Nerlens Noel is hoping to become UK's third No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick in four years. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When it comes to the NBA Draft, information is just a few mouse clicks and keyboard strokes away. If Nerlens Noel wanted, he could read detailed scouting reports about himself and find out where countless experts are pegging him in mock drafts.
He isn't having any trouble resisting the urge to look.
"I don't pay attention to those at all," Noel said on Tuesday. "I just stay focused on my physical therapy and make sure I stay focused and keep my mind right."
If he did take a peek, Noel would see that his name has floated back to the top of many a draft board. Though he's not frequenting Draft Express or ESPN for the latest scoop, he acknowledges that the prospect of being taken No. 1 overall has crossed his mind.
"It'd be a dream come true being the first pick in the NBA Draft," Noel said. "That's something you dream about from when you're a kid and I'd be very blessed to be in that position and very appreciative of it."
But barely two months ago, that dream was cast into doubt.
Noel injured his knee racing down the floor to prevent a fast-break layup in a game at Florida on Feb. 12. In an instant, he went from thinking about winning a basketball game to pondering whether playing the sport was even in his future, among countless other things.
"A lot goes through your head," Noel said. "When it first happens to you, you don't know what the injury is. So you don't know if you'll never play basketball again or if you'll be playing a month from now. When I heard what the injury was, I knew no matter what I'd get back on the court as fast as I could and just get back to what I love doing."
Since then, Noel has directed his energy toward that end.
He is at the six-week mark of his recovery process and Noel goes through rehab every day. He reports he is now doing exercises in therapy out of his brace and slowly regaining lost muscle. Noel is shooting for Christmastime as a rough return date, but that's very much a moving target.
"The knee's doing good," Noel said. "I've been working hard in rehab and my physical therapist has been telling me I'm way ahead of schedule and I'm coming along very well."
Seeing his progress, Noel was comfortable making his decision to enter the NBA Draft on April 15.The prospect of playing with a talented incoming class and the simple fact that he has enjoyed his time in Lexington were tempting, but he is happy with his ultimate choice.
"There was a consideration about coming back, but anybody that gets injured you're probably going to have a consideration and just think about it," Noel said. "But I sat there with my family and just saw the extent of my injury and I felt it wasn't going to affect me too much in the draft. So I've definitely been tackling the rehab and my decision was probably the best decision for me I believe."
Though he has opted to move on to the next level and didn't even play a full season of college ball, Noel believes he has benefited greatly from his time at UK. He was projected as a top pick before he became a Wildcat, but Noel sees himself as much better prepared to be successful in the NBA after playing for John Calipari at Kentucky.
"Coach Cal has taught me so much on and off the court: How to be a good person and just really know how to have a good work ethic," Noel said. "He made us love work and just (how) to carry yourself and just a lot of life lessons that any regular coach would not teach you about off the court."
When he went down, Noel's injury sparked a debate about the one-and-done rule and whether players should be allowed to declare for the draft out of high school. He sees all sides of the argument, but isn't entering the conversation. Noel is just glad to be where he is now.
"I loved this year and it was one of the best experiences of my life being here at Kentucky this year," Noel said. "Regardless of if I had to stay three, four years, these are the best times of your life whether it's one or four years."
Similarly, Noel isn't thinking about the play on which he got hurt. A pragmatist might say that Noel would have been better served to let Mike Rosario have a wide-open layup. But even though UK was down double digits at the time, Noel doesn't second-guess his decision to hustle back and block his 106th and final shot of the season in spite of all the pain it ended up causing him.
"Regardless of the score I wasn't going to let him get that easy basket," Noel said. "That's just who I am though. I will not be embarrassed in any type of way. I will not give them an easy basket. I just want to keep fighting and give my team the best chance of getting back in fighting position to win that game."
Based on that attitude, it's easy to see why NBA teams are still so eager to take him.
Willie Cauley-Stein (left) and Alex Poythress will help incoming freshmen ease into life as a UK basketball player next season. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Becoming a champion is arguably the toughest achievement in sports. A championship is every team's ultimate goal each and every season.
