John Calipari has a way with point guards. With five of his last six starting players going to the NBA after one season, Calipari is used to having an exceptional PG at the helm of his offense. Next year will be no different, with the country’s #1 rated point guard Andrew Harrison set to take the reigns. However, with the departure of two players from last year’s backcourt, Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, some questions exist over who will provide the relief minutes for the new leading man.
In Calipari’s four years at Kentucky, most of the backup minutes have come from the starting shooting guard. Eric Bledsoe relieved John Wall in the 2009-10 season, and Doron Lamb backed up Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. With no certain starter throughout the year, last season was a bit of an anomaly. Archie Goodwin often played the back-up role when Jarrod Polson or Ryan Harrow started. If this trend continues, you can expect to see Aaron Harrison leading the offense when Andrew isn’t on the floor. Some might see this as the ideal situation, as Aaron is projected to go pro, and happens to share his DNA with the starter. However, Aaron is not a pure point guard like his brother, and there are a couple of players on the bench who might be a better fit at the position.
Jarrod Polson was one of the bright spots in a relatively rotten 2012-13 season. After a strong opening game against Maryland, Polson rotated at the point guard position with Goodwin and Harrow throughout the year. Jarrod showed lots of heart when he saw the floor last season, and after practicing with numerous NBA players for three years, Calipari might prefer to use his experience in the relief role. As inspiring as his play was last year, the biggest hole in Polson’s game is his lack of speed on defense. This problem shouldn’t be as crucial in the upcoming season, with some more talented supporters to back him up if he gets beat. However, it is still a concern, and Calipari might choose to use someone who isn’t as much of defensive liability.
Dominique Hawkins would fit this role. A dark-horse in the backup race, Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball has been receiving praise for his defensive intensity in the early practice reports from CoachCal.com. This fact might give him an edge over Polson. He also possesses more athleticism than Jarrod, which may make him a more reliable scorer. With that said, his inexperience might be his biggest liability. With so many talented freshman taking the court at Kentucky next season, Calipari may decide that he needs experience off of the bench, which is something the senior Polson can provide.
The safest best of the three would probably be Aaron Harrison. His assumption of the role would follow the trend of the previous seasons, and he possesses the most talent. It also would not be surprising to see Polson get a few minutes at the position, especially in the early season when his experience would have the most benefit. Hawkins is probably the least likely of the three to take the back-up role, but if his strong play in practice continues, he might be able to earn some minutes. Overall, the team will have more depth at the position than previous seasons, which is certainly something to be grateful for.