Winner gets this shirt from me, absolutely free, for only $23.95.
We have a great team to look forward to again next year, and like many other years, we’re looking at almost an entirely new roster. With the mass exodus that will be occurring, though, Calipari will be losing more than just talent; he’ll be losing the leadership on the team. Gone is the savvy senior who spent years in the system and finally came into his own. Gone is the National Player of the Year. And gone is the “warrior” who everyone knew would bring the charisma and motivation needed to inspire his teammates to work their hardest every day. Looking at the upcoming roster, though, it begs the question: who will lead next year’s team?
Harrow is the oldest of the likely starting lineup, and has a lot of experience both in practice at UK, and in games at NC State. Additionally, he’s in the “floor general” position, which means he’ll have a big say on how the team functions, whether they play in transition or the half-court, and generally running the team and keeping the other guys involved. I think Harrow is the odds-on favorite right now to be “that guy” for the team next year, though it’s hard to say with so little observation of what he’ll play like. But the combination of age, position, and skill will probably push him into that role. Like many Calipari-coached teams, next year’s squad will play only as well as their point guard.
Wiltjer will be next year what Darius Miller was in the brief John Wall era. A highly-ranked recruit who spent a lot of time learning in the first year (even though Darius started several games as a freshman), who is now asked to take on a larger role in the midst of uber-talented freshmen. We can only hope that what may have been Darius’ most frustrating year becomes the year that Wiltjer flourishes with the increase in touches he’s likely to get. Will he be “the” leader on the team? I’m not sure that’s likely. But he will almost certainly be a steadying presence that young players will need when games get tight early in the season, and on the road.
Going into the season, it’s believed by many that Noel will be the most talented player on the team. Typically, with great talent comes great responsibility, and we noticed last year that Anthony Davis got more and more leader-like duties as the season went on and he made his case for Player of the Year. Noel will be the face (er… hair?) of the program next year, and that carries a lot of inherent pressure along with it. I believe that Noel is the type to thrive under that sort of attention, but whether that translates to being an on-court leader or not is yet to be seen. If his tweets are any indication, Nerlens is ready to handle all of the problems that are thrown his way, and though he may not start out the year in the “leadership” role, he may very well end the year there.
This is my dark horse for the “leadership” role next year. We knew all along with MKG that he would be that type of player from day one, and I get a similar vibe from Poythress. There’s no objective reason for me feeling that way, it’s just a hunch. He seems like that sort of fierce competitor whose work ethic will motivate the guys around him.
Ultimately, we won’t really know until next year what next year’s team is going to look like on the court until they actually… get on the court. Heck, we don’t even know if next year’s roster is set (in fact, we hope it’s not, Anthony Bennett and Amile Jefferson). But with the pieces we do know, and since “Kentucky Basketball never stops,” I figure it’s not too early to consider the roles that the guys will have next season.