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For the first time at Kentucky, John Calipari will now have point guard experienced in his system

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky is going to have something next year that John Calipari has never had — a point guard experienced running his system.

With Friday’s announcement by twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison that they would return to UK for their sophomore seasons rather than enter the NBA draft, Calipari will have a point guard in Andrew Harrison who started 39 games last season and averaged 10.9 points and 4.0 assists per game. More importantly, he handed out three or more assists in seven of UK’s nine postseason games and he had a brilliant 20-point effort to help knock off previously unbeaten Wichita State in the NCAA tourney.

Calipari has used John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Ryan Harrow and Andrew Harrison to run the point in his five seasons at UK. All were true freshmen except Harrow, a transfer from North Carolina State who did have a redshirt season to learn the offense but was a major disappointment during UK’s 2012-2013 NIT season.

Now Calipari can turn the team over to Andrew Harrison. He’ll have his brother, who started 40 games last year and hit monster 3-point shots in consecutive wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin in NCAA play, back. He’ll have centers Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee back. He’ll have forward Alex Poythress back. Throw in four star recruits — point guard Tyler Ulis, two guard Devin Booker and big men Karl Towns Jr. and Trey Lyles — along with returning in-state sophomores Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins and Calipari will have his deepest, most experienced team at UK for Andrew Harrison to lead.

Kentucky will return 67 percent of its assists (300), 65 percent of minutes played, 59 percent of its scoring (1,773) and 54 percent of its rebounds (872) from its Final Four squad.

“Now it is a matter of him mastering the position instead of having to learn to play it,” said Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy. “We talked all last year about the need for him to control the game. Now he’ll have a better handle on what that means. I think he understands that better now.

“We have all seen sophomores get frustrated. It is not a straight line up as a sophomore, either. Just because you are a sophomore does not mean every game will be a boquet of roses, but he will now know what works and what doesn’t work. He will have different plans and different player that he can use what he knows instead of relying on being better athletically and maybe just getting a step and making a play. Now he can think pass and setting up teammates.”

There’s also another big plus for the Harrisons — they will be at UK all summer to work out and learn from Calipari, including a likely summer exhibition trip with their new teammates. Last summer the Harrisons did not get to UK for the summer term and were not able to start working out with teammates — or coaches — until they started school in late August.

DeCourcy thinks the Harrisons made a wise decision. While some mock drafts had one or both as possible late first-round picks, other mock drafts had them as second-round choices even after their impressive play in the NCAA Tournament.

“The Harrisons probably would be in the middle of the first round in terms of potential, but no one is seeing that now. I have never believed it was a good idea to sell yourself short of your potential and that’s what they likely would have done if they left UK. I think they made a great decision for them and Kentucky,” DeCourcy said.

ESPN college basketball analyst admits he was a bit surprised with the Harrisons’ decision, but he thinks they did the right thing.

“I am intrigued now to see how the Harrison kids build off the momentum from the end of the year,” Vitale said. “They both had an up and down year. Now I think we will see the real Harrisons that we saw at the end of the year on a consistent basis. We saw then how talented they are and how good they can be.”

Maybe that still wasn’t good enough for NBA scouts, but remember that Aaron Harrison Sr. said from the time his sons signed with Kentucky that staying more than one year was fine with him. The family is financially sound and Harrison Sr. said there was no pressure on his sons to go to the NBA — a message he reminded them of before the start of NCAA play.

And while many are already wondering how the team chemistry might be on a team with nine McDonald’s All-American plus Cauley-Stein, a potential lottery pick if he had opted for the draft this year, remember that Ulis’ father, James, has said for months that he would happy if the Harrisons stayed at UK.

“Tyler is about the team and wants to play with great players,” James Ulis said in January. “There will always be great players at Kentucky or any high-level college program. Tyler will play whatever role he has. He can’t worry about who is there or not there. If he plays like he can, he’ll get to play and that’s what coach Calipari told him.”

