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Twins Return is Key For Long-Term Success

image via UKAthletics.com

 

image via UKAthletics.com

image via UKAthletics.com

 

When Kentucky brought in a class that featured the likes of the Harrison twins, Julius Randle, James Young, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee to complement returners Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, one thing seemed certain: this was a make-or-break year for the Cats. It seemed that at least four freshman were destined to leave after one year, and that the departures of Cauley-Stein and Poythress were eminent. Coming off of an NIT season that put a huge dent in the monumental momentum of Kentucky basketball, and with a more “normal” recruiting class coming in next year, it looked as if it was a “championship or bust” type of season for Kentucky (as stupid as that sounds).

Then the Wildcats struggled. Questions about Calipari’s system arose. The Harrison twins were out of whack, Julius Randle couldn’t finish a basket, and Willie was more inconsistent than Kanye West’s behavior. After UK’s embarrassing loss in Gainesville, Calipari told the world about a mysterious “tweak” that supposedly changed everything. Predictably it was met with an abundance of skepticism, and yet with a tiny bit of optimism. The Cats then crushed LSU and Georgia in the SEC tournament before taking the best team in the country to the wire before falling (literally) by one. All of a sudden, Kentucky fans were back in good spirits and were again excited for UK basketball. Even after UK was hit with a surprising number-8 seed in the bracket’s toughest region, UK fans remained optimistic and, well, the rest is history. And even though the Cats lost a heartbreaker in the championship game, the momentum of Kentucky basketball may be as high as it has ever been.

And now, after the rollercoaster ride of a season that UK just went through, things are only looking up for the Cats. The return of Marcus Lee was expected, but when the world received word that Willie Cauley-Stein was coming back, it was a game changer. All season long it looked as if Willie was gone, but after the big fella’s injury in the Sweet 16, he felt like he had some unfinished business and decided to give it another go. James Young and (presumably) Julius Randle are gone. Now we wait on the decisions of four players that could shape Kentucky basketball not just for next year, but for years to come.

With all due respect to Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress, though, the decision of the Harrison twins is by far the most important. Here’s why:

 

By all accounts incoming freshmen Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are both fantastic players, but many experts and pundits project them to be more of program players than immediate game changers. Neither player is listed in Draft Express’ 2015 Mock Draft, whereas Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to go 4th and Trey Lyles is considered by many to be our top prospect. Even so, both big men will be joining an already stacked front court of WCS and Lee, and perhaps Poythress and Johnson. That leaves UK with just Ulis, Booker and Hawkins in the backcourt and, like I said, these freshmen may take more of a “normal” progression.

If the twins decide to bolt to the NBA I still think Kentucky will be a top-5 team next season. If the twins return next season I believe that not only would UK be next year’s clear-cut number 1 team, but their return would almost ensure great success for at least the season after and possibly longer.

Calipari said after the unsuccessful 2012-2013 season that one of the Kentucky’s biggest issues was that there wasn’t enough competition in practice. If the twins return, however, they would be taking on two talented players in practice in Ulis and Booker everyday and that’s something that they weren’t able to even do this year. Obviously, this would make all parties better so that when Ulis and Booker take the reigns in the 2015-2016 season they are able to work with Charles Matthews and whatever point guard decides to commit to Kentucky (or even Dominque Hawkins if he keeps improving) and. I know this is looking pretty far out into the uncertain world that is college basketball, but Kentucky’s biggest flaw the last few years has been that although they had a stable of big men, the depth at guard was a little weak. Even this year the Cats at times were forced to play Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood for extended minutes. If the twins were to return this would enable Kentucky to have the depth at guard that fans have been endlessly chomping at the bit for the past few seasons.

For the last few years many fans have been clamoring for stability within the program because as successful as Calipari has been, when you bring in an entirely different roster every season you are putting yourself at risk for seasons like the 12-13 season where a single injury can crush your entire campaign. Think about this: since getting to Kentucky, Calipari hasn’t had a single starting guard play for a second season (Lamb was 6th man his freshman year). Imagine what Cal could do if he gets both of his starting guards back. If the twins were to return it could potentially create a cycle where we have 10-uber talented guys instead of 6 (like his first few years) each year where at least 3-4 would return the next season to complement the incoming studs.

 

So c’mon Andrew and Aaron, make the call.

 

@BWardKSR

 

Article written by Ben Ward

30 Comments for Twins Return is Key For Long-Term Success



  1. Vitamin
    12:07 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    I’ve been saying that the twins coming back could create a two-year guard system all year. Come on down!



  2. Yo
    12:11 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    You can’t start a post with “Twins Return.” Don’t get my hopes up



    • Ben Ward
      12:17 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Lol sorry, didn’t think about that!



  3. DAKARI STOOPS
    12:17 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    MAKE THIS HAPPEN PLEASE!!!!!!!



  4. professor
    12:20 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    You have aced the exam. As long as we have some solid experience returning at the guard positi and Cal is coaching,the Cats will always be a force.



  5. Calm down
    12:21 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Regardless of who comes back, all those bigs will need minutes….. Can we please play some zone…..WCS, Lee, towns and Poythress are all great shot blockers ….. Could you imagine teams trying to shoot over that zone…..or trying to get rebounds.



    • Lonnieb
      1:01 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      i wish people would quit with the zone stuff. Elite teams don’t play zone. And its much harder to.rebound when playing zone



    • Delk for 3
      1:22 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Lonnieb — I wish you would stop with the anti-zone nonsense. Elite Teams don’t play zone? That is just not true at all. If we hadn’t of played the zone we did against UConn we would have been blown out of the building. When you can’t stop guys off the dribble, you are forced to play zone to compensate. It can be harder to rebound for teams not used to playing the zone, but practice can make it just as easy for teams to rebound out of the zone as it is out of man-to-man.