"We got big expectations next year," said Alex Poythress, who opted to return to UK for his sophomore season earlier this month. "We just want to come prepared every day because the expectations next year, the goal is a championship, nothing less, nothing more."
Living up to the hype of a ranking or reputation is also no easy task, especially when that hype reads, "No. 1 recruiting class and likely to repeat as national champions."
The 2012-13 Kentucky basketball team had those expectations - fair or unfair - and failed to live up to the billing.
On the surface, it appeared Kentucky had all the ingredients it would need for another stellar season. The top recruiting class in the country, for the fourth consecutive season, was arriving at UK, Kyle Wiltjer was returning for his sophomore season off a national championship freshman season, and Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays would provide veteran leadership as transfers
But games aren't played on paper and the season failed to deliver a third Final Four in as many seasons.
With admittedly "bad tastes" left in their mouths after the way their freshman season ended, Willie Cauley-Stein and Poythress decided to return, realizing they needed more time to mature and had unfinished business to tend to.
Freshman year was difficult for each of them, but countless lessons were learned along the way.
"I already feel different," said Cauley-Stein. "Once the season ended it was kind of like my whole mentality changed instantly - which I wish it would have changed before the tournament happened. I kind of got like a dominating mindset going into this next year. I want to be the best in everything I do."
"It prepares you mentally," said Poythress. "We should be mentally prepared for everything because really when you're losing, that's when you figure out what people are made of and stuff like that. It should just help us mentally."
Kentucky lacked a true leader last season to help prepare the freshmen for the difficulties they were bound to face. The Wildcats had only one senior, Mays, who had never played on the stage that is UK basketball. They didn't have a Darius Miller or a Terrence Jones or Doron Lamb.
They will this year.
"I think that's exactly what we missed this year is a guy that played a lot minutes as a freshman (and) decided to come back and take on the role of a leader," said Cauley-Stein. "We didn't have that this year. Kyle was that kind of guy, but he still didn't play big minutes his freshman year. This year, we've got three guys - including (Jarrod Polson) - that were playing almost thirty minutes a game. That coming back is going to help tremendously."
After experiencing a full season of life as a Kentucky basketball player, Cauley-Stein and Poythress have each seen what it takes. They've gone through the tough times, the worst season head coach John Calipari has endured in his tenure at Kentucky.
With that experience, they want to change that and make sure that never happens again.
"You don't want next year to end like this year," said Poythress. "It shouldn't happen with the guys coming and the people returning. We're going to have that much of a fire burning in our belly."
Once again, next season, Kentucky looks awfully good on paper. With multiple key components returning for another season, and UK bringing in arguably the most heralded recruiting class in the history of the game, the Wildcats are considered a lock to contend for their ninth national championship and second in three seasons.
While Cauley-Stein says his decision to come back to Kentucky was "easy," he has seen that living up to the hype and expectations is not.
"The hype with these guys coming; they're freshmen," said Cauley-Stein. "They're going to have to do the same thing we've gone through, plus it's going to be harder next year anyway. That's the way I'm thinking about it. They're going to have to go through the same thing freshmen year we did, and it's tough. It's a tough road to go down."
Both Cauley-Stein and Poythress acknowledged how tough their freshman seasons were, and with the caliber of talent on the way, they expect it be even more difficult next season. That's a challenge they're willing to accept as it will likely lead to more competitive practices and improvement for their respective games.
Nothing will be given to them. Nothing will be easy.
"The hype is different because we have more guys coming in," said Cauley-Stein. "But it's going to be harder because we have 10 potential first-round picks coming back and going to be here playing against each other every day.
"Coach doesn't want the same thing to happen that we did this year for next year, so he's going to change a bunch of things so that doesn't happen. Intensity is going to pick up. The level of how we're going to play is going to go up tremendously."
That has to start from the beginning. From now until the freshmen get here, the returning players must focus on improving and transforming themselves. When the freshmen finally arrive, then it's time for the returners to show them the ropes.