That’s what Calipari will be able to tell a lot of players next year. Play to your potential and get on the court. Slack off, lose focus or make constant mistakes and take a seat. That’s the luxury he’ll have with an experienced point guard in Andrew Harrison and proven second guard in Aaron Harrison that he would not have had if the Harrisons had not returned.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/for-the-first-time-at-kentucky-john-calipari-will-now-have-point-guard-experienced-in-his-system/

28 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Introducing a couple red-shirts may be beneficial in a number of ways. Playing time, development, program building.
    Could hurt recruiting however.
    Great problem to have.

  2. TheProfessor

    It seems to me that the starting lineup in October should be Willie, Alex and Dakari on the front line, with Andrew and Aaron in the back court. That provides Lee, Willis, and Hawkins as experienced reserves, with a stellar recruiting class of 2 bigs, and 2 guards to augment and supplement the seasoned players.

    1. Ron Newlin II

      I really don’t believe you will see WCS and Dakari on the floor at the same time. Neither have a good 12 to 15 foot shot and they both can’t be in the middle at the same time. Towns and Lyles are both more than capable of hitting the 10 to 22 ft shot so I forsee, Willie, Dakari and Lee splitting time at center. Karl Towns and Trey Lyles rotating at the 4. Poythress and possibly Willis playing the 3 if Derek improves his defense and quickness. I really like the rest of his game but those are the two things he will have to do because he won’t see the floor at the 4 position. Aaron and Devin Booker playing the 2 and 3. Hawkins playing some at 2 with Andrew and Tyler Ulis running the point. I hope there are some blowouts next year so Hawkins can get some time at point also. We may need a second point guard 2 years from now.
      Don’t forget about E.J. Floreal. He may be a walk-on and there will only be mop up minutes for him but that kid is an athelete. If I were Cal, which I’m not, I would think about giving him the 13th scholarship. Especially if no one else signs on for next season. By the way, is it November yet?

  3. Mike

    Don’t like starting off the day reading that Derek is weighing transfer possibilities. He probably looks no further down the bench than Hoodie who was not managed properly under the coach who likes his bench and then underutilizes it, and don’t give me the BS that it is all how they practice. As bad as our freshmen were playing for most of the year it is still rather unbelievable that Derek and John weren’t given more PT. We have got to take better care of our Kentucky assets.

    1. Andy

      If he can put on more strength, he will be fine later. He can red shirt, bulk up, learn under Cals system. We will have a mass exodus after next season and then he can be ready to step up. Just a thought but if he wants immediate playing time, might as well transfer then. Regardless he will still sit out a year.

    2. Ron Newlin II

      I certainly hope not. I want him to stay, work his butt off to transform himself into a small forward. If he can somehow get a little quicker he would be an awesome SF at 6’9″

      1. Larry T Clemons

        Agree 100%

    3. jimharris

      Mike, taking care of “our Kentucky assets” ain’t ever going to be on Cal’s bucket list, so we can just forget that one.

      1. Larry T Clemons

        Derrick, himself, even admitted, HE needed to do more, dedicate himself more and make this Summer, all about Basketball, not hanging out with friends and eating junk food…Derrick, Learned what it takes, and if He applies those lessons He will Earn Quality Playing Time….I don’t want Coach to give Playing time to half committed actions…Kentucky Boy or not, ” Your All In, or enjoy the Bench.” Derrick, knows he got better, but he also knows, he needs to be stronger, have better footwork and Play Defense ! So, everyone complaining about Derrick, NOT receiving enough playing time…Well, Derrick just told YOU why HE didn’t.

  4. Tim

    Mike: If you’re worried about Kentucky’s assets, go help stop mountain-top removal mining or encourage a child to read. I’m fine with not seeing players play if they’re not good enough to play regardless of where they’re from.

    1. Larry Pup

      Right on Tim.

    2. King Ghidora

      I have to agree with Mike here. I think Hood in particular should have had a chance to make a difference. He stuck with the program through hard times when he would have been better off playing somewhere he would have been a key player (when he wasn’t injured).

      I think I understand Cal’s coaching style where you develop the starters and a couple of key subs. But IMO Hood could have been a key sub. I think Cal just pretty much gave up on Hood after all the injuries. Cal was likely looking to the future to develop other players.

