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Slam Online Recaps Big Blue Madness

Jonathan mentioned it earlier in the Sunday Morning Links, but below is Slam Online’s notes on players who stood out at Big Blue Madness, along with commentary from yours truly:

Note: you’ll have to click here to view Slam’s video mixtape of the event. It’s awesome, but I don’t know why it’s not showing up properly here.


Kyle Wilter, 6-9, Power Forward, Sophomore

After a solid freshman season for UK’s National Championship team, Wiltjer appears to be turning the corner with the impact that he’ll provide for the Wildcats. Leading everyone with 19 points, Wiltjer was a nasty pick and pop threat, had a reverse dunk in transition, and busted out a filthy behind the back fake that brought the crowd to their feet. Pencil Wiltjer in as the starting power forward this year, as well as a guy who could really surprise NBA scouts.

Given the lack of defense, it’s hard to tell much from an offensive outburst in a Big Blue Madness scrimmage. In Wiltjer’s case though, it was great to see him attack the basket with confidence and continue to nail down his outside shot. A year ago, Wiltjer stood back and let his superstar teammates put on a show at Madness. This year, Wiltjer was the show himself. It’s easy to tell his confidence has gone way up. He’s also faster and stronger, and I agree with Slam Online that he will end up starting for Kentucky this season.

Ryan Harrow, 6-2, Point Guard, Sophomore

YouTube sensation, Ryan Harrow gave UK fans their first glimpse of his electric style of play after sitting out last season following a transfer from North Carolina State. Noticeably bulked up, the sophomore did a great job getting in the lane and quickly getting the ball up on the glass before shot-blockers had a chance to rotate. Many feel that Harrow has no choice but to enter the NBA Draft at the conclusion of this season with the arrival of Andrew Harrison. Regardless if he stays or leaves, the keys to the Wildcats will be Harrow’s for this year.

Harrow reportedly outplayed Marquis Teague at times last season in practice, and he has always had an impressive skill-set, but is he ready to lead the team when the lights turn on and the games count? It won’t take too long to find out with Maryland and Duke being the first two games on the schedule. I disagree with Slam Online, however, that he has no choice but to leave for the NBA at the end of the season. If he’s not ready to make the jump after this season, he may take a step back in his role, but Calipari will make it work with Harrow if he would come back for 2013-14 (see Darius Miller).

Nerlens Noel, 6-11, Center, Freshman

The top player in the Class of 2012 definitely got the biggest pop out of the crowd. With the UK logo etched in the back of his high top, it was evident that Noel is going to be the next fan favorite for the Wildcats. He didn’t do much offensively, but had an outstanding block on a Willie Cauley-Stein jumper that showed everyone why he is on the conversation for top pick of next year’s NBA Draft.

Noel still has a ways to go offensively, but has had the least amount of practice time in Lexington. In those first two big games, Noel will need to make his impact defensively. The offense will come around, but in order to beat Duke and/or Maryland, he’s going to have to make a major defensive impact.

Willie Cauley-Stein, 7-1, Center, Freshman

The 7-1 center has been a work in progress since he was a 6-11 freshman in high school, but has made some serious strides in the right direction since we last saw him at adidas Nations. His dunk on Nerlens Noel was the play of the night, and he showed off an improved offensive game. With the combination of size and mobility that the Kansas native offers, expect him to see some nice burn this season.

I think we can all agree that there are not 39 college freshman in the country better than Willie Cauley-Stein, the first “steal” that John Calipari has had on the Kentucky recruiting trails. What is most exciting about Cauley-Stein is that he may have a number of years at Kentucky to continue to improve. The former high school football star has usually been catching touchdown passes this time of year, and not working on his hoops game. Imagine his potential with a constant, year-round focus on basketball under John Calipari?

Alex Poythress, 6-8, Small Forward/Power Forward, Freshman

A top-10 recruit in the country, Alex Poythress came into Kentucky as a guy who many feel could bounce to the League after one season. At 6-8 and 230 pounds with freakish athleticism, he certainly fits the bill physically and showed that last night. During Big Blue Madness, Poythress had a number of crazy tip dunks and showed the emerging perimeter skills that he has that make many feel that he could ultimately become a small forward at the next level.

Poythress certainly showed “the look” of a big-time scorer on Friday night, but will he be UK’s big-time scorer? Will UK even have a primary scorer? Poythress could be a go-to guy for UK, or it could be Wiltjer, Archie Goodwin (not mentioned in the Slam Online piece), or a combination of others on given nights. It will be interesting to see if Poythress emerges as the guy UK counts on for major scoring when needed. Last year’s team didn’t need one guy to take over games and score a lot of points, but this team might at times.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

9 Comments for Slam Online Recaps Big Blue Madness

  1. Walter Sobchak
    9:41 pm October 14, 2012 Permalink

    I think the offense will be pretty balanced again this year. I also have a feeling we will see a good amount of the auto-lob again this year with Noel. His length and jumping ability will make it unstoppable.

  2. Head Bussa
    9:50 pm October 14, 2012 Permalink

    I believe Harrow will be the leading scorer on this team. He is a fantastic player who has been playing against good competition for quite a while now at NC State and last year at UK. He was a scorer and for the Wolfpack and I think he’ll score major points for this team. He is more of the mold of a scoring PG than an assist-minded PG. I think Cal will demand he share the rock but he will also look for him to provide this team with major scoring.

  3. Capt
    9:55 pm October 14, 2012 Permalink

    From what I could gather at madness, goodwin and harrow will be the go to guys for scoring.

  4. Head Bussa
    9:55 pm October 14, 2012 Permalink

    In games he started for NC State (which was like the last 15 games of the season) Harrow averaged 14 points per game as a freshman. You’d be crazy to think he at least can’t match that. I think he’ll score more. A key for him will be to get to the free throw line — A LOT.

  5. BigBlue
    9:58 pm October 14, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t wait for the season to start wooooo!!

  6. stevie
    9:00 am October 15, 2012 Permalink

    I believe Wiltjer will be the top scorer this year.

  7. AaronJ
    9:04 am October 15, 2012 Permalink

    @3, respectfully disagree. I really think that Wiltjer is too skilled at putting the ball in the hoop to not be the top scorer. He is deadly at the 3 and looks to be much faster and stronger going to the post than he was last season.

    It’s definitely a nice problem to have. Wiltjer could be our Lamb from last season, Harrow is said to be very good from beyond the arc too.

  8. Jatt Mones
    11:38 am October 15, 2012 Permalink

    Any particular reason Goodwin got left out?

  9. UKMike
    1:23 pm October 15, 2012 Permalink

    no mention of Archie?