From that point on, it's time to go to work.
"I think the biggest thing I took from all that is you got to know from the get-go that it's real," said Cauley-Stein. "We started off really good and went in those couple games where we lost those two games in a row (Notre Dame and Baylor) and it was like, 'Wow, we're really not as good as we thought we were.
"And that's the biggest thing. Every game you play is hype. It's a Super Bowl for everyone. I think that's the biggest thing for the freshmen coming in is that you have no time to relax when you step in between those lines. It's all business when you step in there."
Cauley-Stein believes that, after speaking with Coach Cal during their post-season meeting, it's up to him to become that leader they lacked last season and to bring next year's team together as early as possible.
"Cal always harps to you about coming together and, the way we were going, we were coming together right when the tournament was happening," said Cauley-Stein. "I think this year (it will start) way earlier, like way in the summer: having team meetings or going out to eat and doing goofy stuff together. I think that's what's really going to bring you together. That's one of my big things I'm going to go into the summer with."
If they don't come together, then just like last season, potential may never become a reality.
"The potential is exactly that. We had the potential this year and didn't capitalize on it," said Cauley-Stein. "If you don't come together and do things right, then you're just a bunch of talented kids that didn't get anything accomplished."
Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress elected to return for their sophomore seasons earlier this month. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Within a week or so of the season's conclusion, John Calipari meets with each of his players individually. In the meetings, Coach Cal gives advice about the future and directs his players on how they need to improve.
Given the frequency with which his players are selected in the NBA Draft, the meetings are a source of intrigue. That was particularly true this year with so many players facing difficult decisions about whether to stay or leave.
But anyone who wanted to be a fly on the wall when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped into Calipari's office would have been disappointed. The meeting was short and the message simple.
"I could leave this year, go late first round or come back next year and have an opportunity to go really early," Cauley-Stein said.
Then again, that's probably exactly what any UK fan would have wanted to hear: The skilled 7-footer would be returning for his sophomore season. Cauley-Stein had seen where he was projected in the draft and he decided he could do better.
"I heard a wide variety of things, which kind of that's what set me off," Cauley-Stein said. "I heard anywhere from eight to 10, 15 to 20, 22 to 25. That's the whole dang scale. That's everywhere. I didn't feel real comfortable taking a chance on it and landing somewhere that I'm not going to be good at or ending up hurting myself and coming back and helping."
Just like his meeting with Calipari, Cauley-Stein's decision was an easy one and a quick one. For Alex Poythress, it was a bit of a different story. Poythress talked at length about what to do with his family and UK's assistant coaches, in addition to Coach Cal.
"It was a long process," Poythress said. "You just want to make sure your heart is all in it, make sure you made the right decision, and I feel like I did."
The decision he settled on ended up being the same. Cauley-Stein and Poythress believed they could improve their draft stock with another season, but reducing the choice to that one factor is a vast oversimplification.
At the top of that list of reasons is a little unfinished business.
"You don't want next year to end like this year," Poythress said. "It shouldn't happen with the guys coming and the people returning. We're going to have that much of a fire burning in our belly."
Though it's been more than a month, neither Poythress nor Cauley-Stein need any reminding of the way UK's season ended with back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Robert Morris in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and NIT, respectively.
"It just left a bad taste in your mouth," Cauley-Stein said. "I feel like something's empty and I want to fill it. Next year, we're going to have a great opportunity to do that."
Cauley-Stein's optimism, of course, is based in large part on the unprecedented volume and quantity of talent coming to Lexington next season. In terms of recruiting rankings, Calipari has signed his most highly regarded class to date, an eight-member group that features six five-star prospects and the top point guard, shooting guard and power forward in the class according to Rivals.
"It's going to be a nice roster," Poythress said. "The competition at practice is going to be very good. You're going to have to go hard every day."
