Could Kentucky add another piece to the 2019-20 roster? John Calipari says it’s possible.
During a media opportunity this morning, the Kentucky head coach said that while he’s happy with the current layout of the roster, he’d certainly be open to bringing in one more player if it benefitted both sides.
“I’m really happy with where we are right now,” he said. “If there is anything that can help us, and also help the player, then I would consider that.”
Part of the reason he’s so content with how his roster is constructed as of today? The key returning players who said no to the NBA Draft and decided to spend another year in Lexington. While they each had their respective ups and downs, Calipari is expecting “breakout” seasons for them next year.
“This group, the three guys that obviously considered leaving to go to the NBA, Ashton [Hagans], who I think will have a breakthrough year based on the fact that he gets it now. He’s going to be much more focused on the things. You talk about Nick [Richards], I fully expect this to be his breakout year. The opportunity and minutes and where he is maturity wise, physically, he only started playing basketball when he was 14. He wasn’t like these other guys playing since he was eight, nine. This kid started when he was 14.
“And then EJ [Montgomery], who went through the NBA process, which I was happy he did. Could’ve left his name in and would’ve had a chance for a first-round draft pick. But it wasn’t in the position he thought it would be in, or wanted it to be in so he comes back. And I told him ‘this thing is on you now.’ What’s happened for PJ (Washington) and the changes that he made for him and our team, I expect the same if not more from you.”
Outside of the top three players with the hardest decisions they had to make, the Kentucky head coach said he loves the combination of the other returning players and the new additions they have coming in.
“With Immanuel [Quickley] coming back, you’ve got Brad [Calipari] and Zan [Payne], and the new guys coming in, from Tyrese [Maxey] to Kahlil Whitney to Keion Brooks to Dontaie Allen,” Calipari said. “We’ve got a good core group.”
While he’d be comfortable with the current roster as it stands going into the season, he said you can never have too much depth, especially when it comes to potential injuries.
“You’ve got [three] guys, but what if one of them gets hurt? Now you’re playing four guards, which I haven’t done before, but I can figure it out,” he said.
Overall, he understands the nature of the beast when it comes to recruiting. When an opportunity presents itself, he needs to be prepared to take it, but only if both parties can benefit from it
“Recruiting never stops here,” Calipari said. “It just never stops because no one in the history, for ten years, has tried to change the team every single year and tried to go through what this program has gone through. Not by design. If you’re doing right by the kids, you’re trying to help and promote.”
The biggest available piece for the Kentucky coaching staff to consider is Virgina Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game last season. If the Second-Team All-ACC big man wants to join the fold, sources tell KSR, as expected, that Kentucky would jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat.
Outside of Blackshear, the opportunity for a 2020 reclassification candidate to make the jump is also a possibility, with names such as N’Faly Dante, Cliff Omoruyi, Makur Maker, and Isaiah Todd being the most likely options, in that order.
While the hope is that Blackshear decides to sign with Kentucky and it’s nice to have other available options on the table if he doesn’t, it’s certainly reassuring that Calipari is happy with the 2019-20 roster as it stands.