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By LARRY VAUGHT
Even with today’s new math, 18 minus 3 equals 15. And 15 is still greater than 13.
Before you applaud my extraordinary math skills, those numbers are only being used to show that even though Kentucky officially announced Tuesday that Jared Carter, A.J. Stewart and Donald Williams will not return to the basketball team, the Wildcats are still potentially two players over the NCAA allotted 13 scholarship limit for next year.
New coach John Calipari has six signees and nine returning players, including Matt Pilgrim who sat out last year as a transfer.
That means if Jodie Meeks comes back to UK rather than going to the NBA and signees John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are both eligible, two more current Cats have to go to reach the NCAA limit.
Carter basically said in March that he would not seek a fifth year. That’s no surprise considering he has career averages of 1.0 points and 1.1 rebounds per game in 42 appearances. Those are not exactly the kind of numbers that work in Calipari’s dribble-drive offense, or any offense.
Maybe Carter will join the new semi-pro team in Lexington coached by Kyle Macy that is starting soon and can play basketball while staying close to home.
Williams? He was redshirted last year when he was a late signee by then coach Billy Gillispie. It was widely known he was at UK on a one-year scholarship and year two would depend on numbers. Once Gillispie was fired, there was no doubt Williams — who redshirted and did not play last year — would be gone.
“My time at Kentucky was a great experience,” said Williams in a release from UK. “I developed great friendships with my teammates, the environment was great, the fans showed us a lot of love, my teachers were great. Even though I had to sit out this year, I would have liked to have played and helped, but with Coach (Gillispie) leaving, sometimes it just happens that way.”
It does and one has to wonder when Williams is sitting out next season as a transfer if he finds another Division I school willing to take him if he will be as thrilled with his UK experience.
Stewart is the more intriguing departure. He averaged only 2.0 points and 1.5 rebounds per game last year in 5.7 minutes per game. He could show flashes of brilliance and then make a silly mistake like miss class, fall asleep in a film session or cut class. Gillispie said he quit the team after last year’s loss to South Carolina. Stewart said he didn’t.
His departure was predictable. Even though he’s extremely popular with teammates, he just has not shown the discipline it will take to play for Calipari.
So if Wall and Cousins, UK’s two highest rated, recruits qualify academically as Calipari has predicted they will and Meeks, who seems more and more prone to leave his name in the NBA Draft, does come back, who still must go?
The most logical seems to be sophomore point guard DeAndre Liggins. He had his ups and downs as a freshman. He refused to play in the second half of one game, then led UK to victory the next game. He may also have had some off-court issues that won’t help.
Wall and signee Eric Bledsoe both probably will play in front of him at point guard next season. Even if Wall just stays one year, that leaves Bledsoe ahead of Liggins and Calipari probably will sign another point guard next year that would be in front of Liggins. That gives him no chance to show he can harness his reckless energy for Calipari.
Obviously, Patrick Patterson and Darius Miller are not going anywhere. Perry Stevenson is a returning starter and fellow seniors Ramon Harris and Kevin Galloway are not inclined to walk away the way Michael Porter did.
That leaves only Pilgrim and Josh Harrellson, a former junior college player who came to UK as a sophomore last year. Pilgrim seems the better fit, but Harrellson has said he wants to stay and recently posted on Facebook that he would be back.
That’s why Calipari still has a little more number juggling to do – and no, dropping popular walk-on Landon Slone from the team doesn’t count – before he reaches that magic number of 13. Then again, if Meeks doesn’t come back and someone isn’t eligible, then the numbers already will be just fine.
What do you think?
Let sports editor Larry Vaught know what you think of the recent NCAA ruling that ended UK defensive end Jeremy Jarmon’s career for using a banned substance when he bought an over the counter diet supplement. Send your comments, name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.