kentucky must have a pretty darn good arsenal of players.

Some have made their mark and left. Now it's time for the next group of Kentucky stars to arise.   

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John WALL I will always love you. If I had the worst day ever all I would have to do is type your name in on youtube, watch a few videos, and I was happy. thank you and your BROTHERS for bringing joy to everyone! I hope next years class is as great as this years was and I hope they're kind/funny like you guys!!Love yall!!SSOOOO MUCH!I'll never forget you guys. I'll probably be very sad for the next week knowing you boys will never play for UK ever again! But in the end I have so much respect fot you guys. I want you to be able to earn all that money ya deserve and help your families out!!You are always in the core of my heart!!!!!!#11#24#15#54#33!!Peace Out Boys!(JWall if NBA don't workout go NFL!hahaha)

I remember when they were all still little uk ballers. It's like we watched them grow up and now they're grown lil men. My fav Quotes that I say in my head everydayhaha!Dcuz:I knew it was just overtime, i was just happy I made the shot.Apparenntly the rest of yhe team didn't know that.EBled:Even if I went like 1 for..1 for 30 he would just tell me to still keep shootin.JWall:I just heard the shot clock was goin down and I just leaned in and it went was not really much skill but just god blessed me on lettin it go in.hahahaha Coach always says NEVER LET A MAN PLAY HARDER THAN YOU!!!God I'll miss them!

Will miss the guys as I do at the end of every season. Maybe a little bit more this time though.

Not worried about the team next year. Cal has them on track.

Was so much fun watching them play. Imagine the team in three years if they had stayed...

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  • jncarlos007: Will miss the guys as I do at the end of every season. Maybe a little bit more this time read more
  • uk: I remember when they were all still little uk ballers. It's like we watched them grow up and now they're read more
  • m: John WALL I will always love you. If I had the worst day ever all I would have to do read more