      Derek is another story. I think he has skills but when he did play his defense didn’t seem to be on the level it needed to be. His feet just don’t seem to be fast enough. That’s not to say he couldn’t become a great player but this is UK where you better bring it quick or you’ll get left in the dust. Hood could play defense though. I hope Derek stays. I really do. I see him as a great potential reserve.

      Sorry I just don’t see him as a starter in Cal’s system. But I think of guys like Cameron Mills and I think what a great role player he was and I think Derek could be that kind of player. It may take a while to develop his game though and I hope he stays. I think Wiltjer should have stayed at UK too. He might have matured to where he could move his feet better.

      You just have to be able to play defense on a top team. Other teams will eat you alive if you can’t. And neither Wiltjer or Willis has shown me that they can do that. Hopefully that will change with Derek.

      People do mature as they get a little older. I remember being slow footed myself until one day out of the blue I wasn’t anymore. I was never super quick or anything but I became much quicker than I had been. For me I was 17 when that happened. It happens later with other people especially bigger people. Look at how Cousins moves now compared to how he moved at UK. He is no longer a center. He’s a great forward.

  5. Darrell

    I am and I know everyone in BBN is excited about a UK basketball team that has never been as talented as it will be 2014/2015 season!! Coach should have a really good time with less stress and a lot more leadership that has been to war! Man who out there who can stop them? Anyone can be beat at anytime but Coach can pull someone who isn’t playing well in any game and have someone come in that can play just as well. It is going to be a fun yr for Basketball and KY Football. Have fun BBN!!!!!!!!

    1. King Ghidora

      I think it’s great the level of talent coming in but I’m not so sure they are the most talented UK team ever. The 1996 team had enough great players to essentially make up two teams that won national titles. The 1975 team was very talented with the Super Kittens still playing and the addition of the Robey, Phillips, Givens, and Lee class. That was a seriously deep team. Then there was the 1984 team that had Bowie, Turpin and Walker along with a long list of McD AA’s. I still don’t remember ever seeing anyone faster on the floor than Dicky Beal at least until he was injured. Maybe Dwight Anderson was as quick and maybe Wall. But Beal was extremely fast. Then you had Roger Harden, Jim Master, Winston Bennett, James Blackmon, and a pretty talented guy named Bret Bearup. That team was loaded. Teams played chicken ball against them because they were so outclassed. They would stall the entire game hoping to keep the game close and get lucky in the last 2 minutes of the game. The press constantly talked about their “embarrassment of riches”.

      The 1969 team would have been fabulously talented if they hadn’t lost key player Mike Casey. They still only lost 2 games that year. With Casey they would have been incredible. The bench was deep on that team too. Then let’s go way back the Fab Five (not that bunch from Michigan that stole their name from a UK team). An NIT title when it was the #1 tournament in the country followed by 2 NCAA championships and an Olympic gold medal. Their roster was strong. They had 3 All Americans plus 2 more all SEC players.

      UK has a very long tradition and a lot of very strong teams. This one coming up should be great. But last year wasn’t too shabby. I think we should have learned not to count our chickens after the off season last year too. Potential doesn’t always equal immediate success and UK will need some freshmen to step up even with all the players they have coming back.

  6. Larry T Clemons

    Some of the best College Basketball Games, ” Will be Kentucky vs Kentucky in The Practice Facility ! (Craft Center)

    1. Scott

      You could sell tickets, but the spectators would have to elbow the NBA scouts and GMs out of the way to get a glimpse of the action.

      1. King Ghidora

        If they could practice in Rupp all the time I think there might be room. :)

        1. Larry T Clemons

          Blue / White Game in Rupp for Charity….. Coach Hal vs Coach Cal. Talk about a Money Bowl….That would be Fun !

  7. TheProfessor

    http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/11573816

    I think a trip down memory lane may help put the state of this program into perspective. It did for me. The link is a Gregg Doyel column published on March 31, 2009, while the ink on the Calipari-UK contract was still drying.

    1. Larry Whorley

      I have a saved copy of that article, one of the best ever written.