Cauley-Stein arrived at UK an unheralded prospect - at least relative to the standards of the Calipari era at Kentucky - but contributed immediately and even dominated at times as the year wore on. Intense matchups with a potential No. 1 overall pick in practice for the first three-and-a-half months should not be overlooked as a reason for that.
"I think honestly for me that's going to be the best thing to come out of next year is you're going against pros every day," Cauley-Stein said. "This year it was like that until Nerlens (Noel) got hurt, and then we were going against Brian Long. ... You're not getting better. You're going to dominate practice and get into a game and struggle. Next year, it's going to be a lot different."
Though practices will undoubtedly be different, Cauley-Stein is quick to caution that it's in the Cats' hands whether things change in games.
This time a year ago, Cauley-Stein and Poythress were members of a recruiting class generating more than its fair share of championship talk. UK entered last season ranked No. 3 and is likely to be ranked in the same range in 2013-14. Having gone through what he just did, Cauley-Stein knows how insignificant hype can be.
"The potential is exactly that," Cauley-Stein said. "We had the potential this year and didn't capitalize on it. We could easily be, you know, we had the best recruiting class coming in and not do anything with it. It's that simple. If you don't come together and do things right, then you're just a bunch of talented kids that didn't get anything accomplished."
Cauley-Stein also realizes it's up to him and his teammates to write the script for next year.
"It's different if you make it different," Cauley-Stein said. "It could easily be the same where you come in here and you don't work as hard. But the thing is I don't think Cal's going to let that happen and us guys coming back's not going to let that happen just because how we finished, you can't leave off there."
After that ignominious end, Cauley-Stein has already noticed in himself reason to believe things will be different.
"Once the season ended it was kind of like my whole mentality changed instantly - which I wish it would have changed before the tournament happened," Cauley-Stein said. "I kind of got like a dominating mindset going into this next year. I want to be the best in everything I do. ... This time I want come in here and do it. I don't want to try to do it."
That mentality sounds a lot like that of a leader, and it's no coincidence. Other than the concise advice he gave to Cauley-Stein about coming back, Calipari told his big man he needed to step up in the leadership department. Heeding that advice, Cauley-Stein wants to do what Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb did for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the likes of Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison.
"I think that's exactly what we missed this year is a guy that played a lot minutes as a freshman (and) decided to come back and take on the role of a leader," Cauley-Stein said. "We didn't have that this year. Kyle was that kind of guy, but he still didn't play big minutes his freshman year. This year, we've got three guys (Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer) - including (Jarrod Polson) - that were playing almost thirty minutes a game. That coming back is going to help tremendously."
This year's recruiting class was already regarded as the best in 2013. Now, with three more highly talented signees, John Calipari and Kentucky may have pieced together the greatest recruiting class of all time.
Kentucky announced the additions of Julius Randle (Plano, Texas), Dakari Johnson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Dominique Hawkins (Richmond, Ky.) on Wednesday. Randle, Johnson and Hawkins join fall signees Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis, forming what many are calling the greatest recruiting class ever.
"I think it could be the best class of all time in terms of offensive efficiency," ESPN analyst Paul Biancardi said after Randle's verbal commitment on March 20. "This class can score the basketball. They can shoot the 3-point shot. They can beat you off the drive. They score the basketball from their respective position as well as any class that John Calipari has had at Kentucky. ... This class is going to need some help, but as this class stands alone, it could be the best of all time."
The proof is in the numbers: six McDonald's All-Americans. Kentucky's top two high school players. Six consensus five-star athletes. Seven top-150 Rivals signees. A combined 36 stars in the Rivals ratings system.
It all adds up to the nation's No. 1 recruiting class -- Coach Cal's fifth straight, according to Rivals -- and one collective commitment to return UK to the top of college basketball next season.
"The thing I like most about this group is its competitive spirit and its will to win," Calipari said. "These guys are All-Americans and award winners, but more importantly they're world champions, national champions and state champions. They know what it takes to win. The size and talent of the group will allow us to have tough, hard-nosed practices which will carry over to the games. I'm excited for the opportunity to coach this group."
