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By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both had solid freshman seasons at Kentucky and each contemplated putting his name into the NBA draft as classmates Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin did before deciding to stay at UK.
Now with the transfer of Kyle Wiltjer, they become UK’s two most experienced players to go with a No. 1 recruiting class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans.
Both have been working out this summer and Kentucky coach John Calipari admitted on the Southeastern Conference teleconference that both of them are going to be “challenged” next season.
“ I think part of the lesson that we learned (last season) and I did as a head coach is, you can’t protect players. Competition is what brings out the best in all of us,” said Calipari. “And if it doesn’t, you must learn that you can’t blame, you can’t hide from it. It needs to bring out your best. It needs to wake you up earlier in the morning, it needs to get you working harder, it needs to get you being smarter about what you’re doing in your training; more disciplined, more conscientious.
“And last year, we had eight guys on scholarship. When we had an injury, we were playing seven scholarship players, and I did it somewhat to protect some of the guys in the program, and you really can’t do it that way. You got to have the full complement.”
Now he does.
“Now there’s competition, now you really see guys blossom. Right now, Willie’s challenged by the other big guys. Alex is challenged by Julius (Randle) and the other guys,” Calipari said. “So all of the sudden, they’ve elevated their game, and you make an excuse, you’ll be sitting. ‘Yeah, I know, I know. OK, you sit there.’
“And they know that now, because you’ve got other guys. So I think what you’ve seen this summer — and it’s a short period of time right now, but what you see is, they’re on a mission like some of my best teams have been on.”