When this team started to officially take shape over the summer, and we knew exactly which players would be included on the roster– one of the burning questions among a curious fan base about a relatively “new” team was: who was going to be this team’s leading scorer? Depending on who you asked, the answer ranged from player #1 in the rotation to player #6/7. Some thought that Kyle Wiltjer, really the only key returnee from last year’s national championship team, would have the upper hand early due to his offensive capabilities, familiarity with the system, and smooth shooting. Others thought freshman Alex Poythress might be the most versatile scorer, able to finish from a variety of positions on the court with his physical presence. Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow, both considered to be guards who could put up big numbers in the scoring column also entered into the equation. Nerlens Noel, known to be more developed on the defensive end coming in, was a possibility as well. Even Julius Mays, long projected to be the 6th man in the rotation got some serious attention due to his experience and proven scoring ability already at the collegiate level. And finally, Willie Cauley-Stein started to gain a little momentum following a string of major compliments in the media about his play from John Calipari.
Regardless of where fans sided in the pre-season predictions, the main theme was that the answer to the leading scorer question was not clear cut and was very much up for grabs.
Kentucky has yet to face the level of competition required to make a strong judgement or case for who might lead this team in scoring. This young Kentucky team is still working out the early kinks many of Calipari’s inexperienced teams do when it comes to adjusting to their offensive roles early in the season. Although it is awfully early, in the two chances we’ve had to see this Kentucky team play full exhibition games, “balance” has been the most appropriate term to describe the scoring for this team.
In both exhibition games, 5 players from Kentucky have reached double figures. In Monday night’s match-up with Transy, no one Kentucky player attempted double figures in shots. Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays paced the Wildcat shot attempts with 9 a piece. Mays finished with 14 points, Goodwin with 10, Harrow and Cauley-Stein had 12 and Noel actually led the team with 15 points. In Kentucky’s previous exhibition game with Northwood, two different players from the ones listed above reached double figures. Kyle Wiltjer finished that game with 12, while Alex Poythress tallied 11 points.
In total, 7 different Kentucky players have reached double figures at least once in the first two exhibition games. I think it’s safe to say that all 7 of the players (Goodwin, Noel, Cauley-Stein, Mays, Poythress, Wiltjer and Harrow) who have already reached double figures could lead this team in scoring on any given night. Much like last year’s Calipari team, the ability for a different player to lead the team in scoring and step up on different nights seems to be probable for this year’s team as well. And if last year’s results show us anything, that’s probably a good thing.
Again, it’s early, and we will likely know a lot more after the next two-game stretch for this Kentucky team when they face Maryland and Duke. But if I were a betting (wo)man, I would still put my money on Archie Goodwin leading the team in scoring by the end of the season–though not by a very large margin. I could easily see all 7 of the players mentioned above finishing somewhere in the 9-14 ppg range. After a long summer of wondering, and two chances to see this team play under our belts, what do you think? Who will lead this team in scoring?