      “So what happens now that John Calipari is coaching Kentucky?
      I’ll tell you what happens. Kentucky will win like it’s the Boston Celtics.
      College basketball as you know it? It’s over. That sport doesn’t exist
      anymore, because that sport had a semblance of parity. One year North
      Carolina is the dominant program. One year it’s UConn. One year it’s
      Duke or UCLA or Florida. Maybe those teams don’t win the national title
      the year they’re dominant, or maybe they do. Either way, every year
      there is a team that, on paper, is the dominant program in college
      basketball. And every year it’s a different team.

    2. Larry Pup

      Doyel is right I do believe. Great read, and very prophetic so far.

      1. Larry T Clemons

        Maybe I’m biased, because The 1978 Team were My Guys…..But, I see a very long & Strong Team, that easily over powers most Kentucky Teams, easily. That front line, was stout ! And, of course, ” Mr. Sixth Man ” himself James Lee, would have been a Superstar on any Team in the Country…And You want to talk Shooters, Goose, best since Pistol Pete…Macy, Ice in his veins, Claytor, Shidler…Cowan’s “D”…But it’s the Anchors, ” Robey & Phillips ” that wore down opponents and allow this Team , To be Ranked among the best…I believe a Senior, Rick Robey handles a Freshman Anthony Davis…Would be fun to see that match-up…

  8. Anonymous

    96′ team – best ever, only topped by 98′ if Anderson stayed healthy.

    1. UKFAN197TONE

      Agree about the ’96 team being the best ever.

  9. Bluegoose21

    Anderson was not on 98 team. Was hurt in 97. Can’t talk about best ever without including 78. Would rank 2012 above 97 or 98.

    1. Larry Pup

      2012 National Champions is the best based on talent. That team would beat any of those other UK teams IMHO. With that said, this team next season with all of the returning talent and the incoming talent, may just write a new chapter in UK basketball history. My two cents worth.

      1. King Ghidora

        I don’t know about that. 1996 looked mighty tough. I’m not at all sure Teague could have handled their pressure defense. 1978 was a good team too. They had every angle covered it seemed. But I think both 96 and 12 were better. But who knows about these things. The way the refs call a game can make a big difference. 1978 was allowed to bully everyone and push them around a lot and they had some big guys to do it. 1996 got away with a lot of fouls IMO because they played so fast the refs couldn’t keep up. And the 1969 team played when fouls were called if you even touched anyone with the ball. But underneath the basket for rebounds they fought like crazy. Different eras make for different teams IMO. And any comparison would have to include a mention of what rules were involved. I mean if they let the 75 team get 3 points for an outside shot it would have made basketball giants of guys like Grevey, Connor and Flynn. And if Issel had to wrestle for position to shoot like Robey and Phillips did I don’t know that he would have scored nearly as many points.

        I think it’s a toss up between 2012, 1996, 1969 (if Casey had played) and 1948. Those were all fantastic teams for their era. Then again 1978 changed the whole sport of basketball IMO. Everyone wanted to wrestle for position after that team made so many other teams look really bad.

        I look at the margin of victory though and the 1996 team looks like a clear leader. They blew teams completely out even on the road in the SEC. They won by 40 in Knoxville. They beat Tim Duncan and friends by 20. They beat the Morehead team by 64 points. Yeah it was Morehead but 64 points??? That’s a lot no matter who they played. I’ve only seen a few games that looked worse for a team than that one.

        1. Larry T Clemons

          Maybe I’m biased, because The 1978 Team were My Guys…..But, I see a very long & Strong Team, that easily over powers most Kentucky Teams, easily. That front line, was stout ! And, of course, ” Mr. Sixth Man ” himself James Lee, would have been a Superstar on any Team in the Country…And You want to talk Shooters, Goose, best since Pistol Pete…Macy, Ice in his veins, Claytor, Shidler…Cowan’s “D”…But it’s the Anchors, ” Robey & Phillips ” that wore down opponents and allow this Team , To be Ranked among the best…I believe a Senior, Rick Robey handles a Freshman Anthony Davis…Would be fun to see that match-up…

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