When Harrow, Poythress, Goodwin, and Cauley-Stein all alluded to coming back next year, this question was posed to me by Tara Bilby- and I’m sure many of y’all were thinking along the same lines. “They didn’t try.” “They were uncoachable.” “Make room for next year’s team.” Et cetera, et cetera. Yet despite all the heartache BBN endured this season, if those four players were to ask to come back next year- yes, I’d take them back.
**Before we get any further, let’s all agree to understand that these players’ minds could change at any time over the next few weeks after they’ve had some time to get over last night’s loss and after their meetings with Calipari. This is a strictly hypothetical situation. Gucci? Gucci.**
Call me naive. Call me a glutton for punishment. Call me that girl who takes her boyfriend back repeatedly despite his constant screw-ups. But I’d still take these guys back for the 2013-2014 Revenge Tour- and here’s why.
Get Sh*t Right. I might still be a little spoiled from last season, but I don’t like the taste that 2012-2013 has left in my mouth so far- and I’m guessing the rest of our guys don’t either. As they joined Kentucky basketball, we knew the potential that each of these players had- I specifically remember Rashawn Franklin gushing over Alex Poythress during the McDonald’s All-American game last year- and they failed to live up to their (admittedly sky-high) hype. Next year, redemption will begin in practice as this year’s team goes from practicing against Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson (respect for you though, guys) to practicing against their competition for NBA lottery picks. So they didn’t live up to our expectations this year- let’s give them a chance for redemption and in the everlasting words of Eric Bledsoe, “get sh*t right.”
That’s Logistics. We began this season with a solid six-man rotation, thinking that, like last year, it would be enough for us to work with in tight games and crammed seasons. We learned that unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Between Harrow’s absence, WCS’s knee, and Nerlens’ ACL, the Cats were hurting at a variety of positions this year. We’ve got six studs lined up for next year, and let’s assume that Wiltjer stays and Randle commits. I’ll gladly take a little extra security at each position after the injury bug we suffered this season. We saw how unhinged this team became when we lost Nerlens and his physical and emotional contributions- at the very least, having more bodies on the bench next year could make up for some of that lost impact.
For Their Own Good. Not one player last night said that they were ready to move on to the next level of basketball. Let’s take a look one more time:
“I just gotta get back to Kentucky and start working immediately.”
“I’m not ready.”
“If any of us were saying we should leave, we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave.”
“I’m not ready for the real world yet. I am still a kid. I’m not in any hurry to leave.”
From the mouths of babes, they’re not ready to leave. Their basketball skills, maturity, and mindsets just aren’t developed enough. Calipari preaches a “players first” program, and as angry or disappointed as he and the rest of BBN may be, his players need another year of college basketball and coaching. Give them the education they need before we send them out of the Lexington bubble.
Experience: That Most Brutal of Teachers. After watching this crew visibly suffer all season (seriously, last night was comparable to a euthanization), I’ll admit that I’ve had qualms about these same problems (lack of chemistry, lack of heart, “uncoachable”-itis) affecting next year’s team. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. Who better to ensure that doesn’t happen than the guys who lived through it themselves? The 2012-2013 team rode in on the coattails of The Kentucky Coronation, expecting the national championship to be handed to them on a silver platter (and if not the national championship, at least the SEC tournament and a win over Robert Morris). A few mentors on the squad would help nip any uncoachable problems in the bud- problems that Calipari alluded to when he said “The stuff I accepted from this team, the program almost got hijacked.” The quotes from last night’s post-game presser were telling- no one believed they gave it their all or deserved to win that game, much less move on to the pros. With this brutal (BRUTAL) less under their belts, this year’s team would be well-equipped to mentor next year’s team.
“Sometimes the guys think they know more than the coach knows. That’s part of being young.” Ah, Uncle Julius in his infinite wisdom. This quote connects to my previous point because sometimes, these young kids won’t listen to their elders- but they’ll listen to their peers who give them the “been there, done that” schpiel. With the harsh lessons they’ve learned this year and with how candid Calipari has been following last night’s loss, I can’t imagine that these guys would return for a second season and NOT listen to what their coaches have to say.
But maybe more importantly- and something BBN has a habit of forgetting about their basketball idols- these guys are kids. They are young. Hell, they’re all younger than me and I am a pseudo-child 23 year old who takes a Flintstones vitamin every day. They don’t deserve to be kicked to the curb just to make room for an incoming class that is as hyped as they were this time last year. At the end of the day, this is a college sport that we are lucky enough to watch as fans. Let’s give them a second chance to prove themselves- to improve themselves- and see what we can do in 2013-2014.
We’re going to burn down arenas all the way to Texas.