SEC: Where Does Kentucky Go From Here?

Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari during a press conference after the blame against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 NCAA Men
Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari during a press conference after the blame against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 NCAA Men /

Many people will look at Kentucky’s season as a failure for not winning the national title. While the season shouldn’t be looked at that way—after all, the team went 38-1, tying an NCAA Division I record for most wins in a season—fans feel like there was more left for the Wildcats to do.

While that’s in the past, it’s time to look at the present and future of Kentucky basketball. We now know that seven players declared for the NBA draft, leaving just Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee as returning players who were in the rotation this past season.

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The first order of business deals with Alex Poythress. During Thursday’s press conference, Kentucky head coach John Calipari mentioned if Poythress didn’t suffer a torn ACL early in the season, he would have been the eighth member on the stage announcing his decision to head toward the NBA Draft. It’s not necessarily guaranteed that Poythress will return as he will still meet with his family to decide his fate.

Once the news breaks that Poythress will be returning to Lexington, the staff needs to work on his rehabilitation to regain the power he had for the last couple of seasons. Poythress, a former McDonald’s All-American, was never a phenomenal scorer, averaging 11 points a game as a freshman. But he always seemed to provide the big bucket. It usually came off an offensive rebound or a ferocious dunk, but the staff needs Poythress to come back healthy to start at the small forward position.

The second order of business is developing Marcus Lee into an offensive threat. Lee, another forgotten McDonald’s All-American, has been buried on the bench his first two seasons due to a plethora of NBA talent ahead of him. What Lee does offer though is rim protection, defense and high energy. Sound familiar? Remember how Willie Cauley-Stein was his two years in Lexington?

If the coaching staff could turn Cauley-Stein into an offensive presence, stretching his range out to 12 feet while developing a hook shot to go with a couple other post moves, there’s no doubt they can do the same with Lee. The California native should fill the void left behind by Cauley-Stein as he should lead the team in blocks next season.

However, the most important piece of the puzzle is still unknown, which is the trend for Kentucky basketball. By that I mean the recruiting aspect that will happen over the next couple of weeks. Now that the coaching staff and recruits know what the roster is like, Calipari and crew needs to go get their top targets.

This should include Malik Newman, a 6’3” combo guard from Mississippi and Stephen Zimmerman, a 7’0” center from Nevada. Newman is arguably the most important recruit to sign because he’s expected to debate between Kentucky, Mississippi State and LSU – all SEC teams. On top of that, there’s not a lot of depth at the guard position with Tyler Ulis becoming the starting point guard and incoming freshman Isaiah Briscoe filling one of the guard spots.

The future is still bright for Kentucky, no matter who declares for the NBA. It’s the beauty of having John Calipari as your head coach.

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