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Cauley-Stein, Wiltjer add experience, depth for '13-14

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Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein will both return to UK next season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein will both return to UK next season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In 2012-13, Kentucky had arguable as little depth as any season during the John Calipari era, and there is no argument about the Wildcats of last year being his least experienced team to date. Those two areas created challenges all year.

It's already clear those two areas won't present nearly the same problems in 2013-14.

On Monday, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer announced they will return next season. Their decisions mean that Coach Cal will have two players who started games the previous year and played meaningful minutes all season, something he lacked as the Cats missed the NCAA Tournament just weeks ago.

"I'm excited that Willie and Kyle have decided to return for next season," Calipari said. "When we talk about a players-first program, our goal is for each player to reach his dreams. Willie and Kyle believe it is in their best interest to return to Kentucky next season to achieve those dreams, and I fully support their decisions."

Cauley-Stein impressed in his first season and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference freshman team after averaging 8.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and blocking 57 shots. He started 14 games, most of which came after a season-ending injury to frontcourt mate Nerlens Noel. Wiltjer was named SEC Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13, averaging 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

In discussing their decisions, Cauley-Stein and Wiltjer expressed similar sentiments and a common theme was a desire to pursue a title.

"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."

Wiltjer was a part of UK's championship team in 2011-12, averaging 5.0 points in 11.6 minutes of reserve duty, so he has an idea of the work it takes to win at the highest level. He also remembers the veteran presence provided by Darius Miller, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, who all played in the Final Four the previous season. Just like when UK won number eight, the nation's top-ranked recruiting class will join the team in the offseason.

"I'm so excited about the possibilities of next season," Wiltjer said. "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."

With Cauley-Stein and Wiltjer, UK already returns 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 44.5 minutes per game (adjusted for the four games Cauley-Stein missed due to injury). Last season, UK returned just 5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 15.0 minutes per game.

Not returning next year will be freshman guard Archie Goodwin, who opted to enter the NBA Draft. He has not yet hired an agent.

"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. "I will stay in Lexington to finish my schoolwork this semester before continuing to pursue my dream. I've loved my time at UK and want to thank Coach Cal, the staff and my teammates for helping me get where I am. I especially want to thank the Big Blue Nation for all their support."

Excluded from Monday's announcement were Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson. According to a release from UK, additional announcements about remaining players will be made at a later date.

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