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What Kentucky player has surprised media members the most this season?

This is the second in a series of post with various media members on the Kentucky season going into NCAA play.

Question: What player has surprised you the most — either by what he has done or has not done?

Ryan Lemond: “It’s got to be Willie Cauley-Stein. He was projected to be a lottery pick, and he started out the season that way. But once SEC play started, he not only lost his starting position, he lost playing time. There are times when he just doesn’t play with much heart or energy.  That’s inexcusable to me. Didn’t you come back to better yourself this season? Lack of effort has led to many ‘missing in action’ games this season, often when the team needed him the most.”

Larry Glover: “Andrew Harrison has been the biggest surprise. He was talked about by recruiting experts as transcendently good but instead he’s been very much a work in progress. In time, he can become a really good college guard but I’m not sure I see a guy that can play a lot at the next level, … at least not right now.”
Taylor: “Expected better point guard play from Andrew Harrison. His up and down play has hurt the team but that’s to be expected from freshmen.”

Tyler Thompson: “I’ve been disappointed in Willie Cauley-Stein. After UK lost to Robert Morris in the NIT, Willie seemed like a man on a mission, vowing to come back and right all of last season’s wrongs. Before this season started, Willie even said he was ready to be the ‘go-to guy’ Kentucky needs, but thus far, he’s disappeared just as many times as he’s appeared. Willie is one of the few players on the team who wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, but at 7-foot with those athletic skills, his upside is tremendous, and for that reason, his hit-and-miss progress this season has been disappointing.”

Mary Jo Perino: “It’s players. It’s probably going to be the easy answer, but for me it’s true, it’s the Harrison twins. We thought after last year when there was no real point guard, this would be a different story. My belief is just they are not as good as we expected them to be. That’s not necessarily their fault either. It’s also unfair to put them together all the time (even though I just did) but fair or unfair that’s how they are judged. We may have been completely unfair with our expectations of the Twins and perhaps if they stuck around another, I think they would improve a lot. They just aren’t what I thought and that’s ok.”

Mark Buerger: “To start with something positive — just for the shock value — Dakari Johnson has surprised me with how much he has developed. Game-wise, he’s pretty close to the only guy who seems to have improved much over the course of the year. He moves better, his offense has improved dramatically and his energy level and effort have improved to the point that he often seems like the only guy who’s playing hard.
“On the other end, it’s hard to pick just one. I guess James Young’s struggles have been the most surprising thing given the way he was lauded during the pre-season. Obviously he is capable of great things, he just hasn’t really shown it in a while.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “I’m most surprised by Willie Cauley-Stein. The incoming freshmen received a lot of attention, but Willie’s progression from last year has been impressive. He struggled at times this season, but he’s also had some great games.”

Tom Leach: “Dakari Johnson.  He has developed into a real force as a low-post scoring threat and you can tell he’s worked hard to improve his defense.  A smart player finds a way to maximize his assets and minimize his weaknesses and that’s what Dakari has done.  Also, it looks like his teammates are really feeding off the energy and passion with which he plays the game.”

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  1. SoCalCat

    Assuming Cal is back next year, I think this has got to be his montra with the incoming freshmen and those that stay another year: How can you improve as a player every day? If you’re not improving, you’re not ready for the next level, as those ‘men’ constantly hone their skills.

  2. Keith Peel

    I’m surprised no one said Polson. With all the hype for the freshmen and other returning players it was debated in last off season about whether he should even return thus year. He did and had been a vital part of the team. If he is not there I think in the middle of the season this team roils have lost a few more games. He helped steady the ship when they needed it the most

  3. Larry Pup

    The play of Andrew and Aaron has improved dramatically over the past three games, indeed all the freshmen have shown improvement. I do hope many of the freshmen return for another year to grow, mature, and improve their draft status. Strong play and a deep run in the ncaa tourney will certainly erase a lot of disappointment, and change a lot of negative opinions that have been expressed. I also think WCS and Poy need another year.

  4. KMan24

    Willie has been a big disappointment. I didn’t expect him to be a key offensive force but he doesn’t appear to be a basketball junkie resulting in a low basketball IQ. Probably should stay but won’t .

  5. Mike

    On the negative side I would say Poythress and WCS. They both have had some good games but more where they were non- existent. They both should have worked harder on leadership, and that didn’t happen either. On the positive side it would be Dakari with the exception of yesterday. He went 0-4 and most were crips at the rim. He makes 1 and we get the W.

  6. Barry

    I have to cast my vote for Coach. For all of the times last year that he lamented about not having a bench. For all of the times last Summer and Fall when he said he would not let a player hold the program hostage. For all of the times in November, December, January, and February that he said if you don’t perform, you don’t play. All of that was just a bunch of empty talk. He had other players who may not have been as talented, but who would definitely put forth the effort and listen. If he had been playing Hood, Willis, Lee, Hawkins, Poythress, and Johnson more then this team would not have had the collapse it had in February and March. He has really been married to the Twins and Young like I’ve never seen before. Those kids should have had major reductions in minutes, even sit entire games, until they started listening and doing what they were told. Coach kept saying that they were young, that’s what freshmen do, but he is the one who is supposed to provide the tough love that will correct those bad habits or let them move on to lower profile school. The inmates ran the assylum this year, step up and earn your pay Coach!

    1. Anonymous

      Have you not watched the last three games played dude? You just have an ax to grind with Coach. You couldn’t carry his gym bag. Had he ran his team like you suggest they would have had more than 10 losses.

  7. AndyP

    I want Cal to always go after the best players, but I don’t want him to be a glutton and I think that bit him in the rear end this year big-time. Get 3 freshmen phenoms and surround them with 3 or 4 down and dirty basketball players that are role players and you would have a much better team and win more games.

    Cal has it in his head that it’s his job to develop NBA talent. Cal has it wrong. It’s his job to recruit and develop the best team possible to win at the college level. How insulting for Cal to say in the pre-season that he would play Randle on the low block if his main goal was winning college games. Mitch would never do it, but there are Athletic Directors out there who would fire a coach for making such a ridiculous statement.


    Disappointment only comes from high expectations. As a good friend of mine said last week at dinner “do you remember when you were 19? and when you got together with 4 other 19 yr old’s were you prepared for Greatness” All those disappointed by this team and the hype should have been smarter(please try to put yourself in their shoes). I’m disappointed in 10 loss but not in what 19 yr. old’s do.

    I remember a lot of disappointment mentioned with names like Darius Miller and Deandre Liggins during their early years and look how they turned out. Seems to me Larry that you are on the disappointed band wagon. I just chose to see it thru Big Blue Glasses. LOL



    1. Larry Pup

      I don’t know if the Larry you are referring to was LarryPup, I assume it was UKFMLY. I agree 100% with you. My remark concerning disappointment was meant for all those who have continually blasted this team all year, and still continue to do so even after a good sec tourney run. I have been behind this team all year and have opposed the negative tone expressed by so many UK fans all through the season. Some are extremely disappointed in this team, and have made that very clear. I am just glad UK is still dancing, and still has a chance to accomplish something great. I will be proud of them win or lose.

      1. UKFMLY


        I was thing Larry Vaught.

      2. UKFMLY


        I try to ignore the negative Nelly’s. They come out if force after a loss and predict the worse so that they can say I told you so. I was just wondering how Larry V felt!

        1. Larry Pup


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