"The final straw that came to me was the system, and I felt like the system at Kentucky was a great system. They have a lot of great players there going in there so you're going to have to battle, but I think like they did the year before with that team being a unit. I play USA Basketball with a lot of great players so I think I'll adjust well. I think it's the best fit for me. That's where it was in my heart or I wouldn't be at Kentucky."
"To be able to battle with those guys every day in practice is only going to make me better, help me prepare for the next level. Playing with great players with a plus for me; it wasn't a negative at all."
"Julius is another hard-working player who is a great student and person along with being a dominator on the court. He has that will to win that the players I've had who have become special have all had. That motor will be important to our success next year. Julius has the skill set to be an inside-outside guy for us. He has the ability to put it on the floor and beat guys off the dribble, but he's also got the toughness, size and ability to score against bigger defenders. At the end of the day, he's a true leader whose personal drive is off the charts."
What they're saying about Randle
"He dominates the game with his physicality. He's explosive, strong and powerful at the rim. His body, it's ready for the college game right now. And he's best in the paint by scoring and rebounding. He can dominate the action. When you think about Julius Randle, you think about a dynamic athlete. The bottom line is this: His versatility, skill level and athletic ability are uncommon for a player his size. Once his game gets in motion, it's hard to stop or contain him. He creates fouls and finishes at the rim. He's going to impact the college game next season." - Paul Biancardi, ESPN
"I've seen Julius since he's been probably a ninth, 10th grader, and the thing that jumps out is his ability, his physical size. I think Paul hit it on the head (with the) Wayman Tisdale (comparison). He's got a little bit more perimeter game. He can handle the ball. He can shoot the jump shot. And the thing I like about him is his maturity." - Matt Doherty, ESPN
6-10, 265-pound center from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ranked No. 9 overall by Rivals, No. 11 by ESPN and No. 18 by Scout
Consensus No. 1 center
Led Montverde (Fla.) Academy to the 2013 National High School Invitational title
Named MVP of the 2013 National High School Invitational
Member of the 2012 USA Basketball U17 World Championship Team
Finished with 12 points and five rebounds in the McDonald's All-American Game
Chosen for the Jordan Brand Classic
Posted eight points, four rebounds, two assists and one block in Jordan Brand Classic
"I just want to win a national championship. I want to win a high school championship, then a college championship and hopefully an NBA championship."
"(The coaches) were just honest people from the get-go. They told me that this wasn't the place to come if I were selfish, if I wanted the ball all the time or I didn't want to work hard. But I want to work hard, I want to get pushed. I want the pressure on me because that makes me a better player."
"Dakari's improvement over the last year and a half has been phenomenal. His ability to be a true low-post threat adds an important piece to what our team will really need. He's patient when he gets the ball on the block and has a great understanding for how to use his size for a kid his age. Dakari is a great student and a great kid. He's won a high school championship, a world championship with Team USA, and he said he wants to win a national championship with us and an NBA championship. That statement says a lot about the type of winner he is."
What they're saying about Johnson
"Johnson is a true center and will be the low-post anchor for the Wildcats right from the start. He has tremendous size, hands and work ethic and is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor. Johnson has worked extremely hard to mold his body into excellent shape, and it has really helped him become more productive and consistent." - Reggie Rankin, ESPN
"Dakari Johnson (is) a true low-post center. He'll give the Wildcats a physical presence on the glass, blocking shots and scoring in the low post. Offensively he's just scratching the surface of his ability." - Paul Biancardi, ESPN
6-1, 170-pound guard from Richmond, Ky.
Ranked a three-star recruit by Rivals, Scout and ESPN
Named Kentucky's Mr. Basketball
Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year
Led Madison Central High School to the Kentucky state championship
Named MVP of Kentucky's Sweet Sixteen tournament
Averaged 26.8 points and 8.8 rebounds during the Sweet Sixteen
Scored 29 points against UK signees Andrew and Aaron Harrison on Dec. 1
Averaged 20.9 points during his senior season
Joins Derek Willis as the second signee from Kentucky in the 2013 class
" I was basically shocked once they offered because they do nothing but get the best players. I know I'm a good player but I wasn't expecting it, but I guess I am a great player now that Kentucky offered me. It's amazing."