    • I agree with Lonnie
      3:55 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Elite teams play zone for about as long as we do. To rely on it is not what elite teams do, unless you consider Syracuse an elite team. I don’t – they only win championships every 40 years or so.



  6. Zone Defense Proponent
    12:25 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    #5 IF Cal hadn’t been so stubborn…and played much more ZONE against UConn…we would have
    #9 in our back pocket…instead of “Runner-Up” 🙁



    • Lonnieb
      1:03 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      When the guards ran napier and boatwright off the 3they could not score. For some reason on perimeter defenders played off the shooters a bit in the middle of the second half and let them start shooting jumpers again



  7. wildcat
    12:27 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    i think they are coming back after all



  8. CatsFan
    12:29 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    If the Twins both go pro, we will not be a Top 5 team next season. It will be exactly like this year–will take us until the end of the year to gel and then we might make a tournament run. But I don’t think Ullis and Booker are good enough to come in and be top level guards early in the season. Plus, having on 3 guards on the team will be dangerous…at some point we will have foul trouble or have an injury possibly. We might be top 15 but not top 5. We really need at least 1 of the two Twins back to be a really good team next year IMO. And I couldn’t agree more with the zone comment…this team is built to play it and I fully expect Cal to recognize that and implement more of it. Also the offense needs to be a post offense not the dribble drive.



    • Luther
      3:58 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Agree. Ky will be fortunate to be top 25 if the Twins leave…



    • FalseFriend
      4:37 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Trolls: take note. Luther trolls the correct way. He comes in and doesn’t make too much noise, and once in a while even hands out a bit of a compliment. But his subtle jabs and low-key idiotic comments, such as the one posted above, really set him apart from all the other UL trolls.

      Kudos, sir. Your pathetic existence on our board is commendable.



  9. Ty e
    12:34 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Tuesday at 6:30..they will announce that they are staying



  10. ransmith
    12:49 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    I agree, the twins return is a big factor. However, I do not agree about the pre-season rankings. Too much of the group has never played together and there are too many questions!!

    IMO, with the twins and POY that UK should be a pre-season #5 or so. Without the twins they should be pre-season #15 to to #20.

    Back to the returning, in priority of potential value for next years team I would rank them like this:

    1) Andrew
    2) Aaron
    3) POY
    4) Johnson

    I will add that #1 & #2 are really close! I say Andrew because right now UK has 1 true point guard coming in, a shooting guard coming in and a combo guard in Hawkins returning. UK really needs the depth and experience more at point guard.

    If both twins return, UK should have an outstanding year, be in the top 5 most if not all season. Those two young men will grow a great deal and leave after the season as lottery picks.

    IMO, they return. Playing together at UK, helping lead a top 5 team vs being busted up bouncing around in the developmental league. At the end of the day, I think that is what it will come down to for these 2 young men.

    The decision is difficult in part because they know in their heart they can make it in the NBA, and it takes time for it to sink in that they can some day, but not now. If you are not confident and driven, you will never make it to UK! Also, in some cases those around them have to go through the same process.



  11. Captain Koch
    12:50 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Another intriguing post by Ward. I have missed his insightful posts filled with vocab words like “clamoring”. I look forward to seeing more of his posts in the future and hope the KSR staff makes more of their staff use the Microsoft word thesaurus as well



  12. STAY
    12:53 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    I don’t even understand how there is even a decision. It’s a no brainer to return for their sophm. campaign. This year’s NBA class is loaded and there is no chance they are lotto picks or even 1st round picks. What’s the rush to leave UK to get drafted in second round, not making that much money and probably spending some time in the D League. That is what they are facing if the go. Alternatively, they return for year 2, and dominate. Next year’s NBA class is weaker, so that combined with their improvement (hopefully) and domination leads to success for them. They both will probably be lotto picks and will sign nice contracts and probably avoid the D league. I know it’s not my life but this seems like an easy decision. It’s Risk v. Reward and its not even close that balances out that they should return. Yet, kids are kids and now a days its a me, me, now, now generation. So, who knows what they do.



  13. Mr T
    1:03 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Ben, your post is on target in my estimation. Another year at UK would be best for the twins and we would have twins at guard and twin towers on the baseline.



  14. Ridge Runner
    1:20 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    This article is spot on!



    • Bunny
      4:00 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Agree. Spot on…



  15. David
    1:36 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    imagine if you will the possibilities had the two or three year limit had been in play when Cal first came to UK…the future possibilities are mind boggling…



  16. Sammydog
    1:54 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Daddy Harrison will be the one making this decision.



    • Whattya Gettin' At?
      3:56 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Good. I’m sure he’ll make the best decision for his boys.



  17. Mark
    2:06 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Lamb was a starter as a freshman(Knight,Lamb,Miller,Jones ,and Harrelson) Liggins and sometimes Vargus came off the bench.



  18. K2da
    2:30 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    What the twins need to understand is their fall didn’t begin at Kentucky. They were cut from the 17 and under U S Team. In the all-star games ( McDonald’s AND Jordan) they were outclassed. And before the season even started the talk in practice from scouts were about Young mainly. Once season started every one was less than impressed with their game. They been sliding for 2 yrs



  19. Bill
    5:01 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    Fellas, we would all love to see you return. But it’s YOUR life. You’ve given a wonderful memory of an outstanding post season.



  20. Dick Tionary
    6:45 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

    “the departures of Cauley-Stein and Poythress were eminent”

    this blog is embarrassing



    • Go2School
      7:58 pm April 19, 2014 Permalink

      Reading comprehension is not for everyone.