(photo courtesy of zimbio)
During the John Calipari era, fans come into the season thinking the roster is stacked with talent. And it has been proven that fans were at least somewhat correct in 4 of the 5 years. And hell, even in the NIT year, UK had 2 first round draft picks in the starting lineup. There is always going to be enough talent on roster to be very competitive on a national championship scale. But as fans tend to do, we also think that every player on roster can be a major contributor, especially when they are incoming freshman. Calipari has created an atmosphere where freshman are EXPECTED to be able to play right away. But in 4 of 5 years that Cal has been here, the depth is not always as it seems. I think people forget there are only 200 minutes each game for players to play. When you have star players like Brandon Knight or Julius Randle, those guys will gobble up many of those. So guys are only going to naturally see a dip in production from what fans may think. For instance:
2009-10: Daniel Orton
Stats: 38 games, 13.2 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG
-Orton came into Kentucky as a 5-star center out of Oklahoma. He was Billy Gillispie’s best recruit and Calipari was able to hang on to him despite also picking up Demarcus Cousins. I think most people thought Cousins and Orton would be a 1-2 punch in the post for UK to play alongside Patrick Patterson. Instead, Cousins proved to have the much better all around game and clearly deserved the larger chunk of minutes. Despite the fact that Orton played in all 38 games, he never provided much of an impact on the game, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Also some incidents late in the year, including in the SEC Tournament, soured his 1 year in Lexington.
2010-11: Stacey Poole
Stats: 16 games, 2.8 MPG, 0.2 PPG
-Poole was the least heralded of the freshman class that came in that year but he still was a Top 50 player who was expected to be a regular in the rotation. As it turned out, he probably was the least successful Calipari recruit in the past 5 years. Unlike some other guys on this list who improved or ended up in the NBA, Poole transferred at the beginning of his sophomore year to Georgia Tech.
-I guess you could argue Jon Hood in this spot, but it really was just bad luck as Hood tore his ACL before the season. But I am just guessing here, after playing 33 games in his sophomore year, I am sure many people would have thought Hood would have been a factor during that national title year. I tend to think he wouldn’t have been, but I guess we’ll never know.
2012-13: Ryan Harrow
Stats: 29 games, 27.1 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 2.8 APG
-Harrow is a bit unique on this list because despite not playing well that year, he still saw a ton of minutes. But it is clear that Harrow vastly underperformed where many fans thought he would during the preseason. While Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress were inconsistent and frsutrating at times, they also showed flashes of greatness and stuffed the stat sheet. Harrow never really got it going.
2013-14: Marcus Lee
Stats: 25 games, 6.2 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG
-Lee somewhat saved his season with a couple impressive performance in the NCAA Tournament, but overall, he was a non-factor last season. Now Lee was likely hampered a bit by an illness early in the season that affected his stamina, but he never really seemed to get into the regular rotation until WCS went down with injury. Lee’s stats are pretty incredible because he scored 27 of his 59 points in just 2 games, despite playing in 25 overall. But his March performances leave fans quite excited what Lee will bring in 2014-15.
Many fans are clamoring about the UK roster for next season believing that UK could go as far as 10 deep. That doesn’t even include Derek Willis or Dominque Hawkins. But Calipari has never played anywhere close to a 10-man rotation since he has been at Kentucky and has openly stated that he needs 7 or 8 guys to compete. So, how confident are you that Kentucky will see success out of all the returning players and incoming freshman? Or is there a guy or two that you think might struggle to find the floor as much as other fans might think?