By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Julius Randle sat at a table with three hats in front of him. The hats represented the teams with a chance to sign the kid ranked as the second best high school player in the country by Rivals. Despite the bad press Kentucky has received from a disappointing season and a first round loss in the NIT, it was the Kentucky hat Randle chose over programs such as Kansas and Florida. Teams that are still playing for a national title.
By signing the Prestonwood Christian Academy (Dallas) star, the Wildcats have received commitments from six of the top 20 players in the country, according to the ESPN 100. ESPN’s No. 1 recruit, Andrew Wiggins, is uncommitted and still considering the Wildcats. Will anyone be surprised at this point if Wiggins signs as well?
Now we have word from the current UK players that they may all return to exorcise the demons of 2013. So if the current team returns in masse, where would they be ranked? They were ranked No. 3 at the start of this season. If the class John Calipari just signed is the best ever, the Wildcats will surely be sniffing No. 1 again. That means two of the best teams in the country will be sharing the same bench.
Just think about what the roster looks like next season.
Randle steps in immediately at power forward. The 6-foot-9 Randle can get to the rim, but also has a soft, left-handed touch. That means someone will be going to the bench if they return. Current rumors have Kyle Wiltjer not returning next season by choice or not.
Also taking a seat, should he still be a Wildcat, is Ryan Harrow. With the signing of 6-foot-5 twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, we have a point guard in Andrew Harrison that we never got from Harrow. You will probably see Aaron Harrison starting as well, which means should Archie Goodwin return he could be moved to more of a three spot or should Goodwin leave that spot could go to the enigma that is Alex Poythress.
Should Willey Cauley-Stein decide to come back, he might be playing behind 6-foot-10, 265 pound Dakari Johnson. Or will Calipari look back at the past season and go with Cauley-Stein’s experience and give Johnson time to grow. That decision will be made in practice with competition that Cauley-Stein didn’t face this season.
You still have 6-foot-9 forward Marcus Lee and 6-foot-8 Kentuckian Derek Willis of Bullitt East. Kentucky also has the No. 2 rated shooting guard, James Young, signed for next year.
Then you have to find a place for Wiggins if he chooses Kentucky.
It is this kind of optimism that causes fans from other teams to dislike Big Blue Nation. But it’s hard to be humble when our second five will likely be better than your first five.