With the announcement that Alex Poythress will return to the team next season for round two comes the increased certainty that Kentucky will be unbelievably loaded at all positions. Cats fans surely expected Kyle Wiltjer for another as he continues his quest of developing as a long-range NBA big-man specialist. Willie Cauley-Stein, on the other hand, was a question. But considering his potential once he matures further, the choice to continue in the college ranks was obvious. And for Alex Poythress, most anticipated a second season as well, in order for him to get stronger both physically and mentally. It is true none of these three players’ decisions were jaw-dropping surprising, but it doesn’t make the announcements any less exciting.
Think about this: Three key players returning to join a squad of incoming freshman poised to make a run to the title game… Where have we heard that story before? You don’t have to look any further than a season ago when Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, and Darius Miller joined Anthony Davis and Co. in Lexington to assemble one of the most dominating college basketball teams ever. And because many recruiting experts and national media outlets are touting the incoming Kentucky class as the best of all-time, it’s hard not to imagine a similar outcome as last season.
For the 2011-12 Championship team, Kentucky returned Lamb, Jones, and Miller from a 2010-11 squad that made a trip to the Final Four. Those three played 45 percent of the team’s minutes and were responsible for over 50 percent of the offense. That is an astounding stat for a Calipari team which often have the reputation of nothing but one-and-done players, and a stat that surely helped ease the transition for the incoming freshmen in a much brighter spotlight; something that was not present on this year’s team.
While that exact same impact will not be present next season, there is a considerable percentage of production coming back. Take a look:
That is right around 40 percent of the offense coming back next season to join six McDonald’s All-Americans. And this does not even mention the intangibles that weren’t there this season without any vocal returning players. In theory, that should not be an issue any longer either. If Poythress, Cauley-Stein, and Wiltjer step up to be the leaders that Lamb, Jones, and Miller were for their team and have the same burning desire to win a title as those guys…