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By LARRY VAUGHT
With speculation swirling about who will or will not be back on the Kentucky basketball team next year, ESPN’s Andy Katz recently projected what John Calipari’s 2013-14 roster would be.
“If everyone returns and no one else arrives (see: Andrew Wiggins), then Kentucky is set at 13 (scholarships). There are six returning players on scholarship in Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer. There are seven incoming freshmen — five are signed in Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis — and two are committed in Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson,” Katz wrote on ESPN.com.
“The odds of Noel returning are slim, even with the torn ACL, freeing up at least one scholarship. There is always the chance someone else will transfer or decide to declare for the draft even with the prospects of making a team slim. This could actually work out for the Wildcats if the returning players accept roles and become mentors to the star-studded freshmen as rotation players in a year.”
All that goes along with what Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein said about returning to UK for their sophomore seasons after the Cats lost to Robert Morris in the NIT.
But what about juniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson?
Polson came to UK as a walk-on player from West Jessamine. He’s been on scholarship the last two seasons, but even though he’s on track to graduate I don’t think he would have a problem going back to walk-on status to continue to be a part of the team.
Hood? That’s different. He came to UK on scholarship. He’s played in 73 games in three seasons — he was injured during UK’s national title season and redshirted — but has scored just 80 points and grabbed 62 rebounds in his limited playing time. By comparison, Polson had 101 points and 55 rebounds this season.
Still, would UK really yank Hood’s scholarship — every scholarship is technically renewable after one year — just to create roster space?
When a UK fan questioned Katz on Twitter about Hood not being a scholarship player, his reply was, “Reporting what UK says for ’13-14.”
Normally when Katz talks Big Blue, it’s golden because his information likely is coming straight from Calipari. However, this time UK says his information is not accurate.
“We have not announced any roster decisions for next season. Only discussed this year’s roster. Told him Polson and Hood are on track to graduate and neither has made a decision going forward or has it even been discussed with the staff,” said UK executive assistant athletics director DeWayne Peevy when asked about Hood’s status based on what Katz reported.
Hood likely will not play much next season with the recruiting class Calipari is bringing in. He may opt to transfer to another school where he could have a chance to play more since he’ll have his degree and could do that like Julius Mays did this season when he came to UK from Wright State as a fifth-year player and was eligible immediately. Maybe he would agree to stay on the UK roster as a walk-on in hopes of getting another national championship ring.
But here’s hoping he’s not cut. Calipari has done few things wrong since his arrival at UK, and he knows Hood is a fan favorite because he’s an in-state player who grew up loving the Wildcats. He’s always said all the right things during his playing time at UK and done everything right off the court. He was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 2009 and was ranked as the nation’s 40th best high school player that year by Rivals.com. He picked UK over Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia.
Going through Senior Day at UK will be a huge deal to him, and it seems like he’s earned the right to get to do that and be part of the team for one more year if that’s what he wants to do. Calipari talks about running a players’ first program and being the gold standard for college basketball. If that’s right, then Hood deserves to have a chance to be part of the 2013-14 team even if he’s not a future NBA star because a players’ first program does what is fair and best for players.