Nobody's guaranteed a spot. You've just got to come in and compete and that's what you do at every school. Nobody gets a spot just because they're an All-American. You've just got to come to compete."
"I kept hearing about Dominique from Marquis Estill and my good friend Dr. Robert Palmer. When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold. At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game - when it was winning time - everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won. The last UK player who was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball and won a state title in the same year was Darius Miller. He went to two Final Fours, won a national title and is now playing in the NBA. My hope is Dominique will be on the same path."
What they're saying about Hawkins
"He's a very good athlete. He's a guy who I think could turn into a really good defender. Offensively I think his strength lies in his ability to hit midrange shots. Areas for improvement would be becoming more consistent with his long-range jump shot. What I like about him is his how hard he plays, his toughness and his athleticism." - Evan Daniels, Scout (from Courier-Journal)
Just before 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, @KentuckyMBB introduced itself as the official Twitter of UK's men's basketball program. At the time, the account had just a few hundred followers.
A few (hundred) retweets and a challenge to the Big Blue Nation later, @KentuckyMBB already ranks among the top accounts of its kind.
As of 9:50 a.m. Friday, the account has nearly 18,000 followers, already good for 13th among men's college basketball teams on Twitter. The number is growing by the minute and it seems a matter of time before @KentuckyMBB cracks the top 10.
Bob Wiggins began his association with Kentucky basketball simply as a fan. But over nearly 66 years, he has come to symbolize what the most storied program in college basketball is all about.
Wiggins, now 85 years old, has attended more than 1,650 UK games in his life, building relationships with players and coaches over the years. Ken Howlett has a story on the UK super-fan at CoachCal.com:
When John Calipari was introduced as Kentucky's new basketball coach in April 2009, Coach Cal sought out Mr. Wiggins, pointed to him and said, "You're the guy I wanted to talk to."
During one unbelievable stretch, Bob Wiggins attended every Wildcat game for 19 consecutive years. His incredible streak ending because of a mild heart attack he suffered in 1997, only hours prior to the team leaving for a trip to Alaska to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Although Mr. Wiggins did not attend road games during the 2012-13 season due to health reasons, he still makes the trek from Falmouth to Rupp Arena for every home game, dutifully taking his seat behind the UK bench in his trademark suit and tie.
"You talk about someone who is driven and passionate about Kentucky basketball, this man embodies the real Kentucky fan," said Winston Bennett, former UK player and assistant coach. "I can remember him in the '80s being at those games and being at some of the practices and being on the plane when we flew to different games (in the '90s). Talk about dedication and longevity ... this was a religion. People talk about Kentucky basketball being a religion; it was truly a religion with this man."
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.
Ryan Harrow averaged 9.9 points, 2.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 2012-13. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
On Sunday, UK confirmed that sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow has decided to transfer to Georgia State. His new school is near his home in Marietta, Ga., and his father, who suffered a stroke before the 2012-13 season. UK head coach John Calipari issued the following statement on Harrow's decision.
"Given the health of his dad, we fully support Ryan's decision to transfer to Georgia State to be closer to his family in Atlanta," Calipari said. "Ryan was a vital part of this year's team and an important player in
practice during our 2011-12 national championship run. I want to thank
Ryan for his efforts and hard work and wish him the best of luck at
Georgia State. I know the Big Blue Nation will keep a close eye on him
and wish him well as he continues his basketball career and his pursuit
of a college degree."
In speaking with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Harrow said he has already applied for admission at Georgia State and will petition the NCAA for a waiver to play immediately due to the health of his father.
Harrow spent his first season of college at North Carolina State before transferring to UK before the 2011-12 season. He redshirted and practiced with the Wildcats as they made a run to the program's eighth national championship.
In 2012-13, Harrow played in 29 games, starting 24 and averaging 9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.